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  So I customized a stick for Ms. Pac-ManJan 25, 2016 11:12 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Here's another post I've been dragging my feet on for a while—but no more! Last spring (well I did say "a while," didn't I? : p), 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. It ended up looking like this:
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) (installation video)
- 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
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