Trying to decide which buttons are best for your Mame Arcade? In the video below we compare Happ versus EasyGet. In the end you’ll want to think about which feel best for you and also which look best with your arcade cabinet.
What is MAME? MAME stand for – Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Probably not that helpful unless you understand what an emulator does. Basically, an emulator is software that can allow a computer to act like (emulate) a different system. For example, it can allow your Windows PC to emulate a Pac-Man arcade machine.
The basic idea behind MAME is to emulate just about any arcade machine on modern hardware and software – usually a Windows PC or Raspberry Pi (Linux). This is not an easy task, as each original arcade machine had different CPUs and monitors with various screen resolutions and refresh rates. Those CPUs were incredibly slow compared with today’s hardware, so MAME must also run the game at the appropriate speed. If it didn’t do this any emulated game would most likely be completely unplayable.
MAME itself has only a very basic user interface. Therefore most implementations also require the use of a front end with a more user friendly interface. Emulation Station, for example, is a popular MAME front end.
The goal of the MAME community is to preserve gaming history. In order to do this MAME is capable of emulating over a thousand different arcade machines. Most of these machines were dedicated to playing just a single game.
MAME itself does not contain any actual games or game data. Thus it is legal in most countries to download and use MAME. The games themselves were typically stored on ROM (Read Only Memory) chips in the arcade machines. Therefore, in order to play a game on a MAME system the user needs to download and install the ROM data. However, most arcade games are covered by copyright. So, downloading ROMs without permission is usually a violation of copyright law. Some game makers have made their games available for download for free or a small fee. These are usually games that no longer hold any commercial value.
A wood router is a must have power tool for any arcade cabinet project. We chose the Bosch 1617EVSPK 12 Amp 2-1/4-Horsepower Plunge and Fixed Base Variable Speed Router Kit with 1/4-Inch and 1/2-Inch Collets. This router gives your the best of all worlds – with both a plunge and fixed base. It can also accept both 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch collets. In other words this router should be the last one you’ll ever need. It’s versatility is perfect for just about any word working project – and it’s create for arcade cabinets.
Some of it’s other features include:
- Variable speed
- Soft start – important safety feature
- Contoured soft grip handles – you will want these
- 2.25 HP/12 Amp motor – powerful enough for just about any job
- Comes with a carrying case – nice feature
The router is an Amazon best seller. It has over 500 positive reviews. If you’re a Prime member you can have it with free shipping in just 2 days. Bosch is well known for its quality power tools.
The price is very reasonable for this level of quality and functionality. Click below for current pricing.
When building a Mame Arcade Cabinet one of the first decisions is – what type of wood should you use? After some research you will likely find that there are two camps – MDF and plywood. Let’s take a look at each and consider the pros and cons.
Medium Density Fiberboard – MDF
|Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product. It is made by breaking down wood fibers and then compacting them under pressure. The fibers are combined with a resin binder. This makes MDF dense, but with a smooth surface.
|Plywood is made up of thin layers of wood that are glued together. The grain of the various layers is typically rotated 90 degrees from each other. Plywood does not have a smooth surface and is prone to chipping when cut.|
Plywood is light and relatively inexpensive. However, it is prone to chipping – especially when cut with the jigsaw. It will also need to be sanded to produce a smooth surface prior to painting.
MDF is heavy and can be more expensive than plywood. It will not chip when cut, but does produce a great deal of fine dust (so you will need proper ventilation and respirators). It does not need to be sanded prior to painting, but does need to be sealed as moisture can warp MDF.
So, should you use MDF or plywood for your arcade cabinet? For us the verdict was – MDF. We used 3/4″ MDF for the main cabinet. This worked out great as we did not need to sand all of that surface and it held the paint very well (click here for woodworking help). The main drawback was the extensive dust (it was everywhere)! If you use MDF be sure to work in a well ventilated area. We used our garage, but be sure to remove anything (like cars) that you don’t want dust on.
Once you have your system setup with Emulation Station and RetroPie, and you have installed some
games and your controller you’ll have the option of configuring the controller when you boot up.
The configuration is easy as all you need to do is move the joytick and push the buttons that
correspond with the various inputs. The main problem we had is that it asks for more inputs than
we had – D-pad for example. You need to hold down a button to skip these unused inputs and when
you get to the bottom hit your A button (you might want to label your buttons – we used some
masking tape as a temporary guide).
If you ever need to go back into the input settings just hit your A button from the
EmulationStation main menu and choose Configure Input, press the A button again to select.
You might have more than one controller – for example we also loaded some old NES games so we also
needed to configure a NES Controller. You can use the same process, but you’ll need to go through
it each time you swap controllers. In the end we decided to build a separate system for NES, N64
and other console-based games.
When building our Mame arcade cabinet, we wanted to crawl before we ran. So, we proceeded in
1. Setup the Raspberry Pi, load ROMs and test with a store bought controller
2. Build a test control panel
3. Build the arcade cabinet
4. Build the final control panel
By doing things this way we were able to ease into the project and build confidence that everything
would work. In this post we’ll focus on step 1 above.
Welcome to Mame Arcade Cabinets. First, why would you want to build your own arcade system.
There are a few good reasons:
1. No more quarters – remember how many you went through as a kid?
2. It’s fun – maybe for the whole family. We did our’s as a father and son project.
3. Impress your friends and family. When people see our system they think we bought it. They are
amazed when they realize we build it!