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Use a raspberry pi with Retropie as a controller for old Consoles?

  • Hey I was reading about a little board called Mc Cthulhu, and i was wondering if it was possible to use a raspberry pi as kinda the same thing. Or maybe you guys would consider starting a branching project. What the board does is it takes arcade button inputs and runs them through kinda like an emulator. Then outputs that over an rj45 cable directly into the controller port on the console and tricks it into thinking that an actual controller is connected. When it is not. So you could use arcade sticks on consoles they aren't meant for without soldering onto the controller board. My idea was that we could use retropie to mirror the functions of the old consoles controls and output them onto gpio pins. All any diy modders would have to do is cut the one end of a broken controller wire the attach the power, ground, and data cables to the gpio and plug it into the console. What do you guys think? I guess the main goal of this idea would be so that people don't have to keep dumping money into old controllers that aren't guaranteed to work. You could theoretically use any usb gamepad on any old console as long as it has an emulator in retropie. How hard would it be to output emulator functions to gpio pins?

  • Interestingly enough I was looking into something like this a little while ago. For instance: all of the primary controllers are well documented and supported (as you said) and there are plenty of libraries for the older console controllers (PS2, NES, SNES, N64) that interpret the next logical step is as you've suggested and on the surface it seems very doable. It'd even be fantastic to do "variable weights" through the old digital controllers (d-pads) so that you had more control over things by tilting the stick and having the system send through button presses of different weights.

    What I wanted to do was get a PS2 controller working with a N64, or even the under-equipped Dreamcast (because cats & dogs making all sorts of unholy unions is what hacking is about) but very much fell short on the money and time side of things - at some stage you'd still need to wire the controller in somehow - but that shouldn't be too difficult.

    I'd be very interested to see how this idea progresses were someone willing to pick it up - or even if someone needed a little charity funding for this idea!

  • Yeah I was hoping that, you see how people build these arcade sticks for their consoles is, they unscrew the plastic casing around the controller and then there are these metal pads that are not connected for each button on the controller board. when you press a button it completes that connection through a ( i think it's graphite) block. Modders will solder on both pads of every button and then hook them up to switches. I was hoping that instead of that maybe they could just wire the controller cord to the gpio pins and run the rest through software. So you could use any usb controller. Some of these old controllers are expensive as hell ( Pardon my french). Like would you really want to pay $260 for a pair of twin sticks for virtual-on on the Dreamcast? When you could just buy two nes quick shots for $10 hook them up by usb for another $10 and be done. Or spend another $90 on a Dreamcast arcade stick per player.

  • So you're talking more about the construction of custom controllers? Chance would have I've done a bit of that too - mainly swapping the "handedness" of controllers as there's no room in the game world for us lefties or ambidextrous types lol

    I looked more into developing a "translator" system to go from say a Logitech to the Pi, and then to PS2, N64 or some of the other consoles out from the Pi but while there are many projects publicly available they're mostly for Arduino, and there's a mountain of code to get over for each one, which is too much work for me I'm afraid. We'd also need to be creating custom adaptors to connect the Pi to the old consoles, which while it's not such a problem for myself would be a major issue for others without the gear or experience using it.

    Still it's a fantastic idea if someone else were to pick it up!

  • As mentioned above, this really is something that an Arduino is perfect for. You really only need the gpio pins, and the logic to drive them is not going to change often (about as often as you would attach another plug).
    This would be both the smallest and the cheapest approach.

    Keep in mind that you would still need an external power-source to drive the chip, as the old controllers were mostly passive components. With an Arduino, 2xAA might do the trick. But still, if the form-factor is important to you, something to remember.

  • @Zigurana Well I was really thinking about the pi zero not necessarily the pi 3. Don't the USB controllers need to be encoded to whatever the console needs I figured since retropie was already emulating the console controls it might be easier to figure out a way to output that onto however many data pins they have in say a Dreamcast controller as opposed to designing your own custom program through arduino. I mean your going to have to emulate the controller by the console anyway. Does someone already have a project started for Arduino?

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