Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Arcade Project

There's a lot of technical mumbo jumbo in this blog so a short and simple story to go with the pictures is that I'm building my own MAME arcade. Click here to skip the story and see the pics.

Back in July I started researching the world of building my own arcade. It’s very fascinating what people have done and can do to say the least. There were so many paths and options I could take. It took me about two weeks just to get a feel of what all needed to go into it and where to get everything.

First I had to decide whether I wanted to use an emptied out original cabinet, build one from scratch, or fork out the money for pre-cut pieces. The emptied out cabinet offers true form and is pretty cheap, but could lack quality due to wear and tear. Building one from scratch gives self satisfaction of doing the job and let’s imaginations run wild, but could lack in quality depending on carpentry skills and requires quite a bit of garage space. Pre-cut arcade frames look fantastic and professional, but cost quite a bit.

Next was the decision on what type of monitor to use. There’s the original arcade monitors that will obviously give a true feeling of an arcade, but can be pricey and are also known for electrical shock even when unplugged. In some cases I read where people died from this capacitor electrocution. I could put in a television that would give me an arcade feel and is cheap, but it can be difficult to find the right size monitor that has s-video and power return (more on power return later). The other option is a computer monitor which works well since there is a PC running it anyways so it obviously hooks up, but it can cause sound delays that really take away from the arcade feeling.

I also had to decide on a control panel where all the joysticks and buttons reside. With any choice of cabinet, I could choose from a number of control panel options. I could buy one flat out which again looks professional, but is definitely costly. I could build one which requires a lot of know-how on running wires and would have to convert to USB eventually. I could also buy an original arcade control panel. This would give me original feel, but limits you to one style as far as where the buttons are and I would still have to convert to USB.

So my decisions were an emptied out original cabinet, a TV for the monitor, and a purchased custom control panel. The cabinet I bought off of Craigslist was in really nice condition and was super cheap. I haven't purchased the TV monitor or custom control panel yet because my money has been pretty much frozen since we started house shopping. The TV monitor is the safer route and let's me go up to a large screen without ridiculous weight like a computer monitor. It will need power return which means when I power the arcade on, the TV will turn on and go to the correct input that it was last on without me having to touch anything. LCD's would have been nice but I did a test with one and the choppy sound lag was unbearable. The control panel is going to be the most expensive part, but it will allow me to put the buttons in the places I want and in the colors that I want.

I bought a PC off of Ebay to run the arcade. The motherboard was DOA and so I got a refund for it, but got to keep the tower. I used the refund to buy a new mobo and a faster processor for it, so it worked out. I also bought a wired Xbox 360 controller to add to the one I already had to provide controls to the games until I can buy the control panel. I also picked up a smart power-strip from Target that allows me to shut everything off by shutting down the PC. This is done through it's master/slave power sockets. The only other purchase thus far is a nice wireless keyboard and mouse from Logitech off of NewEgg that provided quick access and easy hiding when I needed it.

As far as graphics for the cabinet, I have picked out Mortal Kombat II vinyls for the sides and control panel, and a plexi-glass marquee for the top. Mortal Kombat II was and still is my favorite arcade of all times. I play it constantly already on the setup I have now.

Currently it is an unfinished project, but after we move into the house this things gonna be perfect. I will blog about the finished project and provide more links on where everything came from and the prices of each component. Here are the pictures of the arcade currently.


Joshua Green said...


Perno said...

Wow quite a project, looks fun.