Jump to content
doubledown

doubledown's Spy Hunter Deluxe Edition - VVG Experience Controller

Recommended Posts

For your enjoyment, I implore you to turn up your speakers, and press play on the video below whilst you read the following post

 

 

So this project got started approximately 9 months ago when I had a vision.  That vision…to design and build my most elaborate Experience Controller to date, for one of my all time favorite games, to be played on one of my all time favorite consoles.  I really don’t remember the order of events that lead up to me starting this one, but the earliest pieces of the puzzle must have been sourcing the Pistol Grips for the steering yoke, and the dual foot-switches for the Pedals…and then it all built from there.  I had the initial proof-of-concept for my custom steering yoke finished around the middle of October last year, starting with the bent tubing and center hub for the handlebars and the Grips, then engineering and machining the bearing block, and the spring-loaded return-to-center and rotational stop mechanics.  With most all of the mechanics & engineering worked out, I started looking for an enclosure that would work for this project.  After a short search I found one, requested and received a quote for it, and placed my order.  The initial quote I received, estimated about 5 days before shipment, but it ended up being 27 days until I actually received it…just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  I got the enclosure machined that weekend, but now my problem was the weather.  The enclosure had an “industrial gray” coating, but I wanted it to be black…unfortunately it’s too cold in late November in Ohio to do any painting outside…so it would just have to wait.  Fast forward to April 2020 when it’s starting to warm up outside and then the Covid-19 outbreak…I’m working from home…and I’m not allowed into the office where the enclosure was.  Fast forward a couple of more months to this June, and things start rolling again.  I finally get the enclosure painted, and now I could assemble the world’s greatest ColecoVision Experience Controller…ever. 

 

So nine months in the making (granted mostly related to weather and a mild pandemic), I present to you, and proudly unveil, my Spy Hunter Deluxe Edition – VVG Experience Controller:

 

Uhhf3X.png

 

Built into a mild steel, Saginaw ELJ Consolet enclosure, measuring 20” x 8” x 7” with a 30/60 degree sloped face, and weighing approximately 15 lbs. empty… lives the Spy Hunter controller we all deserve. 

 

jw8tvz.png

 

The taller sides of this enclosure, versus the lower ones I normally use for joystick type controllers, finally allowed me to include some arcade cabinet inspired side-art. 

 

pPTJHn.png

 

The grips are Happ, Left and Right Grip assemblies, w/ the additional Thumb Switches.  They’re not exactly the same as the originals…but they are very close.  Plus they offer complete control of the weapons systems in your G-6155 Interceptor, in addition to providing the steering controls.  The grips are one of the very few purchased “finish” parts for this build, as all of the handlebar tubing, steering shaft, bearing block, and mechanics were engineered and fabricated/built by yours truly. 

 

13x2tS.png

 

The Spy Hunter arcade game featured a 2-speed (low/high) gear shift lever, and an analog gas pedal, whereas all of the vintage home ports of the game (to my knowledge) deleted the “gear-shifting”, and simply used the joystick’s up & down directions for your in-game speed control, acting like the “cruise control” in your car.  So to provide the necessary in-game speed controls for this controller, I purchased a Linemaster 596-EX, two-pedal, Explosion-Proof, foot switch.  Obviously in environments like our homes, the Explosion-Proof rating is not necessary, but this Ex-Proof housing is cast aluminum, robust as hell, and heavy…which is exactly what I wanted.  Plus I wanted pedals that were over-hung, and that pivoted at the rear like real car pedals, not ones that pivoted in the front.  The benefit of the added weight of the cast aluminum enclosure is realized when you use the pedals…no fumbling about, or accidentally knocking them over during game-play, especially when on a plush carpeted surface.  The pedals are wired as the right-pedal = “Gas” (joystick up), and the left-pedal = “Brake” (joystick down), and I removed some of the metal from the pedal assembly which was initially there to protect them from being stepped on accidentally.  In the case of playing a video game…nobody is going to get injured or killed if a pedal is stepped on accidentally, plus it makes it easier to transfer your foot from one pedal to another, and it won’t hurt your bare or socked feet if you step down in the wrong place.   Connection between the pedals and the controller enclosure is made at the rear of each unit, via a custom 8’ uni-directional cable I made up…which is removable at both ends.  Additionally, the “SH” logo artwork I installed on the pedal assembly, is the matching artwork from the floor-mat of the original arcade cockpit cabinets. 

 

isdsoQ.png

 

For cosmetics sake, I still installed a “gear-shifter” via a 2-way (up/down) joystick, but I moved it to the left side of the steering yoke, versus the arcade cabinets which had them installed to the right of the yoke.  This “gear shifter” is actually wired as an additional/alternate/duplicate controller for the speed control…should you opt to use this, versus the pedals.  I installed it to the left of the yoke because the right grip’s index finger operated “trigger” is the control button for your machine guns…the most used weapon in the game.  So if you’re not using the pedals, but you are using this “gear-shifter” instead, you can still shoot your machine guns while accelerating, or braking. 

 

Lots of time was spent redrawing the CPO artwork (most of which is blocked from view by the steering yoke), as each gauge is intended to look like a three-dimensional gauge with raised/beveled edges, and highlighted by a light-source from the upper-left quadrant (presumably the sun shining through the driver’s side window).  I don’t even remember how many layers, and fill properties, and transparency properties I used to get them to look just right.  I had found lots of photos online of the Spy Hunter arcade cabinet artwork for the reproduction of the CPO, but so many of them were really dark with poor lighting, or blurry, or simply taken from too far away for me to make out all of the details in the gauges.  Fortunately a guy over at the KLOV forums had a super high resolution scan of the bare CPO, which provided me with the extra detail I needed to get the artwork to be a near-perfect match.

 

CZfE7y.png

 

Lastly, to the right of the steering yoke is a 12-button membrane keypad for all of the necessary game and menu selections, and it’s custom overlay has been drawn to match the artwork styling of the “simulated keypad” which was on the original CPO artwork, in this same location…although that one was a 16-button keypad. 

 

I have to say I’m super happy with it, and I hope it was worth the wait.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

  • Like 15
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That looks amazing.  Definitely the best one yet.  My wallet just ran under the bed to hide!

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think I'm supposed to be this happy over a fecking custom controller.  hey kid, quick pass me your book!

 

So how much do I have to fork out to get you to sell me this awesome beauty?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It just goes to show you...you keep your head down, you put in the work, you have an endless amount of skill and talent, you don't box yourself in to any sort of budget...and anything is possible!  Also, I feel this masterpiece substantiates my self-proclaimed title as the "King of All Controllers!"  😊

 

Seriously though guys...thanks for the kind words.  I really am happy with it.  I also love being able to finally add some side art to an enclosure for a change, it's such a visually important & beautiful part of the old arcade cabinets.  

 

In all honestly...I have absolutely no idea what the cost would be to reproduce this, at this point.  I'd have to go through my receipts and add up all the parts, take a guess at how much machining time was required, and how much time for assembly is involved.  The "sell" price can also have a huge variance depending on the availability of parts in the secondary market.  Off the top of my head...big money parts...the enclosure had a list price of about $150, but we get a bit of a discount through work, and I think I paid about $120-ish for this one.  The grips, as new from HAPP, are about $80 for a set (plus their ridiculous shipping charges), but I got these from a guy selling new stock items on ebay, for I think about $50 for the set...then there are the pedals.  This particular dual-pedal, foot switch I chose, due to it's Explosion-Proof rating, has a retail price of $378 (yeah you read that right)...but I got mine used from some medical supply salvage reseller on ebay for about $60, which I then had to refurbish, and out of common-sense, I replaced its two used micro-switches with new ones...which were about $15 a piece.  Now of course with the "gear shifter" doubling as the speed control, it could be offered without pedals...which would be the "Standard" Edition...versus this, the "Deluxe" Edition.  So like I said...no real idea, but if I were to take a stab at it, something in the $500 - $1000 range probably.  I really couldn't be any more "accurate" than that at this point.

 

I'm already planning on a Turbo Edition - VVG Experience Controller using this same enclosure.  I have a couple of small details regarding component mounting and installation to figure out on that one once I get into it, and will need to order some parts of course, but it will happen...this I can promise you.  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a love / hate relationship with Spy Hunter, probably because I've always sucked at it, but as a collector and former gaming PC builder, man, I can appreciate the amazing piece of work you did. 

 

Absolutely amazing man, beautiful work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My love of Spy Hunter is definitely for the C-64, and ColecoVision versions...I also suck at the harder arcade version.  But trying to play it on the CV with a Hand Controller...with it's nubby joystick and using the keypad buttons for secondary weapons is a travesty, and lets face it, the SAC can't compete with a custom-built steering yoke.  And as an added bonus...this gave me an excuse to expand my portfolio!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now **THIS** is an example of the kind of thing this community NEEDS!!!   WELL DONE!!!  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yes ! we need this, with an SGM clone used to play MSX Version Port on Spy Hunter  on our colecovision!   😀

 

Joke aside,  impressive work double down!👍👍👍

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm just glad that the ColecoVision port allowed for (4) separate buttons for the weapon controls, so that both triggers and both thumb switches are functional/necessary.  The ports for the Ataris, C-64, and even the NES, only used 2 buttons...one for forward firing weapons (machine guns normally, then auto switching to missiles if you had them, and the attack helicopter was on screen), and the other for rearward firing weapons (which if I remember correctly you would only ever have 1 of at a time).  I think sometimes we take for granted how awesome the ColecoVision really is...when compared to some of it's "competition"...if you even call them that.  😁

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So when you steer the wheel, it just presses against switches mapped to left and right, kind of like the SG-1000 steering wheel controller?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Pixelboy said:

So when you steer the wheel, it just presses against switches mapped to left and right, kind of like the SG-1000 steering wheel controller?

 

The Sega SH-400...yes, that's partially how I decided on the concept...I also own the rarer motorcycle variant, the BH-400 too.  Spy Hunter while "technically" a driving game is not like a racing game...in that you are only making small adjustments to move your car left or right on the straight road that you are driving on.  Which is why...for the most point...a joystick works fine for this.  When playing a racing game like Pole Position, Hang-On, or Out Run...(which had analog (or digital encoder based) steering controls in the arcade), with a digital joystick or d-pad controller on home port versions, you have to work the digital controls depending on the turn.  On a sharp long turn you may just be able to hold the joystick hard to one direction and make the turn...but for softer turns you have to tap, tap, tap the joystick so that you don't over-steer.  The beauty of this design is that there is a bit of dead-band off of the center, to the point where you make contact with either switch (about 5 or 6 degrees), and then there is a bunch of over-travel past the point where you make contact with either switch (about 30 - 40 degrees).  So while you would still be "working" the steering control (turning a little farther, then letting off a little, then turning a little farther)...as you don't feel physical stops (unless you really crank the steering)...it just feels like you are making analog adjustments to compensate for the turn.  Again this has little effect in Spy Hunter...but this "digital / simulated-analog" concept with lots of play/movement...offers a pseudo-analog feel when playing true racing style games. 

 

QQ5OtW.jpg

 

In the picture you can see the hemispherical cam on top of the rear-most shaft collar...which when the yoke is turned...is what contacts/activates the lever arms of the micro-switches.  This hemispherical cam, and lever arm style micro-switches are also what allow for so much rotation/movement after making the contacts...without damaging the switches.    

 

9kdg8b.jpg

 

The torsion spring seen above, captured between the two shaft collars, is what provides the return-to-center tension, and the rotational stops.  The outer pair of hex stand-offs can be adjusted to allow for more or less spring tension on the yoke...and the inner pair provide the end of rotation stops.  As I had no idea when I first built it...how much tension I would want...or how much overall rotation I would want...so I drilled and tapped large arcs of "adjustment" holes so that I could fine tune it to my liking.  Now that it's done...I can see that I really only need the holes that are currently in use...and a couple each way from these...and all of the others are unnecessary.  But better safe than sorry!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, retroillucid said:

Dayum! :-o
This one is REALLY IMPRESSIVE! 
Very well done sir! :thumbsup:

 

All his work is awesome.  He has never made a bad controller.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, viaton said:

Wow, simply amazing work.

Thank you

 

15 minutes ago, 0078265317 said:

All his work is awesome.  He has never made a bad controller.

...and I completely  agree...expensive maybe...but never bad!  😁

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, GoldenWheels said:

Goddamn GODDAMN that is some fine work!

Thank you sir.  

 

Here's a little sneak peak for my fans of what I'm planning for my upcoming / eventual Turbo Edition - VVG Experience Controller...I'm shooting for something close to this:

 

Fh8i4n.png

 

I picked up this this vintage control panel a few months back...and I'll pull the donor hardware from it.  It will probably be a little while before I get to this one...but I assure you, it will happen.  

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...