Ultimarc MagStick Plus Modification (Potential Sanwa Hack?)


#1

I was pretty disappointed with the MagStick Plus from Ultimarc. It wasn’t due to a lack of engineering, or the overall cool factor of the stick. No, it just didn’t “feel” right to me. It was nice that it has such a small throw, but you have to push entirely too hard to make it do its thing. It seemed that I’d even miss directionals at times, having not pushed the stick hard enough. Either that, or the switches were just sticking. I’m unsure which it was. The final straw was during a particularly heated session of Pac-Man: Championship Edition. I was almost certain that the MagStick had resulted in my demise via ghost touch on a few occasions, but never more-so than during the specific game in question. I hit down, I know I did, and the MagStick Plus didn’t register. As any gamer would do, I forcefully “punched” the stick in the direction it had missed. Lo and behold, the stick no longer registered the downward direction at all. That’s it. I have to do something about these crap microswitches.

This modificiation will make your MagStick Plus perform much better (in my opinion) with a lighter throw and a perceived greater responsiveness.

The MagStick Plus uses microswitches that have metal actuators attached. One thing that you’ll notice when looking at the bottom of the MagStick Plus is that it uses switches that have shorter actuators than what you’ll typically find in the wild. No problem there, I have a Dremel.

I needed some donor parts, so I went to the box of arcade crap and found a potential ::cough::victim::cough:: donor stick. It was some garbage no-name stick I bought off of eBay (mostly just to get the other stuff that was in the auction lot).

Here’s our brave parts donor stick (it’s a no-name Seimitsu knock-off, and a pretty bad one at that):

It has microswitches from “Acemake”, whoever that is. I’m sure they are junk, but would suffice for my purposes. I’m going to order some Sanwa microswitches and do this mod with them, but for now I’m using these.

Here’s the bottom of the craptastic donor stick once I got all the metal plates and restrictors out of the way. Just raw exposed microswitches, baby.

ANYTHING had to be better than the stock Ultimarc parts. For the record, the stock Ultimarc switches are SAIA brand, a Switzerland-based company. Upon having the raw switches in-hand, it became apparent that the SAIA/Ultimarc ones needed FAR greater pressure to actuate than the Acemake (which are very similar to Cherry, by the way).

Here’s the bottom of the MagStick Plus for comparison.

On some microswitches (like the Acemake), you’ll have the luck that the switch is easily disassembled so you can remove the metal actuation lever for easier cutting. On others (like Cherry), the switches will have melted tabs or rivets holding them together. Either way, cut the actuator on the line you drew using a Dremel or other tool of wanton destruction. Note, you’ll want to deburr and round the corners of the freshly cut part. That’ll prevent you cutting yourself on the edge, and will also make less of a chance that the part will want to get caught on something and bind-up. The original SAIA sticks are riveted so you can’t just steal the actuators off of those and use them on the new switches.

Here you’ll see the Ultimarc/SAIA switch on top, and the Acemake switch on the bottom. What needs to be done should be fairly apparent.

Below, you’ll see the cut-line marked with the ultimate in precision:

Below is the same process repeated 4x. You’ll note that I’m lucky enough that these Acemake switches disassemble easily, and I can remove the metal actuators for the cutting.

Once you have the switch actuators cut down to size, reassemble the stick. You’ll note that the Ultimarc switches used a .250" quick disconnect, yet most common switches are .187". You can use your existing .250" quick

disconnects, just pinch the connector’s sides with a needle-nose pliers. You’re not trying to make it “narrower”, but so that it grips tighter. You are going from O_O to o_o if you look at the end of the connector, not O_O to OO. Ascii art for the win.

You’ll have to use your imagination for some of the steps, as the last picture I took was it all assembled.

You may ask yourself if there are tangible results from this mod. The answer, my friend, is a resounding YES. Prior to the mod, the best I could do in Pac-Man: Championship Edition was ~170,000 points placing about 14,000th in All-Time Ranking in Championship Mode. In my SECOND GAME after this mod, I now place 7,500th in All-Time Ranking with about 230,000 points. That, people, is a 60,000 point increase and around 7,000 people higher rank, all for about 20 minutes of work. To me, that PROVES beyond the shadow of a doubt how bad the original Ultimarc switch elements are.

(You can also check out this post on my blog: http://www.togeo.com/togeo/wordpress/?p=67 )


#2

why not throw that thing out the window and get a sanwa or seimu ??? and how and where do u play pacman for position and rank? i am interested in this.


#3

For the simple reason that the MagStick Plus is built like a tank. Awesome internals, no springs. It’s got a short throw (less than 1/8" I hear) that is ADDICTING AS HELL once you start using it. All other sticks, including the Sanwa’s or Seimitsu’s feel like you are stirring a big pot of water in comparision. I LOVE everything about the MagStick except for the switches. LOL

For the record, I have both of the popular models of Sanwa sticks (JLF and JLW), and like the MagStick Plus better.

It’s a shame, as I’m sure the original MagStick Plus switches were selected for their robustness and quality, but I like a nearly frictionless switch. The factory ones were just too strong. Everything else about the MagStick Plus seems to have been very well engineered and planned, so I’m sure these switches were used for a potentially good reason. I just didn’t like them. It’s all opinion, I guess.

XBox Live on the XBox 360. It’s a new version of Pac-Man called Pac-Man: Championship Edition. Downloadable for $10 (800 Live Points) via the XBox Live Arcade. You can check it out here:

For the “true arcade” original versions without all the new glitz and glamour, you can also play online and track scores via XBox Live. Requires a purchased download version of the games, but are only $5 (400 Live Points) each:
http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/754/754519p1.html (Ms. Pac-Man)
http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/724/724630p1.html (Pac-Man)

I’ve been playing the Championship Edition just for the speed. It’s a much faster game that makes it very tough to go back to the older versions of Pac-Man. Honestly, I’ve been playing with the “Zip Chip” or Speed-Up mods under Mame (and on the original arcade machines) for years anyway. My one local arcade introduced me to the faster versions, and I’ve never looked back. Hacked every upright arcade version I’ve owned ever since, even did the hack for friend’s machines. It’s one of the reasons I bought a EPROM burner back in the day. The XBLA versions of the original arcade versions don’t offer any of the speed hacks unfortunately.


#4

Nice Mod,
I actually stopped selling the Magsticks because I just had too many problems with them like you described. Either the switch would stop working, or it would get stuck leaving one switch activated. IMO, the microswitches are pure garbage.

I might give this a shot and see how it works out :).


#5

Thanks Ed! It’s good to hear I’m not crazy. I posted this over on Arcade Controls forum as well, and the one guy said he hated the stock Ultimarc switches too and recommended trying Omron switches. I think I’m going to get some various switch brands and see what I like the best. I’m thinking the Sanwa ones will be exactly what I want though. :slight_smile: