End-of-year event 2021

Sylvain Lefebvre

Sylvain Lefebvre is a senior researcher at Inria (France), where he leads the MFX team. His main research focus is on algorithms and data-structures for geometry modeling, processing and synthesis in the context of additive manufacturing. He got his passion for Computer Graphics from playing and hacking video games in the early nineties. He is now adventuring into hardware design, revisiting classic rendering algorithms on FPGAs, designing CPUs, rasterizers and texture units like it's 1992.


The Doom-chip "On Ice": designing hardware for a 1993 retro-classic
Sylvain Lefebvre

What would have resembled a console hardware dedicated to our beloved retro-games from the early 90's, such as Doom 1993 and Comanche 1992? I invite you on a journey to answer this question, not using emulation, not using a micro-controller, but designing our own hardware running on an entry-range ice40 UP5K FPGA, using a fully Open Source toolchain.

We'll dive into the rendering technology of the era, which was not polygon based in the traditional sense but rather based on clever tricks akin to ray-casting. We'll see what parts are critical to accelerate and how to achieve that in a limited gate-count (< 5K LUTs), while still reaching 320x240 pixels realtime rendering with full resolution textures.

The result fits entirely into the FPGA and its accompanying SPI-flash chip, and uses a low-cost SPI-screen. This turns your dev boards into a fantasy retro-console.

So buckle up Marty, we're going back to the future to re-invent the GPU!