Build A DIY Spinner To Get Your Tempest Game Going

These days, controls in games are fairly standardized by genre. Most RTSs, FPSs, and RPGs all control more or less the same way. But one type of controller that has fallen by the wayside is the paddle, or spinner. [jesster88] is a big Tempest¬†fan, however, and a spinner is crucial. Thus, what else is there to do but whip up one’s own?

Tempest is one of the more difficult classic games to categorize.

The build is based around a wired optical mouse. It’s pulled apart, with its main PCB installed into a 3D printed enclosure. Inside, the optical sensor is pointed at the base of a spinner constructed out of a printed drum and an off-the-shelf knob. The spinner is installed in a skateboard-style bearing for smooth rotation. As it spins, the optical sensor detects the motion and reports it as mouse movement via USB.

[jesster88] uses the device for playing Tempest with MAME. We imagine the technique could be adapted to work with other games that rely on spinner or paddle inputs, too. Meanwhile, if you’re whipping up your own retro game hacks at home, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Convert Your Mouse Into A Paddle Controller

Early game consoles had a wide and interesting variety of controllers, many of which fell by the wayside as consoles evolved. One of these is the Atari 2600 paddle controller, which was the preferred interface for playing games like Kaboom!, Tempest, and Pong.  While it is possible to play these games with a mouse, [Retro Gaming I Guess] wanted to do it the historically correct way, so he created a simple hack to convert an optical mouse into a paddle controller.

The main idea Is to attach a rotary knob to the bottom of the mouse, with the optical sensor located just inside the edge of the knob. To the optical sensor, it appears that the bottom surface of the knob is moving in a straight line, so the mouse pointer will move in a straight line as the knob rotates. The 3D printed knob (or bottle cap) is magnetically attached to the bottom of the mouse, by gluing one magnet into the center of the knob, and the other on the inside of the mouse under the PCB. This allows for quick conversion back to a normal mouse. You could off course sacrifice an old mouse to the cause to create a dedicated paddle controller, and make it closer to the original by adding end stops and a spring return.

We really like the simplicity of this hack, and we’re sure our readers can come up with a few other use cases for it in the comments below. You can also approach old Atari games from the opposite end, like adding a machine vision powered laser blaster. While many may think the Atari 2600 was the first gaming console, that honor actually goes to the Magnavox Odyssey, which was the start the of the multi-billion dollar home gaming industry we know today.