Making The Grade: A FightStick Story

Street Fighter IV is almost here!  If you’ve been paying attention to SFIV news lately, you’ve probably seen the hype and commotion going on about the Street Fighter IV line of accesories from Mad Catz (which are shipping NOW!)… Lets take a look back and see what all the fuss is about, from someone behind the scenes!  Click below for the full feature…

Greetings all!  Some of you readers may know me, some may not know me.  My name is Mark “MarkMan” Julio and I am Associate Product Manager for Mad Catz, Inc. As you may have heard many months ago, Mad Catz has acquired the license to produce official Street Fighter IV game controllers.

A little background info on myself.  I’m in love with arcade sticks.  I have a huge collection of arcade sticks all around my house, at my work desk, in my car, in my garage, EVERYWHERE.  At last count, I was close to 70 arcade sticks ranging from custom sticks, to arcade cabinets, and high end sticks that you might have never known existed.  There is just something about an arcade stick that appeals to my tastes… It chimes in with my deep love for fighting games, the fighting game community, and gaming in general.  To me, the best arcade sticks out there are the ones that you learn to love through experience, exposure, and evolution… There is also that element that just leaves you speechless… Striking strong lines in the build housing, the “wow” in the contrast of colors, and a look & feel that grows on you.  Arcade sticks really are something else.  Works of art, if you will.  Anyways, enough of me ranting on…  Back to Street Fighter…

When the news of the joint project between both Capcom and Mad Catz was initially announced, fans of the Street Fighter genre, and haters in general, gathered their fuel and added to the fire that was their disapproval of Mad Catz…

“That’s right, Mad Catz are making the Street Fighter IV fighting sticks. I hope that makes you as nervous as that makes me.”

Brian Crecente
Kotaku

That about summed up the feeling of many serious fighting game fans.  Although Brian’s words were presented in a more civil manner, compared to the slew of comments that followed this article, it was a very big surprise to everyone. An even bigger surprise was waiting for them.  If they only knew what our team had in store for them.

IGN awarded the FightStick: Tournament Edition with the BEST of CES award for 2009!

Quite honestly, I don’t blame anyone for having ill feelings towards Mad Catz.  I’ve heard the stories everywhere about the memory card that couldn’t or the little controller that stopped working… But… Times change, people change and in this case…  The company has changed. All that is left to change is  the opinion and general perception of Mad Catz as a whole.

I’ve been with the company for a very short time.  As I’m writing this, I haven’t even been there for a year.  I can say that I’ve been there long enough to see that the company is filled with genuine people who have a passion for the industry and a general belief in providing the best possible experience to the consumer.

This particular project first started early in 2008.  Mad Catz senior product manager Chris Carroll approached me with his vision and desire to create a high quality gaming controller for Street Fighter IV.  I was in awe at how passionate and ambitious he was towards the license.  You could really tell that he was an old school fan of the Street Fighter series and our talks/discussions continued as we shared stories about gaming and mostly Street Fighter… The good old days. In turn, I shared my extensive knowledge about arcade sticks and the fighting game community, and helped form the blueprint of what we wanted the product to be like.  After more and more meetings and discussions, I suddenly found myself on board with the project and things started moving fast.  Working with Chris and Mad Catz Industrial Designer, Lawrence Yeung, we set off to take on the market and do justice to the Street Fighter brand.  X-Arcade, Pelican, Nubytech, and even Hori… Our aim was to beat them all.

The arcade stick Dream Team: Roentgen Reyes, Chris Carroll, Lawrence Yeung, and Mark Julio.

Without both Chris and Lawrence at the helm for this project, it wouldn’t have turned out the way that it is now.  I learned so much about the gaming industry and product development in general from these two, and decided it was in my best interest to take it as a learning experience and further develop my skills.

Chris was the project manager across all the Street Fighter IV products.  His dedication/passion towards this franchise helped the company the most, as he made sure things got done and we made all the needed changes when working with our engineers in the US and in Hong Kong.

Lawrence’s exceptional industrial design skills really helped capture the spirit and essence of a Japanese style arcade stick with both the regular FS and TE stick.  As you can see he definitely nailed the look/feel of the Vewlix arcade machine. His initial concepts were also remarkable as well.  Check out some of the selected concept work and mock ups that he worked on below…

One other key member for the Street Fighter team was our art director Roentgen Reyes(R2).  R2 was in charge of the art on the control panel and the beautiful packaging designs for the sticks.  I mean, watch the video below, you have to admit that is the best packaging EVER…

Mad Catz V.P. of Marketing Michael Greco also played a big role in this project by helping us throughout the entire decision making process and from a market/analytical standpoint.  Also big thanks to Darren Grech who also helped with the financials.  Another big player in this project is the CEO of Mad Catz, Darren Richardson.  He’s the other signature on the Tournament Edition sticks’ certificate of authenticity!

Capcom played an integral role and worked closely with Mad Catz throughout the entire development process.  Seth “s-kill” Killian and producer of Street Fighter IV, Yoshinori Ono heavily influenced the design throughout our decision making period.  The end result brings us to the present time…

Street Fighter IV Producer Yoshinori Ono and MarkMan at Comic-Con 2008 in San Diego.

So now CES has just passed and if you’re reading this you might have heard about the Street Fighter IV products coming out at launch.  By this time preorders were already filling up at major retailers… So if you didn’t get one, sorry!  Hopefully you can get one in the near future.  About those sticks…

The Official Street Fighter IV FightStick and FightStick Tournament Edition are both filled with detail and unique features not seen in any other arcade sticks on the market… As with many things in life, it’s what’s inside that counts!

Taking a look at the internal construction of the both FightSticks you will immediately notice how much thought and research has been put into this project. Like many high end arcade sticks (See Hori Real Arcade PRO series and Sega Virtua Stick High Grade), the Street Fighter IV FightSticks give you easy access to both the main arcade stick lever and buttons.

Test mod using a Sanwa bat top and a Semitsu LS-32-01.

On the Tournament Edition FightStick, as mentioned, they will use the exact same parts as the official Street Fighter IV arcade setup, with some extras. This consists of:

  • Sanwa JLF-TP-8YT-SK-W arcade stick lever
  • Sanwa OBSF-30-W (6) for the main six action buttons
  • Sanwa OBSF-30-DH (2) for the far right action buttons
  • Sanwa OBSF-24-W (2) for Start & Select (PS3) or Start & Back (360)

The original Vewlix arcade panel has 6 action buttons with one action button plugged in by a Sanwa button cover. In the SFIV Tournament Edition FightStick we have 8 action buttons total, to give you full access to every button on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 controller, thus furthering compatibility with most games.

The Sanwa parts will only come equipped on the Tournament Edition of the FightStick while the standard edition one will feature our own high quality parts. One unique feature about how the parts are installed on both sticks is that they are connected to the main electronics PCB of the controller via quick disconnect wiring. Quick disconnect wiring is something that has been used in arcades for a long time now and allow for easy replacement of the existing buttons. As long as the measurements are the same (30mm), you’ll be able to easily unplug the existing button’s quick disconnect terminal, pop out the button and replace it with the new one you’d like to install, then plug the quick disconnect terminal back into the new button, and just like that, you have yourself an easy and painless mod. After you get used to it, you’ll be able to swap in/out Sanwa and Seimitsu buttons like a pro.

Labeled wiring terminal makes swapping in and out buttons/configurations a breeze.

Another feature to take notice of is the labeled wiring terminal for all the buttons on the FightStick. As seen in the picture, all the buttons are wired via quick disconnect and plug into a separate labeled terminal that shows you where each button/function should be plugged into. This allows for maximum compatibility with any control setup style you’d like. If you want to wire the main six action buttons to the far right more straight line buttons (for US style tastes), you can easily do so by swapping a few wires. Since they are labeled, you’ll know which ones you need to switch around right off the bat.

Moving to the arcade stick portion of both FightSticks, we have engineered a special mounting plate that is compatible with almost all Japanese style arcade sticks. Obviously it fits Sanwa JLF arcade sticks but it will also fit standard Seimitsu LS-32-01 arcade sticks with some slight know how and elbow grease. They connect easily using the standard 5 pin connector into the separate PCB of the arcade stick component.

The insides of the standard FightStick, as you can see it has the same guts as it’s bigger brother.

If most of the terminology here is too geeky and farfetched for you to comprehend… The bottom line is that BOTH Street Fighter IV FightSticks have been designed for easy customization and the ability to swap out parts painlessly. It should be noted that opening up the FightSticks will void your warranty, but if you know what you’re doing you should be fine. Just know that when you purchase one of these sweet FightSticks, whether it is the standard edition or tournament edition, you have a whole lot of “win” waiting inside.

FightStick Tournament Edition

  • Sanwa parts
  • Vewlix styled case
  • Cable storage
  • Ability to mount the arcade stick to a desk/table (this opens up tons of possibilities if people want to construct their own SF gaming rig)

On both regular FightStick and Tournament Edition

  • 4m cable, longer than any other arcade stick out on the market
  • Quick disconnect wiring and labeled quick disconnect terminal
  • Control module that features real time LED indicator, lock/unlock switch, and dpad switch control
  • Vewlix style button placement/layout

Below is two pictures showing the dimensions and weights when compared to the other two quality arcade sticks on the market. Unfortunately I did not make the comparison for the standard FightStick, but FYI, the stick is 4.25 lbs.

SPEC SFIV FightStick: Tournament Edition
Virtua Stick High Grade
WEIGHT 6.5 lbs
6.5 lbs
HEIGHT 5 inches
4.5 inches
H. LENGTH
16 inches 13.75 inches
V LENGTH
10 inches 9.5 inches

Please refer to the picture thumbnail above for a more visual description of this chart.

SPEC SFIV FightStick: Tournament Edition
Hori Real Arcade Pro Series
WEIGHT 6.5 lbs
5.7 lbs
HEIGHT 5 inches
5 inches
H. LENGTH
16 inches 15.75 inches
V LENGTH
10 inches 9 inches

Please refer to the picture thumbnail above for a more visual description of this chart.

As you can see, the sticks “bring it” when it comes down to the insides and the attention to detail.  Big community names such as Jimmy “ShinJN” Nguyen, Joey “MrWizard” Cuellar , and Alex “CaliPower” Valle have had a lot to say about the Tournament Edition stick, you can even see their review here.

Street Fighter legend, Alex “Calipower” Valle using the Tournament Edition FightStick in competition.  VSHG/SF4 size comparison pic for good measure.

Almost everyone who has played on either of the Mad Catz SF4 sticks can vouch for their comfort and quality.  I’ll stop rambling about this topic and hope that everyone gets to experience this first hand with Street Fighter IV when the game launches.  One final note from the community…

“Madcatz ultra redeemed. You guys better stay in the stick making business. This is too awesome.”

MTHanded
NeoGAF Forums

Thanks.  We’ll be around! ;)

BTW, here are your stinkin’ art templates (Thanks to Capcom-Unity for file hosting!):

I used them to make quick templates such as these…

Here is an additional mock up template courtesy of Jube3 from NeoGAF!

With this template you can make mock up views such as these.


MarkMan would like to extend a special thanks to the following people/communities:

SRK Tech Talk, CAG Fighter Thread, GAF, SDTEKKEN, AkihabaraShop, LizardLick, ShinJN, CaliPower, MrWizard, S-kill, Capcom-Unity, Paik4Life, #capcom, akuma001, haunts, iPlayWinner and everyone else out there that loves arcade sticks AND Street Fighter!

Links & Reviews:

FightStick: Tournament Edition

FightStick

FightPad

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23 thoughts on “Making The Grade: A FightStick Story

  1. I’ll believe this stick has the same amount of room in it as a HRP when I see it. Sorry MarkMan but side by side it clearly looks to me like HRP has more height in those pictures and it looks like it from the inside too.

  2. marksman you are a legend,

    the Te stick is possibly the best licensed product to have ever accompanied any game.

    well done,

    big thanks to madcatz and the crew behind the products as you can really tell alot of love and attention went into them.

    just showing some love in return.

    from a old school street fighter player!

    Wish you all the best

  3. Great article, Markman! I would like to learn more about the design process of the sticks… Like why turbo was added, or how the analog stick emulation works.

  4. Wow, i gotta get myself at least 2 of those. One korean esque and another japanese ball type. Alas, i am an arcade stick noob collector. Honestly though, to see such a seemingly high quality stick makes me want to buy a new console. Got enough dough for the console/a few games, not sure about a couple of sticks though.

  5. man i cant believe that we are gonna play street fighter 4 next week whoooooooo yeah baby. namco can really learn from capcom about not keeping their fan waiting forever.

  6. Just curious, does anyone know how I can mod my PS3 tournament stick to a 360 one? I was able to find a PS3 but no 360 ones and I would rather play the game on 360 because thats what my friends will play.

    Thanks in advance,
    –Calcos

  7. the only thing i know…(still learning) is if you got a 360 one and got a cthulhu pcb and made that for the ps3(i know that doesnt help, im in the same boat as you:( ). check out shoryuken.com in the tech forums

  8. Hey, I hope you have a nice day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  9. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make
    your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why
    throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you
    could be giving us something enlightening to read?

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