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MAME

My journey into the creation of a MAME cocktail arcade table.

Two players, or one?

New School Tech Old School Looks

Goodies! Finally bit the bullet and purchased the controllers and buttons I’ll be using for the arcade machine.  The software used for running these machines is called MAME and there’s quite a community built up around these types of projects,  everything from buttons to clips and even mounting hardware has been replicated.

I ended up going with the UltraStik 360 from Ultimarc, which I found out is in jolly old England after ordering.  I was surprised the items came in less than a week from overseas which wasn’t bad at all.  As you can see in the picture of the bottom, this stick uses magnets to determine which way the stick it is being pressed.  The sticks hook to the computer via regular USB.  The buttons are all wired to the to the iPac2 controller chip pictured, which also hooks to the computer via USB.  The iPac2 acts like a keyboard and translates buttons on the arcade table to any letter on the keyboard.  The idea is I can set my “Player One” button to the same thing as pressing the letter “A” on the keyboard.  With MAME I’ll then say the “A” key is the same as pressing “Player One,” and repeat this process for all the buttons I install.

I’ve resurrected an old Dell from my in-laws and got it running, but it’s not playing nice with the software I’ve wrote, it’s also a bit slower than I anticipated so will need to do more testing once I get all the windows updates installed.  Ideally I can use this to run everything on, the price is right, but time will tell.

Little by little, one travels far…

So earlier this year I’d mentioned I was working on an arcade table, and though I’ve been mostly quiet about the whole process little by little I’ve made progress. For those that don’t know, arcade machines could be found all over the place in the early 80s.  From my memory, and in particular the “cocktail” variety, were always popular at Pizza Hutt’s, usually playing space invaders. I have fond memories of the Ms. Pacman table though so I’m basing my build off of those, which looked well like this:

arcade-game-mspacman-cocktail

It seems I wasn’t the only one that had fond memories, and found a great site with exact measurements and plans specifically for the Ms Pacman cocktail table, so now I have a great guide!

Since then I’ve been buying parts and pieces to be eventually assembly, in particular the control panel which is made to spec out of formed metal.  I’ve also acquired the brackets used to attach the control panels as well as the glass to the top of the table.

I’ve also ordered received the t-molding that is fitted into the edges of the cabinet as well as the control box.  This required finding and ordering slot cutters for a router which I held off on due to them being a bit pricey… I finally just bit the bullet and picked them up.

Currently I’m in the process of deciding on what controllers I want to use.  I’m learning toward Ultimarc’s UltraStik 360 which allows one to programmatically set the stick for either 4-way and 8-way operation.  This is a huge factor with a game like say Pacman in which there are only four axis’ to move, an eight way stick can make the controls difficult to use. The flip side being a game like Time Pilot where you want clean eight way controls, or even further games like Q-Bert where the stick was set at four way but angled fourth five degrees to match the playing board.  Being able to setup the stick based on the game being will be a huge advantage.   I’m currently leaning toward three buttons for the game, two buttons for player 1 and player 2, a “coin” button to insert coins, and a “home” button to return to the main game menu.

The controller portion is critical because it will dictate clearence on the control box and the top of the cabinet, and I need them before moving forward.  I hope to make up my mind this week on these.

I also finally caved and purchased a used table saw off Craigslist. This was probably something I should have picked up a while ago, and it’s great having the tool for future projects.  That of course all took time, and then I needed a new blade, and then I needed to find bolts to reattach it to the base, yadda yadda.. The good news, I can cut plywood in a straight line now.

In my next post I’ll cover more about how the games will work, how I’ll let users pick their game and some of the software I’ve been working on to make that all happen.