MAME cabinetry

So every now and then I get the notion in my head that having a stand-up arcade cabinet running MAME would be a good idea. The notion has come again.

(I already have stand-ups of Millipede and Star Wars. If I were to buy another stand-up, it'd probably be Tempest, since vector screens are just intrinsically cooler hardware than raster.)

So, there are four paths one could take:

  1. Build one from scratch, using someone else's plans.
    Pro: the controls would be where I wanted them, and it would only cost a couple hundred bucks;
    Con: I don't have much woodworking experience, though I could probably borrow the tools.

  2. Buy some crappy game just for the cabinet, and gut it.
    Pro: somewhat easier, and about the same cost;
    Con: fitting a new controller configuration in might be harder than it would be when starting from scratch. Gutting a game is somewhat sacrilegious.

  3. Buy a pre-built cabinet I can put a Linux box in, e.g,: ArcadePC ($3000 without computer); or MassSystems ($1200); or X-Arcade ($1000, and I think it's a lame `mini'-cabinet.)
    Pro: Shit would Just Work;
    Con: Jesus, Mother of Fuck! That's a lot of money! Plus shipping!

  4. Decide I'd rather play video games lying down than standing up, and just get a controller and figure out how to get the computer to display on my TV.
    Pro: moderately easy.
    Con: extremly low coolness factor.

Of course the real problem here would be figuring out how to lay out the control panel so that it works for the widest variety of games. Games are always designed with specific controllers in mind, and the quality of play goes to hell if you're using the wrong controller. (How could you play Tempest without a spinner? Star Wars without a yoke? Marble Madness without that gigantic track ball? Q-Bert without the joystick being at 45°? Even Joust with a space bar and arrow keys is horrid.)

So I'm somewhat worried about ending up with a big mess of controllers that aren't quite right for any game.

[ LJ Poll 94463 ]

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18 Responses:

  1. fksche says:

    Maybe you should think about making the controllers modular ... Though I have no idea if this has ever been attempted ...

    • caniswolfie says:

      a friend of mine created something like what is being talked about here. Basically he had someone else create the cabinet (for the PC and TV) and had a separate piece as a stand for the controllers. The controller stand's top was interchangle with another top with a different controller layout. So basically he could exchange layouts for whatever game you wanted to play. Now this would be expensive for every game, but a couple of layouts would work. The one layout he did have worked for mostly everything. There was a spinner, trackball, 2 8-way joysticks, 2 4-way joysticks and a plethora of buttons.

    • mattholland says:

      i was gonna say that too, but, oh hey you have a ur logo as your userpic. cool.

      but yeah, a modular panel should be possible i think...

  2. baconmonkey says:

    read up on what other people have done.
    I've seen many control setups that were quite versatile.
    some folks build multiple control decks that they could interchange.
    I've seen people have trackballs and spinners.

    if you only want single player, you've got plenty of room for a very versatile configuration. though I've seen arcade machines that had a controls board that stuck out from the cabinet and flared out to either side to make room for 3 players. I *think* Comabatribes was one of those games. oh look, I found a page where someone converted a combatribes machine to a mame box.

    But really, just figure out what games you're likely to play and work from there. I dunno, I figure it should be pretty easy to fit a joystick and 6 buttons with a trackball and spinner up above on each half of a slightly larger arcade controls board.

    Also, why build a traditional Arcade-looking MAME cabinet? make a DNA Lounge Kiosk-sytyle cabinet. plate steel, flex-conduit, and angular square-pipe all the way.

    • westyx says:

      Or anyone with aforementioned control decks? If you could talk to someone, see what you're going to need in terms of time and effort and annoying-can't-get-the-damned-thing-to-work stress, you'd be in a better position to work out what you want to do.

      • baconmonkey says:

        there are about 10 billion "how I tore my hair out making my nifty MAME cabinet" pages out there. many have directions, some have control layout templates. Some of the more fancy pants cabinets had no need of a keyboard, as they had a few buttons for selecting games, etc. that ran into a programmable keyboard controller - sold mainly to MAME folks.

        Just search for "MAME Cabinet"

  3. grahams says:

    Where's the "Don't you remember the trauma of the CD Racks?" option?

  4. chanson says:

    Use an XGA (1024x768) projector as your TV, and play video games on it without hassle. Plug in the VGA cable and go.

    Bonus: Use an XGA projector that can run at 72Hz, and play DVDs without pulldown.

    (I don't know if you already have a cool TV that would make this moot. You probably do.)

  5. wasteddream says:

    You know, Zach (of your security staff) has a Heavy Barrel standup arcade game sitting in our garage right now that he wants to sell.

    • i find this INTRIGUING.

      adam would kill me... but how much does he want for it?

      • wasteddream says:

        I'm not sure. i think in the neigborhood of $200.

        I would be so happy if you bought this game, because then i know the cheezy music and sound effects ("Go!!! Fight!!!") would find their way into being sampled in an industrial song.

  6. jerronimo says:

    Get one cheap generic cabinet with a vertical monitor, one with a horizontal monitor, wire in jamma harnesses into both, then just buy the games you want to play and make jamma adapters for them. It's what I did for my arcade machines, and it works out really well. When I want to play dig-dug, ms-pacman, pengo i just take the board and plug it in. Trackball games require a new control panel, but going with something like the JAMMA standard keeps things relatively consistant.

    And you can always go for something like The MultiJamma and make them switchable.

    Or, just get a single horizontal monitor machine with a working monitor and drive the monitor from your video card. MAME can sync a monitor down that low... with the correct video cards.

    • jwz says:

      That MultiJamma thing is an intriguing idea.

      Though I suspect that if playing a game involves moving cards or swapping controller tables out, I'll end up not playing it out of laziness. Which is why I'm hesitant to build two different sets of controllers.

      I'm also very attracted by the idea of this conversation: "What game is that?" "All of them." It's the packrat in me.

  7. fo0bar says:

    Upright cabinets suck, relatively. :) Get/build a cocktail cabinet.

  8. scosol says:

    hey man- I'm actually gonna weld one up out of steel/aluminum-
    Imagine a shiny metal case basicacally just surrounding a monitor, with a laptop unseen beneath it (my old sony with a broken screen will do nicely)- and a couple PS2 controllers coming out the front.

    Yeah yeah- I know- it's not typical "arcade" style controls- but I think the PS2 controllers are more veratile.
    With the dual analogs you can play the robotron/smash-tv types of games that really need a dual-stick;
    And well- I can deal with not having a street-fighter button layout.
    I'll shoot you some pix if your interested- I'm in SJ- and the DNA kicks ass btw :)

    oh and I just saw your linux-video article on /.- yeah- for YEARS the main thing that stopped me from using linux as a desktop was the *horrible* video capabilities-
    call me a media whore but it seems a large percentage of my time is online is spent watching audio/video clips-

    with that- might I suggest that you give mplayer one more chance?
    it *is* the app that has finally enabled me to use linux in any sort of meaningful manner

    it took a little time to get the video output driver working right (im using xv), but after that- it's been largely flawless :)

  9. armastevs says:

    Remember back in the day when you had to pay a quarter to play your favorite games and have some snot nosed kid bugging you while trying to play your Arcade Games?

    well now you can play them for free in the privacy of your own home!
    Have fun guys!