Arduboy: ARM Version (idea)

It’s not quite DOOM but…


For a ARM “Arduboy” you can get a GameBoy Advance (OG or clone). There’s already plenty of opensource homebrew libraries, examples, and even full games.

There are even clones shaped like the OG Gameboy.

It’s not a market (ARM handheld) that needs yet another console.

Probably possible with an attiny inside the cable bit-banging as two USB hosts relaying data between two Arduboy.

It can probably exclude most of the proper USB setup handling and just assume the Arduboy’s USB endpoints are where they always are.

It’s almost too bad the Arduboy USB port doesn’t leak any power. That’s what you get for proper engineering :wink: . Would need a coin cell battery.

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Why even bother with usb for multiplayer, just use dedicated i2c or uart (could send small packets using screen i/o when it is not being updated). The original gameboy basically used a derivative of spi.

Because the only port on the stock Arduboy that is exposed is the USB port.

Oh, I thought we were talking about a potentially new version of the Arduboy.

I made an ARM based Arduboy prototype a while back but haven’t pursued it.

Such a device is possible. It is not commercially viable. I’ve pointed out many times that even the Pokkito has only sold a few hundred units in the kickstarter, so maybe a couple thousand in total I would guess?

To design and create a new product that needs molds and mass production then you need to make at least 5,000 or 10,000 units. The market for this is still pretty small. It’s growing…

But then if you search on amazon for retro game player… how do you differentiate yourself from all of those consoles?

I’m pretty sure quite a few of them can play doom…

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This has been invented… it’s called a smartphone. :P

Seriously though, that’s really far from what an Arduboy is.

You’re probably looking for something more like the Gameshell.

Or whatever that Chinese emulation device was called…
(I think it was Chinese? Maybe it was Korean?)

If you’d go ARM then it will probably get too much power and then ends up as an emulation station. Which is a buzzkill for making creative games for such an hand held.


I am thinking of the form factor of the Arduboy. I know a lot of people like it because of the specs and the power requirements. I like it because I can put it in my wallet and take it out whenever. That is what really made me wanna buy it.

I wish the Pokitto had the power to run Doom, I might be able to rig something together where it does fit in my wallet. I wish the Odroid-Go had a wallet size version.

There are some low power chips that work. I can only imagine if it goes in a camera or portable they can be in low powered gaming device.

Basically it is a squashed version of the pocket sprite is the best case as I see it, with a 128x128 oled. I bet it’s fast enough to run pre-compiled pico8 carts.

But I’m not convinced I could sell enough units to make it happen.

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Yes, the Pico carts would be amazing. If only there was an aduboy version. The ESP32 is an all in one for the most part. We might need to add more storage, but that isn’t too tough with nand or SD card slots.

I think pokitto is the best arm handheld we’ll see in the “contained-capabilities” area, I personally love it, but you can already see the disadvantage it has over arduboy:
amount of games.
Why is that? well, I experienced this myself, diving into an arm chip with a color screen your options to design a game grow a big deal, from the choice of language to use (it supports c++, java and python), to the color modes and resolutions (half res, full res, 1bit to 8bit or even more with tricks), so you start thinking big, and most likely you end up not delivering any game at all.

Back in the gameboy era, which is when I started working in games, we had big budgets at disposal to make a gameboy color or gameboy advance game, so the more powerful the chip, the better the game.
But now, if you want to do niche handheld games, you’re probably much better off completely limiting the scope, like a tweet in 140 characters, or a pico-8 game.

I think the playdate also got it right but with another approach completely: not for makers, but aimed at gamers who appreciate niche indie titles, beefy enough cpu to run a lua interpreter (this is clearly to attract pico-8 devs), but with a 1bit screen and closed source APIs that will most likely constrain many aspects of development without much of an option.

At the end of the day it’s all about the games, if you can find a formula that attracts developers like honey and somehow gets them on the right track to make nice games easily, then you got a good platform that many people might want to buy.

@bateske if you’re up for a chat, I have an idea for a textmode-only 8bit handheld to do c64 style games, textual games, roguelikes, and such.

(these lovely images are by good friend and kickass artist, he’d be itching to make games on a toy like that : )


Precisely this point, once you start adding color it “becomes something else”, and for me, that something else space as far as pixel art goes is the pico8. Once you get more resolution than building something in python starts to make sense, then you’ve got adafruits new thing for that.

I think what would make Arduboy even better is making it more accessible. By that, meaning you get the same experience you do now for $5. (Even better with the flash cart including all the games). I think you can get a lot of people interested in coding that way. Also the problems with getting arduino installed and all that stuff with loading games needs to be fixed too.

So if anything, my reason to go with ARM more than anything else is the bootloader that shows up as a file system and you can drop the hex in. It would make 90% of my customer service problems go away.


Yeah. That is true. Someone made a 3D renderer for the Pokitto and nobody uses it. I was kinda shocked since the examples had graphics similar to quake. The rendering was quite beautiful. At the end of the day I understand the days of programming are expanding and are growing astronomically when you use more powerful chips.

What is the Adafruit thing? What do they have? I must have missed some developments.

I guess I’ll be making a “fork” of this that runs using whatever display is in the Micro Arcade.

Anyone know what display it is? :smiley:

Indeed, that sweet, sweet engine could make some really nice retro-3d games on the little pokitto.

This is just simply amazing. That friend needs to do something with us for sure!

Couldn’t this type of “engine” (vs hardware) work well on the Gamebuino META? I’d love to do something really nice on that platform but I get hung up on libraries/optimizing/coding rather than “game ideas”. With a 6x8 font though you’d only have 26x16 not 32x16. ANd if 8x8 was necessary for the ASCII fidelity now you’re 20x16.

What about transparency? What if you first saw a FULL SCREEN ASCII image… then hit a button and then your dialog/UI was 20% transparent over top of the image (which was still full screen underneath).

You mean virtual USB hard drive device? Would just an SD card not be almost as simple and possible still work with lower cost hardware?