Air Hockey Table Embraces DOOM, Retro Gaming

[Chris Downing] recently finished up a major project that spanned some two years and used nearly every skill he possessed. The result? A smart air hockey table with retro-gaming roots. Does it play DOOM? It sure (kind of) does!

Two of the most striking features are the score board (with LCD screen and sound) and the play surface which is densely-populated with RGB LED lighting and capable of some pretty neat tricks. Together, they combine to deliver a few different modes of play, including a DOOM mode.

The first play mode is straight air hockey with automated score tracking and the usual horns and buzzers celebrating goals. The LED array within the table lights up to create the appearance and patterns of a typical hockey rink.

DOOM hockey mode casts one player as Demons and the other as the Doom Slayer, and the LED array comes to life to create a play surface of flickering flames. Screams indicate goals (either Demon screams or Slayer screams, depending on who scores!)

In retrogaming emulation mode, the tabletop mirrors the screen.

Since the whole thing is driven by a Raspberry Pi, the table is given a bit of gaming flexibility with Emulation Mode. This mode allows playing emulated retro games on the scoreboard screen, and as a super neat feature, the screen display is mirrored on the tabletop’s LED array. [Chris] asserts that the effect is imperfect, but to us it looks at least as legible as DOOM on 7-segment displays.

This project is a great example of how complex things can get when one combines so many different types of materials and fabrication methods into a single whole. The blog post has a lot of great photos and details, but check out the video (embedded below) for a demonstration of everything in action. Continue reading “Air Hockey Table Embraces DOOM, Retro Gaming”

Photoshop image of the NES game Metroid on a Super Nintendo cartridge.

NES Classic Metroid Ported To Equally Classic Super Nintendo

There was a time early in the development of the Super Nintendo (SNES) where the new console was to feature backwards compatibility with NES games. The solution would have required a cumbersome cartridge adapter and a hard switch on every console to flip the CPU into 8-bit mode. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be — outside of the first public demo of the console, little evidence exists to suggest the gamers would have been able to supercharge their old NES carts on their Super Nintendo.

But thanks to the impressive port of Metroid to the SNES by [infidelity], we can imagine what such a capability might have been like. There’s more on offer here than reduced sprite flicker. There are additional frames of animation compared to the original, so now Samus’ arm cannon stays consistent rather than magically switching arms when turning around. A complete save game system from the Famicom Disk System version has also been implemented as well, with the traditional three slots. Although purists can still utilize the password system if they so choose.

Ultimately the most impressive inclusion of [infidelity]’s work is the MSU-1 enhancement chip implementation. Fun video intro sequences lead into the main menu where players can select the accompanying soundtrack. There’s the original 8-bit music remapped onto the SNES sound chip, the expanded 8-bit version from the Famicom Disk System, the reimagined sound of Metroid Zero Mission, or a full orchestral score. It really is the sort of situation where there are no wrong answers.

While you’re here, check out this post about bringing Poke’mon ROM hacks into physical cartridge form.

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Zork Zcode Interpreters Appear Out Of Nowhere

Some of our readers may know about Zork (and 1, 2, 3), the 1977 text adventure originally written for the PDP-10. The game has been public domain for a while now, but recently, the interpreters for several classic 1980s machines have also appeared on the internet.

What’s the difference? Zork is not a PDP-10 executable, it’s actually a virtual machine executable, which is in turn run by an interpreter written for the PDP-10. For example, Java compiles to Java bytecode, which runs on the Java virtual machine (but not directly on any CPU). In the same way, Zork was compiled to “Z-machine” program files, called ZIP (which was of course used in 1990 by the much more well known PKZIP). To date, the compiler, “Zilch” has not been released, but the language specification and ZIP specifications have, which has led some people to write custom ZIP compilers, though with a different input language.

For more on the VM, check out Maya’s Zork retrospective. (And dig the featured art. Subtle!)

Of course, that’s not the only type of interpreter. Some programming languages are interpreted directly from source, like this BASIC hidden in the ESP32’s ROM.

Install ChimeraOS And Never Leave The Sofa

There are some projects that initially don’t seem to make sense, but actually turn out to have valid use cases. ChimeraOS appears to be one of those. The idea is that if you own a gaming PC, but it is not necessarily located where you want to be all the time (like in a gaming den or office for example) then ChimeraOS allows you to play games on it remotely via a local machine. That machine may be a media PC attached to your main TV, or perhaps a mobile device like a steam deck.

With support for AMD GPUs only, there is one issue with deployment — if you’re an Nvidia owner you’re out of luck — the premise is to be able to boot up into a gaming-friendly environment with minimal fuss. Hook up a controller and you’re good to go. Support is also there for a few mobile devices, specifically some Aokzoe, Aya Neo, and OneXPlayer devices as well as some preliminary support for the Asus ROG Ally not to mention the Steam Deck as we touched on earlier. From a software perspective, it obviously supports the Steam platform but also Epic Games, Good Old Games (GOG), and tentatively a mention of console platforms. Sadly the website doesn’t mention much detail on that last bit, but there are some tantalizing hints in the project’s Twitter/X/whatever feed. Reading the release notes, there are mentions of PCSX2 (Playstation 2) Super Game Boy and Atari platforms, so digging into the GitHub repo might be instructive, or you know, actually installing it and trying. This scribe doesn’t own an AMD GPU so that isn’t an option, but do drop us a line in the comments if you’ve tried it and how it works for you.

Many of us at Hackday are avid gamers, especially of the retro kind, which is why we really like these projects. Here’s a nice game controller you can print yourself. For self-builds, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of a DIY arcade machine, but what if you think outside the box?

OG DOOM Shows Off The Origins Of Multi-Monitor

We have a thing for DOOM, and we admit it. The source was released, and clever hackers have ported the engine to every system imaginable. It’s a right of passage, when hacking a machine, to run DOOM on it — be it a VoIP phone, or tractor. But the original 1993 release does have a few notable tricks, and there’s something to be said for recreating that experience on period hardware. And that’s what we’re covering today: [Tech Tangents] discovered DOOM’s multi-monitor support, and built a 4-computer cluster to show it off.

There is a catch, of course. DOOM 1.1 has the multi-monitor support, and under-the-hood, it works by running a copy of the game on individual computers, and controlling the drones over the network. As the game’s network code was updated for version 1.2, the multi-monitor feature was axed to make the network code easier to maintain. So, find a 1.1 shareware release, install it on a DOS machine with IPX drivers, and start each iteration with a -net flag. Use -left and -right to set the drones to the appropriate view. And that view is ninety degrees left and right.

Maybe not ideal, but at the time it was one of the first games to have any sort of multi-monitor support at all. Likely inspired by a commercial flight simulator setup. Either way, it’s a neat feature, and kudos to [Tech Tangents] for showing off this obscure feature of a beloved classic!

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Original Controller Ports In Custom Case Means Retro Gaming In Style

Some careful measuring and a little extra effort can be all that separates what looks like a hack job from a slick end product, and that is apparent in [Eric Sorensen]’s classy retrogaming rig, complete with ports for original console controllers.

Neatly housing these components in a case makes all the difference.

[Eric] likes his vintage gaming, and was terrifically pleased with MiSTer, an open-source project that recreates various classic computers, game consoles and arcade machines using modern FPGA-based hardware. Of course, what makes retro gaming even better is using a platform’s genuine original controllers, which just takes a little extra hardware and wiring.

But [Eric] found that all the required accessories and peripherals started to look awfully cluttered. He solved this issue by packing everything carefully into a specialty PC case called the Checkmate A1500 Plus, which gives off a strong 80s design vibe. As a bonus, the front panels are all removable and that’s where [Eric] decided to house the custom controller ports.

First [Eric] carefully measured each controller connector to create CAD models, then designed matching front panels to house the connectors and 3D printed them. Once that was done, post-processing the panels was a long process of apply Bondo, sand, paint, and repeat as needed. The results looks fantastic, and this project is a prime example of how aesthetics and finish can matter.

Find yourself in a similar situation? [Tom Nardi] has shown us all that 3D prints don’t have to look 3D-printed, and careful application of paint and primer can really put the ‘pro’ in prototyping.

Resurrecting PONG, One Jumper Wire At A Time

Between 1976 and 1978, over one million Coleco Telstar video game consoles were sold. The Killer App that made them so desirable? PONG. Yep, those two paddles bouncing a ball around a blocky tennis court were all the rage and helped usher in a new era. And as [Dave] of Dave’s Garage shows us in the video below the break, the bringing the old console back to life proved simpler than expected!

Thankfully, the console is built around what [Dave] quite aptly calls “PONG on a chip”, the General Instrument AY-3-8500 which was designed to make mass production of consoles possible. The chip actually contains several games, although PONG was the only one in use on the Coleco.

After removing the CPU from the non-functional console, [Dave] breathed life into it by providing a 2 MHz clock signal that was generated by an Arduino, of all things. A typical 2N2222 amplifies the audio, and a quick power up showed that the chip was working and generating audio.

Video is smartly taken care of just as it was in the original design, by combining various signals with a 4072 OR gate. With various video elements and synchronization patterns combined into a composite video signal, [Dave] was able to see the game on screen, but then realized that he’d need to design some “paddles”. We’ll leave that up to you to watch in the video, but make sure to check the comments section for more information on the design.

Is a breadboarded PONG console not retro enough for you? Then check out this old school mechanical version that was found languishing in a thrift store.

Continue reading “Resurrecting PONG, One Jumper Wire At A Time”