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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Mon Jul 10, 2017 4:42 pm

Some time in January, 2017, the concept of a optical Amiga tank mouse hit my radar. To be completely honest, I don't remember where I saw it mentioned. But I did find a link to it and actually ordered one. They were not in production at the time, little did I know. The idea was to take an original Amiga tank mouse, remove its mechanical guts, and replace them with a fresh board with an optical mouse input.

Months went by...

I actually forgot about it completely until recently after reading Shot's experience with Marble Madness and his amazing review. Soon after I read that review, by pure serendipity, I watched Amiga Bill play Marble Madness on Twitch. I usually watch him and Anthony Becker over on YouTube, but every now and then I see his post on Twitter right before he starts a Twitch stream and get lucky. It was so funny to watch him experience the game as there was a direct correlation between highest pure nostalgia factor and worst game performance. It works like this:

4 being the best and 1 being the worst, the two numbers represent Nostalgia and Performance.

Trackball: 4, 1 (highest nostalgia score, lowest performance unless you happen to have an arcade-quality trackball, which still isn't easy to master but is very cool)
Ball Mouse: 3, 3
Joystick: 3, 2 (how I played on the C64)
Laser Mouse: 1 (only because it didn't exist BITD), 4 - highest score, most precise

The laser mouse's precision wins by far. But even with a laser mouse, you still need insane skills to beat the game like Shot did.

And dang - having an optical mouse on an Amiga would be neat and would likely last a very long time without any issues. Unlike some, I really love my tank mouses, though. I love the feel of the blocky things in my hands and the buttons feel great to me. I use mine on a PVC self-healing cutting board, and never have any issues.

I started stretching my brain wondering when I got my first laser mouse back in the day. I don't think it was until maybe 1998 or 1999 IIRC.

In any case it was soon after all of this Marble Madness... madness... that I thought, "Hey, what ever happened to that laser tank mouse I thought I ordered a million years ago?" And no matter where I looked, I just couldn't seem to find it anywhere. Then, today I got an email from AMIGAStore.eu about my past purchase! The kit I ordered 6 months ago is going to get dropped in the mail this week.

AMIGAstore's product page is back up and easy to find now, too. I'm fairly sure they must have taken it down at some stage due to production issues. Either that, or I just couldn't find it when I searched a 2nd time in vain.

It's not a cheap upgrade, but it's a seriously kick ass one. I am very much looking forward to putting it all together soon and playing some high-precision Marble Madness, too! I'll have to score one of my old beautiful tank mouse's on the scale above after turning it into a nostalgia/"new"-tech hybrid! <3
tankmouse3.jpg
The original tank mouse.

laser-upgrade-for-amiga-mice-1.jpg
This is what the tank mouse looks like when you take off the cover.

laser-upgrade-for-amiga-mice-2.jpg
This is the new board you pop into the original tank mouse's housing.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 4.18.31 PM.png
Here's the bottom of the tank mouse with the optical version's clear plastic protector in place.

Photos courtesy of AMIGAstore.eu

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:41 pm

Great write up and it's an interesting prospect. I wouldn't give the same placement for the different devices, however. While I made sure to point out my love for my replacement laser mouse, it should be known it's a device I've long had for the machine. I believe it was the 1st thing I bought for it, after I had gotten it back up and running several years ago.

Now my personal experience with the MY original tank mouse... It was horrendous. I hated the thing for the longest time. My father got a 3rd party mouse early on, and for me, THAT was the Amiga's mouse. - However.... It may be that there was something wrong with my mouse... Or perhaps there were different revisions. For I now have two original tank mouses, and as demonstrated in my video review around 6 minutes in, I made it a point to show off various controls.

I said I loved the laser mouse, to me... I feel like I'm the ball, it moves the way I feel it should. It's better, nicer, "easier",,, Easier, does not mean easy. The game is a bastard to play, few will defeat it, regardless of control method. It was no ride in the park defeating it with the laser mouse. It's a difficult game.

However, when I was a kid playing with the joystick, I got to the final level... I showed off the laser, showed off the joystick... For me the joystick is the worst control, although you can get used to it,there's a trick to it. I showed off two Amiga tank mouses, and the better one worked great... I was not exactly jumping with joy during my review, because it's not as good as the laser mouse... But it can be done...

I also watched the Marble Madness livestream you spoke of. Good stream. But he was hindered because he didn't understand the controls as well as I did. Press the joystick fire button, you go mu much faster. Press the left mouse button, the same.

I preformed terrible on my specific tank mouse from back in the day, I highly recommend people check the video out, it's eye opening how one man's experience can be so different from anothers. I could never win Marble Madness with the tank mouse I had as a kid... I could, no doubt in my mind, win with my other tank mouse. I could, without a doubt, win with a joystick. The joystick would take me a bit of time, but I have no doubt I could do it... The better tank mouse? I could do it today. The difficulty in the game is in the game, not the controls.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:37 pm

Or perhaps there were different revisions.
I didn't realize this before today but there were indeed revisions of the tank mouse. When I got the email from AMIGAstore.eu, they apparently didn't know there were differences, either. But learned after the fact that there were very subtle ones (although they don't articulate what they are). I wonder if maybe the 1000s early mouse with that interesting attachment thingy (how it has that right-angle attachment, not the typical straight plug) had other little changes, too.

In terms of the controls - I do think (just my personal opinion) that the trackball is the most spot-on experience. But I also would be extremely hard pressed to find one in excellent condition that responded as it should. That being said, there are few games that even use trackballs as the key input device.

One of my favorites as a kid was this crazy game called Crystal Castles. It had this strange isometric view (like Marble Madness, now that I think about it) with a bear running around picking up gems avoiding bad guys. Insanely fast at times, it was tons of fun with the trackball. I think it was made for C64 but not sure about Amiga. Maybe it was deemed to early... That game, Centipede and Marble Madness were trackball elite games for sure.

If you got your hands on Crystal Castles I bet you'd freaking rock that game, too.

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:29 pm

I've heard that EA offered a package of Marble Madness with trackballs included. Perhaps these run the best, as EA would have had them in mind when designing the game. The only arcade like device I ever sought out for a computer were my C-64 paddles. They're actually Atari 2600 paddles, but they work fine. They also work with the VIC-20, but a little glitchy there. My first experience with Arkanoid was on the Amiga, but I do remember seeing it a few times in the arcade. If I recall, you were forced to use the mouse on the Amiga... Again, MY tank mouse... yuck... lol.... It was fun with our 3rd party mouse, but it always got so fast, so quick... and the arcade was designed with paddles in mind. The C64 supports paddles, and this makes it the definitive home version of Arknaoid in my eyes. The Amiga version is arcade perfect in looks and sounds, but the mouse never cut it for me... I do need to give it another try with the laser mouse, though.

It was strange they didn't even offer joystick controls, as most versions had that as the default. If anyone knows of the Amiga featuring paddle support, I'd love to know about that.

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
Website

Posted Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:36 pm

Also - I will be doing a special video on my two tanks coming up in the nearish future. I'll take them apart and see if they're any different. I know the labels on the back have a couple of interesting differences.





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