Friday, January 03, 2014

My Claim to MAME. (Building MAME: Intro)

This is the first post to what hopefully is going to be a (small) series. For many years I always had in the back of my mind that one day I wanted to build a MAME cabinet. It started back in the days when this was a rarity and only a few people did such a silly thing. Building it was complicated and expensive. Nowadays it looks like there are thousands of middle-aged men around the world that  attempt to re-capture their youth this way, and parts, plans and building instructions are widely available. Hundreds of on-line shops sell every possible part you'd ever need and even complete cabinets. (just Google for 'MAME Arcade Shop' and you 'll see what I mean)

But I want to keep the costs to a minimum by using parts I already have lying around.

The monitor

An old 15"LCD monitor that became surplus since everybody in my family now has it's own laptop...
The computer
 Any old laptop, even with a broken screen, will do. I've some of these lying around at the office.Or I could even use my Raspberry Pi.
The cabinet
 Some leftover MDF board is still in my shed for years. Maybe it's not enough for a full cabinet but it will get me started.
The controls
 I will need a joystick, some buttons, a 'spinner' (for playing Tempest) and a trackball. The trackball I already have. The joystick and buttons I had to buy, but they're not overly expensive ( €35,- for a joystick and seven buttons). The spinner is a bit of an issue. It seems not to hard to make myself, and they are quite expensive to buy so that will be a project in itself.
The controller
 To connect all the controls to the PC you need some kind of interface. Again this can be bought, but I have a feeling this probably can be done with one of the USB powered micro controller boards I have lying around like the NetDuino, Arduino or Launchpad.

Fortunately there are ton of sites (mainly blogs like these) with examples and how-to's. A few that I found very useful:
The Arcade Art Library - Where you can find all the graphics you need to create some good marquees and side art.
Project MAME- Some very good step by step instructions on how to build different types of cabinets. I did not use any of their design but there are some really useful hints and tips in there.
Build Your Own Arcade Controls (BYOAC) -  A general reference site with lots of info.
I Built An Arcade! - Great example of how to build a beautiful cabinet. Takes 13 months though...
How to build a bartop arcade - Another detailed how-to with some good ideas.
1UPArcade -  An amazing cabinet with a rotating control panel !

And finally:
What Is This Crap. - A showcase of how NOT to do it. (beware, contains strong language..)

The Games
By building a cabinet with a vertical monitor and just 4 buttons I have already limited the number of games that will be played on it. Which is fine with me since I prefer games from the seventies and eighties of which most were actually vertical platformers or shooters. Finding the games is easy, if you know where to look for. The best starting point I've found so far is the more than comprehensive MAME Database. This does not only list the games but has descriptions and screenshots. No downloads however since (as you may well know) games are usually still copyrighted and downloading ROMs is considered illegal. But once you know the name of the game you can just Google it to find the ROM. (don't be surprise if you find some more 'obscure' sites with ads that are not directly suitable for kids...)

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