Official Arduboy Upgrade Module Nears Competition

We’ve been big fans of the Arduboy since [Kevin Bates] showed off the first prototype back in 2014. It’s a fantastic platform for making and playing simple games, but there’s certainly room for improvement. One of the most obvious usability issues has always been that the hardware can only hold one game at a time. But thanks to the development of an official add-on, the Arduboy will soon have enough onboard storage to hold hundreds of games

Even the rear silkscreen was a community effort.

The upgrade takes the form of a small flexible PCB that gets soldered to existing test points on the Arduboy. Equipped with a W25Q128 flash chip, the retrofit board provides an additional 16 MB of flash storage to the handheld’s ATmega32u4 microcontroller; enough to hold essentially every game and program ever written for the platform at once.

Of course, wiring an SPI flash chip to the handheld’s MCU is only half the battle. The system also needs to have its bootloader replaced with one that’s aware of this expanded storage. To that end, the upgrade board also contains an ATtiny85 that’s there to handle this process without the need for an external programmer. While this is a luxury the average Hackaday reader could probably do without, it’s a smart move for an upgrade intended for a wider audience.

The upgrade board is currently available for pre-order, but those who know their way around a soldering iron and a USBasp can upgrade their own hardware right now by following along with the technical discussion between [Kevin] and the community in the “Project Falcon” forum. In fact, the particularly astute reader may notice that this official upgrade has its roots in the community-developed Arduboy cartridge we covered last year.

Continue reading “Official Arduboy Upgrade Module Nears Competition”

3D Printing For Wire Paths Yields An Arduboy Minus The PCB

What is part way between a printed circuit board and a rats-nest of point-to-point wiring? We’re not sure, but this is it. [Johan von Konow] has come up with an inspired solution, 3D printing an Arduboy case with channels ready-made for all the wires. The effect with his 3DPCBoy is of a PCB without the PCB, and allows the console to be made very quickly and cheaply.

The Arduboy — which we originally looked at back in 2014 — is a handheld gaming console in a somewhat Gameboy-like form factor. Normally a credit-card sized PCB hosts all the components, including a microcontroller, display, and buttons. Each has a predictable footprint and placement so they can simply be wired together with hookup wire, if you don’t mind a messy result.

Here the print itself has all the holes ready-created for the components, and the path of the wires has a resemblance to the sweeping traces of older hand-laid PCBs. The result is very effective way to take common components — and Arduino pro micro board for the uC, an OLED breakout board, and some buttons — and combine them into a robust package. This technique of using 3D prints as a combination of enclosure and substrate for components and wiring has an application far beyond handheld gaming. We look forward to seeing more like it.

[Via the Arduboy community forum, thanks [Kevin Bates] for the tip.]

Arduino Handheld Game System Gets A Grip

With little more than an Arduino, an OLED display, and some buttons, it’s easy to build your own faux-retro game system. There’s even a growing library of titles out there that target this specific combination of hardware, thanks in no small part to the Arduboy project. But unless you’re content to play Circuit Dude on a breadboard, at some point you’ll probably want to wrap the build up in a more convenient form.

Like many that came before it, the OLED handheld created by [Alex Zidros] takes inspiration from a Nintendo product; but it’s not the Game Boy. Instead, his design is based on a 3D printed grip for the Switch Joy-Cons that he found on Thingiverse. After tacking on a holder for the PCB, he had the makings of a rather unique system.

We especially like the offset SSD1306 OLED display. Not because we think a game system with an asymmetrical layout is a particularly sound design decision, but because it gives the whole build a rather cyberpunk feel. When combined with the exposed electronics, the whole system looks like it could have been cobbled together from a futuristic dumpster. Which is high praise, as far as we’re concerned.

Opposite the display is a LiPo pouch battery that [Alex] says was liberated from a portable speaker, and down below is an Adafruit Feather 328P. There are two tactile switches mounted to the front of the Feather, and in something of a departure from these sort of builds, there are two more on the shoulders of the 3D printed case. Everything is held together with nothing more exotic than a scrap of perfboard, making it easy for anyone who might want to build their own version.

If you prefer your Arduino and OLED gaming to come in a slightly more familiar form factor, the build that was done inside of a Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit (VMU) has always been a favorite around these parts.

Tiny Game System Is An Experiment In Minimalism

Many people assumed the smartphone revolution would kill the dedicated handheld game system, and really, it’s not hard to see why. What’s the point of buying the latest Nintendo or Sony handheld when the phone you’re already carrying around with you is capable of high-definition 3D graphics and online connectivity? Software developers got the hint quickly, and as predicted, mobile gaming has absolutely exploded over the last few years.

But at the same time, we’ve noticed something of a return to the simplistic handheld systems of yore. Perhaps it’s little more than nostalgia, but small bare-bones systems like the one [Mislav Breka] has entered into the 2019 Hackaday Prize show that not everyone is satisfied with the direction modern gaming has gone in. His system is specifically designed as an experiment to build the most minimal gaming system possible.

In terms of the overall design, this ATMega328 powered system is similar to a scaled-down Arduboy. But while the visual similarities are obvious, the BOM that [Mislav] has provided seems to indicate a considerably more spartan device. Currently there doesn’t seem to be any provision for audio, nor is there a battery and the associated circuitry to charge it. As promised, there’s little here other than the bare essentials.

Unfortunately, the project is off to something of a rocky start. As [Mislav] explains in his writeup on Hackaday.io, there’s a mistake somewhere in either the board design or the component selection that’s keeping the device from accepting a firmware. He won’t have the equipment to debug the device until he returns to school, and is actively looking for volunteers who might be interested in helping him get the kinks worked out on the design.

The Arduboy, Ported To Desktop And Back Again

A neat little hacker project that’s flying off the workbenches recently is the Arduboy. This tiny game console looks like a miniaturized version of the O.G. Game Boy, but it is explicitly designed to be hacked. It’s basically an Arduino board with a display and a few buttons, anyway.

[rv6502] got their hands on an Arduboy and realized that while there were some 3D games, there was nothing that had filled polygons, or really anything resembling a modern 3D engine. This had to be rectified, and the result is pretty close to Star Fox on a microcontroller.

This project began with a simple test on the Arduboy to see if it would be even possible to render 3D objects at any reasonable speed. This test was just a rotating cube, and everything looked good. Then began a long process of figuring out how fast the engine could go, what kind of display would suit the OLED best, and how to interact in a 3D world with limited controls.

Considering this is a fairly significant engineering project, the fastest way to produce code isn’t to debug code on a microcontroller. This project demanded a native PC port, so all the testing could happen on the PC without having to program the Flash every time. That allowed [rv] to throw out the Arduino IDE and USB library; if you’re writing everything on a PC and only uploading a hex file to a microcontroller at the end, you simply don’t need it.

One of the significant advances of the graphics capability of the Arduboy comes from exploring the addressing modes of the OLED. By default, the display is in a ‘horizontal mode’ which works for 2D blitting, but not for rasterizing polygons. The ‘vertical addressing mode’, on the other hand, allows for a block of memory, 8 x 128 bytes, that maps directly to the display. Shove those bytes over, and there’s no math necessary to display an image.

This is, simply, one of the best software development builds we’ve seen. It’s full of clever tricks (like simply not doing math if you’ll never need the result) and stuffing animations into far fewer bytes than you would expect. You can check out the demo video below.

Continue reading “The Arduboy, Ported To Desktop And Back Again”

Arduboy In A Dreamcast VMU

The Arduboy is a tiny, credit-card sized sized video game console that you can build yourself. The Dreamcast VMU was also a tiny, pocketable video game system, but really that’s just where we stored our saves for Crazy Taxi. What do you get when you combine the two? [sjm] did just that, giving us an Arduboy tucked into a Dreamcast VMU.

The guts of the Arduboy is simply an ATMega32u4, the same chip found in many Arduinos, an I2C OLED, and a few other various electronics for USB, power, and battery protection. In short, it’s an easy circuit, and something just about anyone with the skills can build themselves. Since just anyone can get a PCB fabbed, and the Dreamcast already has nice silicone buttons built into the enclosure, it was a simple matter for [sjm] to create a Dreamcast VMU-shaped PCB with all the guts of an Arduboy. The only real difference is the size of the OLED — this one uses a 0.96″ 128×64 OLED, where the original used one with the same resolution but with a significantly larger size.

Yes, we’ve seen this same project before, but now thanks to the magic of the Hackaday Prize, it’s now in the running for the greatest hardware competition on the planet. You can check out the entire build video and a short demo after the break. Of course, this isn’t the first repurposing of the Arduboy circuit, we’ve seen a flex circuit version, and a version with a crank like the Playdate developed by Teenage Engineering and Panic.

Continue reading “Arduboy In A Dreamcast VMU”

Midiboy, The Portable Gaming Console With MIDI

The ArduBoy is a tiny little gaming console that’s also extremely simple. It’s only a small, cheap, monochrome OLED display, a microcontroller with Arduino-derived firmware, and a few buttons. That’s it, but with these simple ingredients the community around the ArduBoy has created a viable gaming platform. It has cartridges now, and one version has a crank. Now, the MIDIboy is bringing something like the ArduBoy to the world of electronic music.

Inside the MIDIboy is what you would expect from any review of the ArduBoy schematics. There are six buttons, a speaker, a USB port, and a SPI OLED display. In addition to all of this are two big chonkin’ DIN-5 ports for MIDI in and MIDI out, and yes, the MIDI in port has an optoisolator.

As for what you can do with a tiny little game console connected to MIDI, there are already a few choice apps — the MIDI Chords app creates chords, obviously, and the MIDImon sketch is a MIDI monitor. There are some controllers for MIDI synths, and of course this device is completely open source. If you’ve ever wanted a DIY controller for your favorite MIDI synth, this is what you need.

If an ArduBoy with MIDI doesn’t sound exciting, just check out Little Sound DJ. That’s a Game Boy cartridge that turns your old brick Game Boy into a music production workstation. Yes, it sounds great and there’s a lot of potential in a pocket game console with MIDI ports.