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How could I build a handheld gaming system? Answered

I would like to build a handheld game system, but I don't know where to start. I'm looking for something cheap and somewhat simple, but not too simple.


If you want it to run existing games, that's Really Tough; you'd need something which emulates the existing hardware pretty exactly.

If you're planning on writing your own games, that would be easier. Essentially, you'd be building a small low-power computer, with a microprocessor, memory, a display, input (which can be pretty simple if all you want is game buttons), some persistent memory for a boot loader and core operating system (may be on the processor chip, if you use something like a microcontroller), and some way to get the game booted up (flash memory key or card, probably.)

If that isn't enough detail to get you started... then odds are you really need more understanding of basic PC architecture before you tackle this particular project. It's not really a good one for a beginner.

As far as "cheap" goes ... Depending on how complicated you want your games to be, price is hard to predict... but is not very likely to be cheaper than an equivalent commercial system, both because they have better economies-of-scale (parts are much cheaper when you're buying in units of 10,000) and because they often deliberately price the system low as a "loss leader" and figure they'll make their profit on the games.

Hey! I would like to help you! :)
I would send a huge long answer but it is hard.

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I recently found this online: http://openpandora.org/index.php Its called the Pandora, and it is basically a small Linux computer that isn't much bigger than a DS lite. Its a little more than I originally wanted, but it may be the answer to my question.

I have, but I prefer LCD screens to LED screens.

If you want cheap and simple, then you're stuck with LED, I think, since most LCD screens are designed specifically for particular systems (I think).

I wasn't very clear when I asked the question. I'm not looking to recreate a preexisting system, like a Nintendo system, or emulate something. I'm looking for something totally DIY, similar to the Meggy Jr, but with a real screen.

How fast do you want the screen update to run? More pixels, updated more frequently, requires more compute power.

If you want true 3D rendering, that's costly. If you want something on the order of Pac-Man/Breakout level graphics, that's not hard. I believe folks have interfaced small graphic displays to Arduinos; I'm sure it's been done with other cheap processors. A bit of searching should find some information about what has been done -- and if you're extremely lucky, someone else will already have writtten the appropriate drivers and graphic library so you don't have to reinvent those.

Again, there's the interaction between compute power, complexity of the games it can run, how fast it will run down the battery, and cost. If you want to keep cost down, you're going to have to design games to fit what the box can keep up with.

Darn. Beat me to it.

If your thinking Xbox, Nintendo etc than you have to be into high level programming and electronics.

If you thinking some kind of hand held game then mechanical may work for you - rolling ball puzzles, wooden puzzels will throe up in a search many ideas.