Oct 20, 2006 – The Day I Bought My Arcade Cabinet
Ok, today was a momentous occasion for me. I purchased my first arcade cabinet! More specifically, a Gauntlet II Arcade Machine. I found the deal in craigslist for 300 bucks. Other than the fact that the monitor has some vandalism carved into it and various scratches around the cabinet, the machine is in pretty decent shape. My long term goal will be to restore this cabinet into its former glory (new monitor or one that isn’t scratched, new paint, repro graphics, etc).Friday comes around and I duck out of work a few hours to pick up the machine located in freakin’ Ghetto-Fabulous Land of East L.A. The neighborhood was a cess pool of what looked like drug addicts and hooligans. Anyways, the place that was selling the arcade was this Internet Cafe, which actually had about 3 machines for sell. The machine was I was interested in of course was the 4 player cabinet, Gauntlet II. A totallyfun game from my childhood and a machine that pretty much robbed me of all the quarters I stole from my dad that day. Anyways, the cabinet was a conversion so it actually wasn’t running Gauntlet II anymore, but TMNT (another childhood game I pumped my earnings into). The cabinet was in decent shape, except for some scratches on the monitor (which was not unexpected considering the neighborhood’s tagging policy). The owner claimed that they couldn’t find the key to the coin door slots (there were 4 keyholes and each require a unique key!). Turns out the owner did manage to ‘jimmy’ one of the doors but proved useless since it didn’t assist in opening the other 3 doors. Owner tells me that I should call a lock smith to open it. Whatever. At this point, I was only interested in getting this 400 pound behemoth home. But just one problem: HOW THE HELL DO I DO IT? Did I mention this sucker was about 400 lbs?
Oct 23, 2006 – Hidden Treasure
I got up around 7:00am to clean my machine. It was completely full of grime and dust. As I was washing the coin doors, I felt a bit of determination to open the locks. Since the previous owner had lost the keys, I knew I had to do something, either suave actions or brute force. Luckily, one door was opened so I stuck my arm in there and tried unscrewing the door lock on the other side. After about 40 minutes of breaking my arm, I finally got that lock to fall off! I opened the door and began cleaning inside. To my surprise, I had found the coin depository key hanging on the side of the door! Eagerly, I grabbed the key and began to unlock the two coin depository locks. $74.75. That’s how much I found in my arcade cabinet! Talk about an instant rebate!
PHASE I: Getting the Thing to Work
Oct 25, 2006 – Ultimarc is My Best Friend...
After doing some researching of DIY MAME Cabinets on the web, all fingers pretty much pointed me to www.ultimarc.com . I must say this place kicks ass – THE place to build your MAME cabinet. They pretty much have everything you need for a MAME cab. I bought the ArcadeVGA video card, JPAC, and an additional IPAC2 board. From reading how dangerous it is to send improper resolutions and frequencies to your Arcade Monitor, I opted to by the AVGA which filters out these ‘unsafe’ signals. Seemed like a smart choice for a ‘CRT Dum-Dum’ like me. The JPAC was pretty much the key to converting a JAMMA based cabinet to a PC based cabinet. It has the video connector and maps 2 players to the JAMMA connector. Its pretty much a plug n play device. The IPAC2 was to connect my two other controllers (3 and 4).
I plugged in the USB/PS/2 adapter to the JPAC and to my PC. Sadly, my PC did not recognized the JPAC or the keyboard. This was due to the fact that my PC does not recognize USB keyboards. Great! Need a PS/2 to PS2 male/male adapter. No time to go to Fry’s right now (11:30pm). Guess I’ll have to wait for tomorrow.
Oct 30, 2006 – Setting DOS (Win98SE) and GameLauncher
I knew I didn’t want a Windows XP machine because I didn’t want to have to wait for Windows to boot up and then load up MAME32. I opted to go for a pure DOS system. The only DOS around that I had was from my old copy of Windows 98 Second Edition CD. I installed that and had it boot in DOS only. With this setup, my machine boots to the prompt within seconds (7.4 seconds to be exact). I also had to modify my autoexec.bat file to make sure it was loading the appropriate DOS drivers and such. Also, I wanted it to start GL immediately. This all worked fine and dandy on my LCD monitor. Now for the real test, the arcade monitor ... Moments later, I flipped that baby on and I got my DOS prompt to come up! There was some slight VSYNC issues. Nothing the VSYNC tuning knob couldn’t fix. Excitingly, (and nervously) I decided to try to run my first MAME game in my cabinet. I thought it was appropriate to run Gauntlet II since this being a Gauntlet II cab and all. Ran beautifully!
Unfortunately, only players 1 and 2 were operational. I hadn’t wired the IPAC for players 3 and 4 yet. But that wasn’t my concern at the moment. I was facing s few problems in general:
Problem 1: Since Gauntlet only needs 2 buttons (Fire and Magic/Start) the cabinet only had two buttons. Another problem was that Button 1 was coupled with the Start Button. This complicated things. because it pretty much combines two buttons to one.
Problem 2: I’ve noticed on certain games, the screen flickers at an amazing epileptic rate – Completely un-enjoyable. Some games that had this flicker problem, to name a few: Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Samurai Showdown 1-4, King of Fighters ALL, Rastan, Pole Position, and Bubble Bobble. I’m sure there were more, but I only had tried these few. I found this odd since all these games run less or at least 60Hz which is PLENTY enough for my Arcade Monitor. Oh well, at least I can enjoy all the others that work perfectly: Gauntlet, Simpsons, Ms Pac Man, Joust, TMNT, Street Fighter 2, and Donkey Kong. I will investigate the flicker problem later. I think it can be tweaked with DMAME flags.
Problem 3: No sound
Nov 3, 2006 – Setting up the Sound
Two issues with setting up the sound. Since the JPAC does not have any kind of powered amp on it, all the wiring speakers would not be powered. So I pretty much decided to run the sound directly out of my PC. I still wanted the sound to come out of my arcade cabinet so I had to figure out a way to wire the 4 speaker wires running from my cabinet speakers to my Sound Blaster Line In mini-plug input. Again, I went to Fry’s to see if I can find some audio connectors and adapters to accomplish this. I ended up with buying two Male Soldering RCA heads, a dual female/female RCA adaptor. I had a spare mini-plug to RCA male plug from years back.
First thing to do was to snip the existing wires from the cabinet from the JAMMA connector to free up the 4 speaker wires. Next, I had to solder two of the speaker wires to the Solder RCA Head. This was a pretty simple task considering there’s only two wires. The I soldered the red wire to the hot solder tap of the RCA plug (the middle part) and the black wire to the ground (the shell of the RCA plug). Did this for the other two wires. Then I connected my dual RCA female plug to my newly formed RCA plugs. Finally I connected my mini plug RCA adapter to the dual RCA female plug and that seemed to be it.
The second issue was a software issue. I couldn’t find any DOS drivers for my SB Live! card. DOS Drivers for newer SB cards were non-existent since the newer sound cards used PCI instead of ISA and everything configured in Windows. Well, I didn’t want to go out and buy a crappy old sound card just to get this to work. There had to be a solution. Luckily there was: SB16 PCI Emulation. It was a driver that initialized your newer SB card to an older SB16 through emulation. However, when I initially ran the driver, it said it didn’t find my SB Live card. Most likely it was a IRQ problem since sound card drivers for DOS were particular. I set my PC’s BIOS setting to manually setting IRQs and then rebooted. I wanted to make sure nothing was using IRQ7 (the one SB16E defaulted to). This STILL didn’t work. Frustrated, I did an old trick I used to do on my old 386, and that was to swap slots of the sound card in case there was conflict with that port. Eventually I moved the card all the way to the end of my PCI slots where it wasn’t close to ANY card. In fact, I just ripped out all the PCI cards I didn’t need anymore (Network card, USB hub PCI card). I set the SB16 to IRQ5 this time and that seemed to do the trick! Woohoo. It only took me 3 freakin’ hours to figure that out.
Nov 22, 2006 – Setting up Players 3 and 4 with the IPAC2
Second sick day from work. Decided to make use of my minimal health and install that blasted IPAC2 board that I’ve been putting off for some time. Turns out, it was a real simple deal to do. The ONLY problem was that programming it was a bit tricky since the IPAC Programmer Tool won’t know which board I’m programming, the JPAC or the IPAC2. So I had to disconnect the JPAC, and connect IPAC2 board. Then reprogram Players 1 and 2 to 3 and 4 on that board. Once that was done, I hooked up my JPAC together with my IPAC2 and VOILA, I have 4 players activated! Wiring these buttons are a lot easier to do than the JPAC cause these go directly into the screw connectors on the board instead of the JAMMA edge connector. This gives me more visibility to where the output wires are going to.
Nov 23, 2006 – Flicker Free! How I Solved My Flicker Problem in Some Games
After doing some deep head scratching, I realized what could be the reason why some of the games flicker. It wasn’t refresh because most of these games were < 60Hz. It wasn’t a PAL / NTSC issue. It wasn’t a VYSNC issue. It wasn’t a non-interlaced issue. It was what I didn’t expect it to be: a RESOULTION issue. I didn’t think so at first because I could run practically any game at any resolution. BUT, with flicker. So I decided to run Rastan with a forced resolution of 320x240 Horizontal. The command was ‘dmame rastan -320x240_h’. Low and behold that was the key! It came through PICTURE PERFECT. I then decided to try it on the other games that gave me issues: NEO GEO games, Double Dragon, Altered Beast. They all worked beautifully without any flicker! Finally!! I eventually ended up using -336x240 for wider games and -320x256_h for the longer games.
Dec 12, 2006 – A Place for my PC
Finally, one of the last big things left to do to my cabinet was to fit my PC inside it. I took advantage of my day off from work (also my Birthday), and built a shelf inside the cabinet to hold my PC. First thing I wanted to do was fix the entry to the innards of my cabinet without having to open the back panel of the cabinet. I attached a metal hinge of the control panel. This allowed a nice “hanger” to the cabinet as the control panel opens up. This allowed me easy access to the inside of my cabinet once I lock up the back boards. Next, the shelf was simplistic in design. I basically cut some 5/8” MDF and attached two shelf holders that I bought at Home Depot for about 3 bucks each. Screwed them into the cabinet and voila, instant PC shelf. Wasn’t easy as it looked considering that there isn’t much space to work in. The drilling was difficult with the limited space between the board and the power supply. Once the back was closed, I found that the power cord of the PC was pressed up against the back boards so I had to drill a cord hole for it.
One last touch I added was a power supply base. Basically, I took the power cord of the cabinet and the PC and plugged them into a power strip which I attached to the base of my cabinet using two screws. This was nice to have as it gives me only one source of power to turn on everything. Now that my cabinet was “closed up”, I could finally flush the machine against the wall ... right next to my washer and dryer!
PHASE II: Customization
Dec 26, 2006 – Restoration and Customized Control Panel
After weeks of enjoying my MAME arcade, I finally decided to restore the machine to its former glory. Although working perfectly, I couldn’t stand looking at the condition it was in. The paint was chipping, scratch marks, rust, and the wiring ... oh man, the wiring. The control panel has also seen better days. So today I decided to rip out the wiring to prep it for a new makeover. I also ordered a new CPO (Control Panel Overlay) from www.arcadeoverlays.com. This was the only place I could find a replacement control panel.
Once the wiring was ripped out, I ripped off the control panel and removed all the buttons and joysticks. This allowed me to get a good template for my new control panel I was planning on building. My current control panel was limited to only 3 buttons per player and no access to the ESC and TAB keys in MAME (which are pretty vital to a MAME user). However, with the sheet metal in the original control panel, it was EXTREMELY difficult to cut out a decent hole. (JUST Look at the 3rd button I tried doing for player 4). So I got my leftover 5/8” MDF and traced a new control panel. I wanted it to look identical to the original one.
Dec 27, 2006 – New Paint on coin doors and Control Panel
After letting some of the sawdust settle in my garage, I thought it would be a good time to start removing majors parts of the arcade and painting them to a nice black color. I bought some Semi-Gloss spray paint for Home Depot for about 3 bucks a pop. I was able to paint the new Control Panel and the 2 coin doors and the two coin depository doors.
Dec 28, 2006 – Painting the Beast
Today I utilized some help from my good friend Kevin. We prepped the garage for some major sanding and painting by lining up the ground floor and the garage wall with some newspaper. Once set up, we put on our masks and got to the dirty stuff. We covered up all the stuff we did not want pain un with some really crappy scotch tape I got at the 99 Cent store (3 for a buck!)/ We painted all four sides of the cabinet and the monitor bezel. The paint turned out pretty darn good considering I went the lazy route and used spray paint. it had a nice shiny look to it. Definitely started looking new again.
Also, my new CPO came in this morning! It looked very cool. But I couldn’t apply it on until the paint was dry.
Dec 29, 2006 – New CPO and Driling
My new CPO came in yesterday so I was eager to finish up my Control Panel. With the paint all dry, this would definitely be the next logical step to my new Control Panel. Some of the things I noticed immediately about my new CPO was the color. The texture was a nice thick vinyl adhesive with a slight feel of thickness. The colors were very bright and shiny. Who knew the ghosts and Merlin’s Hair were actually white! You can see a side by side comparison here with the old and the new CPO. The yellow tarnish of the original is very evident with a visual comparison.
Before I started drilling the heck out of this thing I had to come up with a layout first. I knew I wanted six buttons for Players 1 and 2 and only 3 buttons for Players 3 and 4. I wanted individual Start buttons for each player and of course a button for the ESC and TAB key. I cut out some template holes with some paper and taped it onto my panel. This allowed me to layout the panel visually and decide where the center reference holes should go.
I bought some 1 1/8” and 1 5/8” bi-metal hole saws. These babies cut through the MDF like butter. I’m also thankful that I decided to cut from the front down to the bottom because the drilling left the button kind of messy. It ripped out some of the wood around it as you can see in the picture.
Dec 30, 2006 – Cutting the CPO
With the holes all cut in the board, I still had to place the CPO sticker onto the wood. This was really scary because I didn’t want to ruin my new vinyl artwork ... it had to be perfect. So after constant measuring and marking, I finally laid out the sticker onto the panel Once on, I started to cut out the holes on the CPO by using my hole saw again, but this time from the bottom. My control panel was actually starting look like a real control panel now!
Dec 31, 2006 – Final touches to my new Control Panel
Now was the fun part of putting my buttons in. I had color coded all the buttons, but unfortunately I was short one yellow button! Oh well. The joysticks were also VERY difficult to put in because assemblings those HAPP joysticks is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together (don't get me started on that 'e' washer). Once everything was on, I was quite pleased with my new panel! Last thing I did to my panel today was screw the hinges onto the cabinet . This pretty much completed my customized control panel phase. Next step was to do the wiring. Ugh. Next year.
Jan 07, 2007 – Wiring
With all the buttons set up, the last thing to do with the control panel was to wire it up. This task seemed a little daunting to me at first, but after a few buttons, it was a piece of cake. The hardest part to was create my own common ground wire and daisy chain them together so it would hit all the buttons. Once all the controls were wired, I got to wire up an ESC and TAB button. I'm also considering wiring up a CREDIT button and a ~ button in the future.
Jan 11, 2007 – Glowing Coin Deposit lights
Chris had bought me some USB powered LED lights from OfficeMax for 1.99 each during the last Black Friday sale and they worked PERFECTLY with my cabinet. The only extra effort I needed to do was to wire a USB hub from my PC since the USB LEDs wouldn't reach from the back to the front. This was a pretty simple task and the results were awesome. Ahh, the glow! For 2 bucks each, you CAN'T go wrong.
Jan 13, 2007 – Custom Side Art
Well, I've got two nice blank black canvases on the side of my cabinet. Something needs to got there obviously. Since I don't want to spend a crapload of money on a repro of the Gauntlet II side art, I decided to go for an original custom one. So I have two ideas. The first one is the Gauntlet tribute one (top of this page) and the second one is this 'Weird Science"-inspired one. Now I just need a good method of finding out how to get my image on to my cabinet. This fellow here on this message board seems to have a method that I will try out. Sounds simple (and hopefully cheap) enough. :)
PHASE III: Polishing the Brass
Feb 17, 2007 – Updated Sound System
Finally got around to updating the sound in my cabinet. The two 8 inch speakers sound fine, but was missing a little "oomph" to it. So I thought I'd upgrade the sound and put in a sub woofer. I also wanted external volume control because I was currently adjusting sound through software. Ugh.
So what I did was I got some 2.1 HP speakers, snipped off both sattelites wires and rewired the speaker cables to my two 8 inch arcade speakers.
As for the sub-woofer, I think I was EXTREMELY LUCKY, the sub woofer fit PERFECTLY into the base of my cabinet without getting int he way of all the wires and stuff in there. with the USB hub in the cab, it was getting a little crowded.
The only modifcation I had to do on the cabinet was to drill a bigger wire hole that would alow the new speaker cables through (the old hold just wasn't big enough).
Mar 1, 2007 – More Buttons?! Thanks Mr. Bob Roberts!
Ok, so I wanted to make my control panel a little bit more "pretty". However, i think I F'ed it up even more.
What I *tried* to do was add two more buttons onto the panel. These two buttones would serve as the "credits".
Here's a tip for you guys: DRILL ALL YOUR HOLES EARLY. I ended up tearing a bit of the control artwork and got saw dust inside. Luckily, the tearing is not noticeable, but the sawdust, however is very obvious.
Also ordered some new GREEN buttons for my control panel from The Real Bob Roberts. Now all the buttons are color coded to the original
Gauntlet artwork! Woo-hoo! Now, about those joysticks .... :)
The movies I chose were Dave Dries's 3D MAME Logo (AWESOME) and Arcade '84 (gotta love that Journey Music).
If you have not seen these intro movies, then go see them now! I'm also considering putting up Nathan Strum's movie,
'The Games That Time Forgot', but I still need to find a MOV to MPEG converter.
Dec 27, 2009 – 2 Year Update Click here for video of my MAME Arcade!
Ok, so a LOT has changed within the past TWO YEARS. First and foremost, I've upgraded my PC (now running 2.8Ghz) and I've been running my MAME cab with Windows XP for the last two years. Having MAME control all the video resolutions through Hardware strecthing was much more convenient than manually being done in MS-DOS. Currently running MAME-WAH for the menu interface. Although I have been tinkering around with Hyperspin. It looks FANTASTIC, but the menu interface is a little slower than what I want, which is something quick and responsive without much waiting. This is due to my slow PC inside my arcade.
I updated my controllers to USB. I now run EVERYTHING through two APACs rather than the JPAC for controls. This saved me a lot of messy wiring maintenance and plus, MAME is pretty responsive to joystick commands so I thought this would be beneficial. Although the pictures don't so much organization, believe me, it's WAY more manageable now than before. Colored wiring that matches the button colors also help out a lot, too. One MAJOR benefit of running it through APAC/USB is now the control panel can essentially be unplugged and replaced by another control panel. This means I may consider making a new control panel. Most likely a two player control panel with a trackball. (*sigh*) Yes, this project will never end ...
So I finally caved in and got some Gauntlet Sideart from Arcade Overlays. I also had purchased my control panel overlay from them as well. I bought it almost 3 years ago, but didn't put it on until about 2 years ago. The quality was actually better than I thought it would be. The material was thick and felt sturdy. So far, there has been no peeling whatsoever (knock on wood). The only flaws were the ones that I did when applying the sticker (air bubbles, wrinkles, etc). I don't know of any easy way to apply the sideart, so for those of you about to apply one, just be very cautious.
And lastly, here's a video I made of my arcade machine running Hyperspin -- There are several videos that people have done showing off Hypserspin on youtube. Well, here's mine.
That's about it. That should sum up all the changes I've done in the past few years. As most MAME Arcade machine owners know, the project is never really done ... there's always new frontends, controllers, PC's to update in the machine.