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Posts: 221
Reply with quote  #1 
While I watch in envy at the custom crafted consoles, I don't have the time or money to do that right now.  So I thought I would try to come up with an inexpensive method for making custom, labeled controls.  My goal was to make it easier for new players to pick things up (e.g. having a button labeled "Nuke" or "Reverse") and just improve the usability and production values a touch.  The big idea is to take an accessory keypad and some small stickers (along with customizing the controls.ini) to make labeled buttons that don't rely on overlays or marking up the laptop keyboard.

I found this inexpensive USB keypad for $5 (19 keys, 17 usable) and these printable stickers for $5 just the right size for keys.  You could get really swanky and upgrade to a wireless keypad for $11.  There are also cool ones with backlit keys.  Then you print onto the stickers, clean the keys with a cloth damp with rubbing alcohol (to ensure a good stick), and carefully stick the stickers onto your keys.  I attached my planning sheet and sticker template below, along with the controls.ini file in case anyone wants a shortcut.

Sticker and Keypadsm.jpg

After a couple of prototypes and trying different layouts, I was happy with how the first two turned out:
Helm Keypadsm.jpg Weapons Keypadsm.jpg 
As you can see these are a bit rough as the print alignment is tricky on stickers that small (it takes a couple trial prints to get everything just so).  It's also tricky to place the stickers perfectly straight, but I got better over time.  It didn't come out very visible, but I did color coding as well so all of the rudder controls are blue and all of the impulse controls are green, etc. -- it definitely improves readability (see the keyboard mapping attachment below).

Some lessons learned
  • Spend some time test printing one sticker at a time to align the sticker sheet with your printer.  Just move the top and left margins around to adjust things.  You can feed the same sheet through multiple times.
  • While you can technically map controls to Num Lock and Shift/Fn keys, you shouldn't.
  • Also, on my particular 24 key keypad, the shift key is processed on the keypad and is different from the main keyboard Shift.  Don't use it or things get confusing.
  • I couldn't find a way to map to the "00" (double zero) key.
  • Because of these two things, don't count on a 19 key keypad holding 19 controls (I got 17).  For weapons, I went with a 24 key keypad and still had to leave off seldom-used controls (like unload tube).
  • In the controls.ini file, the keyboard's UI_INPUT_KEY_1 is different from the keypad's UI_INPUT_NUMPAD1.  This let me keep the standard keyboard controls intact while moving around the keypad's (e.g. it might be 1 on the keyboard and 7 on the keypad).
  • Make sure the NumLock light on the keypad is on or else the custom controls won't work (and it gets very confusing as they become arrow, end, and home buttons).
Hope this helps.

Attached Files
zip (3.95 KB, 5 views)
doc Artemis Button Stickers.doc (123.50 KB, 5 views)
xlsx Keyboard mapping.xlsx (16.18 KB, 6 views)


Posts: 221
Reply with quote  #2 
Update to the keypad controls.  I've made the colors more distinct for a little user interface improvement as well as added controls for Science and Engineering.  I tried getting $10 wireless keypads for the science and engineering to try a different hardware.  They all work nicely and I can't wait to try them with new players.

Helm Keypad v2.jpg  Weapons Keypad v2.jpg
Science Keypad.jpg  Engineering Keypad.jpg
I've uploaded updated stickers and controls.ini file.       

Attached Files
doc Artemis Button Stickers.doc (115.50 KB, 3 views)
zip (4.21 KB, 2 views)


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Posts: 70
Reply with quote  #3 
Very nice! This is about the level I might manage.
Captain Conrad Matsiyan - TSN Viper
4th Light Division, 2nd Space Fleet, Terran Stellar Navy
TSN RP Community  |  WTSN Fleet News Pulse Podcast  |  Stellar Navigation Console

Posts: 221
Reply with quote  #4 
Quick update:  the wireless keypads I got work just fine, but when I put them away for storage, I have to remove the battery or else they will drain when not in use.  Also, there's no way to store the USB dongle on the device, so I end up putting the keypad, dongle, battery, and battery cover in a ziplock baggie for storage.  Not a show-stopper, but annoying.  I'd cover with a wired keypad for simplicity's sake so you can pack your gear away for a month, then set it up quickly without searching for fresh batteries.

Posts: 221
Reply with quote  #5 
Here's an update to the controls.ini file with better commenting and some new commands from 2.7.5.  Each console can have up to three control sets:
1) Keyboard (the original keystrokes)
2) Keypad (the custom one for this project)
3) Joystick (the original joystick commands)

I've added some specific joystick sections for Thrustmaster and Extreme 3D Pro joysticks (which I've combined with Joy2Key for reaching additional buttons), but you can disregard for this project.

Attached Files
zip (5.45 KB, 0 views)


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Posts: 112
Reply with quote  #6 
That is pretty cool!

A couple of things that would still be very easy, but might make it look just a tad nicer:

  1. Start by putting black tape (electrical tape or whatever) over the keys to make sure the original numbers are hidden.
  2. Use new labels with a black background and lighter letters.  That would make it blend in with the keypad better.  Might make it look like "official" keys instead of stick on labels.

Instead of electrical tape, you could use something like this to "blank" the keys.

I think I'm going to give this a go myself!

The Universe is a wild place.

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Posts: 1,301
Reply with quote  #7 
A numberpad is a great first step to custom controls.

I would also suggest putting a piece of clear tape over the label to keep wear from making it illegible. 

-Captain of the TSN Gungnir JN-001
-Eastern Front online group member
-My continuing bridge build:
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