Lethrys's Phob Thread

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Lethrys
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Lethrys's Phob Thread

Post by Lethrys »

BLink requested this, so here it is: my Phob journey, as it's called.

In late September of 2023, out of a compulsion to seek optimality and high quality in the things that I own, at a time when I was getting back into Melee, I scoured YouTube in search of the "ultimate" Gamecube controller to see if anything like it was feasible for me to obtain. This introduced me to the PhobGCC, a custom Gamecube controller motherboard designed specifically for Smash. As I had heard prebuilt Phob controllers were prohibitively expensive, I opted to try and make my own to avoid spending $300 on one (spoiler: I spent way more than that on all of this). This led me to my first round of purchases, the bare necessities to building a basic Phob: a Smash Ultimate donor controller, a Phob motherboard from an ebay seller, a new temperature-controlled soldering iron, DH1H1 magnets, 3D-printed magnet mounts through JLCPCB, flux paste, and everything else on the Github list. A little later, I came across these chrome-painted GCC shells and buttons from eXtremeRate, they were a little expensive but I couldn't resist. I had also gotten stuff to install PhobVision, but I never finished doing it out of hesitation of making permanent mods to the shell.

While I was waiting for all that to come in, I saw a pair of silver OEMs on ebay for $60 altogether; in the photos I saw the dot on the back that indicates a T3 controller, so I snagged them thinking I'd use them to make and sell more controllers like the one I was making. I was thinking that if I don't specify T3 in my search, if the seller isn't wise to the value of T3 controllers, then I could get a better deal. Only one of them actually turned out to be a T3, the other was a T2, but there was a silver lining: older models have a softer button rubber, making for easier presses. I ended up harvesting the T2's button rubber in my finished product.

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About a week later, I stumbled into a rabbit hole of other general-purpose mods, mostly from FiresCC. Stickbox greasing, lightening triggers, reducing button wobble, Z button replacement, cable paracord, etc. This is where I really started to drop the ball with the spending. Many of the materials for these mods I bought in bulk, with the rationale that I'd be able to use them to make more controllers to sell, but to this day I'm still sitting on all of it.

Three weeks after my initial round of orders was when enough materials started to arrive that I could get started on various mods. I kind of got to work on everything at once. In any case, let's finally get into the logistics of every mod I installed.

PhobGCC

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https://github.com/PhobGCC/PhobGCC-doc/ ... ide_2.0.md

Four weeks in, this is where the fun began. I started by taking my soldering stuff and basic Phob components down to a corner in the garage. Following both the Github documentation and PhobGCC install video, I spent the first few hours losing my mind trying to desolder the trigger potentiometers from my Smash Ultimate donor. A few people in the PhobGCC discord gave me some tips and helped me do it; the trick was putting enough pressure and surface-area contact onto the solder joints with my soldering iron while using my solder sucker. After that, the trigger pots popped right off. Then, when I was soldering the C-stick daughterboard to the motherboard, I messed up and arranged the wires the wrong way, so I had to desolder them and flip it around. As a beginner, it was a little unnerving, but I got through it completely fine. From that point, the soldering went pretty smoothly, and once I was done, I was actually sad that it was over because it was starting to get really fun.

SLICKbox

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https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/fires-slickbox

I installed this mod on the Ultimate donor's stickboxes while I was still waiting for the basic Phob stuff to get here. It involves disassembling the stickbox, greasing the joints, and replacing the spring with a higher-quality one. A spring shim of variable thickness to control weight is also installed, and I opted for the lightest one. While the lightest shim physically adds the most snapback, snapback itself is irrelevant since it's corrected in software by the Phob, so it's the best of both worlds. The result is two buttery-smooth sticks that feel great to use.

Fires Triggers Stage 1

https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/fires-triggers-stage-1

This mod improves the L/R trigger feel in three different ways: one, it applies the Stabilized Buttons mod (seen below) to the trigger rims, two, it installs a lighter spring and a spring shim, and three, it reduces clacking by lining the trigger button with soft silicone tape. I took two cost-cutting liberties with this mod: one, instead of buying an expensive roll of silicone tape, I cut up a rubber band and glued the pieces to the rims of the trigger button. Two, I opted to cut one of the springs that came with my gold shell and use that so I could avoid paying $20 for lighter freaking springs. It was at this point that I learned that springs are actually tough as nails, and I needed a thick tool to cut it. Other than that, the mod was pretty simple.

Tactile Z

https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/tactile-z

Initially, I actually wanted to install a mouseclick switch, but for some reason, likely availability, I was unable to. A tactile switch seemed like the next best thing. The Phob motherboard is designed with a pair of holes intended for a tactile switch, but using them requires irrevocably modifying the ABXY button rubber, which I was unwilling to do. The FiresCC install guide details a method of bending the legs on a tactile switch to match the shape of an OEM Z button and make them fit on an OEM board. This eliminates the need to cut the button rubber to make room for the tactile switch. The install wasn't difficult by any means since I have pretty steady hands, but to be honest, I regret it a little. The tactile switch takes more force to press than OEM, and if you intend on using it with Z-jump, you're not gonna have a good time. In my (admittedly uneducated) opinion, if you're gonna replace the Z button, it's mouseclick or nothing. The switch doesn't bother me enough to replace it though, so it stayed.

Liquid Cable

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https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/diy-custom-cables

PSA: The Liquid Cable guide entails a Swappable Cable install, so you don't need to follow the other guide if you're doing this. Anyway, this was the second last mod I finished, and probably the second most involved. The cable and paracord arrived earlier on, so I started by cutting them to length and sleeving them together. I had intended the cable to be 10 feet, but the specific paracord I got (from The Paracord Store) was actually really tight for the cable, and after two hours of just sleeving it over, the paracord I once cut to 10 feet could just barely crack nine over the cable, so I had to cut the cable to length. Nine feet is still plenty, though. Then, after the basic Phob assembly was done, I had to make the controller end by stripping the insulation to expose the wires, using a crimping tool to fit pins over each wire, and sticking them all inside a plastic housing that connects to the on-board controller receptacle. Then the same basic process applied to the console end, but to complete the gold look of the controller, I spray-painted the plastic housing with primer, gold, and topcoat, spread out 24 hours between each coat to dry. It wasn't chrome like the controller itself, but it looked nice on its own...until the paint started to rub off. I guess my topcoat wasn't thick enough. Between the incomplete nine feet of the paracord, my admittedly shoddy wiring work on the console and controller ends that I'm honestly surprised is even functional, the non-chrome paint that's starting to strip on the console end, and the high profile of the JST connectors on the controller end that make it harder to fit PhobVision, I'm thinking maybe one day I'll make a new cable for this controller entirely. But the night I finished this cable and wrapped it behind the controller for display was magical.

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Stabilized Buttons

https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/fires-s ... ed-buttons

This was the last mod I installed, and perhaps the simplest. It basically involves lining the ABXY button rims with a special kind of tape so that the buttons have less room to wobble. I waited until everything else was done to do this so that I could make sure the shell and boards were settled in and my install would be reliable. Not much else to say. It just works.

Conclusion

This was a fun, if expensive project that taught me all kinds of things about Gamecube controllers, their ergonomics, and electronics in general. Overall, I think I was pretty in over my head when I tried to do all this. I definitely learned a lot, but I spent way more than I should have, and I'm now sitting on hundreds of dollars' worth of GCC modding materials. My advice to anyone trying to do what I did is to first of all decide if building yourself is really worth it. It may seem like it'll be cheaper than a one-time purchase from a GCC modder, but it kind of really isn't. If you do decide to DIY, don't get ahead of yourself by buying materials in bulk to get a better deal, only buy as much as you really think you'll need. My Phob hasn't exploded yet and has served me perfectly well, which shows how far the PhobGCC project has come since its initial reputation of producing fragile, unstable controllers. I'd definitely say the effort was worth it as far as the controller itself goes. Definitely give it a try if you're interested, just have patience and follow the guides carefully.

Edits possibly due, I didn't review this heavily and just wanted to get it out sooner rather than later.
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Bombchu Link
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2023 12:57 am

Post by Bombchu Link »

It's always fun to get your hands dirty and play around with stuff yourself; It definitely takes initiative, and I'm glad that you have some experience now.

Maybe if you get more into your melee scene, you can potentially be a controller maker/distributor even... :eyes:
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