Light Replaces Electrons for Giant Vector-Graphics Asteroids Game

For all its simplicity, the arcade classic Asteroids was engaging in the extreme, with the ping of the laser, the rumble of the rocket, the crash of crumbling space rocks, and that crazy warble when the damn flying saucers made an appearance. Atari estimates that the game has earned operators in excess of $500 million since it was released in 1979. That’s two billion quarters, and we’ll guess a fair percentage of those coins came from the pockets of Hackaday’s readers and staff alike.

One iconic part of Asteroids was the vector display. Each item on the field was drawn as a unit by the CRT’s electron beam dancing across the phosphor rather than raster-scanned like TV was at the time. The simple graphics were actually pretty hard to create, and with that in mind, [standupmaths] decided to take a close look at the vector display of Asteroids and try to recreate it using a laser.

To be fair, [Seb Lee-Delisle] does all the heavy lifting here, with [standupmaths] providing context on the history and mathematics of the original vector display. [Seb] is a digital artist by trade, and has at the ready a 4-watt RGB laser projector for light shows and displays. Using the laser as a replacement for the CRT’s electron beam, [Seb] was able to code a reasonably playable vector-graphic version of Asteroids on a large projections screen. Even the audio is faithful to the original. The real treat comes when the laser is slowed and a little smoke added to show us how each item is traced out in order.

All [Seb]’s code is posted on GitHub, so if you have a laser projector handy, by all means go for it. Or just whip up a custom vector display for your own tabletop version of Asteroids.

Continue reading “Light Replaces Electrons for Giant Vector-Graphics Asteroids Game”

Most Beautiful Mini-Galaga-Pi Ever!

The problem with click-bait titles, besides the fact that they make the reader feel cheated and maybe a little bit dirty for reading the article, is that they leave us with nothing to say when something is truly outstanding. But the video of [Tiburcio de la Carcova] building up a mini-Galaga cabinet (complete with actual tiny CRT screen from an old portable 5″ TV) is actually the best we’ve ever seen.

Plywood is laser-cut. Custom 3D printed parts are manufactured and assembled, including the joysticks and coin door. Aluminum panels are cut on a bandsaw and bent with a hand brake. Parts are super-glued. In short, it’s a complete, sped-up video of the cutting-edge of modern DIY fab. If that’s not enough reason to spend four minutes of your time, we don’t know what is.

[Tiburcio] has also made a mini Space Invaders, and is thinking of completing the top-20 of his youth. Pacman, Asteroids, and Missile Command are next. We can’t wait.

There are (ahem) a couple of Raspberry-Pi-powered video game emulators on Hackaday, so it’s a little awkward to pick one or two to link in. We’ll leave you with this build that also uses a small CRT monitor to good effect albeit in less-fancy clothing.

Continue reading “Most Beautiful Mini-Galaga-Pi Ever!”

ASTROGUN is like Asteroids on Steroids


As the Jerusalem mini Makerfaire approached, [Avishay] had to come up with something to build. His final project is something he calls ASTROGUN. The ASTROGUN is a sort of augmented reality game that has the player attempting to blast quickly approaching asteroids before being hit.

It’s definitely reminiscent of the arcade classic, Asteroids. The primary difference is that the player has no space ship and does not move through space. Instead, the player has a first person view and can rotate 360 degrees and look up and down. The radar screen in the corner will give you a rough idea of where the asteroids are coming from. Then it’s up to you to actually locate them and blast them into oblivion before they destroy you.

The game is built around a Raspberry Pi computer. This acts as the brains of the operation. The Pi interfaces with an MPU-9150 inertial measurement unit (IMU). You commonly see IMU’s used in drones to help them keep their orientation. In this case, [Avishay] is using it to track the motion and orientation of the blaster. He claims nine degrees of freedom with this setup.

The Pi generates the graphics and sends the output to a small, high-brightness LCD screen. The screen is mounted perpendicular to the player’s view so the screen is facing “up”. There is a small piece of beam splitting glass mounted above the display at approximately a 45 degree angle. This is a special kind of glass that is partially reflective and partially translucent. The result is that the player sees the real-world background coming through the glass, with the digital graphics overlaid on top of that. It’s similar to some heads-up display technologies.

All of the electronics fit either inside or mounted around a toy gun. The display system was attached with a custom-made fiberglass mount. The code appears to be available via Github. Be sure to watch the video of the system in action below. Continue reading “ASTROGUN is like Asteroids on Steroids”

Vector Graphic Flappy Bird Harder Than It Should Be

The dark room at Maker Faire was loud,  after all it’s where Arc Attack was set up plus several other displays that had music. But if you braved the audio, and managed not to experience a seizure or migraine from all the blinking you were greeted with these sharply glowing vector displays on exhibit at the TubeTime booth. We did the best we could with the camera work, but the sharpness of the lines, and contrast of the phosphorescent images against the black screen still seems to pop more if viewed in person.

This isn’t [Eric’s] first attempt at driving high-voltage tube displays. We previously covered his dekatron kitchen timer. But we’d say he certainly stepped things up several notches in the years between then and now. He blogged about Asteroids, which is running on the same hardware as the Flappy Bird demo from our video above. An STM32F4 Discovery board is running a 6502 emulator to push the game to [Eric’s] CRT vector driver hardware.

Just before we were done at the booth, [Eric] turned to us with a twinkle in his eye. He confessed his delight in purposely leaving out any button debounce from the Flappy Bird demo. As if it wasn’t hard enough it tends to glitch after passing just a few of the pipe gates. Muhuhahaha!

Making Asteroids Miniature


Mini arcade cabinet builds are fairly common, but we’ve never seen anything like [Jurgen]’s mini vector Asteroids cabinet that takes an original Asteroids circuit board and a true vector monitor and shrinks it down to table top size.

Unlike the raster monitors of a later generation’s arcade games, the original Asteroids cabinet used a vector monitor just like one would find in an oscilloscope. [Jurgen] found the perfect CRT in, of all places, a broken Vectrex console. The video circuitry in the Vectrex was rather primitive and the beam deflection was far too slow for the video signals generated by the Asteroids PCB. To get around this, [Jurgen] added a custom XY driver board. While the Asteroids game – and other vector Atari games – were designed for a screen with 1 MHz of bandwidth, [Jurgen] found that 300 kHz was ‘good enough’ to display proper Asteroids graphics.

While the cabinet isn’t a miniaturized version of any proper cabinet, [Jurgen] did manage to build a rather nice looking case for his luggable version of Asteroids. The exposed PCB on the back is a great touch, and an awesome project for any ancient video game aficionado.

Human Asteroids makes you a vector triangle ship


In 1979, [Nolan Bushnell] released Asteroids to the world. Now, he’s playing the game again, only this time with the help of a laser projector and a Kinect that turns anyone sitting on a stool – in this case [Nolan] himself – into everyone’s favorite vector spaceship. It’s a project for Steam Carnival, a project by [Brent Bushnell] and [Eric Gradman] that hopes to bring a modern electronic carnival to your town.

The reimagined Asteroids game was created with a laser projector to display the asteroids and ship on a floor. A Kinect tracks the user sitting and rolling on a stool while a smart phone is the triangular spaceship’s ‘fire’ button. The game is played in a 150 square foot arena, and is able to put anyone behind the cockpit of an asteroid mining triangle.

[Brent] and [Eric] hope to bring their steam carnival to LA and San Francisco next spring, but if they exceed their funding goals, they might be convinced to bring their show east of the Mississippi. We’d love to try it out by hiding behind the score like the original Asteroids and wasting several hours.

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Asteriods: the belt buckle


This is going to change the way you play with yourself. What if every time you got a little bored you reached for your belt rather than your smart phone? [Cunning_Fellow] may be doing that more often now that he finished this slick-looking video game belt buckle which plays the classic Asteroids game.

It isn’t just an intriguing concept. The build was pulled off at a very high level of quality… this thing should have no problem standing the test of time. First off he had to figure out if it was even possible to run the game at a respectable frame-rate. Cheap 320×240 LCD screens don’t have a frame marker (think of it as a vertical sync signal with can be used as an interrupt for the microcontroller). But he thought it was possible that the frame marker pin just wasn’t connected like on more expensive screens and he was right with at least one model he acquired.

With that out of the way he laid out and etched a beautiful double-sided board to house all of the electronics. But he still needed a case. To get a one-of-a-kind look he masked and etched a sheet of brass. Once cut out and folded ti gives a wonderful look and protects the electronics inside quite well.