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RRPGE system specification and guides

Author:Sandor Zsuga (Jubatian)
License:2013 - 2015, GNU GPLv3 (version 3 of the GNU General Public License) extended as RRPGEvt (temporary version of the RRPGE License): see LICENSE.GPLv3 and LICENSE.RRPGEvt in the project root.


This is the specification of the RRPGE system and associated guides for creating conforming hardware or software implementations and on the usage of the system.

RRPGE originally stood for Retro Role Playing Game Engine, later reformed into Retro Revolution Project Game Engine. The abbreviation should be pronounced as "Rerpige", with the ending "ge" as in "gear".

The system roughly is a complete 16bit microcomputer with specialized CPU and peripherals aiming for running all genres of retro-style games and other types of software-art.

Related projects

Temporary license notes

Currently the project is developed under a temporary GPL compatible license. The intention for later is to add some permissive exceptions to this license, allowing for creating derivative works (most importantly, applications) under other licenses than GPL.

For more information, see

Design goals

The primary goals of this system are roughly as follows:

  • Long term binary stability (once the first stable version is produced).
  • Capability to integrate seamlessly in host systems (emulation).
  • Simple design allowing for realizations by as little resources as possible.
  • Realizing an early 90's era microcomputer or game console.

Below each of these four goals are described, what is aimed for exactly, why, along with some related design notes.

Long term binary stability

Nowadays when information technology advances with a frightening pace, it gets more and more troublesome for lone developers to release something, and then, to maintain it to keep it being usable. Especially with retro style games, supposed to be possible with decades old hardware, this is getting somewhat ridiculous: If you knew you hadn't got the resources to actively maintain it, you would have to pick an existing old system (such as a Commodore 64 or IBM PC with DOS) as target, so, thanks to emulation, your game won't just bit-rot away in a few years.

RRPGE in this term aims to provide a system similar to those old ones which are emulated today: with a stable specification, it aims to achieve long-term binary stability, so games and other software produced for it keep being usable without the burden of maintenance on the part of the developer. Just like any other old system with decent emulators today.

Capability to integrate seamlessly in hosts

Designing a new system it is possible to settle for an emulation-centric viewpoint: aiming to design it such a manner it can integrate without the need of awkward solutions at the user. For example the need for virtual disks, complex system configurations, inadequate controller setups can be avoided fairly well.

From the developer's point this is advantageous since an easy to use system (at the user's end) is more likely to be adapted.

While it is true that it is possible to hide complex configuration in pre-packaged installers, that solution is far from ideal, and demands the developer's attention to design and maintain those. With RRPGE, the problem is shifted to the system's design, lifting this problem from the developer's shoulders, and allowing for a much cleaner system on the user's end.

Simple design for little resources

RRPGE is designed in a manner anticipating scarce resources in both host systems and integrators (who would adapt RRPGE to a particular host).

The microcomputer is constructed in such a manner it can be largely self-contained in a completely freestanding library (under development), with as little interface to the host as reasonably possible, provided in a manner that it can be developed incrementally.

In addition to this, several features of the system is rather contained in a so-called User Library, which is a software package designed for the (virtual) hardware of RRPGE. This approach reduces the implementation needs in case the RRPGE hardware has to be reproduced.

The RRPGE CPU from the user's point of view is a Harvard architecture, with an instruction set which is rather trivial to disassemble: this, if such approach is necessary, allows for simple recompilation, increasing performance. Otherwise the CPU's characteristics is chosen so it can be emulated fairly well even with simple cross-platform interpreting.

An early 90's microcomputer or game console

The target era for RRPGE is chosen to produce a fairly capable system which still represents an age when lone or small group software development was still common and viable.

The 80's is quite well covered with well-known and properly emulated systems such as the Commodore 64, developing an another 8 bit machine would have been rather pointless. The 90's with higher end 2D, larger RAM allowing for more complex games and software however is rather unfriendly from today's perspective. Systems in this era (both computers and consoles) are already quite complex, largely with no open specifications, and mostly even with legal constraints (such as the case of Kickstart ROMs for Amigas). Practically probably the only "clean" system to have from this era is the IBM PC with all it's known problems.

RRPGE aims to fill in this gap by providing a system with a definite, simpler specification than several of those from this era, with clear licensing status.

From microcomputer perspective RRPGE might be at about as capable as a 12 MHz 80286 by it's CPU, however it provides graphics and audio hardware uncommon for the IBM PC, which can be utilized to produce complex visuals and sound which wasn't possible until much later with the PC.

From console perspective RRPGE may be somewhere between the 4th and 5th generations. It provides rich 2D features similar to the capabilities of 4th generation consoles, while allowing for venturing in the world of 3D as well.

Main components

Below a short summary of the main RRPGE components and their features is provided. For more extensive details, check "specs/overview.rst".

  • 16bit CISC CPU with user / supervisor mode separation, memory protection, with a highly orthogonal instruction set. Notable features are small chunk (even bit) level memory accesses, no flags logic, and complex function call instructions. The CPU is provided with CPU Data memory of which 64 KWords are available to the user as Data, 32 KWords as Stack, while another 64 KWords contain the application code.
  • 32bit Peripheral system on a separate bus, operating in parallel with the CPU. 1M * 32bits of Peripheral RAM is provided on this bus, accessible by the CPU through a streaming interface.
  • Graphic Display Generator & Accelerator unit on the Peripheral bus capable of outputting 50-70Hz 640x400 4bit or 320x400 8bit graphics. Notable features are display list based line composing, and a FIFO assisted Accelerator capable to perform many types of fast blit operations.
  • 16bit Stereo digital audio output with up to 48KHz sampling frequency on the Peripheral bus, also providing a 187.5Hz clock.
  • FIFO assisted Mixer DMA peripheral capable to assist audio mixing algorithms.
  • Various input sources including, but not limited to digital gamepads, pointing devices, touch devices, and joysticks.
  • Additional features provided by a kernel, including network support.
  • Additional convenience routines and features provided by an User Library such as a sprite system and text output facilities.

Structure of the project

Below the contents of each of the directories and files found in the project root are summarized.

Note that in every directory there is an "index.rst" file which serves as a starting point for that part of the project.

Directory "specs"

The definition of the RRPGE system as far as necessary for understanding it at user level and for writing software emulators. This area only covers the system itself, and not any additional services related to the system (such as suggested network interfaces and protocols).

Directory "impl_hw"

Additional details for assisting developing hardware RRPGE systems. Most particularly it includes suggested timing breakdowns and access patterns for CPU opcodes and the graphics accelerator, and some additional details not necessary for software implementations (such as the supervisor mode of the CPU).

Directory "impl_sw"

Additional details for assisting developing software RRPGE systems (emulators). This includes a suggested emulator architecture splitting it in a platform independent emulator library and a host application. Also included are low-level techniques for efficiently realizing particular features of the RRPGE system.

Directory "emu_lib"

Platform independent emulation library interface definitions including programming language specific headers.

Directory "emu_host"

Guidelines for implementing software emulator hosts, that is applications which use the emulation library or libraries to present the user an RRPGE system.

Directory "services"

Additional RRPGE related service specifications mainly including network protocols to be implemented by emulator hosts by which hosts and servers may communicate in a standardized way. These components are only suggestions as an RRPGE system by itself is functional without the implementation of any of these.


Timeline of versions and the changes introduced in them.


The RRPGE License.


A copy of version 3 of the GNU General Public License license text (


List of trademarks incorporated within this project, as required by the RRPGE License.


The version number of the RRPGE specification.

File "README.rst"

This file.

File "logo.svg"

The RRPGE Logo. Note that this logo is a registered European trademark, rights owned by Sandor Zsuga (Jubatian).

File "logo_txt.svg"

The RRPGE Logo with "Retro Revolution Project Game Engine" text, used in the title. Note that this logo is a registered European trademark, rights owned by Sandor Zsuga (Jubatian).


RRPGE (Retro Revolution Project Game Engine) System specification



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