Introduction: Custom Crazy Taxi Video Game Controller With Makey Makey
What the Heck is a Makey Makey?
Have you ever wanted to change the way the controls work on a particular computer program or game? Ever wanted to create a fun electronic invention without needing to be an electrical engineer or computer programmer? Ever want to have some crazy fun? Then Makey Makey is for you! What is it? Basically it's a device that a computer thinks is a USB keyboard and or mouse, but you can hook it up to lots of things more fun than simply a keyboard or button...for example, with Makey Makey you can use Play-dough, a banana or a bucket of water in place of keys on a keyboard. Makey Makeys have been used to create custom game controllers, piano's with fruit as the keyboards, musical staircases, and even a Dance Dance Revolution machine with buckets of water as the dance mat! There are tons of examples you can view here
Crazy Taxi, Why?
Crazy Taxi is fun old game, and the keyboard controls seem kind of unnatural. Makey Makey allowed me to create a custom control panel including even gas and brake pedals. I put this Instructable together so anyone can learn about Makey Makey, learn how to create custom controls and even override the default keys supported by Makey Makey. I've included a video of my Crazy Taxi "dashboard" and "pedals" in action.
What's in the package?
A Makey Makey kit includes a circuit board card, USB Cable to connect it to your computer, 7 Alligator clip wires to connect to your "keys" (which may be crazy things like bananas), 6 Connector Wires (for connecting to the header contacts on the back of the board), 20 Stickers (for the fun of it), a colorful tin storage box and graphical instructions.
What can I use for a "key"?
You connect your Makey Makey "keys" to the Makey Makey circuit board by alligator clips, essentially electrical wires, so as you might guess, whatever you use as key needs to be able to conduct electricity. So naturally aluminum foil works, but you'd be surprised what else works. Vegetables (we tried snap peas), bananas, water, some types of plastic, for this Instructable we'll be using dollar store Play-dough. Check out this Instructable where I use icicles for game controllers!
Experiment and have fun!
What do I need for this Instructable?
- Makey Makey from http://makeymakey.com/
- Computer or other device that connects to a usb keyboard (Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, etc)
- Play-Dough to use for our custom control panel (got mine from the dollar store...for a dollar :-)... but you could make your own)
- Old vent covers or some scrap metal to use as foot petals.
- Paper or cardboard to design your game controller
- Tape to hold down the wires during wild and crazy game play
- Metal keyring (not essential, but we found it made for an easy way to ground the player...you'll see what I mean in a bit)
Ready? Let's Play!
Step 1: Let's Test Out the Makey Makey
To get familiar with the Makey Makey and try out whatever you are using as conductive "keys", it's a good idea to just run a little test. We started by just connecting a few alligator clips and testing things out with good old Windows Notepad...here's how:
- Unpack the Makey Makey
- Connect one alligator clip to one of the "Earth" connections at the bottom of the Makey Makey board. Connect the other end of this wire to a metal key-ring.
- Connect another alligator clip wire to the "space" contact on the Makey Makey board.
- Connect another alligator clip wire to the left arrow on the Makey Makey board.
- Connect the USB cable from your computer to the USB port on the board....lights will flash on the circuit board.
- Start Notepad on the computer
- Put the key-ring on one of your fingers
Now you should be able to touch the "space wire" to type spaces in the Notepad session, and then touch the left "arrow wire" to move the cursor back to the left.
Next, to be sure things will work, connect the wires to your conductive material...in our case that's play-dough...but you may choose bananas, snap peas, tin foil, who knows what!
O.K. our Makey Makey with Play-dough works...
Now let's get Craaaazy with Crazy Taxi!
Step 2: Now Let's Get Crazy With Crazy Taxi
To play Crazy Taxi we'll need more controls than just the Space bar and left arrow...
Here are the default keys defined in the game Crazy Taxi
q - Brake
w - Horn
a - Destination reminder
d - Reverse gear (and select for menus)
s - Forward gear
e and up arrow - accelerator
left/right arrows - steering
down arrow - slow down
By default the Makey Makey circuit board supports all we need but the e and q key. Since I could use up arrow in place of the e key and down arrow to slow down was almost as good as the brake key we first set things up this way (In fact the first time we set this up Snap Peas where what we used for contact points and they worked great!)
Still things didn't feel natural (what? driving a car by pressing chunks of play-dough doesn't feel natural???) So we really wanted to set up the q key as a brake pedal and the up arrow as a gas pedal. To do this we'd have to override one of the default keys supported by the Makey Makey circuit board. Luckily the people at JoyLabz who created Makey Makey thought about that and it's pretty easy
...as we'll see in the next step......
Step 3: How to Change the Default Keys Supported by the Makey Makey Board
By default the Makey Makey board has defined the following keys:
On the front of the board:
- Up Arrow
- Down Arrow
- Left Arrow
- Right Arrow
- Left Mouse Click
On the back of the board:
- Mouse Up
- Mouse Down
- Mouse Left
- Mouse Right
- Left Mouse Click
- Right Mouse Click
The output header at the top of the board allows you to control objects from the Makey Makey. If you are using the Arduino IDE, you can program the board so when keys are pressed, LEDs, motors or the like can be controlled.
Should you want to customize the board there are two ways to do it:
- With a Makey Makey version 1.2 or newer (printed right on the board) you can remap keys simply by navigating to the website: www.makeymakey.com/remap, I've included screenshots from the site, but the wizard style directions make the process very easy. (They don't tell you to hook up the Earth wire while reprogramming but, you knew that already)
Reprogramming for older versions of Makey Makey is only supported on Mac computers
- You can also customize the behavior of Makey Makey connections by using the Arduino IDE. There are great instructions for this on Adafruit Advanced Makey Makey with Arduino IDE
For our Crazy Taxi example, we needed to define the q button which is the brake button in Makey Makey. To change this I simply went to www.makeymakey.com/remap and followed the directions Setup mode is initiated by connecting the up arrow to down arrow and the left arrow to right arrow. On the next screen I simply changed the "g" port to become the "q" key
All in All the the Makey Makey is a fun gadget to experiment with, it's sure to bring a smile to the create, the young and the young at heart!