Monday, 27 January 2014

The control panel (part 6)

Control panel progress:

Crikey, putting that joystick into the control panel got me head scratching for a while. Good job I took a photo of the order of joystick parts so I could remember how to re-assemble it again.

 As you can see I went for coloured buttons. They have the option of being back lit too. I must say the Perspex is very shiny and shows up any finger prints too easily. Well, my plan is when it comes to be doing the final touches to the VecCab that I will arrange for a printed Lexan layer sticker to go over the top. The artwork for this layer will probably follow the MB Vectrex controller style.

Side view of the nearly finished VecCab control panel.(The T molding is a good tight fit - no glue required!).

Progress going well, but how to secure the control panel into the VecCab? I think I'm going to have to disassemble again. All will be revealed in the next blog......

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The control panel (part 5)

So, I have started making the control panel. Basically the control panel  will follow the "top mounted, route double control panel" design which I presented on this blog on 19th September 2013

Today I'm showing the  "carpentry" work on the wood which includes the holes made for the butons, routing of the cavity for holding the joystick, and routing of  the front edge of the control panel to accept T molding (the plastic that lines the edges of tables and cabinetry).

Readers from the start will know that my wish was to use an analogue joystick. Unfortunately, commercial arcade cabinet analaogue joysticks are very expensive (>£100!). I did by a few old PC analogue joysticks with a view to modifying them, but their form factor doesn't make it easy to add into a control panel.

Therefore, I decided to use a standard SANWA arcade cabinet digital joystick in the hope that one day I might see an analog joystick bargain on eBay which I could then swap into the VecCab control panel. This approach was the main  reason I went  for the "top mounted, route double control panel" design. The design allows the screw holes for the joystick to be hidden behind a panel.

The control panel will be made from wood with a perspex plate acting as the top layer. This means that  in the future I can more easily change the joystick for another one, and all that would be required  if the joystick foot print is  a little bigger than the previous one is further routing of the wood behind the top panel .

I already arranged for my mate with a CNC machine to cut a  3mm Perspex panel with holes positioned for the joystick and buttons as per the finalised control panel drawing. I also got him to drill a small countersunk hole at each of the panel corners.

This plate was then used as a template  to draw the holes and cut the wood for the control panel base. The foot print of the joystick was also pencilled onto the wood by simply drawing round its edges.

The next picture shows the holes that were cut into the wood. You will notice that the hole for the joystick is slightly cut in from the surface. This forms a ledge  to allow the joystick to rest on top and remain flush under the Perspex plate. On the underside of the control panel it was necessary to reduce the thickness of the wood to allow the button shafts to comfortably reach through both the Perspex panel and the wood. This was achieved by cutting  away a few millimeters  from the underside using a router.

To the rear edge of the wooden control panel base I have attached a length of aluminium angle section. This 19mm x 30mm angle sections type ((item no. 41-2683) from Clas Olson)   is the same as I already used for securing the Marquee. The reason for adding this, is to secure/clamp down the bottom of the  glass panel on the screen bezel.

 Control panel wooden base pael with cut out holes for joystick and buttons (top side)

Control panel wooden base panel with joystick and buttons  mounted (under side)

A slot was  routed  along the front edge of the control panel. A router of some kind and a 1/16" slot-cutting bit is required. I didn't have all these so I asked a local carpenter to do it for me. The resulting slot works fine and the photo shows me trying out different sections of T mold (black and gold). Hmm, I think I'll go for the black T mold for the control panel edging to match with the black colour of the top Perspex panel. The final picture shows the control panel wooded base in the VecCab (not secure there yet!)
The front edge of the control panel slotted to accept T molding

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The control panel (part 4)

Here's a picture of what the cardboard control panel (populated with buttons and a joystick) looks like when placed in the VecCab. Next stage is to build an actual control panel from  a routed wood panel with a  perspex panel placed on top.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The control panel (part 3)

For comfort,   I placed button 3 and button 4 at a diagonal to each other.   I kept buttons 1 and 2 at the same lattitude as these are often used as left and right buttons in some homebrew games. Acting on these conclusions I set about making a cardboard control panel just to be sure. I used the printed drawing as a template and cut out holes for mounting the button and joystick.  I then placed the cardboard control panel in the VecCab and again pretended to play some games.

I think its going to work! – next posts will cover actual building of the control panel.

The control panel (part 2)

The VecCab is an  arcade cabinet with a reduced width. As such the width of the control panel that fits in-between the cabinet sides is just 368mm. Due to this width I already decided that it's not practical for the VecCab to offer two player controls - too much going on for such a small area!

With the space available for one player controls I investigated different quantities of buttons and their positioning in relation to each other and the joystick. I also decided I won't include extra buttons to select one or two player games. I will use button 1 to select this as is already implemented in most of the Vectrex games.

I sketched a number of designs using Microsoft Visio and printed out 1:1 on A3 sized paper. Printing 1:1 means I can try with my hands to establish a layout that is comfortable.  I proceeded to play different Vectrex games in my head whilst moving my hands in unison over the buttons on the paper (Yes, I know there’s a reason why they call me VectrexMad!).

Some of the investigated layouts are shown here:

The original Vectrex controller has four buttons. They are smaller than arcade cabinet buttons, and as such an averaged sized hand can comfortably span across the four buttons. I discovered that simply copying this layout on the new control panel but scaled up is not an option. The standard but bigger arcade buttons dictate that the buttons have to be spaced wider apart, and using the standard Vectrex controller layout just won't be comfortable for an average sized adult hand.

Putting the joystick in the centre and therefore forcing some buttons on either side of the stick is not ideal for all games. A disadvantage of this layout although a minor detail is that also the layout does not correspond to the button details shown on a typical game screen overlay.

The last option of staggering the buttons 3 and 4 looks to be the best option for comfort (at least when playing Mine Storm). Haven't decided yet if 3 and 4 are better switched round.