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Thomas Tilley
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Mega Game & Watch Octopus

2017


Giant Game & Watch Octopus machine with diver in helmetThis is a giant Game & Watch Octopus game I made for Maker Faire Adelaide 2017. At 193 cm wide x 116 cm high (approximately 6'4" x 3'10") it is about 17 times bigger than the orginal handheld game!

Game & Watch Octopus (model no. OC-22) was the 10th Game & Watch title released as part of the Wide Screen series on July 16, 1981. In the UK it was known "Mysteries of the Sea" and "Mysteries of the Deep" and Nintendo sold about 43.3 million units worldwide from 1980 to 1991! About one million of these were Game & Watch Octopus games.

This giant version of the game is built from a 46" LCD TV, wood, and some old curtains donated by my Mother-in-law. It is connected to a laptop running a Flash simulation of the game from Hipopotam's digitalised collection of handheld games.


It took me about 6 months to build the machine, mainly spending an hour out in the garage before work along with some evenings and weekends. I started back in May and completed it in time for Maker Faire Adelaide which was held on Sunday, November the 5th, 2017. I scaled this version of the game around the height of the TV screen and you can read on below to find some more photos and information about how it was built.




Bumpers

Having detemined the overall size of game I started by making the top and bottom octagonally-edged 'bumpers'. I bought a sheet of 3 mm thick MDF which I cut into strips using a craft knife. To join the lengths together with the required 45° internal angles I taped the edges together with duct tape and glued small lengths of 19 x 19 mm tri-quad moulding along the edges to hold them in shape (see the middle picture below). I could have glued tri-quad along the entire length of the edges but I was trying to build the giant of version of the game as cheaply as possible.

Once the bumpers were glued into shape (which took me about a week) I taped them to the two side pieces and got my first real indication of how big the final game machine would be. In the final picture below it is about the same size as the top of the pool/billiard table it's resting upon.

Strips of 3mm MDF board Folding the bumper shape using tri-quad moulding and tape Bumpers and sides taped together

I took the original game with me to buy the paint for the machine from a local hardware store and settled on some high gloss enamel paint that would look closest to the game's plastic case. I found a colour called 'Carmen' which they then tinted to get it close to the required colour. You can see the bumpers being painted in the image below and you'll notice that I used different profiles for the top and bottom bumpers. I wasn't sure if the back of the machine would ultimately be visible at all but I included an extra 10cm (4") long 5th panel on the back of the top bumper.

Painted top and bumpers from the Giant & Watch machine Internal supports in the top bumper Extractor fan mounted in the top bumper Four screws with painted heads

Inside each of the bumpers I added two internal supports that gave strength and also helped to hold the bumpers flat against the front face of the game. In the middle of the top bumper I also added a small 5V USB powered fan that would help to draw hot air from the TV out of the machine if it was being played on a flat surface. A single screw at each end of the bumpers attaches them to the sides of the game and I painted the heads of the screws with some suitably coloured nail polish.

Body

The main body of the machine is made from 7 mm thick plywood I had left over from some other projects. I decided to build the game so that it would fit into the back of our hatchback car for easy transport to Maker Faire and the floor of the cargo space has a maximum width of 103 cm. Given that the final game was going to be 193 cm high by 116 cm wide then getting it to fit would be a problem! I decided to make it so the body of the machine could be folded in half making it 193/2 = 96.5 cm wide - perfect! You can see the two plywood halves of the body in the first image below. I wanted to build the game as cheaply as possible and didn't have enough large pieces of plywood so one of the halves is made from three smaller poieces that I glued together.

Cut plywood halves for the giant Game & Watch game Painted sides for the giant Game & Watch game Sides attached to the main body of the giant Game & Watch game

The first picture below shows the body folded in half. I couldn't find any cheap hinges that would sit flush with the surface of the game and still allow me to fold it so I used two pieces of plastic pallet strapping to join the two halves. A piece of the strapping is visible across the join in the middle picture below.

The front face of the original game is covered in gold coloured brushed aluminium which makes the colour scheme look like Iron Man's Mark IV armor. Fortunately, my Mother-in-law had some old gold curtains she was wanting to get rid of and they were the perfect size and colour! I used PVA glue to attach one half of the curtain material to the front of the game along with some staples around the edges. I also had to cut some small notches along the top and bottom edges to accomodate some of the tri-quad pieces that hold the bumpers in shape.

The two sides of the giant game folded in half Covering the plywood with curtain material Giant Game & Watch game covered in curtain material

Given that the body folds in half I added some rigidity by building an H-frame from some 9 mm plywood and 42 x 30 mm wood that also acted as the mount for the TV. The H-frame fitted snugly against some pieces of 42 x 18 mm wood that I used to re-inforce the back of the body and was then held in place by four bolts.

The H-frame that supports the TV The H-frame mounted without the TV The underside of the completed body for the giant Game & Watch game

The last image above was taken while disassembling the game and if you look closely you may be able to spot two of the bolts still holding the left side of the H-frame in place.

Buttons

I started by cutting the button surrounds from 3 mm MDF and then cut the holes in the body using the surrounds as templates. The three smaller buttons ("Game A", "Game B", and "Time") were cut from some 18 mm timber glued onto some 7 mm plywood while the two red buttons ("Left" and "Right") used the same construction but with an additional layer of plywood.

Marking the button holes Cut holes with painted surrounds Wooden buttons Painted buttons

Supports for the buttons were pieces of 42 x 18 mm wood that I glued onto the underside of the body with another length of 42 x 18mm wood over the top to hold the button(s) in place. I cut some coach screws to the required length and screwed them into the back of the buttons through a hole in the supports. This helped to keep each button in the correct position while also holding the spring in place. Some long-arm micro-switches mounted on the side of the supports were used to detect the button presses.

Supports for the button mechanism Coach screw cut to length Spring and bolt for one of the small buttons Small button switch mechanism Mounted buttons

On the real game you needed to use a paperclip or the top of a pen to press the recessed 'ALARM' and 'ACL' buttons. However, the simulator I used for the game (see the "software" section below) didn't include support for these two buttons and so I simply mounted the ends from some drink cans underneath the button holes to give the right appearance.

Aluminium can and a mounted button Back view of the Alarm and ACL buttons

Bezel

The bezel helps to hide the fact that it is just a TV inside the game and I started by building a small model/template out of cardboard so I could check the angles and geometry. I cut the center frame and four angled side pieces from 3mm MDF and glued these together using some more lengths of 19 mm tri-quad to get the 45° angle on the sides.

Cardboard cutouts to check geometry Cut MDF pieces for the giant Game & Watch machine's bezel Glueing the front and sides of the bezel together

After filling and sanding the endges I glued the remaining half of the curtains onto the bezel using some spray on adhesive with some PVA glue around the botttom edges. The inset inside the bezel was made from lengths of 20 x 12 mm moulding that was painted to match the sides and bumpers.

Checking the bezel's fit on the giant Game & Watch game Convering the bezel with curtain material The glued wooden bezel inset Giant Game & Watch machine bezel with the painted inset

Hardware

To connect the button micro-switches to the laptop running the game I took the board out of a USB gamepad. In the second picture below you can see the two ribbon cables connecting two smaller boards which are used for the gamepad's should buttons. I disconnected these and replaced them with some female headers so that I could then add some male header pins which I wired to the switches. When you press one of the game's buttons the laptop thinks you are just pressing one of the gamepad buttons. There are four shoulder buttons on the gamepad but I needed to be able to connect five buttons for the game so I also patched one of the header pins into button "4".

USB gamepad Gamepad PCB Modded PCB Hardware mounted and wired inside the game

For the two groups of buttons (the three small grey buttons and the two big red buttons) I ran one common wire connection to the group plus one wire for each button. The final picture above shows the gamepad board screwed in place under the body of the game.

Software

The giant version of the game is powered by a laptop running a Flash simulation of the original game from Hipopotam's digitalised collection of handheld games with the output scaled to fit the height of the 46" TV.

Hipopotam's Game & Watch Octopus Flash simulator Simulator running on a laptop and TV Simulator running on the mounted TV

The simulation expects keyboard input (keys "1", "2", and "3" for "Game A", "Game B", and "Time" respectively and "S" and "K" for "LEFT" and "RIGHT") but the gamepad provides button presses. To read the gamepad buttons and turn them into the required keystrokes I wrote a simple script for GlovePIE - a very flexible input remapping tool:

Transfers

Apart from the "Game & Watch" logo, all of the other lettering and black lines are iron-on black flocking transfers. I emailed the full-size images of the artwork I needed for the text and bezel lines to a company called transfers.com.au and in a few days they posted to me the transfers you see in the first image below.

Black flocking iron-on transfers Applying the transfers Improvised transfer iron Bezel with transfers

Unfortunately I had already glued the button surrounds in place and there wasn't enough room to get a standard clothes iron into the gap between the "Game A", "Game B", and "Time" buttons so I had to improvise and used an Ikea furniture assembly tool inserted into the end of my soldering iron.

Stand

The original game comes with a fold-out stand that holds it at about a 51° angle so you can use it as a desk clock. Near my work I found someone giving away "free fire wood" so I collected some of the pieces and made a stand to hold the giant version of the game at the required angle with some strategically positioned screws and holes so it can be secured with some cable ties.

Game & Watch stand Stand made from scrap wood Rear view of the game on the stand Rear view of the game on the stand

The last two images above were taken during the set-up at Maker Faire Adelaide and I secured the base of the stand to the top of the table using a tie-down ratchet strap.

Diving Helmet

In the game Mr. Game & Watch wears a deep sea diving helmet and I had seen Lost Wax's amazing diving helmet online so I decided to make one in keeping with the theme of the game. I bought the plans, some foam, and some hot-melt glue and put it together over a number of evenings.

Paper templates and cut foam pieces Glueing the first pieces together Final painted helmet Playing giant Game & Watch Ocopus in a diving helmet

Maker Faire Adelaide

The first image below shows the TV and the body of the game folded and packed in the back of the car ready for Maker Faire Adelaide with the two stand pieces, H-frame, bezel, bumpers, and diving helmet still to come! It was fantastic to see people's reactions to the machine and hear the memories that came back for adults who remembered owning or playing a Game & Watch when they were kids. Quite a few people had owned the Octopus game and during the day a number of other games kept getting mentioned including Helmet, Parachute, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy Tennis, and the dual-screen Donkey Kong, Green House, and Oil Panic games.

The TV and body of the giant Game 7 Watch game in the back of our car Unfolding the giant Game & Watch game at Maker Faire Adelaide Kids playing the giant Game & Watch game at maker Faire Adelaide

It was also great to see kids enjoying the game. Often they couldn't reach both buttons on their own and had to co-operate with a friend or adult to play the game together. People also wanted to know how it was done and I told them that they were welcome to "look behind the curtain" but of course as soon as you do - the magic is gone...

Media

Hackaday wrote a post about my giant Game & Watch game and since then it's been covered by tech and gaming news sites in a number of countries (presumably where Game & Watch games were once popular) including Japan, Spain, France, and Pakistan! Here's a selection of links:


Other Projects

You may also be interested in some of my other (often game related) projects:

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Mega Game & Watch Octopus
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