Skylanders research

The logo for the pop-emu organization on github

If you were a child or parent in the 2010’s, you have probably heard of Skylanders. The game that sold you physical toys just so you could play more of the game. Personally, I have spent way too much money on those figures when I was a child. So, when I got bored over the summer and needed something to do, I decided that I would reverse-engineer the Toys to Life gimmick of the Skylanders games.


During my research, I have written several blog posts that can be found on my posts page. These describe my process and my findings.

Although my research is far from finished, I can now confidently describe most of the communication between the game and the Portal of Power used the read the figures.

Applying my research

Research in itself isn’t very useful if you have no way to actually use it. Happily, I have already been able to apply my research in a few places.

Portal emulation in Dolphin

Something I was planning on doing after my research was finished was adding portal emulation to the Dolphin Emulator. But before I could do that, deReeperJosh already opened a pull request adding portal emulation. This PR was based on the code from RPCS3. However, their code has a few flaws and some command descriptions were way off. I was ablet o resolve/improve those parts and ended up becoming a co-author of the commit.

Improving figure data

deReeperJosh’s PR also added the ability to generate figure data. The code used for this used a addition to generate a UID for figures. The problem with this is that this could easily lead to figures having the same ID. Because of that, I opened a PR that generates random UID’s.

Portal audio

A big feature on the portal released alongside Skylanders: Trap Team was the speaker that could play audio. So, after portal emulation was added, a common request was emulation of the speakers. So, deReeperJosh created a PR adding audio support. Although I am not directly mention in the PR, I provided the audio format to deReeperJosh through discord.

Physical portal emulation

A built-in portal emulator is nice, but you can’t use that on a real wii. Imagine having your portal break but you still want to play on your wii. What then? Because of that, I decided to buy a Raspberry Pi Pico W and program it to emulate a portal. Specifically, the traptanium portal bundled with Skylanders: Trap Team since it supports the most games.

The portal emulation

Getting the device to be recognised was quite easy. The pico SDK provides support for TinyUSB, a library that allows for, among others, emulating USB devices. After that, I just needed to analyze and write the device descriptors. After that, I just had to emulate the command functionality. All code can be found in the github project.

Controlling the emulator

Since the only USB port on the device is already taken up, I needed to find another way to control the device. So, I decided to create a HTTP API. The implementation of this can be found in Server.cpp on github. However, I also needed a way for people to easily call that API without needing to manually call it. So, I decided to create a website interface using Astro. This can be found in this repository.