Appologies for the fuzzy pictures the digi camera seems to have gone on the blink.
It worked well but it just didn't seem right playing on a computer keyboard or even my sons game joystick so I wondered about building a whole arcade cabinet to go round it. It seems lots of people have done this but it was obvious my wife would never allow such a thing in the house so I started looking a cocktail cabinet designs which, though better for me, still looked too arcade retro to pass the "spouse test".
|Joysticks, buttons, IPAC||78|
|Total||approx 250 GBP|
|+ considerable time and effort !|
First decide on the type of joysticks you want : 4-way means you just get up/down and left/right while 8-way includes the diagonals. Some games expect 4-way input and will just ignore the joystick if you move it to a diagonal where upon the little green monsters generaly gobble you up. Switches come in all shapes and sizes : micro switch, leaf blades or optical. This is much easier as many people prefer the feel and silence of the leaf blade variety. Manufacturers think differently of course and are now discontinuing them. Optical items are more expensive and so were ruled out on my machine. So then, that leaves micro switches. Do you want plain buttons or some design (ie 1 or 2 player start).
Now you need to cut a panel to fix all the controls to and make sure it fits within the space available. Also make sure the buttons etc are playable for a wide variety of games and will fit a variety of hand sizes. Also remember that you'll need a bunch of control keys to run mame before getting to the game itself. My first attempt, on paper, didn't leave enough free space behind the controls to rest your hands, my second attempt didn't work for all games (at least those I've so far discovered) and then finally on my third attempt I ordered the controls.
Shortly after the buttons arrived I changed my mind on the colour and now want all the controls black as well - to fit into the non-colour scheme. But at least now I could start drilling the holes and turning everything into reality. I'll warn you now that cutting the 28mm holes required for each button creates a lot of dust and vibration so do it far away from anything delicate.
It took most of a day to fit the controls and wire the loom but it was certainly interesting. You need to electrically ground all the buttons by daisy chaining a ground lead between them and then attach a single wire for each button back to the controller. The controller takes all the simultaneous button presses and converts this to a stream of characters as if pressed on a keyboard, I guess it's a small micro controller chip with multiple inputs. I used something called an IPAC2. If you find wiring a plug difficult then just give up now :).
By the evening I was actually playing games using the new control panel mounted in the frame and watching the action on the monitor within the frame. I hadn't built the computer for this yet so I was using the software on my main machine. It was quiet difficult to stop playing !
Actually it was impossible as I'd forgotten the quit key ! No matter how much effort you put into designing it it's only when you have the thing built that you can see all the mistakes. I'd intended to use the shift functionality of the IPAC where, if you press the "1 player start" button, at the same time as other buttons, then other keys now take on new meanings and the "2 player start" button is the one that gets you out of the game / menus etc. Damn. I didn't include the "2 player start" button as I thought it unlikely that 2 people would want to play at the same time. Now it means I have to drill another huge hole right in the center of my wiring loom and right beside the micro controller - great!.
Interestingly neither the CPU nor the graphics chip require a fan so hopefully they'll run reasonably cool inside the frame. I may actually add a Ultraviolet fan in the center of the case jus to blow the air around and provide some special affect under the machine when it's switched on. I can't help feeling I'm pimping my processor. I need to think about venting and airflow - the choice is either simple side venting (which would spoil the overall clean design) or pull air from underneath the case (issue of dust).
The monitor I found was only 15" but has a good flat ledge behind the screen which I can build a frame around. I put black masking tape around the edgo of the screen to make it black and I guess I'll use masking tape to merge it with the wood work etc. Perhaps a larger monitor would have been better but it would take more space and add to the weight and I don't think it would add much to the playability of the unit. I've added a UV fan to the back of the unit, I'm not sure whether everything needs cooling but it certainly looks cool.
The aim was to produce a 2 foot cubed retro game cube and I wanted it to feel like it was made from sheets of plastic rather than wood (to get a 1970's retro feel rather than a 1600's retro feel). I've decided to put loads of primer on the wood, then sand it, prime it again and then use acrylic spray paint. I get a feeling that I'm going to have to move the project back out to the garage as I only sprayed one small stripe (to see what it might look like) and I feel the fumes are affecting me ! Doing the painting etc means I have to remove all the buttons etc which is a pain. It would also of been better if I covered the monitor while priming as, no matter how carefull you are, you'll get little flecks landing on the screen. Today's colour scheme is blue sides with black for the top and the feet. The buttons will all be blue apart from the start game/shift button (I still want to underlight them). When buying the paint I saw some stick on stone tiles which looked very cool - I wondered what the cube would look like in slate ?
The setup is now only missing the wooden sides and glass top but is now functionaly complete. I played a few games and was quite impressed. Actually I was ammazed I'd been able to get it all together so quickly.
IT'S FINISHED !!!!
I've shown it to my wife and she says it can stay as long as it's not too loud. Must admit it can get quite loud and, though the sound quality is good, the whole house can feel like it's rumbling during some of the heavy action in "Assault" but I think it just adds to the realism.
And the funny thing - no matter how much I've tried, I'm still crap at Defender :(
I drilled a small whole on the side of the unit and attached a large reset button for the computer. Next I found a intelliplug which looks like an extension plug but it monitors the power going to the computer and when it detects the computer has been turned off it will turn off the other sockets - that way the monitor and speakers will turn off at the same time. The whole machine is now much more child friendly even if they do occasionaly turn the volume up a little too high making it a bit adult unfriendly. The interesting thing is it seems to get pretty much the same "play" time as the PC games which just shows how compelling the original games were.
Changes I'd make if I built it again: