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My Arcade is done!



This is something I've been meaning to for the last 3-4 years.  I've been slowly collecting all the necessary items but in the last 3-4 months I sprinted towards the end.



I've always wanted to build my own MAME-type home arcade and have a bunch of games ready for me to play with.   I knew I wanted to use MAME because I've been using since it was first released eons ago. 




The monitor


I also knew that I was going to use a LCD monitor; at least 19" and certainly a 4:3 screen  for the classic look. 


So step one for me was getting that monitor.  A couple of jobs ago, I had a HP 20" L2035.  I couldn't find one locally so I ended ordering one from eBay for $50 plus shipping.  A couple of years ago I came across some fellow selling Dell Ultrasharp 2007FP 20" monitor.  I bought six of the guy and met him at the IKEA parking lot.  The Dell one has been awesome, it has composite, SVHS, VGA and DVI inputs!  The resolution is an awesome 1600x1200 resolution and they are quite bright.  It's also half the weight of the HP model.  At this point, I've more than recouped my money by selling three of the Dell monitors and the HP model.  Needed to clear some space in our cold cellar.  I gave a Dell monitor to my buddy who was also building an arcade (more on that below).   Since then I've been using these monitor to plug in my 7800 and get a super-crisp image.


The emulator


Back in 2017 I also bought a Raspberry Pi 3.  I was torn between using a lean Windows 7 OS with either an open motherboard or a small ATX case.  I could have done the Win7 system in my sleep, but also wanted to learn about the Pi3 so that ended being my choice.  My biggest problem ended having to upgrade the power supply to one that could draw 5A as it turns out running a HDMI cable needs a bit of "juice".  The 2.5A that came with it wasn't good enough.  I ended up using the RetroPie set up and got the ROMs where people get ROMs.


The controls


In the meantime I got arcade buttons and a joystick from eBay.  Ended up using those parts to build a 7800 controller.  Had some buttons left over from a project to build a Track&Field controller.


To test this set-up I ended up getting a cheapish arcade USB jostick; https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B078H7MSFC/ref=pe_3034960_233709270_TE_item .  That allowed me to test the configuration and just build a POC.  That was pretty much my set up for the last two years.


HAPP competition joysticks was going to be my pick based what I used in the past; wasn't too fussy about buttons.  I was happy with the ones I used for my 7800 controller so I ordered more of those.


The cabinet


The cabinet was an adventure.  I wanted to get something that had been pre-cut so I could assemble it, but just as I finally decided to go ahead, the place I wanted to use to order it sold their CNC equipment and closed their doors!  This happened in the week or so I mulled it over.  Ordering from the US was crazy expensive and the places in Canada just didn't fit the bill.  Most of them wanted to sell you completed one or bundle all the gear.  I wanted to use my stuff which already had.


So that left scanning Kijiji for months for an arcade cabinet.  After a while there was a fellow who wanted to sell a pair of empty cabinets.  A generic cabinet and a NEO GEO one.  I reached out to my buddy who had mentioned a while ago he was thinking of building one and luckily he agreed to go 50-50 with me.  Initially I wanted the NEO GEO one, but seeing the size I went for the generic one.  I think my friend was happier with the NEO GEO one as well. So that worked out.  I gave him a Dell monitor to help him get his project started as he had one of those 1000 arcade game HDMI plug-in monsters.


It did come with a 19" CRT but it had some bad screen burn and after asking my dad to take a look at it (he was a TV repairman for a while) he said that it wouldn't be worthwhile fixing it.



The cabinet had to be cleaned up.  Holes, dents, scratches, a couple of broken sections.  I think I put like 8 layers of paint on the exterior.  The control panel had been reconfigured so many times, it looked like swiss cheese.  I put a new thick metal plate and set up my own layout.  Street Fighter 2 six buttons was not a requirement for me. 


The plexiglass was darker and scratched, so with a LCD it would not be as bright as a CRT, I decided to replace the front plexiglass with something transparent.


The theme


Ultimately I wanted to be able to play my favourite arcade game; Double Dragon.  So two joysticks and three buttons for each player for simultaneous action.


Next was the theme:  Double Dragon, Galaxian (for the colours and graphics), Bubble Bobble (funny characters and colour scheme), Centipede (I like colour scheme), Ms. Pac-Man, or Superman.  The DD look I just didn't like; Galaxian was a bit too retro, Centipede wasn't going to go since I wasn't going to put in a trackball, Bubble Bobble just seemed silly, Ms. Pac-Man has been overdone.  Superman was the one!  Not common, I'm a DC comics fan, I always liked the game and the colour scheme was great (a blue Superman and his red variation, using the primary colours only!). 




Got red/blue joysticks, buttons to match the Superman colour scheme and blue t-moulding to replace the one it had before.


Replaced the single speaker with two outward-facing stereo speakers and added an amp.  Added LED lights to the marquee; they are not bright but since it sits in the basement it's good enough with the darker room.


Rewired the power input with a fuse and attached to a power strip.  Added a power button at the side and high so that it's convenient to turn everything on/off at once.   Luckily the monitor remembers its state, so it turns on automatically even when completely unplugged. The powerstrip had a couple of USB plugs for the Raspberry and the LED lights.


The graphics were an adventure.  I had the panel and monitor overlay printed on glossy paper at Staples and obtained the art online.  Ordered the marquee online and also ordered the side graphics at the end from another place (vinyl).  Wished I had bigger side graphics but I didn't want to spend a ton of money.




One of the problems with this project is that I've been doing it in spurts and with the graphics printed at Staples, I ended up guessing (accurately I might add) the dimensions for the overlay and panel. 


Got real good at cutting plexiglass towards the end.  I used 3 48" sheets after a couple of failed experiments.


Had a bad experience with a generic two-player USB control board, which lasted me less than week of use.  Ended up buying two separate boards for each, one of them with LED light capabilities. That combo has worked best and no (zero) delay, and after a few weeks still working well.


I still need to put in some finishing touches and  once I had it one for like 4 hours at which point the monitor was complaining about overheating!  So I'll probably have to put in a fan and set up some ventilation holes for cold air in and the hot air out. 

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Nicely done. Looks like this cab is all about fun!


Good on you for going with newer electronics. They're more versatile and the old crap isn't worth the trouble.


Edited by Keatah
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18 hours ago, Keatah said:

Nicely done. Looks like this cab is all about fun!


Good on you for going with newer electronics. They're more versatile and the old crap isn't worth the trouble.


Thanks, the family has been enjoying it.  My youngest and I are having some serious Q-Bert, Pang, and Super Pac-Man battles. 


I tried to find the balance between maintaining the original 80s arcade feel and setting something up I can maintain.   It feels a bit odd having a ton of empty space inside the cabinet but luckily I have the space in my basement so that it doesn't really clutter the place up.

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Indeed. Empty space = nothing to wrong. No ratbaggy electronics to generate heat and collect dust. Nothing intermittent.. 


Perhaps you could make a shelf or a storage compartment for spare parts or tools in there. Maybe a shelf for external controllers. Or just keep it ready for a bigger computer.

Edited by Keatah
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