Hein (fub) wrote,

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Et in arcadia ego

I've downloaded MAME plus a few ROMs. Like anyone my age, I used to hang out in arcades regularly -- when arcades still had games instead of endless rows of slot machines.
It's great being able to play these classics again, or to discover new and cool games like Vasara (I can get through the first stage without losing a life on that one...).

This has rekindled my desire to build my own arcade cabinet. I mean, it's all fine and dandy to play those games with the keyboard while sitting at your desk -- but it's not the same experience as back then. And the experience is why you want to play these games: modern games for home consoles are easier and more convenient than arcade stuff.
So, I am looking at what other people did with their arcade cabinets. I am thinking of making a two-player cabinet, because that about covers 90% of the arcade games out there. Granted, playing Michael Jackson's Moonwalker or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with up to four players is great fun, but I don't want to build a huge cabinet for the three times in my life I will get four arcade players together.

Then there is the issue of the material. I could use MDF and go for a black cabinet like The Gold Mine and ask an artist friend to design side art. Or I could construct the whole cabinet from multiplex and just stain that, like the Jubei cabinet. In both cases, I will ask my artist friend to design art for the marquee.
Some of you have seen our interior -- what do you think?
Poll #643700 Which type of cabinet?

What type of cabinet should fub build?

Use MDF, paint it all in a single color and have someone design some spiffy side art!
Use multiplex with a nice wood grain, and stain it so that it fits better with the rest of your furniture!

Any other recommendations?

Then there is the matter of the controls. Joysticks and buttons are all readily available -- not too cheap, but you sure do want some rugged controls to withstand a regular pounding. Interfacing those with the computer is another thing though. There are various types of hacks circulating: soldering your signal cables onto the guts of a cheap keyboard, or hacking apart a USB control pad for instance.
But the best way to interface is by using a keyboard encoder. The I-Pac is the category killer in that segment, but at 50 euros (excluding shipping!) that does add up. Basically, a keyboard encoder is a microcontroller that monitors its inputs. When a certain input is triggered, it sends a 'keystroke' to the PC -- as long as you adhere to the PS/2 interface protocol, the PC doesn't care whether it's a microcontroller or a real keyboard sending the bits.

But wait... did I say 'microcontroller'? Don't I dabble in those things? Aren't there assembly routines out there that take care of debouncing inputs and the bitbashing to do the keyboard encoding?
Funny you should mention that. Yes, there are. And I'm pretty confident I can tie it all together into a working prototype -- one that will cost considerably less than 50 euros!

Anyway, it's an interesting prospect, but I don't have any concrete plans (yet). It's in the queue, and I think I'll continue planning just a little bit longer...
Tags: arcade cabinet, microcontroller

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