The video game industry must be one of the most secretive sectors when it comes to developing the electronic hardware used in the gaming consoles. The big guys don’t want to give anything away — to the competition or to the hackers who will try to get around their security measures. But it seems Sifteo doesn’t share those secretive values. We had a great time reading about the bumpy ride for the developers bringing the gaming system from concept to market. [Micah Elizabeth Scott] wrote the guest post for Adafruit Industries. She was brought on as an engineer for the Sifteo project just after the first version of the interactive gaming cube was released. From her narrative it seems like this was the top of the big hill on the roller coaster ride for the company.
What’s seen above is one gaming cube. The system developed in [Beth’s] story puts together multiple cubes for each game. The issue at hand when she joined the company was how to put more power in the hardware and rely less heavily on a computer to which it was tethered. She discusses cost of components versus features offered, how to deliver the games to the system, and all that the team learned from studying successful consoles that came before them like the long line of Nintendo hardware. It’s a fascinating read if you’re interesting in how the sausage is made.
It sounds like [Andrew] is trying to build a Pavlovian response into his behavior when it comes to online gaming. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss out when all his friends are online, so he built this traffic signal to monitor Xbox Live activity. It will illuminate the lights, and drive the meters differently based on which of his friends are currently online. When the light’s green, he drops everything a grabs a controller.
The base of the light is a black project box. Inside you’ll find the Arduino compatible chip which drives the device mounted on a piece of protoboard. A WIZnet W5100 adds network connectivity at the low price of around $25. There is one problem with the setup. The API which [Andrew] found doesn’t use any authentication. This means that he can only see the public status of his friends; anyone who has set their online status set to private will always register as ‘online’. If you know of an existing Xbox Live API that would solve this issue we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
[Mike Kohn’s] Syma S107 helicopter wasn’t flying as well as it used to due to a broken gear, he figured he might as well find some use for the toy’s controller, since it was currently sitting around collecting dust. Having done a bunch of work with Syma IR protocols earlier this year, he decided it would be pretty easy to get the remote working as a game pad for his Linux desktop.
He patched an IR receiver into an MSP430 board, which decodes the incoming IR signals, sending them to his computer over a serial connection. [Mike] dug around in the Linux source for some good joystick driver code to borrow and found something that was close enough to work. After a bit of tweaking he loaded up his driver module and fired up Mame to give [Ms. Pacman] a try.
He says that the controller worked without much trouble, though as he discovered in previous projects, there are some quirks in the controller that make it somewhat less than convenient to use full time. Check out his site if you’re interested in taking a look at the code that he used to get things running.
The concept of having a digital gaming table got stuck in [RobotGuy’s] mind over the weekend and he managed to whip this up in no time using materials on hand. He already had a ceiling-mounted projector which just happens to reside immediately above the space occupied by his coffee table. By swapping that piece of furniture out for a white Ikea table, and adding a mirror to the projector he now has the virtual gaming surface he was looking for. The mirror mount is nothing more than a desk lamp that includes a spring clamp and flexible neck. He hot glued the piece of mirror to this, and attached it to the projector’s ceiling anchor. Since rear-projection screens are common, all digital projectors have the ability to mirror and rotate the image being displayed so that it appears on the table in the correct orientation.
We love the look, but this is really only one portion of a digital gaming project. We think the table needs some interactivity. We often see this done using infrared light processed by a webcam. That multi-touch option is not going to work with a standard table since the camera needs to be on the opposite side of a translucent surface. But if you don’t mind using a stylus this IR whiteboard technique would work.
[Anthony] is a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, but he thought the game would be far more fun to play with an electronic die rather than the traditional fare. Electronic dice are nothing new around here, though we can’t help but like his design.
He wanted to keep his electronic die as small as possible while ensuring it would last an entire gaming session, so rather than use a battery to power it, he opted for a super capacitor instead. His 1F 5.5V cap keeps the PIC18 and 22 SMD LEDs chugging along quite nicely without ever requiring a break in the action for a charge.
The electronic die looks great, and give him the choice of rolling a 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sided die with a simple push of a button. While a bit less interactive than tossing a die on the table, we certainly wouldn’t mind having one.
What do you do if you’re a developer that gets shut out of the approval process for closed-shop gaming systems? If you’re [Robert Pelloni] you protest first, then establish your own startup to develop a gaming platform that is open and inexpensive. The hardware seen above is a rendering of the nD, a cheap and open gaming handheld. They plan to sell it at cost ($20) and let anyone develop games.
Check out the video after the break to see the pitch. The hardware is sparse; a plastic case and some buttons, a 320×240 LCD screen, a PCB with a system-on-a-chip, and a rechargeable battery. But if you’re writing great games the spartan hardware doesn’t matter (we still love a good game of Metroid when we have the time). Developers will be able to license games for sale in the nD online market. They’ll keep 90% while nD takes it’s 10%. Not a bad deal.
If you haven’t heard about [Bob] protesting Nintendo, give this article a gander.
Continue reading “nD sticks it to traditional gaming giants”
Let’s face it – gamers have a reputation for being pretty lazy. In the most recent episode of his web series, [Ben Heck] takes on the stereotypical gamer role and cranks the laziness factor to 11, lamenting the fact that he needs to get up off the couch to swap discs in his Xbox 360 console. Never allowing laziness get in the way of his hacking, he springs into action, hauling off to his shop in order to construct an Xbox DVD changer system.
He grabbed a pair of CD changers and popped them open to see how they operated. After choosing the best candidate based on its CD loading method, he got to work disassembling the changer. The old CD player and its guts were removed, which he replaced with DVD drive components ripped from his Xbox. Quite a bit of trimming and tweaking was required to swap out the components, but it seems that [Ben] got things working just fine.
With the mechanical portion of the project out of the way, he dug into the electronics. The CD changer had no way of knowing how to interface with the Xbox and vice versa, so [Ben] had to devise a way for the two devices to communicate. He used an Arduino Uno to control the systems, triggering the CD carousel only when the Xbox thought it had its drive slot opened.
While the system looks a bit unpolished, and the controller quite bulky, we love this thing! No matter if you are lazy or not, jamming these two devices together is exactly what hacking is all about.