GameShell Offers an Open Source Retro Gaming System
Tom Spendlove posted on November 23, 2017 |
Customizable and open source gaming system lets users build and program their own hand held gaming s...

Chong Jing Yao is a big fan of steampunk aesthetic and retro gaming. When looking for a handheld game controller project he couldn't find anything that he liked to play retro games and offer customization options, so with his team at Clockwork he developed his own gaming system. The GameShell is an open source handheld gaming console that the user assembles to teach STEM concepts, programming and electronics. Gameshell is running a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its first production run.

The GameShell system is made up of five modules that users can build and learn about programming. Frustrated after building Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects, the team didn't like the set of laying out components and wanted a modular assembly with packaging issues already solved for casual users.

The Screen is a 2.7 inch RBG display with 60 frames per second. The keypad is compatible with Arduino and offers a D pad, four buttons in a diamond pattern, and four smaller buttons across the top - all styled after classic handheld controllers. A 1050 milliAmp hour battery powers the unit, and a stereo speaker sits at the bottom of the unit. The star of the system, however, is the main board. The Clockwork PI is based off of Raspberry Pi, with a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, 512 Megabyte memory, and a Mali GPU, though the campaign page doesn't specify which Mali board is used.

Chong Jing Yao answered some questions for us about the development of the GameShell board. He said that making the five modules easy to assemble and work the first time was a big design challenge. The major competing design constraints were cost, portability and ease of use. One manufacturing challenge that the team didn't expect was the transparent material used in the campaign game kits. Clockwork ended up using photopolymer filament but several different materials were investigated during development. Yao hopes that even more buttons can be implemented in the next version of GameShell to open up controls for even more games.

GameShell's Kickstarter campaign has blown by its modest $50,000 goal and gained attention from media outlets and the retro / handlheld / emulator gaming community. The campaign's comment page is a flurry of users asking questions about which games can be used on this first run, and how much RAM and processing speed the emulator will need for the games.

The customization is my favorite part of the GameShell. Four different colors are available in this first offering, and the open source commitment extends to the casing so users can download files to print their own cases for the game and make modifications in color and shape. Whenever I forget how passionate the emulator gaming / electronic maker community is a quick look through the comment section always reminds me how many people love to build electronics projects. This campaign ends on December 19 and first units are expected to ship in April, 2018.

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