Blueprints / Schematics

ObjectsInSpace_Blueprints_FullBuilding your own Space Ship for Objects in Space – Getting Started

To help you getting started with your very own physical controller setup for Objects in Space, we have prepared blueprints for the Mark II setup we first took to PAX East in April 2016. Generally you can use your own skills and imagination to build anything you want and to your own taste and space at your gaming station, but here is a good setup to follow.

Generally, the setup mainly consists of two types of wood: MDF (medium-density fibrewood, you can get this at most hardware stores) plates as well as plywood. Our setup was built for conventions, so it had to be light and travel-friendly enough to go around the world and through airport customs with it. A set you build for your home can have fewer restrictions in that department.

For all the consoles we built, MDF plates were used for the front of the panels (where the buttons are mounted). Depending on how sturdy you want or need the setup to be, you should decide on the thickness of the MDF. We used 0.5 thickness for our setup, which was very sturdy, but this meant we had to indent the MDF in the rear side using a dremel in order to fit each button and LED properly. It was more work but also a more sturdy setup. For a home setup, you can use much thinner MDF to make life easier for yourself.

As shown in the blueprints, the front panels are slightly tilted, around roughly 5° rather than being completely flat. The free-standing back panels need to be secured with wedges (small diagonal legs) in the back-rear to ensure them not falling over in the heat of the battle.

We chose to use special, thick screws with allen keys to open the consoles instead of normal screws, so we could make spot-repairs when travelling overseas, but regular screws will do for a home setup.

As you can see in the blueprint, we used a variety of different buttons. It is entirely up to you how you design your own panels, but here’s the shopping list for replicating our setup:

  • Light-Up toggle Switch:
    • Green: 2
    • Red: 1
  • Light-Up momentary Switch (red): 8
  • Square momentary Switch (red): 7
  • Light-ring momentary Switch: 2
  • Small round momentary Switch: 2
  • Metal toggle Switch: 12
  • Keyhole Button: 1
  • Safety Switch: 1
  • LEDs:
    • Green: 21
    • Yellow: 23
    • Red: 20
    • Blue: 16
  • Extra bright, large, white LED: 1 (PCE Master Alarm with red cover)
  • Arduino-powered fan for the reactor
  • 2 Volt metres
  • 8 unit digit display
  • Large, flat keyboard
  • Sound system including subwoofer that can be taken apart
  • 5 Arduino Mega
  • Lots of masking tape
  • Acrylic paint in the desired colours
  • Brushes and sponges
  • Buttloads of wires, Arduino plugs, wood screws, cable ties and heat-shrink tubes

We will put up a detailed description and step-by-step analysis of everything we’ve done to build the panels and make them look shiny later, but for now, let us walk you through each single panel and their requirements.

Engineering Display

This module is the right side standing one and is used to display the space ship module’s damage statuses. It features a painted wireframe of the ‘Ceres’, the first ship in the game. Each module features a set of 3 LEDs, green, yellow and red to indicate its status. Green is the default for no damage, yellow shows that the module is damaged and red means the module has been destroyed entirely.

Not every module has a functioning set of LEDs as the Arduino Mega doesn’t come with enough slots to house all of them.

To paint on the ‘Ceres’ model, we used masking tape and white paint. A more detailed description of the technique will follow.

Power Display

The Power Display is the left side standing panel and – apart from the Possible Collision Event (PCE) master alarm (which fires when you’re on a collision course with an object) – informs the player of the current power status of the ship and its modules.

On the top of the panel, we integrated two voltimetres and re-painted the back to match the power display from the Ceres’ bridge. The left voltimeter indicates the current battery charge while the right hand one shows if power is currently generated or used up. We added a red LED under the left voltimetre as a ‘low power warning’ and red and green LEDs under the right voltimetre to show whether you’re currently gaining or losing power.

The reactor fan right underneath the voltmeters is just a fun little gimmick we really wanted to integrate in the Mark II setup. Because we could. It simply turns on and off with the reactor running or not.

To the right of it, we have PCE master alarm. This only turns on if the player is on a direct collision course with another object. The bright LED we used underneath is unbearable without a cover so we mounted a makeup bottlecap and painted it red, but you could achieve this same effect in any number of ways.

The modules underneath allow the player to switch the power for each module on or off, while the blue LED indicates the status of said modules.

Weapon Module

The weapon module is the first panel we ever built for Objects in Space and one of our favourites, because who doesn’t like to hit the big red ‘fire’ button?

The panel allows you to use the ship’s weapon systems. On the left hand side the player can choose between five weapon tubes, each of which can house one torpedo in-game. The top status displays what kind of torpedo is loaded in the tube you currently have selected: EMP, explosive or probe. It also shows whether a tube is empty, currently spinning up (preparing to launch) and when it is primed and ready.

The rest of the panel features additional controls for the weapon system. This includes a display for whether or not a torpedo or probe is linked to a target, a button to unlink it manually, and a button to detonate the torpedo prematurely. And of course torpedoes can be spun up with one button, and fired using the large, satisfying red safety switch-covered fire button.

Helm Console

The right hand side ground panel is the helm console and responsible for everything to do with the physical navigation of your ship.

In our setup, it features a digital display for your ship’s direction and speed. The main partition includes everything needed to manually fly the ship or navigate via auto pilot. The autopilot can be activated by plotting the course and engaging with the coordinates, all handled by buttons on the panel. The panel also has a ‘full stop’ button and a button to cancel the autopilot’s current orders at any time.

Manually navigating the ship is also available on this panel: the ship can be spun left or right, while the bottom steady button activate’s the ship’s reaction control system (RCS) and stops the ship from spinning. The main drive button above toggles whether or not the main engines are firing to give us forward momentum.

The console also allows the navigation of the jump drive of the ship as well. After setting the destination for the jump in-game, the jump can be cancelled, or initiated by spinning up the drive, calculating the solution and hitting ‘jump’ when ready.

This console features the emissions control (EmCon) button, which is a button for shutting all unnecesary systems and ‘go dark’. It’s your ship’s ‘stealth mode’ if you will.

Middle Console

The middle console, being the biggest of the bunch, has very little real function for the game itself, but has a few cool bits and pieces. We wanted to leave it optional in case we couldn’t fit it in our luggage when taking the gear to shows, but there’d be no reason not to include it in a home setup.

It has an set 2.1 speakers we disassembled from a store-bought sound system. Sound can be turned on or off or have its volume controlled from an easily-reachable area at the back of this console. It also has a plug for headphones integrated in the back.

We loosely mounted the large apple keyboard to the top in the middle by mounting two small metal brackets and measuring it to the size of our keyboard.

The only real interactive function this console has with the game is the keyhole in combination and light-ring button. As you might imagine, you turn the key, press the button and it turns your ship on from a dormant state, lighting up all the monitors and booting up each module at the same time: it is a sight to behold.

Tips and Tricks

A full and detailed step-by-step description of our process will be put online at a later stage of development along with the source code we used for the Arduinos, but we wanted to share a few secrets with you a little early to help you get started with your own setup!

There is no right or wrong way of doing this, and enjoying the tinkering is probably the most fun part of building your own spaceship. Let your imagination lead the way!

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:

Planning is everything. But perfectionism gets in the way.

Now you have a whole bunch of cool blueprints to work off, but not all measurements are included. For a reason! Working with wood is always an interesting and organic endeavour, so things won’t always be perfect. Organic materials will always have their own will to an extent, and there will be bumps.

Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t have to be perfect and making it unique is part of the fun. That said, having a plan in mind will help you to not waste material throughout the process – nothing is more frustrating than having worked a long time to build the box when you’re ending up with not enough space for the buttons and electronics to mount in the back.

Paint jobs.

IMG_0678We’ve been asked a lot about the paint job on the consoles and while everybody should find their personal style, there are a bunch of techniques you can use.

Working with wood and organic material means we’re working with unpredictable material, so priming is important. Any spray paint that works for wood will do. We used a matte grey to start out with before the olive colour paint job goes on top. The olive, kinda gritty look is achieved by using sponges and acrylic paint with a dabbing motion all over the panels. A more detailed video on how to achieve the rusty texture will follow at a later stage.

Painting details.

IMG_0732Straight lines are easy to do once you get used to it. It is arguably quite a bit of work, but the results are pretty as hell. We used masking tape to tape off areas for line work and simply filled the areas in between. After letting it dry for a couple of seconds, the masking tape can be peeled off carefully and a perfect line is in place.

Jenny hand-painted the text on our setup, however having a stencil pattern handy can help for folks who don’t have a steady hand. These can be found in your local art supply store in various sizes. For round shapes, use any kind of bottle caps and glasses you can find at home.

Mounting buttons.

There are many methods available to spaceship engineers when building their own ship and most of them depend on your budget and access to tools. We tried to use only tools that are easily accessible to most people to showcase the potential of controllers for Objects in Space, so we used mainly a dremel to mount all the components on the boxes.

A dremel usually costs about $30-50 dollars for a regular one with several drill bits. Try to find one that also has polishing tools included, it will help you with indenting the back. More detailed videos on that will be uploaded soon. If you don’t have a dremel, a regular drill can do the trick as well. We built the first Mark I setup with only an IKEA drill, nails and glue. The process might just be a little more tricky and having some more suited tools can make a lot of it easier.

Setting up the wiring

IMG_0880Setting up the wiring for an arduino the right way is always a little difficult because it never perfectly lines up with the slots for the right wires. We mounted the arduino in the middle of most panels and had a raised metal bar drilled next to it to act as the grounding negative line. You can then simply wrap the exposed cable ends around and repairs are fairly simple, too.

We also mounted all the wiring and everything to do with the arduino to the top of the panels so opening them would be easy and you don’t have to deal with cables being stuck to the bottom of the box.

Arduino safe mounting trick

IMG_0876We found a neat little trick for mounting arduinos safely within the boxes to protect them from shock and other issues. All you need for it is cable ties with endings that allow you to screw it on a surface. You can buy those cable ties in every regular hardware store.

The way we did this was by flipping the cable tie, pushing it through the mounting hole for the arduino before pulling it through the cable tie grip. Before pulling it close, wrap another cable tie around the loop and pull it tight as in the picture. If you now pull the first cable tie through, it creates this small, flexible leg that can be screwed to the box itself to mount your arduino safely.

We hope this guide helps you in getting started on your own space ship setup at home, and please jump on the forums to ask questions, share ideas and show us what you’re working on!