| paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Hardware; loc=NA] |
|Having discovered that there was at last a decent version of Ms. Pac-Man on a game console I owned—in Pac-Man Museum on PS3, specifically—a certain giddiness came upon me, I went a little crazy on the internet, and ended up cobbling together, from various and sundry web sources, a customized arcade stick specifically for playing the supremeness that is Ms. Pac-Man.|
Aside from the looks, I replaced the stick mechanism itself, then the shaft and ball on top of it and the spring and switches inside, trying to make it feel more like the controller on an actual Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet than the generic Japanese arcade stick it actually was. Now, generic Japanese arcade sticks are fabulous, but they're clicky and light and precise in a way that is very different from the sort of spongy, smooth, yet restricted movement of the sticks in the old Pac cabs. I did look into getting an actual Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man arcade component stick and finding a way to jam it into something that would interface with a PS3, but well the short story is that the old "leaf switch" sticks—and even modern reproductions made by niche companies or hobbyists—are too tall—inside—to fit into the body of the arcade stick controllers made for modern game consoles. So I made do with modifying a modern stick, and I think it turned out pretty well—not quite as smooth and spongy as the old sticks—a little too clacky, since it doesn't have a central rubber grommet like the old leaf switch controllers, to soften the stick as it moves outward—but it has something of them in it.
Feel aside, the actual important thing in a Pac controller is that it absolutely must allow no diagonal input: it must allow only up, down, left, and right to register. Why? Because the old Pac-games worked like this: the Pac character, when coming to an intersection in the maze, would always take, if available, the direction corresponding to the last NEW direction input. This becomes a problem when trying to steer the Pacster with a modern 8-way controller. Consider this common scenario:
1) You're holding the controller's stick in the UP position to move the Pac character in that direction in the maze.
2) While doing this, unbeknownst to you, you inadvertently let the stick drift a little to the right, triggering the RIGHT position simultaneously with the UP position, as is possible in all proper 8-way controllers.
3) Subconsciously correcting, you move the stick back so it is only tripping the UP switch.
==> As long as the tunnel is only heading up, or comes to a branch to the left, Pac will keep heading upward, BUT if your Pac should come to a branch heading right, EVEN THOUGH you are now holding only UP, Paccy will MOVE RIGHT, because while you've been tripping the UP switch on your controller the whole time, the last NEW direction you input was the RIGHT switch you inadvertently tripped in the middle of all that. So the Pac creature can end up moving in a direction you aren't even directing it in, quite possibly resulting in their untimely demise, the loss of your chance to break the world record, and ensuing despair.
Now (this is getting nerdier and nerdier), the industry standard Sanwa JLF arcade stick that comes inside all proper modern console sticks has a rotating "gate" inside it: a sturdy plastic ring around the base of the shaft of the controller, consisting of a round outer section and a square interior section that can, after opening the controller up, be rotated 45 degrees, so that it will now guide the controller's stick into the four orthogonal directions, skipping past the diagonal directions. This is said to convert the 8-way controller into a 4-way controller, but it doesn't, quite: the diagonals will still trip briefly as the stick moves from one orthogonal direction to the next—so you would still get the mis-directed Pac behavior described in the scenario above.
Sanwa's beefier JLW stick also has a rotating gate, and it does much better at avoiding the diagonals, but most of them can STILL engage—only fleetingly, but enough to trip up a Pac mazer. This could probably be solved by very carefully bending the switch contacts inside the stick. But the JLW's switches are also much stiffer than the JLF's, making the stick take more force to engage than a proper Pac-stick should, so I put in softer third-party switches, and with those in place, as an added bonus no diagonals can be triggered at all, making for mechanically error-free Paccing. Huzzah!
I'll spare you the rest of the story, but here's a list of the components for the obsessively curious:
- The stick: Mad Catz Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition Fightstick (PS3) (got a used one on eBay : p)
- The Ms. Pac-Man cabinet artwork: I got the Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet vector artwork from here, but the site seems to have disappeared; here's the file
- The stick cover: Mad Catz TE Full / TE-S Panel Covers, Artwork Print and Cut - TE Full Panel, and Acrylic Dust Washer (Tek-Innovations)
- The joystick: Sanwa JLW-TM-8 Joystick (Paradise Arcade Shop)
- The lighter switches: Seimitsu LS-32 / Zippyy(TM) Joystick upgrade Kit (Paradise Arcade Shop)
- A lighter spring: Seimitsu LS-32 Replacement Spring (Focus Attack)
- Wiring converter to plug a JLW into a Fightstick .187 to 5-pin Conversion Harness (Focus Attack)
- The clear buttons: Sanwa OBSC-30 White (Paradise Arcade Shop)
- The shaft: Short JLW 10mm Stainless Steel Hollow Joystick Shaft (Paradise Arcade Shop)
- The ball top: Wico Red 38mm tops (Paradise Arcade Shop)
(Pac arcade cabinets had very short sticks, and the short throw of those sticks was essential for quick maneuvering; I was able to find a custom short shaft that actually gives approximately the right length, but the only ball tops it accepts are pretty large, whereas the real Pac arcade sticks had very small ball tops; also, I should note that it took a lot of force to fit the short shaft into the JLW—not quite as precisely machined as it should have been.)
I may also have needed some metric nuts and bolts to mount the JLW inside the Fightstick, maybe something like M4x10mm Screw and Nut (Set of 4) (Focus Attack), but I can't really remember; I know I made a trip to the local hardware store for something like that.
The proper way to do this would be to build your own stick out of wood and the guts of a console control pad and an old actual Pac arcade cabinet stick, but that sort of thing is for the way more technically competent. : o
With a superior Ms. Pac-Man port now out on PS4 (see entry 1336), I've extracted the lever from this TE, and put it into a Hori RAP4 Kai PS4/PS3 stick, which, aside from customized red and yellow buttons and a red ball-top, has no Ms. Pac-Man graphics. : P In theory I could have got a PS3-to-PS4 converter for this stick instead of doing that, but anyway the lower profile of the Hori is easier on my wrist.
See, this Mad Catz stick (and their PS4 "TE2" stick) has a pretty deep, high base, which helps make the stick nice and heavy, and leaves a lot of space to rest the hand, particularly the left one, but, at least for me, means the top edge closest to me stick out enough that it tends to force my wrist to bend down a little to grasp the lever when I'm holding the stick on my lap.
Some people seem to be able to use this stick without getting wrist pains, though, and for them this must certainly be a nice piece of gear: extremely solid build, real Sanwa arcade controls, and you can totally customize the artwork covering the entire top of the controller.
Now, it must be said that the stock TE stick has this weird rounded plastic hub around the top, about an inch and a half or so in from the edges--where the screw holes are--and the default art is just in there. It's a bizarre, fairly awkward looking and feeling arrangement. Fortunately, you can remove the hex screws on top (I think you have to get your own size 3 hex key for that? can't remember if one comes with it) and simply lift the plastic hoop thing off, which improves things immensely.
Removing those screws also lets you open up the whole base to get at the innards and wiring and more or less do whatever you want to swap out levers and buttons and so forth, to mount new plexiglass covers and/or artwork, or whatever. It's a pretty good set-up; Mad Catz tried to up the ante with their PS4 stick by making a flip-open lid, so you can get at that stuff without using screws, but it left the TE2 hollow and creaky and flexible and less customizable, art-wise, than the TE (they eventually fixed this by breaking down and releasing a version of the TE for the PS4 : P).
This version of the TE has four small knobby rubber feet on the bottom, and also I think some fairly large rubber grippy pads; the feet are a little irritating, but I think you could unscrew and remove them if you wanted. The side panels flare out a bit, rather unnecessarily; later versions would make them flatter and more compact. The stick itself is not quite as heavy as a TE2, which leaves it feeling a little less fixed in place when in your lap, say--the smaller grippy pads on bottom contribute to this as well--but it's still pretty darn stable.
The TE does not work natively on the PS4; it does work in Street Fighter V, though, once you enable a special "legacy controller" mode in one of the game's menus--you have to keep a proper PS4 controller connected simultaneously while using the TE.
The stick has a little control panel at the upper right corner with your various special PS3 buttons, as well as functions like uh turbo maybe and a thingy to lock the Start and Select buttons so you don't hit them by accident and disqualify yourself during a fighting game tournament.
The one not-so-solid thing on the stick is the plastic door on the back side, which opens to show a cavity where you can store the cable--it's just cheap and flexible and easy to pop-off accidentally; they really should have spent the additional penny or whatever to make that door as solid as the rest of the stick.
Inside the stick, the wires for the buttons accumulate into a thingy just below the buttons, close enough that it tends to push right into the buttons from below when you close the stick; pressing the affected buttons down forcibly will rearrange things in there enough to leave their action free from there on out, but it makes closing the stick more of a pain than it should be.