MAME CABINET


MAME is an emulator which lets us play all the great arcade games and if you build a MAME Cabinet, the MAME emulator can create a very authentic gaming experience just like a real arcade machine. Throughout my childhood I've spent alot of time at the Arcade's so this emulator brought back alot of memories, mostly good ones :) I will on this page explain in details my adventures of building a MAME Cabinet. You will find loads of info/images and videos which i hope you will enjoy. If you have any questions or comments you are welcome to share them (link at the buttom) or contact me. I try keep things in cronological order so scroll to end of page to see latest updates on the MAME Cabinet but before that, there is lots of work and planing going into the process of building a MAME arcade machine. It all began with playing MAME on PC which was fun but i was not happy using the keyboard or a lousy PC joystick/gamepad. Had an old joystick laying around called 'The Arcade'. Some of you may recognize it. Been using it through the Spectrum/C64/Amiga days. Amazing how well it still holds. It would be nice to bring it to some use again. Got a Gravis Xterminator Gamepad Pro (USB) joypad, it has 100% digital controls just like the old Arcade so it should work fine for a joystick hack. Tore the poor thing apart and soldered the wires (ground, left, right, up and down ect..) to the old joystick. It was rather easy to hack up. (I may make a section about this in future). I already had some firebuttons from old pinball machines. Yellow illuminated pushbuttons, superb quality! yes yes..

 

This worked a treat! 
If you are new to arcade emulation and want to give MAME a go on your PC then MAME32 is very user friendly.

You may find the arcade games dont look quite right on a PC monitor. 
The picture is too perfect as you can see every pixel..This is not how i remember Outrun from the 80's!

I always been amazed at the people who built their own MAME cabinets and never thought i would go 
as far to actually start building one myself, until just recently.
     
There's small Arcade vendor in my area.
I called them hoping they had a used cabinet or some parts they didnt need but no luck.
Almost gave up the whole MAME cabinet idea. Without the parts i was stuck.
Tried some alternative places, buying from stores through internet, it took alot of work finding the stuff.
Got the joysticks+buttons. Overseas shipping and taxes cost a lot extra so it would be most convinient to find
as much as possible in my own country.
Found some usable coin mech here which takes Danish coins, old fasioned ones from washing machines. some old-fasioned coindoors.
Not many around these days i guess, atleast here in Denmark its hard to find mechanical coin mechanisms and coindoors. Still these where
good enough for now.

Some smoked plexi:
It was fun imagining how it would look in a cabinet:
(click for bigger images)
  
MAME Cabinet plans:
Started by drawing my own plans with few other peoples cabinets in mind, altering it a bit here and there and everywhere.
It came out a very much homemade design.
Still have the plans laying around with measurements and everything if anyones interested..
Update: After many requests i have decided to upload my MAME cabinet plans, download them here:
Plan Front Plan Side

The width of all non-side wood peices are the same and that plus the 2 side peices, will be the width of your cabinet.
I must say the control panel came out a bit low, since then i've built a little platform
under the cabinet which raises the height about 10 cm. The results in the height of MAME cabinet is almost 2 meters, looks cool though.
If you use the plans, i recommend you change them according to your needs, there is quite some space in the TV/Monitor area which could 
be reduced, making the cabinet smaller.

All in all i'm very pleased with how it turned out but more on that later.
If you use or feel inspirered by my cabinet plans or just like to share this page, feel welcome to link it from other sites..i'd also 
love to see your cabinet but keep on reading, there is more work to do. 


Anyway, bought the wood (MDF), delivered to the door.
Well now i was ready to go! 
I realized later the controlpanel was too long which made it hard to access the coindoors.
Luckely managed to shorten it early enough in the process. Really didnt need a long extended control panel.
Figured once the sides were cut out and knew the width of the cabinet, it would be easy to just cut out  
and mount the remaining pieces one by one. This worked very well!!
My dad did all cutting work, I'm still affraid of powertool's. dont laugh.. LOL.

Got an ArcadeVGA + vga breakout cable from Ultimarc, the cable makes it very easy 
for a mamescart setup. (small soldering job).
About mamescart: 
Basicly the RGB output of the ArcadeVGA grafficcard wired to the RGB input on your Scart TV.
We are lucky here in Europe to have Scart TV's, with the Arcade VGA it turns the TV into an arcade monitor.
Also been lucky with my TV, it automaticly turns on when power is feeded to it and also remembers the previous channel.
No messing around with the remote when turning on the Cabinet.
To run a mamescart setup the TV is very important, it must support 50/60 hz and a very good thing if it has a service
code one can enter with the remote. This means its possible to change the geometry of the picture. The Arcade VGA card supports a lot
of resolutions and with the servicecode its possible to adjust the picture so it displays the full screen and not cutting off part of the image.
Be default my TV needed little adjusting. Some games missing part of picture, overscan or even underscan (image not strecthed enough).
The TV im using is a 21" Grundig st55-908. Supports both PAL (50hz) and NTSC (60hz). I can really recommend this for a MAME Cabinet.
I did have a JVC 28" once but didnt use it for MAME, it did power on automaticly and also remembered the channel.
If youre looking for a TV for a MAME Cabinet i suggest you test these features in the store before buying. The 60hz is really important,
most games runs this and if the TV is only showing 50hz, there will be a horrible lag and un-smooth scrooling in games. Im thinking now
that it might not even show any display. The ArcadeVGA strength is in the support of 60hz native resolutions, not many non-interlaced 50hz
supported modes. Im crossing fingers that my CRT TV will last a long time to come, am a bit worried not to find one like this again specialy
now with HDTV screens taking over the market. I would rather not use a PC monitor in my cabinet,
specialy not a LCD. An TV with s-video might not be that bad though. 
Still a Scart TV with ArcadeVGA is like the real thing and same type of signal as original arcade monitors!



Anyway now i felt i was getting somewhere and the cabinet was begining to look like a...well a MAME cabinet!!
Still needed a couble of things, like a Marquee, T-Molding...
Took a second trip to the local Arcade vendor....KNOCK KNOCK!!
Someone let me in, He was fixing a machine.. Also was very helpfull when i explained about the
MAME cabinet. Inside there where 15 Compugame cabinets, old ones, which he said was going to be thrown away..
YES!..15 of them!!
Felt it was kindof bad luck because i had already began my own. It would have been so much easier
to restore one of them..I remember putting loads of coins in these cabinets and was making a joke about it..
Anyway, he said i could take all the parts i needed..
Got a Marquee, some old butcherd T-molding, coindoor hinges+lock so it wasnt such a bad trip after all :)  

Continued working on the MAME Cabinet.

I could sometimes feel my parents wernt exactly happy about this huge beast taking over the livingroom.
Can say, this thing is extremely solid and well built, It will last a long time for sure. 
                       

Lots of wiring:

T-Stick Joysticks  ^
Made some foam coussion things, yes they are ugly but do help. Cant hear the joysticks as much as before, cuts out the
high-frequenzy clicks from microswitches.
I think with my MAME Cabinet, things inside are not as neat looking but remember its only the person with the keys who has access to this,hehe.
The panel missing in above photo has a slide down on hinges and here rests a keyboard and a mouse, giving easy access. I will take a photo soon.

More about the T-Stick Joysticks:
First impression: Really liked the look of them, high quality parts and very solid..unbreakable. and a very responsive joystick.
 They seem a bit stiff but when mounted on a hard surface (control panel) in playing height, its a perfect feel.
Now with these controls even drunk germans can have a go on my MAME Cabinet :D
The joystick movements are spot on, the diagonals aswell, which on some joysticks are not.
One thing, and seems only to happen with me is i got blisters on my thumb after playing 3-4 hours.
I need to take a break sometimes! If the joysticks didnt have a textured surface this would not happen, so thats really the only bad thing i
can say about the T-Sticks. Actually me and my brother found a solution which was to grind/sand off the textured surface,
smoothing it out..and they are perfect now!
Test your joystick: Try Irritating Maze (MAME) or SWOS (Amiga),  these games require precision and is a good way to test a joystick imo. 
well, guess any game is ok but really try these!

As i'm still searching for a perfect joystick for a new controller box, ive tried a few joysticks now:
Happs Super Joysticks: I regret purchasing these joysticks. Don't know why i ordered them, must been the popular brandname and
heard they are very solid. The throw is much too long, the movements circles all over the place and i dont like the mircoswitches.
I would never install these on a controller box or MAME Cabinet. Not sure exactly what else it is..but i was very dissapointed with them.
T-Sticks Plus: Good joysticks. Better suited as a controller box compared to the regular T-Stick. The micro switches are more sensetive
and the throw is shorter. Still not perfect!
Euro Stick  Suzo System 500 : It looks very similar to 'The Arcade' stick and believe its the same company who made them.
Have installed one on a 2'nd box but its not as good as the the original 'The Arcade' stick. I'd say it has a short engage distance and
medium throw, somehow the tension back to center is not like the old Arcade. Again dont know what it is but like all the other sticks 
its really hard to play SWOS.


My next joystick to test will be the 'Seimitsu LS-40'. Have a feeling it would work well for a controller box.
I find the T-Sticks are perfect for a MAME Cabinet! I understand they are now called 'Mag-Stick' and 'Mag-Stick Plus'.
Well there you have it, my mini joysticks review!


Cabinet Painting:

I painted the Cabinet with water based paint with a textured roller, the same with the clearcoat also waterbased. It holds really well as promissed me.
When moving to new house it was hard work getting the cabinet inside..I noticed a white scratch on the sidepanel..oh oh...thinking
it rubbed off the paint down to the primer on the cabinet but actually this was the wall which speared on..no damage done and was able to clean it off.

Dont have more WIP pics.
Here is the result after 2 month's work, FINISHED!!!:


The Marquee: CG-Video


It was full of nicotin stains and smelled very bad, had to give it a good clean. 
The back still has some burn-marks because the lamp in the old machine was mounted too close to it. 
The marquee is from a real arcade machine, i used to play these ones alot as i mentioned before. Wanted everything
to look like a real arcade so this was perfect. Instead of having one with MAME written on it.

Coindoors, Notice the textured surface:

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A cabinet just isnt the same without coindoors IMO.
They are there only for the authentic feel, im not making money or anything dodgy. ! My MAME arcade Cabinet is for private use only !

Moving on: A closer look at the Control Panel:

I wanted to keep my first cabinet very simple.
Went with 3 button's per player, I'm mostly into the older games (which dont use that many buttons). Dont 
think i've ever played on a machine with more than 3 LOL-..
With the odd game or two, I can program the P1+P2 start to act as a 4'th or 5'th button.


Painted some stripes on the sidepanels,colors match theme of marquee:



ESC button mounted above: 


Used some old speakers for the sound system, rated 400W.
the sound quality is great and some games you can really hear the HEAVY BASS!! 
not sure, I think its because the speakers are mounted in a big box (cabinet), that it gives a good sound.
So if you're building a MAME cabinet dont skimp on the sound system.

inside view:

yes.. its all piled up in there. ^_^

Volume control buttoms wired to the PCB on the SB Live! :

thanks to the person who gave me the link to the soundblaster hack.
There is a 3'd buttom below (not visible in pic) to shutdown computer. Its a wiring from the powerbuttom on the PC
case, really a fast way to shut down computer - rather than using the frontend. The great thing with Windows 98 is its
fast to power off, takes about 2 seconds after pressing the bottom.





Powering up the machine one can hardly notice its a PC inside, specialy not one running Windows :)
Ive costumized the Windows 98 boot image (logo.sys file).
Along with running MAMEWAH.EXE as shell (via system.ini) it means it doesnt load most the Windows garbage atleast
none of the visible parts like the desktop..instead it boots right into the frontend!.
Click on image below to see the MAME arcade machine booting up. Its maybe boring to watch..or maybe not!

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My Windows 98 welcome screen! couple more pictures of the cabinet: Before it all began: MAME Cabinet prototype MAMEWAH Frontend:

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Using MAMEWAH as frontend (Shell) with Win98. See image above to watch video of mamewah.
Great stuff, lets you cycle through games/emulators all with the arcade controls.

I have hidden the mouse pointer (.ani file), cant remember name of program but the cursor is just one single black pixel. Its slightly more work 
using the mouse but not much. Once finding that black pixel everything is ok and then sometimes it disappears, try imagining finding it
on this page...ok enough about that.
I must say configuring/installing all the emulators, getting everything working has taken almost as long as building the entire cabinet.

The I-PAC which is a programable keyboard encoder, takes care of programing the controls for the different emulators installed.
Its really an easy and better option than say, doing a keyboard hack. There is no ghosting this way!


The smoked plexi does a great job, improves the colors but also hides the TV bezel. This makes it look like the picture is floating inside
the cabinet, something like that ....Not that many uses smoked plexi in their MAME Cabinets but its something i can highly recommend!
The plexi also blocks alot of flicker, passing through only the good picture quality or i'd like to think so..it does somehow act as like a filter.
Its very noticable in the interlaced resolutions like 1024x768, 800x600, 640x480 and so on. The non-interlaced resolutions still looks much
better. For MAME the included .ini files usualy chooses the native resolution so no configuring needed. The Amiga games i run
in 640x288 which is the highest non-interlaced resolution on the ArcadeVGA card. With C64 emulator i stick with 320x240. I think this is
the original display mode for the Commodore 64.
There are 2 sheets of plexi on my MAME Cabinet, the smoked plexi (grey tinted) is 3mm thick and also a clear plexi for protection which
is 10mm in thickness. As said before, the great thing about the ArcadeVGA is that it can display the original resolutions, just like on the real arcade machines The picture quality is simply amazing!! blah blah.. The In-Game Photos are taken with Digital Camera: (This camera does oversaturate the colours, though i like to crank them up a bit on the TV). First some larger images which i think captures the ArcadeVGA display quality. Click on them for full size.

Now some video clips, these might bring back nostalgic memories. Double click for full screen.

MAME: Double Dragon & Outrun

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Super Sprint & SlapFight

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GunSmoke & Continental Circus

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Arcade Jukebox and Visual Pinball

VP on the MAME Cabinet: The game playing is Irina Pinball.

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IK+ & XTreme Racing - WinUAE (Amiga Emulator)

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Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 - WinUAE Oh yess SWOS comes back to life :) see the game in action on the MAME Cabinet. The other game is Stardust

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The Great Giana Sisters - WinVICE C64 emulator classic platform game! Commando - C64 (WinVICE) Enjoy Rob Hubbard's music.

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MAME Cabinet System info:21" Grundig st55-908 Scart TV
ArcadeVGA Grafficcard > RGB
Intel PIII 733@814
Asus mobo
256 MB SDRam
SB Live!
I-Pac USB Keyboard encoder
Windows98
Emulators currently running in MAMEWAH:

MAME - Various versions of commandline MAME (Arcade Controls).
Amiga Emulator - WinUAE - All games are started straight from the frontend and quit with 'CTRL+F11' which is 'Player2 button2 + P2 start' on the control panel. Took alot of work setting it up but works great! (Amiga Controls).
Visual Pinball - Pinball emulator (Arcade Controls).
Arcade Jukebox - Arcade Jukebox 7 (Arcade Controls).
Arcade controls- Set Control panel to use Arcade controls programmed via IPAC commandline BAT file.
Amiga controls - Like above but Controls for AMIGA games.
MFME controls - Controls for below.
MFME - Fruit machine emulator, its not very cabinet friendly and going to remove it soon (MFME Controls).
Explorer.exe - Quick access to Browse folders, Control panel and other Windows 98 stuff.
C64 Emulator- WinVICE x64.exe together with C64Wrapper.exe - Yes! Commodore 64 Emulator. (Arcade Controls).

All Games are loaded and quit within MAMEWAH. Nice and Easy! as you may notice in the videos.
No need for gamelaunchers, external frontends or applications. MFME has been removed for obvious reasons..Its got to be the least cabinet friendly emulator out there¿

Windows XP has been installed (multiboot). This is used for updating Cabinet related files through local network. It also has internet. For security reasons the network card has been completely disabled in Windows 98 via device manager.. I found it useful to have a second OS so they can fix eachother incase something gets messed up. Hey I mess up things!
Below is a screenshot of Windows XP running in 240x240..lol the lowest resolution on the Arcade VGA card, some games actualy run at this display mode. The image quality is beautiful but not much use as a desktop.

I find Windows 98/MAMEWAH a perfect combination. Specialy because the frontend can run as shell (MAMEWAH v0.954b). I see no reason to use 2000/XP/Vista for a MAME Cabinet, specialy if you have an older computer.

 

If you are interested in Visual Pinball you are welcome to try my Visual Pinball Table. It plays nice on Arcade!


~ My Top 30 recommended Games
for a MAME Cabinet ~


1. Sensible World of Soccer - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
2. XTreme Racing - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
3. OutRun - (Arcade/MAME)
4. International Karate+ - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
5. SlapFight - Arcade/MAME)
6. Double Dragon - (Arcade/MAME)*
7. Giana Sisters - (C64)
8. Lotus 2 - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
9. Super Sprint - (Arcade/MAME)*
10. Bubble Bobble - (Arcade/MAME)*
11. Air Gallet - (Arcade/MAME)*
12. Track & Field - (Arcade/MAME)*
13. Chase HQ - (Arcade/MAME)
14. Crazy Cars III - (Amiga/WinUAE)
15. Continental Circus - (Arcade/MAME)
16. DoDonPachi - (Arcade/MAME)*
17. Stuntcar Racer - (Amiga/WinUAE)
18. Bomber Man - (Arcade/MAME)*
19. Wavy Navy - (C64)
20. Indy Heat - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
21. Wonderboy - (Arcade/MAME)
22. Buggyboy - (C64)
23. Bomb Jack - (Arcade/MAME)
24. Superfrog - (Amiga/WinUAE)
25. Mad Gear - (Arcade/MAME)
26. The Speed Rumbler - (Arcade/MAME)
27. Rasterrunner - (C64)*
28. Dog Fight - (Amiga/WinUAE)*
29. Commando - (C64)
30. Irina Pinball - (Visual Pinball)


*2 or more simultaneous players.


Remember all the original arcade games run low screen resolutions, so you would need an arcade monitor or Scart/CRT TV together with an Arcade VGA card to be able to view them exactly like the originals. A computer monitor has the advantage of high resolutions which is useful if you'd want to experience PC games on your cabinet in full HDTV.



Recents updates on the MAME Cabinet:

I painted the area behind the marquee white. The idea being to create a brighter but also a more even light. It seems to work well.

Since then i have got a new marquee and sidearts from mamemarquees.
I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to give their cabinet a facelift. The stuff was realativly easy to install. I sanded and cleaned surface of the cabinet, making the area smooth. Then it was just a peel and stick job. Its is not super sticky so it would be a good idea to install the sideart before adding t-molding. This stuff also doesnt bend well around edges for this reason i used other laminate for the control panel, more on that in a second.
The side art is Space Invaders related.



For the controlpanel i used Dayton VL218-BT Black Textured Vinyl Laminate 2 ft. x 18 ft from Parts-Express.com. The material is very thin and bends easy around edges so this was perfect. Covering an entire cabinet with this stuff would also look cool i imagine.

For the speaker area and around the sides i used sideart to highlight the new sound system.

I put together 2x200w crossovers, each channel has a 5" 100W bass/midrange and a 1" 60w tweeter. I also drilled a hole for a bass funnel. Above the speakers i installed a big box which pushes the bass out the hole. BOOM BOOM!!

The sounds is incredable clear compared to before where i was using 2 full range speakers.
The speakers and crossovers are all 4 Ohm but the Sanyo Amplifier is 8 Ohm. I was worried it might not work and of risk to destroy the equickment but this is not the case. What happens here is the strain on the amp is double compared to same volume with 8 ohm speakers. So if i used 8 ohm speakers, the sound would be twice as loud. The reason its not a problem is that the amp has more than enough power to drive the speakers.

I built this wooden box for the coins.


My MAME Cabinet is cat friendly!


On the beach me and my brother found this length of rubber, we cut it in 4 pieces and mounted it under the cabinet. As i mentioned earlier my MAME cabinet plan made the height of the controlpanel a bit too low, these rubber feet has helped and also now the whole cabinet tilts/rocks when you play on it. Pretty cool!

Here is the new controlpanel drawer which gives access to mouse and keyboard. Watch the video (coming soon), you will also see the special nightvision feature!


Behind the keyboard/mouse drawer is an admin panel. This disables certain buttons on the cabinet, like ESC and POWER.
Also these is an option to swap Player 2 firebutton1 and Player 2 start. As some players control with the other hand, its rather inconvinient to have the buttons at the right side. Look at the controlpanel again and you might figure out what i'm trying to say. Will try and share diagram soon.


To create an Arcade atmosphere i got printed and laminated some posters. Outrun, Donkey Kong and Bubble Bobble.

You can click on the images to download these Arcade Posters. Beware they are big sizes and high resolution.

External power from a PC's Power supply molex, how exciting..

On the right you see a Credit Multiplier Board, custom built. Its wired to the second coin switch and can be programmed to give x amount of credits (pulses).

USB connector installed below control panel which opens the oppertunity for 3 player action with extra USB joypad/joystick. We have been enjoying some 3 player Super Sprint. It can also be used for RamStick file transfers and obviously anything else USB related.


Unfortnatly my Windows 98 intall got corrupted so I created a similar setup on the existing Windows XP. Its slower than Windows 98 but to my surprice I found out its possible to configure a similar setup, like hiding the Windows interface. It just takes more work, read here about Hiding Windows.

I found a neat little program for hiding the mouse pointer. Focus Genie can auto hide mouse when idle, just move it and it again will be visible. This has been great help as its quite annoying to see the pointer in video jukebox and some emulators. I can highly recommend it for any MAME Cabinet, however its not a free program but you can still see what it does in the trail version (with nag screens).

Things to do:
- Looking for a mechanical coin mechanism and door with backlight. Can you help? If you have a coin door similar to this you can sell, let me know. Two seperate single inserts would be fine too.



Thanks for reading about my MAME Cabinet project, thats all for now!

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