Homebrew Atari 5200 & Jaguar Controller Currently In Development; Alleviates Many Common Issues
When someone thinks about Atari’s less popular offerings of the 5200 SuperSystem and Jaguar, there is one thing that most can agree on: Regardless of which console you select, they had a problem with the controller. The Jaguar’s main problem was mostly cosmetic. The beast was huge and had too many buttons that were not always easy to access during rapid game play. Meanwhile, the Atari 5200 controllers, complete with their non-centering joysticks, were notorious for malfunction, even back when the console was new. One developer is looking to correct those problems, for a brand new Atari 5200/Jaguar hybrid controller is in the works, and hopes to take some of those issues and eliminate them, while keeping the original innovative features, all the while adding new features that were missing from them.
This new device is being created by “10p6”, who has some experience with the Jaguar in particular. About a year ago, he created a device called the “Jaguar PlayOne”, which was an Atari Jaguar and Jaguar CD combo unit. The first thing you will notice about the controller, is that it has a sleek and modern design, something that would look like a stock controller that one would find on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, although larger. The new joystick features two analog sticks, a traditional D-pad, six fire buttons (enough to include rapid fire for Jaguar games), a 12 button keypad (which both the 5200 and Jaguar took advantage of), 2 shoulder buttons and some 5200 specific buttons such as Pause. (Don’t forget, the Atari 5200 was the first system to offer a pause feature!) The creator states:
“The idea of this project is to make a controller for the 5200 and Jaguar that is ergonomic, innovative, functional and very reliable using off the shelf parts when possible. The case for the unit will be initially 3D printed, but it has also been designed so it can easily be duplicated in resin. The keypad is designed to use a Jaguar Numeric Membrane, or possibly a custom one of the same size and similar speck. Innovative parts of this controller are the analog sticks and spinner. The sticks are off the shelf parts that are reliable and functional, and are included to replace the awful 5200 analog stick.”
But there are a few other goodies that are attached to this. For example, some people have wanted an option to have a spinner or rotary dial controller to play such games as Tempest 2000 on Jaguar. (As a Tempest fan in general, I can tell you that the game is best played with a rotary control!) If you take a look at the D-pad, you will see that this 360 degree ability has been built in to this new device. 10p6 talks a little bit about this feature:
“The spinner / rotary controller is something that has been done on the Jaguar numerous times. I did this on a previous controller where I made a removable spinner that could be placed in the center of the D-Pad. Even though this was functional and cool, it was a little impractical; others have done spinners that are either huge, crammed in an awkward space, or sacrifice a controller just for rotary control. My spinner is innovative as it is located around the D-Pad in a way that does not effect D-Pad functionality, but allows the spinner to be easily turned with a thumb or fingers. The hard part is designing controls that allow the D-Pad to rock, and the spinner to spin, but not to impede each other. In the photos you will see I used an approach that makes the D-Pad effectively appear as a pivot in a large circle, of which the spinner is then sandwiched between the spinner and the case; this allows the spinner to have horizontal rotation, while allowing the D-Pad to have vertical pivot. The notches in the Spinner are designed to allow a twin photo-interrupter to work. This is the same system as used in old ball mouse’s. Here it allows for very accurate rotation, is very reliable, but reduces friction compared to systems that use mechanical potentiometers. Not shown on the renders, but included in the finished controller will be a simple slider switch that locks the spinner in place when not being used.””
Aside from the rotary control, the controllers also have an interesting function in regards to the keypad in the center. As you know, both the Atari 5200 and Jaguar had a 12 button keypad similar to a telephone to have additional functions. (While this was more often used in the 5200 era, it’s unknown why it was brought back during the Jaguar’s original release.) 10p6 states that the keypad has actually been designed to be removed. Why? So if you prefer, it can be replaced with a touch screen, being powered by a device such as the popular Raspberry Pi. This would allow for additional features such as custom button mapping, electronic overlays for both the 5200 and Jaguar, additional video input, and not ruling out the possibility of it becoming a handheld console on it’s own as well.
There is currently no word on when this new controller would become available for sale, and how much it would cost. But it appears that very soon, Atari Jaguar gamers may have something more comfortable to use while playing Tempest, and Atari 5200 gamers may have a controller that finally works! We will keep everyone posted!