Stadia Controller’s Two Extra Buttons Get Seen With WebHID

The Google Stadia game streaming service relied on a proprietary controller. It was a pretty neat piece of hardware that unfortunately looked destined for landfills when Google announced that Stadia would discontinue. Thankfully it’s possible to use them as normal gamepads, and related to that, [Thomas Steiner] has a developer blog post about how to talk to the Stadia controller via WebHID. Continue reading “Stadia Controller’s Two Extra Buttons Get Seen With WebHID”

With ChatGPT, Game NPCs Get A Lot More Interesting

Not only is AI-driven natural language processing a thing now, but you can even select from a number of different offerings, each optimized for different tasks. It took very little time for [Bloc] to mod a computer game to allow the player to converse naturally with non-player characters (NPCs) by hooking it into ChatGPT, a large language model AI optimized for conversational communication.

If you can look past the painfully-long loading times, even buying grain (7:36) gains a new layer of interactivity.

[Bloc] modified the game Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord to reject traditional dialogue trees and instead accept free-form text inputs, using ChatGPT on the back end to create more natural dialogue interactions with NPCs. This is a refinement of an earlier mod [Bloc] made and shared, so what you see in the video below is quite a bit more than a proof of concept. The NPCs communicate as though they are aware of surrounding events and conditions in the game world, are generally less forthcoming when talking to strangers, and the new system can interact with game mechanics and elements such as money, quests, and hirelings.

Starting around 1:08 into the video, [Bloc] talks to a peasant about some bandits harassing the community, and from there demonstrates hiring some locals and haggling over prices before heading out to deal with the bandits.

The downside is that ChatGPT is currently amazingly popular. As a result, [Bloc]’s mod is stuck using an overloaded service which means some painfully-long load times between each exchange. But if you can look past that, it’s a pretty fascinating demonstration of what’s possible by gluing two systems together with a mod and some clever coding.

Take a few minutes to check out the video, embedded below. And if you’re more of a tabletop gamer? Let us remind you that it might be fun to try replacing your DM with ChatGPT.

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A Primer For The Homebrew Game Boy Advance Scene

As video game systems pass into antiquity, some of them turn out to make excellent platforms for homebrew gaming. Not only does modern technology make it easier to interact with systems that are now comparatively underpowered and simpler, but the documentation available for older systems is often readily available as well, giving the community lots of options for exploration and creativity. The Game Boy Advance is becoming a popular platform for these sorts of independent game development, and this video shows exactly how you can get started too.

This tutorial starts with some explanation of how the GBA works. It offered developers several modes for the display, so this is the first choice a programmer must make when designing the game. From there it has a brief explanation of how to compile programs for the GBA and execute them, then it dives into actually writing the games themselves. There are a few examples that [3DSage] demonstrates here including examples for checking the operation of the code and hardware, some simple games, and also a detailed explanation the framebuffers and other hardware and software available when developing games for this console.

While the video is only 10 minutes long, we recommend watching it at three-quarters or half speed. It’s incredibly information-dense and anyone following along will likely need to pause several times. That being said, it’s an excellent primer for developing games for this platform and in general, especially since emulators are readily available so the original hardware isn’t needed. If you’d like to build something from an even more bygone era than the early 2000s, though, take a look at this tutorial for developing games on arcade cabinets.

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Dithering Makes Everything Cooler: Now Even Animated

[dukope] was writing a game, Return of the Obra Dinn, with a fantastic visual style. One of the choices was to make everything in glorious one-bit color, otherwise known as black and white, and then dither it back to monochrome. You know, like they used to do on the Mac Plus.

If dithering is your aesthetic, then it makes a ton of sense to take it seriously. And it’s absolutely beautiful – check out the video below.

But what’s even more amazing is [dukope]’s attention to detail on the dithering. For instance, this post on the TIG forums details the problems and solutions when you have a dithered image that needs to also be animated. You want the dots to stay relatively constant on the object as the virtual camera pans across the scene, and that’s going to necessitate a custom algorithm. And if you think that’s cool, have a look at how the book at the center of the game is animated.

What can we say. We loved dithering before, but this post has made our love even deeper.

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Want A Break From Hardware Hacking? Try Bitburner

If you ever mention to a normal person that you’re a hacker, and they might ask you if you can do something nefarious. The media has unfortunately changed the meaning of the word so that most people think hackers are lawless computer geniuses instead of us simple folk who are probably only breaking the laws meant to prevent you from repairing your own electronics. However, if you want a break, you can fully embrace the Hollywood hacker stereotype with Bitburner. Since it is all online, you don’t even have to dig out your hoodie.

The game takes place in 2077 where, apparently, people are still using green monochrome terminals and writing JavaScript code. Who knew? The operating system is suspiciously Linux-like with commands like alias, cat, cp, kill, and the like. We were nonplussed that in 2077 they’re still using vim, but you can use nano. We always thought real hackers would be emacs users. Our machine only starts out with 8 MB of RAM, too. Good thing you can virtually buy more.

We won’t quibble that cls is a synonym for clear or that you use help instead of man. It is, after all, a game. This means you don’t have to feel bad using the buy command to purchase a program on the virtual dark web, either. Hey, if you can shoot bad guys in an FPS game, why can’t you do business with fake cyber-criminals. Why should Grand Theft Auto players have all the fun?

You know how in a video game you are a much better shot and can sustain a lot more damage than you probably can in real life? The same principle applies here. Using the scan-analyze command helpfully tells you how many open ports connected computers have and how much hacking skill it will require to break in. That’d be handy in real life, we bet.

We did think it was bad form that the tutorial admonished us for not entering the commands it wanted us to. What kind of hacker wouldn’t try something else? Anyway, it’s probably a better diversion than whatever Facebook or phone game your friends are wasting time with. It probably doesn’t impart any real hacking skills, but not everything has to be useful.

If you want a game that might teach you something, try the Bash crawl adventure. Or, go write and play some BASIC games in your browser.

Electronic Catan Game Board Is Modular

Plenty of gamers around these parts require an expensive PC to play games, often spending thousands of dollars for a gaming machine. Believe it or not, though, there are entire classes of games that don’t require any electronics at all, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit from the addition of some neat gadgets. This Settlers of Catan game uses custom LCD tiles with a built-in custom mesh network.

The tiles for the game board themselves are hexagonal and snap together using magnetic pogo pins in order to form a board of any size or shape. The pogo pins also allow communication for a pseudo-mesh network to operate with each tile’s built-in PCB to allow the game board to know exactly which tiles are placed where and to display the correct image on each one. Each tile contains it own RP2040 microcontroller, keeping the overall cost of each tile to a minimum.

For those regularly hosting game night, a project like this could really change the traditionally analog game’s dynamic for the better. It was mostly a project that [Colin Iuliano] built just for fun, and if he ever builds a second one he does plan on some improvements, but we’d say that it looks like a success already. For other Catan-based electronic design inspiration, take a look at this complete and non-modular electronic game board.

Amazing “Connect Fore!” Robot Challenges Your Putting Practice

We’ve just come across [Bithead]’s amazing, robotically-automated mashup of miniature golf and Connect Four, which also includes an AI opponent who pulls no punches in its drive to win. Connect Fore! celebrates Scotland — the birthplace of golf, after all — and looks absolutely fantastic.

Scotty the AI opponent uses this robotic turret to make their moves in a game of Connect Fore!

The way it works is this: players take turns putting colored balls into one of seven different holes at the far end of the table. Each hole feeds to a clear tube — visible in the middle of the table — which represent each of the columns in a game of Connect Four.

Each player attempts to stack balls in such a way that they create an unbroken line of four in their color, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. In a one-player game, a human player faces off against “Scotty”, the computer program that chooses its moves with intelligence and fires balls from a robotic turret.

[Bithead] started this project as a learning experience, and being such a complex project, the write-up is extensive. We really recommend reading through the whole thing if you are at all interested in what goes into making such a project work.

What’s particularly interesting is all of the ways in which things nearly worked, or needed nudging or fine adjustment. One might think that reliably getting a ball to enter a hole and roll down a PVC tube wouldn’t be a particularly finicky task, but it turns out that all kinds of things can go wrong.

Even finding the right play surface was a challenge. [Bithead]’s first purchase from Amazon was a total waste: it looked bad, smelled bad, and balls didn’t roll well on it. There are high-quality artificial turfs out there, but the good stuff gets shockingly expensive, and such a small project pretty much pigeonholes one as a nuisance customer when it comes to vendors. The challenges [Bithead] overcame serve as a reminder to keep the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) in mind when estimating what will get a project to the finish line.

Right under the page break below is a brief video tour of the completed table, and after that, you can watch a game in action as [Bithead] faces off against Scotty the AI. Curious about the inner workings? The last video has some build details that fill in a few blanks from the write-up.

We’ve seen an automated Chess table before, but this is an entirely other, utterly fantastic level of work.
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