Table of free, open-source handheld game systems

A table that compares Arduboy and other similar handheld game systems.

With a focus on difficultly to program and programming languages supported. Handhelds must still be available for purchase.

See below:

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You may wish to add Pokitto to the list.
https://www.pokitto.com/

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Might I suggest hosting this table as a git repo (i.e. on GitHub/GitLab)?

That way other people could more easily contribute to it, and it would be easy to locate a centralised, authoritative version of it.

Given that this table has some kind of colouration, it would probably be best to host it as HTML+CSS (as opposed to markdown or some kind of spreadsheet format like ODS).

Arduboy isn’t even in the table lol.

That list just seems to contain a hand full of ESP32 devices and not even the ESPboy also what do you mean by free? AFAIK The Pocket Sprite isn’t open source.

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I’d like a table similar what’s on the Crowd Supply microByte crowd-funding page. Yes, I agree a git repo would be nice.

The microByte made me wonder what has come out after Arduboy, how it’s programmed, and whether the project is free/open-source so it can be easily built upon.

So far I think the pokitto seems to be the successor of Arduboy. I don’t really care about what the handheld can emulate such as gameboy, sega, nintendo, etc. Those can run easily from an Android phone.

Lol I wasn’t even aware of the microByte, a color esp32 powered system for cheaper than Arduboy and they haven’t even been able to sell 50 of them.

I have a feeling the era of diy-game consoles being successful just because they exist are over. Too many people tried to copy what Arduboy did and the market is too fragmented. Now you need a big huge marketing campaign like PlayDate to be successful and even they are taking for ever to release it.

That’s why my focus has been on trying to make an upgrade to the current hardware with the FX, it’s a nice fit. The other projects I’m working on are all compatible with the current hardware and are planned for small volume production.

I think ArduboyFX could go mass-market especially with a rebrand and a cheaper price. Having 200+ games I think is a real benifit.

Other than that a PICO-8 compatible system would be nice because there are even more games there.

I don’t think people are really keen on picking up a new platform and learning to dev on it just to make a game.

I’m even talking about working on an RP2040 based system but I’m sitting here staring at the module thinking “how the hell do I even code this thing”.

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Was the PlayDate actually even successful?

I thought most people were of the opinion it was overpriced and inferior to a lot of other contenders.

It’s more of a coexistance than a succession.

I’m assuming you haven’t been paying attention to it’s launch it hasn’t even been put up for sale yet.

They have shipped out developer units, have an SDK. And are manufacturing 20k units.

I’m trying to find the update where they said it but I remember reading they had over 50k people sign up for notification and several thousand requests for developer kits so… yeah.

Keeping in mind this is being produced by the same people that did the untitled goose game I think they’ve got significant marketing resources available to them.

Unfortunately I think that since they are waiting so long then maybe a lot of people are losing interest, but once it releases we will see. Having big name developers on board I think really helps sell it, and that it’s positioned as a ready to go console without needing any kind of programming knowledge to enjoy the games it’s well positioned to do well.

I think most people see the pokkito as a successor, most of the active developers for the Arduboy community are over there and we haven’t seen a significant game release or other than tech demos or “this is my first time programming a game” for the Arduboy in almost 2 years or more.

Frankly this place is turning into Pharap and MLXXXP help people figure out why their code isn’t working website than anything else.

Even the dude who was so excited to see the most recent game jam ghosted this place before it ever concluded so… a lot of people visit the site but not too many contributions any more.

I think it’s an amazing resource for people to learn from and get help with, but as far as “new content” I’m open to ideas on how might bring in more people who are motivated to do that.

Maybe once the FX is released then people will actually want to make games that take advantage of it.

I think they haven’t had many backers because Crowd Supply is not as main-stream as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I’m going to wait until it’s for sale for several months before buying one.

I thought about backing it (microByte), but other than larger form factor, it didn’t seem very different from the PocketSprite which I have, but never was very excited about once it arrived. The ESP32-based systems are in a weird headspace for me, as I tend to see it as a low-end emulation system more than a new platform due to its computing power.

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I think the big advantage to Arduboy is that everyone already had Arduino installed, developing for the leonardo is pretty much the same as everything else, the OLED was also widely used so people could hit the ground running. The more the libraries got developed specifically for Arduboy this made it even faster but even that took a couple years to reach a good place.

I’m looking at the RP2040 and like, if you want to search for examples what do you even search for? If you search “Raspberry Pi Pico” and whatever thing you are trying to do you are overloaded with results from the main raspberry Pi. The silicon is nice but they’ve got an uphill battle against the ease of use of Arduino.

It seems like everyone is also re-writing a lot of python libraries for themselves or making forks with lots of different functions. So you don’t have any really awesome stand-outs yet. Maybe that will change in time but it seems like developing for the RP2040 is very fragmented right now… I guess it’s only been out for a month and we have been using the Arduino Uno for 15 years now so that’s one hell of a head start.

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Not really.

The Playdate didn’t really interest me much and I’ve barely heard anyone I know mention it since the initial announcement period. I think the last I heard of it was when you added a crank to an Arduboy as a joke/experiment.

To be honest once you take the gimmicky crank away it’s pretty much just ClockworkPi’s GameShell, but with less buttons, less memory, a slightly larger screen and no DIY aspect. Also I think it’s really weird to have all that processing power and then just have a monochrome screen.

(@jesse, the GameShell is another one you might want to add to your list.)

Strictly speaking it’s being made by the publisher of Untitled Goose Game.
Panic Inc is only a publisher, not a game developer.

Which is to say that they have resources to do a lot of marketing and a pool of developers to comission, but that doesn’t guarantee that the games will actually be fun.

That’s also true for both the Arduboy and the Pokitto. Both can upload precompiled games.

On the Pokitto it’s really easy because of the SD card and the way the Pokitto presents as a mass storage device when connected via USB.

On the Arduboy it’s slightly harder, but only due to a lack of decent and/or officially endorsed upload tools.

A fair chunk have joined, but only a handeful are actually active over there, and of those even fewer actually produce games.

I’m reasonably confident that will happen, but we need the tutorials and infrastructure to make it easy for people.

One of the biggest morale killers for a lot of people is having trouble finding information. The easier you make it to find information, the better chance you’ve got of someone going through with their ideas.


Actually I’d never touched Arduino until the Arduboy. The Arduboy is what lead me to buy an Arduino Uno, rather than the other way around. (Maybe Arduino should be paying you for free advertising? :P)

Never underestimate the importance of a good library. A poorly designed library or a library that keeps changing will be a big put-off for a lot of programmers.

Part of the reason Arduino is popular is because they built a library manager right into the IDE and made it easy to create new libraries.

A lot of people criticise the IDE for being a pretty terrible text editor, which it is, but the board management and library management aspects of it and the simplicity of compiling and uploading are actually big reasons for why Arduino took off. It’s easy to pick on the really terrible aspects without noticing what about the IDE is actually good.

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Now I am kinda tempted to get a microByte… :heart_eyes: but I do know if my drawer can hold more unnused gadgets and things I just have a hype until they get home.

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ESPboy corrections
Price 79$ but you can DIY it for about 10$
Flash memory - 4Mb
RAM about 81Kb
EEROM - No, but emulated by internal SDK to internal flash 4096bytes
MicroSD - No, but has an internal flash file system
Connectivity - MicroUSB and WiFi (has online AppStore)

EDIT:
DIY simple version is possible just connecting 4 parts from the aliexpress

  1. LCD display ST7735 128x128 1.44’’ - 2$
  2. WeMos D1 mini MCU board - 2$
  3. MCP23017 gpio port extender - 1$
  4. speaker or buzzer - 0,5$
    TOTAL = 5.5$

EDIT2
Language Support in addition is LGE (little game engine) with more than 40 games done, ported about 60 Arduboy games and it also can emulate and play ZX Spectrum 48k, GB, and SHIP8/SCHIP games

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ESP32(microByte) has 512kb SRAM but not all this RAM is available for user.
part of this ram is used for internal SDK, WiFi/Bluetooth stack and so on.
i think it’s free and available about 320kb for dynamic data
but for compiled code and static data it’s about 1.3mb

for ESP8266 (ESPboy) it’s available for dynamic data about 80kb and for compiled code and static data about 1-1.2mb

That’s a bit more complex that the table currently is. Can you simplify it in terms of the table?

May I suggest the GitHub repo idea again?

(Note: I’m not going to keep this repo, I made it solely to demonstrate what’s possible.)

Original post is now linked to Github repo.

Do you have a GitHub account yourself?
If so I can just pass control of the repo to you.