Consolite – a Tiny Game Console on an FPGA
For my latest project, I am diving back into Verilog to create the hardware side of Consolite. For those who don’t know, Consolite is the name I’ve given to my design of a tiny hobbyist game console and associated software toolchain. In my previous posts, I demoed a compiler that translates from a flavor of C to Consolite Assembly, an assembler that translates from Consolite Assembly to binary files, and an emulator that runs the resulting binaries.
In order to “complete the stack” in some sense, the last thing to do was to implement the console on an FPGA. I also wrote a multiplayer Tron light cycle game to check my work, which turned out to be a lot of fun especially since I ended up adding support for multiple SNES controllers. At the end of this post I’ve added a video of the system in action, as well as an embedded emulator so that you can play Tron in your browser!
This has been a long, extremely interesting project for me, and I may go into more technical detail about components such as the VGA display or SD card reader in future posts. However, this will just be an overview of the capabilities of Consolite, the hardware I used to achieve those capabilities, and of course a demo of the final product.
Major Hardware Modules
For this project, I used the Mimas V2 development board with Spartan 6 FPGA (pictured in Figure 1 below). The board only cost $50, which I consider a great deal given how much functionality it offers.
Figure 1. The Mimas V2 development board running Consolite, with relevant components labeled for clarity: (1) VGA output, (2) audio output, (3) microSD card, (4) LPDDR RAM, (5) Spartan 6 FPGA, (6) mini USB cable for power, (7) 7-segment display, (8) status LEDs, (9) buttons, (10) switches, (11) SNES controller connected to general purpose input/output (GPIO) ports.
The Mimas V2 has 64 MiB of on-board RAM, which is more than enough to store the 64 KiB of main memory and 48 KiB of video memory for a Consolite program. The RAM is (4) in Figure 1 above. A future 32-bit version of Consolite may take advantage of all 64 MiB of RAM, but for now the 16-bit addresses restrict it to 2^16 bytes = 64 KiB.
The VGA output, (1) in Figure 1 above, allows you to set up any TV or monitor as a display for Consolite as long as it supports 1024×[email protected] VGA. The VGA controller in the FPGA reads pixels from the 48 KiB of video memory and outputs a 256×192 pixel, 8-bit color screen (it is scaled up to fill the 1024×768 VGA output).
The 3.5mm audio jack, (2) in Figure 1 above, is not yet in use, but I plan on adding audio instructions in the future so that games can have music and sound effects.
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