Arcade Projects >> Arcade Paradise 2

Control Panel

The controls are very well likely the most important part of the cabinet. When designing a control panel, you primary focus should be on comfort and playability. No matter which route you go, there will be some element of comprimise involved. It's pretty unlikely that you'll be able to fit four joysticks, a trackball, two spinners, a steering wheel, and a flight yoke on one normal control panel. But even in the case of having swappable, rotating, or oversized control panels, you're still sacrificing something: space taken, time spent, storage, feel, etc.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have to decide what parts/features of a control panel are important to you, and then plan accordingly. You'll not only want to decide which controllers you want, but also how to position them. Make several mock-ups, and see what's comfortable.


One of the first things that I had to decide on was the color scheme of the control panel, as the trackball, joystick handles, and buttons were going to match. I waffled between red and blue for about a week, and eventually decided on blue. I'm glad that I did.

I then spent some time making mock-up control panels to see what looked and felt right to me. Click here to view the final layout that I decided on.


For this cabinet, I used the Wico joystick: ball-top, 8-way, leaf-switched. I purchased it from Video Connection. I gotta tell ya: it's a great-feeling stick. This is the joystick that I remember playing all of the arcade classics on. It is quite different than the Happ Super joystick that I used on the first Arcade Paradise cabinet. Check out the Joystick Comparisons section of this website if you want to read about the differences between the two.


I went with the standard: the Happ Controls Horizonal Microswitch Pushbuttons (part number 58-91xx-L). It's a great-feeling and durable button. And remember: Happ Controls has a $25 minimum order, so you're better off ordering those extra spare buttons now. Oh, and go ahead and spend the $1.95 for the VLT Pushbutton Wrench (part number 53-8002-00). Trust me, you'll be glad that you did.


Of course, you've got to have a trackball - not only for Centipede, Marble Madness, Missle Command, and Crystal Castles, but also for mouse navigation in Windows. Rather than use a PC trackball like I did on the first Arcade Paradise cab, I treated myself to a 3" Happ Control Trackball (part number 56-0100-12T). Man, I could not believe how nice it feels. Remember, this is the real deal: a genuine arcade trackball. Yeah, it cost a hell of a lot more than the PC trackball did, but was worth it. I bought the trackball with a blue translucent ball inside of it.

Other accessories from Happ Controls to go with the trackball:

You'll also obviously need some way of interfacing this thing to your PC. I have my trackball interfaced through Hagstrom Electronics' KE72-T Keyboard Encoder and plugged into the PS/2 port on the back of the PC. Windows treats the trackball as an ordinary PS/2 mouse.


Spinners are increasingly difficult to buy, and not the easiest thing in the world to build. There are a scant few games that require usage of a spinner, but for me, Tempest alone was reason enough for it!


I bought my spinner from TwistyGrip when they still sold them. The spinner was sold as a one-piece boxed unit, so I used tin snips and removed a square of metal around the knob, ground it down, sanded it, painted it, and attached that to my control panel. The spinner is actually made of the guts of a PC mouse, so there aren't any weird compatability problems. I have the spinner plugged into COM1 on my PC, and Windows treats it as a "secondary serial mouse". There are no conflicts at all between the two "mice": In fact, I can actually spin both the trackball and the spinner, and watch the mouse cursor stutter around as it tries to move in both directions.


I used 22AWG solid wire for everything. Since everything is interfaced through the Hagstrom KE72 keyboard encoder, I was able to bundle all of the ground wires together, and then have every other wire end in a D-SUB connector. Ah hell, I'll get more into this in the "Interface" section. You'll see.

Control Panel Construction / Mounting

I constructed the bottom box independent of the top panel. I might have had an easier go of it if I had attached the sides to the top rather than the bottom, but everything works, so I'm not sweating it.

I drilled out all of the holes in the top panel using a 1-1/8" forstner drill bit for the button holes and a 1-1/4" bit for the joystick holes.

Once I had the holes drilled out, I had to figure out how to finish the control panel. I ended up deciding on Krylon's "Make It Stone!" paint. I played around with it, spraying a couple of pieces of wood just to see what the results were like, and I was pleasantly surprised...this stuff turned out better than I thought it would. After spraying this on my control panel, I then sprayed it with a couple of coats of the "clear protectant" spray that came with the paint, and then coated it with about four coats of polyurethane. It turned out great, both in looks and in feel.

The view from up here.

So the question comes up: How do I mount the control panel box to the rest of the cabinet and keep it secure? I centered the control panel box on the cabinet where it would normally mount, and then I attached a 2x4 (the full length of the inside of the cabinet) to the bottom of the control panel box. I then took a second 2x4, butted it right up in front of the 2x4 attached to the control panel, and then screwed that one into the sides of the cabinet itself. So basically, the 2x4 attached to the control panel box keeps it from sliding side-to-side, and the 2x4 attached to the cabinet keeps it from sliding forward (and since it's all the way back on the cabinet, it can't go backward). So the only place it could really go is straight up. Even though I have to play with it to get it out intentionally, I wanted to secure it down tight. All I did was drill two holes through both boards, and then slide carriage bolts through the holds and tighten them in. That's it. That thing ain't going nowhere.



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