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Author Topic: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts  (Read 933 times)

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Batchman

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So I was one of the ones a few years ago, making lots of plans for franken-panels that would be able to play almost every game out there, but over the years all I can think is more and more how likely the different controls would be to get in each other's ways. So eventually (in the far future), I have to conclude I will need several arcade cabinets to provide everything I want.

But since I have no idea when or if I will ever manage full consoles, I have been thinking about numerous smaller control panels (think along the lines of the X-Arcade tank stick) that could be hooked up to computer and TV to allow the enjoying of various types of games, and thinking about how many set-ups I would need, trying to keep the numbers of controls per controller down. Combined with some things I have read recently, it leads me to some questions about what might work well now that didn't work well a few years ago.

So here's the thing ... I've already got a tank-stick, which is a nice unit to use for a lot of games, but I was still planning to duplicate many of it's features with a few other new ones to increase options ... but wanted to check on current wisdom to see if I even needed to. It used to be the tank stick kind of sucked for games like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, which used 4 way joysticks instead of 8 way joysticks. But the thing is, I've heard of ever more advances in MAME that might affect how well the 8-way sticks can play 4-way games, so I thought I would ask A) can my tank stick now do a much better job with these games (at least with a little set-up work in MAME?) or B) should I still be planning a new panel with 2 8 way sticks and a 4 way stick? or C) Should I be planning a new panel with 2 eight-way sticks of a particular kind that can be made to function like 4 way sticks, but that the tank stick sticks are not appropriate for?

Second, the tank stick (and other similar control panels I might build) should work fine for -most- games, but there are some games where you use extreme force on a controller, where a free-floating control panel like the tank stick just isn't going to be sturdy enough to handle the treatment ... and you really need the solidity of a full-blown cabinet. But I can't really think of what these games are, at the moment. I think there were track ball games where you'd really whale on the track ball, rather than use it form more precise types of control. Or perhaps the hairpin turn in Pole Position, where frequently you'd massively spin that steering wheel to try and make it around that curve at fairly high speed. What are the controls and games that anyone else can think of that really -need- the full cabinet treatment to be able to function well?

Since I have always been a huge fan of Tron, one of the first control panels I will have to put together is a panel for Tron that will include a spinner and a yoke-ish stick ... but how specific or general do I need to be to be able to use them for multiple games (ie better control of the light beam racing game, vs limited controls for other games, or what limits might a spinner that can provide good game play for Tron and Discs of Tron provide for other spinner/paddle game types, or the possibility of adding a 'clip on' steering wheel?

I'm already pretty certain that I will -someday- (in the far future) build a cabinet for racing games, just to provide a proper shift for games that need it, plus a foot pedal ... but what about games that allow free-spinning steering wheels, vs those that have limited range of spins? Has there been a way found to accommodate both with a single control, or am I either going to be limited to one of two sets of driving games, or building two cabinets, eventually?

Just some thoughts I am pondering as I try to find a quicker way to get more involved in this crazy, wonderful hobby.

mahuti

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I've been moving towards the following model. I build a focused panel for a limited set of games, and I make only those games that work very well with that panel available. I swap out the panel from time to time, as well as the game list. So... I keep a panel installed for a few months and then change it up. In this way I can have very focused panels and I don't worry at all that they can't do everything... or even much.
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Batchman

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Well, I want to match as many games as I can without having controls get in the way of each other. So for my Tron panel, for example, I'll hunt down all the flight stick games and spinner games and see which ones ought to be able to combine, and make sure I have enough required buttons for them. If I can cover the 4 way joysticks well with programming in Mame, I won't bother with a joystick, but if I am going to need two 4 way joysticks (one for regular games, and one for 45 degree angle games) then one of those will fit on the same panel. But that'll be the limit. But I'm hoping these days I won't even need that.

mahuti

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I've got some panels with the Ultimate360s with heavier spring so the stick is versatile. In my case, even the heavy spring from Ultimarc was too weak so I got a stronger spring from Menards and now it feels pretty good.

I've hacked a few of GGG's Tron repros handles onto GGG's flight sticks. I've been thinking about trying the same thing on Ultimarc's 360 flight trigger/flight stick for my Tron panel.
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Well, I want to match as many games as I can without having controls get in the way of each other. So for my Tron panel, for example, I'll hunt down all the flight stick games and spinner games and see which ones ought to be able to combine, and make sure I have enough required buttons for them. If I can cover the 4 way joysticks well with programming in Mame, I won't bother with a joystick, but if I am going to need two 4 way joysticks (one for regular games, and one for 45 degree angle games) then one of those will fit on the same panel. But that'll be the limit. But I'm hoping these days I won't even need that.

Ok red flags are popping up already. 

The tron stick is useful for tron and maybe two or three other games if you compromise and that's it.  It is NOT a flight stick.  It's called a "trigger stick" and although the top portion of the stick is re-used on multiple games the bottom is usually completely different for every game, meaning it'll work poorly or feel odd at best or won't work at all at worst.  Spinners are more forgiving but I was thinking the tron spinner didn't spin real well or something (damn my old man brain).  It'd be safer to use a arkanoid spinner or a generic one from ggg or ultimarc. 

4-way sticks are typically handled via servo controlled gates these days.  People seem to have mixed results with them.  In general it really makes more sense to just build a separate "classics" cabinet for 4-way games.  I mean 90% of them require a vertical monitor.   I built me a pac-man replica with two action buttons and I haven't looked back.  As for the 45 degree 4-way do you really like Qbert?  Because that's basically all you can play with it. 

Sounds like you have that old franken panel fever and you need to step back for a sec.  Start thinking about the games you'll actually play instead of making a panel for every scenario. 

As for your racing question yes, I devised a method but it isn't a great one.  Basically you just remove the analog wheel and slide a optical wheel in it's place.  If you do a racing cab and want force feedback you'll probably use a off the shelf wheel for a modern console, so removing it is easy enough.  You'll just have to make a mount for a 360 degree wheel.   Shifters and pedals and stuff aren't a huge deal.... the sim community sells adapters to make them stand-alone if you need them to be. 

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It used to be the tank stick kind of sucked for games like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, which used 4 way joysticks instead of 8 way joysticks. But the thing is, I've heard of ever more advances in MAME that might affect how well the 8-way sticks can play 4-way games, so I thought I would ask A) can my tank stick now do a much better job with these games (at least with a little set-up work in MAME?) or B) should I still be planning a new panel with 2 8 way sticks and a 4 way stick? or C) Should I be planning a new panel with 2 eight-way sticks of a particular kind that can be made to function like 4 way sticks, but that the tank stick sticks are not appropriate for?

Test it.
I'm still on MAME v.146, but the game that gives me the most problems with an 8-way stick is Burger Time.
If you can play that and Donkey Kong without getting hung up at the top of ladders, then I guess the 4-way issue has been resolved.

Or perhaps the hairpin turn in Pole Position, where frequently you'd massively spin that steering wheel to try and make it around that curve at fairly high speed. What are the controls and games that anyone else can think of that really -need- the full cabinet treatment to be able to function well?

I'm already pretty certain that I will -someday- (in the far future) build a cabinet for racing games, just to provide a proper shift for games that need it, plus a foot pedal ... but what about games that allow free-spinning steering wheels, vs those that have limited range of spins? Has there been a way found to accommodate both with a single control, or am I either going to be limited to one of two sets of driving games, or building two cabinets, eventually?


There are no easy solutions for playing both.  There are some software solutions for using a 360 degree wheel (spins endlessly) with 270 degree wheel games, but I've never used them to see how well they work.
The big problem with Pole Position that the center wheel position is reset every time you crash, so you need a wheel that spins endlessly to accommodate the new center.  MAME could probably be altered to change this, but it would not be consistent with the MAMEdev's goal of accurately emulating the original hardware.  The other big thing with pole position that is often overlooked is that an analog gas pedal is required to keep the car from spinning the tires when you take off.  Easiest just to build two wheels and avoid the problems.

Batchman

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@mahuti, Thanks for the input and the thoughts. From reading some of the other comments, it looks like my plans are certainly going to be for several multiple panels, because even today, it seems very few controller types can do multiple things. It is what it is. Just have to start small, and work my way up consistently.

@Howard_Castro, Hey, the whole point was finding out what I can get away with (without regretting it) and what I can't. And you've just let me know that I can't get away with cutting almost any corners. So some day I will either need two driving cabinets, or one with interchangable controls. Fair enough. And both Tron and a non-Tron flight stick cabinet. That's why I asked, so I would know what to plan for.

@BadMouth, I will at least try it, but from the sounds of things, there has not been some fabulous magical bullet devised in the couple years I've been gone. Expected and understandable, but can't blame a guy for hoping.



So I guess my current plans are for one stand-alone controller, near the size of a tank stick, with a Tron joystick, spinner, 4 way joystick, and a few extra buttons for games that require them. Eventually, a second one for a regular flight stick and a four-way diagonal stick. And perhaps a third, smaller one with buttons arranged fairly well for some of those game which use -only- buttons. And since there is no reasonable way I can really see a steering wheel and gas peddle working very well as a stand-alone controller, it'll have to be my first cabinet, somewhere in the future. (I wonder how well I could work a pedestal style for a driving game? Hmm ... something to think about, anyway.)

mahuti

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Quote
I wonder how well I could work a pedestal style for a driving game? Hmm ... something to think about, anyway.)

Why wouldn't it? My 2 favorite driving games of all time I only played on uprights: Spy Hunter (270*) and Iron Man Stewart's Off Road 4x4 (360*). A pedestal would work just fine for racing games.

Quote
there is no reasonable way I can really see a steering wheel and gas peddle working very well as a stand-alone controller

A gas pedal *could* easily be a stand-alone controller if it could be tucked back far enough.
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Batchman

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So can I ask ... if I eventually set up a pedestal with a steering wheel suitable for Pole Position, gas and brake pedals, and a shifter with at least 4 positions, how many other racing games could I play on it? (Turbo and Pole Position were the only arcade racers I actually played in the arcades, but if I eventually go to the trouble of building this, I'll want to branch out and try more games. The question is, how many more could be played with this type of steering wheel?)

mahuti

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I don't know how many. More than a few. The following list are the "pedal" games (some might be wrong, sorry) that I plan on adding to a pedal cab. They aren't split into 270 vs 360 wheel games yet though (I'm looking at you Spy Hunter). I know you could find a lot more than this all-killer list if you wanted to have *everything* but this is a good place to start.

amspdwy
badlands
bigrun
buckrog
buggychl
cischeat
csprint
dragrace
f1en
f1gpstar
firetrk
grchamp
gtmr
gtmr2
indyheat
konamigt
lagunar
maxrpm
offroad
offroadt
outrun
overdriv
polepos
polepos2
redlin2p
speedfrk
sprint1
spyhunt
spyhunt2
sspeedr
ssprint
topspeed
turbo
wecleman
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They aren't split into 270 vs 360 wheel games yet though
The wiki has (incomplete) lists of "360 steering wheel (optical) games" and "Steering wheel (potentiometer) games" that might be helpful.   ;D

http://wiki.arcadecontrols.com/index.php/Spinners_and_Dials#Which_games_originally_used_a_spinner.2Fpaddle.3F


Scott

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My first build was a full size cab with a frankpanel; spinner, trackball, sticks. It was ok but not great. I wanted to make more cabinets, but I had very limited space in my game room and could only fit one in the corner.

Then I had the slim cabinet epiphany. I cut the entire back off my cabinet and found it really only needed to be about 18" deep. It was easy to mount it to the wall, and was actually more stable than it was before. I re-did the control panel to have a 4 way in the center, and two 8 ways a little higher on the sides. Vertical screen. With that profile, I now had room to build a whole row--which I hadn't considered before. My next build was a MultiWilliams with a horizontal screen. Next was Centipede, Star Wars, Tempest, Mad Planets, and finally just finished Pole Position. With the advent of the Raspberry Pi years ago, you no longer needed full computers so building multiple cabs was practical.

I bought old control panels for Tempest and Pole Position and built the cabinets to fit. The Mad Planets was my Tron, Discs of Tron machine--even went with the push-pull spinner. There is quite a good list of games it can play, including rotary controller games like Heavy Barrel and Ikari Warrors. I found that I play Gorf as much as anything, for the sake of the trigger stick.

You can get an ALAN one yoke for Star Wars. It will also play Paperboy, Spyhunter and several other analog games like Space Harrier.

I think everyone would agree you need a dedicated 4-way and a vertical screen, that would be cab number one. I would say horizontal screen Multi Williams (two eight ways) would be cab number two, then go from there.


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Batchman

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2020, 12:20:56 am »
OK, on to planning my first custom control panel. This one will be for Tron and related, spinner games, and 4 way games. Hope I can get away with 3 buttons that can be used along with any of the other controls, if the various games call for it. Might also consider trying to do one of the add-on steering wheels, if it is possible to fit one on a two-level spinner, for the additions of some simpler driving games.

Does anybody know of any spinner games or the more common, basic 4 way stick games that would require more than three buttons?

Below will be a very rough diagram of a possible design, if anyone wants to critique.

Code: [Select]
-----------------------------------------------------
|    O  O         1  S         2  S         O  O     |
|                                                    |
|                         4                          |
|           SP                     TS        O       |
|                                          O   O     |
|                                                    |
-----------------------------------------------------

Across the top would be 2 buttons for functions, player one coin and start, player two coin and start (possibly not necessary), and two more function buttons. Hopefully 4 way, spinner, and trigger stick are obvious, and three buttons for game play. Would I need more buttons along the top? Less?

Since this is not going to be a cabinet, but just a stand-alone controller, no need to go all glowy blue stick for it, so perhaps the right kind of basic stick with a trigger and perhaps a button or two on top for games that might be able to use them? Or the Tron-type stick for so few games there isn't even the point? (Didn't I see an extra button on top of the joystick for Discs of Tron, anyway?)

Should enable me to play the Tron games, likely Gorf, if desired, most unlimited spinner games, most 4 way games, and possibly a few limited driving games, with a little creative mapping, without being too absurdly overloaded of a control panel.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2020, 12:30:37 am by Batchman »

mahuti

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2020, 08:28:55 am »
Quote
This one will be for Tron and related, spinner games, and 4 way games

Tron used an 8-way joystick with a restrictor. 

Quote
Does anybody know of any spinner games... that would require more than three buttons?

Star Trek requires... 4 I think? But it's a vector game and... Star Trek so...

Quote
Does anybody know of any.... basic 4 way stick games that would require more than three buttons?

Defender, Tempest oops, I meant Stargate.

That said, I'd just stick to 2 buttons. 3 at most. Keep it simple.

Quote
Didn't I see an extra button on top of the joystick for Discs of Tron, anyway?)

Discs of Tron has a trigger, thumb button and an up/down spinner. Tron has a trigger and a spinner. Groovy Game Gear has a push/pull spinner for $132 or so, but it has limited use outside of DOT. Something like this:

crater
dotron
forgottn
kroozr
zwackery
« Last Edit: September 01, 2020, 10:27:29 am by mahuti »
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Batchman

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2020, 09:20:44 am »
@mahuti, the panel would have both a 4-way short throw joystick and a Tron-style trigger stick

Quote
Star Trek requires... 4 I think? But it's a vector game and... Star Trek so...

Is this supposed to be good or bad? I can't tell from how you phrase it.  ;D

Tempest has more than three buttons? I only remembered two. Guess I better go double-check it.

mahuti

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2020, 10:26:47 am »
Quote
Is this supposed to be good or bad? I can't tell from how you phrase it

Depends on whether you like Star Trek or not.  :laugh:

Quote
Tempest has more than three buttons? I only remembered two. Guess I better go double-check it.

I meant Stargate (Defender sequel). Oops. My bad  :laugh:
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Batchman

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2020, 10:37:42 am »
Quote
I meant Stargate (Defender sequel). Oops. My bad 

Figured it was some other game, just didn't think of Stargate.

[edit]Since I already bought most the controls I'll need when I was planning my frankenpanel, I'll just use them on this, leaving me only the Tron stick to buy ... but may as well ask, any objections (ie reasons to think I'll regret it) to going with a Zippyy short stick ball-top for my 4 way joystick? And for now, I will probably go with the non 2-level spinner I already bought, and hold off on upgrading to the other one later.[/edit]
« Last Edit: September 01, 2020, 10:59:25 am by Batchman »

mahuti

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2020, 12:22:21 pm »
I haven't tried the Zippyy stick, but it's pretty cheap option to try.

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2020, 07:09:58 pm »
any objections (ie reasons to think I'll regret it) to going with a Zippyy short stick ball-top for my 4 way joystick?
A common mod for Zippyy 4-way restrictors is to slightly trim the inside points on the "cloverleaf" for an easier 90 degree transition.  (up to right, left to down, etc.)

Just shave those bumps off so the sides are straight in-between the corners...

Original:


Modded:



Scott

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #20 on: September 01, 2020, 09:45:06 pm »
Quote
A common mod for Zippyy 4-way restrictors is to slightly trim the inside points on the "cloverleaf" for an easier 90 degree transition.  (up to right, left to down, etc.)

Cool! Thanks!

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Re: Moving away from the franken-panel idea, 4 way sticks, and other thoughts
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2020, 11:06:00 am »
Instead of swapable panels (esp when you want to use controls like the Tron joystick), why not go fully modular?  I went from swapable panels to modular long ago and I'm glad I did.

https://bsturk.github.io/mame/controls.html

I have a Tron joystick module and Satan's Hollow.  Way more flexible than trying to accommodate controls into a full panel that can work for a lot of games.
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