Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Mame Arcade Project

Check out the Design and Build on YouTube, here's the link:

Tips to Building a Table Top Arcade

Acquire a Laptop and load Mame and game ROMS on it
Design (or get plans online) and build a cabinet around the laptop
Build the control panel (or buy one), connect it to the Laptop
Design the artwork (side art, marquee, etc)

The book I used as my major reference was "Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine" by John St. Clair

Things that may have made it easier:

Step I. – I could have used a newer laptop with Windows XP, but I had a free, older, Gateway laptop given to me with Windows 98. So, I used what I had to save some money.

Step II. – It probably would’ve been easier if I used plans to work from (tons of sources online), but I designed the cabinet as I went along. That worked really well for me because I partially mocked it up in cardboard first. If you don’t feel confident in working this way and have problems with lining things up, I would suggest getting a good set of plans to work from.

Step III. – Buy a control panel (X-Gaming has some great ones, they even have ones with a built in roller ball). I built my own panel with parts purchased from X-Gamming, the Arcade Bundle: 2 joysticks and 20 push buttons:
I used a keyboard hack to connect the joysticks and push buttons to the laptop. Basically, I took an old IBM keyboard circuit board soldered wires to each of its connectors, mapped out its X and Y matrix to see what keyboard keys I needed for a majority of the games. I wired those to the joysticks and push buttons, and plugged in the PS/2 connector from the IBM keyboard circuit board into the PS/2 port of the laptop. There are some drawbacks to this, response time might be a little slower than if you were to use a control panel that was purchased, and I did not use/build a roller ball or a spinner (that limits the number of games you’ll be able to play). On the other hand, the keyboard hack saves some money, so it’s a trade off.

Step IV. – There is really nothing I would do differently for this step except maybe add some side art. I designed the Marquee in Photoshop and took it to a print shop to be printed on back lit material. I used some long tube type LEDs to back light the marquee, and it worked out really well.

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