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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Piano keyboard hacked to play Doom

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

No, it's not the soundtrack. Developer David Hayward and friends have wired up a piano keyboard in place of a QWERTY version to play Doom.

(Credit: David Hayward)

We've seen 1993's Doom running (slowly) on an E Ink display, but this is a new one. A team of indie developers got together at an arcade jam hosted at the London Hackspace and modified an old £30 upright piano to work as the controller input for Doom.

According to team leader David Hayward, they used three I-PACs to allow the keyboard to communicate with the PC running the game and covered the piano hammers with copper tape, soldering the piano strings to a common ground. A whole mess of wiring later, and the piano keys work to control the game.

We suspect one would have to know their way around a piano to play it effectively, though. As you can see in the Vine below, player (and producer) Marie Foulson seems to know what she's doing without looking at the keys, but if you're used to the rather more compact QWERTY keyboard, you might be in trouble.

We can't tell if the markings delineating which keys control which actions mean you can just use any key in that section of the keyboard, or if specific keys are tied to specific actions, although having the black key front and centre as the firing button seems to be a smart move.

Anyway, take a look at it in action by clicking the Vine below. Don't forget to turn the sound on. We're not sure the resulting ditty will be winning any symphony awards any time soon.


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DavidH17 posted a comment   

We're busy making a short youtube video and writing things up, but here's some more information for now:

Any white key in the marked regions performs that action (which actually makes little musical flourishes possible - we have a player at VMGS today who's been doing just that and is six levels in so far).

All of the black keys are bound to "shoot", as it seemed like the one command that should be accessible from anywhere.

One of the keys has one of its three strings missing, so just makes a thunk sound. That one is bound to operate doors and switches.

Here's the whole team:
Ricky Haggett (Honeyslug)
George Buckenham, (Wild Rumpus/Die Gute Fabrik)
Sos Sosowski
Marie Foulston (Wild Rumpus)
Jon Brodsky (Lucky Frame)
Jonatan Van Hove (Glitchnap)
Simon Bachelier (One Life Remains)
Alice O'Connor
Sandra Borkowska
David Hayward (VMGS, YMPT, Bit of Alright)

Every one of us did some work on the Doom Piano, whether it was moving it, decorating it, wiring it, advising on materials, or working on Doom's source code (Because piano hammers are designed to only briefly make contact with the strings, we had to edit it to make keypresses more persistent. Initially, basic movement required a lot of hammering on the keyboard!). Between us we made four different arcade machines this weekend, but this one is by far the most elaborate!


DavidH17 posted a reply   

(However, Sos and George in particular are heroes, and did an enormous amount of work over all hours of the weekend to get this thing up and running. Just a week ago, we were all saying "We can't do this, it's mental").

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