DIY 40FPS 16bpp Platformer On A Cortex M0+

Sure, you can play a bunch of retro games on a Raspberry Pi, but if you’re really hardcore, you build your own retro console and write your own games for it. [Nicola Wrachien]’s entry into this year’s Hackaday prize is his DIY Cortex M0+ game console and the platform game he wrote to test the hardware.

The board that [Nicola] is using is the uChip, a small DIP board based around a ATSAMD21 (the same chip that runs the Arduino Zero). That, along with a 160×128 TFT LCD screen, makes up the bulk of the hardware. A carrier board holds both of these as well as several buttons and an OpAmp.

The ATSAMD21 chip has decent hardware DMA that [Nicola] is using to get the frame rate needed. Since the DMA hardware and the CPU can work at the same time, while the DMA is handling one chunk of graphics, the CPU is working on the next chunk. Using this system, [Nicola] is able to get a better framerate than originally designed. Take a look at [Nicola]’s webpage for more details on the algorithm used.

In order to create a level in the platformer that [Nicola] made to show off the console, [Nicola] created a full blown level editor in Java. Using the editor, you can place the tiles and sprites and set their behaviours. The map can then be exported in an optimized format for loading on to the hardware and into the game.

A video showing off the game is after the break. There’s no shortage of great DIY consoles on the site — check out this impressive vector console, or if RetroPie is more your thing, take a look at this DIY Zelda-playing device.

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Vintage Car Radio Now Plays Games And Chiptunes

[MisterM] seems to specialize in squeezing new electronics into old but good-looking technology. His latest creation focuses on a space-age specimen: an interesting car radio from 1963 that could be pulled out from the dashboard and taken along wherever. The beat goes on, thanks to a shiny built-in speaker on the bottom.

He replaced the non-working radio guts with a Raspberry Pi 3 running RetroPie and a Picade controller board. A Pimoroni Blinkt LED strip behind the radio dial glows a different color for each emulated console, which we think is a nice touch. [MisterM] built this console to play in his workshop, and even made a dock for it. But in a lovely homage to the original radio, it’s self-contained and can be taken to the living room or to a friend’s house. There’s also a USB port for whenever player two is ready to enter. For [MisterM]’s next trick, he’ll be converting an 80s joystick.

We love that [MisterM] repurposed the dials as housings for start and select buttons. As he points out, this keeps them out of the way while he’s wildly working the controls. Just enter the Konami Code to unlock the build video below.

Do you dream of playing Donkey Kong absolutely everywhere? Check out the ultraportable mintyPi 2.0.

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Thumbs Up For This CRT Handheld Gaming Console

Despite all the progress video game graphics have made, it is safe to say that we won’t see any decline in oldschool 8-bit games any time soon. For some it’s about nostalgia, for others it’s just a great and simple-enough first step into game development itself. For [gocivici] it was a bit of both when he built this camcorder style, one-button gaming console.

With a Raspberry Pi Zero running PICO-8 at its core, [gocivici] salvaged the viewfinder of an old camcorder for the display, and that way turned it into a whole other kind of handheld console. For full ergonomic handling, one single, thumb-operated push button serves as only control option. This of course makes it a bit challenging to re-use existing games that would require more input options, so he and some friends decided to just write a suitable game on their own with the hopes that others might follow.

Unfortunately we don’t see a lot of projects using these old camcorder viewfinders, and considering modern LCD and OLED options it’s not really that surprising, but there’s just something intriguing about these tiny CRTs. So in case you want to see more of them, have a look at this tiny Atari display, and the DIY night vision monocle from a few years back. And to keep your eyes safe and sound, [gocivici] got you covered as well.

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A Video Game Odyssey: How Magnavox Launched The Console Industry

What was the first video game console? If you said the Atari 2600, you would be wrong, but we’d forgive you. After all, the Atari was early and widely sold. It also had the major features you expect from a video game. However, there was an earlier console available. the Magnavox Odyssey.

This system was black and white, had two wired controllers, and while it didn’t quite have cartridges, you could select from one of several games. The system seems inexpensive today at $100 (not including the optional light gun). However, adjusting for 1972 currency value, that’s equivalent to about $600 today.

It was not an impulse buy, and the differentiation between games was mostly an exercise in imagination. But the the Magnavox Odyssey nevertheless brought computer technology into the home and that was exciting. It proved a market existed for home video gaming, and served no small part in the success of Atari.

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Lightweight Game Console Packs A Punch

Any maker worth their bits will look for new ways to challenge themselves. [Robert Fotino], a computer science student at the University of California, is doing just that: designing and building his own lightweight hobbyist game console that he has appropriately named Consolite.

[Fotino] wrote his own compiler in C++ that converts from C-like languages to a custom-designed assembler that he has dubbed Consolite Assembly. To test his code, he also wrote an emulator before loading it onto the Mimas V2 FPGA board. Presently, ConsoliteĀ  uses 64KiB of main memory and 48 KiB of video memory; a future version will have 32 bit support to make better use of the Mimas’ 64 MiB of on board ram, but the current 16-bit version is a functional proof of concept.

consolite-status-leds-and-hardware-switches_thumbnailAn SD card functions as persistent storage for up to 256 programs, which can be accessed using the hardware switches on the Mimas, with plans to add user access in the form of saving game progress, storage outside of main memory, etc. — also in a future update that will include audio support.

As it stands, [Fotino] has written his own versions of Breakout, Tetris, and Tron to show off his project.

Not wanting for diligence, [Fotino] has provided thorough documentation of nearly every step along the way in his blog posts and on GitHub if you are looking for guidelines for any similar projects you might have on the back burner — like an even tinier game console.

[via r/FPGA]

This Arduino Console Has 64 Bit Graphics

Numbers are wonderful things when applied to technical specifications. Take [Bobricius]’ handheld Arduino-based game console. With an 8×8 LED matrix for a display it’s not going to win any prizes, but while he’s pushing the boundaries of dubious specification claims he’s not strictly telling any lies with his tongue-in-cheek statement thatĀ the graphics are 64-bit.

Jokes aside, it’s a neatly done build using a DIP version of the Arduino MCU and all through-hole components on a custom PCB. Power comes from a CR2032 cell, and it includes three buttons and a small piezoelectric speaker. He’s implemented a whole slew of games, including clones of Pong, Breakout, and Tetris, and judging by the video below it’s surprisingly playable.

Now you might look at this console and wonder what the big deal is. After all, there are plenty of similar designs to be found, and it’s nothing new. Of course, it’s a neat project for any hacker or maker, but we can see that this would make a great starter project for the younger person in your life who wants to try their hands at building something electronic. All through-hole construction for easy soldering, and a neat game at the end of it all.

He’s posted a full write-up of the design process as well as the hackaday.io page linked above, so if you fancy building one yourself there’s nothing to stop you too squeezing 64 bits of graphical goodness from an Arduino.

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Rube Goldberg PC/Console Game Hack

There’s no holy war holier than establishing whether PC games are superior to console games (they are). But even so, there’s no denying that there are some good console titles out there. What if you’d still like to play them using a mouse and keyboard? If you’re [Agent86], you’d build up the most ridiculous chain of fun electronics to get the job done.

Now there is an overpriced off-the-shelf solution for this problem, and a pre-existing open-source project that’ll get the same job done for only a few bucks in parts. But there’s nothing like the fun in solving a problem your own way, with your own tangle of wires, darn it all! The details of the build span four (4!) pages in [Agent86]’s blog, so settle down with a warm cup of coffee.

Here’s the summary: an Xbox 360 controller is taken apart and turned into an Xbox controller. The buttons and joysticks are put under computer control via a Teensy microcontroller. GPIOs press the controller’s buttons, and digipots replace the analog sticks. Software on the Teensy drives the digipots and presses the buttons, interpreting a custom protocol sent over USB from the computer, which also gets some custom software to send the signals.

So if you’re keeping score: a button press on a keyboard is converted to USB, sent to a PC, converted to a custom serial protocol, sent to a Teensy which emulates a human for a controller that then coverts the signals back into the Xbox’s USB protocol. Pshwew!

Along the way, there’s learning at every stage, which is really the point of an exercise like this. And [Agent86] says that it mostly works, with some glitches in the mouse-to-joystick mapping. But if you’re interested in any part of this crazy chain, you’ve now got a model for each of them.