This past college quarter, I worked with some DePaul students and alumni to create a physical, alternative controller for a game they were developing. The game, OVERTIME, is a collection of tongue and cheek mini games revolving around a colorful basketball rivalry. The controller idea originated from one of the developers spotting a basketball toy online, and wondering how that could be turned into something readable by a computer.
Most of the supplies used for the project were materials found in the lab I manage at DePaul, the Idea Realization Lab. The basic functioning components of the controller are an Adafruit Flora board, a simple button, and a rotary encoder. Since the game’s inputs are very minimal, I was able to pack the functionality into the main handle of the toy, while stuffing the ugly parts of the controller on the insides of a trophy-style wooden box. The rotary encoder is attached to a belt normally used for computer controlled systems like 3D printers or CNC routers, and is attached to the movable handle. When the belt rotates, it moves the encoder, which outputs A and D values for moving left and right. There is a button superglued to the inside of the handle, so that when the handle is pushed down it emits a value of W, and S upon release. You can take a look at the code here.
For aesthetics, there is a router milled gold-tint plaque on the front with the names of the developers, and a coin slot that serves no other purpose than to steal your precious coins and have a nice *clang* when they fall inside. No additional software needs to be installed to use the controller, as micro controller keyboard input commands are universal.
This device was a lot of fun to make, and had me tackling some issues I hadn’t encountered before, like how to effectively keep belts from coming apart and the awkwardness of soldering and stuffing wires into a manageable area. It was a intriguing challenge nonetheless!
On a final note, I was fortunate enough to get the controller showcased at the Atlanta Dreamhack student work area. And though I couldn’t attend, I was still super grateful to have such a random project showcased in places outside of Chicago. The game and controller have been submitted to Alt.Ctrl at GDC and Magfest, so lets hope it gets more coverage!