Planning and Construction
As a child of the 80s I played a lot of the classic arcade games growing up. Many an allowance was spent on Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, or Dig Dug. So it was an exciting day in early 2009 when I first learned about MAME, the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator, a program that lets you run classic arcade and console games on a modern computer.
I immediately installed the emulator and set off to the dark grey corners of the internet to get a set of ROMs, the original machine code, for my favorite games. As exciting as it is to play Pac-Man on your home computer, using the arrow keys on your keyboard is not the same an old school joystick and big red button. But the internet has a solution for that.
For the next year or so, I continued to read the forums, tinker with ideas, sketch theme artwork, and try to convince Julie that a full size cabinet would fit in the house somewhere. In that period, I learned about 60-in-1 Boards which run MAME on a single board computer with a video connector and a wiring harness for the buttons. Much cheaper and smaller than using a dedicated computer.
I also saw a couple of people building bartop sized cabinets. Smaller, more portable, and cheaper to build equals a greater WAF (wife acceptance factor).
As the Space Shuttle Program wound down in 2010 and 2011 I decided on the Astrocade theme and would periodically play around with drawing up plans and sketching out designs for the marquee. But between new jobs, new houses, and the usual family commitments, little progress was made.
Finally, in January 2014 I was ready to take the plunge. I took my Christmas/Birthday money (thanks Mo and Pop) to Clark's Hardwood Lumber a bought a sheet of MDO for the arcade cabinet and some walnut for the powder room vanity (ask me about that time Julie and Boys couldn't resist tearing all the old wallpaper of the walls). Over the rest of Christmas break I finalized my plans, began cutting wood, and added my project announcement to the forum.
Further play testing with my jury-rigged control panel showed that my Happ joystick and buttons were not going to cut it. Especially when the internet tells you can get custom 4-way Pac-Man replacement joysticks from Tornado Terry's and good Japanese buttons from the Paradise Arcade Shop.
This dangerous time was compounded by Max asking if the cabinet would be ready for his Fun and Games birthday party; the primed, artworkless cabinet spent the rest of December in the living room. If Max was going to have it for his birthday, I was going to have it for mine.
Having ordered the artwork for the marquee, bezel and the control panel overlay, I bit the bullet and took everything apart to finish painting. So while Julie and the Boys were up in Austin I painted, and sanded, and painted, and sanded some more. All the painting (and did I mention the sanding) was paid off with a very sincere "Oh wow!" when I made Julie feel the sides after they got back into town.
So with 3+ weeks of work, over the course of 13 months, after 6 years of planning, I give you the "Astrocade"
A shout out to several of the projects from which I drew inspiration
- Bella's Arcade, a father builds a 3/4 size Ms Pac-Man cabinet for his daughter.
- Retro-Futuristic Mame cabinet, I want to be this creative and talent when I grow up.
- Donkey Kong bartop, direct inspiration for a vertical bartop cabinet.
- That's How I Roll! (Skeeball), this one is going on the someday list.
Details, details, details
The control panel
The back panel
Custom serial plate inspired by CoryBee
A NASA style Startup Checklist
Wires, wires, everywhere
The Games List
Most of the games on the 60-in-1 board require a 8-way joystick, but my favorites are all 4-way games. So the games selection is culled down to 4-way games with one button, a second button was added primarily for Qix.
- Ms. Pacman
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Junior
- Dig Dug
- Mr. Do!
- Space Invaders
- Pac Man
- Tank Battalion
- Burger Time
- Mr. Do's Castle
- Shao-lin's Road
- King and Balloon