In part two of this two part interview we hear from Ben about his his Xbox 360 projects, and what he’s working on going forward. To read about Ben’s modding career and some specifics around his tools of the trade, check out part one of the interview.
For projects like the Xbox 360 portable and custom controllers, did you invent them out of curiosity, or the necessity of a customer request?
For customer request. It [First Xbox 360 Portable] was for friend of mine.
Speaking of the Xbox 360 Portable, how much time and effort goes into a project like that?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe about 60 hours? People ask me that a lot, and I usually just pull a number out of my ass. So that’s probably about right. The thing to realize is that I don’t just sit there and do it solid straight for two weeks. I’m usually doing several things, different things, at once, but that’s probably about right. I was actually working on some parts just today for THQ.
Which project for THQ?
Oh, THQ is having me do a prize laptop and they’re also having me do three more for internal presents for their company. So I’m actually building four at once.
Do you use outside companies or individuals to assist with custom molding the plastic on the Xbox 360 Portable, or do you have those capabilities in house?
I do that elsewhere. Actually I do it at the place I used to work, so I know how everything works. And now my friend runs a machine there so it’s very convenient. I was just there today actually. It takes longer to make them [Xbox 360 Portable] curved like that, I mean its, oh god, it’s probably about two hours of machine time per Xbox to make the case. But it looks nice.
How many Xbox 360s do you actually own at this point?
Do I own? Oh.. You mean like right now, total? Oh cripes, I couldn’t even begin. Well here, let me take a look. Right now in the garage there is One.. two .. three.. seven Xbox boxes in the garage. I think I probably buy more Xboxes than anyone else on the planet. I’m pretty sure of that. Keep in mind, [I'm] making a bunch of these laptops. I mean four alone for that one company. I actually don’t make that many, but they wanted four and were willing to pay for it. Well, lets see, [pause while Ben counts machines] I have about six Xboxes here right now. Seven including my own, which is not modded in any way ironically.
Your Access controller seems to be a big hit. Is the Xbox 360 version still in the works? Any ETA on it?
Oh yea it’s still in the works. I’m actually supposed to touch base on it after the New Year. Not the Chinese New Year, but the regular New Year. It just, the Chinese New Year is a big deal in manufacturing [laughs]. Yea, it’s in progress. But unlike Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has a lot of quality control and licensing issues, and lockout chips, and all sorts of stuff. Basically if you want something to run on an Xbox you have to jump through hoops. You know, which is part of the way they make money on things now. So it’s a lot harder to make something [hardware] for the Xbox than the Playstation 2. But it is in progress. It’s been at least two months since I submitted [a sample to Microsoft]. Strangely enough I had to get one of my production PS2 Access Controllers and I had to modify it into an Xbox version to send to Microsoft for them to review. So I had to mod my own projects [laughs]. Weird. [It] made me feel weird. Again, I enjoy the irony most of all. But yea, it’s definitely in process, but I’ve pretty much done all I can from my end.
You recently completed an extra durable 360 in a Pelican case. Has anyone purchased it, and are there plans to make more?
Uh no, it’s still here so far. I think some people have had sticker shock on it. I don’t know, I’d like to [make more]. What had happened is that a friend and I were working on it for whatever reason and he bought a couple of Pelican cases. So there is another case lying around. I know there has been a lot of interest, and people have asked about a PS3 version as well. But it’s more difficult because the PS3 hardware is better, but it’s also bigger and harder to mod than the Xbox. And of course it’s all proprietary Sony stuff. But yea, I’d like to probably build another one, probably not right now. I just kind of wanted to, you know, display the concept, [and] get people thinking about it.
Any big plans in the pipeline for the 360, or any other systems for that matter?
I’ve been trying to let myself dry up actually. Because I don’t know, I mean I can’t work all the time. I mean I don’t.. but it’s hard to explain. I know a guy who wants me to make an Atari ST portable. I don’t know about that. For some reason 80s computers, I mean I love the computers in the 80s but they can certainly be difficult to mod. I don’t know, things have come up. Like as I mentioned the Commodore 64 has been a lot of trouble and the Apple IIGS was not the easiest thing, the Atari wasn’t the easiest [either]. That’s really about it, nothing in particular besides the 360 version of the Access Controller. Not that I’m trying to be secretive â€¦ I’m sure stuff will come up but I haven’t taken a lot of work on lately because I’m trying to get some stuff done that I have [already]. Sorry, I don’t have any super-cool scoops for you. I’d really like to build a car, but nobodies going to pay me to do that [laughs].
So there you have it, an exclusive interview of Ben Heck (cross-posted at AcidMods.com). Remember to read part one of the interview, and check out Ben’s site at benheck.com.