Move over Doom: Quake is running on oscilloscopes

Quake on oscilloscope

For years, porting id Software’s classic Doom has been a hobbyist endeavor; the game runs on everything from Zunes and iPods to a Pixma printer (this last thanks to a security flaw). Doom’s status as the king of esoteric hardware testing may be in jeopardy thanks to a new effort from programmer Pekka Väänänen, who has written a port of Quake that runs on an oscilloscope.

Outputting a game using an oscilloscope for a monitor isn’t for the faint of heart. Oscilloscopes were the basis for some of the first computer monitors, which makes running Quake a fascinating example of getting back to one’s roots.

Quake-Darkplaces engine

In order to draw on the oscilloscope screen, Pekka had to output a signal that the device could translate into data. This was done using a USB sound card to create what he describes as a “low-poly, realtime rendered, open source” version of the game. One stereo channel controlled the X coordinate while the other channel drove the Y coordinate. The only way to draw this information on screen, however, is to use the audio channels to draw the projected game geometry. The open source renderer Darkplaces was used to extract this information, with PortAudio tapped for actually outputting the data to the oscilloscope itself. The end result was this:

The result isn’t exactly playable — at least not in the conventional sense — but the basics are all here. Level geometry and enemy characters are visible and items show up when dropped. The game’s basic audio is also intact. Rendering was still a challenge, however, and Pikka had to upgrade his sound card to fix some initial problems with the output signal causing unwanted artifacts, and to ensure that enough data was passed to the engine per frame to make the approach feasible.

Obviously, no one is going to swap out their 4K monitor for a cutting-edge enthusiast oscilloscope, but this is an interesting way to “see” the game presented. In some ways, it’s actually a more accurate example of what the game looks like to the computer. What we perceive as incredibly complex models and texture details are, to the system, an enormous set of triangles, lines, and mathematical data.

Much of our discussion of technology is based on looking forward, from 4K and 5K resolutions to devices like the Oculus Rift. It’s interesting to sometimes turn that around and see what modern computer games (and the Darkplaces mod is positively modern compared to the oscilloscope) would look like in the past.

Now read: Investigating ray tracing, the next big thing in gaming graphics

- Thanks for reading Move over Doom: Quake is running on oscilloscopes
Move over Doom: Quake is running on oscilloscopes | TechNina | 4.5

Leave a Reply

Please support the site
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better