Category Archives: Projects

RetroPie Project

This month I managed to complete a project I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. I picked up a Raspberry Pi back in February, installed RetroPie and was enjoying it just hooked up to my TV with my old Xbox 360 Hori EX2 Joystick.

I had seen various projects online involving fitting a Raspberry Pi into an existing, or specially built, arcade stick enclosure. This way you have a portable system that just hooks up to power and a screen, and you’re ready to play. Having worked a little bit with customising a stick for my PS4 previously, I figured I’d give it a go.

In deciding on a colour scheme, I was inspired by this classic Namco Playstation Arcade Stick. I am pleased with how mine has turned out.

Components used:

  • 6x fire buttons – Went with the screw in version of the same buttons I used in my PS4 stick. SANWA OBSN-30 Screw in buttons
  • Start and credit feed buttons – These are the smaller buttons at the top. Although I usually prefer SANWA parts, I went with Seimitsu for these because I wanted the translucent yellow. SEIMITSU PS-14-DN-K 24MM Screw in buttons
  • 2x Side buttons – spare originals taken from my Venom PS4 stick, decent enough for function buttons and I like that being a darker colour they look unobtrusive.
  • Ball Top Joystick – Again I went with the same stick I used in my PS4 one, have been very happy with that. SANWA JLF-TP-8YT Ball Top Joystick
  • USB encoder – I got this from Amazon, mostly because I wanted it next day. Seems pretty good so far. Reyann Zero Delay Arcade USB Encoder *
  • Enclosure – Out of stock at my supplier of choice, so I imported one from China. It’s the same as this, with two extra button holes in the side. BLACK EMPTY FIGHT STICK CASE
  • 64gb flash drive – Got this one based on size and speed, but I’ve since learned it runs hot, will need to keep an eye on that. SanDisk Ultra Fit 64GB *
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse – Had these already, the USB receiver for it is tiny, so it’s very convenient to keep installed.
  • Panel mount ports – I just grabbed short extension leads for USB, Micro USB and HDMI from eBay. Only the USB one has proper panel screw fittings, I figure I’ll just glue them in place.

*These are affiliate links to Amazon, where I will earn commission if you click through and make a purchase

Installation

I originally had the power and HDMI cables plugged directly into the Pi, routed through small holes in the rear of the case. However I wanted to be able to easily detach the cables for storage, so decided to mount power and HDMI ports to the case, along with a USB port for hooking up a second controller. Unfortunately I’m impatient; rather than order some decent attachments for my dremel I only had the couple that came with it. I ended up using a small drill bit to cut the holes, which is why they look hideous. I’m going to glue the ports in place more neatly later, so I’ll tidy the holes up at the same time.

I did briefly look into building the enclosure myself (or getting my Dad involved), but found these pre-cut boxes were so cheap that it wasn’t worth the effort. Almost didn’t get the one with the side button holes, glad I did though, it’s quite nice to have them for hot keys etc.

The RetroPie software is installed on a 16GB SD card, then it’s setup to load roms from the 64GB USB drive. I find this setup preferable to using a larger SD card. Flash drives seem less prone to data corruption as well as being cheaper and generally easier to work with. Now it’s all set up though, I just use WiFi if I want to add any games or change anything I can’t do from within the RetroPie software.

We’re done, for now…

On the whole it was quite straight forward, and gives me confidence for possible future projects. I’ve also got a Pi Zero W from my birthday that I’m still deciding what to do with…

Ta-da!

Finally getting the Arcade Stick I deserve…

I recently undertook a minor project to acquire a new arcade stick and mod it with SANWA arcade components. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but has always been held up by costs or the need for additional tools for the processes involved.

I still have 2x Dreamcast Agetec sticks that I would like to adapt, but the need to widen the holes for buttons and cut spacing for changing the PCB etc has enabled my natural tendency towards procrastination.  However, a desire to replace my current 6 button Xbox 360 stick & cronusmax combo with a new 8 button model for my PS4 sent me to Google.

My current stick next to my friend's fightpad

A little research found that this “budget” stick from venom was fairly well regarded, and even better all of the parts are compatible with standard SANWA arcade components.  As a bonus, it even has easily replaceable art. The stick itself I picked up from my local GAME, it was pretty much the same price as everywhere online, and I had a bunch of trade-in credit that made it extra cheap. The Venom PS4 arcade stick is available from Amazon here, note this is an affiliate link which will earn me commission if you purchase.

The Venom StickAs it comes...

There are various guides for this mod around, but I found this one most useful.  I used Arcade World UK for all the components, and purchased these:

Those lovely new components!

Some people also suggest getting an octagonal gate, but once I found out what they were talking about, I decided I was happy with the standard square one…

Street Fighter V was the primary motivation for getting involved in this, and I decided straight away that I would be going for a “Ken” theme.  I found this artwork online that someone else had shared to use for now. I have asked a friend to look at maybe making a new custom design for me, so hopefully I’ll be changing to something new later.  Cutting the artwork wasn’t as bad as expected, I had it printed onto A3 and with patience and a decent blade it was pretty painless:

Cutting artwork

Changing the components over and fitting the art was all straight-forward, no messing at all!

Opened, before changes Buttons popped! Fitting the art beneath the plexi Installing the new buttons

I am really pleased with the results, and very much enjoying using the controller online.  I intend to re-purpose at least the original buttons from the Venom Stick, putting them into one of the Dreamcast sticks once I get my hands on a dremel…

Ta-da!

Upgrading modern console storage on a budget

If like me you’ve got entry level versions of both the Xbox One and PS4, then you’re probably running out of space on those 500gb drives.  There are many guides online on how easy it is to replace the internal hard drive on a PS4 and similarly how easy it is to add external storage to your Xbox One.

There are also numerous links to External USB Hard drives that are easy to open up and remove the drive ready to use in a PS4.  The natural extension of this applies if you have both consoles and wish to upgrade the storage in each machine as cheaply as possible while still getting a decent drive.

First of all I purchased this drive (Affiliate link, I will receive commission if you purchase), various other sites recommend that the 2014 and 2015 editions are suitable for opening up. I took a punt on the 2016 version and am happy to report that this works fine too.  Opening the case was just a matter of patience, took about 10 minutes working around the seam with a blade and then easing it open with a small screwdriver.  There are little clips all the way round.

Once you’ve got the hard drive out, you can follow the guide here for the process to upgrade your PS4.  A little note, when you get to Step 5 and need to reinstall the software, the most obvious download on the linked page will only give you the ‘update’ version of the firmware (it’s around 250mb), this won’t work.  What you need to do is scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on “Perform a new installation of the system software”, Step 2 of these instructions has a new Download link which will give you the full upgrade file, (around 950mb so you know you’ve got the right one).  Once you’ve got that you can follow the rest of the steps to install it on your new drive.

When you’ve got the old 500mb drive from your PS4, you can put that into the enclosure your new one came in, and hook that up via the included USB lead to your Xbox One.  There are helpfully USB ports on the back of the machine so you can keep this tidy.  Once connected your Xbox will ask if you wish to format it to use for games storage, hit yes and once the format is complete it’ll be ready for use.

2TB PS4 and a 1TB Xbox One for < £70.  Bargain.

Note you don’t get the full advertised amounts of storage space, this is partly because some of it is reserved for system use and partly because of how data storage volumes are recorded, but you already knew that, right?

Mega Drive Modding Success

Off work with heinous dental issues I decided to use the time today productively.  It turns a bit of console modification was just the thing to distract from the pain.

My wire, switches etc arrived earlier this week, and deciding I could only afford one game before I next get paid, I plumped for this below.  Flicky is one of my favourite “I’ll just have a bash” games, and Gunstar Heroes was on my list as something I absolutely need to put some time into.  The other two games aren’t bad, but I’m not so fussed.

I feckin love Flicky!

I feckin love Flicky!

I got myself sorted, cleared some space, and loaded up the guide I’d chosen to work from.  It can be found here if you’re interested.  On we go!

This wont hurt. I hope.

Minor dilemma.  Once I exposed the mainboard and found the jumpers referenced by the guide, I discovered the layout was different than expected.  Basically the jumpers were in order JP 1 – 4, where as the models referenced in this guide and most of the others I’d see go, 1 2 4 3.  I wasn’t sure I could then rely on the pin diagram (and don’t own a multimeter). Fortunately I googled the version number of the board “bd m5 pal” and found this page. It’s for the two switch mod, and the guide isn’t so clear, but it did give me enough information to proceed with the first guide.

Making the hole to fit the switch was the bit I was most worried about, but it went pretty smoothly.  Some cautious drilling, followed by a bit of time filing.  This is my first time doing any kind of mod with an externally visible part, so was relieved that it looked okay.

Camera refused to focus properly on the switch

I couldn’t get my phone to focus on the switch to show the pins, but connecting to it was pretty straight forward.  Simply a matter of pushing the cable through a hole, and holding it in place with a blob of solder.  You’ll notice I haven’t included any close ups of my soldered joints.  This is because my soldering is horrific, and will give you nightmares.  From the second pic, you can see the main mistake that I made in the whole process.  Vastly over-estimated the length of wire required.  I went with it anyway.

I tested my switch while the machine was still in pieces, and happy it was working as required, I put the machine back together.  Gotta say I am pleased with how it has turned out!

Full Screen Flicky makes me happy!

It’s not so present in Flicky, but Altered Beast and Gunstar Heroes have an odd border down the left when in 60hz.  I suspect this is down to my TV.  The games running at full speed is much more important though, and I’m very happy with the results.

Just in case you were curious, here’s Altered Beast running with the switch at Euro 50hz. Yikes.

Now to pick up some games!  Must get a Japanese one soon, as the previous owner of the Mega Drive had filed down the cartridge slot so that they should fit in and I’m keen to test it. Also on the lookout for Bio-Hazard Battle, one of my favourite Mega Drive Shmups and may earn a blog post of its own.

 

Another Console Project Beckons

Been ages since I updated, again!

I did maintain the sitting on the beach plan, but my productivity was limited to a few things I needed to write for work, and progressing with my reading list.

However, I have finally got around to acquiring a Mega Drive, and as such there is a need to mod it! (What could go wrong?)

Mega Drive

 

A thing of beauty, isn’t it?  I also grabbed one of the recommended SCART leads from here so it can draw stereo audio from the headphone socket.

The games that came with it were all terrible, but it is working and has a couple of controllers.  I’ve now ordered the bits I need to attempt the Region and PAL/NTSC switch mod, so expect an update detailing how it went wrong in the coming weeks.

 

Console modding for beginners…

Slight delay getting this up, but I blame Super Bowl weekend for that.

Last week saw a couple of arrivals I’d been waiting for, my first USA N64 games, and a replacement Dreamcast shell very generously donated by Danny (@dog_retro from twitter). Friday night I sat down after dinner, got the tools out and carried out a couple of (mostly) straightforward mods.

Firstly, swapping the Dreamcast over:

New ShellThe replacement shell Danny sent to me, even including the modem and a bonus game. 😀

I watched a couple of youtube videos of Dreamcasts being taken apart to aid the process, but if anything they managed to make it look much harder than it actually was!

Comparison image Side-by-side with my battle-damaged system.  Looked much worse in life, and had a lot of scratching etc.

Whole thing took about half an hour, really easy, and very pleased with the results.

Secondly, modding my Japanese N64 to play USA carts:

This is fairly straight-forward following the guide here.  I did have a slight misadventure where I misread the instructions and didn’t pay enough attention to the pictures.

Left shows the physical differences between the two carts, in order to get USA games working on a Japanese system, (and vice-versa) you just have to get them to fit in!  As shown on the right, the consoles have blocks that align with the cut out bits in the bottom corners of the cart.

On my first reading of the instructions, I believed the intention was to just cut out those two blocks.  This would work, but they are very solid, and would require a stronger tool.  I did attempt this first anyway, as you can see:

 

I then realised (after stopping the bleeding) that in fact the guide just suggests removing a whole chunk of the plastic.  Like so:

Easy with my hacksaw!  Also very satisfying for the little die-hard SEGA fan in me to take a hacksaw to a Nintendo console.  I then reassembled and tested it with my USA copy of Wipeout 64.  Much rejoicing and a successful Friday evening.

  

Now on with the gaming!