Since I made the first Shinewave prototype, a lot of people have contacted me to ask if I was selling them, and four people have even let me know that they've made one themselves! I absolutely love that others have found my project interesting enough to replicate, especially since that's what inspired me to start working with electronics in the first place.
However, in order to reach out to those who cannot build their own controller, I would like to start selling modded controllers and kits. There are a lot of issues that I need to overcome before scaling up production to match the interest I've seen and the Smash community will have.
- Finding clear controller backs
- Scaling up assembly
- Making it easy to change light animations
Clear Controller Shells
This mod, and all other LED mods, rely on a clear controller shell for the lights to shine through. Nintendo only produced two types of clear controllers, a Purple/Clear top/bottom controller in 2001, and a fully clear controller in 2004 released only in Japan. There are a limited supply of these controllers in circulation and their prices on auction sites keep going up, and are in varying conditions. It simply wouldn't be feasible to deplete this supply in order to manufacture Shinewave controllers.
There are also third party manufacturers producing knock-off controllers with all sorts of colors, including clear. Notably, TTX Tech produces controllers that are very similar to the official one for about $8. You can even use combine the top or bottom half with an official controller if you don't mind removing some plastic. The internals of these controllers(especially the shoulder buttons) are pretty awful, so you'll need to replace them entirely with the official parts.
Doing a full internal replacement isn't quite as smooth, though. There aren't screw holes for the internal shoulder button guards, and the first-party Z trigger will stick if that part of the shell is screwed in all of the way. In order to get it to fit, you need to shorten the pegs that the trigger rotates around and sand its slot on the shell inwards a few millimeters. You can also use the third party Z trigger, but it doesn't have the metal spring so it sits flat and doesn't feel right.
Either way, using these shells would require a lot of manual work per mod and I'd have to rely on a good supply line from China, which I'm not equipped to set up.
Finally, it may even be feasible to produce my own clear controller backs. 3D printing takes a long time per controller and the result would take some post-processing in order to reach the quality of the officials. This leaves injection molding, the same process used by Nintendo to produce the official controller shells. Unfortunately, injection molding has a large up-front cost to produce the mold before a single piece is made. This is what I'm hoping to overcome with a Kickstarter. Depending on the amount that I charge per shell, it would take about five hundred units to make back the initial investment, based on some initial numbers I've gathered.
Therefore, injection molding controller backs is my lofty goal for this project.
The prototype controller unfortunately requires a lot of manual assembly. There's no PCB, so all of the components are soldered point-to-point. The LEDs need to be daisychained together, and each need to be hot glued into the back shell. The processor also needs a socket, so it can be removed from the circuit for reprogramming.
Altogether, these obstacles increase the amount of time required to preform the mod, increase the chance of an error occurring(both during assembly and during normal use), and make it more difficult to repair. My solution is to build the circuit on a printed circuit board(PCB), which will simplify the wiring, reduce the chance of an error, and allow for more sophisticated designs.
On the release of my prototype, all of the animations need to be hardcoded in C and compiled with the right toolchain. The controller also needs to be disassembled and the chip removed in order to be reprogrammed with a $20 part. So how can this process be improved?
I'm planning on adding a microUSB port to my mod to solve these problems. You'll be able to plug a standard cord into your controller and reprogram it without needing to buy anything extra or disassemble your controller. Adding in a USB port also has a few nice positives...
- USB Gamepad adapter that's completely internal and doesn't require an extra adapter.
- When plugged into both a console and over USB, it can mirror your inputs over USB for stream overlays, etc.
- The controller can record statistics on your play and report it back over USB.
- Easy reprogramming, as mentioned earlier.
- And much more!
As far as I can tell, nobody has has made an internal USB adapter before. There's a lot of potential here!
Finally there's also the matter of making it easy for non-programmers to create custom light animations. My friend JustANull and I have been working on a serialized state machine that boils down what goes into an animation. Using it, you can define different states, such as
attacking, assign each a particular animation, and define transitions between them based on the your button presses.
Using a simple desktop application, anyone will be able to create these state machines and burn them to their controller mod instantly, without needing a $20 programmer or even a screwdriver. More coming on this soon!
I'm hesitant to give a date that these will be up for sale, or even when the Kickstarter will go live. I'm a firm believer of having a working prototype before asking for money, so I want to do everything I can to solve unexpected problems soon. With that in mind, I've made some great progress recently, so keep an eye on this blog!
Feel free to comment below if you have anything to say.