The Bitbox Console: an Open Source Gaming Rig

Bitbox Console

A simple resistive DAC is all you need to drive a VGA display. Combining that with an on-chip DAC for audio, the STM32F405RGT6 looks like a good choice for a DIY game console. [Makapuf’s] Bitbox console is a single chip gaming machine based on the STM32 ARM processor.

We’ve seen some DIY consoles in the past. The Uzebox is a popular 8 bit open source game system, and [makapuf] was inspired by its design. His console’s use of a more powerful 32 bit processor will allow for more complex games. It will also provide more colors and higher quality audio.

One of the keys of the Uzebox’s success is the development tools around it. There’s a full emulator which allows for debugging with GDB. [Makapuf] has already built an SDL based emulator, and can debug the target remotely using GDB. This will certainly speed up game development.

After the break, check out a demo of the first game for the Bitbox: JUMP. Also be sure to read through [makapuf]’s blog for detailed information on the build.

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An arcade controller for the original PlayStation

I love it when you hit those switches

[Kevin] just finished a project for someone who lives in his apartment complex. This resident loves the game Pop ‘n Music – a Guitar Hero sort of game for the original Playstation and PS2 that uses nine colored buttons instead of five buttons along a fingerboard. His original idea was to wire up a few arcade buttons to a Playstation controller but this plan fell through, forcing [Kevin] to figure out the PSX bus all by his lonesome.

The initial code began with simply bit-banging the PSX controller interface with an AVR. This had a few problems, namely speed, forcing [Kevin] to move onto assembly programming to squeeze every last bit of performance out of a microcontroller.

The assembly route failed as well, dropping some transactions  Looking at the problem again, [Kevin] realized the PSX controller bus looked a little like an SPI bus. There were a few changes required – reversing the order of the bits, and using the MISO line to drive a transistor – but this method worked almost perfectly on the first try.

Now, [Kevin]’s building mate has a custom Playstation controller for his favorite game. Of course all the code is up on github for all your PSX controller emulation needs, but be sure to check out this completely unrelated Pop ‘N Music video from someone who desperately needs a piano.

How to play a Game Boy emulator on Chromecast

gameboy-on-chromecast

It’s small, it’s blurry, but it’s working. Here’s a proof of concept for playing emulators on a Chromecast which uses the original Game Boy as an example.

Notice that there are two screens shown in the demo. Out of focus in the background is the television with the Chromecast displaying the game play. In the foreground is a computer with a browser open which lists off the control setup. These are the button mappings for an Xbox 360 controller. The emulator is a JavaScript Game Boy emulator. This is loaded on the Chromecast through a simple html file (called the receiver in the repo). The sender — also a simple html file — loads another JavaScript package on the computer which translates the controller’s button presses to keyboard inputs and sends them out to the receiver.

This puts stars in our eyes about emulator hacks. We’d love to see this boiled down to smartphone and Chromecast as the two pieces of hardware, with the touchscreen as the gaming input.

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BeagleBone Black becomes a handheld classic gaming console

Over at TI, the 2013 Intern Design Challenge is underway, an opportunity for the interns of TI to flex their engineering muscle for a few prizes and a chance to have their designs turned into actual products. We’re thinking [Max] might just pull this one out with his BeagleBone Gaming Cape, an add-on to the BeagleBone Black that turns this ARM-powered Linux board into a retro gaming system.

The build was inspired by [Max]’s earlier MSP430 Launchpad GamingPack, an add-on board for the Launchpad that put two NES controllers, a VGA out, and an FPGA to create a custom gaming console that’s up there with the brightest and best consoles of the 16-bit era. For the new BeagleBone-based build, [Max] eschewed off-board processing, but did manage to include a magnetometer/accelerometer and an audio codec IC to provide the best gaming experience for all those NES, Game Gear. Gameboy, GBA and Doom .wad games.

In addition to a fabulous piece of hardware, [Max] also has the case design down to a tee. He first printed out a dozen or so layers of his case, sandwiching the BeagleBone, his cape, battery holders, and LCD display. Once he knew the dimensions would work, he sent his files off to be laser cut out of a matte black delrin. The finished piece is a work of art, and considering how well everything goes together, we wouldn’t mind giving this new retro-gaming console a spin ourselves.

Atari 2600 has a Raspberry Pi hiding under the hood

raspberry-pi-2600

Seriously, the drawer pull on this Atari 2600 is not stock. Don’t they know this voids the warranty? The thing is, you won’t actually find any of the original internals anyway. When building this portable emulator housed in a 2600 case [Linear Nova] was careful to ensure that everything could be restored to its original condition (except for two hinges mounted on the back) sometime down the road. That’s a good goal to set for yourself. We think the build is the fun part of most projects and often wonder what to do with them when they’re done and our interest has waned.

A seven-inch LCD screen was attached to the underside of the lid using Velcro. When tilted up it’s at a nice viewing angle for the player. [Linear] prefers to use a Wii remote as the control this portable video game emulator. It connects to the Raspberry Pi over Bluetooth using a USB dongle. The advantage of this is that you just throw the remote inside the case too. For now there are two power cords, one for the RPi and the other for the LCD screen but he plans to add a power hub in the future to narrow this down to one. We wonder it that would also be a good time to add his own rechargeable battery pack option? There should be enough room for an RC style pack.

 

 

Sega controller houses auto-launch emulator

[Joe’s] wife grew up playing Sega games and he wanted to help her unwind by reliving the experience. Since the work computer she uses when travelling isn’t a good place to install emulators he built this plug-and-play emulator inside of a Sega controller.

We’ve seen this type of thing a few times before (even with XBMC in a SNES controller) but there is one thing we hadn’t thought of lately. Newer versions of Windows have auto-launch disabled for USB drives. But [Joe] knew that there were still some USB sticks that manage to auto-launch anyway so he researched how those work. It turns out that they have two partitions, one is formatted as a CDFS which looks like a CD-ROM to Windows and allows auto-launch. He used this method of partitioning a USB stick, storing the ROMs on the mass storage partition and the emulator and the CDFS partition. To finish the hack he cracked open the controller and found room for a USB hub and the PCB from the thumb drive.

If you still have cartridges lying around you can pull the ROMs off of them over USB.

Smashed tablet in NES case lives out its days as an emulator

smashed-tablet-nes-emulator

The creator of this project started off with a 7″ tablet he received from a coworker. The screen was horribly smashed from one corner spreading out through the entire surface. But the hardware inside still worked, including the HDMI out port. He ended up transplanting the tablet hardware for use as an emulator.

After a bit of sizing up it was determined that the tablet hardware would fit inside the case of a broken NES. The battery would have been a tough fit, but this thing is always going to need to be connected to a television so there’s no need to work without mains power. The back plate was cut down to size and used as a try for mounting the motherboard in the case. Before that step he wired up a USB hub and mounted it so that two ports could be accessed through the original controller port openings.

There’s no details on the software used, but the final image in the gallery shows a game of Starfox being played.

[Thanks Cody]