Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Arcade Project 07: MAME 01 Upright

Today we're going to look at parts for a MAME Cabinet.

Now, there are people that will sell you fully functioning, built and ready to go MAME machines with games installed, controllers wired, authentic CRT monitors and custom graphics.  These machines are also going to cost you $2500+ depending on the options you tack on.  I've looked at a lot of the top names in the MAME machine business and if you want a "no hassle, just work" solution, then this is your best bet.  X-Arcade makes some nice looking, fairly blingy cabinets, but if you're planning on playing fighting games vigorously on them, then you might want to read up on their controls.  Dream Arcades get a lot of press.  They aren't the best looking, but they are built solid, and you'll be able to get pro-level controls installed in them easily.  There are better options for DIY people.  I'm fairly adept at doing electronic.  I can even computer.

Recroommasters is a website I've had bookmarked for years.  They are not a MAME machine builder, they are a cabinet supplier.  They will create and ship you an empty shell of a cabinet that is set up and ready for installing a MAME set up inside it.  There is no computer, there is no speakers, or even controls, it is a shell.  It is also only $199 to $599 depending on what you want to get.  They have these shelf top cabinets made to sit on a bar table.  They have these flat topped arcade cabinets designed for you to just sit a monitor on top of it.  The best thing about them, they have an entire series set up for dropping in X-Arcade controls.  For $299 you get a stand up cabinet with the classic enclosed monitor look, routed to accept a Dual-tank Stick from X-Arcade, and ready to accept a 22 inch LCD monitor.

Now let's look at controls.  There are a lot of people out there making controllers.  X-Arcade is someone that is doing them completely affordable, and completely versatile.  These things plug into PS2's, PS3, Windows PC's, Macs, whatever you have, they'll be usable.  Also they are completely contained inside themselves, so you can move them around, they are not stuck inside your arcade cabinet.  For $100 you get controls for 2 people.  People poop on X-Arcade for them not using Japanese arcade parts meant to take abuse from Street Fighter players 24/7.  I think they are built great for all around gaming.  Besides, I have other plans for fighting games...

Now let's look at the computer to go inside it.  You do not need a powerful computer to play MAME enabled games.  Games that MAME is able to accurately emulate were generally in the arcades before 2002.  For the most part we're looking at 4-15 mghz computers being emulated by MAME.  There is no reason to get a top of the line computer for use in a MAME machine, and many "custom" MAME builders know this... they have a stockpile of cheap Pentium 3 computers bought for $20-30 that they can stick inside their machines and still charge you 2-3,000 bucks.  We do not quite want to go that ancient.  Do yourself a favor, go to Newegg.com and buy a refurbished computer with Windows 7 and an Intel processor.  So let's allocate $250 for the inside computer.  If you do as I say, you'll get a keyboard and mouse along with it.

When it comes to monitors, you have a lot of cheaper options.  The 22 inch screen size is falling out of vogue for PC gamers, so there is a glut of sub-$100, brand new monitors.  I am a stickler for great color.  The panel known as IPS has only become less than high end in the past couple of years.  This means that if you get an IPS panel monitor you can be safely assured you will be getting lower latency, great color, and good features for your buck.  TN panels are faster for things like FPS's, but for our arcades, I think IPS is fine.  For $150 you can get a great monitor with 2-3 HDMI ports so you can hook up more than just the MAME machine if you want(like hooking up your PS3).  Rounding out the arcade computer, get yourself a 2.1 speaker set up with subwoofer for about $50.  I like Logitech for quality IN THAT PRICE range.

Now we go to graphics.  You have a few options here.  There are permanent stickers, which tend to look better in the long term... as long as you get them applied correctly the first time.  I for one, get all finicky about wanting to change things when I get tired of them.  The option for that is reusable vinyl stickers.  They have a less "custom paint" looking style to them, but you can re-apply them if you don't get it right the first time.  You can save old designs to bring back later.  There are several services for this kind of thing, but Recroommasters provides this service and a few more graphic options as well.  I'll allocate $150 for graphics.

So, there's our Upright MAME arcade.  I will not list all the games you can do with it for obvious reasons, but you can find legit and legal MAME collections to use for very cheap.  Not counting the games, we have about $1000 for the whole arcade.  Compared to spending $700-$3000 for each individual game, this MAME machine is a steal.  It is also a space saver for a small arcade like the one we're planning.

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