Friday, January 15, 2010

Ms. Pacman Arcade Game

While I was building the Ms. Pacman arcade, I constantly searched online for any info about building a MAME cabinet. I figured I’d use this blog as my contribution to anybody interested in building one. This is a VERY brief overview of how I went about it. If an idiot like me can build one, then even a really stupid monkey could do it. I posted a wanted ad on Craigslist (which I highly recommend) stating “COCKTAIL ARCADE EXTERNAL HARDWARE WANTED.” Pretty ridiculous sounding... I know. And yes, I did immediately punch myself in the face after posting those words. I might as well have posted, “Pathetic Douche-Bag Looking to Nerd-Out.”

But I lucked out, and some dude in the suburbs sold me an empty Space Invaders cabinet, two control panels (pretty beat up), a Dell monitor, an IPAC board, and assorted pieces (glass clips, bezel, top glass…). It was very reasonably priced, and all I had to do was go pick it up from his house (while also creeping out his entire family...).

I bought new hardware for the control panels, a Sanyo joystick and Happ cherry switches. They’re the balls. Highly recommended.

I wired the joysticks, buttons, and credit button to the IPAC board, which was surprisingly simple. There are pre-built control panels that simply have a USB output, but I wanted to custom make my CP’s
There are plenty of sites out there that get into the detail. I used “daisy-chaining” to wire them, and it was no sweat. And it made me feel just like Keanu Reeves diffusing a bomb in Speed. I downloaded and installed MAME. Pretty easy. There are tons of posts about doing it. I downloaded a bunch of games (ROMs) onto the laptop, which made me feel just like Keanu Reeves hacking into The Matrix.

I connected the IPAC board to my laptop with a USB cable. I ran the laptop through the Dell monitor. Most MAME purists would tell me to remove the CRT monitor from the plastic casing, but it fit OK, so I didn’t bother. I found a scan online of the original control panel artwork, but since I added buttons I needed to tweak it. Just using the Paint program, I made a mockup of the CP art, and printed it on a fancy printer at work. Hopefully no one from work is reading this, or else I’m fired. To make it look more like a functioning arcade game, I bought an LED nightlight from CVS for five dollars and mounted it behind the coin light. I also bought the overlay artwork on eBay. I also covered the old beige cabinet with dark wood contact paper. Gives it a classic look.

Once it was done, I sat down, started playing, and immediately started annoying everybody around me. It made me feel just like Keanu Reeves in real life.

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