Taking Pokémon On A Walk

Emulating old computers or video game systems isn’t always about recreating childhood nostalgia or playing classics on hardware that doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of the time it can be an excellent way to learn about the mechanics of programming a video game. Plenty of older titles have available source code that anyone can pour over and modify, and one of those is Pokémon Emerald. This was the first Pokémon game that [Inkbox] played, and he added a few modern features to it with this custom ROM file.

The first thing to add to this game was the ability to have one’s Pokémon follow their character around in the overworld map. This is common in later games, but wasn’t yet a feature when Emerald and Ruby first came out. [Inkbox] needed to import sprites from later games into the Emerald game file, convert their color palettes to match the game’s palette, and then get to work on the mechanics. After everything was finished, the Pokémon not only follow the player around the map but are animated, enter and exit their Pokéballs, and even jump off ledges in a believable, 32-bit way.

One of the great things about older games like these is that they’ve been around long enough to have source code or decompiled code available, they often have plenty of documentation, and the platforms they operate on are well-known by now as well. Pokémon Emerald is not alone in this regard; in fact, there is a huge Game Boy Advance homebrew scene that is not too difficult to get involved in.

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An M1 Mac mini sits next to a white Wii on a wooden table. In the background are various Edison-style LED light fixtures with an incadescent-like light profile.

This Wii Has An Apple M1 Inside

The conveniently tiny logic board of the M1 Mac mini has lead to it giving the Mini ITX format a run for its money in case mods. The latest example of this is [Luke Miani]’s M1 Wii. (Youtube via 9to5Mac)

[Miani] chose the Wii as a new enclosure for this Mac mini given its similar form factor and the convenient set of doors in the top to maintain access to the computer’s I/O, something he wasn’t able to do with one of his previous M1 casemods. The completed build is a great stealth way to have a Mac mini in your entertainment center. [Miani] even spends the last several minutes of the video showing the M1 Wii running Wii, GameCube, and PS2 games to really bring it full circle.

A Microsoft Surface power brick was spliced into the original Wii power cable since the Wii PSU didn’t have enough wattage to supply the Mac mini without significant throttling. On the inside, the power runs through a buck converter before making its way to the logic board. While the Mini’s original fan was too big to fit inside the Wii enclosure, a small 12V fan was able to keep performance similar to OEM and much higher than running the M1 fanless without a heat spreader.

If you’d like to see some more M1 casemods, check out this Lampshade iMac or the Mac Mini Mini.

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A wooden table with a puzzle on top of it sits in an off white room with a light wood floor. A red chair sits behind the table and the slats of the rolled away tambour top are visible.

Tambour Table With A Puzzling Secret

Some people really like puzzles. [Simone Giertz] is one of these serious puzzle lovers and built a transforming table (YouTube) to let her easily switch between puzzles and more mundane tasks, like eating.

While there are commercial solutions out there for game tables with removable tops and simpler solutions like hinged lids, [Giertz] decided to “make it more complicated and over-engineered than that.” A tambour top that rolls out of the way makes this a unique piece of furniture already, but the second, puzzle table top that can be raised flush with the sides of the table really brings this to the next level.

If that wasn’t already enough, the brass handles on the table are also custom made. In grand maker tradition, [Giertz] listened to her inner MYOG (Make Your Own Gnome) and got a lathe to learn to make her own handles instead of just buying some off the shelf.

If you’re less enamored of puzzles, you may want to see how Jigsaw Puzzles are Defeated. If you’re worried about losing pieces, check out these 3D Printed Sliding Puzzles.

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Old CRT Television playing Luigi's Mansion on a rusted out bike (Original Photo by Anete Lusina)

Luigi’s Mansion First Person Mod Brings Spooky New Perspective

The Nintendo GameCube in many ways defied expectations. It was purple, it had buttons shaped like beans, and it didn’t launch with a Mario game. What we got instead was the horror-adjacent ghost adventure game starring Mario’s brother — Luigi’s Mansion. The game was a graphical showpiece for the time, however, the camera angles were all fixed like an early Resident Evil game. Not satisfied with playing within those bounds, modder [Sky Bluigi] created a first person camera patch for the game that finally let players see why Luigi was so freaked out all the time.

The patch dubbed Luigi’s Mansion FPO (First Person Optimized) does a lot to drive home the game’s child-friendly, spooky aesthetic. Along with the ability to explore environments with a new lens, it provides the ability to turn the flashlight on and off manually if you want. Though the most impressive part of Luigi’s Mansion FPO is that it runs on real hardware. All that’s needed to play the mod is clean image of the North American release of Luigi’s Mansion and a .xdelta patching utility like Delta Patcher. GameCube games can be ripped directly to a USB thumb drive using a soft-modded Nintendo Wii console running Clean Rip or similar backup tool.

Luigi’s Mansion FPO actually provides a collection of patches that offer revised controls and increased field of view depending on which patch is used. The original game had inverted controls for aiming Luigi’s ghost vacuum, so the “Invert C-Stick Controls” patch will install a more modern aiming scheme where up on the right stick will aim upwards and vice versa. The “Better FOV” pulls the camera a little further back from where Luigi’s head would be while the original aiming scheme is retained. Though no matter which patch you decide to go with, a mod like this is always a good excuse to revisit a cult classic.

For another fresh GameCube mod check out this post about a Raspberry Pi Pico based modchip for the system.

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Dylan showing off his giant tractor video game controller

Real Tractor Moonlights As Farming Simulator Controller

Around October, amid all the pumpkin spiced food and beverages, folks make their yearly pilgrimage to a local farm. They load themselves onto hay-filled tractor trailers and ride out in search of the perfect pumpkin to put on the front porch, and let it slowly decompose. The “closest” a video game has come to replicating this seasonal event is the annual Farming Simulator series. One modder, [Dylan], decided to add an extra level of authenticity to the Farming Simulator experience by controlling the game with an actual tractor.

The opportunity for the project presented itself thanks to a local Kiwi farmer (Kiwi as in New Zealand, not the fruit) who provided [Dylan] with access to a Case IH 310 Magnum CVT tractor. [Dylan] built a custom USB controller that mirrored the actual layout of the tractor’s control pad. Tilt sensors were wrapped around the tractor’s steering wheel and throttle to provide analog input for steering and speed control. After a number of hours tweaking the setup on site, [Dylan] live-streamed his Farming Simulator PC play session (video below) with the tractor itself left off for obvious reasons. Without tractor motor engaged there was no power steering, so he deserves a bit of extra credit for making it through multiple hours.

This certainly isn’t the first ridiculous controller project [Dylan] has taken on. He’s created a trombone controller to just to play Trombone Champ, a Nerf bow controller for Overwatch, and he even played through Hades using a literal pomegranate. You can watch more of [Dylan’s] custom controller projects on his Rudeism Twitch channel.

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Catch The Stick Game Is A Tidy Build

There are many different ways to test one’s reaction times; a simple way is to simply drop a ruler and see how far it falls before you can catch it. Take that same concept to a greater level, and you get this impressive “Catch The Stick” game.

The creation of one [Romain Labbe], the build has a wooden frame that holds up several sticks roughly seven feet off the ground. When the game is triggered, a beeper counts down, and then sticks start dropping. Each stick is held in place with a small solenoid-controlled latch, and the game simply energizes the solenoids in turn to drop the sticks randomly. On easier modes, the sticks are released gently, one at a time. On higher difficulty levels, they’re released in a near-continuous stream that would tax even a team of several players.

It’s not a complicated build, but it is very nicely executed. It certainly looks to be good fun to play with friends. Alternatively, you could try out this more distributed-style build. Video after the break.

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Researching Factorio…For Science

Science has affirmatively answered a lot of questions that, looking back, could be seen as bizarre to have asked in the first place. Questions like “can this moldy cheese cure disease” or “can this rock perform math if we give it some electricity.”  Among the more recent of this list is the question of whether or not the video game Factorio, in which the player constructs an elaborate factory, can be used as the basis for other academic work. As [Kenneth Reid] discusses in this talk, it most certainly can.

If you haven’t played the game, it’s a sort of real-time strategy (RTS) game where the player gathers materials to construct a factory while defending it from enemies. On the surface it might seem similar to Age of Empires or Starcraft, but its complexity is taken to extremes not found in other RTS games. The complexity hides nuance, and [Kenneth] points out that it’s an excellent simulator to study real-world problems such as vehicle routing problems, decision making, artificial intelligence, bin packing problems, and production planning, among a whole slew of other interesting areas of potential research.

[Kenneth] and his partners on this project also developed some software tools with interacting with a Factorio game without having to actually play it directly. The game includes an API which the team used to develop tools so that other researchers can use it as a basis for simulations and studies. There was a research paper published as well for more in-depth reading on the topic. We shouldn’t be too surprised that a game can be used in incredibly productive ways like this, either. Here’s another example of a toy being used to train engineers working in industrial automation.

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