Friday, July 15, 2016

Homemade Handheld Videogame Console: Part 4: Games

Once I had the hardware finished up, I was ready to finalise the on-board software and load up a few games. I already had three ex-pyweek games ready to go: all I needed was some sort of main menu that would come up when the console was switched on and would allow the player to navigate options and choose games using the dpad and buttons. I wrote a quick and dirty main menu interface using pygame that allowed the player to choose between the three games (I will probably come back and upgrade this to something more visually impressive somewhere down the track). I added a line to the end of /etc/rc.local to run this on start-up.

To get the menu interface to quit itself and start up a selected game, I used "os.execv", a nice function that does just this: shuts down the current instance of python and finally runs another command on the shell with specified arguments. I set it up so when a game was selected, the code would run:

os.execv('/usr/bin/python', ['foo', resources.gamedata[select_ind].path])

I used the same mechanism to get games to shift control back to the main menu when the player quit them. This was convenient, because it meant I had to make very little change to the existing game code.

All games were working nicely. I also adapted an existing game that used the mouse to work with the touchscreen input. Here's the console in action:

Current Games:

"The Wizard's Data": pyweek 20 entry by Team Chimera
"Adrift" pyweek 21 entry by Team Chimera
"Underworld": a beta version of a game I've worked with on and off for about a year :)

Overall I was super happy with the outcome for this project. There are however a few things that I learnt and would do differently for next time:

Buttons: I didn't really like the buttons in the end, they make an annoying loud clicky sound and don't depress far enough. To their credit they look nice and are responsive. They just don't feel as good as a proper games controller: next time I do this sort of thing I will definitely invest in some proper arcade buttons, or at least something that has a built-in spring or rubbery inside to produce a smooth, but still responsive feel.

Audio Volume: I don't know why, but the audio volume is super quiet. Not sure if I botched something or not. I'm pretty sure I've got the trimpot ramped up correctly ... will try to figure this out somewhere down the track.

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