Simple Sprite Routines Ease Handheld Gaming DIY

Making your own handheld games is made much easier with [David Johnson-Davies’] simple sprite routines for the Adafruit PyBadge and PyGamer boards. Sprites can be thought of as small, fixed-size graphical objects that are drawn, erased, moved, and checked for collision with other screen elements.

xorSprite() plots an 8×8 sprite, moveSprite() moves a given sprite by one pixel without any flicker, and hitSprite() checks a sprite for collision with any screen elements in a given color. That is all it takes to implement a simple game, and [David] makes them easy to use, even providing a demo program in the form of the rolling ball maze shown here.

These routines work out-of-the-box with the PyBadge and PyGamer, but should be easy to adapt to any TFT display based on the ST7735 controller. The PyGamer is the board shown here, but you can see the PyBadge as it was used to create an MQTT-enabled conference badge.

If you really want to take a trip down the rabbit hole of sprite-based gaming graphics, you simply can’t miss hearing about the system [Sprite_TM] built into the FPGA Game Boy badge.

60’s Natural Gas Pipeline Computer Retires To Play Games

Computer gaming has come a very long way since the 1960s. While computers of that era may not run Doom or anything even close to it, many of us had our first exposure to computers playing Hunt the Wumpus, Adventure, or Star Trek over a clackety old TeleType machine. If you missed those days, or if you simply miss them, you might enjoy the video from [somecomputerguy] who fires up an old retired gas pipeline computer and loads enough paper tape into it to play Lunar Lander. (Video embedded below.)

We don’t miss the days of toggling in a bootloader so you could load the paper tape for a second bootloader before you could enter the actual program you wanted to run.

Continue reading “60’s Natural Gas Pipeline Computer Retires To Play Games”

Force Feedback Mouse Really Shakes Things Up

This is a very exciting time for those who like to spend their downtime exploring virtual worlds. The graphics in some big-budget titles are easily approaching photorealism, and immersive multi-channel sound can really make you believe you’ve been transported to another place or time. With another generation or two of GPU development and VR hardware, the line between gaming and reality is bound to get awful blurry.

That said, we’re still a far way off from the holodeck aboard the Enterprise. A high-end PC and the latest in VR can fool your eyes and ears, but that still leaves your other senses out of the fun. That’s why [Jatin Patel] has developed this clever force-feedback mouse using an array of solenoids.

The idea is pretty simple: a Python program on the computer listens for mouse click events, and tells an attached Arduino to fire off the solenoids when the player pulls the virtual trigger. It’s naturally not a perfect system, as it would seem that clicking in the game’s menus would also start your “gun” firing. But as you can see in the video after the break, when it works, it works very well. The moving solenoids don’t just vibrate the mouse around, the metallic clacking actually accentuates the gun sound effects from the game.

With this kind of tactile feedback and an omnidirectional treadmill to keep us moving, we’d be pretty close to fooling our senses into thinking we’re actually somewhere else. Which frankly, sounds quite appealing right about now.

Continue reading “Force Feedback Mouse Really Shakes Things Up”

Dad Makes Xbox And Nintendo Work Together To Bridge The Accessibility Gap

In the last few years, console and controller manufacturers have been making great strides in accessibility engineering in order to improve the inclusiveness of people with different motor disabilities into the gaming world. One such example is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which [Rory Steel] has used to build his daughter a fully customized controller to allow her to play Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch.

His build plan is outlined in just a few Twitter videos, and sadly we don’t have a detailed walkthrough on how to build our own just yet, though he mentions plans on making such guide in the future. In the mean time, it’s not too hard to speculate on some specifics. The Adaptive Controller can use USB-C for communication, as the Switch also does with its Pro controller in wired mode. Interfacing the two is as simple as using an adapter to bridge the gap between the two vendors.

The joysticks are each wired into generic gamepads which act as the left and right sticks, each one being a separate USB input into the Adaptive Controller, while each one of the button inputs is broken out to 3.5mm jacks on its back, making them dead simple to wire to the sixteen arcade buttons surrounding the sticks. The layout might look unconventional to us, and [Rory] mentions this is simply a prototype that will be improved upon in the future after real-world testing. The size of his daughter’s smile tells us this is already a success in her eyes.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a build with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and it’s nice to see just how well it enables parents to build their kids controllers they can use more easily, seeing as how before its introduction these kinds of controllers usually required the expertise for tearing expensive official controllers apart in ways the manufacturers never expected. We can only hope that going forward, this sort of accessibility becomes more the norm and less the exception.

[via Kotaku, thanks Itay for the tip!]

LEGO And Minecraft Team Up For Custom Gaming PC Case

There are probably few parents who haven’t watched their kids sitting on the floor, afloat on a sea of LEGO pieces and busily creating, and thought, “If only they could make a living at that.” But time goes on and kids grow up, and parents soon sing the same refrain as the kids sit transfixed by the virtual equivalent of LEGO: Minecraft.

Finding a way to monetize either LEGO or Minecraft is a bit difficult for the young enthusiast; combining both obsessions into a paying proposition would be a dream come true. [Mike Schropp] did it, and this Minecraft-themed LEGO computer case was the result. Intel wanted a LEGO case for their new NUC mini-PC motherboard, and as a sponsor of the Minefaire event, the case needed to be Minecraft themed.

[Mike] chose the block that any Enderman would choose: the basic grass block. Each of the ten cases he made for the show had about 1000 of the smallest LEGO pieces available, to recreate the texture of the grass block in all its faux 8-bit glory. The 4″ x 4″ (10cm x 10cm) 8th Gen NUC board was a great fit for the case, which included slots for ventilation and SD card access, plus pop-out covers to access the board’s ports. It’s not exactly a screamer, but playing Minecraft on a grass block made from LEGO bricks is probably worth the performance hit.

We’ve seen [Mike]’s work a time or two here, most recently with a full-scale LEGO rack-mount server. Our hats off to him for another fun and creative build, and for proving that you’re never too old to LEGO. Or Minecraft.

How A Secret Gaming Scene Emerged In Communist East Germany

During the late 1980s, a gaming scene emerged in East Germany just before the fall of communism. Teenagers gathered in buildings like the “House of Young Talents” (HdjT), originally Palais Podewils, to watch and play Commodore 64 games. There were 20 similar clubs in Berlin alone, sometimes with more than 70 people crowded into a single room. Above all, the computers they were in possession of were all made in the West.

At a point in time when loyalties were frequently questioned, the club of self-proclaimed “freaks” soon attracted the attention of the Stasi, GDR (East Germany) intelligence agents who kept close tabs on the group. As one Stasi agent warned:

Given that there are also members within the interest groups or computer clubs with a verifiably negative attitude toward the socialist state and social order, there is a potential danger that the interest groups or computer clubs will go in a negative direction.

Domestically produced computers – the KC 85 from VEB Mikroelektronik Wilhelm Pieck Mühlhausen and the KC 87 from VEB Robotron – did not have the quality of C128 and C64s from Commodore. Surprisingly, even while microelectronics remained on the list of embargoed products imported to East Germany, C64s managed to make their way into the state. The GDR customs officials didn’t have any problem with Western imported hardware – what they were worried about was the software.

By the end of the 80s, modern data traffic over telephone lines had arrived in East Germany, causing fear that software would soon be disseminated without the need of a physical medium. For the gamers of GDR, however, many didn’t even have access to a phone line. They just wanted to go to computer clubs to swap software. Since computer games from the West were only available in government-run Intershop stores and not in normal shops, teenagers had to rely on the computer clubs to access these games. Games like Frogger and Rambo would be copied to cheaper cassette tapes – it wouldn’t even be violating the saw law since software was not protected by copyright within the country.

A few politically charged games – “Raid Over Moscow” and “Kremlin” – were forbidden to ensure that the HdjT wouldn’t be shut down. Towards the end of the GDR, the Stasi desperately tried to gain control of games “relating to the increasing activities of the political opponent”, but by this point the political situation was already heading towards the fall of the Wall. [Stefan Paubel], founder of the HdjT reflected that he was disappointed the Stasi didn’t try harder to report on the computer clubs.

They had everything critical in the reports: Swapping software, a complete list of all the games glorifying war and computers from the West.

It appeared that microelectronics were sacred to the GDR, since officials were trying to get more young people to engage with computers. The regime’s concern for their reputation led them to prioritize other forms of surveillance than technology. For a while after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the computer club continued to exist. It wasn’t until August 1990, two months before reunification, that the remaining members decided to dissolve the club.

[Thanks to Frank for the tip!]

When Your Car Breaks Down, Simply Hack It Into A Simulator

When [Nishanth]’s Subaru BRZ came to a sudden halt, he was saddened by the wait to get a new engine installed. Fortunately, he was able to cheer himself up by hacking it into a car simulator in the mean time. This would have the added benefit of not being limited to just driving on the Road Atlanta where the unfortunate mishap occurred, but any course available on Forza and similar racing games.

On paper it seemed fairly straight-forward: simply tap into the car’s CAN bus for the steering, throttle, braking and further signals, convert it into something a game console or PC can work with and you’re off to the races. Here the PC setup is definitely the cheapest and easiest, with a single part required: a Macchina M2 Under the Dash kit ($97.50). The XBox required over $200 worth of parts, including the aforementioned Macchina part, an XBox Adaptive Controller and a few other bits and pieces. And a car, naturally.

https://www.notion.so/image/https%3A%2F%2Fs3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com%2Fsecure.notion-static.com%2Fd49697c6-29ae-4b4d-a27b-e2da019d32de%2FUntitled.png?table=block&id=ed4e1bf2-91c6-4494-8e0f-f10964620869&width=5120&cache=v2

The Macchina M2 is the part that listens to the CAN traffic via the OBD2 port, converting it into something that resembles a USB HID gamepad. So that’s all a matter of plug’n’play, right? Not so fast. Every car uses their own CAN-based system, with different peripherals and addresses for them. This means that with the Macchina M2 acquired, [Nishanth]’s first task was to reverse-engineer the CAN signals for the car’s controls.

At this point the story is pretty much finished for the PC side of things, but the XBox One console is engineered to only accept official peripherals. The one loop-hole here is the Adaptive Controller, designed for people with disabilities, which allows the use of alternative inputs. This also enables using a car as an XBox One controller, which is an interesting side-effect.

Continue reading “When Your Car Breaks Down, Simply Hack It Into A Simulator”