A new project – Mame Cabinet

For several years now, I’ve been considering building a MAME Arcade cabinet. I’d been using the MythTV box for retrogaming, but I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations:

  • The MythGame interface is painful to use.
  • MythTV is such a moving target, keeping it updated and stable is very tricky.
  • Using USB based handheld controllers has it’s own issues, particularly when dealing with multi-player games (like Gauntlet).
  • Not having ‘real’ arcade controls, and a standup console to play against seriously takes away from the entire experience. I’ve found the large joystick and poundable buttons are necessary elements of gameplay

IMG_0817.JPGSo, the mame cabinet project is rolling. Buttons and joysticks were aquired from eBay. An i-Pac controller from Ultimarc, and things were started.
The control panel here is a test setup. Using some scrap plywood from the workshop, I’m testing out my button and joystick layout. I’ll build the entire panel from scrap wood, and put it together for playtesting. I’ve left space on the panel for a trackball (which, in the Mame world, acts just like a mouse. Very handy), as well as ‘additional’ buttons for coin drops, reset, ‘escape’, and other Mame functions.
Hopefully I’ll have this up and running before Ubercon, but chances are 50/50 of that. There’s a lot of wiring to do before I can even begin testing.
This comes after probably 4 weeks of planning and sketching, working out the dimensions of the cabinet, how it’ll be assembled, what controls I’ll use, and how the whole thing will be put together. One of the design goals is the ability to move the durned thing and take it to conventions and other gatherings, so it needs to be able to be ‘taken apart’ fairly easily. This console is set up to attach to the front of the larger cabinet, so hopefully it’ll be easy to move about when ready.
The one real question mark in the equation now is what Mame front end to use. Currently I’m sort of tinkering with KXMame, which is… “Nice”, but has some serious interface quirks. The page is showing no updates in 5 months, so I’m skeptical if I can go with it. The other big contender for linux-based Mame cabinets has traditionally been AdvanceMenu, which has quite a good arcade interface, but alas, has been end of lifed. I’ll continue searching. I do NOT want to use a windows-based front end, so that certainly limits my choices.
I’ll keep folks posted on how the build is going. So far Zach loves punching the buttons on the panel. I don’t think the 1/2″ plywood is going to hold up well for long term playing, but this is after all a test setup. It’s not expected to.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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