Feature written for The Escapist.
It takes a village to raise a child, and in the case of the Pandora, it takes a community – a friendly, supportive, and above all patient community – to create an ambitious handheld gaming device.
When I ask Michael Mrozek, aka EvilDragon – and henceforth ED – what he likes best about the Pandora, the open-source gaming handheld he helped create, he says, “The community.” Not the unit’s 10+ hours of battery life or its beautiful hi-res screen or the wonderfully tactile D-pad or the twin analog nubs or the Linux OS with full X desktop or the amazing amount of homegrown software sprouting up by the day, but the community. “Seriously. And all the nice people helping us out, the devs and everyone else … you can’t thank those guys enough. They have become close friends for me.”
The Pandora nearly didn’t make it. With a gestation longer than an elephant’s, its development has seen DS incarnations come and go. Rashly billed by its creators for a release back in 2007 – well before the DSi hit stores – production only recently hit its stride in the last few months, when the 3DS became everyone’s favorite new toy. Worse, many pre-orders placed in late 2008 at just over $300 have yet to be fulfilled. The Pandora was beleaguered by many production snags: unreliable suppliers, faulty parts and the inexperience of the team made a slow process slower. Because of the excessive gap between payment and delivery, PayPal canceled all pre-orders and credit card companies enforced refunds. But the team’s openness – and the understanding that these are just a bunch of guys with a crazy idea and day jobs – incites goodwill, and pre-orders were re-ordered. Those still waiting are rewarded with photos of stacked LCD cables, nubs, screens, batteries, cases and a video of the kitchen table around which these pieces are assembled by hand.