Saturday, September 26, 2009

Arcade Fever!

So I hung out with a few of my friends the other day. I don't really get to do so very often for a myriad of reasons. At any rate, my friend Jack and his brother Bill (also my friend) live together in an apartment with their new roommate Jarred (again... also an old friend of mine) and the other day they were having a get together with Brett and Zack (two more our old friends) for Brett's birthday. Again, it had been quite some time since I had managed to hang out with all the guys. So I had been there for about an hour when I realized, out of the corner of my eye, there was a Dig Dug arcade machine IN THEIR FREAKING KITCHEN!!! I flipped out with retro geeky madness of course. After which they told me that Jarred had bought it for only $200 and that Bill was going to buy a Delorean... but thats another story.

Since that day, all I can think about is how bad I wish I had an arcade machine. Of course, my wife thinks it would be impractical to try to fit one in our small apartment. Note that she said when we get a bigger place I CAN get one. But I have a better idea! When we get a bigger place I could BUILD one!

I've actually seen a lot of info on MAME (multi arcade machine emulator) cabinets that people are building. The problem is that if you buy the pre-built ones they are in the thousands. I don't have that kind of money to put into a project like this. But I did some digging and I think I found a better way. Now, I haven't built it yet, but heres my proposed system tutorial:

Computer: for this I did some looking around in the usual places and found an old motherboard I used to have in my game rig from WAY back. Its the Nforce2 and has (I think) an onboard GeForce 3 video card. I found them for sale on Pricewatch.com for about $18. On the same site I found a processor, ram, hard drive and case/psu for about $100. I know for a fact that a set up like this can run MAME because... I did it.

Monitor: grab a vga-to-rca adapter cable for about $5 online and find an old tv. You could probably find an old tube tv for free on craiglist.org, but if you wanna go all new stuff you can pick one up at Walmart for like $150 for a 27".

Controls: this is a really awesome step. You see, I was always afraid of building a cabinet because of the daunting task of wiring the controls. There are tutorials online for this but they all required technical skills that I never developed nor with to. But then I found this little gem! This tutorial uses a kit called a Cthulhu board that when purchased from HERE comes all ready to just plug in and screw down the joystick and buttons. Get those pieces HERE. My link for the board is different from his because I found a place that sells them $10 cheaper and actually has them in stock! The cost of the board and the other parts will run about $75 x 2 for a 2 player machine so $150 total.

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Here comes the hard part!

So far all the stuff has cost just over $400 give or take as these are rounded figures. If you use an old computer you have laying around and a tv you pick up for free or already have and aren't using you are only looking at about $150 which is dirt cheap. But we have neglected one key aspect of the project. The CABINET! You see, I don't have any tools or skill with wood working. You can buy one from HERE but the cabinet and control top kit together will run you about $650. Indeed you can buy the whole thing already made from them for like $3000 and I guess if you look at it this way, building the innards and buying their empty cabinet and control kit would bring the total cost down to about $1050 if you bought it all new and $800 if you only had to buy the control innards. So I guess this is an OK solution. I guess a cheap, if not ghetto, solution would be to buy a cheap tv cart from Walmart and make the enclosure out of cardboard LOL. If you are handy with power tools and aren't daunted by needing to do some carpentry you can find plans all over the internet. In this case I guess a person with ingenuity could throw one of these together for about $250 - $500! Meaning that for the cost of 1 prebuilt one you could build 6 - 12 of your own. (but if your the kind of person who has 12 old computers and tvs laying around you probably don't need to worry about being thrifty)