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BigBoy Advance, a Giant GBA for Big Hands

big boy advance

Ever wish Game Boys came in a slightly larger size? [John], aka [Bacteria] of Bacman, decided to try something different with this retro console mod — the BigBoy.

In case you’re not familiar with the Bacman website, it’s a site dedicated to retro video game console modding — and our hacker, [John] is the man behind the scenes. We’ve shared plenty of their projects before.

The BigBoy is basically a Game Boy Advance — with an 8″ display. It uses the electronics from a knockoff copy of a RetroBit in a custom case that [John] vacuum formed at home. He sketched out the proposed outline, built a mold out of plastic sheets and hot glue, and created a concrete dummy mold for the vacuum former — meaning if he ever wanted to recreate this project it would be a piece of cake!

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The Game Boy Pocket Raspi Mod Puts All Others To Shame

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There are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of builds out there on the Internet that put a Raspberry Pi in an enclosure with buttons meant solely for running emulators for old games. This one is unlike any other. Yes, it’s still basically a RetroPi emulator, but this Game Boy Pocket casemod goes beyond any remotely comparable build.

The Game Boy Pocket is incredibly small, but after sanding down the bosses on the inside of the case, gluing the battery door shut, and installing a bit of plastic over the cartridge slot, [WarriorRocker] was able to fit a Raspi inside. The buttons use the same PCB as the stock Game Boy, connected to a Teensy 2.0 board that simulates a USB keyboard.

With the two largest components taken care of, [Warrior] turned his attention to the sound, video and power. The display is a 2.5″ composite LCD that actually fits quite nicely behind the screen bezel. Audio is taken care of by a $3 audio amplifier, a new, smaller speaker, and a side-mounted pot stolen from the original Game Boy guts. There’s no chance on running this with the same 2xAAA cells the original Game Boy Pocket had, so [Warrior] somehow found space for a 2600mAh Li-Poly battery, a step-up regulator, and a charge circuit.

The result is a full-color RetroPi build capable of running for three hours before needing a recharge. All the classic Game Boy games are loaded onto the SD card along with select titles for other systems. The result is one of the best portabalized Raspi builds we’ve ever seen. Video below.

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Pokemon Artificial Intelligence Is Smarter Than You

Pokemon Artificial Intellegence

Who out there hasn’t angrily thrown a game controller across the room after continually getting killed by some stupid game-controlled villain? That is such a bummer! You probably wished there was some way to ‘just get past that point’. To take a step in that direction, [Ben] created an Artificial Intelligence program that will win at Pokemon Blue for Game Boy Advance.

The game is run in a Game Boy Advance emulator known as Visual Boy Tracer, which itself is a modified version of the most common GBA emulator, Visual Boy Advance. What sets Visual Boy Advance apart from the rest is that it has a memory dump feature which allows the user to send both the RAM and the ROM out of the emulator. The RAM holds all values currently needed by the emulator, this includes everything from text arrow flash times to details about currently battling Pokemon to the players position in the currently loaded map. The memory dump feature is key to allow the AI to understand what is happening in the game.

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Game Boy vs. Electronic Shelf Labels

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhile they’re probably rare as hen’s teeth in the US, there have been a few major stores around the world that have started rolling out electronic shelf labels for every item in the store. These labels ensure every item on a shelf has the same price as what’s in the store’s computer, and they’re all controlled by an infrared transceiver hanging on the store’s ceiling. After studying one of these base stations, [furrtek] realized they’re wide open if you have the right equipment. The right equipment, it turns out, is a Game Boy Color.

The shelf labels in question are controlled by a base station with a decidedly non-standard carrier frequency and a proprietary protocol. IR driver chips found in phones are too slow to communicate with these labels, and old PDAs like Palm Pilots, Zauruses, and Pocket PCs only have an IrDA chip. There is one device that has an active development scene and an IR LED connected directly to a CPU pin, though, so [furrtek] started tinkering around with the hardware.

The Game Boy needed to be overclocked to get the right carrier frequency of 1.25 MHz. With a proof of concept already developed on a FPGA board, [furrtek] started coding for the Game Boy, developing an interface that allows him to change the ‘pages’ of these electronic labels, or display customized data on a particular label.

There’s also a much, much more facepalming implication of this build: these electronic labels’ firmware is able to be updated through IR. All [furrtek] needs is the development tools for the uC inside one of these labels.

There’s a great video [furrtek] put together going over this one. Check that out below.

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Twitch Plays Pokémon: Better than Prime Time TV

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What do you get when you put together a classic Game Boy game, some glue code, a streaming video website and 1 internet? Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP), a social experiment where thousands of people “cooperatively” play a game of Pokémon Red/Blue. TPP was created by an anonymous Australian programmer who enjoyed the SaltyBet interactive channel on twitch.tv. Rather than use SaltyBet’s method of having users interact via an external website, [TPP's creator] decided to use twitch’s own IRC based chat servers. Starting with VisualBoyAdvance, a popular C/C++ based Game Boy emulator, [TPP's creator] began building the system. [TPP's creator] went with python to create the web-to-emulator interface. A JavaScript app displays the live moves on the right side of the screen.

Gameplay is simple – users type their command (Up, Down, A, B) into their IRC or web client. In the original configuration, commands were processed in the order they arrived at the game. The system worked until the whole thing went viral. With thousands of people entering commands at any given time, poor “RED” would often be found spinning in place, or doing other odd things. The effect is so compelling that even [Randal Munroe] has written an XKCD entry about it. To help the players get through some of the tricky parts of the game, [TPP's creator] added a game mode selection. Users can play in “Democracy” where the system takes votes for several seconds, then issues the highest voted command. The original anything goes game mode was renamed “Anarchy”. Switching from one mode to the other is determined by the users themselves in real-time.

[Devon], one of our readers, has been busy as well. He’s written up a tutorial on turning a Raspberry Pi into a dedicated TPP viewer. We’d love to see a TPP battlestation - a Game Boy modified to display TPP, as well as send commands to the IRC servers when buttons are pressed. Who will be the first reader to knock that hack out?

The PiBoy

piboy

What do you do with a broken Gameboy, a 3″ LCD, a pile of wires, a USB SNES controller, a 32gb SD card, and a Raspberry Pi? You make a pocket emulator, of course!

[Anton] decided he wanted to build an emulator awhile ago. He had a few specific goals in mind: it had to be hand-held, portable, child safe, and usable without a keyboard. He started by stripping the broken Gameboy down to its external shell, then removing all of the internal plastic mounting features with a hot soldering iron. Next was the challenge of fitting everything into the case and powering it. Because his 3″ LCD runs off 12V, [Anton] needed a way to get 5V to the Pi. Lucky for him, it turned out that his LCD’s controller board had a 5V test point/expansion pin-out!

From there it was just a matter of reusing the original Gameboy’s speaker, closing up the case, and loading the emulator! As always, there’s a demo video after the break.

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Spoofing Pokemon Trades

Hacker

[Adan] had an old Game Boy sitting around, and without anything better to do decided to investigate the link cable protocol with a microcontroller. He had a Stellaris Launchpad for the task, but initially had no project in mind. What he came up for this adventure in serial protocols is a first gen Pokemon trade spoofer that allows him to obtain pokemon without having two Game Boys, or for the weird ones out there, “friends.”

The Game Boy link protocol is extremely well documented, so getting data from the Game Boy to the Launchpad was as simple as a soldering up an old link cable connector to a piece of perf board. After figuring out the electronics, [Adan] looked at what happened when two Pokemon games tried to trade pokemon. When two Game Boys are linked, there are two in-game options: trade or battle. Looking at the data coming after the ‘trade’ option, [Adan] found something that could possibly be the data structure of the Pokemon being sent. He reverse-engineered this all by himself before discovering this is also  well documented.

Bringing everything together, [Adan] figured out how to trade non-existent Pokemon with a small dev board. Right now he’s only transmitting Pokemon that are hard-coded on the Launchpad, but it’s very possible to transmit the Pokemon values in real-time over USB.

Thanks [Dan] for sending this in, and no, we don’t know what’s up with the influx of Pokemon posts over the last week. Video of the spoof below.

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