Turning Horrible Browser Controls Into A Game

With all of the various keyboards, mouses (mice?), and other human interface devices (HID) available for our computers, there’s no possible way for developers to anticipate every type of input for every piece of software they build. Most of the time everything will work fine as long as some basic standards are kept, both from the hardware and software sides, but that’s not always the case. [Losso] noticed a truly terrible volume control method when visiting certain websites while also using a USB volume knob, and used this quirk to build a Breakout game with it.

It turns out his volume control knob would interact simultaneously with certain video players’ built-in volume control and the system volume for the operating system, leading to a number of undesirable conditions. However, the fact that this control is built in to certain browsers in the first place led to this being the foundation for the Breakout clone [Losso] is calling KNOB-OUT. Unlike volume buttons on something like a multimedia keyboard, the USB volume control knob can be configured much more easily to account for acceleration, making it more faithful to the original arcade version of the game. The game itself is coded in JavaScript with the source code available right in the browser.

If you’d like to play [Losso]’s game here’s a direct link to it although sometimes small web-based projects like these tend to experience some slowdown when they first get posted here. And, if you’re looking for some other games to play in a browser like it’s the mid-00s again, we’re fans of this project which brings the unofficial Zelda game Zelda Classic to our screens.

Portable, Full-Size Arcade Cabinets

Believe it or not, there was a time when the only way for many of us to play video games was to grab a roll of quarters and head to the mall. Even though there’s a working computer or video game console in essentially every house now doesn’t mean we don’t look back with a certain nostalgia on those times, though. Some have turned to restoring vintage arcade cabinets and others build their own. This hackerspace got a unique request for a full-sized arcade cabinet that was also easily portable as well.

The original request was for a portable arcade cabinet, and the original designs were for a laptop-like tabletop arcade. But further back-and-forth made it clear they wanted full-size cabinets that just happened to also be portable. So with that criteria in mind the group started building the units. The updated design is modular, allowing the controls, monitor, and Raspberry Pi running the machines to be in self-contained units, with the cabinets in two parts that can quickly be assembled on-site. The base is separate and optional, with the top section capable of being assembled on the base or on something like a tabletop or bar, and the electronics section quickly drops in.

While the idea of a Pi-powered arcade cabinet is certainly nothing new, the quick build, prototyping, design, and final product that’s mobile and quickly assembled are all worth checking out. There is even more information on the build at the project’s GitHub page including Fusion 360 models. If you need your cabinets to be even more portable, this tabletop MAME cabinet is a great place to start.

RepTrap Keeps Watch Over Our Cold-Blooded Friends

Wait a second, read that title again. This isn’t a throwback 3D printing project at all. That’s “RepTrap” as in reptile trap, and it’s a pretty clever way to study our cold-blooded friends in their natural habitat.

Now, game cameras — or trail cameras, if you’re less interested in eating what you see — are pretty much reduced to practice. For not that much money you can pick up one of these battery-powered devices, strap it to a tree, and have it automatically snap high-quality pictures of whatever wildlife happens to wander past. But nearly all of the commercially available game cameras have pyroelectric infrared sensors, which trigger on the temperature difference between a warm-blooded animal and the ambient temperature of the background. But what to do when you’re more interested in cold-blooded critters?

Enter [Mirko], who stumbled upon this problem while working with a conservation group in Peru. The group wanted to study snakes, insects, and other ectothermic animals, which are traditionally studied by trapping with pitfalls and other invasive techniques. Unable to rely on PIR, [Mirko] rigged up what amounts to a battery-powered light curtain using a VL53L4CD laser time-of-flight sensor. Mounted above the likely path of an animal, the sensor monitors the height of everything in its field of view. When an animal comes along, cold-blooded or otherwise, RepTrap triggers a remote camera and snaps a picture. Based on the brief video below, it’s pretty sensitive, too.

[Mirko] started out this project using an RP2040 but switched to an ESP32 to take advantage of Bluetooth camera triggering. The need for weatherproofing was also a big driver for the build; [Mirko] is shooting for an IP68 rating, which led to his interesting use of a Hall sensor and external magnet as a power switch.

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Git Good, By Playing A Gamified Version Of Git

What better way to learn to use Git than a gamified interface that visualizes every change? That’s the idea behind Oh My Git! which aims to teach players all about the popular version control system that underpins so many modern software projects.

Git good, with a gameified git interface.

Sometimes the downside to a tool being so ubiquitous is that it tends to be taken for granted that everyone already knows how to use it, and those starting entirely from scratch can be left unsure where to begin. That’s what creators [bleeptrack] and [blinry] had in mind with Oh My Git! which is freely available for Linux, Windows, and macOS.

The idea is to use a fun playing-card interface to not only teach players the different features, but also to build intuitive familiarity for operations like merging and rebasing by visualizing in real-time the changes a player’s actions make.

The game is made with beginners in mind, with the first two (short) levels establishing that managing multiple versions of a file can quickly become unwieldy without help. Enter git — which the game explains is essentially a time machine — and it’s off to the races.

It might be aimed at beginners, but more advanced users can learn a helpful trick or two. The game isn’t some weird pseudo-git simulator, either. The back end uses real git repositories, with a real shell and git interface behind it all. Prefer to type commands in directly instead of using the playing card interface? Go right ahead!

Oh My Git! uses the free and open-source Godot game engine (not to be confused with the Godot machine, a chaos-based random number generator.)

Sneaky Fix Gets Simon Back Up And Running

Simon was a cutting-edge “computer controlled game” when it launched back in 1978. It would flash out a pattern of ever-increasing length and you had to copy it if you didn’t want to lose. The name, obviously inspired by the traditional folk game of Simon Says. [Robert] recently found an original vintage Simon game, but it had been non-functional for many years. However, with some astute analysis and repair, he was able to get it working again.

Upon powering the unit up, the best [Robert] could get out of it was some flickering of the lights, nothing more. It wouldn’t start a game or respond to button presses. Eventually, probing around showed [Robert] that the TMS1000 microcontroller wasn’t running properly.  It seemed to concern the connection to the “Game Mode” selector switch. Thanks to a fault and the multiplexed layout of the controls, it was appearing to the microcontroller that a button was always pressed at all times.

The solution [Robert] landed on was to separate out the signal from the Game Mode switch by socketing the TMS1000 and lifting the relevant pin. . The signal was then wired back up to the chip via diodes so that it wouldn’t interfere with the other outputs and inputs on the chip used to read the other buttons. This meant that the unit was locked into the single main game mode, but it did get it operational again.

It may not be a complete repair, but it nonetheless saved this unit from complete failure. Failing a repair of your own unit, you can always build one with modern hardware instead. Video after the break.

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Tetris Goes Full Circle

As a game concept, Tetris gave humanity nearly four solid decades of engagement, but with the possibility for only seven possible puzzle pieces it might seem a little bit limiting. Especially now that someone has finally beaten the game, it could be argued that as a society it might be time to look for something new. Sinusoidal Tetris flips these limits on their head with a theoretically infinite set of puzzle pieces for an unmistakable challenge.

Like Tetris, players control a game piece as it slowly falls down the screen. Instead of blocks, however, the game piece is a sinusoid that stretches the entire width of the screen. Players control the phase angle, amplitude, and angular frequency in order to get it to cancel out the randomly-generated wave in the middle of the screen. When the two waves overlap, a quick bit of math is done to add the two waves together. If your Fourier transformation skills aren’t up to the task, the sinusoid will eventually escape the playing field resulting in a game over. The goal then is to continually overlap sinusoids to play indefinitely, much like the original game.

While we’re giving Tetris a bit of a hard time, we appreciate the simplicity of a game that’s managed to have a cultural impact long after the gaming systems it was originally programmed for have become obsolete, and this new version is similar in that regard as well. The game can be quite addictive with a lot to take in at any given moment. If you’re more interested in the programming for these types of games than the gameplay, though, take a look at this deep-dive into Tetris for the NES.

Don’t Panic: A Cooperative Bomb Defusing Game

[Heath Paddock] wanted to confound his friends with a game that mimics an escape room in a box. About six months after starting, he had this glorious thing completed. It’s a hardware version of a game called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes where players have five minutes to defuse a suitcase bomb. This implementation requires at least two players, one with the box-bomb itself, and one who holds all the knowledge but can’t see the box-bomb to defuse it.

The wiring of the Mastermind module.

[Heath]’s version has twice as many modules as the original game, each hand-wired one driven by an Arduino. One of the modules is an LED maze. There are two green anchor LEDs in one of six configurations, and and blue and a red LED.

The object is to move the blue LED next to the red one without touching any walls. Of course, the box-holder can’t see the walls and must describe the configuration of the anchor LEDs to their partner in order to get started.

All of the modules are quite different, which likely makes for an extremely fun and challenging five minutes. [Heath] reports that getting inter-module communication down was a long road. Eventually, [Heath] settled on a mesh network configuration and connected everything in a big loop. Be sure to check out the walk-through video after the break.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a hardware implementation of this game. Here’s one that uses a Raspberry Pi.

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