Coding4Fun Blog

Building the PIX-6T4 and writing a game for it too

Description

Our Hardware Friday post returns us to the PIX-6T4, The PIX-6T4 kit is out..., and a Friend of the Blog, Pete Brown.

If you follow Pete, it probably won't surprise you to know he's gotten his hands on a PIX-6T4 and has shared his recent experience building the kit and writing his first "real" game for it.

Assembling the PIX-6T4 Netduino-powered Hand-Held Game System

I recently picked up a PIX-6T4 build by Fabien Royer (with games by Fabien Royer and Bertrand Le Roy). This is a 64 pixel, two joystick/button, monophonic sound hand-held game device based around the Netduino Mini from Secret Labs. You create games in C# using Visual studio.

Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft and I enjoy working in the .NET Micro Framework as well as C++ on other microcontrollers. I purchased this product on my own, at full price; this is not a sample or review unit. Presumably, I got the same package of goodies everyone else gets.

Unboxing

The kit came in a regular USPS shipping box inside which were four bags. Two bags had components, and two had joysticks.

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Conclusion

I'm impressed with what Fabien has come up with here, and the stock games he and Bertrand have done are just perfect. I think the board and enclosure could use a little more design to make it more compact and also more hand-friendly, but overall, I think this is an excellent way to get into Netduino programming using something fun and exciting. Also, because of the display technology, you are constrained to creating games with very simple graphics (just LEDs) so, by necessity, you avoid that common barrier to entry. Sometimes constraint is a good thing.

Congratulations Fabien and Bertrand!

My First Real PIX-6T4 Game: Sixty4Racer

After assembling my Netduino-powered PIX-6T4, I wanted to go and write a simple game. This post describes the construction of that game, including all source code.

Concept

When you have 64 monochrome red pixels, you need to keep the graphics simple. I decided on a game inspired by the classic Atari River Raid game. This is essentially a vertical scrolling game where you need to dodge obstacles with your boat. Variations included things like Spy Hunter on the C64 and many many others. Most of those games also involved shooting and enemies, but that's a but more complex than you can reasonably do on this board. I won't enable moving walls like Laser Gates, but I'll leave things open enough not to make it impossible to do that in the future.

The game had to be small enough that I could figure out the API, and then design, code, and blog about it in a single evening after my kids went to bed The PIX-6T4 is fun, but I have way too many projects on my backlog to be able to devote any significant time to it (here's a taste: a ShapeOko CNC mill, an AVR MIDI->CV Converter, the final touches on the MIDI Thru Box, several MFOS Synth Modules, Several Gadgeteer Board Concepts, a Win8 XAML book, chapters to review in my Silverlight 5 book, and much much more). In fact, that was one of the big selling points of this device: simple gameplay and quick to develop for. Combined with the great library Fabien designed, and my past experience with Netduino and, more specifically, C#, and this should be an evening project.

Screen Design

Back in the 80s, in 7th grade, I used to design single-color sprites for the commodore 64. The sprites themselves were 3 bytes wide, with each pixel represented as a single bit in the byte. I used to define them on graph paper, but alas, the notebooks I filled with sprites and BASIC listings have long since disappeared.

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First Iteration: Creating the scrolling playfield

I called my project PeteBrown.Sixty4Racer. Just as in the previous post, I copied over the Program.cs file from another project and used that as the start. Please read my previous post to see what references you need and whatnot.

The first class I created was the one that manages the creation of the screens.

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Second Iteration: Adding in the player

The PIX-6T4 libraries have built-in the concept of a PlayerMissile. This is a single pixel on the playfield. It may move, so it has X and Y speed. You can show or hide it, so it has Visibility. And most importantly, it has collision detection with other PlayerMissile instances. For our game, we're not going to use that, since we're looking for collision detection with the background. So, a little manual detection is in order.

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Third Iteration: Polishing

The first thing I realized was that it was really hard to make out the player pixel in the sea of red. That's to be expected on a monochrome display at 8x8 resolution. The approach I came up with to make it a bit easier is to simply flicker the player pixel. Each time the game loop executes, I toggle the visibility of the ship PlayerMissile to give it a nice seizure-inducing flicker.

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Final Steps

The final things to do are to create the manifest file and bitmap which will be used on the SD card. I'll need to check with Fabien to see what the exact format of the .bin file is, but I suspect it's just the 8 bytes of data formatted like all the other bitmap data in this application. I'm also not sure if he has a nice little app to write that data out, or convert from a bitmap, or something else. I ended up just using a hex editor to recreate the pattern from one of the images I created in the font editor.

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What You Can Do

This came is completely free and open source. While I'd love credit for the initial work, it's not a requirement. Go ahead and do whatever you'd like with the source and have a blast Smiley

Here's a video of the game in action.

In short, if you have a hankering to get your soldering iron hot and build your own hand-held game console, one that you can also write your own games for, the PIX-6T4, and this guidance from Peter, has your name all over it...

The Discussion

  • Psychlist19​72

    Thanks for posting this, guys! Fabien did a great job on the hardware and software, and Bertrand a great job on the initial games. I had fun creating my own little sample

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