Forty-Year-Old Arcade Game Reveals Secrets of Robot Path Planning

What’s to be gained from reverse engineering a four-decade-old video game? As it turns out, quite a lot, and as you’ll learn from [Norbert]’s recent talk at the ViennaJS meetup, it’s not just about bringing a classic back to life.

The game in question is Kee Game’s Sprint 2, a monochrome 2D car race that allowed two players to compete head to head. The glorious Harvest Gold and Burnt Orange color scheme just screams 1970s, and it might be hard to see why this game was once a popular quarter-eater. But it was quite engaging for the day, and [Norbert] was interested in reverse engineering it. That he did, using JavaScript to build a faithful browser-based emulation of the game. And he took it further, creating a 3D first-person version of the game.

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The Most Immersive Pinball Machine: Project Supernova

Over at [Truthlabs], a 30 year old pinball machine was diagnosed with a major flaw in its game design: It could only entertain one person at a time. [Dan] and his colleagues set out to change this, transforming the ol’ pinball legend “Firepower” into a spectacular, immersive gaming experience worthy of the 21st century.

A major limitation they wanted to overcome was screen size. A projector mounted to the ceiling should turn the entire wall behind the machine into a massive 15-foot playfield for anyone in the room to enjoy.

 

With so much space to fill, the team assembled a visual concept tailored to blend seamlessly with the original storyline of the arcade classic, studying the machine’s artwork and digging deep into the sci-fi archives. They then translated their ideas into 3D graphics utilizing Cinema4D and WebGL along with the usual designer’s toolbox. Lasers and explosions were added, ready to be triggered by game interactions on the machine.

pinnball-ocr-comp

To hook the augmentation into the pinball machine’s own game progress, they elaborated an elegant solution, incorporating OpenCV and OCR, to read all five of the machine’s 7 segment displays from a single webcam. An Arduino inside the machine taps into the numerous mechanical switches and indicator lamps, keeping a Node.js server updated about pressed buttons, hits, the “Lange Change” and plunged balls.

The result is the impressive demonstration of both passion and skill you can see in the video below. We really like the custom shader effects. How could we ever play pinball without them?

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Bartop Arcade RetroPie Powered Laser Cut

[hhtat] wanted to build an arcade cabinet since his days in high-school. Only recently have the tech planets aligned. Looking into the night sky he saw a laser cutter, the Raspberry Pi, and lowering prices on key components and thought, “this is the year.”

Much like an arcade cabinet we posted earlier, this one sits on a counter top. With full controls and a nice screen, it provides a lot of the experience without the additional explaining to the SO why the living space should house a giant decaled MDF box.

The frame was designed in SketchUp and vectors were made in Inkscape. The frame was lasercut out of MDF and Acrylic. Decals were printed and applied. The resulting case, build from tab and slot construction, is attractive.

The internals are simple. A Raspberry Pi with a fast SD card acts as the brain. Rather than make it difficult on himself, [hhat] bought a pre-made controls kit from eBay. Apparently there is a small market for this stuff. He also purchased an IPS screen with built in controller. The IPS panel gives the arcade cabinet a desireable wide viewing angle.

The final product looks like a lot of fun and we can see it turning at least one person into an unintentional loner at any house party.

Here Comes Santa Claws

Liberty Games in the UK was looking for a fun way to support charity for the holidays, and we think they succeeded. They decided to set up an arcade crane machine to run over the internet, with each type of toy snagged earning  a donation. Snag a bear, and they will donate £5 to St Mungos, a UK charity that works with homeless or at risk people. Snag one of the rarer Santa toys, and they will donate £20. It’s a great cause, and a nice hack. Behind the scenes, the Internet side of things runs on a Raspberry Pi connected to a PiRack and a couple of PiFace digital interface cards that are wired into the electronics of the crane machine so they could control the buttons on the machine from a Web interface. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be running when we tried it, but hopefully someone will give the machine a swift kick shortly to get it going until the Hackaday traffic invariably brings it down again.

One of the interesting thing that they discovered while working on these hacks: they have a pay-out ratio that is determined by the strength of the grabbing arm. The owner can tweak this so that the arm does not grab very firmly, which means a dropped bear. Want to torture your friends with hopes of snagging the best stuffed animals?. Follow the example of this claw machine build all from parts on hand.

Bartop Arcade Honors Aspect with 4:3 iPad Screen

Let’s face it, we all love arcades, but not all of us can fit a full size stand-up in our homes. [Bentika] knew the solution was a bartop style cabinet, but it had to be designed and built to his specifications. You see, [bentika] is an aspect ratio nerd. Only a proper 4:3 screen would do for emulating games designed for just such a display. Modern 4:3 displays are hard to come by, unless of course you have an iPad handy. The 1024 x 768 screens used on the early model iPads are perfect for the task.

Driving these screens used to be a chore, but thanks to hacker reverse engineering and overseas manufacturing, these days, controllers are only a few clicks away. [Bentika] ordered a controller for the iPad 1 screen from eBay. What he got was a controller that only worked with the iPad 2 screen. Thankfully he had a pile of old iPads to play with, so it wasn’t an issue.

[Bentika] designed his cabinet using AutoDesk 123D based upon reddit user [joshendy’s] basic outline. His final cut patters were created with Adobe Illustrator. He was able to get the entire cabinet laser cut for around $160, including materials. Cabinet assembly was easy, thanks to plenty of square gussets used to align the various pieces.

The controller for this arcade is of course a Raspberry Pi 2 running RetroPie. [Bentika] used a control block to interface the joystick and buttons to the Pi itself. RetroPie lends itself to “keyboardless” operation, he didn’t have to bring any of the Pi’s USB ports outside the case.

We have to say the final results are very nice. This system has all the portability of a CRT based bartop setup without the weight. You can check out more discussion of this hack over on [Bentika’s] Reddit thread, or click past the break for the video.

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Arcades: Don’t Call it a Comeback

nothing2Video arcades may be a thing of the past, but they’re still alive, well and were ready to play at this year’s World Maker Faire. The offerings weren’t old favorites, all were brand new games many being shown for the first time like the long-awaited VEC9. The Hall of Science building was filled with cabinets and no quarters were necessary, all were free-play.

Death By Audio Arcade was there in force with games like Particle Mace and Powerboat Italia ’88. Our personal favorite was Nothing Good Can Come of This. [Michael P. Consoli] devised a simple game: Two players in an empty room. A bullet drops from a hole in the ceiling, followed by a gun shortly thereafter. What happens next is up to the players. The simple graphics and gameplay give this title its charm. [Michael] was showing off a new stand-up cabinet for the game this year. He built the entire thing himself, working until the wee hours before load-in at Maker Faire.

[Batsly Adams], [Todd Bailey], and [Mike Dooley] teamed up to create what may be the first new vector arcade in decades. VEC9 has been teased for over 2 years. They’ve finally wrapped this game up and showed it off at the faire. VEC9 started with an old
Asteroids vector monitor found by [Batsly].

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Retro Games on ArduinoCade Just Shouldn’t Be Possible

Making retro video games on today’s micro controllers brings many challenges, especially when using only the micro controller itself to handle the entire experience. Complex graphics, sound, game logic and input is taxing enough on the small chips, toss in NTSC color graphics and you have a whole different bear on your hands.

[rossum] set out making the Arduinocade retro game system using an overclocked Arduino Uno, and not much more. Supporting 4 voice sound and IR game controllers, the system also boasts 27 simultaneous colors all in software. These colors and the resolution feel like they’re impossible without a graphics chip to offload some of the work. While doing all of this the ATmega328p is also playing some faithful reproductions of classic arcade games.

The uses a couple of interesting tricks. Color is generated with NTSC color artifacts, where the screen is really black and white, but thanks to a delay or two in the signal generation the bits are out of phase from the reference “color burst” signal and appear on-screen as unique colors. This approach was used in the 8 bit Apple II personal computers to generate its colors, and also on the early IBM PC’s with CGA cards to drastically increase color depth. In this case, the chip is overclocked with a 28.6363 MHz crystal (a multiple of NTSC timing) and the SPI hardware leveraged to shift out all the necessary pixels. Check out how great it looks and sounds after the break.

It’s good to see an old trick on a new project and we are off to play some games!

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