Making Firefly Armbands from The Last of Us

We are living in unprecedented times. There’s economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and a global pandemic that’s causing chaos and threatening our way of life. In 2020 these are the times we live in. But this also describes the events from The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s widely acclaimed action-adventure survival horror game from 2013.

The game’s story follows Joel and Ellie, two survivors living in the post-pandemic United States. Ellie is a teenage girl who is immune to the cordyceps infection that has ravaged humanity; Joel is an older man who, twenty years later, is still reeling from the murder of his own daughter during the early days of the outbreak. He has been charged with taking Ellie to find the “Fireflies” – a rebel group that is working to find a cure.

In light of current events and in anticipation of the game’s sequel The Last of Us Part II releasing on June 19th, I decided to build my own “Firefly” armbands from the first game.

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DIY SparkFun Pro Micro with USB-A Port

Lately I’ve been working on a project that will use an Arduino to translate signals from a wireless receiver into USB HID inputs for my computer. I had the perfect microcontroller picked out too: the SparkFun Pro Micro, which uses the Arduino-compatible ATmega32U4 and has enough I/O pins for my project and then some. There’s just one problem – the Pro Micro doesn’t have a USB-A port to plug directly into a computer! Instead it has a micro USB-B port, and requires a short cable to connect it to a PC.

Luckily for me the Pro Micro, like many of SparkFun’s designs, is open source and licensed under Creative Commons Share-alike. So I decided to dive in and modify the design to create my own version of the Pro Micro with a USB-A port!

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SparkFun Dumpster Dive 2020 Unboxing and Breakdown

Every few months SparkFun does what they call a “Dumpster Dive”. In the course of doing business they amass a collection of excess electronics, ranging from “one-off items, to items that are a little broken or ugly, to items that aren’t worth individually listing and selling.” Rather than recycling these still-useful electronics, they decided to put together little 1 lb. grab-bag boxes to sell.

And I decided to buy one.

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Playing Spin Rhythm XD with a Modified DJ Hero Controller

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a new rhythm game. Unlike previous titles such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band that use multiple discrete buttons in order to match different notes, this game used a virtual wheel – an analog input to slide, spin, and tap along with the beat. To top it off the game featured an electronic music tracklist and was a blast to play.

The game is called Spin Rhythm XD, and it was designed to be played with a DJ MIDI controller. Having no such professional DJ-ing equipment handy I decided to do the next best thing: convert my old plastic Wii DJ Hero turntable into a controller for Spin Rhythm XD!

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Building McCree’s Belt Buckle from Overwatch

I decided to try my hand at building my own version of McCree’s belt buckle from Overwatch! I used references from the game in order to create a comprehensive digital model which I then 3D printed, smoothed, molded, cast, mounted to a buckle blank, painted, and weathered. Start to finish (and with lots of breaks in-between!), this entire process took me a little over three years to complete.

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McCree’s Belt Buckle: Conclusion

Phew. Three years (three years?!?) and a lot of sweat, sanding, and tears later, I finally have a finished belt buckle! To be honest it turned out much better than I expected. There are of course some issues with it and things I wish I could have done differently, but the final prop itself is fit, functional, and looks the part. I may be biased, but I really do think my version of McCree’s buckle is one of best I’ve seen.

It was quite a journey to get to this point, and there were lessons learned for every step along the way. The buckle is done! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and figure out what worked well for this build – and what didn’t.

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