The NEW Build Your Own Arcade Controls

Main => Main Forum => Topic started by: flynnb on December 14, 2021, 05:36:11 pm

Title: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: flynnb on December 14, 2021, 05:36:11 pm
This is going to be the first of a few topics for my cabinet rebuild.  Currently I have 4 player cabinet with trackball, spinner, 4-way joystick and Lightguns that I initially built 16+ years ago.   I got rid of the CRT TV a few years back and did a little minor update to hang a 43" tv to it.    I also replaced my old actlabs light guns with Sinden ones.   Surprisingly my 3 teenage boys use it a fair amount especially when their friends are over.   They seem to favor PC games via Steam (Super Blood Hockey, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Move or Die, Knight Squad to name a few) and some console ones over Mame games.   The wife likes to play Atari 2600 (Asteroids) or arcade games (PacMan, Frogger) with a 4-way controller or an Atari knockoff joystick (Hyperkin Trooper II). Right now I'm only in the conceptual/planning phase of my rebuild.   In the coming weeks I plan on mounting the TV on the wall and either building a new pedestal box or cutting down the existing one so it's not as deep.    I want to start this topic (and others) before I start a project based one.   I want to throw out some ideas, get some feedback and share.   I will probably start some other topics (if I can't find existing ones) on keyboard vs gamepad encoders, how to physically attach a secondary/swap control panel securely, trackball on main control panel or separate, joystick types, etc in addition to this one.

This one is focus on swappable control panel.   I've seen a lot of topics out there on this subject but I didn't see one that I was thinking about.   My initial thoughts was to build a standard 4-player cabinet with each player having 6 (or 8 - don't flame me - it's easier for PC games) buttons each in addition to player/coin (start/select) ones.   I want it clean looking so I was thinking that I should have other controls on a separate control panel.  Initially I was thinking about building a separate cabinet or a pedestal on casters but I'm probably going to see if I can integrate it into this one.

My concept is to use a standalone RPI and not the PC (running Launchbox/BigBox) for the secondary/swap control panels.    To save $ and to make it simple my thought is to have the RPI and encoders separate from the swappable CP.  Basically one encoder for most, if not all, secondary CPs.  The encoder will connect to the controls (joysticks/buttons/etc) via serial cables (DB15 or DB25). The RPI will be connected to an unused HDMI port on the TV.   Inside the control panel there will be a usb flash drive that will contain the roms and most likely the OS running retropie.  I figured I can get a 4GB flash drive on the cheap ($3) and boot of it instead of the microSD.  I can easily back up the usb flash drives and re-image if there is a corruption.

All the user should have to do is plug in the control panel, swap the input on the TV and power up the RPI (probably via a button on the control panel).  It will load up Retropie or the game directly if there is only one rom for that control panel.

Hopefully that makes sense but if not take a look at the picture.   Feedback, suggestions, etc are all welcome.   Because I'm not in the building phase (and the secondary/swap panels may be later in the rebuild) I probably won't have any progress to share for a little while.   Just trying to foster some discussion and ideas for now.

Thanks all!
Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: bobbyb13 on December 15, 2021, 03:23:55 am
Oh, the joysticks of it all...

There are endless threads here about swappable control panels and how to pull it off if you have a prolonged look around.

A RPi may choke on what you are talking about in regard to controls.
I have only ever done it with a PC, which is tricky even if you get the thing to not keep remapping your controls on you.

As well as saving on $$, using one encoder that remains connected to the computer at all times will help immensely with controls drama.

Why did you drop the CRT?
Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: flynnb on December 15, 2021, 06:27:08 am
Why did you drop the CRT?

The tradeoffs were in favor of LCD Flat screen over the 32" CRT TV for a couple of reasons.

First, the cabinet gets a lot play from the kids on modern PC titles.   I found a lot of steam games that work well on the arcade cabinet (Super Blood Hockey,  Move or Die, BroForce, PuyoPuyo Teris, Knight Squad, Hidden in Plain Sight, Overcooked, Super Bomberman R, Astro Duel, Death Squad, Mortal Kombat X, Street Fighter) that the kids fire up and play vs their own gaming PCs or the consoles (XBOX, Switch).  It's definitely gratifying to see them and their friends enjoy the arcade machine.  A CRT TV wouldn't allow me to play those games on it.

Second, life got in the way.   With three boys, sports, vacations, projects, etc I never finished the original cabinet.   Once the arcade machine became functional I never enclosed the TV.  The TV was basically sitting on top of the pedestal.  That was 'good enough' in an unfinished basement.   Now that I'm almost done finishing the basement that unfinished cabinet doesn't fit in.  Plus a pedestal cabinet using a wall mounted TV cuts back on a lot of work and 'feels' smaller in the space.   The LCD TV also serves a dual purpose for the room as you can watch/stream movies and tv shows too.

Yes, I traded away a more authentic feel of a CRT TV for the 80s', 90s' arcade experience but it's a bit more versatile, I don't have to worry about finding a replacement CRT if it fails, works with the modern light guns, easier to rebuild, etc
Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: flynnb on December 15, 2021, 06:59:54 am
A RPi may choke on what you are talking about in regard to controls.

I am hoping not.   Right now I'm in the process of identifying all of different games that interest me that won't play on a 4-player cabinet with 4/8 switchable joysticks (or u360s -  more on that later).  As much as I would love to play the likes of Roadblasters or AfterBurner I'm leaving out Steering wheels and flight sticks for now.   My plan is to see how many inputs are needed, the types of controllers (joysticks, spinners, trackballs, etc), the encoder, the proposed dimensions of the various control panels (so I can figure out how best to integrate it into the design as well as storage), etc.   Then I'm going to see how well they play on a RPI.  I found a website that benchmarks mame games on the different types of RPIs.  I will narrow it down to the panels/games I want after that exercise.

I'm not married to using a RPI.  In the end I may elect to use the existing PC.  I think what I'm looking into should work and not choke the RPI.  My assumption is that the IPAC2 working as a keyboard encoder will work fine on the RPI.   The RPI shouldn't care which control panel is connected to the IPAC2.   The only remapping that would need to be done is in mame itself.  Each game will be configure to map their inputs to the appropriate keyboard (or mouse) entry. 

All mapping/configuration is stored on individual USB flash drives containing the OS.  When the RPI is booted off of that specific usb flash drive it knows nothing of the other possible configurations.  It just sees the keyboard and mouse presented by the IPAC and mame maps the game to the appropriate input.   No RPI remapping necessary.

In the end, if I come up with 8 unique control panels then I will have 8 USB flash drive each with their own instances of Raspian/Retropie loaded with ROMs and mame mappings specific to that CP.

Here's my game list that is a Work-In-Progress (WIP).  As you can see I think narrowed it down to 24 inputs, excluding trackballs/spinner, and ground.  More to come...
Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: NuclearWarren on December 15, 2021, 12:58:50 pm
I would go with your first thought: build a second setup. 

Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: flynnb on December 15, 2021, 01:57:05 pm
I would go with your first thought: build a second setup. 

If I had the real estate I would give it serious consideration.   Right now my basement is jammed with screens too.   I have 11' movie screen, 6 monitors for the 3 boys gaming PCs, a small tv for the grandboard dart board and the 43" TV for the arcade machine.   The movie viewing area is not fully enclosed.  It's adjacent to where the arcade machine will be located separated by a half wall w/a countertop and stools.  That's relevant because it you basically can see all these screens at once (not closed off) and also because I could build these controls panels and then play from the countertop on the projection screen too.   The space I have set aside for the 4 player arcade machine probably isn't sufficient enough for two cabinets.   While it may physically fit it would look odd have two screens mounted on the wall in this particular space.  Plus i really don't think adding another cabinet will pass the wife's acceptance factor (WAF) either.

I figured exploring this idea would be foundational to the rebuild plans.   That is whether to go down a swappable route or omit them in thier entirety or to come up with an alternative (pedestal on casters or place the CPs on the home theater area countertop (not on the main arcade machine). etc.
Title: Re: Secondary Swappable Control Panel
Post by: Gilrock on December 15, 2021, 03:16:39 pm
Every kid already has their own gaming PC so put that darn CRT back