Katamari Autonomy: The PS2 That Plays Itself

| 7 Jan 2009 20:33

What happens when you create an autonomous PlayStation 2 controller and set it loose on a rousing game of Katamari Damacy? As it turns out, not much.

Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Laboratory blog designed a programmable dongle for the PlayStation 2 that fools the console into thinking the device is actually a controller. It also has a pass-through connector for a real PlayStation controller, allowing it to read the button and joystick data and pass it out to external devices.

And the point of all this? Bleecker mentioned ideas including connecting it to a bike and hooking up a humanoid kick-boxing dummy to play fighting games, and he's already used a Wii Nunchuk with the device, although finding a game appropriate for it is apparently proving difficult. He also decided to investigate "an absolutely crucial bit of game science," long considered but never properly explored: "How long would it take the Little Prince to roll up an entire room based on a random path algorithm?"

"I wrote a quick little Arduino code for my PSX dongle to have the Little Prince roll forward and then, after a few moments, make a random directional change. (Or stop, take a load off and look around the world.)," Bleecker wrote. "This was all done by sending TWI commands to the appropriate registers in my little DIY Playstation 2 controller emulator. All the buttons and the joysticks can be emulated as to their state through a series of write-to registers."

The end result? PlayStations may be great for experiments in intergalactic physics but they're not so hot at playing videogames: After running for 70 minutes, there were still ten items remaining to be picked up, albeit in a "particularly tricky" location. An 8x speed video of the action, which admittedly gets rather dull after awhile, along with the full Arduino code for people who enjoy that sort of thing, can be seen here.


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