TwoBitCircus: The Business of Building Interactive Entertainment

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The Hackaday 10th anniversary was an awful lot of fun, and part of what made it awesome was all the cool things that the community brought to the event. We hadn’t really had a chance to get down to meet the guys from TwoBitCircus before now but they were more than happy to bring along their excellent Hexacade machine. The 6-player custom built arcade game that was an absolute blast!

After the party TwoBitCircus’ fearless leaders [Brent Bushnell] and [Eric Gradman] invited us over to their space for a quick look at their workshop, and to give us a personal invite to the Hacker Preview day for their upcoming STEAM Carnival. No this isn’t Steam as in Steam-punk, but STEAM as in Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics.

TwoBitCircus Workshop

Their space is really quite amazing, part of The Brewery Art Colony near downton Los Angeles. The building is actually an old steam power plant with incredibly high ceilings. The TwoBitCircus crew is now about 30 people all building interactive games and art pieces for events. They call themselves a digital circus and a lot of their work harkens back to old carnival games of yore with a new digital twist.

[Eric] and [Brent] spared a few minutes to give us a quick run down of what sort of games to expect at the STEAM Carnival. There will be a wide array of entertainment: giant marble runs controlled by see-saws, whack-a-mole/twister mashups on huge glowing button walls, laser based foosball, and the more extreme immolation dunk tank! It will be a most entertaining and educational event. The main public days are on the weekend of 25th – 26th of October, but there is an invite only hacker preview for the local community on Thursday October 23rd which we will be attending. If you’d like to go to the main event, use the code HACKADAY for $5 off the ticket price of $25.

What was most interesting about TwoBitCircus for me as a maker of things was how these guys have turned their hobby into a thriving events business. Brent tells us that they’ve been at this for 8 years now and the company has been around for 3. They’re doing pretty well too, making incredible things for some of the biggest companies around. This really is the best possible job for any inventive hacker sort, building crazy stuff all day for people to play with! I left the place feeling incredibly envious.

Check out the photos below for some impression of the sort of craziness you might see at the carnival!

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Reverse Engineering Star Wars: Yoda Stories

Star Wars: Yoda Stories with a modified tile set

Star Wars: Yoda Stories was released by LucasArts in 1997 to minimal critical acclaim. As IGN said, “like Phantom Menace proved, just because it’s Star Wars doesn’t mean it’s good.” This didn’t stop [Zach] from playing it, and years later, taking an interest in reverse engineering the game.

[Zach]‘s reverse engineering of Star Wars: Yoda Stories (google cache) takes a look at the game’s data file. This binary file is parsed by the game at run time to extract sound effects, sprites, and map tiles. Perhaps the best known game data file type was Doom’s WAD file, which had purpose built editing programs from third parties.

After a quick look at the data file in HxD, [Zach] began writing scripts in C# to extract different sections of the data file. Once the sections were found, more code was used to apply a color palette and generate bitmaps.

In the end, [Zach] managed to get a couple thousand tiles of the game’s data. He found some interesting ones, such as the sports car that he replaced the X-Wing with in his mod. The engine for an earlier Lucasarts game, Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, should be very similar, and once we find the Mac install disk and a copy of ResEdit, we’ll post something on Hackaday.io.

SNESoIP: It’s exactly what it sounds like

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Here’s a cool hack for those of you wishing to play some retro multiplayer SNES games online!

[Michael Fitzmayer] is a resident hacker at shackspace; der hackerspace in StuttgartHe’s come up with this clever little ethernet adapter network-bridge that can share local controller-inputs over the internet. The entire project is open-source, and readily available on github. It’s still in the early stage of development, but it is already fully functional. The firmware is small and will fit on an ATmega8, and by the looks of the component list it’s a fairly easy build.

He’s even integrated a switch mode (hold B and Y during boot), which avoids trying to figure out which controller will be player one! After all, don’t you remember untangling the controller cords, trying to figure out which one is which?

We know you had a favorite controller and would give the other “crappy” one to your guest.

Example video is after the break.

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Game of Light

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Hyperrealistic graphics may be the standard for gaming, but Game of Light (Warning: Loud video volume) is a welcomed detour into vivid, low-res delight. Built for a course at the University of Oslo by [Abdimaalik], [Martin], [Andre], [Eivind], and [Stian], Game of Light has a handful game options, some of which allow up to four players. The build uses eight DE-DP14211 LED dot matrix boards, each with 32×16 bi-color LEDs and a built-in HT1632C display controller to handle the multiplexing. They are mounted together to form the 64×64 resolution display.

The box was custom-made out of what we suspect is acrylic, and uses some 3D printed pieces to offset the top from the bottom and to hold components in place. SNES controllers send data to the Arduino, which also runs the games and feeds the display controllers. Buried in the mix are two fans to keep the components cool. Everything is open source, so race to Github for source code and the games.

For another LED matrix project with a lot of gaming potential, check out [Brad's] PS2 mouse interface that lets him interactively draw in real-time.

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Building a small keypad for strategy games

A month ago [Andreas] started playing Starcraft 2 again. As he was not comfortable with the default hotkeys on a normal keyboard, [Andreas] decided to build his own.

He started by salvaging keys from an old keyboard he had lying around, then 3D printed the case you see in the picture above to fit them. The keyboard electrical design is a simple matrix and it appears that he etched the PCB himself. To provide the required USB connectivity, the Atmega8U2 was chosen. It comes with a pre-programmed USB bootloader that [Andreas] chose to activate when the left key is pressed at the system startup. The HID class was implemented using the LUFA-USB Framework and the final product is definitely good looking.

All the files required to duplicate his design can be found here. You can also checkout another starcraft keyboard and an ergonomic keyboard that we previously featured.

A charming Arduino king cobra game

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Here’s a fun game from [A.J.]‘s lab. It’s a simulated king cobra made from an Arduino, an ultrasonic sensor, and a servo. The aim of the game is to grab a ball in front of the device without being ‘bitten’ by the thumbtack attached to a drinking straw controlled by a servo. You know, just like a real king cobra.

There’s no schematic or build plans for this project, but it looks easy enough to cobble together. Despite its simplicity, this game looks hilariously fun, and could quite possibly provide more entertainment through using the machine rather than simply building it.

No text description of this game can do it justice, so check out the video below. It looks like a lot of fun, and if you already have the parts in a bin somewhere, it’ll make a great weekend build.

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Minecraft Coming to Raspberry Pi

The folks over at the Raspberry Pi Foundation often gets asked “does it run Minecraft?” Mojang, the team behind the block building game, has announced that they will be releasing Minecraft: Pi Edition. This port will be based off the Pocket Edition of the game, but with a revised set of features.

So what does this have to do with hacking? Mojang has announced that the Pi Edition will have “support for multiple programming languages.” There aren’t too many details about what this support will entail, but it looks to be aimed at teaching programming by using the world of Minecraft.

Hopefully, it will be possible to interface with the RPi’s expansion header to allow external devices to get data and create objects in the Minecraft world. There’s a lot of potential for hacking and learning programming skills.

The best part? It will be a completely free download. We’re looking forward to the launch.

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