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DOUBLEDOWN Custom ColecoVision Controllers

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3 hours ago, Pixelboy said:

I don't think that pic was Photoshopped. Koalas pick up and play with anything that you put in front of them, kinda like raccoons. But I'm sure it took a lot of tries to get the picture just right.  :) 

 

I'll have to find a koala to get a picture with my controller once I get it finished.  I'm sure the Toledo zoo has one I can likely borrow.

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Ok, so lets talk Tutankham!  I'll admit, I've never played a dedicated Tutankham cabinet, and honestly before a few months ago, I don't even know how much of the ColecoVision port I ever played.  It wasn't a game I had any history/memory of, so it just stayed off of my radar.  But as there was some discussion about it here once I stated making larger custom controllers, I decided to look into it.  The arcade cabinet used (1) 4-way WICO stick to move Archie (...the archaeologist...how adorable), (1) horizontal 2-way WICO stick to fire your laser gun (left or right), and (1) leaf-switch button for the flash bomb.  As this control-scheme wasn't possible with the ColecoVision Hand Controller, it was programmed using the 8-way Control Stick to move Archie, the Left & Right fire buttons for directional firing, and both buttons pressed simultaneously for the flash bomb.  There are 2 problems with this.  1) Archie doesn't respond to diagonals...so if you are moving say right, then you press up to make the next turn, but are unknowingly pressing the stick diagonally (say up/right), he won't make the turn.  2) When quickly switching between firing left, to firing right you can inadvertently set off a flash bomb when not intending to.  They could have programmed a keypad button to be the flash bomb button, but I don't feel the keypad buttons are quickly found during gameplay (and apparently Parker Bros. felt the same way), or they could have programmed it for the SACs (with their 4 available buttons), but I understand why they didn't.  The Intellivision version uses the 3 unique buttons found on the INTV's hand controllers, but lets face it the INTV's gameplay is a bit slow, and obviously graphically inferior to the ColecoVision version.  

 

So that brings us to now, and my quest to right the wrongs of the past, and make a proper controller for the ColecoVision port of Tutankham.  Plus it gives me an excuse to finally create a twin-stick controller for the ColecoVision, which still to this day, does not have ports of Robotron: 2084, or Space Dungeon...for some crazy reason!  Now this controller could be made with any joysticks capable of 4-way & 2-way operations, but I really want to make this controller, at least the first one (which will be mine), with the proper WICO joysticks.  The good news is, modern WICOs are being reproduced, the bad news is, they're only available as 8-ways and 4-ways...no 2-ways.  Obviously you can simply use a 4-way for the 2-way, but the stick would still be able to physically move up and down (although it wouldn't do anything extra)...which is wrong!  I've been on the lookout for a while now for an original 2-way, and on my recent treasure hunt, I found one:

 

ptSwkT.jpg

 

Even though the lower base has mounting locations for all 4 leaf-switches, you only install the necessary 2, but the key is the oval-shaped restriction holes in the top and bottom of the base, which limits its movements to only horizontal or vertical, depending on its mounting orientation.  So now that I have this, I'll need to get a modern 4-way WICO, and the necessary push-buttons, and I'll be able to create a perfectly "arcade accurate" Tutankham Edition - VVG Experieince Controller.  

 

That leads us to the wiring issues with the 2-way laser gun joystick, and the flash bomb push-button.  On the arcade PCB, this is done as 3 separate inputs, but on the ColecoVision port it's obviously accomplished with only 2.  There's no problem wiring the joystick, as it has 2 separate switches, just like the 2 separate left & right hand controller fire buttons.  But the push-button for the flash bomb only has 1 set of contacts, which if wired directly would cause you to detonate a flash bomb every time you attempt to fire with the 2-way joystick (and cause other issues due to the different commons).  My options were to attempt to modify the push-button so that I could install 2 switches on it (for wiring separation), or figure out a creative wiring solution.  My initial wiring attempt included the addition of a few diodes, which at first glance seemed to work, but then I noticed that, as it was, the laser gun firing would win out in the event of a tie.  Meaning that if you were still manipulating the firing joystick when you attempted to press the flash bomb button, no bomb would detonate, you would simply continue to fire.  So I tried again, added a few more diodes...and voila, exactly the way I wanted it.  Complete wiring separation of the inputs, which maintains complete functionality, and now the flash-bomb button wins out in the event of a tie with the firing joystick...huzzah!  

 

I also still need to determine how to wire the P1/P2 start buttons.  I can either wire them directly to keypad buttons #3 & #6 (which gives you 3 Archies per game, as was the default setting on the arcade cabinet), or wire it through a 3-way / 2-pole rotary switch to allow for all 3 of the game menu selection options.  When play testing the game, it doesn't seem any harder or easier depending on the selection, simply the difference in the number of lives you start with (the manual also makes no mention of any difficulty difference).  So we'll see, I'll probably install the selection switch, as I've already done it on other controllers, and I already have it figured out.  

 

So again, current state of the world, blah, blah, blah, I'm not sure how soon it'll be before I'll be able to get this one done, but it's in the hopper.  

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Pull up a stool, and let's talk Tapper...Root Beer Tapper!  A couple people have already contacted me about this one so I wanted to post the info regarding this project here in 1 place.  So below is a "found" picture of the basic goal:

 

Sl9gGF.jpg

 

Looks pretty simple, (1) 4-way red ball-knob joystick centered in the control panel, and (2) duplicate/ambidextrous 1-way tap-handled joysticks...what could be simpler.  Complexity is not the issue unfortunately, hardware rarity is.  So recently I started looking into the original hardware to determine exactly what was originally installed, and how available said components are.  What I found is that the 4-way joystick is simply a standard Bally/Midway 4-way joystick (as used in Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and other Bally/Midway games of the day), and the tapper joysticks were the standard Bally/Midway 2-way Galaga joysticks, with the special Tapper molded tap-handle shafts.  Surprisingly, none of this hardware is currently being reproduced, so for the ultimate in authenticity, vintage hardware would be required.  Then I started looking at current pricing for said hardware, and it basically looks something like this:

 

(1) 4-Way joystick - $50 - $75 depending on condition, may need some amount of restoration work, and/or replacement parts

(2) 2-Way joysticks - $60 - $100 each, depending on condition, may need some amount of restoration work, and /or replacement parts

(2) Tap handle shafts - $100 - $150 each, depending on condition

 

So that puts the joysticks' cost alone, potentially around $500...which is simply just too damn pricey...even in my opinion.  Which means comprises will have to be made and modern hardware will have to be used, fortunately I had unknowingly already started on this.  

 

Recently I started working with a modern American joystick to create a sustainable Galaga-esque simulate, which will look, and more importantly feel, more like the originals than anything else currently available on the market.  This was all being done for a Galaga project that I'm working on, and then when I found out that the Tapper 1-way joysticks were just Galaga joysticks with different shafts/handles, that moved the Root Beer Tapper project closer to the forefront.  With all that said, there's still more work to do with the joystick modifications, more parts to order, test and modify, so it will definitely be a while before this one is ready/available...but that's where this project stands for those that are interested.  About the only other info I can provide at the moment, is that all 3 joysticks will indeed be leaf-switch joysticks, like the originals, tap handles of "similar size and shape" of the originals will be installed on the 1-ways, and a red-ball knob will be installed on the 4-way.  Other than that, obviously the artwork is already done, and I'll also install a 4-position / 2-pole rotary switch for game selection wired to the P1/P2 start buttons, and a push-button switch wired to the keypad's * button to access the game's menu after your game has ended, will also be installed.  I'll post updates regarding this project once I have more info...so stay tuned.  

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While I'm here stuck at the house, I've been going through some boxes, pulling out and playing some games I haven't played in years, and I decided to dig out one of my Roller Controllers.  I can't even imagine how long it's been since I've had a Roller Controller hooked up, but after playing with it for a little bit, I decided to take it apart and clean the bearings as they weren't as smooth as they should be.  But while I had it apart I was looking at everything and think I've come up with a way to improve the mechanical portion, and transplant everything into a larger aluminum Hammond enclosure which would allow for arcade quality/sized buttons, and better ergonomics.  Additionally it will be possible to create a single-axis "Spinner" or "Paddle-esque" Rotary type controller for those games that it would be accurate for.  So lets look at, and discuss the ColecoVision "Roller Controller" games, and a few others that fit into the mix.  Please note that I am fully aware that in Joytick Mode, the Roller Controller is basically compatible with almost all games, but that's not the sort of generalized info I'm interested in here.  Feel free to chime in with any missing/incorrect info:

 

Centipede

-Arcade - Trak-ball & 1 button

-CV - Can use the Roller Controller in "Joystick" mode

---Note, matches the arcade counterpart, albeit only in the "Joystick" digital-pulse mode, not truly analog like the original

 

Omega Race

-Arcade - Rotary control & 2 buttons

-CV - Can use the Roller Controller in "Joystick" mode

---Note, as this game only uses a single axis of the Roller Controller (x-axis, for ship rotation), it is better suited for a Rotary type controller, and thus would also properly match the arcade counterpart

 

Slither

-Arcade - Trak-ball & 2 buttons

-CV - Required use of the Roller Controller in "Roller" mode

---Note, the only game in the CV library to use the true "Roller" mode, and match the controls of it's arcade counterpart

 

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

-Arcade - Rotary control & 4 buttons

-CV - Can use the Roller Controller in "Joystick" mode

---Note, as this game only benefits from a single axis of the Roller Controller (x-axis, for ship rotation), it is better suited for a Rotary type controller, and thus would also properly match the arcade counterpart

 

Victory

-Arcade - Rotary control & 4 buttons

-CV - Required use of the Roller Controller in "Roller" mode

---Note, as this game only uses a single axis of the Roller Controller (x-axis, for ship rotation), it is better suited for a Rotary type controller, and thus would also properly match the arcade counterpart

 

War Games

-no Arcade counterpart

-CV - Can use the Roller Controller in "Joystick" mode

---Note, could make for a cool project for a large sized VVG Enhanced Controller due to the large number of buttons & keypad buttons required.  Obviously it would be labeled the WOPR!

 

Additionally I drew up the CPO for Centipede last night, the image below is a low resolution digital sample.  The artwork may need to move a bit upward in the Y-axis, but I won't know that for sure until I can get the new housing, the necessary mounting hardware, and take some final measurements:

 

8icj0K.jpg

 

But with this new discovery/concept, it really opens up the door for a few truly radical Arcade Experience Controllers to add to my collection/portfolio!

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