Two steps forward, one step back

While the software and interface parts of the project are coming along nicely, the first full test of the dancepad was not quite satisfactory yet. This might have been either a problem with latency in the controller, or a problem with the button mechanisms. Seeing one of the buttons was being especially stubborn, I suspect the latter.

It might just need some tuning and tinkering, but while we figure that out we’ve got enough time to do a little more research. Maybe even take a little looksie inside the buttons of the original pads for inspiration..

Solder and penguins

If you were to believe the horror stories, you would think getting OpenITG to work under Linux would be quite a pain. License-wise it would be a better option though.

In the end, building from source was the way to go.
After a test with all the interfaces the button prototype was disassembled.

The first pad-button was tested with OpenITG (mapped to the start button) and after some tinkering it worked like a charm. Now for three more and we have a working dancepad!

Buttons!

While the dancepad prototype is slowly starting to look (and work) like a dancepad:

The first bits of hardware regarding lights and buttons have started to get in as well.
A two-player gamepad emulator is used to handle buttons. If the latency of the controller is acceptably low it will be handling pad buttons as well.
Lights are handled by the wellknown PacDrive LED-driver from Ultimarc, since it’s natively supported by OpenITG.
Marquee-lights will be handled via a 4 channel relayboard, wich is triggered by the PacDrive.

The choice for these interface-cards came from a need to keep maintenance simple. The problem with custom hardware is that it’s harder to replace/fix and support is harder to get.

See below for a pretty cardboard prototype and a very professional low light video of the prototype in action:

First steps

After a lot of measuring, drawing, thinking and picking out pieces of wood the test build of a first full pad has finally started!

Access to an original pad meant it was easiest to just copy all the sizes from here. The tiles being the most important to get right.

Tomorrow the rest of the parts will arrive and it is possible to try and get this one pad working and pretty looking. When the pad is complete and everything fits and works the newly compiled knowledge can be applied to the making of the second pad.

*stomp*

“You are hereby cordially invited to stomp the heck out of it!” – RM

One of the main challenges that comes to mind when building a machine like this is the dancepads. A bad pad can ruin not only your high score but also your playing-experience.

Of course for the time being a foldable softpad was considered, since it not only helps to focus on building the actual cabinet, but also makes a very portable solution for the times you don’t have a big van.

After some testing, it was found out that a foldable softmat makes the game quite hard to play when playing faster or more complicated songs. Not only did it shift everywhere (the weights helped only so much), but there was almost no physical feedback as to where you’re putting your feet down. Maybe I’m spoiled, playing on a proper machine, but to give the experience a low treshold, this did not seem like the way to go.

Because nailing this thing to a piece of wood would look really trashy (and defeat the portability perk) and hard pads are a – very expensive and b – hard to come by on this side of the ocean it was decided we would build our own pad.

There are many existing designs out there, some very expensive and complicated, others just not suitable for this goal (ie. not very portable, too breakable). So a custom design it will be. It will take some R&D to get it just right, so where else to begin than the switching mechanisms?

Some tinkering with copper tape and solder and a quick working prototype was made. The plastic edges were added to make it vertically mountable, because what better way to test the durability of the mechanism than to actively use it as a kickswitch?

Lets see how she holds up.. 🙂

 

We are live!

“I’ll bet you a bounty (candybar) you won’t have this thing running before christmas.” – DD

One of the big attractions (literally as well as figuratively) at our local hackerspace is a real Dancing Stage machine. With all it’s noise and blinking lights it’s hard to ignore.

Of course this machine would have the same effect on any gaming / music / other event. Taking this machine to these events however would:

a – rob the hackerspace of it’s loud blinky presence;
b – raise the risk of damage and wear to the machine;
c – break the backs of whomever was to transport the machine.

Arrows in Motion

The idea was born; building a machine that’s compact and lightweight, yet sturdy and still loud, blinky and attractive. All this in time for christmas. I will get that bounty..