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Driving Controller (2600 Indy 500): Should we make games that support it?

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Hello, as you know, I am into development of these Atari 8-bit games. I know many of you do enjoy them and I enjoy chatting with you guys about ideals and feed back about them. Now several times, when a game is almost complete or about to be released on Cartridge, I get people jumping in asking if the game will support the Indy 500 Driving Controller, or other devices like Trackball, or even can play it from the keyboard. Should my games support these other devices? Maybe other developers can see this and maybe they can support to their games. The default device remains to be the joystick. How many people really have devices other than the joystick? Will actually play the game with something other than the joystick? Indy 500 was a cartridge game on the 2600 that had its own custom controller. The Driving Controllers look like paddles, but have no stop, the input is read differently with something known as gray code.

 

 

What type of controller depends on the game. Combat wouldn't play well with Driving Controllers, where as Tempest is made for the Driving Controllers. And then we have Kaboom, which wouldn't play as well with Driving or joysticks compared to paddles.

 

Look at the game, and decide what controller would work the best. If you require Driving controllers, they're pretty cheap.

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What type of controller depends on the game. Combat wouldn't play well with Driving Controllers, where as Tempest is made for the Driving Controllers. And then we have Kaboom, which wouldn't play as well with Driving or joysticks compared to paddles.

 

Look at the game, and decide what controller would work the best. If you require Driving controllers, they're pretty cheap.

 

Atari 8-bit version of Kaboom lets you select the Joystick or Paddle. I did not see a lot of that on those old games. I had seen a few games letting you play with the keyboard. Honestly I was surprised there were a few people using the 2600 Indy 500 Controller. I see there is a very limited list of games that used the driving controller.

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I assume the answer to this question is no, or else I would have already seen it mentioned somewhere.  But can the 7800 controller be used as a Driving controller?

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3 minutes ago, rennervision said:

I assume the answer to this question is no, or else I would have already seen it mentioned somewhere.  But can the 7800 controller be used as a Driving controller?

The 7800 controller (the CX-78 ProLine/"PainLine") is just a clunky digital stick with two fire buttons (using the Pot lines and a resistor circuit for the second trigger). It's not rotational in the least.

 

Or do you mean the CX-80 Trak-Ball? In which case, the answer is still no. It operates either as a digital joystick emulator or a true Trak-Ball proportional controller, but that requires a game to have a routine to read and process the Grey code. 

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OK - for some reason I thought the joystick part could twist around a full 360 degrees and provided a way to play 2600 paddle games.  😊  Apparently not.  May be time to look for a nice set on eBay.

Edited by rennervision

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The Sears Video Arcade II, an Atari 2600 in a 7800 type case came with joystick/paddle combination controller that did this, I think the Coleco Gemini 2600 clone also did this, and though not compatible with Atari's DB9 ports, the Bally Astrocade/Video Arcade also did this with it's pistol-grip controllers. But they were all the paddle type that stopped, not the grey-code driving controller type. Of course the Sears Video Arcade II and Gemini controllers are compatible with Atari systems with DB9 (everything but 5200 and Jaguar). Though I don't know how those built-in paddles worked with 2600 paddle games since it was just one paddle for each port, not a pair. I guess you could only do one-player with them...

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I have Delta Space Arena and Tempest Elite which both support Indy Driving controllers. I can't say I have played them exhaustively but it is evidently more useful for Tempest than for Delta Space Arena.

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Have you played Tempest Elite with a driving controller at all? I've not tried it but in my testing for one of the Multifire boards I hooked up a driving controller and was quite surprised at how bad it was as a controller at all. For a lot of rapid steering left and right it's quite good, but holding a turn for any prolonged time, like on a long corner would feel really bad.

 

As long as you keep rotating the controller it registers a direction, as soon as you stop rotating it resets to centre. It doesn't feel like a steering wheel or Pot at all. I was really surprised. It's quite hard to keep rotating for the length of time it would take to do a loop of a tempest tube, I could never do it if I were holding the driving controller knob like I'd hold the same knob on a paddle. Maybe with one finger on the top it would work OK

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It's supposed to work like the standard tempest spinner - meaning, if you turn it, the player rotates it.  If you stop turning it, you remain still.  Is it not this way?

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On 6/20/2019 at 10:54 AM, Mr Robot said:

Have you played Tempest Elite with a driving controller at all? I've not tried it but in my testing for one of the Multifire boards I hooked up a driving controller and was quite surprised at how bad it was as a controller at all. For a lot of rapid steering left and right it's quite good, but holding a turn for any prolonged time, like on a long corner would feel really bad.

  

As long as you keep rotating the controller it registers a direction, as soon as you stop rotating it resets to centre. It doesn't feel like a steering wheel or Pot at all. I was really surprised. It's quite hard to keep rotating for the length of time it would take to do a loop of a tempest tube, I could never do it if I were holding the driving controller knob like I'd hold the same knob on a paddle. Maybe with one finger on the top it would work OK

The described behavior is a property of the game and/or emulator software. If the software keeps track of the last (calculated) position it can hold that position until it gets more input from the controller. It is true that the driving controller doesn't output a discrete value indicative of a position or steering angle. It outputs signals on two pins. Those two signals only change when the rotary controller position changes. And, to determine a direction of motion, the software would need to keep track of the previous reading. Only one of these two signals/bits can change at a time.

 

Holding a turn on a long corner could be a matter of just not turning the controller. But, if the software decides to self-center after some amount of time, that would be the software author's choice. That's not like a real steering wheel, but they could choose to do that. On the other hand, a real steering wheel's position does correlate to a physical turn angle (more like a potentiometer) whereas any meaning in the rotary driving controller's position is derived from comparing the current output state to the previous output state.

 

I have a prototype controller on my bench that tracks relative rotary controller (quadrature encoder) input and outputs an absolute value. For a particular mode, my software will return the output to "center" after a time, but for another mode I will have it hold the value until more input is received from the encoder. It's a matter of implementation.

 

The "badness", if any, of the driving controller is the low resolution: only 16 state changes (four full quadrature cycles) per 360 degrees. For comparison, the encoder I'm currently using provides 1440 state changes (360 full quadrature cycles) per rotation.

 

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My driving controller I bought off eBay just came in the mail.  I haven't plugged it in yet, but man it feels tight.  Is that the way it should be?  I expected it to feel loose like a paddle, but it takes some effort to rotate this thing.

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I've never noticed one being tight. That would concern me a little. But if it moves smoothly I would expect it to work.

 

These use mechanical contacts. I have some that are loose enough that I can feel the drag from the contacts when they are engaged.

 

I haven't heard of failures in these controllers so it's probably going to work okay. There's one way to find out. 🙂

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possibly the wheel has slipped down on the shaft and presses against something... move the wheel up a little and work the control a bit, its going to loosen up

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OK - thx for confirming.  Got another one and it's nice and loose.  Finally playing Indy 500 for the first time and it's a neat game.  I'm returning the one that causes a wrist injury after two minutes of use and looking for another one now to complete the set.  :)

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6 hours ago, rennervision said:

OK - thx for confirming.  Got another one and it's nice and loose.  Finally playing Indy 500 for the first time and it's a neat game.  I'm returning the one that causes a wrist injury after two minutes of use and looking for another one now to complete the set.  :)

The game selections that have you driving on ice are fun.

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He driving controller absolutly needs more support. Indi 500 and hacks of indi 500 are amazing games but this controller has so many potentials. New games would be nice but even old games could use an update for this controller no doubt. Some games would be bad with it, I noticed it was mentioned combat would be a bad game with a driving controller. Well with the original controller this is true though I wonder if the controller can be modified to have 2 buttons so the game can have a accelerator button and a fire button. The 7800 has two buttons that might be easier but tue 2600 can take a kaybord controller so I would think it has tue ability to run extra buttons if someone was willing to make a CUSTOM controller as well as a custom game. I would buy it.

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On 6/19/2019 at 9:54 PM, Gunstar said:

Of course the Sears Video Arcade II and Gemini controllers are compatible with Atari systems with DB9 (everything but 5200 and Jaguar). Though I don't know how those built-in paddles worked with 2600 paddle games since it was just one paddle for each port, not a pair. I guess you could only do one-player with them...

Gemini controllers' pot is read as a player 2 paddle when plugged in the console without the wye cable.  So you have SWCHA to read the stick and INPT4 to read the trigger (just as a regular Atari stick), PLUS INPT1 to read the paddle.  BITD, I programmed a Tron-type game (in Basic) on the Atari800 which used this setup.

 

The Gemini wye cable cancels out the joystick, and rewires the trigger to be read by SWCHA.  Which INPT line corresponds to the paddle (0 or 1) and which bit of SWCHA (6 or 7) is determined by which of the 2 ends of the wye you plug the controller into...so a pair of Gemini controllers then act as a regular Atari paddle pair.

 

 

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Thanks for that info @Nukey Shay . I have a couple of these controllers in storage, no Gemini system though. But sooner or later I'll have several Atari computers and consoles set up in different parts of the house and office, and I'll be digging the controllers out of storage when I have to start spreading my peripherals and controllers around to all the Atari's. I got the Gemini controllers without the system, but I never tried to use the paddles on them when I used them. I played a Gemini system an old friend had 25 years ago, but we also never used the paddles and I don't remember ever seeing a wye cable laying around. He probably lost it, he was one of those careless types with consoles. Never a collector, he was the type that would throw away console and game boxes after he opened them, and probably instructions along with them.

 

I think I also have one or two Sears Video Arcade II controllers that also have built-in paddles, and they must require a similar adaptability, It's been so long since I used them though, maybe it was a switch on the controllers to choose Joystick or paddles.

Edited by Gunstar

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7 hours ago, overgrouth said:

He driving controller absolutly needs more support. Indi 500 and hacks of indi 500 are amazing games but this controller has so many potentials. New games would be nice but even old games could use an update for this controller no doubt. Some games would be bad with it, I noticed it was mentioned combat would be a bad game with a driving controller. Well with the original controller this is true though I wonder if the controller can be modified to have 2 buttons so the game can have a accelerator button and a fire button. The 7800 has two buttons that might be easier but tue 2600 can take a kaybord controller so I would think it has tue ability to run extra buttons if someone was willing to make a CUSTOM controller as well as a custom game. I would buy it.

Well, the pins on the Atari D9 standard ports which include every Atari console and computer but the 5200 and Jaguar (and Commodore and many other's who stole the ports-Atari copyrighted/patented-Atari sued Sega in the 90's over it) all work the same and there are left-over pins that aren't put to use when one or the other, joystick, paddle/Indy 500/other. So the paddles for example use either the L/R or U/D (forget which off the top of my head) are used for fire buttons and the pin used for fire on a Joystick is not used, nor the other directions of it. With a Joystick plugged in, the paddle inputs are ignored, so those are extra.

 

But the 7800 doesn't use unused pins for it's second button, it is wired in such a way to the first button to work as a secondary but it's been years since I modded a Sega Genesis controller's A & B buttons to work right on a 7800 (I also made my own MAAS arcade stick that was 7800 compatible back in the day) so I forget how it works exactly. If 7800 controllers were more comfortable and plentiful, we probably would have seen A8 games made to take advantage of them by now, even if just home-brew titles. A 2-button or 2-button Atari controller is easy to make, and could be done like the 7800 or using the paddle inputs for the extra buttons.

 

So how do keypads and other controllers work with all their buttons? It's the circuit board inside, but without getting into the factual details and technicalities, just think of them working the same way you get either lower or upper case letters when you hold down the SHIFT key on a keyboard, there are circuits that act as shift keys and you can have more than one, which allows pins to be re-used for different buttons as long as the "SHIFT" is held, which is automatic when the buttons that require it are pressed. You can think of the 7800's second button working in the same way. Warning: This is merely a metaphor to help understanding  and does not reflect the actual circuit design and implementation.

Edited by Gunstar

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I'd imagine that Gemini wye cables are difficult-to-impossible to come by in the wild...only because the sticks function properly without using them, and because they are not standard "pass-though" cables (they change the pinouts and are wired solely for the paddles and triggers).  Somebody finding one might hook them up to a standard controller and assume that the cable is broken or something.

2 hours ago, Gunstar said:

I played a Gemini system an old friend had 25 years ago, but we also never used the paddles and I don't remember ever seeing a wye cable laying around. He probably lost it, he was one of those careless types with consoles.

 

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3 hours ago, Gunstar said:

 

But the 7800 doesn't use unused pins for it's second button, it is wired in such a way to the first button to work as a secondary but it's been years since I modded a Sega Genesis controller's A & B buttons to work right on a 7800 (I also made my own MAAS arcade stick that was 7800 compatible back in the day) so I forget how it works exactly. If 7800 controllers were more comfortable and plentiful, we probably would have seen A8 games made to take advantage of them by now, even if just home-brew titles. A 2-button or 2-button Atari controller is easy to make, and could be done like the 7800 or using the paddle inputs for the extra buttons.

 

 

Just correcting myself here as I mis-remembered and they work like @DrVenkman says above in post #29.

Edited by Gunstar

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On 10/24/2019 at 4:11 AM, Nukey Shay said:

Gemini controllers' pot is read as a player 2 paddle when plugged in the console without the wye cable.  So you have SWCHA to read the stick and INPT4 to read the trigger (just as a regular Atari stick), PLUS INPT1 to read the paddle.  BITD, I programmed a Tron-type game (in Basic) on the Atari800 which used this setup.

 

The Gemini wye cable cancels out the joystick, and rewires the trigger to be read by SWCHA.  Which INPT line corresponds to the paddle (0 or 1) and which bit of SWCHA (6 or 7) is determined by which of the 2 ends of the wye you plug the controller into...so a pair of Gemini controllers then act as a regular Atari paddle pair.

 

 

Link to the tron game on the Atari800. I liked ROL out and Super ROl out you made and I have a full set of Gemini /joy/paddle controllers as well as the two Y cables. Would love to try out your game.

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