This blog entry is about my Hack Like Heck competition entry. Please check it out and give it a Like if you enjoy it!

What went well

I finished it!

Hacking like Heck requires a broad range of skills relating to engineering, software, video production, time management, and communication. When it comes to engineering and video production I’m a relative noob, but I didn’t let that stop me. I set my sights high and pushed myself beyond my previous limits. It was an honor to play alongside so many talented people and make it to the finish line.

Mini Arcade

The mini arcade is actually fun to play

It was worth spending extra time on the controls because this thing is fun! To be honest, this was all about the build for me, so having a fun game system at the end is an added bonus. In fact, I think I may have been playing a little too much yesterday because I got at least one disapproving look. Hey, I have to test it, don’t I? Chores can wait.

I got to know a lot of smart, interesting people

Participating in HLH meant joining the element14 community and learning about all the exciting people and projects here. I enjoyed watching everyone’s progress and build logs, and waited in anticipation for the film festival. I’ve since watched all the videos and all I can say is… wow! What a skilled group with such creative and unique ideas.

I managed to put aside my fear of the camera

The idea of being filmed or photographed stresses me out. Social interaction is hard work for me, although I think I hide it pretty well most of the time. So why even put myself in a situation like this? Partly to improve myself, and partly to open doors of opportunity, like participating in Hack Like Heck!

My humble studio

What didn't go so well

My project video could have been so much better

I concentrated heavily on the arcade system, which was important, but I didn’t put nearly enough planning and effort into the video. I underestimated how much work was involved and I had to speed through the entire thing on the night before the deadline. Lack of sleep and my lighting setup meant that I was visibly exhausted ("haggard" as someone put it). At the end I was rushing, which resulted in a video that focused on random minutiae rather than important build steps. A lot of great footage was omitted. Other minor things like inconsistent lighting and repetitive music didn’t help.

The game system is kind of fragile

I’ve never designed or printed a 3D print even remotely as large or complex as this before. I was flying by the seat of my pants. I learned a lot about print orientation, weight distribution, fasteners and adhesives. But that learning came at the cost of some broken parts and a slightly flimsy final build. The system is fine on a desk, table, or shelf, but it kind of falls short as a portable device.

What I would do differently next time

4:3 aspect ratio screen

The mini arcade is about retro gaming, and most retro games aren’t widescreen. If anything, a lot of classic arcade games were tall rather than wide.

Include analog controls

Because I was using a strictly digital USB encoder, I had to convert an analog stick to digital to make it work. But lots of games use analog controls and it would be nice to be able to play them that way.

Removing analog stick

Use a large format 3D printer and improve overall design to make it more robust

The ability to print larger pieces would make designing a strong case much easier. Also, avoiding the use of long, thin pieces is essential.

Find a nicer solution for cabinet art

I chose to go with a simple, inexpensive approach for cabinet art, and one that would let me do several reprints immediately if I messed something up. The design is printed with a color laser printer on full-sheet sticker paper and laminated with self-adhesive laminating sheets. The result is OK, but the adhesive isn’t very sticky and the print quality is slightly cheap-looking.

Use the best video editing tools

I’m currently using consumer-grade home video editing software, and there are definite quality and workflow limitations. I should really get a license and learn Adobe Premiere. I tried a demo once and was surprised how much it improved the quality of my videos.

Plan better for the project video

I know I can do better. Thorough planning and editing as I go should prevent the type of issues I had this time around.

Mini arcade wiring

Learn something new

Due to a shortage of time, I stuck to what I knew: Blender for modelling, protoboard for building circuits, and an ancient copy of Paint Shop Pro for image editing. I’d like to learn Fusion 360 or custom PCB etching as the next step in my learning process.