Definitive list of parts to build a Fightstick

Quite often, we receive a request to list parts that one should buy if building a fightstick from scratch.  This is a daunting task because configurations and preferences can vary.  What we suggest may or may not fit what you or someone else may need.  That said, we turned to Lucas Cooper - a.k.a SRK's "Nerrage" of Tech Talk - for an answer. See also at the bottom of this article for recommendations for the Makestick Pro case.

This list is divided into 4 parts, with sub-topics:

  1. Case and externals
  2. Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and internals
  3. Joystick
  4. Buttons

Keep in mind that this is a basic list - a general how to on parts to consider when building your first custom.  We'll include references to specific parts that we have on hand that may help, and will edit this list over time as we add new products that can help you build your dream custom.

I. Case and externals

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Base model: The wooden, metal, or plastic, or other materials to make up the box to contain joystick components. Primarily, it determin the size and overall weight of the arcade stick to be. Traditionally, retail joysticks prefer a plastic and metal combination, while custom joysticks prefer wood, though they have been seen to be made from all components, including broken Xbox 360s. The base model will usually also determine what models of joysticks and buttons will be usable in the final product, though most cases favor use with Japanese-style Sanwa and Seimitsu parts.


Case finish: Many plastic cases have a glossy finish per the plastic used in the mold, but custom metal and wooden cases need a protective layer to keep the materials safe from the elements. A finish usually involves a detailed paint job to create a barrier between the material and the atmosphere. The finish can be as simple as a layer of clearcoat to showcase the natural finish of wood, or as high-end as a powder-coated paint job which would be more suited on a car than a game controller. Many cases are sold pre-finished, though unfinished cases are also available.


Artwork/Plexiglass: Many players love to have a themed stick with their own artwork to showcase their favorite character. In many cases, players opt for a professional print job of custom joystick artwork, with a layer of plexiglass to protect the artwork. Local print shops and online retailers dedicated to printing artwork are options for obtaining a high-resolution finish for any custom job, though some players who do not have said services avilable create laminated prints at home. Some players simply opt for a single-color finish to match or contrast their joystick and button colors.


Extras: When you have to showcase that you've got the best fightstick on the block, there are higher-end extras to customize your joystick. Whether it's putting golden case feet to show you're playing to win, adding a felt bottom to your case for extended lap comfort in long-term session, or case LEDs to catch your opponent in the headlights of your onslaught, the sky's the limit when you want to add the X-factor to your arcade stick-to-be.

II. Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and internals


Base PCB(s):
The main controller that interprets joystick and button inputs and translates it to the console of choice. A single PCB can send inputs to a single console, or some custom PCBs dedicated to arcade sticks can have multiple consoles integrated into one PCB. Advanced users can connect multiple PCBs, such as PS4/PS3 and Xbox One/360, together to create a multiconsole arcade stick. PCBs may also be obtained from official or controllers, and be "padhacked" to work inside of an arcade stick. Retail fightsticks already have a PCB inside of the stick, which can also be taken out and used in a custom fightstick, if desired. Many custom PCBs are designed to use harnesses and screw terminals to remove the need to solder, though soldering will likely be required to work with PCBs taken from game controllers and other arcade sticks.



Wire and Connectors:
Wire is needed to connect the PCB to the various components of the arcade stick. Hookup wire is often sold in rolls for projects just like this, though it will require a medium to contact the metal from the PCB to the metal of the fightstick or buttons. Solder is one connection medium, though screw terminals of the PCB will also screw wire down to connect the wire to the PCB. Additionally, Japanese buttons often use .110" quick disconnects to allow for plugging in the PCB. These can be crimped onto wire, though there is wire which has already been pre-crimped, removing the need for a special crimping tool. Quick disconnects are designed to quickly plug and unplug the wire connected to the PCB, allowing for quick button swaps. Joysticks typically use a 5-pin harness to also unplug quickly when maintenance is required.

 

Pluggable external cables: Some enthusiasts prefer to have a USB A-B cable and a USB port ready on their case to keep the seamless, cordless look. Some players will even use custom RJ-45 cables to achieve the same feel for consoles that don't use USB. In either case, an external jack and matching cables are required.


Extras: Craftsmen will sometimes show their handiwork on the outside, but when it comes to power, it's what's under the hood that counts. If you don't think champions need to get up to connect their arcade stick, go wireless. If you want multi-console, cram in enough PCBs until you can't fit anymore. Need an LED controller to add a light show to the show that's already going down on screen and down on your opponent? It's yours. Want to keep your favorite digital games or xbox profile with you at all times? Add a USB hub on the inside with a flash drive in one port, and plug your USB PCB into the other to keep your favorite files with you at all times.

III. Joystick

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Base Model: While there are many parts that work together, most players purchase a joystick in a single piece. The most popular model of joystick is Sanwa's flagship JLF, the joystick included in all Madcatz TE sticks, and many other high-end arcade sticks. Many other models of full joystick exist for a different feel in play. Almost all retail cases and many custom cases will support all Japanese model arcade sticks, though these will occasionally require different mounting plates than the plates provided.


PCB or Microswitches: The joystick also utilizes a PCB connected to microswitches which connect to the 5-pin harness that relays the joystick's current position to the PCB. Some models of joystick do not use the 5-pin harness and require direct connection to microswitches to the PCB. Recent releases in this area are the optical and silent models of joystick. Joysticks using silent microswitches have been introduced, for late-night practice sessions, or to mask the audible cue of joystick movements from an opponent.


Spring(s): Many players have found the stock spring in their stick as too loose or too tight. Springs from a sturdier or lighter joystick can provide the solution, especially when replacing a microswitch PCB reduces the tension exerted by the joystick. Springs on Sanwa JLF joystick, for example, can be swapped out to create the player's preferred amount of resistance.


Gate style: While Japanese joysticks include a square joystick gate, some players prefer the easier quarter circles of octagonal gates, or the smooth, cornerless play of a circular gate, similar to the feel of traditional American joysticks. Some models of joystick do not have all three types of gates available, though the JLF does have all three.


Balltop or Bat top: Some models of joysticks will include a balltop. Balltops can be a single color, and manufacturers typically will match their balltop color with their button color, a Sanwa green balltop will match green Sanwa buttons. Balltops also come in clear or bubble variants. Sanwa and Seimitsu balltops and joysticks are interchangeable; a Sanwa balltop will fit a Seimitsu stick and vice versa. Another option is to use a bat top. These can be placed on the joystick to emulate the feel of classic American joysticks. Bat tops require an additional adapter.

Extras: If you're looking to hold a glowing blue balltop to showcase your mastery of fireballs, look no further than a hollow shaft and LED modded balltop. Ever been forced to carry your stick around because nobody would accept your first to five, loser carries sticks for a month challenge? Make your stick easier to carry with Phreakmods' removable joystick Shaft, The Link, and make it the second sweetest way to transport your stick to weekly casuals.

IV. Buttons

Seimitsu PS-14-G PushbuttonBase Model: A complete button with a rim, plunger, and microswitches. Available in both solid and clear colors. Another option is snap-in or screw-in. Snap-ins are designed primarily for sticks with steel panels, while screw ins work better with thicker wooden panels and screw-ins can also hold plexiglass panels in place. Sanwa buttons are generally more sensitive than Seimitsu buttons. Some players prefer Seimitsu buttons for their greater resistance, to avoid any accidental presses brought on by Sanwa's featherlight engagement. Japanese buttons come in both 24mm and 30mm sizes. Both sizes of button function identically, though most players prefer to use 24mm buttons for start, back, and home buttons, and 30mm for their main action buttons. Mini sticks utilizing all 24mm buttons, however, have been created and used.


Microswitch: The main working piece of the button, which will relay the information to the PCB when the button is pressed or unpressed. Some models of buttons can have their microswitches swapped, such as Seimitsu's PS-14-K, which is able to have Sanwa button microswitches swapped for its stock microswitches for a custom feel, lighter than a traditional Seimitsu button, but heavier than a typical Sanwa button.

Extras: If you've ever kept an angry roommate up with your late nights in the lab, mashing harder to make every super count, you could plug up their ears, or you could add internal sound dampeners to your buttons to reduce the noise. It really depends on how much you like your roommate. It also depends on how much you like your roommate if you want them to need a sleep mask because LED modded buttons at a tournament are worth a little discomfort at times.

Building the Makestick Pro:

Below is a quick pick-list for what you need for building the Myongshin Fanta style configuration of the Makestick Pro case. There's lots of ways to customize this case so this is just one design of many:

  • 1 PCB of choice. 
  • 1 ground daisy chain we sell one with 30 quick disconnects you can cut the rest of the chain you don't need
  • 1 signal wire (22 awg with .110 quick disconnects) for each button
  • 8 action buttons (4 punch 4 kick) 30mm
  • 1 menu button for each function. On the Makestick it already comes with 3 but you can get additional for the top panel (24mm)
  • 1 set of adhesive pcb feet
  • 1 18 inch USB A/B cable (Optional)
  • 1 10ft cable
  • 1 Neutrik USB passthrough (Optional) this would require removing a menu button an drilling two m3 size screw holes to mount it.
  • Myoungshin Fanta
  • M4 screws
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