Turning Horrible Browser Controls Into A Game

With all of the various keyboards, mouses (mice?), and other human interface devices (HID) available for our computers, there’s no possible way for developers to anticipate every type of input for every piece of software they build. Most of the time everything will work fine as long as some basic standards are kept, both from the hardware and software sides, but that’s not always the case. [Losso] noticed a truly terrible volume control method when visiting certain websites while also using a USB volume knob, and used this quirk to build a Breakout game with it.

It turns out his volume control knob would interact simultaneously with certain video players’ built-in volume control and the system volume for the operating system, leading to a number of undesirable conditions. However, the fact that this control is built in to certain browsers in the first place led to this being the foundation for the Breakout clone [Losso] is calling KNOB-OUT. Unlike volume buttons on something like a multimedia keyboard, the USB volume control knob can be configured much more easily to account for acceleration, making it more faithful to the original arcade version of the game. The game itself is coded in JavaScript with the source code available right in the browser.

If you’d like to play [Losso]’s game here’s a direct link to it although sometimes small web-based projects like these tend to experience some slowdown when they first get posted here. And, if you’re looking for some other games to play in a browser like it’s the mid-00s again, we’re fans of this project which brings the unofficial Zelda game Zelda Classic to our screens.

Simple Version Of Pong Played On A Row Of LEDs

As far as video games go, Pong is already about as simple as it gets. But if even two dimensions is a bit more than you’re looking to tackle, [mircemk] shows how you can distill the core gameplay of this iconic title to its absolute minimum using an Arduino and a row of LEDs.

While [mircemk] brings their usual design aesthetic and flash to the project, this one could truly be done as a parts bin build. All you really need is a microcontroller with enough I/O pins (here, an Arduino Nano is used), a couple of buttons, and the aforementioned LEDs. A 16×2 LCD and a buzzer have been added to improve on the user interface a bit, but even that isn’t strictly required.

To play, each user holds their button and gets ready to hit it as soon as the LED closest to them lights up. Again, [mircemk] spruces this build up by offering both integrated buttons on the front panel of the game, as well as a pair of external “controllers” so you don’t have to crowd around the main unit. In this incarnation the score is shown on the LCD, but swapping that out for a pair of seven-segment LEDs could give the whole thing a bit more of a retro flair.

This isn’t the first time [mircemk] has tackled 1D Pong — if you can spring for addressable LEDs, you can pull the whole thing off with significantly less wiring.

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Docker-Powered Remote Gaming With Games On Whales

Cloud gaming services allow even relatively meager devices like set top boxes and cheap Chromebooks play the latest and greatest titles. It’s not perfect of course — latency is the number one issue as the player’s controller inputs need to be sent out to the server —  but if you’ve got a fast enough connection it’s better than nothing. Interested in experimenting with the tech on your own terms? The open source Games on Whales project is here to make that a reality.

As you might have guessed from the name, Games on Whales uses Linux and Docker as core components in its remote gaming system. With the software installed on a headless server, multiple users can create virtual desktop environments on the same machine, with each spawning as a separate process on the host computer. This means that all of the hardware of the host can be shared without needing to do anything complicated like setting up GPU pass-through. The main Docker container can spin up more containers as needed.

Of course there will obviously be limits to what any given hardware configuration will be able to support in terms of number of concurrent users and the demands of each stream. But for someone who wants to host a server for their friends or something even simpler like not having to put a powerful gaming PC in the living room, this is a real game-changer. For those not up to speed on Docker yet, we recently featured a guide on getting started with this powerful tool since it does take some practice to wrap one’s mind around at first.

Spinning Magnets Do Your Dice Rolling For You

Dice are about the simplest machines possible, and they’ve been used since before recorded history to generate random numbers. But no machine is so simple that a little needless complexity can’t make it better, as is the case with this mechanical spinning dice. Or die. Whatever.

Inspiration for the project came from [Attoparsec]’s long history with RPG and tabletop games, which depend on different kinds of dice to generate the randomness that keeps them going — that and the fortuitous find of a seven-segment flip-dot display, plus the need for something cool to show off at OpenSauce. The flip-dot is controlled by an array of neodymium magnets with the proper polarity to flip the segments to the desired number. The magnets are attached to an aluminum disk, with each array spread out far enough to prevent interference. [Attoparsec] also added a ring of magnets to act as detents that lock the disk into a specific digit after a spin.

The finished product ended up being satisfyingly clicky and suitably random, and made a good impression at OpenSauce. The video below documents the whole design and build process, and includes some design dead-ends that [Attoparsec] went down in pursuit of a multiple-digit display. We’d love to see him revisit some of these ideas, mechanically difficult though they may be. And while he’s at it, maybe he could spice up the rolls with a little radioactivity.

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Portable, Full-Size Arcade Cabinets

Believe it or not, there was a time when the only way for many of us to play video games was to grab a roll of quarters and head to the mall. Even though there’s a working computer or video game console in essentially every house now doesn’t mean we don’t look back with a certain nostalgia on those times, though. Some have turned to restoring vintage arcade cabinets and others build their own. This hackerspace got a unique request for a full-sized arcade cabinet that was also easily portable as well.

The original request was for a portable arcade cabinet, and the original designs were for a laptop-like tabletop arcade. But further back-and-forth made it clear they wanted full-size cabinets that just happened to also be portable. So with that criteria in mind the group started building the units. The updated design is modular, allowing the controls, monitor, and Raspberry Pi running the machines to be in self-contained units, with the cabinets in two parts that can quickly be assembled on-site. The base is separate and optional, with the top section capable of being assembled on the base or on something like a tabletop or bar, and the electronics section quickly drops in.

While the idea of a Pi-powered arcade cabinet is certainly nothing new, the quick build, prototyping, design, and final product that’s mobile and quickly assembled are all worth checking out. There is even more information on the build at the project’s GitHub page including Fusion 360 models. If you need your cabinets to be even more portable, this tabletop MAME cabinet is a great place to start.

Torment Poor Milton With Your Best Pixel Art

One of the great things about new tech tools is just having fun with them, like embracing your inner trickster god to mess with ‘Milton’, an AI trapped in an empty room.

Milton is trapped in a room is a pixel-art game with a simple premise: use a basic paint interface to add objects to the room, then watch and listen to Milton respond to them. That’s it? That’s it. The code is available on the GitHub repository, but there’s also a link to play it live without any kind of signup or anything. Give it a try if you have a few spare minutes.

Under the hood, the basic loop is to let the user add something to the room, send the picture of the room (with its new contents) off for image recognition, then get Milton’s reaction to it. Milton is equal parts annoyed and jumpy, and his speech and reactions reflect this.

The game is a bit of a concept demo for Open Souls whose “thing” is providing AIs with far more personality and relatable behaviors than one typically expects from large language models. Maybe this is just what’s needed for AI opponents in things like the putting game of Connect Fore! to level up their trash talking.

2024 Business Card Challenge: Integrated Game Card

[Dan Schnur] has a simple strategy to ensure their business card stays on the client’s desk and doesn’t just get lobbed in a drawer: make it into a simple gaming platform. This entry into the 2024 Business Card Challenge is based around the tinyjoypad project, integrating an SSD1306 OLED display, joypad, and push button.

Powered by the superstar ATTiny85, the electronics are really not all that much, just a sprinkling of passives to support the display and the six switch inputs from the joystick and push button. Or at least, that’s how much we can glean from the PCB images, as the PCB design files are not provided in the project GitHub.

Leaving the heavy lifting of the software to the tinyjoypad project, the designer can concentrate on the actual job at hand and the reason the business card exists to stay at the forefront of the client’s mind. In the meantime, the card can be a useful distraction for those idle moments. A few such distractions include a tiny version of Missile Command (as shown above), tiny tris, and a very cut-down Q-bert.  Sadly, that last game isn’t quite the same without that distinctive sound.