For pad players - reproducing the Sega Saturn controller


#1

I used to be a pad player, and have several friends that still are. For any 2-D game, not just fighting games - that controller represents the best option there ever was. I know retrolink makes a pretty chincy reproduction, and there was a limited run of PSX controllers back in 2005/2006, with an extra face button:

I just got my hands on a japanese saturn pad recently, and it has occurred to me to go a few different directions with this:

  1. create a 3D scan of it, and crowd-source being able to both 3D print the housing, and CNC mill the housing out of whatever material we like (aluminum, titanium?).
  2. create a silicon mold of both halves, allowing for resin casts of the housing.

That’s all well and good, but the real magic of this pad is in the material the D-pad is made of, and more importantly, the silicon/rubbon “springs” being used to engage the switches. It has occurred to me to reach out to sega of america to see how much it would cost to license those designs officially for a kickstarted run of them, and maybe try to partner with Brooke for their universal chipset. Or I can try to reverse-engineer it myself and try to improve upon it myself. There’s been a marked uptick in interest of cherry switches and mechanical keyboards. Perhaps someone more versed in those could help me to find something of similar throw and resistance to the orignal so that a generic saturn board could be produced with just line signals to be hooked to whatever board you like?

Just a thought. Old Saturn controllers seem to be going for about $20, but I have to imagine time is going to make these harder to come by, and less reliable. Heck, just getting ahold of fgwidget converters to make adapters is getting difficult. I could publish a 3D scan, and I could publish a board schematic with a site like oshpark.com. Then anyone could print a small run if they’d like.

Just brainstorming. Don’t know if anyone cares about it anymore, with the revival of fight sticks.


#2

I’d love to have access to a part called “Saturn D-Pad” that would be used to build proper custom pad controllers. Imagine such a thing in combination with sanwa or seimitsu 24mm buttons. RTdzign had to use a real Saturn pad in conjunction with a box and buttons to make so-called franken-sticks instead of a “real” controller… Such a shame

If such a part existed, I think we could have enjoyed a period of creation of custom controllers that would have matched the best arcade sticks the FGC ever built.


#3

If you really want to do this you have a long and arduous road ahead of you. Doesn’t really seem worth it but good luck.


#4

I think this is the big question. Before I switched to a stick, I would have jumped on a quality, universal Saturn pad remake. But now, I can’t think of a use for a gamepad. The only systems I still use a pad on are the ones that aren’t supported by my stick.

For preservation sake, it sounds good. But probably not really necessary until things get to a point where Saturn pads are impossible to find.

What would interest me more is a 360 style of controller with a great d-pad. That is the one flaw in an otherwise great modern gamepad.


#5

I’d be all over a Saturn-style pad with two sets of shoulder buttons. The shoulder buttons on the Saturn pad are its one weakness. They suck, to be honest.

And hey, I’ve always wanted to try one of them Frankensticks. Just make sure it has a full set of shoulder buttons and the buttons are angled like the Capcom Pad Soldier.


#6

Has anyone tried the latest revision to the Hori FC4. Looks like they modeled the shape closer to the sega pads. I would love a Saturn Pad for collectors sake but the fc4 is supposed to have an improved dpad / PS3/4 / xinput. For $40 it’s gonna be hard to compete with.


#7

Dpad is a bit stiff, it took me some time to get used to. I also hit L2 by accident at times. It’s still a very good controller and worth $40.


#8

D-Pad is definitely stiff. Part of why I am soldering together a spaghetti mess of cables between an fgwidget converter and a universal fight board right now, with a 3 position spst toggle switch. Allows all 3 supported pads to be used with any modern platform, and come Christmas I will probably revise the design to mix in an mc cthulhu.

As for the repro - if I could license the original, that is the simplest way. The better way would be to crowdsource the design, allowing it to be tweaked and improved. Those “springs” are the magic of the design. Crack that, the rest is easy by comparison.


#9

#10

Just saw this: http://www.floko.tv/video/988811-mad-catz-fightpad-pro-review

Maybe they finally got it right? I know it’s a Madcatz pad, but they did eventually get their sticks right.


#11

I still find the analog stick unnecessary, I’ve heard people hitting it accidentally. The L2 and R2 buttons are trigger shaped, which are bad for fighters. They did improve the dpad and fix the O button.


#12

I do too, but some people seem to prefer it over a d-pad. They should have made it so the stick could be removed.


#13

Whoa #respek.

I’m not a pad player but I usually keep a fightpad in my laptop bag. I current have the old FC4 and find it hard to hold. I also have to use a brook adapter to get it to play on Xinput for SFV PC. Gonna pick up this new fc4 and most likely save my old one for a pad hack. For $40 bucks can’t really go wrong.

Also just a thought… I’m pretty sure you can squeeze a Brook Fightboard PCB (the ps3/ps4/pc small pcb) into an existing Saturn Pad. So if you can get a few solid working pads it might just be easier to pad hack them with the brook board. I’ve seen these already installed into other pads - older Madcatz sf4 pads. I believe snakeeyez’s Madcatz pad is modded with one.


#14

There’ll always be room for the old Model B!

The MCZ pad is such a strong example of a team being too proud to take something that works from another pad (like the model B) - everything seems different for the sake of being different.

I have the first version, would love to try the new dpad, but even then…triggers, thumbstick, touchpad etc…it needs to lean up.


#15

Will try to knock out some dirty 3D scans today, maybe even make some calls. Probably also post to /r/mechanicalkeyboards on Reddit. There’s gotta be a way to get close on the feel of those switches.


#16

I’d love one, but even more Id love a gemstone balltop :wink:


#17

But there are no switches inside the Saturn controller.
It’s the same as any other controller: the conductive rubber dome-thinggie presses down and completes the circuit that’s on the PCB under that carbon layer.


#18

I believe the shoulder buttons use microswitches. I’d actually be interested in trying a controller that uses microswitches for everything, but they do tend to fail far more frequently than the membrane type of switch in my experience.


#19

Picking nits. Those silicon springs are switches, just not cherry microswitches.

I have decided to take this in steps. Step one is reproducing the housing. I have two ways I am going to try that. One will be through “lost wax casting”. Second will be via 3D scan/3D print.

If that is successful, it would be simple enough to scavenge the springs and buttons from a “dead” controller, transfer those to the new housing, and wire a new PCB.

Second step would be reproducing the buttons. I will worry about the springs/switches last.

Very curious which will yield the best housing. Melting aluminum cans to a cast, 3D print, or CNC mill.


#20

I’ve never once held a gamepad and thought “this would be better if it were aluminum.” I don’t see the benefit of using aluminum. Just sounds like more work and higher costs.