Last Update: 9/08/2015
Creating a MAME cabinet is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.
Prior to travelling overseas in my early 20’s, I picked up an arcade cabinet for around $250 along with double dragon, Twin Cobra and forgotten worlds (with controls) for $50 each board. I loved playing these for approx. 3-4 years, but then sold them when I moved overseas…. Which in hindsight, I regret! Even though it was old-school – it had head a great feel to it.
With creating a MAME cabinet, there are planet of resources on the web, but many of these suffer from the same issues as many public message boards (such as TechNet forums) where people will tell you you’re an idiot for wanting to do something, rather than trying to help. Many years ago, I asked for information on, what I now know, are called rotary joysticks, the type used in games such as midnight resistance and Ikari warriors – and was immediately told I was stupid for wanting one or for wanting to play those games….
In addition, the “newbie” posts seem to be overly simplistic – and the forums are for the people that are really into it – some of the info in-between seems to be ignored or missed. So the following posts will be at my level…. Which is get-the-general-idea-but-never-done-it-before-and-im-not-very-handy level…. So if that’s your level too – you might find the posts helpful!
Part 1 – basic concept
I always had a basic concept of what I was after:
- Black powder-coated metal TV stand with some sort of included or custom made area to attach the control panel
- 42” or larger TV
- 3 different control panels that can be interchanged
- The “Forgotten worlds” panel – joystick and up/down capable spinner x 2 players
- The “Midnight resistance” panel – rotary joystick and 3 in line buttons x 2 players
- The “everything else” panel – Joystick and 6 buttons x 4 players
- Nice to haves/future considerations
- Light guns for Virtua Cop (and holsters on the side of the cabinet)
- Trackball for missile command
- Stubby holders – beer while playing is required isn’t it ?
- Possible to use the control panel “stand alone” – i.e. unplug it and take it to a mates house
- Make it look nice! Artwork, LED’s etc.
- Somewhere to plug in a keyboard and mouse for management
- Small PC
Part 2 – Putting it together in my head
My main concern was the control panels, everything else I didn’t think would be too bad.
- The TV stands I was after are pretty commonly available – if a little expensive
- A flat screen cheapy TV is very easy to get
- An Intel NUC with a usb hub will meet the needs of the PC
- Software – MameUI64 and fusion (Sega Megadrive) are givens, other emulators maybe in the future. I’ve heard HyperSpin is good, but have no preference for front end at the moment.
I was in no rush for this project, so first up, I ordered one joystick and spinner for the “forgotten worlds” panel from www.grooveygamegear.com, postage was relatively quick, but add in the base price, exchange rate and postage – and this wasn’t a cheap exercise already.
I ordered mid-December 2014 and had the components before xmas.
Once they arrived, I used a box to mock up a simple control panel, just to make sure everything worked.
My first issues were:
- The spinner “spin” didn’t work, but the “up/down” did….. a quick email to groovygamegear support and he correctly pointed out that I had 1 wire incorrect. This was a stupid mistake by me.
- The wiring for the joystick/control board seemed simple enough, the Xin-Mo interface board showed up in windows, but testing showed that no input was being received from the joystick. Turned out the ground pins on the Xin-Mo P1 interface were actually only a ground pin (single), where-as the ground pins on the P2 interface were both actually grounds. After a few emails back and forth with groovy game gear support, the helpful guy sussed out my problem and pointed me in the right direction.
Once they were working, I started up MAME, setup forgotten worlds and all was good.
Part 3 – Mocking up the first control panel
Before getting the control board made up with sheet metal, I wanted to make sure I had the sizes correct etc…. so I grabbed a sheet of 3mm MDF from the local hardware store for a couple of bucks, made up a basic frame from some spare wood I had out the back and tried a couple of configurations and sizes.
This is the mock-up of the forgotten worlds board
Prototype board ready for the additional controls…. complete with “artwork” from my 2 year old daughter
Part 4 – Delays in getting components
At this stage, I was ready to buy the rest of the components required….. grooveygamegear was out of stock of the high-low spinners…. And the ever helpful Randy informed me that the manufacturer of one of the components went out of business and that he would have more as quick as he could. Fair enough, this type of stuff happens, especially for components that are not common.
After a few weeks of waiting, I then though “I’ll start on my midnight resistance board”…. So I headed on over to the suzohapp website (http://na.suzohapp.com/amusement_products/joysticks/50-5618-00) to purchase a couple of rotary joysticks – out of stock as well for another month or so.
Ok, ill grab the light guns instead from http://www.ultimarc.com/aimtrak.html… Also out of stock.
So, I guess I’m going to waiting for one of these to get back in stock before continuing on.
Part 5 – Components back in stock and poor descriptions
I ended up finding 2 suzo-happ rotary joysticks on ebay via http://www.gamedude.com.au
Light-guns have recently come back into stock, so I grabbed a couple of them plus a rotary joystick interface from http://www.ultimarc.com/
Finally, http://groovygamegear.com had more stock of the high-low spinners required for the 2nd player of the forgotten worlds control panel.
I have the rotary joysticks – am waiting on the ultimarc order to arrive… but the spinner order, well, that was pretty average.
As per this page http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=86&products_id=311 – the spinners come in master/slave config options – so I proceeded to get a slave unit for the 2nd spinner.
Long story short – the slave unit plugs into the master control board – but there is no-where to plug in the cable which interfaces the pull/push function of the pull/push spinner.
Considering the only reason you would buy a pull/push spinner is to use the pull/push functionality (otherwise you would just get a normal spinner at 1/2 the price) – the fact that it doesn’t work with the slave option is a pretty fucking important piece of information to leave off the sales page – or more to the point – it shouldn’t even be sold with a slave config.
An email to groovygamegear support confirmed that the slave unit cannot be used with push/pull functionality – and a follow up email from me asking if I can just but another control board, or if there are any other options, seems to have been ignored at this point (its been a week).
Part 6 – some progress!
So after a bit of a lull, everything started to come together… I got my control box made and powder coated
Then populated the top of it
Then started with the wiring
it became clear pretty quickly that using the manufacturer supplied cabling didn’t really allow for nice cable routing…. but I’d still rather have a bit of messiness I see rarely than to get a whole bunch of cabling gears im never going to use again.
and there we have the finished product…. not the most exciting thing to look at I know…. but it does the job well.
Now I have
1) started looking into to work out how to get artwork onto the box
2) Looking into monitor stands
3) ordered some 25cm usb cables from china
4) waiting for groovygamegear.com to get xin-Mo controllers back in stock for the next panel
Part 7 – stand and 2nd control panel
So, it took a while, but I have been making progress slowly….
The 2nd control panel is now done – Suzo-Happ rotary joysticks and 3 buttons for each player – this works quite well as control panel for midnight resistance style games – but also your standard 2 player games.
The stand is coming along…. I purchased a pre-made TV stand from a local supplier – http://www.atdec.com.au/telehook-th-tvcb. No customer service or assistance when requested – but the product itself is pretty good…. biggest downside is that “Display can be rotated from portrait to landscape” actually means taking the TV down, and re-mounting it, not using a rotation mechanism.
In addition, I got the “front mount” added on in order to hold the control panel and the keyboard/mouse underneath – by a local steel supplies company.
The metal work place I went to was quite helpful… but the issue was of course that, not having ever done much metal work before, I don’t know what I don’t know – so was relying on them for some suggestions etc.
As it stands, its ok/good-ish…. ill finish off routing the cables properly, get the USB face plates mounted etc – then it will be a bit better…. however, the control panel is way too high, so I will need to get the legs chopped in order to lower that. The control panel is also a little wobbly – purely because of the weight distribution – so two more legs on the front would probably be good.
The distance between the control panel and the screen is also a bit of issue – (which I knew it would be) – but without completely custom building – im not sure how I could fix that. Its actually not too bad – just would be nicer to have maybe another 100mm or so.
In short – this isn’t quite my original vision – but its close… and its definitely good…. just not great. I’ll keep working on it to try and make it a bit better.