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DOUBLEDOWN Custom ColecoVision Controllers

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3 hours ago, doubledown said:

So I found out today that these buttons exist (made by Sanwa):

 

q3pDpQ.jpg

 

XcjwjB.jpg

 

The "star" shaped version is available with a few different plunger colors.  Yellow, pictured above, as well as red, blue, and white...all of the different colored plungers share the same yellow body/bezel.  The "heart" button is only available in the pink apparently.  I don't know what I'd use them for...but I'm pretty sure I need to at least use 1 of them for something, so somebody help me out and think of a good game tie-in where it would make sense to use 1 or more of these.  Popeye comes to mind for the "heart" button...but I'm drawing a blank for the "star" button.  

If only there was a Lucky Charms game. :)

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I agree that using the heart button for Popeye's "punch" button isn't a perfect concept...it's just the first game I thought of with hearts so prominent in the game.  It could simply be used as a start game button on a Popeye controller, wired through a rotary keypad selector switch, in lieu of a keypad.  

 

Right now the absolute best idea I can come up with for either of these would be for an NES, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! controller.  Use the Heart for the "Select" button, and use the Star for the "Start" button...and hear me out as to why.  Between rounds, pressing the "Select" button can increase Mac's Stamina...not exactly the same as his hearts in-round...but it does help his "health", so similar in concept.  Then during a round, pressing the "Start" button will throw an Uppercut/Kock Out Blow...if Mac has "stars" in reserve.  

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Following this threats after seeing some chatter in the Colecovision Lunatics group about these beauties—definitely in the market for this particular stick.

1B3040DC-221C-4376-9BFB-4A64AB376A2A.jpeg

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I'd buy one in a heartbeat if there was a configuration with a centered joystick and duplicate buttons on the left (so I could use my right hand on the joystick and left hand for fire buttons). Any chance? And if not, any recommendation of a joystick that's "ideal" for playing games like pacman, dk, and qbert on the colecovision? (qbert needing 8 way directional)? or do many of you find having a separate 4 and 8 directional controller is best to pair up optimally by game?

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On 4/23/2021 at 3:04 AM, GeorgieBoysAXE said:

Following this threats after seeing some chatter in the Colecovision Lunatics group about these beauties—definitely in the market for this particular stick.

1B3040DC-221C-4376-9BFB-4A64AB376A2A.jpeg

 

Regarding, the Coleco Black Edition - VVG Joystick Controller, more of these can be made in the future when I have time, but it would probably be a couple months or so.  Assuming the HORI HSS-09 donors can still be had for approximately $50 w/shipping (what I paid for them previously), the price for these was approximately $225.00

 

1 hour ago, DaViD_Boulet said:

I'd buy one in a heartbeat if there was a configuration with a centered joystick and duplicate buttons on the left (so I could use my right hand on the joystick and left hand for fire buttons). Any chance? And if not, any recommendation of a joystick that's "ideal" for playing games like pacman, dk, and qbert on the colecovision? (qbert needing 8 way directional)? or do many of you find having a separate 4 and 8 directional controller is best to pair up optimally by game?

 

There isn't enough room on a VVG Joystick Controller (like pictured above here, in a HORI HSS-09 donor) (physically or ergonomically) to install a center joystick, multiple sets of buttons, and a keypad.  If you want to use your right hand on the joystick, and your left hand for the buttons...do you need a centered joystick / ambidextrous buttons controller, or would you simply be okay with a right joystick / left buttons controller...like this, or similar:

 

5c5Zj0.png

 

To do a centered joystick, ambidextrous buttons controller, it has to be built into a larger Hammond 17" or 20" housing (so it isn't an ergonomic bleep-show) like this:

 

qnvf0Q.png

 

...but obviously, it is possible.  

 

In a perfect world, you would want no less than 3 separate joystick controllers for the ColecoVision:

 

1) 8-way joystick controller, for 8-way games like Zaxxon, Venture, Gorf and the likes

 

1) 4-way joystick controller, for Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Pac-Man and the likes

 

1) 4-way (rotated 45 degrees clock-wise) joystick controller...for Q*bert, Q*Bert's Qubes, and Congo Bongo

 

You can technically play "all" joystick games with an 8-way joystick, but you may experience some frustrations whilst playing 4-way games with it, and rotating a larger controller housing like these 45 degrees to play Q*bert can be awkward.  I just assume have 1 specific controller for each and every game!  😉

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great info! And yea, I said "ambidextrous" only because I figured it would be easier to find controller setups made that way (versus hard-right), but as you mention that could add to the size of the base making it more difficult to hold in your lap etc. (realistically how I would play). So a configuration with stick on right and buttons on left would work fine for me. :)

 

Also, I see a few vintage controllers that allows them to be changed from 4 to 8 direction by a simple twist of a dial. I'm curious why many of these larger "fully featured" custom controllers don't do that... maybe the parts available today wouldn't permit a simple user-selectable change like that? (I understand that many of these custom controllers could be disassembled and the directional guides easily changed... but that's not the sort of thing you'd want to have to do "just to switch games". 

 

Also having said that... yes... the isometric games like QBert... does anyone make a controller or guide that would work that way... basically a 4-way guide that can rotate 45 degrees so that the "diagonals" now become the 4-way positions? Yeah... that would be sweet... ;)

Edited by DaViD_Boulet

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On 1/19/2021 at 4:22 PM, doubledown said:

I still have to finish looking at the pricing for the ColecoVision DX and DX+ editions.

Hi Doubledown,

any news about the price for these controllers?

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1 hour ago, DaViD_Boulet said:

great info! And yea, I said "ambidextrous" only because I figured it would be easier to find controller setups made that way (versus hard-right), but as you mention that could add to the size of the base making it more difficult to hold in your lap etc. (realistically how I would play). So a configuration with stick on right and buttons on left would work fine for me. :)

 

Also, I see a few vintage controllers that allows them to be changed from 4 to 8 direction by a simple twist of a dial. I'm curious why many of these larger "fully featured" custom controllers don't do that... maybe the parts available today wouldn't permit a simple user-selectable change like that? (I understand that many of these custom controllers could be disassembled and the directional guides easily changed... but that's not the sort of thing you'd want to have to do "just to switch games". 

 

Also having said that... yes... the isometric games like QBert... does anyone make a controller or guide that would work that way... basically a 4-way guide that can rotate 45 degrees so that the "diagonals" now become the 4-way positions? Yeah... that would be sweet... ;)

The biggest problem with 8-way / 4-way switchable sticks...is there usually is a bit of a compromise.  Modern joysticks can allow for this switch-o/change-o, via a couple of different methods.  One, is the removal/re-orientation of a shaft actuator, or restrictor gate...usually on the bottom of the joystick itself...within the housing.  So yes, the enclosure has to be opened to do this, which is obviously a huge pain.  There are a few other non-mechanical options, like the Mag-Stik Plus from Ultimarc (IL) (of which I've never read 1 great review of, thus have never tried it myself), or the ServoStik from Ultimarc, which is based on a Sanwa joystick, and has a motor/gearbox to rotate the restrictor internally (but it requires power to change it).  I've used these before:

 

fidKQx.png

 

...and they're good, if you're ok with the feel of modern Japanese joysticks, and you can live with the contacts being make-before-break...versus a true 4-way's break-before-make (the game will determine if this is destructive or not).  I've also built a custom controller with both a true 8-way joystick and a true 4-way joystick, in one controller:

 

9NqgDQ.png

 

...which while being a bit bigger of a controller housing (17" x 11.25"), is still completely lap compatible, and other than it's larger size, requires zero compromises for your normal 8-way / 4-way needs.  

 

For Q*bert, on most consoles, including the ColecoVision...the game accepts the cardinal directional inputs of Up/Down/Left/Right, when the joystick is in your hand rotated 45 degrees clock-wise.  So no sort of gate or restrictor added to a joystick can account for this, the joystick mount, would physically need to allow the joystick itself to rotate and lock at top dead center, then loosen and allow for rotation and locking at a 45 degree rotated position.  It's possible, but would require either some sort of tool (screw driver/allen wrench) to loosen and re-tighten the fasteners, or they would have to be something like knurled thumb-screws...which then stick up and would be uncomfortable on your hands when playing.  The best way to play Q*bert, Q*bert's Qubes, and Congo Bongo, will always be with a dedicated controller for it, with a rotated joystick...like this (or similar):

 

IaO32M.png

 

So to re-iterate...no one controller, can be, or can have, everything that would be perfect for every situation (unless it's an absolute monster in size, or small and squished together, and thus an ergonomic nightmare).  You just have to decide if you can live with one 8-way controller, for all of your gaming needs, or if you have the space and budget to allow for multiple controllers, best suited to their range of games.  I'm personally fine with very game specific controllers, that can only be used for a few, or even only 1 game:

 

1CK3vA.jpg

 

 

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14 minutes ago, Bomberman93 said:

Hi Doubledown,

any news about the price for these controllers?

No, not yet.  I haven't taken the time to figure out the extra costs for these yet.  Maybe sometime soon, when I get some time.  

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doubledown, thanks for your thorough and thoughtful responses to all of these (no doubt well trod) topics. It's probably exhausting when newbies like me start asking "all of the same questions all over again" that have already been laid to rest. But all new to me :) so thanks!

 

I had remembered for the 2600 how I had to rotate the controller 45 degrees for qbert... but had *forgotten* it worked that way on colecovision too. No wonder I was having so much trouble last night ;)

 

Do you still make custom controllers for order or recommend a particular source? like for someone like me who might want an 8 and 4 way with right-mount stick (which seems to break with the norm)? 

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7 minutes ago, DaViD_Boulet said:

doubledown, thanks for your thorough and thoughtful responses to all of these (no doubt well trod) topics. It's probably exhausting when newbies like me start asking "all of the same questions all over again" that have already been laid to rest. But all new to me :) so thanks!

 

I had remembered for the 2600 how I had to rotate the controller 45 degrees for qbert... but had *forgotten* it worked that way on colecovision too. No wonder I was having so much trouble last night ;)

 

Do you still make custom controllers for order or recommend a particular source? like for someone like me who might want an 8 and 4 way with right-mount stick (which seems to break with the norm)? 

Well it would be nice if newbies would read through threads...but a lot of the detailed ones (like this one) get pretty long, and some stuff changes over time, new hardware get's released, and the likes, so re-asking isn't always a bad thing.  

 

I think the 5200 version of Q*bert has you manipulate the joystick in the actual diagonal directions...I think whilst also pressing/holding one of the fire buttons (versus rotating the controller in your hand), and I know the PS1 version (updated 3D garbage Q*bert...but also includes the awesome arcade original), allows for multiple styles of controls, including diagonals, rotating controller in hand, and both d-pad and thumb-stick I believe.  All of the others that I have played...always had you rotate the controller.  I've seen where a lot of people were "shocked" to discover this...because nobody reads manuals...even though tons of them are available to read for free online!  😊

 

I do actively build controllers, I'm working on a few new ones right now, now that my real job has slowed a bit.  If you've got something in mind you're interested in (follow the link in my signature to easily view my "portfolio" on my website), let me know and I can get you a ballpark price.  It'll probably be a couple months before I'd be able to get to anything new though.  

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While not “technically” a ColecoVision controller (as a port / homebrew of the arcade game does not yet exist for the ColecoVision), I’d like to unveil my newest controller for the Atari 2600 / Coleco Expansion Module #1 (also compatible with some ColecoVision games):

 

Phoenix Cocktail Edition – VVG Experience Controller

 

UCfGyY.png

 

All of the upright cabinets of Phoenix I have ever seen (from different publishers, in different regions) always feature a 4 push-button control panel, but the cocktail variants always employ a 2-way joystick and 2 push-buttons, like this little beauty right here.  I was able to source a pair of original control panels, from an Amstar Electronics Corp. licensed, Bally Group distributed, cocktail cabinet from ebay a few months ago.  And now with work slowing down a bit, I finally got a chance to build this one.  In this instance I was also able to do something unique that I’ve never been able to do before…which is, re-use the actual / original artwork CPO.  These are silk-screened aluminum panels, and the player 2’s CPO was still in good enough shape that I decided to re-use it, rather than re-draw, and print new artwork…adding to its arcade provenance.  The CPO is not 100% perfect, there is a little wear, and a few small defects in the art, but it is more than 40 years old, and I think it adds to the vintage authenticity of the overall build. 

 

So built into a reinforced, Hammond Mfg. 14” x 8.5” aluminum housing, and featuring the original arcade cocktail cabinet controls (plus a few new ones of my own):

 

** (1)  2-Way (horizontal) micro-switch joystick (arcade original), (disassembled, cleaned, re-lubed) – Wired as Joystick Left / Right (ship movement)

 

** (2)  White-body, red-plunger micro-switch push-buttons (arcade original), (disassembled and cleaned) – Wired as Joystick Down (barrier), Fire Button (Fire)

 

** Then for multi-cart / in-game menu navigation (when necessary), I installed an NKK (ON)-OFF-(ON) rocker switch, - Wired to Joystick Up / Down, (built with a red paddle lever & black bezel to color coordinate with the joystick)

 

**And to swap the orientation of the buttons from Barrier / Fire to Fire / Barrier (as was the layout on the Phoenix cocktail cabinets released in Australia…seriously), I installed an NKK ON-NONE-ON rocker switch, – Wired to flip / flop the wiring and controls of the 2 push-buttons, (built with a red rocker cap, and white bezel to color coordinate with the push-buttons)

 

** Then to finish it off, I created a small complimentary supplemental CPO for my new ancillary switches detailing their functions, and wired up a custom 10’ cable, and installed two cord cleats mounted to the rear of the housing for cable management. 

 

The only change I made to the original hardware, was with regards to the micro-switches used on the original arcade push-buttons.  Most of the late 70’s – early 80’s Japanese games, used very long-life, and very industrial micro-switch based controls.  And in the instance of “slow-shooting” games like Phoenix and Galaxian (and others), the high forces required to press / actuate these push-buttons wasn’t that big of a problem, as you were pressing the button(s) so infrequently.  But when Galaga came out, with its fancy new “rapid-firing” shooting, they started changing their hardware, and started installing lighter force micro-switches.  So, as this controller can be used for lots of other games besides Phoenix (that only require a 2-way joystick, plus 1 “down” button (if needed), and 1 “fire” button), I decided to installer lower force micro-switches on these push-buttons for my controller.  Modern Western micro-switch based push-buttons use switches with a maximum operating force of approximately 75 – 150 grams…and there are even premium, lighter force switches…that only require an operating force of 20 – 45 grams.  The factory micro-switches originally installed on these arcade push-buttons, required a Herculean 400 grams of force to actuate…that’s just less than 1 lb!  Which again, if only playing slow paced shooting games like Phoenix, or Carnival…it can be fine, albeit tiring after a short while.  But to make this controller a bit more enjoyable to play with, I installed Cherry D44X series micro-switches that are rated at 75 grams of actuation force.  I did also test with Cherry D41X series switches that only require 45 grams of force, but as these push-buttons don’t have a plunger spring, those just felt too light. 

 

Hopefully this controller can provide the necessary inspiration to some talented programmer(s) so that we will eventually see a homebrew release of Phoenix for the ColecoVision, or perhaps for the Atari 7800.  But for now, I’ll have to settle for playing the 2600 version...but at least I will be playing with real arcade hardware!

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For my most recent, and most pain in the butt (with regards to wiring) controller, my new ATARI 2600 Edition - VVG Switch-O-Matic Controller:

 

1sKr2O.png

 

vwc6y5.png

 

Full details/specs for it can be found HERE, but "simplistically," it purpose is to allow me to assign any of the ATARI 2600's inputs (Joystick UP / DOWN / LEFT / RIGHT or Button 1 / 2) to any of the 4 arcade push-buttons, so that I can play games how I want to, not how the programmers decided I should.  In the pic above, it's configured for how I like to play H.E.R.O. on the 2600, (and controller port 2 on the ColecoVision...seriously, read the manual), with the joystick only being used for left and right movements, button 1 for firing the Microlaser, button 2 for hovering (joystick up), and button 3 for setting dynamite (joystick down).  For those who would like to play SMURF with a push-button assigned as Joystick UP / JUMP (instead of pressing up on the joystick)...this type of featured controller allows for it.  

 

I've actually had the idea for a controller like this, for the ColecoVision, for quite a while now, but just haven't gotten around to it.  For a ColecoVision version, should I decide to make one, any of the arcade push-buttons (either 5 or 6 in total, I haven't decided yet), would be able to be assigned to any of the 20 possible ColecoVision inputs (4 joystick inputs, 12 keypad inputs, 4 S.A. buttons).  The biggest problem with a ColecoVision version, will be the 5 or 6 (depending on the number of arcade push-buttons) 2-pole / 20-position rotary switches required, to allow for maximum configuration possibilities.  And the problem isn't that they don't exist...because they do; the problem is their price.  The cheapest I can find them for is about $75 a piece...times the 5 or 6 that are needed...plus all of the other hardware costs...and then it has to be wired!  So that's why I started with the "cheap & easy" ATARI 2600 version first, only 6 inputs and 1 single common...which made it a lot less expensive, and the wiring only took a couple of hours, versus a couple of days. 

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On 4/23/2021 at 3:04 AM, GeorgieBoysAXE said:

Following this threats after seeing some chatter in the Colecovision Lunatics group about these beauties—definitely in the market for this particular stick.

1B3040DC-221C-4376-9BFB-4A64AB376A2A.jpeg

That is a beauty!

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5 hours ago, TrekMD said:

That is a beauty!

Reminds me of the size and quality of the original Neo Geo controller that came with the US Gold and Silver systems.

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On 5/29/2021 at 12:34 PM, TrekMD said:

That is a beauty!

I’m a rather new member of ColecoVision Lunatics... I own an X-Arcade tankstick but am discovering it’s not exactly ColecoVision friendly... I’m a disabled American Vet (USMC) and an old school gamer.. the original controllers have become very difficult for me to use (I’ve been diagnosed with MS).  I’m VERY interested in the design you created based on an original controller... I heard word that the more interest, the better the pricing and likelihood of more being made.. Well, COUNT ME IN!   

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I literally just purchased this Edladdin joystick... it has a centered joystick with buttons on both left and right! It also includes a keypad in the bSuper Action controller style. What do you think? 

388182B3-48F5-4571-B84F-790CE22D7381.jpeg

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A few new controllers to add to my portfolio here.  

 

First, for the 2600, EM#1, and other compatible consoles/adapters, the: 2600 VGSC Edition – VVG Enhanced Controller

 

uVLn2B.png

 

and my personal variant...with an optical joystick, and an arcade original Super Breakout knob: The Orange Special – VVG Enhanced Controller

 

nfuJ4i.png

 

These of course are styled after the ATARI "Video Game Selection Center" kiosks from back in the day, and feature both joystick and paddle controls.  The full details of their builds can be found HERE.  

 

Then for the 7800, and with its inherent compatibility, the 2600, EM#1, and other compatible consoles/adapters, the Scramble Edition - VVG Enhanced Controller

 

D7sBdm.png

 

A fun mishmash of hardware and styling here, including an arcade original joystick from an unlicensed/bootleg Scramble machine built by Artic, and CPO artwork, based on Stern's licensed cocktail cabinet. Full details for this build can be found HERE.

 

And lastly, featuring no vintage Atari or Coleco compatibility whatsoever, but rather, built for the SNES, and featuring built-in NES compatibility, the HORI SNES Arcade Commander - VVG Enhanced Controller

 

8dUV11.png

 

Based on Hori's Super Famicom controllers, the Super Famicom Fighting Stick, and the Super Famicom Fighting Commander, a large and robust controller for Nintendo's first 2 consoles, and built with all of the cheating bits "features," of the Hori originals.  Including, independent "Turbo" and "Turbo Hold" switches for the Y/X/B/A/L/R buttons (for when you simply can't be bothered to press a button more than once, or even at all), and "Slow" mode, which oscillates the Start button (at 2 different frequencies), to help slow down those racing games that are just too darn fast.  As mentioned, this controller does feature dual compatibility for both the SNES and the NES, and has separate, dedicated controller cables on the rear of the enclosure.

 

V0q3Lh.png

 

The full build details can be read about HERE.  Enjoy.

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Um, I don't see any difference between the "2600 VGCS" and "Orange" controller pictures...  :?

 

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Pixelboy said:

Um, I don't see any difference between the "2600 VGCS" and "Orange" controller pictures...  :?

 

Fire Buttons are permuted .... 😄

Edited by youki

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Pixelboy said:

Um, I don't see any difference between the "2600 VGCS" and "Orange" controller pictures...  :?

 

The VGSC has a 3D printed/reproduction, Tempest/Warlords arcade-esque knob (like the knob used on the actual kiosk...except 3D printed for cost savings), and The Orange Special has a vintage, arcade original, Super Breakout knob...which was molded by ATARI or one of their suppliers, some 40-ish years ago.  They have a different top shape/profile (and feel when comparing molded plastic to 3D printed plastic)...and I personally prefer the Super Breakout arcade knob for paddle games, more so than i do the Tempest/Warlords knob. 

 

Then internally (and not visible in the pictures above), the VGSC has an iL EuroJoystick 2 micro-switch joystick, like this:

 

yBTYvN.png

 

...with a threaded shaft, and the custom, rubber coated, hex knob that I designed/machined for it, while The Orange Special, has a silent Buttercade OpticIL joystick, like this:

 

1C8oqb.jpg

 

...with the same threaded shaft, and custom, rubber coated, hex knob that I machined for it.  The big difference (besides the extra $65), is that the Buttercade OpticIL stick is dead silent, due to the powerful sorcery of light, electricity, and witchcraft!

Edited by doubledown
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Posted (edited)
On 7/1/2021 at 11:34 AM, youki said:

Fire Buttons are permuted .... 😄

 

Edited by AdamO

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On 7/1/2021 at 11:26 AM, Pixelboy said:

Um, I don't see any difference between the "2600 VGCS" and "Orange" controller pictures...  :?

 

But it is one big a-s 2600 controller

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1 hour ago, Swami said:

But it is one big a-s 2600 controller

I had to look again after doubledown pointed out the difference with the paddle knobs. They look good.  :)

 

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