Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to Mod a DS Case to Hold Game Gear Games Without Them Jumping Out All the Damn Time

Earlier this morning, at a time when I really should have been sleeping, I talked about how I recently became interested in printing inserts for games and customizing DS cases to hold Game Boy Color and Game Gear titles, which are too large to fit in the usual Game Boy Advance slot. When I first started doing this I followed The Cover Project's guides pretty much to the letter, because I figured "These guys have been doing this for years, they probably know what they're doing". For the most part, they do. I probably don't. Either way, I ended up with a situation when I tried modding my DS case to accommodate the likes of the Game Gear edition of Sonic the hedgehog 2 where the game was jumping out every time I opened the case. I really didn't like that. At all.

So I spent an entire afternoon working on a solution, and after much trial and error I managed to create one. While I didn't take any photos or videos during the process of doing all of this, I'm going to do my best to explain it to you here using my two crappy webcam shots of the finished product for reference, probably also a couple new shots as I get into the writing. First, here's a look at the case with Sonic firmly in place.

It isn't pretty. Not even close. I don't have the know-how to make the plastic look better melded, and the game is angled a bit as opposed to being centered. This design didn't work out quite as intended, and I'll probably be perfecting it more when I get around to making the cases for Super Return of the Jedi and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, but it still works and that's the important part. You're going to be able to toss this case around and Sonic isn't going anywhere. I'm considering making similar modifications to the Game Boy Color cases as well, as I'm noticing they also have a habit of hopping out at me.

I'll explain to you exactly what's going on there to keep everything nice and secure. A lot of people recommend cutting the plastic out of the DS case and giving it a lip so it can grab actually inside the plastic ridges of the game, but I didn't like that one bit. I was worried that the plastic lip would damage the connectors, and that's not what I want to happen. I tried a few other things, you can see the remnants of my efforts if you look close enough at that picture, and some of them held the game pretty tightly but they all ended up in some way going at the connectors. I'll have none of that!

That top clip actually does it's job of holding the game down and is the most important aspect of what's going on here. The other clip, in the lower right corner, doesn't work exactly as planned. The game is too thick and the clip dips too low for it to actually grab hold. However, that bendy plastic there is in just the right spot to put some counter pressure on the game to work with the pressure clips that held the DS game in place. The two opposing forces combined with the upper clip keep the game nice and secure, no matter how hard you shake it around. Also remember that the bottom wall is left along for a reason. It's very important for that to be there. If you cut it out, the game will simply slide to the bottom of the box, and that's not helping anything.

Here's how it looks without the game in it, just to show you what I cut and where. Like I said, I'll be trying a couple things differently with future cases, but for now I'm just going to show you what I know works. It isn't very pretty, and I'm considering filling in the holes I had to make with some other plastic, but this works just as well and the strength of the case isn't diminished too greatly. It's still stronger than those recycled plastic cases are, what with the big ol' recycle logo being cut right out of the face of them. As you can see, I've removed most of the bottom wall for the GBA slot, the entirety of the top wall of the DS slot, the entire of the right wall of the DS slot, an a portion of the right wall of the GBA slot. To give you some perspective, here's an unmodified DS case:

To answer your curious minds, this one is Super Princess Peach.
It's very important that you do not cut out the entirety of the right wall for the GBA slot because you're going to need that to attach the clip and give it some elevation, otherwise it's not going to be high enough to grab the Game Gear game. You're probably curious about where those clips came from, exactly, so I'll tell you. They came from DVD cases. I had considered using the ones on the DS case, but I decided to leave them there in the event that I ever come across the instruction manual at a yard sale or something.

I have a lot of broken DVD cases lying around, mainly movies which aren't actually mine because my family can't take care of anything. It wasn't until this project that I noticed the DVD cases come equipped with clips just like the DS case ones, although there are slight variances. Typically, though, they're all about the same. Here, I'll show you where to find them in the DVD case.

See that? They're on the inside of the left cover, just like they are in game cases. Typically they pop off easily enough, but some are more stubborn. You're going to want the entire piece though, so don't snap it half way. If you're having trouble, use a box cutter or a pair of toenail clippers. If you don't grab the entire piece your clips are going to melt too much before you can attach them.

That's right, melt. We're going to be dealing with actively melting plastic. I got a little of this stuff on my fingers and it hurt a bit worse than sticking myself with a glue gun, so if you aren't good with pain I urge you to be extremely careful. We aren't going to be dealing with anything that can cause serious harm to the surface of your body, though, so don't worry about it too much. I might recommend, though, that if you have absolutely no coordination or are a clumsy beast, you might want to consider goggles to protect your eyes. Also, it might be advisable to wear a mask of some kind, as melting plastic emits toxic smoke, and you don't want to be breathing that.

I did this project with no tools other than a few simple things lying around my room. I also did this in the bathtub, so that if I fucked up I could drown the whole thing. We're going to be playing with fire, so use every precaution you can not to burn your house down. I used matches, but a lighter should work just fine. You don't want to be using anything with a flame too large, just a little controllable thing. You're also going to want a lot of clips and a lot of matches, because you're going to mess up a couple of times. Don't worry, though, because it's easy to clean up your mistakes. They snap right off.

What you'll want to do is take the clip and set fire to the part of it that was attached to the case. Set it on fire. If it isn't burning when you take the match away from it, it's not going to work. Just like when you roast marshmallows. Now be fast, or you'll burn up the whole clip. Don't blow it out! If you blow it out before attaching it, the meld won't hold as well and the clips will crack off with just a slight flick. You want to morph that melted, burning plastic right on the top of the remaining wall for the GBA slot, and blow out the fire once you've got it wrapped. Don't let it sit there burning for too long or you'll destroy the case.

Also, it's worth noting, the upper clip is much shorter than the lower clip. This wasn't on purpose, I actually fucked up and melted it too long, but it ultimately worked out for the better. If I had let that clip remain longer it would have dipped too low to grab the game, and it wouldn't have fit at all. what a bummer that would have been. Additionally, I melted the clips in upside down because I found they had a stronger grasp that way at the angles I wanted.

The second clip is going to be attached right on the weird ridge directly across from the bottom pressure clip for the DS card slot. This one is going to be longer because its primary function isn't as a clip at all, but as a pressure wall to pinch the game in place. Attaching it works exactly the same as above, and remember to be careful!

Remember that the plastic becomes more brittle after being melted like this, and you can easily snap your clips if you aren't careful. I haven't had too much of an issue with this, but I also don't let other people handle the games because I know they're going to break the clips. Sliding the game in and out is easy once you get the hang of it, if a little awkward.

If you're having trouble figuring out how to cut the case walls or I wasn't clear on what walls to cut, The Cover Project has a lot of good tutorials and a lively forum where pretty much any question you might have has already been asked. Remember, play safe, play fun, and happy modding!

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