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Lateral thinking with withered technology.
Sebastian Staacks is a coder and good old-fashioned tinkerer, whose blog There Oughta Be is rammed with technical curiosities from LED cubes to an automated irrigation system for his lawn. Now Staacks has upped the nostalgia ante considerably with, first, the creation of a WiFi Game Boy cartridge and, now, managing to get Grand Theft Auto 5 and Doom running on Nintendo’s classic hardware.
“A few weeks ago I created a Game Boy cartridge with built-in WiFi,” writes Staacks. “Now I taught it to stream video and play games—in full resolution. At 20 fps. On an unmodified original Game Boy.”
Staacks has a technical writeup of how he did it here, and a simpler video explainer, in which you can see the game running on the hardware. It obviously looks like exactly what it is: An all-singing, all-dancing technical showcase running on 1989 hardware that, even at launch, was being unfairly derided as obsolete. In other words, absolute magic.
The video below starts when Staacks is showcasing game demos on the device.
The original Game Boy screen is obviously not ideal for this task, particularly when it comes to contrast. Another reason to be jealous of Staacks is that he’s got his hands on a Pocket, which has an incredible screen, and below shows what the WiFi cart’s trickery looks like on that display.
My WiFI cartridge on the @analogue Pocket.It works right away, but with a small timing problem: Those horizontal glitches are not present on the original #gameboy. Still, I am very impressed that the Pocket is so close to the original.https://t.co/tBC05jGYBP pic.twitter.com/sU9B2BikO2January 15, 2022
Grand Theft Auto 5 is obviously the highlight here because, well, wow. Staacks’ WiFi cart came with instructions for others to build their own, and one of his followers naturally reached for the perennial favourite that is Doom.
My #GameBoy “plays” #DOOM! pic.twitter.com/yxZz4KnMZkJanuary 11, 2022
“With this new demo,” writes Staacks, “many other demos almost become obsolete. I can display anything and I can control anything that can be displayed on and controlled by my PC. Of course, the interface and image are almost unusable this way, so some dedicated implementations might still be interesting. And also, I did not touch audio here, which unfortunately was a big oversight by me when designing this cartridge.”
Schematics, source code and detailed explanations can be found here.
Rich is a games journalist with 15 years’ experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as “[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike.”
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