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Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:31 pm
by racketboy
I found this old guide in a Word Document that Jemsic had sent me a while ago.
I'm gonna post it here to get some feedback on it. Do you think it's clear/useful enough to post on the blog? What modifications should be made to it?

Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast
Written by Jemsic

List of Materials

1 Arcade Joystick w/microswitches
2 Arcade Buttons w/microswitches
3 Dreamcast Controller
4 Thin Wire
1 (2x) 12x24” Wood
2 (8x) 90° Angle Bracket
1 12x24” Clear Plexiglass
2 Custom Overlay
Basic Tools:
1 Drill
2 Soldering Gun
3 Solder
4 (at least 22x) Screws
5 1 1/8 Wood Boring Drill Bit
6 Router

Scrounging up the Materials:
You can use any kind of arcade buttons and joystick you want for this (convex, concave, ball-top etc…). I suggest Dream Arcades. Dream Arcades also sell their buttons on ebay, usually for less money. Do an ebay search for “arcade buttons” and you’ll probably find them. Whatever kind of buttons and joystick you choose be sure to get ones with microswitches. I bought two new joysticks and 12 new buttons for about $27 shipped, and they came from California to Florida in 3 or 4 days.
(For a real custom look, go to their site and buy separate colored buttons to match the Dreamcast controller – like a red for the “A” button, a blue for the “B” etc…)

For the box, I went to Home Depot. I’m sure any hardware store would have these parts. I found these pieces of wood that were used for shelves – already covered in a white tabletop-like coating. Make sure the wood is no thicker than ¾”, so the buttons can go all the way through. If you find the right size, two pieces should be enough for the box. You’ll also need the angle brackets and plenty of screws. You can really build the box out of anything you want. These instructions are for one-player controls. If you want to build a two-player unit, be sure to buy a long enough piece of wood for two people to sit comfortably apart. Home Depot also carries the piece of plexiglass (or Lexan) you’ll need to lay over the controls. The drill bit should be the size of the buttons. Most are 1 1/8, like the ones described above.

Building the Control Panel:
You should start out by measuring and drawing the button layout on the first piece of wood. The arcade buttons came with big plastic bolts that hold the buttons onto the boards – which will be perfect to use as a stencil for where the buttons will go. You can be creative with the layout. I put the buttons in a cross like the Dreamcast controller, with the two shoulder buttons put above them on a slant. Most people will just put them in the standard Capcom layout – 2 rows of 3 buttons. But consider what each button does in the games you will be playing. If you like fighting games, you will want light punch, medium punch, and heavy punch in a row. (If you use quick disconnects when wiring, you can switch the buttons quickly.) Also be sure to leave enough room for the Dreamcast control pad board.
Use the drill and 1 1/8 bit to drill the holes for the buttons and joystick. Drill equally from both sides of the board so you won’t chip the wood’s coating. You can use this same bit for the joystick, but I found it only fits right if you’re exact when placing the joystick. So you may just want to use a larger bit for the joystick hole.
Now would be a good time to write something on the bottom so you won’t accidentally put it on backwards.
Lay the plexiglass over the top and make two cuts with a router to make it the exact size of the board. Then, carefully drill the holes for the screws through the plexiglass and into the board. If you push to hard, you will crack the plexiglass. (Use a drill bit the size of the screw head to make small indentations so the screws will fit flush for a professional look.) You can put the buttons and joystick in to make sure everything fits right.

Building the Box:
I didn’t take exact measurements, so you’ll need to wing it. Just use common sense and make the box – this section should only be used as guidelines. You should build the box on a slant, so the controls tilt towards you. But if you’re going to sit on the floor, you might want the controls to sit straight up.
Easy Route (Straight-Up):
Cut equal height pieces from the remaining 12x24” wood (in other words make a box).

Hard Route (Slanted):
Cut the rear piece about twice the height of the front piece. Then measure and cut the pieces for the sides on a slant. If you don’t have more advanced tools, this will be pretty hard to get it exact.

Now that you have all the pieces cut, paint them any color you like. I just made mine white since the majority of the wood was already white. Use many light coats, even if it takes the whole day. It may work fine being ugly, but you’d be a lot happier if you took the time to make it beautiful.
Screw down the angle brackets to the boards. The sides will stay together pretty well with one bracket in each corner. If you slanted the top control panel, you should use two brackets spaced apart to hold it down the rest of the box.

Here comes the hard part. Take apart a Dreamcast controller. I used an official Sega pad, although cheaper ones can be easier if you are not great at soldering (bigger contact points). Carefully remove the cord, that would plug the controller into the system, from the board.

(Now before you get started, you have to decide whether to use quick disconnects. These are little metal connectors you can get at Radioshack. I used them because in the long run, things are easier if you ever make a mistake or break a wire.)

If you want to know how to use quick disconnects, find out on your own. I’ll continue on with instructions to solder directly, without the disconnects.
-If you choose to solder directly, read the “Finishing Touches” section now-

Button Wiring
The microswitch should have two prongs on the bottom of each button. Pick either prong and solder a wire to it. You should have a separate wire for each button. This only works if you have buttons with internal microswitches. If your buttons have external microswitches, read the directions for joystick wiring.
Joystick Wiring
The joystick should have 4 external microswitches. Each microswitch should have three prongs – N.O. (normally open), N.C. (normally closed), and a ground. You want the button to be normally open, and complete the circuit when you press it. So you need to solder a wire (like you did with the buttons) to the N.O. prong.
Ground Wiring
Take a really long piece of wire and connect it to every button’s ground. To be more realistic, you need to string the grounds together with many short wires. On the buttons, the ground is the unused prong. On the joystick, the ground is the outside prong.

dreamcast-controller-board by racketboy, on Flickr

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:54 pm
by YoshiEgg25
Probably mention how much of everything you'll need?

This is actually really great. I was planning on building an Dreamcast arcade cabinet next summer, using a broken Dreamcast AstroPad conroller. Perfect info for what I need.

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:00 pm
by Bikeage
Definitely useful for me. I've got a few 3rd party DC pads laying around collecting dust that need to be put to use.

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:51 pm
by racketboy
It could probably use more pictures... so if anyone can share some, that would be great :)

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:28 pm
by YoshiEgg25
If I can get some time this weekend, I'll take some pics of the inside of that AstroPad with my webcam. I can probably take apart an official controller to compare them as well.

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:30 pm
by racketboy
Cool :)
Have I mentioned I love this forum? :D

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:03 pm
Oh you know I had to jump in!

A very good idea, a main article in the Blue Bar Guides link at the top. Might even be able to get increased advertising revenue particular to the article from related advertisers such as Happ Controls to help the Racketboy Site costs.

You could have a full blown article on a complete Arcade Stick Mod using a few examples from Racketboy members.

If you want to include parts of my two guides, please do. Just keep the original articles in the Forum Guides section and for my vanity give credit with a link back to the original guide? I am always adding updates to the OP of my various guides, new information may be a good supplement to the main proposed article. My CRT vs LCD Guide for example, has grown so much since I first posted it.
Arcade Controller Mod Guide: Home System Adaption
Twin Stick Mod Guide: Console Arcade Method

Maybe even pieces of this one, building a custom controller for NES ROB?
NES R.O.B Interactive Mod Guide

Maybe even throw in pieces from Bacteria with his okay too?
Bacteria's project: Alpha Omega

A side request.
Can my CRT vs LCD guide be moved to the Forum Guides section? I have added a ton of what I think to be useful information in there.

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:04 pm
by noiseredux
racketboy wrote:Cool :)
Have I mentioned I love this forum? :D

so much that you went and named yourself after the forum! Pfft.

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:05 pm
by noiseredux
so um, what about us GameCube people? Will there be a guide for us to build our own arcade sticks?

Re: Building an Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast (by Jemsic)

Posted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:22 pm
noiseredux wrote:so um, what about us GameCube people? Will there be a guide for us to build our own arcade sticks?
The Guide can be still utilized for various systems, even if say a Playstation mod is posted. Same principle would apply of using an original controller PCB with all the digital contacts attached to your custom Arcade controller.

Speaking of the Playstation. The PSX PCB is a good one to modify, it can work with a lot of consoles as well as PC and Mac with all the readily available adaptors. A Universal Arcade Stick.

Still thinking of that mechanical Mouse conversion as an Arcade Spinner Control for all the spinner games. Omega Race, Tac Scan and Tempest come to mind. The ball mouse usually has a PS2-PC connector. Its more universal and can easily be upped to a USB adaptor.