Light guns were a fun way to learn to shoot things on consoles, enjoying their heyday in the 80s and 90s. The original designs largely relied on the unique characteristics of CRT televisions and the timing involved in the drawing of their frames. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons (dependent on the exact techniques used), they typically do not work at all with modern LCD & plasma screens.
Recently, there has emerged a new project called the Sinden Lightgun. In the How It Works video, it seems to use a fairly standard 30fps camera inside the gun to image the television screen being used by the game. The display is then rendered in 4:3, letterboxed on a 16:9 aspect ratio display, within a rectangular bezel. The image from the camera is then processed, and the distortion of the game image is used to calculate the position of the gun and the direction of its aim. Processing is handled by the host computer running MAME and the requisite coordinates are fed back in to the game code.
The basic concept seems sound, though as always, there’s a healthy amount of skepticism around the project. We’d love to hear your take, on whether the concept is plausible, and whether the lag figures stated are cromulent. We’re always excited to see new developments in the lightgun space! Video after the break.
A must-have peripheral for games consoles of the 1980s and 1990s was the light gun. A lens and photo cell mounted in a gun-like plastic case, the console could calculate where on the screen it was pointing when its trigger was pressed by flashing the screen white and sensing the timing at which the on-screen flying spot triggered the photo cell.
Unfortunately light gun games hail from the era of CRT TVs, they do not work with modern LCDs as my colleague [Will Sweatman] eloquently illustrated late last year. Whereas a CRT displayed the dot on its screen in perfect synchronization with the console output, an LCD captures a whole frame, processes it and displays it in one go. All timing is lost, and the console can no longer sense position.
[Charlie] has attacked this problem with some more recent technology and a bit of lateral thinking, and has successfully brought light gun games back to life. He senses where the gun is pointing using a Wiimote with its sensor bar on top of the TV through a Raspberry Pi, and feeds the positional information to an Arduino. He then takes the video signal from the console and strips out its sync pulses which also go to the Arduino. Knowing both position and timing, the Arduino can then flash a white LED stuck to the end of the light gun barrel at the exact moment that part of the CRT would have been lit up, and as far as the game is concerned it has received the input it is expecting.
He explains the timing problem and his solution in the video below the break. He then shows us gameplay on a wide variety of consoles from the era using the device. More information and his code can be found on his GitHub repository.
The company which [Eric Wright] works for recently bought a Nintendo VS. It had Ice Climber installed as one of the titles but they asked the vendor if it was possible to swap it out for the Duck Hunt ROM. They had the ROM but not a light gun that would work with the system. [Eric] suggested they buy it with Duck Hunt and hack an NES Zapper to work with the VS cabinet.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. The Nintendo VS was a coin-operated gaming cabinet you would find in an Arcade. Luckily there’s quite a bit of information about the original hardware on the web. Some research helped him discover that electronically the only difference between the arcade and home versions of the Zapper is that the sensor capture is inverted. This was fixed by replacing a transistor in the gun with a jumper wire. The next challenge was figuring out how to wire the gun up to the second controller port. And finally he patched the ROM to work with the incorrect PPU as the right chip was not easily sourced.
Here’s another project that reminds us of the shooting games at a carnival. This was actually inspired by the video game Duck Hunt, and was undertaken as a class project between four students at San Jose State University. It uses moving glass targets that look like rubber duckies. The player shoot sensors at their base with a laser-tipped gun. A direct hit is indicated by the duck glowing blue.
[Lananh Nguyen] is a Business Marketing major, but he’s also minoring in Studio Art and has been blowing glass for years. We think he’ll always have a side job making and selling glass because those ducks look fantastic. [Michael] and [Chris] worked together, building out the oscillating platform which moves the targets back and forth, as well as wiring up light sensors to the Arduino. A green laser diode was added to an acrylic gun to complete the project. Check out the game play video after the break to see how it all comes together.
If you missed the other laser shooting range when we featured it last week, you’ll want to revisit that project which uses tin cans as targets.