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#4554470 - 02/01/21 06:54 PM Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build  
Joined: Jan 2021
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SteelBoss Offline
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Edmonton, AB
I can't sleep at night.

Visions of CH Control Manager scripts, colour aimbots hacked to pull information from games without simulator peripheral interfaces, and scratch building force feedback joysticks have me in fever fantasies in the middle of the night.

I haven't got much in the way of experience, but I have a huge imagination.

And my gut is telling me, it's time to fulfill a long ago sidelined dream of piloting a Battlemech.

And so I've begun a journey, which maybe in a month's time when work is busy, will fizzle out and I'll look back fondly on the fantasies I had. But if I acheive a fraction of what I'm building in my mind, something very cool is going to inhabit a tiny, nigh-useless cramped little alcove under my stairs.

[img]https://imgur.com/a/g04wS3Q[/img]

Goal: Build an immersive, fun Battlemech cockpit, skewing towards BattleTech lore and fiction for design sourcing.

Blue Sky Goals:

  • Incorporate a "Neurohelmet" with a jaw-actuated push-to-talk button, head tracker, stereoscopic 3d active or passive glasses, and a water tube.
  • Have a "Command Couch", that slides out for entry into a cramped cockpit with a 5-point harness.
  • Have a clock/calendar display, that by setting to certain dates configures the controls and activates one of the Mechwarrior games. Each game takes place within a certain year in the Battletech lore, so if you set the calendar to 3015 the profiles for Mechwarrior 5 would be loaded and launched. If you set it to 3048 the profiles for Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries would be loaded and launched.
  • Have voice-recognition start-up sequence that requires a spoken passphrase.
  • Incorporate rudimentary 2DoF motion platform and force feedback.
  • Move HUD gauges and displays from main display screen to secondary screens or physical gauges
  • Don't take up all my wife's storage.



Obstacles

  • I... I haven't really done anything with computers and electronics beyond the pedestrian since high school, 16 years ago.
  • AFAIK, no Mechwarrior game has any kind of simulator friendly API by which you can read information from the game to be used for force feedback, display gauges, etc.
  • A mouse has long been the most effective way to play Mechwarrior games competitively. While I don't need to be the cream of competitive players to enjoy this, I want to feel competent while using the simulator, and I cannot stomach the idea of using a mouse in a simulated mech pit.
  • I run my own business and am optimistic that I'll have a little money to budget into this delightful frivolity, but I'm time poor.


Project Philosophy
  • So far, I'm having at least as much fun dreaming and building as I do playing. If this project takes a long time, that's fine. My wife asked me on the road yesterday what I'd do if I ever actually finished this project. I looked at her and told her I'd probably start building another one.
  • The project is the point. There might be parts of this that are ridiculous difficult to implement for very small gains, but this isn't something that ever needs to be worked on at a profitable efficiency. Things might get silly. Workarounds might be ridiculous. This project is pure play.


Inspirations

The reason I'm going on about this project in this forum, is largely because Choowy's mechpit led me here, and I've since ogled over Hotwire's and have been sleuthing out everything Loc Nar has to say about zero order joystick controls. So this forum and those folk in particular are big influences.

This is an in-cockpit shot from the 1986 Mechwarrior RPG I love.
[Linked Image]

Here's the cover of second-edition, a bit more advanced looking cockpit, note the dual joysticks instead of a throttle.
[Linked Image]

Future according to the 80s The bulk of Battletech lore is written about years between 3015 and 3250. But it was begun in the 80s and retains a delightful nostalgiac sense of the future: like there are giant walking war robots, but there isn't really an internet. Very important members of planetary governments have pagers. I'd love to include 80's retro-futurism cues in the design. There's an article on some wilde 80s dashboards here: Retrofuture dashboards

Early Goals
  • Get the monitor into the pit. I've been carting back and forth a 27" flat panel monitor to a bracket I built on the stairs but moving it back and forth between work time and play time is already a real drag. I've got a 34" ultra wide curved monitor on the way. Just gotta be patient... argh.
  • Get playable controls configured. I'm still playing the game with a mouse when I actually want to do well. Sometimes with a graphics tablet. Neither feels right. I'm exploring converting my CH Fighterstick to a zero-order controller with a 10-bit board (Arduino Leonardo) for better aiming, as well as exploring aiming with a diy headtracker I just began soldering up this morning.
  • Add bass shakers. I've got a couple of 5" speakers taken out of a center channel I haven't used in years that I'm going to try turning into tactile transducers. Got lots of questions about how to route sound to them with proper amplification and filtering though. Would like them installed under pedals, throttle, stick, and a couple in my chair.


I plan to use this thread as a journal of progress, to note my failures and successes, to beg for help and to share the journey.

Cheers!

Attached Files IMG_20210125_114941_01 (1).jpg
Inline advert (2nd and 3rd post)

#4554582 - 02/02/21 04:29 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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AndyB  Offline
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Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi Boss,

Congratulations on starting your pit.

I was the same for a lot of years, just sketching stuff I'd like in a pit. Then one day I found out that EECH can export data - the build started. Still not finished but i don't think it ever will be.

To get your 5" speakers to respond correctly you need a "low pass filter" that only allows the deep bass frequencies through and blocks the rest. There are plenty of circuits online, or you can buy them. Feed the output of that to a beefy amp and then to your speakers. I've seen articles on how to convert speakers to shakers online so it can be done but I'm not sure how. I opted for a second hand transducer on eBay for my seat. It's fed from a 100w amp that is in turn fed by the sub woofer output from the 5.1 surround sound card in the pit.

Anyway, well done for taking the big step. It's a downhill slide from here on in........

Cheers,

Andy


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4554583 - 02/02/21 04:33 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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AndyB  Offline
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BTW One of the members of the forum Choowy built a crackin' Mechwarrior cockpit with lots of documentation.

Do a search for "Mechwarrior Cockpit" on the root of the forum and you should be able to find his posts.

Cheers,

andy


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4554588 - 02/02/21 04:57 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: AndyB]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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SteelBoss  Offline
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Thanks Andy.

What is EECH?

#4554656 - 02/02/21 11:04 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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CyBerkut Offline
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Enemy Engaged: Comanche vs Hokum. Helicopter combat sim.

SB, are you planning to use your cockpit in online play? The reason I ask is that using the screen scrapers would likely run afoul of the online game's anti-hacking measures.

#4554676 - 02/03/21 06:14 AM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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Yes, that would certainly be a big no-no if I were using it for Mechwarrior Online
When the day comes that I'm ready to play around with screen scrapers as you say, I imagine they'd have to be coded for each iteration of the game, it would be clever not to use them for Mechwarrior Online since you can be banned for talking about them on their forums.

They'd be for something like MW5 which only has single player and cooperative campaign play.

(edited for spelling)

Last edited by SteelBoss; 02/03/21 07:19 PM.
#4555128 - 02/06/21 08:09 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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SteelBoss  Offline
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Okay, I could use a hand with my tactile transducers.

I have two 5" woofers I've salvaged out of an 8 Ohm Center channel, My multimeter reads 5.6 ohms across one of the woofers. I'm adding a low pass filter into the circuit with the two speakers so they are only receiving the bass frequencies. I'm trying to figure out how to build the circuit and what resistors to use.

I think the final circuit needs to be 8 ohms.

So my design is attached below.

The low pass filter and speakers in parallel should be 12.8 ohms of resistance. Adding a 10 ohm resistor in parallel with the whole speaker/low pass part of the circuit should bring final resistance to just shy of 8 ohms. The speakers are rated for 25 watts only and the amplifier is 100 watts. I'm having trouble figuring out what kind of power will be delivered to the speakers in this circuit. Any clever folks can help?

Attached Files 20210206_125242_copy_625x620.jpg20210206_114522_copy_2016x980.jpg
#4555327 - 02/08/21 01:38 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi SteelBoss,

I'm not sure about the power delivery from that circuit, but as I remember from my guitar amp/speakers days, the speakers wattage should be roughly double the max output of the amp to stop you burning out the coils in them. Your speakers are 25 watt each, but you have them in parallel so the max wattage they should get is 12.5 watts. Even putting them in series you would only be able to pump 50 watts max in to them.

Also, your filter circuit values seem a bit off. I checked on this site https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/filter-circuit and after doing the calculations, the cutoff frequency for your circuit is around 0.15Hz. That's very low. I would have been looking for a cutoff around 20Hz to 50Hz. I think mine is set around 30Hz.


Cheers,

Andy


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4555713 - 02/11/21 06:26 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: AndyB]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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Hey, thanks Andy. That site has more technical information on filters than any other I've found so far. I'll have to spend some time with it.

After re-reading your first post in this thread, and thinking and reading and thinking and reading, I decided to put the low-pass filter before the amp so I didn't need to incorporate the filter in my impedence calculations. I'm also adding additional shakers. I've got 4 built:

The two 5" 6ohm 25 watt woofers I salvaged from an unused centre channel, two 7"? (I dunno, they're elipse shaped), 2ohm 25 watt woofers I stripped out of the back of a Toyota Solara at the scrap yard, and I want one more. The 5" will go under my side panels that mount my stick and throttle.The 7s will go under seat, and behind back, and the last will shake my foot pedals.

I've tested the home made 5's through my amp without a filter, but by lowering the gain on mids and high frequencies through eq and loved the result. I was starting to design a switchable low-pass filter circuit because I use my amp for my headphones when watching movies, and want to be able to switch it to run the bass shakers, or use the headphones with all frequencies, and found the Equalizer APO Configurator, which is a program that allows lots of control over sound output. It's a command-based interface, but the PEACE Extension is a graphical user interface to make the whole thing much more user friendly.

With that I have total control over where my low-pass filter cut-off is, and can try it at different levels without committing to a specific hardware build. I can also have total control over where the various signals in my 5.1 are routed, and can create multiple configuration files so I can easily switch between my home-theatre setup and my simpit setup without getting a dedicated simpit amp. Woohoo!

My trip to the scrap yard also netted me a terrific seat out of an 80s volvo. I've been hesitant to keep using the seat out of my work mazda, because if I start cutting it the way I want to mod it, I'll have a harder time selling my mazda if/when the time comes. I picked up this 80s volvo passenger front seat that is in keeping with my retro-futurism 80s aesthetic. It also has adjustable lumbar support, tilt, lift, and slide, and it's old enough that those functions are not electronic! Luxury mech piloting at it's finest.

I spent a lot of time yesterday grinding off some of the mounting hardware and attaching castors to repurpose it for the pit. I'll try to get some pics soon.

#4555740 - 02/11/21 10:31 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi SteelBoss,

Sounding good with the shakers. Just make sure it doesn't shake itself to bits !!!!!

How will the seat do with the shakers ? Will the padding not dampen the effect ?

I did use a car seat bottom mechanism in mine to allow it to be adjusted back and forth, but built the rest of the seat out of 18mm MDF. Three screw on 2" upholstered pads were then fitted (bottom, back and helmet pad). Seat is pretty firm and vibration can be felt through the padding.


For your 2 DOF movement - I remember seeing a cockpit a guy in New Zealand made many years ago and he used car wiper motors as the actuators. He had a pair of beefy driver modules to run them, but they were pretty quick.

As I remember it, the cockpit sat on a platform ( which I think was and old internal house door - strong but very light ) which was balanced at the centre on a gimbal. At the back and one side he had the wiper motors with a long rod between the wiper motor arm and the edge of the platform.

I've attached a quick drawing of how I remember his rig to be.

You do need to have some of locking mechanism for the platform when you're getting in and out though.

Hope this inspires you a wee bit more.

Cheers,

Andy

Attached Files Platform.jpg
Last edited by AndyB; 02/16/21 07:19 PM.

Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4558457 - 03/03/21 05:59 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: AndyB]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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Thanks for the pic. I don't think I have the head room in this build... Already planning a second build with more space. Go figure.

The transducers on the seat are useless if they are faced into the padding, but I have one clamped right up against the framing and get a pretty good response from it. Because of the architecture of the chair, the second one is a bit tricky to get attached to the framing. I might have to pick up a tap set and create a threaded hole in one of the pipes to get it secured.

I made a video of the pit as-is, if y'all are curious how it's coming together.

https://youtu.be/8VeE7ggeckc

#4558600 - 03/04/21 03:53 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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AndyB  Offline
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Ayrshire, Scotland
HI SteelBoss,

I can see the problem with head height !! I'm only 5 foot 7 inches so I'd be fine .....

Liking what you've so far. I have a suggestion for your seat (you made a mistake getting a Volvo one - far too comfortable and too much padding) instead of tapping the frame how about using "U" bolts around the frame going through a bit of plywood with the transducer attached to it ?

That should transfer the vibration to the frame pretty well and save a lot of work.

Keep up the good work. As a Scotsman I also have a red beard so like that as well ( mine has lots of grey in it now .....).

Cheers,

Andy


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4558625 - 03/04/21 06:01 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: AndyB]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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SteelBoss  Offline
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Yep, that beard is scots heritage in me. Johnstone's of Annandale.

"Ready, aye, always ready"

#4558709 - 03/05/21 02:09 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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AndyB  Offline
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Hi Bud,

My first wife came from Thornhill, not a great distance from where you were born. Used to visit her brothers in Dumfries regularly.

Small world right enough !!

Andy


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk
#4558952 - 03/07/21 05:59 PM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: AndyB]  
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SteelBoss Offline
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SteelBoss  Offline
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Ha! Cool! Though, wasn't born there. 5 generations in Western Canada now.

#4559033 - 03/08/21 11:38 AM Re: Mechwarrior Simulator Cockpit Build [Re: SteelBoss]  
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AndyB Offline
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AndyB  Offline
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Ayrshire, Scotland
Hey, Canadians are all honourary Scots anyway .......


Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk

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