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One of the more interesting ideas being experimented with in VR is 1:1 mapping of virtual and real-world objects, so that virtual representations can have physically interaction in a normal way. Tinker Pilot is a VR spaceship simulator project by [LLUÍS and JAVI] that takes this idea and runs with it, aiming for the ability to map a cockpit’s joysticks, switches, and other hardware to real-world representations. What does that mean? It means a virtual cockpit with flight sticks, levers, and switches that have working physical versions that actually exist exactly where they appear to be.

A few things about the project design caught our eye. One is the serial communications protocol intended to interface easily with microcontrollers, allowing for feedback between the program and any custom peripherals. (By the way, this is the same approach Kerbal Space Program took with KSPSerialIO, which enables custom mission control hardware at whatever level of complexity a user may wish to implement.)

The possibilities are demonstrated starting around 1:09 in the teaser trailer (embedded below) in which a custom controller is drawn up in CAD, then 3D-printed and attached to an Arduino, and finally the 3D model is imported into the cockpit as a 1:1 representation of the actual working unit, with visual positional feedback.

Unlike this chair experiment we saw which attached a Vive Tracker to a chair, there is no indication of needing positional trackers on individual controls in Tinker Pilot. In a cockpit layout, controls can be reasonably expected to remain in fixed positions relative to the cockpit, meaning that they can be set up as 1:1 representations of a physical layout and otherwise left alone. The kind of experimentation that is available today even to individual developers or small teams is remarkable, and it’s fascinating to see the ideas being given some experimentation.

As a kid you may have played Operation, but certainly never anything like this nine-foot board from SPOT Technology. This device is not only impressively large, but assists doctors in their surgical pursuits with a CNC gantry setup to pull out obstructions.

In the game, amateur surgeons control the system using a small arcade cabinet next to the patient (Sergio), moving a magnetic gripper with a joystick and buttons. A camera rides along and transmits images to the cabinet, hopefully leading to a clean extraction. If the gripper isn’t aligned correctly, a button on the plunger reports the doctors error, and Sergio’s nose lights up red to indicate a failed surgery. Two Arduino Megas are implemented, one on the CNC playfield itself, another in the cabinet.

The project will be on display at the Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire on October 6th if you’d like to see it in person.

We’ve all seen those chess computers that consist out of a physical playing field, and a built-in computer that would indicate where you should put its pieces while inputting the position of your pieces in some way. These systems are usually found in a dusty cardboard box in a back room’s closet, as playing like this is fairly cumbersome, and a lot depends on the built-in chess computer.

This take by [andrei.erdei] on this decades-old concept involves an ATmega328p-based Arduino Pro Mini board, a nice wooden frame, and 4 WS2812-based 65×65 mm RGB 8×8 LED matrices, as well as some TTP223 touch sensors that allow one to control the on-board cursor. This is the sole form of input: using the UP and RIGHT buttons to select the piece to move, confirm with OK, then move to the new position. The chess program will then calculate its next position and indicate it on the LED matrix.

Using physical chess pieces isn’t required either: each 4×4 grid uses a special pattern that indicates the piece that occupies it.  This makes it highly portable, but perhaps not as fun as using physical pieces. It also kills the sheer joy of building up that collection of enemy pieces when you’ve hit that winning streak. You can look at the embedded gameplay video after the break and judge for yourself.

At the core of the chess program is [H.G. Muller]’s micro-Max project. Originally ported to the Arduino Uno, this program outputs the game to the serial port. After tweaking it to use the LED matrix instead, [andrei.erdei] was then faced with the lack of memory on the board for the most common LED libraries. In the end, the FAB_LED library managed to perform the task with less memory, allowing it and the rest of the program to fit comfortably into the glorious 2 kB of SRAM that the ATmega328p provides.

Classic 8-bit chess engines are marvels of software engineering. Ever wonder how they stack up against modern chess software? Check out this article!

Planning a game of Hacker Jeopardy at your next meetup? You’re going to want some proper buzzers to complete the experience, but why buy when you can build? [Flute Systems] has released an open source DIY game buzzer system based on the Arduino that will help instantly elevate your game. Certainly beats just yelling across the room.

The design has been made to be as easily replicable as possible: as long as you’ve got access to a 3D printer to run off the enclosures for the buzzers and base station, you’ll be able to follow along no problem. The rest of the project consists of modular components put together with jumper wires and scraps of perfboard. Granted it might not be the most elegant solution, but there’s something to be said for projects that beginners and old salts alike can complete.

Each buzzer consists of an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3 V, a nRF24L01, and of course a big pushbutton on the top. Each one is powered by a 110 mAh 3.7 V LiPo battery, though [Flute Systems] notes that the current version of the buzzer can’t actually recharge it. You’ll need to pull the pack out and charge it manually once and awhile. Thankfully, the printed enclosure features a very clever twist-lock mechanism which makes it easy to open anytime you need to poke at the internals.

The base station uses the 5 V version of the Pro Mini, with a Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C to step up the voltage from its 2,000 mAh battery. Of course it also has a nRF24L01, and also adds a buzzer and twin four digit seven-segment LED displays. [Flute Systems] says you can expect about five hours of runtime for the base station.

An especially nice feature of this setup is that the eight digit display allows the base station to show the number of each button in the order it was received. So rather than just getting a display of who buzzed in first, you can see the chronological order in which all eight buttons were pressed. Coming up with clever applications for this capability is left as an exercise for the reader.

Of course, there’s more than one way to build a buzzer. If you don’t like the way [Flute Systems] did it, then check out this version that uses 900 MHz radios and an OLED to show the results.

The ArduBoy, as you might have guessed from the name, was designed as a love letter to the Nintendo Game Boy that many a hacker spent their formative years squinting at. While the open source handheld is far smaller than the classic DMG-01, it retains the same general form factor, monochromatic display, and even the iconic red LED to the left of the screen. But one thing it didn’t inherit from the original was the concept of removable game cartridges. That is, until now.

Over the last year, [Mr.Blinky] and a group of dedicated ArduBoy owners have been working on adding a removable cartridge to the diminutive handheld. On paper it seemed easy enough, just hang an external SPI flash chip off of the test pads that were already present on the ArduBoy PCB, but to turn that idea into a practical cartridge required an immense amount of work and discussion. The thread on the ArduBoy community forums covers everything from the ergonomics of the physical cartridge design to the development of a new bootloader that could handle loading multiple games.

Early cartridge prototypes.

The first problem the group had to address was how small the ArduBoy is: there’s simply no room in the back to add in a cartridge slot. So a large amount of time is spent proposing different ways of actually getting the theoretical cartridge attached to the system. There was some talk of entirely redesigning the case so it could take the cartridge internally (like the real Game Boy), but this eventually lost out for a less invasive approach that simply replaced the rear of the ArduBoy with a 3D printed plate that gave the modders enough room to add a male header along the top edge of the system.

As an added bonus, the cartridge connector doubles as an expansion port for the ArduBoy. While perfecting the design, various forum users have chimed in with different gadgets that make use of the new port, from WS2812B LEDs to additional input devices like joysticks or a full QWERTY keyboard. Even if you aren’t interested in expanding the storage space on your ArduBoy, being able to plug in new hardware modules certainly opens up some interesting possibilities.

In fact, the project so impressed ArduBoy creator [Kevin Bates] that he chimed in on the topic last month to announce he would start looking into integrating the community’s cartridge modification into the production hardware. If all goes well, pretty soon there might be an official upgrade path for those who want to expand what this tiny nostalgia machine is capable of.

[Thanks to Roo for the tip.]

The ArduBoy, as you might have guessed from the name, was designed as a love letter to the Nintendo Game Boy that many a hacker spent their formative years squinting at. While the open source handheld is far smaller than the classic DMG-01, it retains the same general form factor, monochromatic display, and even the iconic red LED to the left of the screen. But one thing it didn’t inherit from the original was the concept of removable game cartridges. That is, until now.

Over the last year, [Mr.Blinky] and a group of dedicated ArduBoy owners have been working on adding a removable cartridge to the diminutive handheld. On paper it seemed easy enough, just hang an external SPI flash chip off of the test pads that were already present on the ArduBoy PCB, but to turn that idea into a practical cartridge required an immense amount of work and discussion. The thread on the ArduBoy community forums covers everything from the ergonomics of the physical cartridge design to the development of a new bootloader that could handle loading multiple games.

Early cartridge prototypes.

The first problem the group had to address was how small the ArduBoy is: there’s simply no room in the back to add in a cartridge slot. So a large amount of time is spent proposing different ways of actually getting the theoretical cartridge attached to the system. There was some talk of entirely redesigning the case so it could take the cartridge internally (like the real Game Boy), but this eventually lost out for a less invasive approach that simply replaced the rear of the ArduBoy with a 3D printed plate that gave the modders enough room to add a male header along the top edge of the system.

As an added bonus, the cartridge connector doubles as an expansion port for the ArduBoy. While perfecting the design, various forum users have chimed in with different gadgets that make use of the new port, from WS2812B LEDs to additional input devices like joysticks or a full QWERTY keyboard. Even if you aren’t interested in expanding the storage space on your ArduBoy, being able to plug in new hardware modules certainly opens up some interesting possibilities.

In fact, the project so impressed ArduBoy creator [Kevin Bates] that he chimed in on the topic last month to announce he would start looking into integrating the community’s cartridge modification into the production hardware. If all goes well, pretty soon there might be an official upgrade path for those who want to expand what this tiny nostalgia machine is capable of.

[Thanks to Roo for the tip.]

In this era of 4K UHD game console graphics and controllers packed full of buttons, triggers, and joysticks, it’s good to occasionally take a step back from the leading edge. Take a breath and remind ourselves that we don’t always need all those pixels and buttons to have some fun. The LedCade is a μ (micro) arcade game cabinet built by [bobricius] for just this kind of minimalist gaming.

Using just three buttons for input and an 8×8 LED matrix for output, the LedCade can nevertheless play ten different games representing classic genres of retro arcade gaming. And in a brilliant implementation of classic hardware hacking humor, a player starts their game by inserting not a monetary coin but a CR2032 coin cell battery.

Behind the screen is a piezo speaker for appropriately vintage game sounds, and an ATmega328 with Arduino code orchestrating the fun. [bobricius] is well practiced at integrating all of these components as a result of developing an earlier project, the single board game console. This time around, the printed circuit board goes beyond being the backbone, the PCB sheet is broken apart and reformed as the enclosure. With classic arcade cabinet proportions, at a far smaller scale.

If single player minimalist gaming isn’t your thing, check out this head-to-head gaming action on 8×8 LED arrays. Or if you prefer your minimalist gaming hardware to be paper-thin, put all the parts on a flexible circuit as the Arduflexboy does.

We all have a gaming system in our pocket or purse and some of us are probably reading on it right now. That pocket space is valuable so we have to budget what we keep in there and adding another gaming system is not in the cards, if it takes up too much space. [Kevin Bates] budgeted the smallest bit of pocket real estate for his full-size Arduboy clone, Arduflexboy. It is thin and conforms to his pocket because the custom PCB uses a flexible substrate and he has done away with the traditional tactile buttons.

Won’t a flexible system be hard to play? Yes. [Kevin] said it himself, and while we don’t disagree, a functional Arduboy on a flexible circuit makes up for practicality by being a neat manufacturing demonstration. This falls under the because-I-can category but the thought that went into it is also evident. All the components mount opposite the screen so it looks clean from the front and the components will not be subject to as much flexing and the inputs are in the same place as a traditional Arduboy.

cost = low, practicality = extremely low, customer service problems = high

     ~[Kevin Bates]

These flexible circuit boards use a polyimide substrate, the same stuff as Kapton tape, and ordering boards is getting cheaper so we can expect to see more of them popping up. Did we mention that we currently have a contest for flexible circuits? We have prizes that will make you sing, just for publishing your flex PCB concept.

[Thank you for the tip, c00p3r]

While you might see a CRT by the side of the street and think noting of it, Ryan Mason has come up with a novel use for five of them in a row called the Cathode MK1.  

This set uses the Unity game engine along with an Arduino board to spread games across five tube TVs arranged side-by-side. 

In order to keep project costs down, Mason’s gaming rig is restricted to displaying a game signal on one TV at a time. This makes gameplay even more interesting, especially considering that the way that each TV handles a loss of signal contributing to the experience. 

Several games are available for this unique system, including Long Pong AKA Pooooong, where a ball bounces from screen to screen as shown in the clip below.


Many people enjoy playing flight simulators or making the occasional orbit in Kerbal Space Program, but most are stuck controlling the onscreen action with nothing more exotic than a keyboard and mouse. A nice compromise for those that don’t have the space (or NASA-sized budget) to build a full simulator cockpit is a USB “button box” that you can plug in whenever you need a couple dozen extra knobs, switches, and lights.

If you’ve been considering building one for yourself, this incredible build by [nexprime] should prove quite inspirational. Now at this point, a box of buttons hooked up to a microcontroller isn’t exactly newsworthy. But there are a few features that [nexprime] packed in which we think make this particular build worth taking a closer look at.

For one, the powder coated 8.5” x 10” enclosure is absolutely gorgeous. The console itself was purchased from a company called Hammond Manufacturing, but of course it still took some work to turn it into the object you’re currently drooling over. A CNC machine was used to accurately cut out all the necessary openings, and the labels were laser etched into the powder coat.

But not all the labels. One of the things we like best about this build is that [nexprime] thought ahead and didn’t just design it for one game. Many of the labels are printed on strips of paper which slide into translucent plastic channels built into the front of the box. Not only does this allow you to change out the overlays for different games, but the paper labels look fantastic when lit with the LED strips placed behind the channels.

Internally, [nexprime] used a SparkFun Pro Micro paired with a SX1509 I/O expander. The electronics are all housed on professionally manufactured PCBs, which gives the final build an incredibly neat look despite packing in 68 separate inputs for your gaming pleasure. On the software side this box appears as a normal USB game controller, albeit one with a crazy number of buttons.

If this build doesn’t have enough switches and buttons for you, don’t worry. This Kerbal Space Program cockpit has banks of switches below and above the player, so one can more realistically scramble for the correct onet to flip when things start going sideways. On the other hand, we’ve seen slightly less intense builds if you’re not quite ready to take out a loan just to get into orbit.



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