Lets start off with a FAQ

What is The Asteroid Belt?

It's a belt.
It's a video game.
It's ridiculously awesome.

Why is it made out of brass?

'Cause I am so steam-punk-pirate-zombie and brass is the shizzle.

Seriously though, I don't have a 3D printer, I don't have a laser cutter, I don't even have a 7 axis CNC VMC. I don't have a lot of options to make a case for something that looks cool.

What I do have is an Etchinator . As the saying goes “To a 10 year old child with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”

Will it help me pick up {chicks|twinks|bears}?

Unlike many of the belts shown around here that include an "arc reactor", The Asteroid Belt will not give you any super human powers. If you where unable to lift any of the above items before donning it, you will still be unable to pick them up now.

It costs more to build than a RasPi and only runs at 16Mhz. Why did you bother?

If you don't understand already there is little I can do to help you.

Realistically though, the AVR is enough to play some retro games and pulls a few mA. This will let the unit run for 10 to 20 hours depending on how high you set the backlight current. A RasPi would run for about 2 hours

Can I make one myself?

I am sure you could. All the files you need to do so are here. There are bitmaps of the mask for the brass case. There are gerbers for the PCB (step 3), a Bill of Materials (step 4) and there is a ZIP file with the source (step 8) and HEX of the game "Rock Blaster"

If you are planning on building one yourself it would be nice if you could send me a message so I know who is having a go.

Can you make one for me?

At this stage that would be a big negative. There are a lot of Instructables out there that seem like thinly veiled adds for a Kickstarter campaign. This is not one of them. It takes a lot of time to make one of these and it is unlikely there would ever be enough interest to "tool up" to mass produce them.

Never say never though. If 1000 people all moan at me at once I could be persuaded. Don't hold your breath though.

How much will it cost me to make my own?

The BOM in step 3 lists everything needed. The prices are what I pay here in Australia to get parts and do not include shipping. So obviously your mileage will vary. I would budget somewhere between 70 to 100 USD

Will it play any other games apart from "Rock Blaster"?

At this stage no.

In the future though, I am planing on making at least three more games for the belt -


  • A puzzle game - Quad-tris
  • A platform scroller - Awesome Antonio Cousins
  • A side scroll shooter - AVR Type (almost completed the engine)



Is there a published API if I want to write my own games?

Calling it an API would be glorifying it a bit much. There is standard calls for sprites, vectors, scrolling and sound though. If you do want to try write your own game then I am more than willing to help you along.

You said "sound". Is there a speaker hidden somewhere I missed?

That's very observant of you. There is actually no speaker yet. You will see there is a "speaker out" on the schematic.  In fact all the other hardware and software for sound is present.  I have so far been unable to find a speaker I like. When I do The Asteroid Belt will be able to beep and bong with the best of them. 

OK - Now onto the build

Step 1: Doing three tricks for speed

OK.  I lied about getting onto the build.

You probably need to be told WHY you are doing step one of the build.

Well it's all about speed and smoothness.

While I am telling you the "why" about the first step, I may as well sneak in the other two speed up tricks. Just to keep them all in the same place.

Some of you out there may have hooked an LCD up to an Arduino and tried to write a video game. You will have found that the screen tore and you could not update the screen very fast. I have had to do three tricks/hacks to solve these problems and get a satisfying video game experience.


1, Frame Marker on the LCD

I am not going to go into great deal about what screen tearing is as Wikipedia covers it quite well.

So to solve the screen tearing issue we need a "vertical-sync" or "frame-marker" signal. Unfortunately none of the cheap 16 bit LCD displays of eBay have FMark bonded out.

One thing I did notice on the cheap eBay LCDs is that they all had pin 21 on the 37 pin FPC marked as NC. More expensive displays I could buy with the same 37 pin FPC sometimes used Pin 21 for FMARK.

I took a punt and bought several LCDs from eBay. I got lucky at with one of them and Pin 21 went to an unpopulated resistor that had FMark connected to it.

The store that had a suitable LCD is called coldtears electronics. Note that not all LCDs can be modified this way. If anyone else has a known modifiable LCD then please leave a comment and I will update a list here of sources.

I was able to make a break out board for this LCD, solder in R3 on the FPC and hook it up with the mess of wires shown to get smooth moving picture display.

2, Saving clocks with diodes, resistors and capacitors.

The datasheet for the IL9238 shows that there should be a 5ns hold off time between Write-Strobe and Register-Select each going low or high.

To achieve this in code you need to do this,

out portx, Register-Select-Low
out portx, Write-Strobe-Low
out portx, Write-Strobe-High
out portx, Register-Select-High

This takes four clock cycles and 240nS.

Figure 01. shows how to connect a Schottky, a resistor and a capacitor to form a one way low pass filter. With this circuit in place the code can be reduced to the following and still keep the 5nS set-up/hold times

out portx, Register-Select-Low & Write-Strobe-Low
out portx, Register-Select-High & Write-Strobe-High

Down from four clocks and 240nS to two clocks and 120nS

Figure 02. shows the resulting waveforms. The top trace is Register-Select and the bottom trace is Write-Strobe.

3, Pseudo DMA

In "Rock Blaster" the screen has to be cleared totally before each frame is drawn. With 320x240 pixels that is 76800 writes. With normal optimization and some slight loop unrolling that would take the CPU 1/90th of a second. That is 1/3 of the total time the CPU would be having to do nothing more that write out black pixels.

Seeing as writing out a single colour pixel is nothing more than toggling a pin, we can actually get the AVR hardware to help us out. If we hook up the Write-Strobe signal from the LCD to one of the AVRs Timer-Output-Compare pins we can just turn on an 8Mhz sqaure wave to clear the screen in exactly 153600 clocks and the CPU is free to run game logic. All we have to do is have another timer interrupt running to tell us when to stop the screen clear.

Now really onto the build

Seriously sickened by the main photo & the fact that Instructables have left it as-is. Yet we wonder why more women don't get into anything technologically related. Because they're still viewed/treated like this in the workplace. Pardon me while I go projectile puke.
Thank you for the feedback.<br><br>I'll pass onto my partner that you enjoyed the photo her and I took as click bait. She is also a member here and has published quite a few insructables.<br><br>Maybe after you have published and done something useful for the community in general we might take what you have to say seriously.<br><br>Though if what you have to say in future is going to be moaning about two people that have been in a relationship for more than a decade in a G-Rated photo, we probably still wont take you seriously.
My mistake, I apologize. I didn't see the fine print, which reads 'To new members of Instructables: if you haven't published anything, keep your mouth shut because your opinion on this public forum means nothing otherwise. Our community doesn't take such members seriously under any circumstances'. Click-baiting using photos such as this obviously takes far more talent or imagination than I possess.
Love the pic had to check u out
Yeah first pic looks so awkward bro
Just made my day
that first picture looks so wrong
I agree with you there!!!
Very cool idea and huge props on the instructions! Its hard to find a fun project that I can understand ;)
Guys, <br> <br>heaps of people have asked me to make them one. It's not really my thing but I have set up the worlds most piss weak Indiegogo campaign <br> <br>http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-game-n-belt <br> <br>If it makes it cool. If it doesn't make it that, just gives me more spare time drink rum and work on my next instructable <br> <br>&quot;The RAIB&quot;
I assume the PCB was entirely homebrew? Care to share your through-hole and tin plating methods? I notice you plate after you drill and etch (According to your steps), I am very interested you see you plating process, that board looks fantastic!
Yes - the PCB was entirely homebrew and specifically made with simple methods. <br> <br>I DO have fancy methods for plating through holes and doing multi layer boards, but I spent hours laying out the board to make it easy for other people to make at home with just double sided PCBs. <br> <br>The &quot;through holes&quot; in the board in the photo are &quot;wire vias&quot;. Just Kynar wire wrap wire poked through the hole and soldered. <br> <br>The tin plating is just the normal powdery chemical stuff you buy online. &quot;Tin-it&quot; is one brand name.
I love this... And because I'm in the same contest, I hate you... <br> <br>I'm so confused:) <br> <br>Great Instructable, PERFECT photo and good luck in the contest.
I love this... And because I'm in the same contest, I hate you... <br> <br>I'm so confused:) <br> <br>Great Instructable, PERFECT photo and good luck in the contest.
regardless of your views on the main pic...It worked lol. This instructable came out on the 29th of April, and on the 3rd of May it's got over 60,000 views! Some instructables don't rack that many views in 2 years. <br> <br>Sex sells...that concept is universal, but I did think the idea was cunning... :P <br>
would this help me pick up chicks at a bar?
Probably not if the author is right : &quot; No one is going to notice anything else after they see the LCD goodness in the belt buckle&quot; <br>Which is why I find this game useless !!!&hellip; LOL
At the right bar, yes. <br>
Miss OrganGrinder, <br> <br>You wouldn't happen to know where these &quot;right bars&quot; are? As I have not had any success at all so far. <br> <br>BTW I do not like the green and black dress you are wearing in the lead photo. The feel of that synthetic material gives me the creeps.
Most of my dresses are made from that material...you'll just have to have the creeps. <br>
Don't you get worried about poking someone in the eye and getting sued?
This article is fantastic. Fantastic preview image to get viewers, fantastic rebuttal to those easily irritated, and fantastic optimization of hardware resources. <br> <br>You have my vote. <br> <br>=]
I agree!! This is awesome!!here is a thought.. what if you could take the same game belt buckle where it detached from the buckle to play and then slides back on.. I have a lighter belt buckle that does that.. the lighter slips out and then black in when done. now THAT would be a hot seller!! :) Best wishes!!
Annie, <br> <br>If I had more resources I would certainly love it to be detachable. Kind of like &quot;King Missile&quot;. <br> <br>It would make it easy for the wearer to play as well as for their friends to play. <br> <br>Thanks for the input.
gosh I am trying to think of where a resource would be other than my belt buckle I have. Let me hunt around and I will post the URL I come up with for you. :) I hope you do this!! I love to see people create such fun things and hey, a little money off of it wouldn't hurt either ;)
A removable buckle could be managed pretty cheaply and easily - you could just have one of those buckles that presses down to grip the belt (often used with webbing belts) and hold the game on top with rare-earth magnets. They would be strong enough to take everyday use but the game would just snap on and off.
had another thought.. you could even use a clip style buckle.. like those that cell phones snap into ( clip ) snap the game box out and back in when done. lol.. this is just way too cool!!
ok found a URL that is the same exact removable lighter belt buckle I have http://www.thesixthspace.com/classic-pattern-removable-lighter-plum-men-belt-buckle.html I hope this helps you.. or you can just go off this concept I guess. :)
would it not be easier to make a brass casing to put the guts of a Game Boy Micro in?
It would also be easier to never climb that mountain wouldn't it ?
if you are referring to my user name, i have never climbed a mountain in the traditional sense, but i live in the Appalachian mountain range (West Virginia to be exact) i was born here, raised here, and I'll more than likely die here, therefor, i am a mountaineer. Anyway, now that my rant is over I'll be serious, wouldn't it be awesome to be able to easily play Super Mario World or Metroid Fusion on a belt buckle?
Mr Mountaineer, <br> <br>When I first wrote that I didn't actually see your user name. I was actually making reference to the old one &quot;Why do people climb mountains? Because they can&quot; <br> <br>I did see your name BEFORE I hit post and had a little chuckle to myself though :) <br> <br>As far as playing Metroid Fusion or what ever else. I don't know. I get my fun from writing games not playing them and I don't even know what Metroid Fusion is. <br> <br>If you would like to put a Game Boy Micro inside a brass-case/belt-buckle for playing that game, I can lend a hand though.
sorry about the rant, i didn't mean anything by it. and yea i wouldn't mind doing it, but funds are very limited for me so it will have to wait. i only thought of this because making a brass case is probably the only thing i could do. i do know my way around a soldering iron, but that's about as far as my electronics knowledge goes.
The promo picture baffles me. The project itself has enough merit and thoroughness to be successful, yet your project doesn't even appear in the promo photo. Instead you've placed a sexually suggestive one? That's a little sleazy to me.
I have to admit that the display picture made me laugh. <br>Crazy how many views you've gotten since original posting date. Probably since the display picture ;P Haha. <br> <br>Well done. I like your instructable!
Mr Sniper, <br> <br>I would like to think it is the shear awesomeness of The Asteroid Belt that is getting the views. I am sure the lead pic is not hurting though.
* Belt Sifu
Hilarious! <br>You're a true BS*- Artisan mate ;)
OH MAN what a great write-up! I know the pic is going to irritate some people but I think if people keep reading, the pic kind of mirrors the amusing tone of the text which is worth a read even if you are not going to make the project. Thanks for a laugh!
Can I just say <br> <br>Thank you thank you thank you. <br> <br>Although I have a wonderful partner and she is much more than a short fat ugly man as myself deserves. It does sadden me that she constantly tells me I am not funny and I should also stop singing all the time. <br> <br>Much more encouragement like this and I might just be convinced to try out for Australian Idol next year.
Fat? You don't look fat in the pic! <br>Unless it's someone else with the missus...
go for it! i'll watch for sure if i can get in in canada... :-)
The pic is advertising genius! And funny.
Sounds awesome!.....not to sure about the ibles thumbnail/first pic though.
Some of these comments fail to meet the constraints of the "be nice" policy. Positive, constructive, or don't say anything at all. If people want to call out a project for being inappropriate, Instructables has a special flag button next door the favorite button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. (It looks like a flag.) <br /> <br />Excellent write-up. Your writing far exceeds the quality of that lead image. It's poorly lit and could use some color correction.

About This Instructable




Bio: Just a guy really. Like building stuff and like to help other people build stuff too. If you really need to know, am male in ... More »
More by cunning_fellow:The Asteroid BeltMy response to the WS2811 with an AVR thingThe Etchinator - low cost PCB spray etcher (under $100)
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