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Modern Colecovision Gamepad Design


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#1 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:16 PM

I was playing around with the stock controller doing my best but still lamenting it as a barrier to fun and new player interest. I've tried redesigning it before but never got very far, however I revisited the idea again with more direction this time. Thought I'd get some feedback from the forum and any suggestions, plus it does no good just sitting on my desktop for an audience of one.

I'd like to build it but haven't figured out how, maybe I should send it to the Ben Heck show as an episode idea since they have 3D printers which make this sort of work easier to accomplish. Part of the reason for going with a gamepad rather than an arcade joystick was mostly cost per unit, although arcade sticks are more straight forward to build being a box with off the shelf parts inside they aren't cheap to make or buy in the broad sense of a console product.

 

 

Probably 5 things stand out the most as design flaws which are the following.

 

Braided cord: This aspect really sucks the most since even a moderate amount of tension pulls the controller away from the player and out of your hands like some kind of disapproving parent or jerky trickster.

 

Controller ports: They are pointing 90 degrees away from the front of the console, even if you put the console directly in front of you this makes no sense. Not sure why it took so long for anyone to put the ports on the front to maximize cord length but it did. The 2600 had back mounted ports which you think wouldn't happen again but the VCR style 3DO had a port on the back too.

 

Controller alcove: I feel like a non-gaming Mom designed this since its probably the most functional part of the design, I admit it looks tidy but I think it mostly just made the console shell twice as big than it needed to be.

 

Keypad: They probably just copied Intellivision without even considering something original. It's actually worse than the Intellivision one since the membrane is fenced in with hard recessed brackets, kind of like operating a keyboard through a Whack-A-Mole cabinet.

 

Vertical Orientation: Mostly this creates a one-handed grip and a loose grip at that when you try to use the side mounted fire buttons and joystick at the top, it's easy to take for granted how often we grip and un-grip regions of modern two-handed controllers as we operate them and how two hands keep it steady no matter the crazy maneuvers we perform.

The controllers of this era seem to be based on arcade cabinets which is the only way to explain the the grip method but without being mounted to a cabinet only the player can desperately try and keep it stationary. Not sure where the vertical layout came from since as far back as Space Invaders horizontal layouts were the norm, the only comparison I can make is the touch tone phone or maybe the Merlin by Parker Brothers.

 

 

I've seen skins and knobs you can add to the stock controller but it really doesn't get to the root of the problem which is overall poor design of the whole thing. Anyway let's get on with it.

 

 

First thing I did was ditch the keypad since although its part of the era I can't think of it fondly. However I didn't entirely leave the keypad out of the design as the secondary D-pad uses a logical pattern of 2,4,6,8 akin to the gaming usage of a Numeric keypad on a keyboard or more importantly it being a common overlay layout. Without ergonomics the keypad used in other games was mostly random in layout IE. 1,2,3 that simply labeling the buttons and D-pads with there Coleco input names would stop disorientation with stock game titles.

The decision to have 2 D-pads mostly came from Robotron 2084 type games, I turned the stock controller sideways and thought maybe I could approximate the experience.

 

The third D-pad uses 5,7,9,0 just like the secondary D-pad but as far as the stock keypad would still line up in a cross pattern and operate as comfortably as 2,4,6,8 does. Its position on the gamepad is based more on single game usage rather than using all the buttons at once kind of like the N64 controller did, there really isn't many games on the platform that benefit from 14 buttons so instead I went with optimal grip methods IE. Robotron grip, Nes grip, Racing grip.

 

Keypad buttons 1,3, *, and # I just sort of regarded as extra corner buttons. Put * and # as shoulder bumpers since I thought they might work well for racing games and the left and right positions on the stock controller could still work in a similar fashion with a new homebrew. You can probably guess I want 1 & 3 to act as Start and Select functions from where I put them but as long as they aren't too small you should be able to tap them like face buttons, maybe circular instead of oval.

 

Put the 2 Fire buttons on the right face since it was comfortable on the Nes, Master System, Genesis, Turbografx-16, etc.

 

The cord would be generously long with a  breakaway cable connector like the Xbox controller, you'd be amazed how often this feature saves your console from smashing into the ground when some idiot just walks through your cord. X(

 

 

Don't have a picture of it but the other part which is optional is a control port L bracket which is easy to describe. Basically it plugs into the stock ports and snaps into the controller alcove as a basic extension bringing the ports to a forward facing position. Probably flush with the console except for the ports which form a small hump.

The other option with the alcove extension bracket is to plug in an IR receiver instead and make wireless controllers.

 

I'm including an alternate layout design simply for options. It still offers Robotron style grip in a diagonal manner and a Street Fighter/N64 face button arrangement although Street Fighter and FPS games are hardly practical for the Colecovision . ^_^ Anyway feel free to tell me what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • New Coleco Controller.png
  • New Coleco Controller2.png


#2 AtariBrian OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:24 PM

The one on the left has a better position for the 2 fire buttons imo . 



#3 Gemintronic OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:27 PM

Looks pretty much like an Xbox controller.  Why not use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to talk USB to the XBox controller and output something the Coleco understands.  No 3D printing needed :)



#4 ApolloBoy OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:32 PM

I'm not really liking either design, the fire buttons appear to be too low on the first design and too far towards the center on the right. I also think using a combination of a D-pad and buttons for the keypad buttons is confusing and not very space efficient. For me, I'd go with something more like the NES controller, with the D-pad on the left, a small keypad in the center and fire buttons on the right.

#5 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:37 PM

The one on the left has a better position for the 2 fire buttons imo . 

Yeah the left one is my first design so I think it's the stronger one too.



#6 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:41 PM

Looks pretty much like an Xbox controller.  Why not use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to talk USB to the XBox controller and output something the Coleco understands.  No 3D printing needed :)

Lol yeah, I guess I find that controller comfortable, mostly I was just looking at how to make many buttons feel ergonomic. That's not a bad idea, thank you. My buddy is returning to small electronics and programming work like this so that could be a good option. :)



#7 thecrypticodor OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:42 PM

It's actually very unintuitive to have the keypad buttons layed out across a controller like that. Most CV games the keypad is only used for game selection and very few games actually used it for any actual game play. The Intellivison's keypad on the other was used a whole lot more often and could benefit more from a controller like this even more so it it were programmable.


Edited by thecrypticodor, Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:43 PM.


#8 5-11under OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:42 PM

Those options would drive me crazy. This is what I was considering a while back...

 

Requires a Genesis 6 button controller, with both the 2 additional buttons (start and mode).

Pressing start (like a shift key) would give you 1-2-3 on the top row of fire buttons and 4-5-6 on the bottom row.

Pressing mode (like a second shift key) would give you 7-8-9 on the top row of fire buttons and *-0-# on the bottom row.

Pressing neither start/mode buttons would give you the fire buttons. Pick a configuration, maybe 3-4-3 on the top row and 1-2-1 on the bottom row.



#9 retroillucid OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:49 PM

The design I've in mind is something close as a PSP (smaller though)
Instead of having a screen, it will have a keypad
4x Super Action Buttons

#10 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:51 PM

I'm not really liking either design, the fire buttons appear to be too low on the first design and too far towards the center on the right. I also think using a combination of a D-pad and buttons for the keypad buttons is confusing and not very space efficient. For me, I'd go with something more like the NES controller, with the D-pad on the left, a small keypad in the center and fire buttons on the right.

I think somebody likes the keypad. ^_^ I admit the positions are a compromise as you have to grip and thumb operate differently per game setup but I couldn't really line everything up without making another keypad of face buttons and limiting gaming options. I'm relatively new to Coleco in that my exposure was limited to mid 80s at a friend's house, perhaps you could cite some games that directly need a keypad?



#11 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:58 PM

It's actually very unintuitive to have the keypad buttons layed out across a controller like that. Most CV games the keypad is only used for game selection and very few games actually used it for any actual game play. The Intellivison's keypad on the other was used a whole lot more often and could benefit more from a controller like this even more so it it were programmable.

I admit its different but it wouldn't be a new design without it, I think one could get used to it as a keyboard layout isn't in alphabetical order. I have to agree with the INTV point, that really was more common to that platform to use the keypad for actions/directions than the Colecovision. Being used for game selection I admit its less straight forward than a keypad but I figured the labels would take care of confusion, don't forget I'm trying to support future homebrew games as well.



#12 retroillucid OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 6:05 PM

I admit its different but it wouldn't be a new design without it, I think one could get used to it as a keyboard layout isn't in alphabetical order. I have to agree with the INTV point, that really was more common to that platform to use the keypad for actions/directions than the Colecovision. Being used for game selection I admit its less straight forward than a keypad but I figured the labels would take care of confusion, don't forget I'm trying to support future homebrew games as well.



Here's CV games that use overlays:

- 2010 Graphic Adventure
- CPK picture show
- Dam Buster
- Dr Seuss
- Fortune Builder
- Front Line
- Ken Huston Blackjack/ Poker
- Mouse Trap
- Rocky SA boxing
- Smurf Paint n Play
- Spy Hunter
- SA Football
- SA baseball
- Star Trek
- War Games
- War Room
- Face Maker


Not counting those who should have overlays and also some homebrews

#13 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 6:07 PM

Those options would drive me crazy. This is what I was considering a while back...

 

Requires a Genesis 6 button controller, with both the 2 additional buttons (start and mode).

Pressing start (like a shift key) would give you 1-2-3 on the top row of fire buttons and 4-5-6 on the bottom row.

Pressing mode (like a second shift key) would give you 7-8-9 on the top row of fire buttons and *-0-# on the bottom row.

Pressing neither start/mode buttons would give you the fire buttons. Pick a configuration, maybe 3-4-3 on the top row and 1-2-1 on the bottom row.

I'm sorry I don't know which options you are referring to that would drive you crazy?

 

That's a good idea too the 'shift trigger' concept and I have a few of those Genesis controllers to donate to that. However I agree it would work for fine for past title support when only game options are selected at the start but in a 'new game' situation it would get very daunting, I remember playing Oddworld on PS1 which used a shift trigger to switch between actions and talking and that was hard to keep straight in operation.



#14 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 6:10 PM

The design I've in mind is something close as a PSP (smaller though)
Instead of having a screen, it will have a keypad
4x Super Action Buttons

That sounds good too, with the right kind of keypad that would be pretty comfortable. You've given me something to think about. :)



#15 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 6:44 PM

Here's CV games that use overlays:

- 2010 Graphic Adventure
- CPK picture show
- Dam Buster
- Dr Seuss
- Fortune Builder
- Front Line
- Ken Huston Blackjack/ Poker
- Mouse Trap
- Rocky SA boxing
- Smurf Paint n Play
- Spy Hunter
- SA Football
- SA baseball
- Star Trek
- War Games
- War Room
- Face Maker


Not counting those who should have overlays and also some homebrews

Those are some good examples, I saved off images of every one. Definitely the keypad works well in gambling, strategy, and application based games. All I can say is I wasn't suggesting anyone throw away their stock controllers once they got mine. I'm definitely slanted towards future game usage of this new design but I can't help but think that's a lot of buttons there one could use for games that don't really use a keypad. Considering there is a Super Action Controller and Roller Controller this design would just sit beside them along with the stock controller.

 

From what I can gather there's basically 4 primary types of Coleco game controls, Joystick+2 buttons with keypad secondary, Keypad+Joystick with fire buttons secondary, Keypad only, and Super Action Controller.

 

Does anybody commenting own a Super Action Controller, how is Rocky with it as that seems like a very twitch based game dependent on good ergonomics?



#16 5-11under OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:49 PM

I'm sorry I don't know which options you are referring to that would drive you crazy?

 

That's a good idea too the 'shift trigger' concept and I have a few of those Genesis controllers to donate to that. However I agree it would work for fine for past title support when only game options are selected at the start but in a 'new game' situation it would get very daunting, I remember playing Oddworld on PS1 which used a shift trigger to switch between actions and talking and that was hard to keep straight in operation.

 

 

I was referring to the two sample pictures you showed in the first post. The layout of the numbers would drive me crazy, trying to remember which button was which number. I think the layout of the 6 switch Genesis controller's fire buttons would work quite well in "emulating" the CV keypad, given that there's 3 fire buttons in a row, just like the CV keypad. Oh well, to each their own. Personally, I'm happy with an arcade controller or an Atari joystick with keypad via Y cable.



#17 NIAD OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:49 PM

I think a controller on the lines of the one pictured below would draw a lot of interest. It doesn't offer the 3rd and 4th firebuttons for SAC controller games, but it does offer everything else people always seem to wish for:

 

- gamepad on the left

- firebutton on the right

- full keypad for complete compatibility with all games

 

I personally, still to this day, do not have a problem with the original design of the ColecoVision controller even after trying countless others for the CV, other game systems and computers. I guess I played with them so much during my teenage years that the feel and response of them just got engrained in me and everything else feels awkward... probably like a scotch drinker switching to Bud Light.

 

Please don't take this the wrong way as I applaud your effort of time and thought and always love to see new products developed for the CV even if it's something that I wouldn't use... but would still purchase for the collection.

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • Control Pad #02.jpg


#18 5-11under OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:28 PM

the 'shift trigger' concept... ...but in a 'new game' situation it would get very daunting

 

I'm not sure exactly what you mean here... is it your idea/hope that one of these new layouts would be used for new games that incorporate pressing more than one number key at a time? If no, no worries, but if yes, keep in mind that all the keys work together, and you can't really press more than one and be able to determine which ones are being pressed.



#19 chart45 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:29 PM

i have 5 of those controller and 2 ntt data snes but cant find someone to desing a replacement pcb for it

#20 retroillucid OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:32 PM

 
I personally, still to this day, do not have a problem with the original design of the ColecoVision controller ...

Same thing here :)

I like the original controller while I truly hate the SA controller

Edited by retroillucid, Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:32 PM.


#21 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:53 PM

 

 

I was referring to the two sample pictures you showed in the first post. The layout of the numbers would drive me crazy, trying to remember which button was which number. I think the layout of the 6 switch Genesis controller's fire buttons would work quite well in "emulating" the CV keypad, given that there's 3 fire buttons in a row, just like the CV keypad. Oh well, to each their own. Personally, I'm happy with an arcade controller or an Atari joystick with keypad via Y cable.

Oh heh I gotcha. Well you wouldn't have to remember which is which, they would all be labeled. I think the 6 switch Genesis idea is good although none of the button labels would match the Coleco ones, probably have to keep a cheat sheet handy. Yeah might give that a go, seen quite a few mods of plugging gamepads into the Coleco controllers bottom which seems like a good compromise. Thanks for the suggestion though, if I get going on this I'll be sure to try that out.



#22 hardhat OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:05 PM

So the fundamental problem with the shoulder buttons being * and # is that like someone mentioned earlier, if you press any keypad button (or either of the 2 extra Super Action Controller buttons) you can't do 2 at once. So it is unlikely to be used in other games.

As for using your new layout in future games, I could imagine programmers supporting it as an alternative but surely it is pretty unlikely that they'd require that controller.

If I hold the usual ColecoVision joystick in the palm of one hand with my thumb on one fire button and my first finger on the other fire button, and then move my other hand back and forth from the key pad and the joystick it all feels quite natural to me. But then it has always seemed that way to me -- even if others have always complained. I've been toying with making a ColecoVision driving game where you have to hold the controller sideways. I think it'd be fun to have a shoulder button in your left hand, and use the keypad
to trigger special car effects. But I'm not yet sure how playable that'd be.

#23 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:27 PM

I think a controller on the lines of the one pictured below would draw a lot of interest. It doesn't offer the 3rd and 4th firebuttons for SAC controller games, but it does offer everything else people always seem to wish for:

 

- gamepad on the left

- firebutton on the right

- full keypad for complete compatibility with all games

 

I personally, still to this day, do not have a problem with the original design of the ColecoVision controller even after trying countless others for the CV, other game systems and computers. I guess I played with them so much during my teenage years that the feel and response of them just got engrained in me and everything else feels awkward... probably like a scotch drinker switching to Bud Light.

 

Please don't take this the wrong way as I applaud your effort of time and thought and always love to see new products developed for the CV even if it's something that I wouldn't use... but would still purchase for the collection.

 

Wow that is a sweet controller, where can I get one or two of those?  :D

 

I have no doubt you are a Jedi with the stock controller, hard for me to imagine how but I believe it. I can manage it and I am no stranger to these controllers but boy is it a steep learning curve for the uninitiated, a 4 year old can work a 2600 joystick but the INTV and Coleco ones require more practice than most are willing to put in. My motivations are always towards making niches thrive more especially when it comes to getting more members. "Testify!" ^_^

 

Thanks and no offence taken as I've enjoyed all the replies, I just took for granted that some people actually appreciate the keypad, I should probably try to get some of those overlay specific games. :) It took me a couple weeks on and off working out my design, I'd probably like the keypad more if there was more standardized instead of custom layouts. Like if I used a bridging device to an 360 controller I'm going to have to map it several ways like a Powerglove.



#24 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:34 PM

 

I'm not sure exactly what you mean here... is it your idea/hope that one of these new layouts would be used for new games that incorporate pressing more than one number key at a time? If no, no worries, but if yes, keep in mind that all the keys work together, and you can't really press more than one and be able to determine which ones are being pressed.

Really I didn't know that, what an odd circuit. Well I'll have to re-think my design with that in mind definitely. Perhaps combinations of Fire 1&2 with a single keypad input together could expand control into combinations like that. Are the Super Action Controllers truly 4 buttons or are they false abundance, nice to have a couple more fire buttons?



#25 BladeJunker OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:47 PM

So the fundamental problem with the shoulder buttons being * and # is that like someone mentioned earlier, if you press any keypad button (or either of the 2 extra Super Action Controller buttons) you can't do 2 at once. So it is unlikely to be used in other games.

As for using your new layout in future games, I could imagine programmers supporting it as an alternative but surely it is pretty unlikely that they'd require that controller.

If I hold the usual ColecoVision joystick in the palm of one hand with my thumb on one fire button and my first finger on the other fire button, and then move my other hand back and forth from the key pad and the joystick it all feels quite natural to me. But then it has always seemed that way to me -- even if others have always complained. I've been toying with making a ColecoVision driving game where you have to hold the controller sideways. I think it'd be fun to have a shoulder button in your left hand, and use the keypad
to trigger special car effects. But I'm not yet sure how playable that'd be.

Okay so the 2 extra Super Action Controller buttons are fake too as in not an isolated line input?

 

Require my controller, no not really, mostly a comfort design really, was kind of why I was trying for parallel function on the stock controller. Still with these circuit limitations I guess I'll head back to the drawing board to try again.

 

I think my hand tendons can't take it anymore or maybe I just don't have Coleco muscles developed.






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