Throwing Down The FPGA Gauntlet

Gauntlet is a well-known arcade game from 1985 with many sequels and ports to more modern architectures such as Xbox and GameCube. Thanks to its popularity and relative age, the original arcade cabinet is well documented with the schematics available online. It was regarded as the most complex and ambitious hardware Atari had ever developed at the time it was released. In what can only be described as an absolute labor of love, [Alex] has recreated the arcade hardware on the Pipistrello FPGA board.

The project can actually play Gauntlet, Gauntlet II, and Vindicators II as they all ran on the same hardware. Four joysticks are supported so up to four players can play, though the EEPROM is emulated in RAM so high scores are reset when the device is powered down. The FPGA is almost out of space and can’t quite squeeze in the SRAM needed. So an SRAM expansion daughterboard is required; nothing a quick board run from our favorite purple PCB manufacturer can’t solve.

In the repo is an incredible write-up detailing the system, how it works, and the process of debugging it. This project also includes a complete simulation of the TMS5220 Voice Synthesis Processor, as Gauntlet was the first coin-operated arcade machine with a voice synthesizer. Getting the video correct was particularly tricky and it took several tries to get the color palette and motion looking right. Since [Alex] didn’t have access to an original Gauntlet arcade cabinet, they had to make do with MAME. After writing a test to make sure the FPGA was working correctly, there were differences between the MAME emulation and the FPGA output. To help out, [Colin Davies] came to the rescue. After [Colin] hooked up an original Gauntlet Arcade PCB with the motion test loaded up, the test showed that the FPGA had the correct behavior.

During development [Alex] actually simulated several frames of the game in ISIM (at a whopping 90 seconds per frame or 90 minutes per in-game second). Using ISIM allowed them to compare system state to MAME and validate the design much faster as they could better inspect the interworkings of the different modules. Using a clever trick of grabbing state from MAME after a few seconds, they primed the FPGA state and saved themselves a few hours of simulation.

If you’re looking to get into old hardware style arcade game development, give the browser-based 8bitworkshop IDE a spin. Or start with something a little smaller in scope and size with this adorable mini CRT arcade cabinet.

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Hackaday Links: March 20th, 2013

Giant fresnel lens is dangerous fun

giant-fresnel-lens-is-dangerous-fun

Here’s an interesting, and rather dangerous, use for those old big screen TVs that are frequently listed for FREE on Craigslist. With the lens from the old TV built into an adjustable wooden frame, [Grant] was able to melt a stack of pennies, instantly burn wood, melt spots in concrete, and serve his family a cooked egg… Cool.

Projection mapping app helps create hologram like performance stage

projection-mapping-app-creates-live-desktop-stage

[Aimino] used an iPad, a mobile projector, and a mosquito screen to create a trippy hologram like stage. It might not seem like much at first, but it’s actually a pretty interesting effect. Watching the video makes me wonder what other applications this could have in the near future.

The world’s strongest magnet

worlds-strongest-magnet

At a cost of over $14 million dollars and weighing in at 35 tons, the 45 Tesla Hybrid is the strongest DC magnet on Earth. It’s powerful enough that the film crew couldn’t even safely get in to take footage of it.  Over half of their camera tapes were wiped clean just while being in the same facility that houses it!

Virtual Body chair uses 4 of our 5 senses

virtual-body-chair

Created in the hopes of providing a VR experience for seniors with mobility problems who can no longer travel the world, Tokyo Metropolitan University’s Ikei Laboratory presents the ‘Virtual Body’ exhibition. Included are a 3D monitor, a pair of headphones, a fan to create breezes and spread scents, a chair that moves and vibrates, and moving foot pedals.

Iron Man laser gauntlet pops balloons with ease

functional-iron-man-laser-gauntlet

If you’re an Iron Man fan with disposable income, you might want to check out this functional full metal laser gauntlet. Built from scratch using no blueprints or guides, [AnselmoFanZero] sells them for around $3K USD.

DIY Armor Starts With This Gauntlet Tutorial

This is not photoshopped, it’s a real gauntlet made of brass. [David Guyton] crafted it for some promotional photos for his book. But he also took the time to put together a step-by-step build tutorial.

The process starts with paper templates. These are much easier to work with than metal stock so [David] spends quite a bit of time trimming each piece to fit correctly. They are hinged together using thumb tacks which he crimps with a pair of pliers. With all the templates tuned to perfection he uses an awl to scratch the outline in his brass stock (you can use the metal of your choice). All of the holes are drilled and a bit of hammering flattens the parts before he heads to the grinder to smooth the cut edges.

To make the curves [David] fabricated his own jigs from pieces of pipe and carved wood squeezed together with a bench vice. It’s time-consuming, but the skills needed should be rather easy to develop with a little practice. You can catch his entire build in the video after the break.

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The Gauntlet: A 1 Watt Laser Module

This is the gauntlet; a place where things are tortured in ways that only an engineer could appreciate.

Today’s victim is a 1.0W green laser module, manufactured by Suzhou Daheng under the brand name “DHOM”.

As far as Chinese laser manufacturers go, Suzhou Daheng is about one rung lower than CNI in terms of quality. Although US companies like Coherent blow these guys out of the water, both are still reputable nonetheless.  As far as Chinese lasers themselves go, this one seems a bit conservatively rated; a nice change from the “1000MW 532nm laser cat toy burning module” that’s not too uncommon on dealextreme and the like.

More after the break…
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