Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Drill's the Thrill

GEEZ, Microsoft. The character Robot 1-X from Futurama was supposed to be a satire of incremental product updates announced with absurd hyperbole, not a how-to guide! Anyway, the Xbox One X is the new name for Microsoft's Project Scorpio, and it will be released sometime this year at the price of who gives a damn. Really, console manufacturers, you can't give us five years between systems anymore? Just five years. It's not an unreasonable request.

Enough of that crap. I finally made some headway on that homemade joystick I wanted to make, picking up a handful of power tools at Harbor Freight and drilling all the holes I needed to mount the stick and buttons. Here's a quick look at what I've got so far... it's not even slightly presentable in its current condition, but it's a good start.

Some notes on the stick-making experience. One, this is the first time I've ever stepped foot into a Harbor Freight, and I have to say, I kind of dig it. It's basically a hardware store, except the tools are at shockingly low prices. Some would say they were of shockingly low quality as well, but I haven't had any major complaints about my twenty dollar drill so far. Expert craftsmen who know better probably shop elsewhere, but for a noob like me, Harbor Freight is just dandy.

Two, drilling is a long, tedious process, if you haven't already realized this from playing Mr. Driller. However, don't let your impatience lead to reckless behavior! There was more than one instance where I had to remind myself to unplug the drill before cleaning the debris out of the hole saw on the end. For those of you who don't know, a hole saw is a metal cylinder lined with teeth, and it doesn't much care if it's cutting through wood or your fingers. Ignore your inner dumbass... take your time, and take every precaution.

(Also, here are a few tips I got from H454, a member of the AtariAge forum. Wrap the top of whatever you're drilling with painter's tape to keep it from splintering, and work up from small bits to larger ones to increase the odds of a clean cut. There's a futuristic-looking tool called a step bit that's perfect for this, and it should relieve some of the tedium of swapping out bits.)

Three, the wooden box I used for this project looked like a quality product on the outside, but sinking a drill into it revealed the ugly truth. And oh yeah, a lot of cheap, splintery plywood. If you have the resources and the knowledge, you're much better off building your own box... it'll be a lot sturdier, and the contents won't be a mystery.

Okay, now onto the mostly finished product! The stick works all right so far... I'm quite happy with the Happ Competitions I used as action buttons, but the joystick needs work. I tested it out with a few arcade favorites, and while it's just fine for Pac-Man, its performance in fighting games like Street Fighter Alpha 2 is dubious. I'm having the same problems pulling off dragon punches that I did with the Hori Fighting Stick 3... to get them to come out at all, I have to punch in 636, rather than 623 as would be natural. (If you're wondering what the hell that means, look at your computer's numeric keypad.)

I'll probably have to replace the stick with something more expensive, like a Sanwa, to get the sharp response I crave. Actually, there are several things I'd like to do with this joystick, like add longer wires to the encoder and a clasp on the front of the box to keep it shut, but this is a good start. Hell, the fact that I was able to get through this with all ten digits is pretty encouraging.

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