A Masterclass in Video Game Design

The Zybo development board has been getting some recognition recently, making its way into amazing projects like this Halloween themed Zombie Containment Unit featured last week on the blog. Since then, we have discovered another great use of the Zybo in an exceptional academic project developed at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). This project for the Hardware/Software Programming Course 02321 invites students to use the Zybo FPGA and Vivado to develop a unique video game within a three week period of full-time work.

While the student creations are quite impressive, we were even more impressed that these projects represented the first generation of IT-Electronics Diplom students at DTU! After only three semesters these students were able to develop the fantastic video games presented below. On their student project website you can find more information about the class project and materials used, as well as posters, interviews (in Danish), and gameplay videos describing each group’s creation.


The first video game presented on the DTU project page begins with each player being awarded 100 health points and three lives. Each player enters the arena and proceeds to engage in battle to the death with each hit earning 5 damage points until only one player remains. Using the 16-bits per pixel VGA output port on the Zybo, the game is displayed onto a nearby monitor while an analog-to-digital converter connects two custom game controllers. With these controllers each player is able to navigate multiple maps with fluent animations while monitoring visual health bars and game statistics. Watch a video of this gameplay as the creators lead you through their imagined world in Brutalus.


The next game featured on the DTU project page uses the Zybo development board and a Wii controller to guide a fighter jet across the screen. Game objectives include firing explosive missiles to destroy enemy combatants while simultaneously avoiding collision with fired missiles. Project designs are included to show how this team developed their game, highlighting different hardware features and communication protocols used. Watch the game in action as the students run through a live gameplay on the DTU YouTube channel.


Yet another group of students created a unique game where four players begin by entering an arena together and attempt to explode their way through the game to victory. Using power-ups like different types of explosives and more explosion power help each player blast through tiles while attempting to destroy their opponents. Players can use the green arena tiles to protect themselves against dangerous explosions until one player triumphs and another round commences. A hardware diagram is provided showcasing the hardware and keyboard setup, which the students then program using C programming language. Watch the gameplay video and learn more about how the students’ imagination was brought to life on the Zybo development board.


A classic game of Chess is next introduced with a variety of gameplay options programmed into the project. In this game, players have the option to play against each other or try their best to defeat the computer in a single player game. At the top of the screen, players can find a timer to keep track of how long the game has lasted and games can be restarted with the quick press of a button. This version of chess is written in C programming language, using VHDL to program the provided Zybo development board. Watch the students test their peers in a live gameplay of the final chess game.


The final game presented on the DTU course website used the Zybo development board to develop a game of Tetris. This game comes complete with an in-depth write up of the project stages accomplished by student developers including a description of their hardware choice, the process for writing and implementing the software, and the project end result. Check out the live gameplay to see the project results and begin to dream about what you can accomplish with the Zybo!

Now that you know what can be accomplished with the original Zybo in just three weeks we challenge you to create your own video game. Whether you prefer the original Zybo or the newly released Zybo Z7, you can find our handy migration guide to get you quickly on your way to developing the next big game!

Let us know which game was your favorite in the comments below and don’t forget to share your creations with us on social media!

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About Quinn Sullivan

I am an apparel merchandiser who found comfort in the world of electronics after discovering a passion for making projects with copious amounts of glitter. Every day I work on learning and uncovering novel solutions that guide me towards solving life’s little problems. My optimism and two rescue puppies have kept me sane throughout this endeavor as I figure out how to blend two diverse backgrounds in fashioning something amazing that will eventually lead to world domination.

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