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custom laser game controller

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

In episode 96 I showed the history of laser training guns and their usage as input device for simulations and video games. Personally I like the SFTD guns offered by Smart Firearms but they heavily go the simulation route. Their trigger feels like a real gun trigger, which might be suited for some videogames but is nothing I would want to use to play Time Crisis. In episode 100 I talked about using Laser Tag guns with laser tracking software, but this also wasn't the gaming experience I was looking for. With the traditional laser shot tracking scene still thriving and developing and the PDP Mars standing at the horizon I decided to build an own laser gun to use with video games.

I chose to use a Namco Guncon 2 for my project as this is my favorite light gun of all time. As laser I use an 880 nm 5 mW module. If you ever plan to build something similar inform yourself about lasers and gear up with light protection goggles if appropriate. I adjust the position of the laser by using two double Munsen rings. For the buttons I used repurposed and original PCBs. When I ran out of those I made a button backing myself using a stripe board. The parts are held together with two compound stone putty. For the trigger switch I used one of André Berube's lovely micro switch holders which I previously showed in episode 99.

The laser control portion of my gun uses my signal generator circuit which I introduced in episode 118. As interface circuit I thought about using a tiny keyboard, as I did for the SFTD magazine controller. Finally I ended up using a generic USB SNES controller clone, which I can use in conjunction with the software Joy2Key as the controller is recognized by Windows. The gun is connected to the interface box using a custom VGA like DE-15 cable. Please note that many pins in a real VGA cable are shortened together which makes these cables unsuited for my task. The C button had to be relocated to make room for the DE-15 connector.

All buttons are still functional. The headless screws in the Munsen rings are accessible from outside, allowing to easily adjust the laser. Energy consumption isn't very high and the device is run from USB. The switch on the interface box allows me to switch between semi automatic and full automatic fire modes. The cadency of the full auto mode can be adjusted using a potentiometer on the signal generator circuit.

I am very pleased with the results. The gun works perfectly and feels very nice. I am looking forward to future developments in laser tracking used for gaming and now, thanks to the gun, I am more than ready.