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The helds project

helds is a project for homebrew development of games, tools and applications related to handheld gaming consoles. At the moment the target is specifically Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, keeping a look to the Nintendo DS. This project was created as a testing ground for the helds developers, being newbies at both game and console development, but wanting to share experiences as they go along. Hopefully some of what is created here can be of interest or use to others.

All software that is part of this project is released under an open source license (GPL or BSD-style), and should also be easily browsable. Though anything found here should be considered unstable and unfinished.

Enjoy! (well... currently there isn't much to see.. but still)

The helds Developent Team


2005-12-22 (tangstad) - progress rant

Things are moving abit slow, but will have more time to play around with the code when the holidays hit. Just discovered and fell in love with Magnatune, the not evil record company, which should be a great source for in-game music for non-commercial projects. Looking at using Tepple's GSM player for GBA, used also by his great lumines-clone, luminesweeper.

2005-12-05 (tangstad) - two player with smoke

Working on making the cartest demo into a two player minigame. I've put the plans for chasers on ice and currently thinking about adding rockets. Right now the demo is usable by two players at the same time, one using left/right on d-pad and L-button for acceleration and the other one using B/A for left/right and R-button for acceleration.

Two cars with smoke.

2005-11-24 (tangstad) - nice car driving

Added some nice rotating controls with variable speed to the cartest demo, together with better wrapping at the screenborder. Now all that remains is to get started on the flocking/swarming algorithms for the green chasers.

2005-11-23 (tangstad) - rotated sprites

Been a while since last update, but played around abit today with sprite rotating on the GBA (see source:gba/cartest). Currently it's a test of a simple car sprite sprite from cartest, movable by using the d-pad. It uses a single sprite graphic rotated in 45 degree increments using affine transformations.

2005-11-10 (tangstad) - gba tools used by helds team

To get an overview over what software and are used by the helds development team when programming Game Boy Advance homebrew, see GameBoyAdvanceDevelopment.

2005-11-09 (tangstad) - image/tile converter

To learn abit more about sprite layouts I made a simple script to convert images of most kinds to a binary that can easily be included when compiling a GBA rom. It can optionally lay it out as 8x8 tiles and create a BGR palette file. It's a python 2.3 script that just requires PIL, Python Imaging Library. For source code and download see source:gba/tools/

2005-11-08 (tangstad) - sprite debugging

Been playing around with GBA programming, just making a simple logo splash screen application with a single sprite. Had some problems debugging it as the linux version of VisualBoyAdvance doesn't include memory map viewers as the windows version does. I just found out that the windows version will happily run through Wine on linux though, as long as you provide the MFC42.DLL.

2005-11-04 (tangstad) - domain aquired

Coincidentally I found that the domain was available and nice to use for this site. We will still be hosted through PVV, but we now have a nice url available. Still haven't decided whether it should just be a simple redirect to the pvv-site, or use cloaking/frames to show the nice short url in the browser all the time. Currently redirect is used.

2005-11-03 (tangstad) - helds is alive

The helds project is officially open. Source code will be managed through subversion (browse source) and this wiki will be available for subprojects. We even have a cute logo. Welcome!

Current Activities

  • Install a better news/blog-interface for Trac (with rss), if they ever release one
  • Flesh out this site
  • Add current projects to this site (map-displayer)
  • Start development of new stuff
  • We really need some pictures here... put some up


For questions or comments about the helds project, please contact The helds Development Team .