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So a long while ago I had a bright idea on a "captain's chair" 'controller' for playing Star Raiders on the 8-bit / 5200.

 

My thought is a joystick on one arm of the chair (e.g. on the right, for right-handed folks), with a thumb trigger on top, or index finger trigger on the front, so it can be controlled entirely with one hand.

 

On the other side, there'd be a keypad controller (like used by the 2600 version of the game), offering the various toggle controls:

  • front view (F)
  • aft view (A)
  • long range view (L)
  • galactic map (G)
  • attack computer (C)
  • targeting computer (T)
  • target selector (M)
  • shields (S)
  • hyperwarp (H)
  • pause (P)

 

That's 10 keys, so totally doable with a 12-button keyboard controller, connected to the second controller port.

 

Finally, on that same side (e.g., left, for right-handed users) would be an analog throttle, like you see in a boat.  Fully forward (towards the TV) would be "twin-ion engine" at full-speed (9), and fully back (toward the player) would be full-stop (0).  This would be connected to the paddle input of controller port 1, alongside the main digital joystick input (if I'm reading things right, it looks like the POT stuff is used by keyboard controllers).

 

Obviously, a hacked version of Star Raiders would be required for this to work (read paddle for engine control, read keyboard controller for other keyboard control).  It'd be a pretty cool set-up, though, don't you think?

 

Sadly, I don't have the skill to do either the hardware, or the ROM hacking. 😛

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Neat idea!

 

Building off of it, you could make a custom controller that plugs into an XEGS keyboard port that has all of your buttons mapped onto the keys.  Instead of a pot for the speed, you could rig a 10-output slider that would map to the ten buttons.  You would just need to replicate the little circuit board that is inside the XEGS keyboard and then wire up your various buttons to the rows & columns of the 4051s.  This would allow you to use your custom keyboard on a stock XEGS running a stock Star Raiders.

 

Another alternate would be to use a PIC or similar microcontroller to emulate a PS/2 keyboard, and have it parse your buttons & send the appropriate PS/2 key, and then plug this into one of the various PS/2 keyboard adapters that are available for the A8s.  This would take some FW work as well as the custom controller, and would only work on those machines with the PS/2 keyboard adapter, but you would not have to modify the Star Raiders code.

 

 

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OK, here's an even crazier idea....

 

You build an X-Y mechanism that sits over the Atari computer.  There is a plunger mounted to the X-Y mechanism.  When you press a button on your custom controller, the X-Y mechanism moves the plunger over to the appropriate key and then presses it.

 

This would work on any Atari computer, modified or not.  It would need to have calibration settings for each model to get the plunger height right.  The plunger should be designed with a spring so that it cannot press too hard in case you are running it on an 800 when in 130 mode.  This way, if you tell the plunger to move down 2" but it hits a key after 1/2", it won't break anything.

 

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I realize that my above suggestions requires some amount of custom code or electrical engineering.  So now I offer what may be the craziest idea yet, but will not require any EE or software work at all.

 

The control pad has all of the mechanical buttons linked up, via a plurality of mechanical devices including, but not limited to levers, pivots, gears and/or pulleys, to mechanical plungers positioned over each desired key.  When a button is pressed on the control panel, it operates said levers, etc. to translate that motion to a vertical motion of a plunger over the keyboard, thereby pressing the key on the keyboard for the desired user action.

 

When playing Star Raiders using this controller, it is recommended that you wear goggles with gears glued to them.

 

 

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I've certainly had my thoughts along captain's chairs and other over-the-top gaming set-ups. First inspired though, not by Star Raiders (though making it compatible for it of course!) but from 8-bit Star Trek Strategic Operations simulator and in later years I'd thought about it for playing Battlesphere (90's 3D polygon Star Raiders clone) on the Jaguar. But I never intended to make it for just one game, and not just for one system, but have connections to plug it into multiple systems for multiple games and have a console full of multiple controllers, keypads, keyboards, etc. built in. Maybe all there at once, maybe modular where one set is removed an another added. But my idea was always more of a cockpit with a screen built in like the old sit-down arcade games like Pole Position, Star Wars The Arcade Game, Star Trek SOS, etc.

 

But the way I always thought of it was no custom code or hacked versions of games,etc.,, but all the original control requirements for any system and game I made to interface with it all. In some circumstances there may be a common analog flight stick that works with several systems and games, and other controllers that do the same, and in some instances controls would only work for specific systems.

 

Those ideas kind of faded for me over the last 15 years though, since I started owning projectors and screens and enjoying my gaming on 150-200" display screens depending on where I was living and the available space for screen size. There's nothing like gaming with screens that big and the feeling of full immersion in bigger-than-life images. So a reduced dream back to something more like a captain's chair along with a projection sounds good to me now. If I had the room, which I don't without building a special building to house it (I have the land), I'd remake the bridge of the original Star Trek Enterprise, but with this custom captain's "gaming chair" and of course the Enterprise view screen would be my projection screen. I could have pilot and navigator console posts of the Enterprise bridge set up for other system's controls, and perimeter posts like science and communications, etc, have different vintage computers and consoles all built in.

Edited by Gunstar

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I'd propose - leave pause to a normal key command which frees up a button.  Probably reallocate it to something more standard like Esc or Space.

 

That leaves 3 buttons free.  I'd use them for velocity controls - throttle down, throttle up and velocity 6 (the recommended, most commonly used speed).

It'd be nice to have an extra 1 or 2 such as maximum and full stop but that'd mean moving something else to the keyboard.

 

Over the years, I've found you need many commands quickly at hand.  You want tracking off if it interferes with an enemy attacking you from one end or the other, you need Galactic Map quickly if a starbase is surrounded or you've copped a lot of damage.  You need LRS quickly if desperately looking for that last enemy in a sector of a squadron surrounding a starbase.  You need Hyperwarp quickly for that desperate jump out of a sector without programmed destination if you're near destruction.

 

Maybe Computer and/or Shields could be left off.  The only time you quickly want shields off/on is when you're playing the tight strategy to try and save every last bit of energy to get a high rank.  In general gameplay you tend to just leave them on all the time.   Computer - uses next to no power so again often a rank thing.  Though having both off does give that nice clean viewport look.

Edited by Rybags

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Should be possible to hack the code to read those keys from a CX-85 keypad.

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Maybe we should have a contest about who could build the best Star Raiders 'simulation'.

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Ah... even though I've got this game for the 2600 along with the keypads (the reason I bought it), I've not played it.

 

But, it has modal use of the keypad which is a good idea - that can double the number of functions.

So,  maybe a good idea to do it similar to the 2600 which would also allow using their controller+overlay.

 

IMO game abort should probably remain off, the 2600 doesn't seem to have a pause button.

 

Star_Raiders_5200_overlay.jpg

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I love this slightly bonkers idea, sitting there like James T Kirk controlling your craft in a big old chair..

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On 8/24/2020 at 6:08 AM, Gunstar said:

But I never intended to make it for just one game, and not just for one system, but have connections to plug it into multiple systems for multiple games and have a console full of multiple controllers, keypads, keyboards, etc. built in.

I had an idea like this for racing games.  A controller that could, somehow, be switched into different modes for Pole Position (up/down for gear shift), Enduro (fire for gas), etc. 🙂

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What about using an Atari Touch Tablet for this sort of thing? I guess it would make it slightly more Star Trek TNG...! And I guess require some sort of software overlay to convert areas on the tablet to button pushes...

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Touch tablet is just POT inputs for X/Y which could be divided into zones.

Programatically probably easier than the keypads which require scanning each row then potentially processing multiple keypresses.

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Oh wow, yeah, I hadn't thought of the Touch Tablet. That's a cool idea!

 

I'm also now having a brainstorm for a USB or Bluetooth-based "controller" device for the Atari, where you could, on your modern tablet (Android, or iPhone/iPad), emulate a bunch of different controllers, including...

  • joystick
  • paddle
  • mouse / Trak-ball
  • Touch Tablet / Koala Pad
  • keyboard controller
  • Driving Controller

I'm guessing the paddle-based ones may be more difficult (analog POT input, vs. digital for the rest), but again, I'm not experienced with this stuff. :)

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On 8/24/2020 at 1:13 AM, invisible kid said:

That's just a tease! You got me envisioning it on a replica set of the Enterprise 1701 bridge with a giant view screen!

😍 Same thought here. 

 

Tantalizing thought, isn't it? 

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So: there are cheap 7" touchscreens for the Raspberry Pi.  There's the TKII for the Atari.  Program the Pi to put up the necessary keys on the touchscreen, determine the keypress and generate the serial sequence for the keypress and send it to the TKII.

 

Get fancy and include images instead of letters.

 

All you need is some hardware and a better programmer than me.

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