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My "Ultimate Single Player" Custom MAME Cabinet

April 28, 2004

The Stats / Parts:

Ultimate One-Player Cabinet
  • Intel P4 1.6GHz, 512M RAM, USB
  • 80 Gig IDE Harddrive
  • IDE DVD-ROM Drive
  • NVidia GeForce 3-based video card
  • SoundBlaster audio card
  • 3Com 10/100 NIC
  • Pinnacle Systems PCTV television card
  • 21" SVGA Monitor
  • 1 Chrome 8-way flight stick with trigger fire
  • 2 Happ Ultimate 8-way Joysticks
  • 1 Arkanoid-style spinner
  • 1 360° free-spin racing wheel
  • 24 microswitch buttons (12 player buttons (8 on the primary cabinet, 4 on the secondary), 1 Coin & 1 Start button / side)
  • Ultimarc I-Pac control interface board
  • 2 Ultimarc Opti-Pac control interface boards
  • Happ Controls rotary controller interface board
  • 1 XBox console
  • 1 KDS XBlaster XBox-to-HD SVGA converter

Currently, I run the MAME (arcade), Kega (Sega Genesis), Stella (Atari 2600), Nemu64 (Nintendo 64), and X64 (Commodore 64) emulators on the cabinet, in addition to a number of "standard" PC games which seem to work well with the arcade controls or game pads (Spin, Xenon 2000, Motorcross Madness 1 & 2, Ultimate Race Pro, Doom, Doom 2, etc.) Also, since this cabinet houses an XBox in addition to the core computer system, any games for this console can be played as well. My front end of choice for MAME games is (of course!) MAMErunner. Since I also play a number of other games on this cabinet, a wireless keyboard and mouse are available for standard PC game play. PC game pads, joysticks, etc. can be connected via USB to the front panel, including a custom adapter to use XBox controllers with the PC as well as the "native" XBox.


The original cabinet

This cabinet required more rework and custom construction than my previous project (see my first MAME cabinet project), primarily due to the fact that the cabinet didn’t have a standard control panel to start with. The original cabinet was a ticket-dispensing light-gun game entitled "Miner’s Revenge", and so the original construction consisted of three major pieces: the main game cabinet, a smaller cabinet which sat out front and housed the light guns, holsters, coin mech’s, and the ticket holders/dispensers, and a box which connected these two cabinets together and routed cables between them.

When broken down, the region of the main cabinet just below the monitor housed the main speakers, volume control, and operator buttons. All of this was hidden behind a removable vented panel and became the ideal area for adding my new controls. Since this cabinet previously just housed a monitor, it is shorter than a standard arcade machine, so with the addition of a control panel to the front, the layout is great for play from a chair.

Here you can see the original complete assembly as I received it.

The Construction:

Original coin and ticket mechs Original lightguns / holsters
Original speakers and audio control Original mainboard shelf

First, the cab was broken down into its three component structures. Next, the "guts" of the previous machine, the glass and bezel, marquee and lights, coin mechs and coin box door, ticket holders, wiring, speakers, light-guns and holsters, etc. were removed. Both the main and secondary cabinets were then thoroughly cleaned and sanded.

The control panel was custom built to cover the removable speaker cover panel. The original speaker and control mount area was knocked out, and "wings" were added on either side to cap the ends of new control panel. The new control panel itself is essentially a long box missing three sides (back and ends), and then drilled and routed for the controls (three joysticks, one spinner, and twenty buttons). The control panel box was mounted using custom fashioned latches, a piano hinge, and also has cables on either end for additional support while open.

Doors were added to the main cabinet (for access to the subwoofer and XBox) and to the secondary cabinet (for extra storage).

The cabinet was completely repainted, new t-molding was added, and MAME side and marquee artwork was applied.

The main components:


Empty cabinet... ...addition of subwoofer... XBox on lower shelf..., the computer motherboard... connections and monitor.

As this conversion contains both a standard PC and an XBox console, there are two removable shelves fitted into the lower body of the cabinet. The bottom of the cab contains the subwoofer and volume control as well as the power strips, fuses, and main power switch for the PC and cabinet lights. The system volume control, PC power and reset buttons, XBox power and DVD trays can all be accessed via a door in the front of the cabinet.

Above the subwoofer and power system is the lower shelf which holds the XBox console and the High Definition pack for XBox output, which in turn feeds into an HD to SVGA converter. Because of the specific choice of High Def pack and converter, XBox games which support high definition TV modes can be played on the cabinet SVGA monitor at full resolution.

Above the XBox shelf is the PC mainboard shelf. This assembly holds the PC motherboard, hard disk drive, and computer power supply. Once the shelf is in place, cables from the motherboard run to the main control panel for the I-Pak and Opti-Pak game controls interface boards, USB, memory card support, and the DVD ROM drive.

Monitor Assembly:

A standard 21" SVGA computer monitor. With some minor metalworking modifications to brackets on the back of the monitor and the addition of some wooden legs, this assembly is easy to remove from the cabinet. The entire assembly sits atop the monitor shelf built into the cabinet, and lag bolts capped with large wing nuts are used to secure it.

Control Panel:

Control Panel (External) Control Panel (Internal)
Cabinet front access options Connectors and drives

The control panel is shown here from both external and internal views, the internal exposing the wiring and control interfaces. The custom panel has two 8-way Happ "Ultimate" microswitch joysticks side by side (intended for most "fast" joystick games and those which use two sticks like "Smash TV", "Assault", etc.), a larger, chrome trigger-fire joystick (for flight sims, "Tron", etc.), an Arkanoid spinner (for "Arkanoid", "Tron", "Tempest", etc.), as well as 8 buttons per side, and 2 coin and 2 start buttons. All controls are wired up through an Ultimarc I-Pac and an Ultimarc Opti-Pac.

The control interfaces are mounted on the bottom of the control panel box, on the left is the wireless interface for keyboard and mouse, and on the right is the DVD-ROM and memory card drives. In the top of the internal photo, you can also make out the wing-nuts which hold the monitor assembly firmly in place, above.

A extra connection panel installed on my first cabinet worked out so well, I decided that this cabinet deserved a similar treatment. In addition to the USB connections and memory card slots this afforded for transferring files (since there isn’t a floppy disc drive on this box :-), I wanted an easier access optical disc drive on this cabinet than the last, so there is also a DVD-ROM drive which opens directly out the front of the control panel. The control box accepts two USB connections, one IEE1394 firewire connection and one SD, Compact Flash, Memory Stick, and SmartMedia card.

Below the control panel is a top-hinged door which provides access to the subwoofer and sound system volume, and the XBox power, controller connections, and DVD-ROM drawer.

Secondary Controls and Storage Cabinet:

Secondary control panel as trackball / driving controller. Secondary control panel as computer desk.
Easy secondary control panel connection. Secondary control panel as extra storage.
A whole lotta controls!

The fact that this cabinet originally consisted of two cabinets joined together afforded a unique opportunity — to make a secondary control panel with extra controls and for storage of extra gaming hardware.

The fixed feet of the orginal cabinet were replaced with castors, and doors were added in place of the original coin mechs and ticket dispensers. A steering wheel and pedals were added for support of driving games, and wired up through a Happ interface board. A large trackball was added to the right of the steering wheel, wired up through a second Ultimarc Opti-Pac controller board. Both controller interface boards connect to a USB hub which is contained inside this cabinet, and then connection to the main cabinet is achieved through a single USB cable to one of the USB connectors on the front panel. When disconnected, the entire construct can be wheeled out-of-the-way, or spun around to be used as a desktop for the wireless keyboard and mouse.

In addition to the controls built into this secondary cabinet, it also provides plenty of storage for extra controllers: XBox game pads, a Microsoft SideWinder force feedback joystick, MS SideWinder game pads, MS Game Commander controller, etc. etc.

The Finished Product

The full package!

From → DIY, Gaming

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