And Here's Wolfenstein 3D On A Game Boy

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When you think about it, it’s amazing this didn’t pop up earlier.

Swedish programmer and enthusiast Anders Granlund has been working on a little pet project: getting Wolfenstein 3D to work on a Game Boy Colour. There’s no way to actually just port a file of the game over, so he’s had to build his own Game Boy cartridge from scratch.

The project started with an IO breakout cartridge, manufactured by the community printed circuit board website OSH Park. Granlund has been logging the entire build over at Happydaze.se, but you can see some work in progress footage below.

“The Gameboy has a clunky way of handling colours,” Granlund wrote. “It has a total of 8 palettes of 4 colors each, and each 8×8 tile can be assigned to one palette. The KE04 tries to find the best matching palette for each tile. To reduce color errors I decided to make each palette mostly grayscale with a single accent colour. Each texture on the KE04 will use a single palette due to memory and performance reasons.”

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The latest cartridge supposedly has a grand total of 5kb (gasp) of room on the ROM. Just 3kb is enough to fit the remainder of Wolf 3D’s levels, supposedly, so I’m curious to see what can be done with the remaining 2kb.

Illustration for article titled And Heres iWolfenstein 3D/i On A Game Boyem/em

This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia, where Alex Walker is the EIC.

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DISCUSSION

I find it amazing that to make this work at all, he had to rig up a custom cartridge with an *entire extra processor* that’s actually doing the graphics. Even with that, the Gameboy can’t do bitmap graphics, so he still has to translate those graphics into tiles and work with the limitations of its weird palette system.

This is staggeringly impressive stuff. It’s pretty similar to the SuperFX chip used on some of the later SNES games to do 3D rendering on that console, though I’m not aware of any commercial Gameboy games that did anything this crazy. The Gameboy Camera might be the most complex external cart that comes close to this level of tomfoolery.

More fun stray observations: This is only possible on the Gameboy Color, not because of the double speed processor or graphics improvements, but because the black and white Gameboy models don’t have DMA hardware. Without getting technical, DMA is used to copy memory very quickly, and he needs to use DMA every frame to copy the screen out of his custom cartridge. Without it, he’d have to do the same copy in software, and the Gameboy’s CPU just isn’t fast enough to do it all in one frame.