Resources for making handheld gaming device
February 3, 2005 11:38 PM   Subscribe

I saw a cool microcontroller project on slashdot, and dredged up my old dream of making an open-source, open-spec competitor to the GameBoy. Surely somebody else out there is doing that kind of thing (not GameBoy programming, but making entirely different handheld game devices).

What's the best forum, resource, or website to pursue information about this kind of project?
posted by Emera Gratia to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It'd be nice, but you have a big roadblock in front of you: controlling your display. If you go generic, you have to get a soudn chip, a display device and a driver that you can interface to your CPU and that will drive up the cost. Whereas a company like Nintendo chooses a processor, a sound chip, a display and a driver chip and then pays the CPU manufacturer to integrate the the CPU, sound, and driver chips because they can afford to especially when the cost is amortized over several million chips.

The upside is that the proliferation of cellphones and PDAs are creating a secondary market for companies that want to make embedded systems set to go for handheld devices. For example, Motorola's Dragonball processors are 3.3V microcontrollers that are 68K based and can have built-in LCD drivers. You can find StrongARM chips that are doing the same thing.
posted by plinth at 6:21 AM on February 4, 2005

[Without knowing your background or tools available:] It won't be easy. Look at this inspiring project: XGameStation. Also look at the great FPGA Arcade.

You're definitely going to need to get your own boards printed and access to a pick/place or serious surface-mount/BGA tools to do standalone runs. Microcontrollers are usually far easier because you can get them in DIP packages, which anyone can solder. But I don't know of anything powerful enough to drive a LCD, do video processing and audio processing that comes in a DIP. There's some good stuff on getting the popular Atmel micros to do video out and you certainly can do sound, but those things top out at 20Mhz, you're barely going to get pong running on one. [The Gameboy has specialized hardware for sound and video, so the relatively weak 4Mhz processor (in the GBC) can concentrate solely on game stuff.]

You'd be better off starting with a development board like the XGS one or a DSP board with a composite video out (I like the Analog Devices Blackfin, but the tools are $$$$ and Windows-only.) Also, the aforementioned 68k chips might be a good bet, I'm sure there's dev boards for them with LCD connections. Also, the ARM7 is a good bet. Then once you get prototypes working on the dev tools, find $5,000 from somewhere and make a run of 10. Sadly, the numbers don't work out for the little guy.
posted by neustile at 7:05 AM on February 4, 2005

Emera- I'm pretty sure this will lead you to the path you're looking for. And maybe this.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 7:39 AM on February 4, 2005

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