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DuinoCube: A Retro Game Console that Balances Performance and Simplicity

Silicon Valley engineer seeks to make game development accessible to hobbyists.

DuinoCube is a retro game console that enables individual developers to create their own games. At the same time, it boasts a level of performance that matches the most advanced commercial 2D game consoles. The system is the brainchild of Simon Que, a software engineer in San Jose, CA. “DuinoCube gives you everything you want in a basic game console, without the hassle of having too much,” says Que. “It’s like programming on a simple computer. Anyone who knows C++ can do it.”

duinocube

Game consoles for individual developers typically fall into two categories. One group contains “micro-consoles” running Android OS, e.g. Ouya. The other group runs on 8-bit microcontrollers, often relying on overclocking and low-level assembly language to be fast enough, e.g. Uzebox.

Enter DuinoCube. This platform brings a solid balance of power and simplicity, offering many advantages to the hobbyist developer. It has no operating system, making it easy to write programs to access the hardware. It features familiar device interfaces like VGA, USB, and SD card, while abstracting them behind a software library. And most importantly, there is a 2D graphics engine on an FPGA chip, running at 60 frames per second in brilliant 18-bit color.

Que built the system in its original form for a senior electronics project in college. “After having written some computer games,” he says, “I wanted a system where you didn’t have to worry about the operating system or graphics cards. It was a self-contained platform like the classic consoles of the late 20th century.”

Years later, Que learned about the popular Arduino platform. He realized that Arduino made microcontroller development available to the average programmer, not just to those who shared his electronics background. He then transformed his old design into a pair of “shields” that stack on top of an Arduino board. With finished prototype in hand, Que has launched DuinoCube on Kickstarter. He aims to raise enough funds to have it produced by a factory for a reasonable cost.

You can support the project as a backer on Kickstarter, and follow it on Twitter (@DuinoCube) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/duinocube). If you’re interested in interviewing Simon about the project, email him at simonque@gmail.com.

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