Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Solder-less Happ Button Mod for Mad Catz SE Fight Stick

I actually performed this mod about a year ago on my own stick, but never published the pictures or process until now because I didn't think anyone would be interested. However, I've noticed a few threads on the Shoryuken forums with individuals asking for "clickier" alternatives to the sensitive-yet-mushy Sanwa and Seimitsu buttons that are currently preferred by most players, and Happ's products fill that niche quite nicely.

Before I dive in with the mod itself, I'm going to take a few moments to talk about differences between Japanese- and American-style arcade buttons and why someone might prefer one over the other. I'll try to be as objective as possible. If you already know or don't care, feel free to skip straight to the tutorial and pics.


American-style buttons--specifically those from arcade part manufacturers Happ and IL--use a plunger positioned atop a Cherry microswitch, which produces a tangible and audible click when depressed. Japanese-style buttons, on the other hand, use a silent, low-resistance switch that provides little-to-no feedback as to when a button press is registered to the system. This is not to say that Japanese-style buttons are not sensitive, as they are actually significantly more sensitive than the Happ designs, there is simply no indication from the button itself as to when it will register.

Overall, Happ buttons seem to be popular with individuals who also like clicky, mechanical keyboards (like the venerable IBM Model M keyboard, which I use at home), as well as folks who grew up with the American arcade scene (i.e., "old farts," as the kids like to call us).

With that out of the way, lets get started. Some people have laughed at this mod for being "ghetto," but I'll take that over those tacky, overwrought custom sticks so many people seem to favor.

Anyway, as it says in the title, this is a solder-less mod, but you'll still need some additional items (Note: this is a button-only mod; putting a Happ stick into an SE is a much bigger undertaking and I don't recommend attempting it unless you are an experienced modder)

What You'll Need

1. Phillips-head screwdriver. To remove the screws from the bottom of the case.

2. Buttons. I recommend the Happ Competition pushbuttons, which have a low travel distance and convex shape, similar to Japanese-style buttons, but with that same satisfying click as the Happ Classics.

3. .187 quick-disconnects. These connect the stick's board to your buttons. The Japanese-style buttons use .110 quick-disconnects, which are too small for your mighty Happ buttons.

4. Wire. Somewhere around 14 to 16 gauge is good, even a little thicker or thinner should be fine, though you'll want to make sure your quick-releases can grab them properly.

5. Cardboard box. This will be used to make a spacer to provide room for your long-ass American buttons, which run deeper than their Japanese counterparts (/innuendo).

6. Glue. For the aforementioned spacer, which needs to be 2 layers deep. Pretty much any glue should be fine, but you want it to be pretty strong and thick. I used wood glue.

7. Optional. You can use special solderless connectors--like these--to join your wires to the stock wires, but I'll show you a little trick later on that works just fine without any connectors.

Step 1: Remove the bottom plate from the stick

Pretty self-explanatory. Just unscrew the 6 screws (2 in the middle and 1 under each of the 4 rubber feet).

Step 2: Trace the outline of the bottom plate onto your cardboard, twice
Depending on the size of your cardboard, you may have to break down your box. While you're at it, go ahead and draw a second square inside of each, about 1" smaller in each direction.

Step 3: Cut your cardboard

Cut along the lines you just drew such that you have 2x 1" frames of cardboard.

Step 4: Glue the frames together to make your spacer
Put your 2 frames together and glue them. This is your spacer, which provides the necessary clearance for your buttons.

For the next couple of steps, which cover removing the old buttons and putting the new ones in, I recommend replacing 1 button at a time so you don't get the wires mixed up. They're color-coded, but if you lose track of which wires go with which button, you'll have to do a bunch of trial-and-error testing at the end to get everything sorted out. Anyway...

Step 5: Pop out your stock buttons

They have a little clippy thing that holds them in:
If you press it in with a screwdriver or whatever, you should be able to pop them out without much trouble. Make sure you disconnect the wires from the bottoms first.

Step 6: Connect your new wires to the old button connectors

You can use the aforementioned optional solderless splicers or you can do what I did: strip the end of your new wire, pull back the rubber sleeve thing from the old .110 quick-disconnects, wrap your bare wire around the old quick-disconnects
and then slide the rubber sleeve over the whole thing. The connection will be fine and the sleeve will hold everything in place nice and tight. :D
Step 7: Add your new buttons

Not much to this step. Just stick 'em in there, screw on the included nut until it's tight and then clip in the included Cherry microswitch. It's a tight squeeze in the tiny SE case, so you'll want to take that into consideration. Take a look at my finished layout:
Step 8: Connect your buttons and test it out

Crimp your .187 quick-disconnects to stripped ends of your new wires and then connect them to your new Happ buttons. One wire connects to the bent post on the side of the microswitch and one connects to the nearest post on the bottom, as shown in the previous pic. Important: if the quick-disconnect on the side touches the bottom plate of your stick, it will ground itself and cause a button press to register (this is bad). To prevent it, you can tape/glue a piece of paper or plastic (I used one of those anti-static bags that an old computer motherboard was shipped in) to the inside of the plate, just to be extra-cautious.
At this point, you should be ready to test your buttons out. Make sure the wires are all connected to the correct button (i.e., the buttons execute the correct actions in-game). If any of them act like they're always pressed until you actually press the button (i.e., its response is backwards), then you've attached the wire to the wrong post.

Step 9: Replace the bottom plate

Once you're sure everything works properly, just cram your wires into place and screw the bottom back on. With the spacer, the screws should be just long enough to catch if you press firmly on the bottom plate. However, they probably won't be able to hold the rubber feet in place securely and you'll probably lose them (though I imagine most of you are like me and have long since lost those rubber feet anyway).

Here's what it looks like from the side. Yes, the cardboard is visible (though not particularly noticeable), and yes, people will probably make fun of you for it.
If you have any questions about the process, hit me up in the comments.

UPDATE: Reader sfkingalpha had the clever idea of covering the cardboard edge with duct tape, which greatly improves the appearance compared with nekkid cardboard:
"Aside from aesthetics, I think this also helps with air tightness and cardboard deterioration!"
Looks great, sfkingalpha!

He was also able to keep his rubber feet by getting longer screws, specifically 3/4 SS panheads.

Here's his finished product:


Anonymous said...

Mind showing a picture of the finished product? Is the cardboard layer visible?

Hunter K. said...

Oh yeah, duh. :P

I updated the post with a picture at the bottom. The spacer is visible, but doesn't really stand out. You could really use just about anything for the spacer (wood, laser-cut plexi, etc.), but cardboard is free, so that's what I went with.

Anonymous said...

Me again.
Perhaps the cardboard can be covered in that grey electrical tape for a metallic look? That's what I might do. I am doing this mod solely for a happ start button. :P

Hunter K. said...

Oh yeah, covering it with tape is completely feasible and would probably blend in nicely with the bottom plate.

I'd love to see how it turns out. If you send me a pic, I'll add it to the post for others to learn from, too. :D

Sfkingalpha said...

Me again. I'm sure it can be done a lot better by using 1 long strip for a seamless look, but I was lazy and did it however it came out. Could be put on tighter too. Aside from aesthetics I think this also helps with air tightness and cardboard deterioration! Don't want any tiny particles in your micro switches.. Here's the pics!

Sfkingalpha said...

Finished! My whole reason for doing the mod:

Also I kept my rubber feet. Just got some longer screws for the corners. (3/4 SS panheads)
Wish I did a nicer tape job though. Using a slightly bigger frame now.

Hunter K. said...

Ha! That start button looks great, man! Nice work.

I added your other pictures to the bottom of the post, and I'll throw these new ones in there too.

Thanks for sharing your results!

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