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┬áreduced 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.

Continue reading “NES Classic Metroid Ported To Equally Classic Super Nintendo”

GB Interceptor Enables Live Screen Capture From Game Boy

[Sebastian] had a tricky problem to solve. Competitors in a Tetris tournament needed to stream video of their Game Boy screens, but no solution readily existed. For reasons of fairness, emulators were right out, and no modifications could be made to the Game Boys, either. Thus, [Sebastian] created the GB Interceptor, a Game Boy capture cartridge.

Thanks to the design of the Game Boy, there’s plenty of access to useful signals via the cartridge port itself. [Sebastian] realized that a non-invasive capture device could be built to sit in-between the Game Boy and a cart, and send video to a computer. Unfortunately, there’s no direct access to the video RAM via this port, but [Sebastian] figured out a nifty workaround.

The build uses a Raspberry Pi Pico. The chip’s two cores emulate the Game Boy’s CPU and Picture Processing Unit, respectively. Doing this, while having the chips keep up with what’s going on in the Game Boy, required overclocking the Pico to 225 MHz. The system works by capturing data from the cartridge’s memory bus, and follows along with the instructions being run by the Game Boy. By doing this, the Pico is able to populate its own copy of the video RAM. It then spits this out over USB, where it can be displayed and streamed online as desired.

There are some edge-case limitations, but for its intended purpose, the system works great. Currently, the hardware is usable on Linux and Windows, though it does require some fiddling in the latter case. Files are on Github for those eager to build their own. If you simply want to dump carts rather than stream from your Game Boy, we can help there, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “GB Interceptor Enables Live Screen Capture From Game Boy”

Book Teaches Gaming Math

If we knew how much math goes into writing a video game, we might have paid more attention in math class. If you need a refresher, [Fletcher Dunn] and [Ian Parbery] have their book “3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development” available free online. The book was originally a paper book from 2011 with a 2002 first edition but those are out of print now. However, math is math, so regardless of the age of the book, it is worth a look. For now, the online version is a bunch of web pages, but we hear a PDF or E-reader version is forthcoming.

There’s quite a bit of discussion about vectors, matrices, linear transformations, and 3D graphics. The last part of the book covers calculus, kinematics, and parametric curves. Some of these topics will be of interest even if you don’t care about graphics but do want to learn some math with practical examples.

Continue reading “Book Teaches Gaming Math”

Assistive Tech And Video Games

Assistive technologies have a pretty big presence here on Hackaday, and this hack is nothing short of interesting. [kerchoo_22] is working on a hands-free video game controller as a final project for her engineering class and we think it’s worth sharing.

The basic premise of the circuit is pretty simple. She DIY’d a few contact switches using conductive plates made of cardboard, duct tape, and aluminum foil. The output of the switch is read by analog input pins on an Arduino Leonardo. When the switches are off, the analog input pins are pulled HIGH using 1 MegaOhm resistors. But when the user hits their head on one of the four conductive pads, the switch is engaged, and the analog input pins are shorted to ground.

The Arduino Leonardo, having a native USB port, is able to directly emulate a keyboard. Each conductive pad is mapped to a different key press corresponding to different functions within the game. Left, right, shoot, etc. And there you have it, gameplay without using hands or a controller!

Now, it seems as though [kerchoo_22] put an appropriate amount of cushion on the head pads, so there probably isn’t much danger of a concussion. Either way, you can never be too careful.

My Major Is Gaming…

Times have changed. You can now take a university class in writing games. In fact, YOU can now take a university class about writing games because [Dave Churchill] of Memorial University has put all 22 of his lectures up for your enjoyment. [Dr. Churchill] isn’t planning on releasing the assignment files, but you can still get a lot from watching the videos. Apparently, the classes were also live streamed on Twitch.

The games build on SFML so the resulting games can be portable. The library abstracts input, graphics, sound, and networking.

Continue reading “My Major Is Gaming…”

Fixing A Broken Game Installer By Sheer Force Of Will

These days, we seldom purchase games on physical media. Even when buying titles from yesteryear, we usually download them from an online service. Some of these older games haven’t been properly ported to their new delivery platform, as [Slortibort] found out. Thus, it was time to dive into the game files and sort the problem out.

The game in question was the Hammers of Fate expansion pack for the base game Heroes of Might and Magic V. [Slortibort’s] partner bought it from Ubisoft, and ran the installer. However, the installer would report that it couldn’t find the original files from the base game, and fail to start.

Fixing the issue was no mean feat, requiring use of the Sexy Installshield Decompiler to dive into the guts of the installer to see what was going wrong. In the end, it came down to some registry key shenanigans, but the route of how [Slortibort] got there is well worth the read.

It’s a fine example of some of the issues around moving games to digital distribution; proper attention must be paid to do it right. Even then, there’s always the risk you’ll lose your games down the track. There are benefits, of course, but there’s always a tradeoff to be made.

A Look Back On A Decade Of Kerbal Space Program

Just a few weeks before Atlantis embarked on the final flight of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, a small Mexican company by the name of Squad quietly released Kerbal Space Program (KSP) onto an unsuspecting world. Until that point the company had only developed websites and multi-media installations. Kerbal wasn’t even an official company initiative, it started as a side project by one of their employees, Felipe Falanghe. The sandbox game allowed players to cobble together rockets from an inventory of modular components and attempt to put them into orbit around the planet Kerbin. It was immediately addictive.

There was no story to follow, or enemies to battle. The closest thing to a score counter was the altimeter that showed how far your craft was above the planet’s surface, and the only way to “win” was to put its little green occupant, the titular Kerbal, back on the ground in one piece. The game’s challenge came not from puzzles or scripted events, but from the game’s accurate (if slightly simplified) application of orbital mechanics and Newtonian dynamics. Building a rocket and getting it into orbit in KSP isn’t difficult because the developers baked some arbitrary limitations into their virtual world; the game is hard for the same reasons putting a rocket into orbit around the Earth is hard.

One of my early rockets, circa 2013.

Over the years official updates added new components for players to build with and planets to explore, and an incredible array of community developed add-ons and modifications expanded the scope of the game even further. KSP would go on to be played by millions, and seeing a valuable opportunity to connect with future engineers, both NASA and the ESA helped develop expansions for the game that allowed players to recreate their real-world vehicles and missions.

But now after a decade of continuous development, with ports to multiple operating systems and game consoles, Squad is bringing this chapter of the KSP adventure to a close. To celebrate the game’s 10th anniversary on June 24th, they released “On Final Approach”, the game’s last official update. Attention will now be focused on the game’s ambitious sequel, which will expand the basic formula with the addition of interstellar travel and planetary colonies, currently slated for release in 2022.

Of course, this isn’t the end. Millions of “classic” KSP players will still be slinging their Kerbals into Hohmann transfer orbits for years to come, and the talented community of mod developers will undoubtedly help keep the game fresh with unofficial updates. But the end of official support is a major turning point, and it seems a perfect time to reminisce on the impact this revolutionary game has had on the engineering and space communities.

Continue reading “A Look Back On A Decade Of Kerbal Space Program