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Why is it so hard to replicate the n64 controller in the 2010s?
Topic Started: Aug 21 2017, 07:56 AM (216 Views)
ItalianBaptist
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A few years ago I got 3 of those retro-bit n64 controllers (with the ps2 style joystick). They all work fine for Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing but none of them work well for Smash Bros.

A few weeks ago I tried getting a couple of the Tomee controllers which had similar problems with the buttons (and the joysticks to a lesser extent). I also tried the Cirka controllers (the ones that actually look like official knockoffs) which were almost entirely poor.

The question i'm having difficulty with is why on earth is the n64 controller so hard to replicate? I haven't really had this problem with 3rd party controllers for more recent systems, or even the 3rd parties from back in the day like the Superpads. Is it because of the smaller market for retro so quality control is not as good? The control stick in particular seems to be particularly tricky.

I'm looking for answers as this has some pretty big implications in terms of those recently kickstarted retro fighters pads. They look awesome and if I could trust that they worked I'd just get 4 of them. But my faith in these companies that I believe have good intentions has been shaken :(
It must be exciting to never have played a Zelda game before - No64DD
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ReliantLion
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It may be because the N64 was part of the genesis of analog joysticks, so the tech is just so dated and weird, people are not making N64 joysticks for N64 controllers. Rather, they implement a modern joystick, which in its own right works perfectly fine, but then convert its signal so the N64 can understand it. Both N64 joystick and modern joysticks are highly sensitive, but in different ways.

Or at least that's how I see it.
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danny_galaga
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Yeah, the N64 uses optical encoders for the thumbsticks. This is the same technology as the old ball mouse (mice, meece!). It is an extremely fine way of doing it. And works brilliantly until the parts wear out. Pretty much every other controller though uses potentiometers (variable resistors). A totally different way of sending a signal. There is no other thing to replace the optical encoder thumbsticks. It was quite unique. There are myriad potentiometer based thumbsticks though for just cents- PS1, PS2, PS3, Gamecube, Xbox, Xbox360 etc. So ALL the aftermarket controllers or replacement thumbsticks for N64 use one of those. As Reliant pointed out, you have to convert the signal and it just doesn't seem to translate very well.

The other tact that people have tried is to just replace the moving parts that wear out. I'm pretty familiar with trying to replicate those parts myself, having tried to get some reverse engineered. I spent $500 USD on laser scanning, and $2500 getting some moulds made. Never quite worked out. So this video clip is pretty much all I have for an outlay of three grand :D :(

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANaZikMJpsQ
Edited by danny_galaga, Aug 31 2017, 01:16 AM.
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