MSP430 gaming shield based on the Gameduino

Get your 8-bit gaming fix with this gaming shield for the TI Launchpad. It’s called the Launchpad GamingPack and was developed as part of TI’s 2012 Intern Design Contest. The team had just six weeks to complete the project.

The video after the break starts off with some fast-motion PCB layout. It is followed by footage of the board being populated, then anchored with graphics testing and some game play demonstrations. It looks like a real blast! NES controller ports were included on the board, and the device puts out 400×300 VGA, as well as audio.

As with the Gameduino, the hard work is done by the FPGA at the center of this board. It handles all of the VGA timing work, using what looks like 3-bit color. It is also responsible for generating the audio and monitoring the inputs. Since the team was under a time crunch the shield also includes a 10-pin header on the underside which was added for easy connection with a logic analyzer.

Comments

  1. duskwuff says:

    Looks like the video board is based on an XC3S200. Really feels like some of crazy overkill — the FPGA has considerably more memory than the MSP430 (216K of block RAM), and is running at a higher clock rate (50 MHz).

    • bear24rw says:

      It’s not _that_ overkill. The gameduino sprite engine takes up almost the whole chip.

      Number of BUFGMUXs 1 out of 24 4%
      Number of DNA_PORTs 1 out of 1 100%
      Number of ICAPs 1 out of 1 100%
      Number of MULT18X18SIOs 7 out of 16 43%
      Number of RAMB16BWEs 16 out of 16 100%
      Number of Slices 1690 out of 1792 94%
      Number of SLICEMs 623 out of 896 69%

      • svofski says:

        But couldn’t you take a slightly larger FPGA, put a soft 6502 or openMSP430 and ditch the carrier board completely? I understand that it’s nice to make an addon to a board that’s already easy to program. But then again – fewer parts, less hassle.

        Very impressive sprite engine BTW!

  2. larsknudsenkaas says:

    Where does one source those connectors?

  3. Borre says:

    Fantastic and Fabuolous !

  4. Giles says:

    Simply awesome :)

  5. duskwuff says:

    Using an XC3S200A almost feels like cheating here. It’s got orders of magnitude more memory than the MSP430 (216K block RAM), and is clocked significantly faster (50 MHz). With a bit more work I suspect you could throw a soft MSP430 core into the FPGA and skip the Launchpad entirely! (But I’m sure TI wouldn’t be amused by that.)

    • cantido says:

      >Using an XC3S200A almost feels like cheating here.

      Why? It’s implementing a tile based graphics system.. that part is probably the smallest part that has the gate/BRAM capacity to implement the design. It’s not really cheating to use a well priced part to implement something cleanly.

      >is clocked significantly faster (50 MHz).

      But it’s an FPGA and not a processor. I’m not sure where the difficulty in understanding the difference is happening here. The external clock is going to be for generating the VGA pixel clock, it’s not really a performance indicator…

      >throw a soft MSP430 core into the FPGA

      A waste of gates considering how cheap the MSP430 is. If you were going to do everything in the FPGA you might as well dump everything, get a bigger FPGA,some external SRAM and put TG68 or one of the made-for-fpga softcores on it. At least use a chip that has decent GCC support.

    • bear24rw says:

      The FPGA is actually almost maxed out logic cell wise. You wouldn’t be able to fit a substantial soft core msp430 in there. The 50MHz clock is just driving the pixel clock and communication, it’s not actually _processing_ anything.

      Number of BUFGMUXs 1 out of 24 4%
      Number of DNA_PORTs 1 out of 1 100%
      Number of ICAPs 1 out of 1 100%
      Number of MULT18X18SIOs 7 out of 16 43%
      Number of RAMB16BWEs 16 out of 16 100%
      Number of Slices 1690 out of 1792 94%
      Number of SLICEMs 623 out of 896 69%

  6. Kaz says:

    Actually, MSP430 is a 16-bit microcontroller… so it’d be a 16-bit gaming fix ;)

  7. dimitrist16 says:

    what program is this?

  8. wardy says:

    Great video, some serious time and effort has gone into the production values. Panning shots of hand-soldering is pretty nerdy (but super cool, imho).

    The board layout looks neat and tidy too if I may venture an opinion. Had I been an MSP430 user, I’d be very tempted to get myself one of those.

    It’s great to see skilful people at work, I’m impressed.

  9. Mihaly says:

    Nice work. But,
    the last soundtrack or tack of sound in the video is not from the 8-bit era but from 16-bit as from “top gear” on super nintendo. one of my favourite games of all time.

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