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DIY: USB Rotary Control w/Atari style knob

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I’m currently working on a personal MAME arcade project and a couple of the games I’m thinking of using would need a spinner control. I know I could just buy a USB spinner control but, I thought I would come up with something for my own use that was a little cheaper to build yet still felt like a Tempest arcade spinner.

This is my beta test unit and I still have a couple of minor changes that I want to make to it. I designed the knob to mimic a standard Atari spinner knob. Since I’m 3D printing the knob I had to design it in such a way as to be more friendly with my 3D printer. The other 3D printed part is the USB PCB bracket.
This spinner control is basically a modified USB mouse mounted over a mechanical spinning disk. Since it is a standard mouse PCB the computer sees it as just that, a mouse. To keep with an authentic feel I made the mounting the same as a standard Atari arcade spinner control. I sized the disk to match the mass feel of an arcade spinner control as well.
I've seen other DIY USB spinners on the web, but they never seemed all that robust and I’ve never seen anyone try to match the actual weight of an arcade spinner.
So, this is what I’ve got. Let me know what you guys think.
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What do I think? I WANT THIS. Lord, I've tried so hard to make a spinner for myself, and they've all been less than satisfactory, to say the least.

 

How much will this cost? Can you clear the forty dollar bar with this? Can you mount it in a box? Are you going to need any play testers? :D

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What do I think? I WANT THIS. Lord, I've tried so hard to make a spinner for myself, and they've all been less than satisfactory, to say the least.

 

How much will this cost? Can you clear the forty dollar bar with this? Can you mount it in a box? Are you going to need any play testers? :D

 

 

The controller is designed to be mounted in a standard arcade control panel, but there is no reason you couldn't put it in your own box.

 

Right now the only USB arcade spinner that you can buy is priced around $85.00 (plus shipping). I know my spinner will be less than that, but I doubt it will clear the forty dollar bar. I haven't really went through all the cost analysis yet to come up with a price. Right now this is mainly a personal project. I would need to figure in my time/energy to the cost part before I can come up with a price. I can tell you if I do decide to sell the controller, it will be up to the end user to put it in a box. That is not something I'm interested in since I'm building these to fit in my arcade control panels.

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To be honest, I thought this topic would have gotten a little more interest. Maybe I should have posted in the emulation area?

 

After looking at the costs and time to make the controller, I'm looking at the $50-$60.00 range if I was to sell it.

 

It would really depend on how many people are interested. The more people the closer to the $50.00 mark.

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I'd probably be interested. I've built a couple out of hacked mouse innards, but I've never been willing to pull the trigger on an $80+ spinner rig. I don't know why, but to me the practical price point on these should be under $40 as mentioned. I totally understand low quantity parts-up design necessitates higher costs. It just defies logic that nobody ever mass produced these things for consumer or cabinet use. I keep waiting on a modern handheld usb spinner (one axis optical mouse) for $20-$30, but I guess the low quantity of games for them makes quantity production savings a no go.

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Like I said before, I'm interested. Maybe they could be advertised as jog wheels to generate interest. There's still a market for those... they come in handy for video production and as volume dials.

 

I thought about just getting a volume dial from Amazon, but I don't know how well those would work in MAME... the resolution may not be high enough for games like Arkanoid, and while I'm told these will work as game controllers, nobody bothers to explain how.

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Very cool hack.

 

Last year I added an Ultimarc Spin-Trak to one of the swappable control panels of my MAME cabinet and I think it's a very nice, high-quality piece of kit. But damn, you have to really enjoy Tempest or Arkanoid to be willing to shell out the cash for one of these things. I think I was close to $100 CDN by the time I was up and running. I don't regret the purchase (I knew going in that it was an indulgence), but I will say this: if my cabinet were stolen and I built a new one, I would not be bothering with a spinner.

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See, I DO enjoy block breaker games (and Tempest, and Star Trek, and Victory...), but I'm also cheap. I want something that's simple, functional, and mass produced, but I guess there's just not enough of a market to justify cranking out millions of these things. Kind of ironic too, as the paddle was so common on the Atari 2600...

 

I've tried the Blu-Tak and fidget spinner trick, but it's extremely picky about the distance between the disc and LED. All of the mechanical solutions are a pain, demanding insanely tight tolerances. Too far from the light and it won't read... too close and friction ruins the experience.

 

Best Buy has been selling CTRL spinners for five bucks, and they can be read by the computer via a Bluetooth connection. That would take the mouse and most of the build precision out of the equation. However, I don't think anyone has written a driver that lets the spinner assume control of the mouse. Beyond that, there's no telling how accurate this thing is, and that would be important.

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We're talking about something that has to be mounted in a panel; as opposed to ready to play, table top or handheld.

 

Sounds like a great idea. Games I can think of include arcade Tempest and Arkanoid, any others? How is it for driving games e.g. pole position, night driver, outrun?

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See, I DO enjoy block breaker games (and Tempest, and Star Trek, and Victory...),

 

 

I don't even really like Tempest or Arkanoid that much; I bought my spinner in hopes that I would discover a bunch of new games that were previously unplayable for me.

I have enjoyed some of these games. Some of my faves include: Omega Race, Tac/Scan, Puzz Loop, Plump Pop, Cameltry, and Cutie Q. None of these games rank anywhere near my top 10 (or even top 25) games in MAME, but they're pretty fun.

You can dig up game lists on the internet that rightfully suggest there are lots of games that can technically make use of the spinner, but the problem I ran into was, with "spinner games" there tends to be a pretty broad variation in what other controls you need on the panel besides the spinner to play many of the available games. For example, my panel was "retrofitted" with a spinner rather than being planned to use one, and thus has only 2 buttons on each side of the spinner. That's fine for Arkanoid and Tempest, but a lot of games require 3 buttons or more, such as Blasteroids, Cosmic Chasm, and Star Trek. In cases like these, the games in question can be played, but the experience is clunky at best, tedious at worst. I guess what I'm saying is, to anybody considering investing any time or money into a spinner controller, it is wise to think long and hard before you commit to a control panel layout.

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You can get three buttons out of two if you assign one of the lesser used commands to A and B. Say you're playing Star Trek... set the photon torpedo to A AND B and you can fire it by pressing both buttons at once. It's fairly intuitive. One command either has to be sacrificed or accessed from the keyboard, though.

 

My big problem right now is that I've got a fidget spinner dial as a stopgap, but since computer mouses are almost always round on the top, you can't really set it on a desk and use it that way. It'd be a whole lot better if it were anchored to the table somehow, so I could reach the keyboard while using it instead of having to hold the bottom with one hand and the dial with the other.

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I thought about just getting a volume dial from Amazon, but I don't know how well those would work in MAME... the resolution may not be high enough for games like Arkanoid, and while I'm told these will work as game controllers, nobody bothers to explain how.

 

See this thread regarding this product. In more recent years, there is a black, as opposed to the original classic aluminum, version too.

 

*EDIT:

 

Utilizing the Griffin PowerMate is even easier and better with the latest (just tested) version of MAME (0.200). No source code changes required. I'm running Windows 10 64-bit, but these options are universal for any Windows platform. It's simply a command line switch:

====

mame tempest -mouseprovider dinput -mouse

====

The above works perfectly when setting the PowerMate application to configure the dial as follows:

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While the default MAME sensitivity settings are adequate, the sensitivity of the dial is easily adjusted under the "Analog Controls" setting under MAME. To access it, press the "Tab" key while MAME is running:

post-18-0-28733500-1534599454.png

 

After selecting Analog Controls, navigate down to "Dial Sensitivity":

post-18-0-83606500-1534599901.png

 

Left arrow key decreases, right arrow key increases, value. Default is 100. Some may find 100 to be adequate. Setting to 150 makes it super fast and there is still plenty of room for even faster as the limit is 255.

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I've heard the PowerMate doesn't spin smoothly, but rather moves in increments. Would it work with Arkanoid-like games? It'd be fine for Tempest since your ship moves in lanes, but I'm not sure it'd be great for ball and paddle games.

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I'm moving forward with this spinner project and it now has a name:

 

post-9874-0-66736200-1537394319.jpg

 

The name "Hotz" is a fictitious company name that I tend to use from time to time. On a side note, I was asked if it could work as a driving controller within MAME/MESS (or other emulators). I'm sure it can assuming the software lets you use a mouse for steering control. I'm hoping to make a couple videos showing the controller in action. For now here's a couple pics of the assemblies waiting for a couple more parts:

 

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How much and how soon?

 

 

I'm waiting on the mouse PCB's. I'm hoping to have them by the middle of October. The price will be under $60.00, I just have to nail down a couple things yet. I should know actual price in about 2 weeks. More to come...

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Very cool. Have you made any progress on a production run?

 

Yes curious as well.

 

I've made some progress. Some other obligations have to be handled first (not related to this project), but progress is being made. I have 20 units assembled, I just need to fully test each one and make a video showing how to set-up/utilize the spinner. I'm hoping to spend some time on these next week. The spinner will include the unit itself, knob, mounting hardware, hex key, and mounting hole template (with manual, not pictured). Once I get the testing and video done I will post info on ordering.

 

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(BTW, price will be $50.00 plus shipping, FYI not taking orders yet).

 

Stay tuned, more to come...

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Forgot about this. Still would love to have one.

 

I built one of these while I was waiting. lol. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1667604 Very cheap build if you order the parts from China ($13 + PLA for the print!), you could probably find a knob to replace the 3d printed one easily too.

Edited by GhettoBillGates

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