MAME Cabinet

For a long time I have known about a program called MAME. I had used it in the past but never did too much with it. Recently, while I was browsing the Internet I came across the ArcadePC site. It was information from an individual who had bought an Arcade Cabinet and set it up with a dedicated machine running MAME. There was links to a page where you can buy the same type of cabinet, links to people that had built their own cabinets, and links to other informational sites about MAME Cabinets. Here is a cabinet from a person who built his own. He did a great job on the construction, and I used his plans for a lot of my ideas. Ultimate Arcade is the page.

I started to search for MAME, Arcade Cabinets, and MAME Cabinets on Google. I eventually ended up at the ever so famous “How to build your own Arcade Controls FAQ“. I went to their examples page where I viewed links to other sites where people explained how they set their’s up. From building/buying cabinets, building controls, interfaces, monitors, sound, etc I found what I needed. I decided that I wanted to have one, which lead me to thinking I was going to build it. I found drawings and measurements of other cabinets, and I started to work on it.

I planned out what I needed to get started from the wood, the controls, the monitor, the system, to the games. How much was it going to cost? How long would it take? I estimated a cost, and really didn’t care about time. I knew that if I started that I would finish. One weekend I made my first of many trips to Home Depot and bought three sheets of 5/8″ particle board at about 8 dollars a sheet. I looked into 3/4″ MDF (Micro Density Fiberboard) but it was 16 dollars a sheet. At the possibility of me messing the first attempt up, I went the cheaper route. Along with the boards I needed three 2X4’s 8′ long and a box of 1 5/8″ woodscrews.

Here are some other sites that I used to help me along the way:
Arcade Paradise
Mr. SaLTy’s Arcade
Sith’s Arcade
Scott’s Unicade (If I did it over again, I would take this route)
Blake’s Mame Cabinet (Tons of pictures with good documentation)

Cabinet Construction
The basic design was already done and printed from Microsoft Visio. What I came to learn after starting was that what ever you feel like is the last revision… is not. I did a lot modifications on the fly, but it all worked out. Example, I was planning on angling the top a bit, but decided that it would just be easier to leave it straight. Also, I was adding extra 2×4 to support the cabinet. I drew the layout for the side walls onto one board. I started cutting with a circular saw, but ended up using a jigsaw for most of it. The first cut wall became a template for the other side.

At that point I needed to make a decision on how wide the cabinet was going to be. For two reasons A) fit my monitor, and B) fit through the doors. I knew that I wanted it inside when finished, so I had to make it no larger than 31″ (I would have to take the doors of its hinges to get it in). One of the areas of which I lucked out on is the monitor. I have had a 32″ monitor for a couple of years, and last year I replaced it with an LCD. I was planning to use it inside the cabinet, but in the case it was too big. I took the tube out of the case and it measured 27″. The inside ended up at 29 1/2″, so I could do but it would be tight.

I cut the top and bottom pieces along with some 2X4’s all to length. I started piecing it together with the 2×4 first. Once it could lay it down and stay up I screwed the top and bottom on. One thing I would have done differently is used 1X1 as a railing system for the walls. Trying to place a screw perfectly in a sheet of 5/8 board is tough. I left a .5″ gap at the top from being flush, and about 1″ or so at the bottom. I used three 2×4’s in the back. One at the top, middle, and bottom. The fourth 2×4 went flush with the bottom of the control panel ledge, near the center. I’ll explain that later.

I noticed that the bottom was weaker than what I felt comfortable with, so I screw some supports underneath it. I started with a strip of particle board, but that didn’t help. So I used two more 2×4’s, and I bet I can stand on it now.

I wanted to make sure the monitor fit, so this was the next step.

I built a rectangular frame big enough to see the picture area of the tube. But did not make it big enough to get the tube completely through, because the wider the sides of the frame were the more durable it was. This monitor might weigh close to 85 pounds, so all the reassurance was needed. There was a 2 1/2″ space between the frame and the brackets on the tube. So, bought some 4″ bolts and used small PVC pipe (2 1/2″ long) as spacers and mounted the tube to the frame. I then used two pieces of particle board, that would run the length of the frame, and screwed them into the cabinet before attaching them to the frame. We turned the cabinet on its back and laid the monitor in it, so that we could set it while it rested in place. It fit perfectly, but for added support we used a 2×4 at the top, and one on bottom.

The second picture is dark, but you can see how I supported the circuit board for the monitor. The fourth one is blurry, but I added information to show how the frame was bolted onto the tube using the PVC spacers. The fifth picture is new, and it had the flash on so you can see it better. Since I wasn’t willing to take it out so I could paint it, I covered it up with trash bags so that I wouldn’t spill anything on it. Next was to finish the speaker mounts, Marquee mounts, fluorescent lights, coin door, and control panel.

I had some old computer speakers that were made by JBL. One thing they are missing is a volume control, but since MAME has its own control it works out. All I did was take apart each speaker casing, and I took out both speakers and the circuit board to connect everything together. To get the speakers completely detached from their cases I had to cut the speaker wire, pull it through the case, and splice it back together again.

I then took the board that the speakers mounted to and measured the holes in which the speakers would mount above. I was going to cut the wood in such a way that I wouldn’t need a speaker grill, but the slots ended up being so thin that I just cut the hole out anyway. For speaker grills I ordered some 6.5″ grills with mounting hardware pretty cheap at Mobile Emotions. The grills are about twice as big as the holes I cut, but I figured they would fill empty space and make it look like I hade better speakers.

Once cut, I also had to trim and angled cut across the the front, so that while the panel sat at an angle the front would be flush for the bottom of the marquee. Then I primed and painted the panel before mounting the speakers. I wanted the speakers wired and mounted before I attached the panel to the cabinet. And if that was the case I wanted to paint the panel before I mounted the speakers, so I wouldn’t mess them up with the paint.

Once the speakers were mounted on the panel, and the panel was placed in the cabinet, it was time to install the fluorescent light fixture.

Cabinet (continued)
I cut the last panel and made a opening where a future coin door would install into. For now it would just be an open access point to the computer. Once that was finished I started working on mounting the light. I had previously purchased a 24″ fluorescent light fixture to mount for the marquee. All I had to do was cut the end off of a 6′ extension cord and wire the reaming cord to the ballast. That way the light would plug into a power strip and when the strip was turned on, so was the light. I mounted it on a piece of 2×4 that ran across the top of the cabinet, and I placed it facing out. I have seen some people mount it to the top so that it faces down.

I then filled all of the screw holes in the cabinet with wood filler. I used a putty knife and laid smooth layer over all of the necessary holes. Once the filler was dried, I started to sand them all down as best I could. In hind sight, I would have used less filler per hole, because it took forever to sand all of the sections down to be flush. With that said there are a couple of places that the filler sticks out higher than than the rest.

Then came the coat of primer and paint. I used regular white colored primer, and only used one coat. I used a flat based black paint because I did not want an irritating shine coming from the cabinet. I was pleased with the way it was starting to look. I do not have any pictures of the cabinet with just primer. I was moving right along at a good speed and never took any. However here are some shots of the it after the paint.

Control Panel
I wasn’t real sure where to start the layout of the control panel. I had seen a ton of examples on the internet on how some people had put theirs together, but I wanted everything even. I took a sheet of paper and start to layout just one side, with one joystick and six buttons. I knew how I wanted it to look so I drew everything to size and drew them were I thought would be comfortable. I then took the “template” and laid it on the panel. I decided that I wanted the controls at a slight angle so that each player was turned a little bit to be aligned with the screen.

So, I placed the bottom left corner of the “template” in the bottom left corner of the board, and then I turned the template clockwise until the top was 1 1/2 inches from the side. That way the slight angle I wanted was created. With the template in place I used a sharpie and placed a dot for every center point there was. Since the joysticks and the buttons all used a 1 1/8 inch drill bit, I figured that all I need to know was where the centers were. Because I had a black panel I went back over each mark with a pencil (It was easier to see that way).

I did the same for the other side and started to drill the holes. Alos, I mounted two buttons on the very top of the cabinet. So that most people will not be able to see them, and would only know they were there if they were told. The buttons are the coin1 and coin2 buttons. One on the player1 side and the other on the player2 side. That way most people would use the coin door and actual have the thought of playing an arcade game. Then my friends and I can boost up of the coins and just play to play…. Or I can just make money off the neighborhood kids. :) The other button is in the same place on the other side.

Using the I-PAC from Ultimarc for the keyboard.

I do not have any better pictures at this time, but I can tell you that using the I-Pac is simple and highly recommended. I have two 8-way joysticks, six buttons per player (it allows eight), player one and player two buttons, the coin door, and some hidden coin buttons. As I was looking into how I could run buttons for ESC, F3, P(pause), TAB, and the “~” button, I found out the the I-Pac uses the player one button as a shift key. With the combination of the player one button and others like player two, up, down, left, right, etc., it acts as the other keys specified. Therefore while playing games with the MAME emulator you can use all of the necessary menus.

Using the ME4 from Hagstrom Electronics for the trackball interface.
I do not even have a picture of this one, but there will be one.

I purchase this product because it seemed like it would be easier to use rather than the Opti-pac. Unlike the I-Pac the Opti-pac looked a little more difficult to setup. When I was time to wire the trackball, it took me a couple minute to understand just how the wiring was going to work. There are cables already attached to the trackball that comes direct from Happs. Well, the ME4 comes with all the cables need to wire a trackball and spinner. I just unhooked the original cables from the trackball and plugged in the ME4 cables.

I am not one the read the manual so when I tested the trackball the X and Y axis’ were switched. Well, I figured that was just that I had the X and Y cables on wrong…. So, I switched them and now they were correct, but rolling right moved left and vice versa (eventhough up and down was fine). I ended up re-wiring the connection for the X axis, and that fixed it. Later on I found that there is a jumper which would have done the some thing too. It works though, and well I might add.

As for the left and right mouse buttons, all I can say is to read the manual and it will tell you which wire is ground, which one is the left, middle, and right. I figured that out after several attempts at trying to get the right buttons to work. All I can say is that it would have been faster and alot easier if I would have read before hand and not after the fact.

Monitor (continued)
I used a piece of plexiglass for the cover of the monitor bezel. However, once I cut the appropriate size I found that the monitor tube came out further than the frame it was in. That creates a small problem because the tube would touch the center of the plexiglass, creating it to bow, and distort the image. I made a trip to the store and purchased a tri-fold foam board (the kind used for science fair projects).

I used the center of the board to add another layer to the frame, so that it would lift the plexiglass up enough not to touch the tube. I cut a square out of the center of the board and used it as template for painting the bezel. Since cutting the board made messy edges I used masking tape and taped down all of the inside edges… making them more straight and smooth. I did the same for the outside of the template piece.

I measured out and laid down the template onto the back of the plexiglass. With that secured, I spray painted the back of the bezel, and the frame made of the tri-fold board. After a couple of coats it was all ready to be mounted.

I cleaned the monitor as best I could, and then I secured the board onto the existing frame with a screw in the top center. That allowed me to not have to mess with that as I tried to line up the bezel. I placed the bezel on the cabinet with the computer on, so that I could make sure the screen would be 100% visible. With that done, I just used two screws per side with same brads I used for the control panel to finish it. To complete the look I used some left over marquee retainer to frame the top of the bezel. Overall I am pleased with the outcome, but in hind sight figured that it could have been a little better.

Currently I am using a Compaq Evo Desktop
Processor - 1.0+ GHz
Memory - 786Mb
Hard Drive - 80Gb
256Mb Radeon Video Card (makes all the difference in the world)
Operating System - WindowsXP Home

My trackball worked great with Windows98, but when I upgraded to XP I ran into problems with fast spins. It really affected Golden Tee, but I found a registry tweak to fix the problem. If you cannot find the fix and needs some help, email me and I will see if I can dig it up.