$6,260
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backers
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Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, July 19 2018 1:55 PM UTC +00:00
Metsasta LLCBy Metsasta LLC
First created
Metsasta LLCBy Metsasta LLC
First created
$6,260
pledged of $125,000pledged of $125,000 goal
59
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, July 19 2018 1:55 PM UTC +00:00

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

2660b942017c6b67cf9cc924c3cd17ec original.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

About

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UPDATE July 19th, 2018: Well friends, it looks like this campaign isn't going to be funded. Even though we didn't get all the way there, I wanted to give my sincere thanks to you for your interest in and support. I appreciate it! -- Jeff

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If you're a child of the 1980s, you're probably familiar with the popular Nintendo game Duck Hunt that ran on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Remember how much fun it was to zap ducks? Remember how annoying it was to miss the ducks and get laughed at by the dog in the game?

The problem: TV technology

Well, you can't play Duck Hunt anymore with your NES: it doesn't work on modern flat-screen TVs. You need an old, bulky tube (CRT) TV to play.  The Zapper can't "see" modern TVs, and modern TVs have enough delay on their inputs to confuse the game. You're out of luck.

Until now.

Do you want to play your copy of Duck Hunt with your NES on a modern TV? Want to relive the fun of the game or share it with your own kids? You can with Modern Mallard!   

The solution: Modern Mallard

Modern Mallard modifies your existing copy of Duck Hunt and your existing Zapper to work on modern TVs, like LCD or LED TVs. By modifying the Zapper to be sensitive to the screens of modern TVs and by modifying the game on the fly to accommodate the lag inherent to modern TVs, Modern Mallard allows the game to function like you remember. Once modified, the Zapper and game cartridge look completely stock from the outside.

While there have been several hacks that accomplished (or claimed to accomplish) similar ends, they have all been somewhat inelegant (or non-functional). We feel that Modern Mallard presents a much cleaner solution, one more in the spirit of the game's original incarnation. More importantly, Modern Mallard actually works.

What's included   

The Modern Mallard kit includes two components. First, there is a replacement circuit board for the Zapper lightgun. Second, there is a "patch" board that plugs in between the original Duck Hunt game cartidge circuit board and the console. The patch board goes inside the game cartridge, so the game looks original from the outside.  

Installation is simple. If you can operate a screwdriver, you can do this mod. No soldering is required, though you do need to cut a couple of wires inside the Zapper.  

You get one of these: a Modern Mallard modification board to install in your Zapper
You get one of these: a Modern Mallard modification board to install in your Zapper
You also get one of these: a Modern Mallard game patch board to install inside your Duck Hunt game cartridge
You also get one of these: a Modern Mallard game patch board to install inside your Duck Hunt game cartridge

What you need   

You need to bring a few things to the party to use Modern Mallard, namely:  

  • A LCD TV. Ones marketed as "LED TVs" or "OLED TVs" are also great!
  • A NES ("old-school" Nintendo) or NES clone like the Retron HD, but not an "NES Classic"  
  • A genuine Nintendo Zapper lightgun. You still have yours from 1990, right? (Aftermarket clones won't work.)
  • A Duck Hunt game cartridge. We're not distributing the game; we're distributing a device that patches the game. You still have the game from 1990 too, right? (The patch board also supports the SMB / Duck Hunt multicart that was commonly included with NESes.)  

You also need a few common tools for the one-time installation:

  • A Philips screwdriver and a small standard (flat) screwdriver  
  • A small pliers, like a needle-nose pliers
  • A wire cutter and/or diagonal-cutting pliers

How easy is it to install and use?  

Installation of the Modern Mallard hardware is very simple. It should take you less than 10 minutes.

The Zapper disassembles with a Phillips screwdriver
The Zapper disassembles with a Phillips screwdriver
The cartridge disassembles with a special screwdriver we provide
The cartridge disassembles with a special screwdriver we provide

The first part of the installation is adding the patch board to the game cartridge, which involves unscrewing the screws in the game cartridge case, taking the cover off, plugging the green original game board into the red patch board, snipping off any plastic protrusions that are in the way of the combined boards, and screwing the cover back on. 

The red Modern Mallard patch board being installed with a green Duck Hunt game board in the game's original cartridge
The red Modern Mallard patch board being installed with a green Duck Hunt game board in the game's original cartridge

The second part of the installation is replacing the existing board in the Zapper with the Modern Mallard board. To do that, you unscrew the Zapper's screws, pop the Zapper cover off, snip off the existing board, insert the wires into the connectors on the new board (no wire stripping required), squeeze the connectors closed, and screw the cover back on. 

Modern Mallard modification board installed in Zapper
Modern Mallard modification board installed in Zapper

The actual operation of the game is nearly identical to how you remember. Insert the modified cartridge into your console and turn it on.  

The game plays like normal: point the Zapper at the duck and pull the trigger.

Q&A  

Now, you probably have some more questions, perhaps these:   

Is this being produced by Nintendo? No. Modern Mallard is not authorized, licensed, or produced by Nintendo. We want to be extremely clear about that; Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers, Hogan's Alley, and Nintendo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Nintendo of America, Inc. Other trademarks are property of their owners. Modern Mallard is not authorized by, produced by, licensed by, or in any way associated with Nintendo of America.

Are you including a copy of Duck Hunt? No, we're distributing only a hardware-based patch for the game. We're not distributing any of the original game code, and we're not distributing a stand-alone game. You need a legally obtained, genuine, physical Duck Hunt game cartridge for Modern Mallard to work. Think of what we're doing as being a device akin to a "Game Genie" except it patches a few thousand locations in the game code instead of about four and doesn't require you to enter any codes.

Why won't this work on an "NES Classic"? The NES Classic was a system released by Nintendo between 2016 and 2018. It's not the same as the NES. It played only its included games and did not support cartridge games, and moreover, it didn't include Duck Hunt. Since Modern Mallard requires an original Duck Hunt cartridge, the NES Classic is not compatible.

Does this make other Zapper games work? No, the patch code only works with Duck Hunt, so no Hogan's Alley or anything like that. That said, Modern Mallard enables all three game modes inside of Duck Hunt: single-duck mode, two-duck mode, and clays mode.

I'm not comfortable modifying my Zapper and game. Can you do it for me? No, but you can do it! Seriously. We have faith in you. If you can use a screwdriver and a pliers, you can do this modification. No soldering required. 

Will any TV work? Any LCD TV (which are often marketed as "LED" TVs these days) should work with Modern Mallard as long as it has a "game" mode (sometimes called "low latency" mode), which they pretty much all do. OLED TVs are also fine. Larger TVs are better. Depending on your TV and your TV room, you might also need to turn the TV's brightness up a bit and/or turn off the room lights. We don't think Modern Mallard will work with plasma or DLP TVs (neither of which are common anymore). We think Modern Mallard will work with some LCD projectors if they are sufficiently bright. 

Will any Zapper work? Any genuine Nintendo Zapper supports the Modern Mallard replacement board, though you might have better luck with one of the gray (instead of orange) ones if your TV room is extremely bright or your TV is dim. The gray plastic is more opaque than the orange, so it does a better job of blocking potential sources of light interference. The aftermarket Zapper clones will not work.

How close do I need to be to the TV? Assuming normal room lighting, normal TV brightness, and a normal (for these days) TV size of 32" or bigger, Modern Mallard will work anywhere from a couple feet from the TV out to the Zapper's full cord length. We recommend being closer rather than farther away, as the game is naturally less challenging when you are far from the TV (especially when the TV screen is relatively small). If your TV is smaller than 32", or its screen is dim, or your room is bright, you might need to be closer to the screen.

Why is this for the United States only? While Modern Mallard itself is fully compatible with non-US NES systems, the additional complexity of the regulatory environment outside of the US makes sales infeasible there. Sorry!  

Does this actually work or is it just vaporware? Modern Mallard actually works! This is a real product. We have solved the engineering problems; we're just using this Kickstarter to bring it to market. We've been working on this since 2016 and have gone through many, many iterations and hurdled over many roadblocks. It was not simple to implement, but it is simple to use! 

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

Will I be able to buy this after the Kickstarter campaign? Nope, this is a one-time sale. We plan to build enough product to satisfy the Kickstarter orders, plus a few extras for contingencies, but that's it. If you'll ever want one, you should get it now! 

How it works, part 1: The Zapper  

The original NES Zapper was a receive-only device. It didn't emit any light. Moreover, it couldn't see colors or details. The only thing it could do was indicate whether it was pointed at a bright spot on a TV screen. Just a simple "true" or "false" signal. 

Unfortunately, the Zapper was sensitive only to light modulated at what is called the "horizontal refresh rate" of an old-style CRT (tube) TV. The frequency it looked for, roughly 15 kHz, was due to how the electron beam painted the screen in those old TVs. The Zapper used a chip originally meant for a TV infrared remote control circuit to filter out all signals that didn't match that 15 kHz frequency. Modern TVs use very different technology compared to the old tube TVs, so they don't emit any signal at 15 kHz. As such, they are invisible to the Zapper. 

Further complicating matters, the light that modern TVs emit looks very similar to light from high-efficiency light bulbs, since both those those light bulbs and the TVs use LED or fluorescent technology to generate their light. Even if the original Zapper could see the modern TV screen, it would have a very hard time telling it apart from the rest of the light in the room.

Modern Mallard's replacement board for the Zapper solves those problems. It completely replaces the original board in the Zapper but retains the stock lens, trigger, and chassis. While the original Zapper board was sensitive only to 15 kHz signals, the Modern Mallard replacement board can "see" light at modulation frequencies from DC up to at least 7 kHz. Depending on the model of LCD or LED TV, the light coming from its backlight will usually be somewhere between DC and about 1 kHz (due to how backlight dimming works), well within the sensitivity range of the Modern Mallard board. 

The Modern Mallard board also includes advanced signal processing running on a tiny microcontroller that filters out signals from room lighting, even if that other light is also coming from things like LED or fluorescent bulbs. The signal the microcontroller sends to the NES -- still just "true" or "false", like the original Zapper board -- relays only what it's seeing on the screen without including a bunch false signals from non-TV sources. 

Block diagram of Modern Mallard replacement Zapper board
Block diagram of Modern Mallard replacement Zapper board

Fun fact: the microcontroller on the Modern Mallard replacement board for the Zapper is about ten times faster than the processor in the NES itself! 

How it works, part 2: The game 

The original Duck Hunt game assumed that it was connected to a standard analog CRT (tube) TV. Those TVs would draw whatever signal was being sent to them nearly instantly. The game relied on that immediate feedback to determine hits and misses. It was was also important for distinguishing between ducks when two ducks were in view. 

When the trigger on the Zapper was pulled, Duck Hunt would draw a completely black frame to the screen, then draw black a frame with a white square where the duck was, then, if there were two ducks, draw a second frame with another white square where the second duck was. If the Zapper was pointed at a duck, the Zapper would see the white square, and the game would score the shot as a hit.

This is what Duck Hunt shows on the screen when you pull the Zapper trigger. The white square is drawn where the duck was.
This is what Duck Hunt shows on the screen when you pull the Zapper trigger. The white square is drawn where the duck was.

The trouble is that each frame (or technically, each "field") was shown for only about 16.7 ms. That wasn't a problem with tube TVs, since they would draw to the screen as the signal was arriving at their input port, resulting in virtually no lag. 

Unfortunately, modern TVs add significant delay between the signal sent to them and the picture on the screen. At the very least, LCD and similar modern TVs need to wait for the entire frame to arrive before they can display it. Depending on the TV model, the TV's current settings (mostly whether "game mode" is enabled), and the input type (composite vs. HDMI), a modern TV can add between 15 and 150 ms of delay

That added delay completely breaks the game. By the time the TV is actually showing what the game sent to it, the game logic is several frames ahead. The game relies on immediate feedback to distinguish among duck squares and to determine if the Zapper is even aimed at the TV (by watching for the black frame appearing at the correct time). When delay is added to the system, the timing for those functions is completely wrong.

To solve that, for Modern Mallard we rewrote the timing-critical parts of the game to allow them to tolerate the delay in the signal path. We also added a calibration routine that senses how much delay there is in your particular TV and accommodates it accordingly. 

We then developed a "patch board" that sits between the original game cartridge board and the NES and patches the game code on the fly. It looks at what part of the game is currently executing, and if a patch is needed at that location, it sends our new code to the NES in place of the original game code. If no patch is needed in a particular location, it transparently relays the original unmodified game code from the cartridge to the NES. 

The microcontroller on the patch board runs at 168 MHz, which allows enough time for the address bus to be read and a decision to be made about whether to patch the game location before the NES needs the data for that address. Depending on specifics, the read, lookup, decision, and write occurs in about 300 ns.

Debugging the Modern Mallard patch board in situ with a logic analyzer
Debugging the Modern Mallard patch board in situ with a logic analyzer

We ended up having to touch about 10% of the game with patches, including almost the entire shot and hit-detection routines. Keep in mind we didn't have the source code for the game. Everything was done by patching the binary.  

Block diagram of Modern Mallard patch board's interaction with game cartridge and NES
Block diagram of Modern Mallard patch board's interaction with game cartridge and NES

The Modern Mallard game patch works only as long as an original Duck Hunt cartridge board is plugged in to the patch board, so if they are unplugged, the Duck Hunt cartridge board is left in the same state as before it was joined with the patch board. 

As a corollary, the Modern Mallard patch board does nothing on its own. It contains none of the original Duck Hunt game, neither code nor art assets. It can only temporarily modify an original Duck Hunt cartridge that is plugged into it. 

(And yes, for those of you who are intimately familiar with the NES, the female 72-pin connector on the Modern Mallard patch board has the correct 2.50 mm pin pitch, not 2.54 mm.)

Who is making it happen

Jeff Keacher Jeff is an electrical engineer and embedded software developer who designed and implemented the Modern Mallard hardware and software. Jeff owns Metsasta LLC. Jeff has backed several Kickstarter projects in the past and has helped bring numerous technology products to market.

Jeff Keacher
Jeff Keacher

Manufacturing partners We're not crazy enough to try hand-assemble everything, though we will be doing that for a select few if you choose that reward option. We have enough going on with the engineering, so we're partnering with reputable vendors in Asia and the United States to manufacture the boards, supply a couple of custom components, and handle fulfillment. 

Earlier Modern Mallard prototype board in a Zapper
Earlier Modern Mallard prototype board in a Zapper
Even older prototype of what would become the Modern Mallard replacement Zapper board, from about January 2017
Even older prototype of what would become the Modern Mallard replacement Zapper board, from about January 2017
Earliest prototype, from about November 2016
Earliest prototype, from about November 2016

Risks and challenges

We have working devices that are fully debugged both in hardware and software. The game is playable and stable with the Modern Mallard boards in place. This is a real product, and it really exists. All of the photos and video of the hardware and game action in this post are real; none are mockups or renders.

We have suppliers lined up and have done a successful first-article inspection of a key component that we needed to have custom made by a manufacturer in China.

All development-phase boards were hand-assembled, but they were designed for manufacturing (DFM), so they are ready to shift to automated production. Primary assembly will be done in Asia, with final assembly done in the United States.

The biggest risk to meeting the November 2018 "early" shipment deadline is the inventory level of a particular microcontroller. To mitigate that risk, we have limited the number of units available for November 2018 shipment. We have been in contact with the chip vendor and distributors, and we are confident in this strategy.

We do not believe that the current worldwide "passive" component shortages (particularly capacitors) will have a material effect on our ability to deliver on time.

We have experience bringing hardware products to market. We are particularly aware of the special challenges of short runs (i.e., quantities below six digits) of electronic hardware. We have set the campaign goals high enough so that volume would be high enough to allow the production to go forward while leaving sufficient margin for contingencies. We'd rather set a high (i.e. realistic) goal and do it right than to set prices and funding thresholds too low to see it through.

(Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers, Hogan's Alley, and Nintendo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Nintendo of America, Inc. Other trademarks are property of their owners. Modern Mallard is not authorized by, sponsored by, approved by, condoned by, executed by, manufactured by, licensed by, or in any way associated with Nintendo of America.)

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  1. Select this reward

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    Simply support

    No reward except our sincere gratitude for your support of this project. Thanks so much!

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    Main production run

    You'll be zapping ducks in the middle of winter!

    The hardware included will be the same as the early run of modification boards, except shipped later.

    You'll receive a Modern Mallard replacement board to modify one Zapper and a Modern Mallard patch board to modify one Duck Hunt game cartridge, along with a special screwdriver that's needed to open the cartridge.

    Includes:
    • Game patch board
    • Zapper modification board
    • Game cartridge screwdriver
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    Early production run

    You'll be zapping ducks before Christmas!

    This is the earlier of the two production runs.

    You'll receive a Modern Mallard replacement board to modify one Zapper and a Modern Mallard patch board to modify one Duck Hunt game cartridge, along with a special screwdriver that's needed to open the cartridge.

    Includes:
    • Game patch board
    • Zapper modification board
    • Game cartridge screwdriver
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    Hand-assembled unit shipped right away!

    THIS ONE SHIPS FIRST!

    You will receive a hand-assembled pair of Modern Mallard boards (one for your Zapper and one for patching the game) before anybody else!

    If there end up being significant changes to the hardware or software, we'll also update your unit in the autumn if you ship yours back to us.

    Includes:
    • Game patch board
    • Zapper modification board
    • Game cartridge screwdriver
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    Bulk pack - Main production run

    Have lots of NESes sitting around? Want to do a group buy with your friends? Want to sell them to people who don't like the idea of using a screwdriver? Here you go!

    This is the same as the main-production-run single unit, except in a pack of five (5).

    Includes:
    • Game patch board
    • Zapper modification board
    • Game cartridge screwdriver
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    Pledge US$ 625 or more About US$ 625

    Bulk pack - Early production run

    Have lots of NESes sitting around? Want to do a group buy with your friends? Want to sell them to people who don't like the idea of using a screwdriver? Here you go!

    This is the same as the early-production-run single unit, except in a pack of five (5).

    Includes:
    • Game patch board
    • Zapper modification board
    • Game cartridge screwdriver
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Funding period

- (21 days)