Open World 3D Game Runs On The RP2040 Microcontroller

The Raspberry Pi RP2040 is versatile and cheap, but it’s by no means known as the most powerful microcontroller on the world. Regardless, it is capable of great things, as demonstrated by [Bernhard Strobl], who built a 3D open world game engine that runs on that very platform.

The graphics are simple, but with a compelling low-poly style.

The game engine itself is built to run on the Pimoroni PicoSystem, which is essentially a handheld gaming platform built around the RP2040 chip. The engine takes advantage of the multi-core nature of the RP2040, using the second core as a dedicated rasterizer to keep frames pumping out.

The basic game [Bernhard] built in the engine features 50 NPC characters and 50 further zombies, all running at the same time. Specs are impressive, with the engine’s included game simulating a “world” of 120 x 120 meters in size. As a maximum limit, the engine can handle a 2.56 x 2.56 km world, thanks to the use of 8-bit integers for directional data. However, limited storage space would make it difficult to achieve such a large world in practice.

We don’t get to see much of the gameplay in the YouTube video, but the quality of the graphics is impressive for such a cheap microcontroller. It seems within the bounds of possibility that an actual open-world game could be practical on the PicoSystem if only enough storage were available. Video after the break.

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Experiments In 3D Graphics Via Excel

3D graphics were once the domain of university research groups and large, specialized computing systems. Eventually, they were tamed and became mainstream. Your phone, tablet, and home computer are all perfectly capable of generating moving 3D graphics. Incidentally, so is Microsoft Excel.

This is the work of of [s0lly], who has been experimenting wtih Excel in this way for quite some time. Starting with pseudo-3D graphics, the project then progressed to the development of a real 3D engine. Naturally, things couldn’t stop there. The next logical step was to advance to raytracing, which was pulled off with aplomb. Shiny spheres on featureless planes are par for the course here.

The graphics are necessarily basic, with resolutions on the order of 256×144. Output is by changing the individual color of the various cells of the spreadsheet. The relevant files are available on Github, for those eager to tinker with experiments of their own. We’ve seen others attempt similar work before, with [C Bel] writing a full game engine for the platform. Video after the break.

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Hack Excel For 3D Rendering

[C Bel] teaches Excel and he has a problem. Most of us — especially us Hackaday types — immediately write a VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) macro to do tough things in Excel. Not only is this difficult for non-technical users, but it also isn’t as efficient, according to [C Bel]. To demonstrate that VBA macros are not always needed, he wrote a 3D game engine using nothing but Excel formulae. He did have to resort to VBA to get user input and in a very few cases to improve the performance of large algorithms. You can see his result in the video below or download it and try it yourself.

The game is somewhat Doom-like. Somewhat. As you might expect it isn’t blindingly fast, and the enemy is a big red blob, but as the old Russian proverb goes, “The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all.” (And thanks to [Sean Boyce] for recalling that quote.)

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