Thursday, May 28, 2015

A better gamecube controller? (Part 3 of 3: The Case)

This is my final post for this project!!!
Please check out parts 1 and 2 of this project in case you missed them.:

Figure 1: Final concept for modified controller

I originally planned on covering the case in 2 parts, but realized I don't really know what I'm doing, so it's better if I just do it in one part and try figuring out what I'm doing as I go...

Also I don't have access to good tools, so if you're doing a similar project I can't advise you doing this part how I did.

Before starting on the actual box, I prepped the plastic controller so I could better plan out the box's construction. There are two parts of the original controller I want to retain for the new controller: the left hand side, and the c-stick assembly. Figure 2 shows my initial cut to separate the two sides.

Figure 2: No going back now.

I then want a flat, perpendicular cut along the left hand side so that it will interface squarely with the box.

On the c-stick I want just the c-stick housing, so a flat cut was made parallel to the left-right direction of the c-stick. When we rotate the c-stick around 180 degrees from it's original orientation and lay this part flat on the top of our fight stick, up-c will be up and down-c will be down. Figure 3 shows all the cuts I made on the controller. Figure 4 is the left hand piece, and figure 5 is the c-stick piece. Notice how I left the right handle on the c-stick enclosure, This is because it will not get in the way of our final design, and will allow the c-stick enclosure to make a flat seal all the way around when placed on the top of the box.

Figure 3: Cuts made to controller.

Figure 4: Left hand plastic enclosure.
Figure 5: C-stick plastic enclosure.
Note: In earlier posts I talked about rotating the c-stick 134 degrees instead of 180 degrees. The c-stick auto aligns itself using 2 holes on the pcb and 2 pegs on the enclosure as seen in figure 6. It will be easier to properly align the c-stick by rotating it 180 degrees and allowing these holes and pegs to do their job.
Figure 6: C-stick assembly highlighting how c-stick is aligned.

This part of the project was by far the hardest for me personally. I have VERY little woodworking experience under my belt, but when building a box I figured getting 4 walls was the place to start. Using a miter box  and handsaw I cut 4 planks of oak measuring (2 3/8)"x(3/4)"x(8)". I then glued them flush for the 4 walls as can be seen in figure 7. The walls were then sanded to smooth off the rough cut edges.
Figure 8: The first step to a box, gluing 4 sides.
A top and bottom to the box were then cut out of (1/4)" oak plywood which fit (near) perfectly inside the four walls. I then cut four posts measuring (3/4)"x(3/4)"x(1 7/8)" out. These post will be glued in each corner of the box and will provide a platform to glue the top of the box, and locations to screw on the bottom of the box.

Figure 9 shows me gluing the posts. The top was set under the posts to ensure the top would be flush to the walls once attached.
Figure 9: Gluing support posts
 Figure 10 is me gluing the top of the box onto the support posts.
Figure 10: Gluing top onto box.
Since this box is going to be handled a lot I didn't want sharp edges. A 1/2" roundover router bit was used to round the top edges, and a 1/4" roundover router bit was used on the bottom and corner edges. This was my first time using a router and I'm really happy with the results (figure 11).
Figure 11: Box with routed edges.

At this point I drew an outline of where the left hand of the controller was going to connect to the box and used this to route out a hole large enough to pass the circuit board through easily. Figure 12 shows the hole and the controller outline. It's not pretty, but you won't be able to see this once we're done.
Figure 12: Hole cut for controller pcb to pass into box.
To cut the holes for the buttons correctly I printed off a hitbox template from the Internet. (For people not into fighting games: a hitbox is like a fightstick (arcade controls) but with extra buttons to replace the joystick.) I taped this to the box and drilled my guide holes figure 13. I then drilled the holes to their full size of 23mm (15/16").
Figure 13: Button template printed from hitbox template.
Figure 14 gives you an idea of what the final box will look like. You will also notice at this point that I accidentally drilled an extra guide hole. There is also a small gap in the wood at the top of the box where the top and the wall meet. These were filled with wood filler, and then the whole box was sanded down. At this point the box feels pretty nice to rest your hand on, and the positioning of the buttons and c-stick feels pretty natural.
Figure 14: Box with button holes drilled.
The wood work at this point is ready to be finished. I used a really dark oil based stain since the controller parts are dark. This also allows some of the natural beauty of the oak to still show through. I prefer staining wood to painting wood for application that are going to be handled a lot. I find painted controllers make the user's hands sweat more where as stain allows for the wood and you hands to breath. Figure 15 shows the final coat of stain drying.
Figure 15: Final coat of stain drying.
Between each coat, I sanded down the box with progressively finer grit sandpaper/steel wool until I got an nice smooth finish.

The first thing I did was outline where the c-stick assembly would lay on the box and drilled a hole large enough to pass my wires through (I had to resolder my c-stick wires to the controller afterwards).

I did a little research into what the best adhesive is for gluing plastics (just about everything adheres to wood, so I wasn't too concerned about that). JB Weld plasticweld was highly recommended so I thought I'd try it out. It is a 2 part epoxy that comes in a single tube as a putty. You just kneed the stuff together and you have 20 minutes to work with it. I lined the edge of the c-stick assembly with the stuff and then stuck it firmly against the top of the box. Before it was cured, I used a razor blade to cut away any extra plasticweld.

About 30 minutes later the c-stick is firmly attached to the box (Figure 16)! I'm really happy with the plasticweld!
Figure 16: Box with c-stick attached.
For the left hand I removed the spring from the trigger. I figured I'd have to leave the L trigger somewhat enabled if people want to rage quit games (L+R+A+start). I then applied the plasticweld, lined up the controller with the pcb passing through the hole I made, and in 30 minutes THE CONTROLLER WAS DONE!!!!

Figure 17: The Final Controller!

 I'm really happy with how the controller turned out. I'm not going to comment too much on challenges and benefits from using the controller here since I would have to play with it more. I think Fidi is planning on doing a write up on it. All I will say is that my hand feels nowher as tense while playing. Having the buttons spread across multiple fingers seems to make somethings easier. I could consistently multishining, short hop double laser, shine-cancel grab, wavedash, JC grab, JC up-smash, etc. I found it awkward to do some simple things like l-canceling, and navigating the main menus though. I think it's just a matter of practicing and getting familiar with the controller. I guess we will just have to wait for Fidi practice with it and tell us.

The only thing I would really change with this is that I would have moved the start button and controller cord over to the box. I also would have routed out the hole on the wall the left-hand connects to before assembling the box. There is a small part of the hole that is visible because I had difficulty cutting it. Over all I'm very happy with the outcome, and I learned a lot making this thing.

One of my best friends and amazing drummer, Jay Carlson, has been spitting out a lot of amazing  music lately with his bands Megatherium Club and  Fringe Pipes.

The first of these is the Megatherium Club single Preach.

Fringe Pipes' self titled EP was recently released.

And finally both bands participated in St. Olaf's DNNR PRTY which means the release of 2 more singles (Walk Yourself Back Home - Megatherium Club and Prison Cells - Fringe Pipes)

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING THIS PROJECT! Leave me a comment if you have any questions.