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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > Laminar's Build Threads 002: MAME Arcade Cabinet

Laminar's Build Threads 002: MAME Arcade Cabinet
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Apr 30, 2014, 02:53 PM
 
I'm going to build myself a stand-up arcade cabinet hiding a PC running MAME and whatever emulators I decide to load onto it.

I'm using my old garage PC, which is a mini-ITX build from 2009. 1.6GHz Atom, 2GB RAM, 120GB HD, Intel graphics. I picked up a great 19" Dell LCD from Goodwill today for $45 - better than eBay prices.



I loaded up XP today (remember when people thought it was a decent OS?), I had it running Win7 in the garage but it was lethargic. I've downloaded Hyperspin to use as my front end. eBay has joystick/button kits complete with analog-to-USB encoders for somewhere around $30-35 per player. Two players is easiest, but I'm thinking of going 4-player - go big or go home, right?

My LCD monitor and small PC mean I can make the cabinet fairly slim. I like this cabinet design, and will probably do something similar.



I'm hosting a man-baby shower at the beginning of June, so that's my target finish-by date.
     
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Apr 30, 2014, 03:21 PM
 
The marquee could be jazzed up. You might locate a very wide-aspect LCD to fit, or a rear-projection with distorted lens. So the current game name and/or logo would appear. Or go with a taller marquee, to match available LCD aspect ratios.
     
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Apr 30, 2014, 04:01 PM
 
I really like the marquee panel idea.
     
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Apr 30, 2014, 04:03 PM
 
Are you going to go with all the curves? To me, part of what makes an arcade cabinet an arcade cabinet is how angular it is.
     
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Apr 30, 2014, 05:28 PM
 
I've always thought that Ikea could do a pretty good job selling Arcade cabinets flat-pack.

That said, I like the curves in this one. I really want a cocktail-table sized one.
     
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Apr 30, 2014, 05:31 PM
 
Yeah... I don't dislike the curves, but they don't hit quite the same nostalgia notes.
     
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May 1, 2014, 10:39 AM
 
Needs more color, but a fun and cool project!
     
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May 1, 2014, 12:50 PM
 
I don't know if the "journey is the destination" on this project, but it would probably be easier to go buy an old non working cabinet and fix it up.

I've got an old Street Fighter 2 game in my basement that currently has some sort of mysterious electrical problem and it's pretty frustrating.

I don't play it enough to justify spending a lot of money or time trying to fix it, but at the same time I would really like to have it working. There is just always something more pressing happening to even spend a few hours screwing with it.

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May 1, 2014, 05:46 PM
 
I have a 1978 Space Invaders II cocktail cabinet in my Awesome Room of Awesomeness.

It stopped accepting credits years ago but, like ort888, I always seem to have better things to do than fixing it.

If you're making a cabinet, make sure you get a lot of bass in the speakers. In a domestic setting these machines can shake the room.
     
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May 1, 2014, 06:29 PM
 
Bastard! That was to be MY project. *shakes fist*

But seriously, it looks pretty awesome. The only issue I have with these things is the position of the controls. It's almost like you have to make different control boards for some games.

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May 2, 2014, 09:37 AM
 
After spending the past few days digging into the software side of things, I'm finding that his whole MAME thing is kind of a mess - the quasi-illegal process of acquiring ROMs is way easier than setting up any of the software. MAME itself has no GUI, so people typically choose one of the various front ends to sort and display games, then launch them into MAME. However, I have yet to find a single install-and-go front end. Most of them require all kind of dependencies and configuration, meaning I have to spend hours tinkering to get everything set up the way I want. That used to be fun, but I'm reach a point where I'd rather something "just work."
     
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May 2, 2014, 12:09 PM
 
IV/Play and MameUI Home Page

(specifically, IV/Play)

Yes, you'll have to install .net 4.0.
     
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May 2, 2014, 01:17 PM
 
MAME does have a rudimentary front end. Just type ./mame64 and you should get the default menu.

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May 2, 2014, 01:47 PM
 
I just downloaded IV/Play last night but haven't had a chance to use it yet. I also got a new (to me) PC in the mail today - a Dell Optiplex 755 USFF (ultra small form factor). 3.0GHz C2D, 2GB RAM, Intel graphics. Got it on eBay with the power brick and Dell DVI splitter (but no hard drive) for $60 shipped. The guy had a ton of them and they were all gone within a day. If the Atom PC can't cut it for the arcade machine it goes back out to the garage and this Dell gets used. I'm going to pick up a little SSD today and get Win7 x64 running on it tonight.
     
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May 2, 2014, 03:25 PM
 
Have you taken a peek at this? I believe it only runs on OS X, but you might have an older model you could put to use:

OpenEmu - Multiple Video Game System
     
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May 2, 2014, 03:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
Have you taken a peek at this? I believe it only runs on OS X, but you might have an older model you could put to use:

OpenEmu - Multiple Video Game System
OpenEmu is very very good, but only does consoles for now. MAME isn't yet supported.
     
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May 2, 2014, 05:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
Have you taken a peek at this? I believe it only runs on OS X, but you might have an older model you could put to use:

OpenEmu - Multiple Video Game System
I sold my Mini and MBA this last year, the only Macs I have now are a 2010 iMac and a 2000 iMac.
     
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May 3, 2014, 09:03 AM
 
Interesting......I absolutely love the mini.
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May 3, 2014, 11:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
Interesting......I absolutely love the mini.
The Optiplex 755-USFF was Dell's take on the Mini. It's nowhere near as small or silent, but it uses a full-size 3.5 hard drive and desktop RAM. The power supply is huge compared to the Mini's, but the specs are pretty similar for 2008. Here it is next to my Mini-ITX Atom build. I threw in a spare 1TB drive I pulled from an external enclosure and got Win7 64 bit installed this morning.



It's nowhere near silent, but it's quiet enough. It has a small fan on each side of the case pushing and pulling air through the CPU cooler, and a second tiny fan under the hard drive. I'm considering grabbing a 32-64GB SSD for $50 or so to drop in.

Playing with MAMEUI/IV-Play now.
     
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May 3, 2014, 01:09 PM
 
Your computer's wang isn't covered.
     
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May 3, 2014, 01:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
I'm considering grabbing a 32-64GB SSD for $50 or so to drop in.

Playing with MAMEUI/IV-Play now.
MIcrocenter's got the 120GB Samsung 840EVO drive for $80, in store and online.

We reviewed its larger cousin:
Review - Samsung 840 Evo 750 GB SATA-3 SSD Review | MacNN
     
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May 4, 2014, 08:40 AM
 
Originally Posted by EstaNightshift View Post
MIcrocenter's got the 120GB Samsung 840EVO drive for $80, in store and online.

We reviewed its larger cousin:
Review - Samsung 840 Evo 750 GB SATA-3 SSD Review | MacNN
I put the 250GB 840 EVO in my 2010 iMac along side its 1TB drive.
     
Laminar  (op)
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May 4, 2014, 09:03 PM
 
I was able to load up MAMEUI. Of the 10 or so ROMs I put in its folder, it was able to recognize and play 2 of them. I tried using IV/Play but its UI was worse than MAMEUI. I suppose that's a start. I will admit I was expecting this to work more like SNES9X, where I'd be able to just choose a ROM and go.
     
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May 5, 2014, 07:39 AM
 
There have been SO MANY specs for MAME roms over the years, that may be the issue.
     
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May 10, 2014, 10:35 AM
 
On the road, so I'm playing with software on my work PC. Downloaded latest version of MAME, downloaded some ROMs. When I try and launch them, all of them tell me that they're missing required files. I've dealt with some steep learning curves before, but this is ridiculous.
     
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May 10, 2014, 10:56 AM
 
So it's not as simple as getting an emulator, getting ROMs, and running with it. The ROMs have to be compatible with the emulator version. Also some ROMs require CHD files that may or may not be included with the ROMs. Downloading ROMs 1 by 1 seems to be the worst way to do things, as it's rarely documented with which version of MAME the ROMs are compatible. The most foolproof way to get compatible ROMs is by downloading a 32GB torrent of every ROM of every game ever made. Awesome.
     
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May 10, 2014, 11:37 AM
 
Yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that.
     
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May 10, 2014, 11:53 AM
 
Everything I can find seems to be very "top level"; follow these steps to install this application, then you're good to go. There's nothing detailing about the underlying principles. Without that background knowledge of how the systems works, troubleshooting is impossible, and most users are relegated to begging for answers on forums. The few people that are either developers or have previously invested a significant amount of time clawing their way up the learning curve provide answers, but again it's typically high level. Download this application, push these specific buttons, and you're fixed.

Some people say the quasi-legal status of MAME and associated ROMs provides incentive to keep everything difficult to prevent mainstream adaptation and subsequent law enforcement scrutiny.
     
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May 10, 2014, 05:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by EstaNightshift View Post
Yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that.
How critical am I going to find the 200ish gigs of CHD files?
     
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May 10, 2014, 05:42 PM
 
The CHD files are essentially disk images for FMV and other games that require them.

Games like Pac-Man? Not needed.

Games like Dragon's Lair? Vital.

Also, for fun, check out PinMAME. Yes, you'd need more ROMs.

Oh, and by the way, no matter how tempted you are, DON'T unzip the archives. MAME and other front-ends read them fine.
     
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May 12, 2014, 08:00 PM
 
I managed to find a set of ROMs for 0.149. That's been downloading over the past few days and is currently at 43% completed. I ordered the buttons today, 1 set each black and white. I think I'll start simple and if I want to do 4-players later, I'll redo the control panel.
     
Laminar  (op)
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May 13, 2014, 08:16 PM
 
77.4% Good thing I'm on the road right now, any time my ISP at home detects any type of torrent traffic, they throttle my connection down to almost nothing. Even if the torrent is encrypted and they can't tell what it is, down I go. Not sure how I'll get the CHD files, as that's more than my work laptop's hard drive can hold.
     
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May 16, 2014, 10:10 AM
 
Got it downloaded and unzipped. MAMEUI seems to work great! I need to start drawing up the cabinet shape now.
     
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May 17, 2014, 06:31 PM
 
After spending some time looking at cabinets, I really like the look of this Vewlix-inspired build:


I modeled up something in the same vein, except my control panel sits at bar-height (41").







The model human is 5' tall. Standard stand-up arcade control panels appear to vary from counter height (34-36") up to bar height (40-42"). Bar height seems more comfortable for me, but I recognize I'm nearer to the high end of the bell curve. After I'm able to get my hands on a tape measure and try a couple things out, I may change my mind and lower it a few inches.
     
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May 17, 2014, 06:33 PM
 
I cheated. I modded a first-generation Xbox, and use that (with some third-party wireless controllers) for my emulation needs.

That said, I'd LOVE a cocktail MAME cabinet.
     
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May 17, 2014, 06:45 PM
 
It looks like a medical device.
     
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May 17, 2014, 07:09 PM
 
The heart rate and blood pressure sensors will be implemented in stage 2.
     
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May 17, 2014, 08:07 PM
 
You might make the control board height-adjustable. So it could work standing or sitting. But the screen might have to adjust too, to preserve arcade proportions. Which would complicate the design further.
     
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May 17, 2014, 10:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
You might make the control board height-adjustable. So it could work standing or sitting.
I already have stools in the basement that should work great for that height. The only adjustability I'd build into the control panel would be a couple of "wings" to add 2 more players for full 4-player action. A decent 4-player control panel is 4-5 feet wide, which is gigantic.

But the screen might have to adjust too, to preserve arcade proportions. Which would complicate the design further.
Though the Dell's stand easily supports rotation, I just don't care enough to do anything about that - Donkey Kong and Pac-Mac will just be letter-boxed. I'm already committing the egregious sin of using an LCD instead of an authentic arcade CRT with all of the adapters to get the resolution and scan rate correct.
     
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May 18, 2014, 06:32 PM
 
Added a slight incline to the control panel, increased the side panels to 3/4", added the marquee, cleaned up the lines on the side piece.



Another feature I'd like to integrate is an easy way for a keyboard/mouse to fold out of somewhere hidden, and I'd like to have some hidden USB ports for my USB SNES controllers.
( Last edited by Laminar; May 18, 2014 at 06:58 PM. )
     
Laminar  (op)
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May 18, 2014, 11:12 PM
 
Here's a first draft of the marquee graphics - the marquee is 4.5"x16" and will be backlit. You can probably figure out the theme I'm going with.

     
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May 19, 2014, 06:31 PM
 
So today I went ahead and modeled up the individual pieces, made a cut list, and got the 3/4" stuff nested. Looks like I'll need a 4x8 sheet and a 4x4 sheet. I only have a couple of 1/2" pieces, I may be able to get those out of the scrap MDF I have left over from building my last sub box.

     
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May 20, 2014, 05:40 AM
 
I feel like this new cabinet design should have an LCARS UI.
     
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May 20, 2014, 09:41 AM
 
     
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May 20, 2014, 10:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
Here's a first draft of the marquee graphics - the marquee is 4.5"x16" and will be backlit. You can probably figure out the theme I'm going with.
A question for you graphic designers - that image was created in Photoshop on a canvas set to 4.5"x16" which matches my marquee size. However, the image had a resolution of 72dpi. I understand for printing, I probably want something like 300dpi. What's the best way to "upgrade" the image. Should I import it into Illustrator and trace over everything in vector graphics? Is there a better solution?
     
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May 20, 2014, 12:43 PM
 
Another graphic design question, this time geared toward workflow. I have a control panel layout done in my CAD software, where I find it easy to create precisely-sized items and place them in positions accurate to the mm. My end goal here is to have an Illustrator file I can send to the printer for them to print up on an overlay that will go on top of the control panel under the buttons.

Illustrator CS2 won't accept drawing or DXF files from my CAD software (combination of software age and Education version limitations). But I can plot to a PDF from CAD and import that PDF in Illustrator. Once in Illustrator I can create the artwork surrounding the controls. Is that a decent solution? Would you suggest a different workflow?
     
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May 20, 2014, 01:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
A question for you graphic designers - that image was created in Photoshop on a canvas set to 4.5"x16" which matches my marquee size. However, the image had a resolution of 72dpi. I understand for printing, I probably want something like 300dpi. What's the best way to "upgrade" the image. Should I import it into Illustrator and trace over everything in vector graphics? Is there a better solution?
If you used vector shapes and live text, you may just be able to up the resolution without recreating anything.

However, before guessing, check with the shop that will be doing the output for their specs. Sometimes poster printers are more of a 150dpi thing, or if they only accept EPS files then yes recreate in Illustrator.
     
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May 20, 2014, 01:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
If you used vector shapes and live text, you may just be able to up the resolution without recreating anything.
I used none of those things. But this way I have a layout done, and none of the marquee graphics are overly complex.
     
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May 20, 2014, 04:21 PM
 
Re CS2... if you think the most up-to-date Illustrator may swing a proper import, hook me up with a DropBox link or something and I'll gladly give it a shot.

An idea to test if the CS2 version is working... draw a 1mm x 1mm box in the CAD file, do the PDF to Illustrator, and check the size.

If that looks good, the only issue I can think of is the cutter probably requires continuous line segments, and those may not get preserved somehow.

Sorry if those last two notes are things you've already thought of. I personally hate when people come up with ideas I've considered and rejected. Makes me feel like the other person doesn't think I'm smart enough to realize that.

To be clear, I'm not assuming these didn't occur to you, I'm only being better safe than sorry.
     
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May 20, 2014, 04:28 PM
 
I still like the live marquee idea. Not only could you change the base image whenever you want to, and show the current game logos. But you could also sneak in the occasional comment on the gaming skills of Player A/B. A snarky comment/advice visible for 2-3 seconds. Then back to the game logo. It would help with audience involvement.
     
 
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