Game Lights! - Enhanced Paintball Field Props

Simple and rugged wifi connected hardware to make games more engaging and easier to manage. And shootable targets!

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"Open source" and "Paintball" doesn't often intersect!

This system is built based on years of experience trying different ways to better engage and manage players, and usually getting it wrong.

This system consists of simple physical devices that are rugged, wifi-connected, and interactive. Equipment is simple to use. It can take punishment day in and day out. We take advantage of cloud-connected "Internet of Things" hardware to "just work" even if there is no network available.

In other words: you play paintball with these durable wireless things with buttons on them in the play area. Pressing them (or shooting them!) makes the LEDs change colors. Which things have what colors is what decides who "wins". Then you do it all over again! They are networked, so all the hard stuff to make it "just work" happens behind the scenes. This leaves the players to Just Play and Have Fun.

Shootable panels that change colors with every hit. LED-lit posts that change to your team's color when you capture them. LED-illuminated boxes that change colors as you activate them. A ceiling-mounted light that shows who is currently winning at a glance. And every part can be controlled by staff from any smartphone or tablet!  Open-sourced, and reprogrammable over the Internet.

I mentioned that this design is based on years of experience - including years of making things more complex than they truly needed to be!

Overall System Design

  • Use as many or as few of each component as you wish.  Small field?  Use one or three Button Boxes.  Big field?  Use as many as you like!
  • Individually each piece of hardware can be used "offline".  Things are simply more efficient when there is network connectivity giving each unit awareness of the others.
  • For example: "Target Boxes" (which can be easily wall-mounted) for example switch colors every time they are shot.  They can be used as a target gallery for fun, or in a game (change the box colors to your team color to get a point).
  • Same with the "Button Boxes" or the "Button Posts" - hit the button to switch their color to your team color.  The team with the most units switched to their color after 5 minutes wins.  (Experience has shown that this is by itself very fun for players.)
  • However when network connectivity exists, the "Ceiling Score Light" can now always display the leading team's color.  Time limits can be automated.  Resetting the units can be done by any smart phone or tablet.  

Experience shows that anything that makes games more enjoyable for players, more predictable in length, and easier to "reset" is a big advantage from the referee's point of view.

Everything can be reprogrammed over the Internet - a huge advantage for development because it means you don't need to be on-site.

Hardware Block Diagram

  • Each piece of hardware is quite similar on the inside - the main differences are in the mechanical design (shape, etc) and software.  
  • The "role" of a piece of hardware is determined not only by it's physical design (Posts work the same as Button Boxes but look different) but also by the software - which decides what they do and why.
  • The current design integrates the Spark Core - which provides the cloud and network infrastructure.

A significant part of design - not represented here - is the mechanical and physical design.  The hardware must be able to survive harsh use including rough handling and being drenched in splattered paintballs.

Here is a video describing how the system works:

You can watch in HD (so you can read the captions) here.

  • 4 × Spark Core microcontroller with wi-fi IoT microcontroller, open source
  • 3 × Clear-top Polycarbonate Enclosure BUD Industries PN-1327-CMB
  • 1 × 11 inch OD sonotube The structural basis of the Button Post
  • 1 × PVC domed end cap to fit tube 12 inch unit, expensive. Looking for alternatives.
  • 3 × "Arcade" style pushbuttons

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  • Smartphone / Tablet Control: just URLs, not an app

    Minimum Effective Dose08/21/2014 at 01:15 0 comments

    I have decided that in lieu of developing a custom app - which is overkill - managing the devices will, at launch, consist only of going to specific URLs to trigger specific routines on the connected devices. 

    For example: going to (URL) with a specific authentication will cause all units to reset, or go into low-power-shutdown, etc.

    This functionality is baked in to the Spark Core cloud.  Spark's Reference Documentation

    There isn't any need for the management interface to do much more for basic functionality, so that will be all that is needed for now.

    Essentially, it takes any kind of mobile app development out of scope but still allows any mobile device (or computer) to trigger important functions.

  • What is Working So Far

    Minimum Effective Dose08/21/2014 at 01:07 0 comments

    What is working:

    • A test area is organized.  A local paintball arena and a local Airsoft field are on board for testing the system.
    • Impact sensors (two different kinds - piezo and vibe sensor based.) Reliable and working beautifully.
    • Spark Cores are programmed and talking to one another and publishing "push" events to the cloud.
    • Power source and recharging method decided.
    • Low-power mode for recharging, and for auto-off working.
    • Laser-cut light diffuser for use in the box tops - frosted Dura-Lar works great.
    • Software roadmap and feature list completed as a result.

    Here is a Spark Core test setup, making sure all the right things are possible software-wise.

    What is next:

    • Mechanical design and layout of the Button Boxes and Button Posts. 
    • Half the hardware is on hand, the others are being narrowed down from a short-list.
    • PCB design once the rest of the electronics are designed and confirmed good.
    • Ordering remaining parts for prototypes.

  • Prototype Definition (how many of what is being made?)

    Minimum Effective Dose08/21/2014 at 00:57 0 comments

    The Game Lights! design is flexible and allows for many or few elements to be used.  I am building one of each piece of hardware, except where more than one would be a) fun or b) useful.

    • One Button Post
    • One (possibly two) Button Boxes 
    • One Target Box
    • One Ceiling Score Light

    This lineup is sufficient to demo all aspects of the system.

  • Licenses applicable to the Project

    Minimum Effective Dose08/21/2014 at 00:53 0 comments

    • Spark core hardware and software is published under Creative Commons, AGPL/LGPL licenses.
    • Game Lights! software and hardware design files will be published with a Creative Commons license, except where inapplicable in which case it a BSD license will apply.
    • No other software libraries are in scope at this time.

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Enjoy this project?



Vrod wrote 09/15/2014 at 05:54 point
Looks like a fun project. If you need another field to test it out let me know.

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