So, my brother asked me to build his wife a console as he was pretty impressed with my NES and Sega projects. As I wasn’t bankrolling this one, I said yes so I’d get to tinker again but at no expense to me!
Now I think he wanted me to hack up a NES again, which would’ve been cool, but finding a decent one on eBay was alluding me and the prices for the beaten up ones were getting daft. So, after Googling various projects for potential cases, I ended up settling on the original PlayStation as a surrogate.
A few people had posted projects involving PlayStations on the Retropie forums, so I searched about and got most of my inspiration from this project here – PiStation including some schematics for how to re-use the original button-boards and wiring!
Great so far, so I won 2 old PlayStations off eBay for about £10 delivered and started hacking them up as illustrated below:
I had also found another project that gave me an easy means of re-using the front ports by way of a USB to PSX controller adaptor here: Playstation Pi so I set about hollowing out the front panel carefully (still cracked it and had to glue it though) and modifying to fit the adaptor.
The idea was to also make use of the old Memory Card slot and hide 2 short USB extensions there so you can plug in peripherals as and when you need them without having to crack the case open. The flaps are still hinged and sprung, and work perfectly!
So, onto the buttons. As I said, the first project I found gave me the pads to solder to on the reverse of the board. I only needed the front half as there was no need for the rest which was the original PSU. I found a spot where the reset and power switches could function separately and cut the board in half. As I was not using any of the traces, it didn’t matter, but I did want to keep it a decent size so it sat well int he original position. I also cut up the original power plug mount so I could modify in my micro-USB extension for my power plug to use.
So at this point, I needed to mount the Pi. I went with a Pi3 so I could utilise the in built Bluetooth and WiFi and found an open-sided case with small fan and heatsinks to keep it chilled inside the PSX chassis. I tried to mount it in place as it was, but the extra piece of plexi-glass was making the whole thing sit too proud. So I ended up drilling straight through the bottom of the Playstation and using those as the base of the case. I thought it turned out pretty neat as well as being secure and well-cooled (it doesn’t get above 40c even when playing PSX games full-speed). I also wanted to be able to get to the SD card without stripping the case so bought an extender lead so I could move access to the back panel easily.
I used the original mounting holes as well as some small plastic sheet to make mounts for the HDMI and SD extensions by the original outputs on the back panel. I needed to slightly trim the case, but only a couple of mill, in order for these to fit as well.
Although the CD was not going to be functional I thought it’d be cool if it was still sat there. So I checked clearance over the new Pi internals and it was just enough, then I glued the CD tray back into place so I could put a dummy game under the hood.
Once all this was in, I turned to the Pi and the wiring. I used the same circuit as I had done from my NES project (Mausberry use-your-own-switch) and soldered it all together as per the diagram I had found in the PiStation build. Sadly, the power LED would not go out when soldered up this way, and merely dimmed when turned off. I figured there must be a trace to the 5v of the power switch, so I desoldered the LED from the board and wired it directly to the 3.3v pin of the Pi and ground instead. I glued the LED back into the same place it had been so that it’d light up the same when powered.
As I said, I wanted to be able to use the Bluetooth controller as the main one, but on testing the PSX adaptor it was showing as always connected even when no pads were hooked up. As such, it was showing these 2 devices as being player 1 and 2 and the 8bitdo pad I’d bought specially for this build as player 3. This was resolved by a clever fellow called Meleu of the Retropie forums with his controller select script here, which I dutifully installed and configured so that it was the right way round for how I wanted the controller order.
On top of this, and a few other tweaks I had done to the software themes. I scraped all my metadata and images so it looked super slick, but I found that the runcommand that loaded the box-art a little basic. I was following a thread on the Retropie forum whereby they were discussing a splash-image per system that would load instead of box art with possible controller instructions etc. I thought this was great, and whilst tinkering with the hardware, it was actually implemented and pulled into the main build of Retropie! I got onto photoshop and knocked up some basic 1080p splash screens for each system I was going to be emulating for my sister-in-law’s build.
Now it loads a rom, boots to the splash-screen for a couple of seconds, then goes into the game which runs with a border themed to the console it’s using as well as having the relevant shaders etc to give it an authentic feel. I had already knocked up a boot video for it and uploaded it to YouTube for the Retropie forum to check out: PSXPi Boot. So for all intents it loads like an original PSX and is super-slick thanks to the Retropie guys and all their hard work, plus a little photoshop on my part.
Here’s the finished article anyway:
I’ve also got an original box to put this in and I’ve knocked up a customised manual for my brother to print which is modelled on the original PSX one, but with some Retropie-specific bits so that I’m not tech-support come Christmas afternoon…
Here’s the manual if anyone’s interested. Found most of the templates on the internet as well as the controller layouts from the Retropie Wiki.
As always, none of this would’ve come about unless the guys over at Retropie had not developed such an amazing platform for emulating old consoles on the Pi. If I hadn’t found this little community, I’d never have been able to make anything so cool with my own hands and I’d have just ended up buying that new little NES that Nintendo have released. Making it and being able to customise it, is way way more fun. Plus, Retropie is better…