Pi4 "Lightguns" testing and comparison

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Pi4 "Lightguns" testing and comparison

Post by dee2eR » Sun Jul 18, 2021 7:06 am

lightguns.jpg (237.72 KiB) Viewed 73 times
I've been testing "lightguns" on Pi4 lately. Figured it would be a good idea to have a thread for them. Note, none of the "lightguns" I've tested lately are actually lightguns. There are some ways to use actual lightguns using an Arduino but I have yet to try any to comment. Also none of my guns have recoil so I won't be comparing their optional recoil solutions.

In the picture above you can see 4 different "lightgun" solutions: Sinden Lightgun, Aimtrak (x2), Dolphinbar + wiimote + gunshell, and the little black one is using an Arduino and the 4 IR point Samco sketch. All were bought retail and not given to me to review, except the Sinden which have been lent to me by a friend to help him set them up.

First up we have the Sinden Lightgun. It uses a camera and software based on-screen white border. Unlike the other solutions seen here the Sinden needs to run a software driver (or 2 instances for 2 guns) to function, it's possible the extra overhead of the extra software could cause issues with something but I haven't noticed anything so far.
Once setup the Sinden is able to be used with line of sight and no onscreen crosshair, it handles change of position well and can be passed around multiple players without it losing it's line of sight accuracy. The Sinden is the only gun here with a pump action, a few games used a pump action to reload or fire a second weapon so that may be important to someone, my kids think the pump action is really cool.
I have experience the odd hiccup and some other quirks with the Sinden but its early days for it's software, it's possible it will be further improved through updates. The Sinden software is closed source and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to include the drivers with ARpiCADE, their license says do not distribute it but their instructions also encourage users to make software compilations for the Sinden Lightgun...
The border required by the Sinden must be setup in the emulators (on RPi), which can add a layer of complexity that the other solutions do not have to worry about. (The Windows driver allows setting a button to add the border around software but as far as I know there isn't a way to do this (yet) with Linux). It's very easy to add the border for Retroarch emulators, can be a bit more complex for MAME/AdvMAME.
The Sinden gun feels very high quality in hand and seems well made. The gun handle is a bit square for my taste and is less comfortable in hand than it would be with a rounder shape, your milage may vary - this is probably personal taste or hand shape related as much as anything.

Next up, the Ultimarc Aimtrak. It uses an IR camera and a IR LED bar (not the same bar design as Wii) that needs to be placed on top of your monitor. The Aimtrak is a very good solution but has one major weakness, it is only accurate from the position it is calibrated from so it is not well suited to passing around multiple players. If you use it from the position you calibrate it from it is line of sight accurate and you will not need cross hairs on screen. I think if Ultimarc released a 2 IR bar driver for the Aimtrak it's major weakness could be improved or possibly fixed entirely but I do not think they are still updating the driver (if you have 2 aimtraks you have a second IR bar that goes unused, unless you set it up on a second monitor). The Aimtrak is closed source so if Ultimarc don't do it it won't likely happen.
The only other downside to the Aimtrak is the quality of plastic molding on one of mine. They have used the old PS1 Namco Guncon shell moulds (or a very good copy) and the design is good and comfortable but my red one feels (and even sounds) noticably lower quality than the blue (or an original Guncon). My red Aimtrak flexes and squeeks in the handle making it feel like a cheap knock off of the blue one.
I have recently figured out the other problems I had in the past with calibrating the Aimtrak on RPi. It needs to be calibrated from X11 to not have the calibration cursor go wacky. At this point I quite like the Aimtrak, if you only use it from one spot it's a really good and accurate solution.

The combination of Dolphinbar, Wii-mote and gun shell is quick easy and cheap but not line of sight accurate. On screen cross hairs are basically mandatory with this solution. 2 Dolphinbars are required for 2 Wii-mote guns, although only one needs to be visible. The Dolphinbar comes with a little stand so it's possible to use it sitting on your cabs control panel (and remove it when not in use) instead of permanantly mounting it.
I only recommend this solution if you already have Wii-mote(s) and gunshell(s) and don't care about having on screen cross hairs and no true accuracy. Otherwise, avoid these for lightgun use as it doesn't really give a lightgun like experience. The gun plastic quality and comfort varies based on the shell used so I won't discuss it but I would recommend a gun shell that doesn't put the Wii-mote too far forward as the guns balance will be poor making it more fatiguing to use.

Finally we have a DIY option, the Samco. The hardware is a Arduino micro (several types can be used, must be 5v) + DFRobot IR camera (a salvaged Wii-mote cam can also be used with a few extra parts) + aftermarket Wii IR bar(s) (not Dolphinbar(s) as it will go to sleep without a Wii-mote attached to it with blutooth)+ shell of your choice. Mine is built into a broken Wii-mote shell I had lying around, I will probably find a nicer donor shell for it in the future but I used what I had to try it. The Samco is open source and the designer makes and sells PCBs on eBay to mod original Namco Guncon 1 and 2 lightguns without modifying the shells in any way. It is essentially similar to the Aimtrak but has the advantage of being able to use 2 IR LED bars, one at the top of screen and one below (the Samco can also be made to use only 1 IR bar which I haven't tried but I think would perform silmilar to the Aimtrak). Using the 2 IR bar solution the Samco is accurate even if you move or pass the gun around.
I only made the Samco this week so have spent the least time with it. It's definately accurate. I like that it is open source. Of the DIY options that are popping up the Samco is possibly an easier project than some others as it uses off the shelf IR bars and the Samco PCBs would make modding a Guncon very easy (and Guncons can be found easily at reasonable prices and are very well made and comfortable). Currently the Samco doesn't support recoil but the creator says they are working on it so it may be added in the future. I enjoyed making mine and can recomend it as a project.

I'm waiting on some IR LEDs to try 2 more DIY options, both use 4 ir points - one at the center of each edge of the screen requiring a custom IR point build.
One is xwiigun which uses a Wii-mote connected to the RPis blutooth and a custom Linux driver and is supposed to give line of sight accuracy as well as being wireless. I'm not sure if this supports more than one gun.
The other is JayBees Gun4IR, very similar to the Samco but also supports recoil (either or both solanoid and rumble). Gun4IR is not open source. (JayBee is also working on an adaptor for using actual lightguns as mice on CRT that I believe is intended to be a comercial product.). The Gun4IR is supposed to be great, it's very popular on BYOAC at the moment.

There is another DIY option I want to try that is actually a real lightgun converted to a mouse with an Arduino "GunconDuino". This will only work on low res CRTs.

With the exception of the real lightguns all the mentioned solutions work on both high and low res monitors.

If I was forced to rank these options it would currently be a tie between Aimtrak and Sinden with Dolphinbar way behind. The Samco is too new to me to rank, if it works as well as it looks so far it will be on the top of the heap (at least for these 4 solutions). If the Sinden is improved with driver updates it could also become the top dog, it may be easier or better on Windows than Pi too (I'm not sure). My experience is the Sinden and the Aimtrak both have good and bad points - both are good options. I expect the other options I have mentioned wanting to try are all great options too.
wii-mote shell Samco.jpg
wii-mote shell Samco.jpg (155.96 KiB) Viewed 72 times

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