An interview with the creator of the DiRT Rally Car-cade
If you’ve been anywhere near our Twitter account recently, you’ll have noticed a lot of noise about a certain 3D printing project, undertaken by DiRT community member and impressive skilled tinkerer Daniel Chote. As we head into Christmas, we thought now would be an opportune time to talk to the man who created the BEST toy of all time: the awesome DiRT Rally Car-cade! We spoke to him about how and why he took on the project – and you can read all about how it all came together below:
Hey Daniel! So before we ask you about the amazing Car-cade itself, we want to know where you got the skills to make it. What do you do for a living – is it something similar, or is making a hobby of yours?
I’ve always been one to build things. I’m a software developer/Linux systems administrator/network engineer by trade. I got into 3D printing a few years ago and I learned how to use Autodesk’s fantastic 3D CAD package Fusion 360. Doing so opened a whole can of money-eating worms, and now I’m totally hooked on 3D printing and building things. I’m honing my skills so that when my kids are old enough (and have the interest in it) I’ll be able teach them how to take an idea and make it something tangible.
What inspired you to make the DiRT Rally Car-cade?
@circuitbeard on Twitter beat me to the punch on a project idea I had last year. He put a Raspberry Pi running Outrun into a Tomy Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard (80s kids toy). My immediate thought was, “I wonder if I can do the same, but with a full PC title…” And so the Car-cade was born…
What’s it’s made of – i.e. what are the components for building the machinery?
The goal I had for the project was that it had to be entirely 3D printable and all of the components could be purchased easily from any online retailer. I managed to find a tiny Intel motherboard & CPU combo that met the minimum specs for Dirt Rally, and I quickly designed the Car-cade case around that.
My @dirtgame car-cade “hero” build is starting to come together. I kinda broke the steering wheel when trying to get it assembled, but the loctite 401 glue worked a charm, can hardly notice it. Next up is soldering the leads to the potentiometers and testing the @pimoroni picade pic.twitter.com/MyEoXw1kSw
— Daniel Chote (@dchote) November 10, 2017
Dirt Rally being available on Linux simplified the entire build by allowing me to use SteamOS instead of Windows (FREE OPERATING SYSTEM FTW). With the Car-cade running on Linux, I was able to present the controller interface exactly how I wanted to the game, and I was able to fine-tune some performance aspects of the hardware.
What was the biggest challenge you came across when building the Car-cade?
The biggest challenge quickly became applying the final polish to the build. 3D printed parts are fine, but look pretty “meh.” I attempted a painted finish, but the process was just too tricky on something so small. In the end, I settled for 3D printing in colours that most closely matched what I had envisioned.
How did you decide on the design, colour, etc?
Initially I was going to model the enclosure with influences from the Group B Audi Quattro (“That Car”). However, as I got further along, I decided that I could integrate the hood scoop of the Subaru Impreza and use it as a functional feature (hot air vents out of it). After deciding on that path, I quickly finished the rear panel design, inspired by the front end of the Subaru 555 car!
What’s your favourite bit of the ensemble?
My goal was to build something that worked as well as a retail product. That’s what I have achieved with the build, and that’s what I’m most proud of. You plug it in, turn it on, touch the screen, and click the buttons, then you’re playing. There are no dongles and there is no bomb defusing to get it to work; it just works.
How easy is it to drive on?
Surprisingly, not too bad with two hands! Playing with one hand on the other hand is seriously next level stuff.
I just uploaded a new @dirtgame car-cade gameplay video to YouTube, and added it to my car-cade blog post!
— Daniel Chote (@dchote) December 4, 2017
From the different bits and pieces you’ve posted, it looks like you’re a bit of a perfectionist! How have you found finessing the final product?
This type of project is hard, especially if you have some pretty high standards to start with. There are some things I am very happy with, and some things that I want to replace already. At some point you just need to walk away and say “done.” I’m not happy with the color and I have a feeling that I’ll be buying every blue 3D printing filament that hits the market until I find the one that perfectly matches World Rally Blue. The steering works, but it’s not smooth. I’ll be replacing it with a force feedback system, so I’m not too concerned with the current implementation right now. I may also play around with different ways to do throttle/brake input. The lever was reminiscent of the kids’ games, but it actually makes it quite hard to precisely control the game.
What do your friends and family think of the project?
Friends all LOVE it. My wife gave the obligatory eye roll.
What else have you built in your hive of amazing tools?
Most notably, last year I designed and built “Talkiepi.” It’s a Raspberry Pi based internet walkie-talkie for my kids. I published all the source code and 3D models online so that other people could make it too, and it took off. It’s been in 5+ magazine prints, and is even in some college curriculum! http://projectable.me/i-built-a-wifi-walkie-talkie-for-my-kids-now-you-can-too/
The last big project I finished was my V2 motion rig: http://projectable.me/my-sim-racing-motion-rig-version-2/
What’s next on the agenda for you and your maker addiction?
I’m going to take a stab at building a tiny direct drive force feedback steering wheel to put in the Car-cade…yup, really… haha. If I get something working, I’ll publish the source code and instructions online.
My build log is now live here: http://projectable.me/my-dirt-rally-tabletop-car-cade-game/ and the files to 3D print your own Car-cade can be found here: https://github.com/dchote/carcade/tree/master/enclosure/stl
A huge thanks to Daniel for taking the time to give us the down low on his awesome build! If you want to know more, then this interview only just scrapes the surface – head over to Daniel’s blog for all of the details on inspiration, parts, specs, and loads more: http://projectable.me/my-dirt-rally-tabletop-car-cade-game/