As a child of the 80ís, Iíve spent
countless hours playing my brotherís Atari 2600 and his Commodore
64. So Iím no stranger to good olí classic gaming. Once I got
a little older and was allowed to ride my bike to the mall, I went to the
arcade. I pumped quarter after quarter of my ďhard earnedĒ
allowance money into games like X-men, The Simpsons, Mortal Kombat,
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and games all the way back to the classics
like Ms. Pacman, Timber, Donkey Kong 3, and Galaga, just to name a
few. Over the years my passion for video games has never really
decreased. Iíve followed along right up until the new video
game systems like the Xbox 360, but Iíve always held a special place in my
heart for the classic arcade game. Iíve always wanted my own
arcade machine, but I could never justify spending the money on an arcade
machine that was dedicated to just one game. Well, a few years
ago I discovered MAMEÖ
Iíve had to put this project on the ĎTo
Doí list for quite some time, but I just recently decided to fulfill that
dream and make it happen! I thought that Iíd post a
little journal online as I progress through this
project. Iíve just been absolutely obsessed with this
project for the past month or two, so Iíd like to thank my lovely fiancť,
Jenny, for putting up with me during this process. Sheís been
more than patient with me, and Iím sure sheís sick of hearing me talk
-- this is where to post any questions you might have, and if you ever
decide to build one of these yourself, you will have a LOT of
The first step in creating an arcade machine is the figure out what youíre going to use for your cabinet. There are basically three options here:
1. Build your own arcade cabinet from wood.
Depending on your location, there are many places that you could acquire an old arcade machine. You could look for arcades that are going out of business, you could look on Craigís List, call up local trash yards, etc. What I did was look up anyone from Wisconsin on both Ebay and Craigs List that were posting ANYTHING that had to do with arcade machines. I was just asking them if they had any old non-working or gutted arcade machines that were in decent condition that they were looking to get rid of. I got a surprising amount of responses back, however, most of them were trying to sell one to me for $150 - $250. You should really never spend more than $75 - $100 on a machine if you ask me.
Then finally someone responded back and miracle of miracles, he had an arcade machine for me for $50. I should at least pimp this particular business a little since he did totally hook me up. Itís a company called Dream Home Arcades. They are based in Mosinee, WI, and they sell a lot of stuff on Ebay, so if youíre not interested in making your own machine, be sure to check them out. Their moto is, ďYou dream it, we build itĒ and let me just say that after getting a first hand tour of their shop, I 100% believe they could make WHATEVER it is you want them to. Theyíre that good. I saw a few of his arcade machine, and I wanted them to have my children, thatís how nice they were.
It was an old Nintendo PlayChoice 10 machine. If youíre not familiar, thatís an old arcade cabinet that used to have up to 10 normal Nintendo games installed in it. You could play the normal Nintendo game for X amount of minutes per quarter you put in it. Most of these types of machines had two screens in them. The top one would display the directions on it, as far as what button does what, and the bottom screen is where you played the game. The cabinet still had everything in it, but the two monitors didnít work. The guy who sold it to be said that he thought the actual arcade machine would work, but the screens just wouldnít. It didnít really matter much to me anyway since I was planning on gutting the machine. The guy who sold it to me was really cool and very generous. He gave me the arcade machine, and 17 games to go with it (along with some other little bonus stuff like some Marquees and etc) for $50. He said that he had originally intended to gut it himself for a MAME machine but he never got the time to do it since his company has their own cabinets they build in house now. He also said that I should be able to sell the games on eBay, he just didnít have time to do it himself. This was probably one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me in my lifetime. I went home and posted the 17 games individually on eBay and they sold for a combined total of $520! Talk about a lucky break, I was already up $470! This money pretty much funded the bulk of the project so far. Also, just as a side note for anyone considering a project such as this, make out a budget for yourself, whatever you think you might need and the double it. Itís the honest truth, youíre going to find that unless youíre really good at self-restraint (and Iím not), youíre going to go way over what you had planned originally.
Here are a few pictures of the arcade machine once I got it home. Also, as a general rule, you should be able to click on every picture thatís on my webpage and it will show you the full size picture that goes along with it, not just the little thumbnail I have showing on the page itself.
Here is the side view of the arcade machine.
Somehow the lighting in this picture makes the side art look better than
it actually was. The art on the side of the cabinet was fairly
scratched up and pretty well faded. The marquee however, is in good
condition. Also, you can see the two screens in this picture because I
removed the glass that was in front of it:
Once I got the arcade machine home it was time to get to work. As I mentioned earlier, I have very little experience working with wood, so this was all just a huge learning experience for me. The first thing I did was completely gut the machine of every last thing that was inside of it. I took the time to bag up all of the parts in case I wanted to sell them or reuse them later. Next, I sanded down all of the sides to get most of the old paint off of it. I got myself a powered hand sander from Wal-Mart for $7 from the discount rack. Then I used 60, then 80, then 100 grit sand paper to get the sides nice and smooth. To be honest, you probably donít need to sand as much as I did, but I guess I just wanted to be safe and make sure I have as smooth of a surface as possible
After all of the sanding, it was time to repair all of the holes and scratches in it. On the sides there were mostly just a few smaller holes and scratches, but on the front of the machine, there were a few fairly large holes to repair. Mostly because of the security bar that was on the original cabinet in front of the coin door, and then also the gun holster that was on it as well. To repair the holes I used a product called Bondo. I decided not to use wood putty or anything like that since Iíve been told that stuff can shrink over time. So Bondo was a good fit. Itís typically used for car repair, but it can be used for any number of other things, including wood repair. Once you mix the Bondo putty together with the hardening agent you better move quick! That stuff starts to really dry after maybe 3 minutes or so. So make sure you only mix a manageable amount that you think you can apply before everything hardens. Also, you do NOT want to inhale the fumes from that stuff, or even get it anywhere on your body, so when you use Bondo, make sure that you have all your skin properly covered, as well as a mask and eye protection. I got a little bit of the hardener agent and putty on the tip of my finger and I before I realized it, a water blister formed right under it in a few minutes. It wasnít painful at all, but still, best to be careful and avoid this. Once I filled the holes, I simply sanded them down to be flat using the before mentioned grit sand paper. It took me several attempts for a few of them before I was satisfied with how flat they were, so if you have a few bigger holes to fill, donít expect the holes to be perfect on the first try.
Thatís about as far as I can go with the cabinet
at this point. There are two ďTo DoísĒ before I can prime and paint
the arcade machine. First, I need to build and attach a control panel with
all the buttons and joysticks. The original control panel will
not work, as it is metal (and hence hard to convert) and also it is too
small for my needs. More on the control panel in the next
section. And then secondly, I need to build a new monitor
shelf. I purchased a 21Ē CRT monitor for $20 off of
Craigís List, a pretty good deal if you ask me. So far its working
great with the computer, but that thing is HEAVY. So I need to build
a more study shelf that is both in the position that I want, and also
strong enough to support that weight. I wonít know
exactly where the monitor shelf needs to go until the control panel is
The next step is to make a control panel for all of my joysticks and buttons. Since as Iíve mentioned before, I have no wood working skills, Iíve decided to purchase a pre-built 2 player blank control panel from the Arcade Shopper website online. I decided to go with Arcade Shopper, even though I could have gotten a cheaper one from Mame Room. I just liked the one from Arcade Shopper better, plus it will allow me to put a hinge on the control panel so that it would be easier to open for maintenance. The 2 player control panel from Mame Room is able to be opened, but not without unscrewing two screws hidden on the bottom inside, so that would have been virtually impossible for me to get at. The control panel should arrive in a day or two.
Now that Iíve got a control panel for myself, I needed to decide what buttons, joystick and etc I wanted. There and countless different options out there. Itís all really personal preference and what type of games you like to play. There are 4 way joysticks (for real classic games), 8 way joysticks, full blown flight (plane like) joysticks, spinners, normal push buttons, illuminated push buttons, trackballs, and etc. I personally decided to go with a configuration where each player has 6 buttons and one 8 way joystick. Then there would be 2 coin buttons, 2 player start buttons, and 5 buttons used for admin functions like Escape, Pause, etc. Then there is a trackball as well for games like Golden Tee and many other various games. Here are the three sites where I purchased all of my controls from:
www.happcontrols.com/ -- pretty much the be all,
end all company for video game controls, when in doubt, buy from
You never want to jump right into making your
final control panel, you first want to make yourself a test control
panel. I bought a cheap ľĒ thick piece of wood to use for
this. I printed off the different controls and taped them to
the wood where I envisioned them being:
And hereís the finished product. A few of
the holes werenít perfect, specifically the one for the
trackball. I wasnít too concerned about this though.
This was just the test control panel, so I was cutting the holes
quickly. I also will be using a router for the trackball hole
on the final layout, so there will be a much more exact hole:
I decided to get a little creative with a few of
my buttons. The big button at the top is my exit button.
So if youíre playing a game and you want to quit it and return to the
menu, you just hit the big skull button to kill it. Here is a
picture of the button a little closer up:
Here is my cool little skull that I made myself
for the button. The colors are orange in the picture, but once
itís behind the blue pushbutton cover, it makes it appear much darker as
seen in the picture above:
I also scanned in some actual quarters, shrunk
them down a little bit, and put them under some of my other
pushbuttons. The quarter ones will eventually be illuminated as
Right now I am in the middle of configuring all of the software. I wonít go into too much detail on this, as itís pretty involved. Besides, there are plenty of resources out there that cover the topic much better than I ever could anyway. But just to summarize, my machine is going to have all the Mame games on it, but it will also have all the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, and Atari 7800 games on it as well. There may be a few more systems, but those are what I am currently positive of. If I had to estimate a count of the number of games it will have between all of the systems, Iíd have to say that it will be around 8000 or so! Pretty crazy I know. Sure I will probably never get to play half of them, but itís good to just know that I could.
Thatís basically everything that Iíve done so far. Itís been a real blast, and Iíve loved learning everything. From here on out, I will be giving incremental updates as to current new development in my project and there will be MANY!
Then my cup holders came too! As you can see
below, they close up when not in use. Then when you want to use them
you can open then up, adjust the arms, and set whatever beverage you want
in Ďem! These will definitely come in use when I have some
friends over for a few beers and some video games!
This is really more of a "no update" update. As I mentioned before I ordered a control panel online, and it did arrive a few weeks ago. Sadly the control panel top arrived damaged and the corners were all banged up. Now there's all this drama between the seller and UPS, so it's forced me to put the whole hardware aspect of my project on hold for a few weeks. I am hoping very desparately that this will get resolved this week, and that I'll have my new control panel some time next week. I guess the plus side of this whole ordeal is that it's forcing me to work on the software part of the project. I am making a lot of progress on that front. I haven't posted anything online, because it's not something that's very exciting to talk about. It's repetitive, and boring. What's nice about it is that once it's finished, I will never have to do it again. So far I've configured my computer to work with MAME, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, and Atari 7800. There's still a few more game systems that I'd like to add, so thats what I'm currently working on.
I will be sure to post again once the control panel
arrives. I do have one small update on the hardware
front. I bought a translucent trackball for my control
panel. I just opened up the trackball, took out the old one, and
popped in the new translucent one. Then beneath the trackball I've
mounted a blue LED light. It makes the trackball light
up really nicely. These pictures don't do it justice as far as
how cool it looks. It's sort of the thing you have to see in person,
but these pics give you the general idea anyway...
Small update on the control panel. I heard back from the vendor I bought it from. He will be shipping out the replacement CP within the new day or two. I guess at this point, I'll believe it once I actually get the tracking number though.
I've done a little more work on the lighting while I'm waiting though. Here are some new pics for you.
This button was a little more difficult to
photograph You really have to see the coin buttons in
person to appreciate them. When you see the coin button in the dark,
it looks just like a real coin, I love it:
The control panel finally arrived! And it was about time too. I'm just very excited that the drama surrounding that whole thing is taken care of. It's been almost a month since the first control panel arrived damaged, and I was sick of the waiting! The replacement CP was double boxed this time around and it arrived in perfect condition. Eager to get moving again, I've spent the entire day today working on putting it together, and drilling all of the proper holes into it. Here are some pictures of the progress:
Here is just another view of the control panel
box. In this picture and also the previous one, you can see
the two latches that I installed on the box itself. These will
connect to the actual control panel. The guy who made the
control panel didn't include these, so I had to drill special holes for
them. Fortunately, I did a good job and it all works.
Here is a shot of all the drilled
holes. I left the trackball sticker there for now because I
had to come back to that later.
For everything else I was able to just use a normal
drill and some Forstner bits. But the trackball was another
story. This is the part of the CP that I was secretly dreading
having to do. I didn't think that I'd be able to cut in such
an exact shape into the wood. That's where my friends router
came in handy. He was nice enough to let me borrow it for a
As you can see I was able to cut out the shape as
needed. Sometimes when you try stuff on your own, you can
really impress yourself by what you can accomplish. As I
mentioned before I'm normally not a "handy man", I am a computer geek, so
the fact that I'm now cutting stuff out with a router is amazing to
Here is another shot of the trackball
hole. I've actually smoothed out that left side since I took
this picture. It doesn't matter all that much though, my
trackball fits in there snugly, and that's the most important
part. There is a metal panel that covers the top of it anyway,
as you could see in the pictures of the test control panel.
Aside from the blister I got that one time from the
Bondo, I haven't really hurt myself making this arcade
machine. I did scratch myself today though.
It was a really wimpy little cut, but I wanted to post it to show you that
I'm a real man and that I kept working even through that MASSIVE
And here is your final product, looks pretty
amazing to me!
Making some good progress now! There are four things that I completed over the past few days.
First, I figured out how I wanted to mount my speakers within the
cabinet. In the picture below you see how I've attached some rings
to either side of the speaker and I'm using little bungie cords to hold
them in place.
Next, I worked on placing the marquee in the correct position.
The original Playchoice machine had a standard length for its marquee from
left to right, but the height of the marquee was much shorter than
normal. So I had to move down the bottom holder to account for a
normal size marquee. As you can see in the picture below, there is
now a two inch gap between that back piece of wood and the metal brace
Then we glued it on and also screwed it on as well. Theres about
15 screws holding it on there now, plus the glue, so I don't think it's
going anywhere. Here is a picture of it attached:
Just a small update. I received my light guns today. Theres actually two parts that you need to buy to get a light gun working with your arcade machine. First, theres the actual plastic light gun. Then second there is another box it wires into that hooks up to the video card. The box is the expensive part. As of right now I only have two light guns and one box. I have to purchase the other box at a later date once I have the money. But for now I can at least get one gun working!
This past weekend I got the time to work on quite a few things. First, I finished up the shelf. My dad cut the wood for me and luckily it fit perfectly!
I let the glue dry over night and then I finished the rest. I
placed the actual wood shelf on top of the wood and then sandwiched it in
there with another piece of wood as you can see below. I was pretty
excited that I got it to be perfectly level too!
The next thing I did was attach some small blocks in front of the
monitor. These blocks will eventually have velcro on
them. The glass in front of the monitor will hang from the
velcro. See the blocks below.
Next, it was finally time to start the painting! First, we
primed it. My lovely assistant, and fiance, Jenny, helped me
paint. Before we actually got to the paint though, I spent a
couple of hours cleaning up my entire work space. I had to
sweep, sweep and resweep about 5 time before it was entirely
clean. Then I used some tack cloth to wipe down the
cabinet itself. This grabbed any extra dust that was sticking to
it. Then once all the sawdust and other dirt was
gone, I had a fun time covering everything with paper. This
was just to catch all the paint and avoid making my landlord very angry
with me. I may have went a little overboard covering
everything, but I was having fun. In the picture below you see that
all the walls and floors are covered:
We let the primer fully dry over night. Some time very soon
I'll sand down any spots that need it, hopefully there won't be many, and
then we can paint it black. Despite the name of the paint I
chose, I have nothing to hide...
So far Jenny and I have put 3 coats of black paint on the arcade machine. I think we will probably put 1 or 2 more on it before it's done. Hopefully we'll be able to finish that this Sunday. I will post some pictures once the paint is all done. It's looking pretty amazing so far!
I have a few other updates, however. First, I did order a piece of tempered glass that's cut to the shape I need it to be to cover the monitor and everything. It should be ready in about a week. Once I get it, I need to figure out where the screen will be officially, and then I can paint the glass black everywhere else but where the screen is. Also, I went with the tempered glass so that it would be less likely to break should anything ever happen to it since it's 4 x 5 times stronger than normal glass.
I can't take credit for the artwork, I did find a version of it on the internet. I totally changed the colors to it and then added my own text along the top. It's gonna look pretty sweet on the arcade machine, and it better, it's not going to be cheap to print it!
First, I'd like to apologize at the growing ridiculousness of this page. I'm aware that there's like 70 images on it now and it takes forever to load. Perhaps once everything is finished I'll take the take to split it up into proper separate pages that load quicker. In the mean time, you'll have to make do with it how it is. I figured that anyone who is actively reading this website would appreciate me spending more time on the arcade machine versus working on the webpage...
Anyway, here are some pictures of my arcade machine
painted! We put 4 coats on total and it looks
great! On the edges of the arcade machine I have some black
plastic t-molding that I will be putting on there. So the edges will
not be white as they appear in the pictures:
Once the paint dries I can begin working on a few other things. I can install the coin doors, t-molding and speakers. Then I have to wait on the glass and the side art still! More updates coming as always!
Over the past 4 days I've worked on my arcade machine for a total of about 25 hours. So needless to say, this is going to end up being quite a BIG update! So without further ado...
First, it occurred to me that I had never tried to fit my coin doors
into the holes. I tried it out, and of course, they wouldn't
fit. They were just slightly too big. So I had to
use a jigsaw and free hand to make it a little bigger. Then of
course, I had to repaint the area since it got a little beat up in the
It also occurred to me that I had never painted the coin doors so they
didn't match well at all. They came with a glossy finish but my
arcade cabinet has flat black paint. So I had to remove all of
the stuff from the coin doors so that I could paint it all.
Next, I had to do a little work on the monitor. I colored
in the outside around the monitor first with a black Sharpee. As
shown below. Then I decided to later purchase a "paint
pen" and I covered it all in that paint. I don't have a
picture of the updated version, but it made the black around the monitor
much darker and more solid. Below is a picture of the Sharpee
The next part was to work on the glass. First I measured and
tested out where my monitor would appear in the glass. Then I
covered the screen area so that I could paint everything black. Then
once it's painted, I could just peel away the center
square. I painted this glass with 4 coats of
Next I attached velcro to my little blocks that I had created
before. I also attached velcro to the back of the glass to
hold everything on there securely. Don;t worry, it's not that
scratched up any more. I've since touched up that area with a little
paint. The walls got a little scratched up because I had to
slide the glass in and out so many times to get everything lined
Then I installed a little shelf with some felt pads on top.
You can see these little shelfs in the picture below, right beneath the
monitor shelf. The glass wedges in here really
nicely. So the glass fits between the top of the arcade
machine and these bottom shelves, then the heavy duty velcro I placed
holds it in there even more securely but still makes it easy enough to
remove if I need to.
After the paint dried on the glass I also taped some black construction
paper over the black parts of the glass. It probably would
have been fine with just all that paint, but I wanted to protect the paint
so that it won't be easily scratched.
With all that finished, we carried the arcade machine up into my
apartment. I then started in on wiring up the control
panel. First, I removed all of the buttons from my old test control
panel and put them into the real control panel.
Then I worked on wiring up all of the buttons. Let me first
say that it's INCREDIBLY hard to get that many wires look
organized. I didn't do a very good job, but you do what you
can with what you have... Nonetheless, every wire is labeled,
just in case, and every thing does work!
This is the keyboard decoder device that I mentioned earlier.
This is what all of the wires connect to. This chip then converts
everything to USB and plugs directly into the PC. As I
mentioned before, the computer just recognizes this as a keyboard.
Lastly, I installed some straps that hold the monitor in
place. It is a shelf, so I could probably have done without
these, but I didn't want the monitor to rock back and forth because you
were pounding away at the buttons. So these straps just hold it
totally still so theres no rocking. You might have a hard time
seeing the one on the left, but it's there! It's just camoflague
I also earlier applied the stickers to my arcade machine. I did it in my garage and since I live in Wisconsin it was freezing out there. I was running a heater in there, but apparently that wasn't enough. This was the most painful part of the process, and it shouldn't have been! It was just my own stupid fault. But we attached it in the garage. It went on perfectly and there were no bubbles or anything. I came back and checked on it two hours later and it was starting to fall off! So I pushed it back on and then put some blue painters tape around the outside to hold it up a little bit and give it a chance to dry. I came back 30 minutes later and it was falling off again, even with the tape. So at this point, my best guess was that these problems were because of the temperature. So we carried the arcade machine upstairs into the apartment. I reapplied them a third time and used the blue tape again. This time the stickers held much better. But about 30 minutes later I saw that there were several air bubbles under the sticker. It was completely flat before, so I was very angry that they were there. I was able to iron or pop (with a tiny needle) a few of them. I emailed Scott at Mame Marquees where I bought it. He was very understanding, and said that he'd work with me on a price, should I need to order some replacement stickers. I thought that was very nice of him. He said that in the cold the paint on the cabinet probably didn't dry completely. Then once it was indoors, the paint fully dried. And as paint dries, it releases some small amounts of gasses. This gas is what probably caused the bubbles. Right now, I'm not totally sure that I need the new stickers though. I removed the blue tape and the stickers are still applied. There a few air bubbles left but you need to get up real close to see them. We'll see. If it gets any worse, or if the stickers fall off or something crazy, then maybe I will order some more. It still looks pretty amazing right now. Don't worry you will get to see some pictures in just a minute. The moral of the story is...IF YOU LIVE IN A COLD AREA, APPLY YOUR SIDE ART STICKERS INDOORS WHERE ITS WARM!!!!!
Now time for a SURPRISE! My arcade machine is finished! There's a few minor things that I still need to complete, but for the most part the hardware is finished! I do have a decent amount of software work to complete still, but now I will have a lot more incentive to work on it!!!!
|I am an
I am a drifter. I go where life leads, which makes me usually a very calm and content sort of person. That or thoroughly apathetic. Usually I keep on doing whatever I'm doing, and it takes something special to make me change my mind. What Video Game Character Are You?