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My Third Custom MAME Cabinet: The Cocktail

April 25, 2006

The Goal

For my third video game cabinet, I decided that I wanted to build it from scratch this time around instead of refurbishing another existing exterior. I’d also long wanted a cocktail machine — you know, the kind of game machine designed like a table you sat down at to play, often at the local pizza parlor, and specially configured to flip the screen 180 degrees for each player during two-player matches of Pac-Man, Asteroids, Galaxian, etc.

I learned from my “Ultimate Single Player” machine that having the extra controls for the occasional game of Tempest, Arkanoid, Marble Madness, or Missile Command is really cool, so I planned for an “extended” control panel situated such that single player games could be played from the “long” sides of the cabinet while more traditional two-player cocktail games would use a simplified control scheme on either end.

The extended 1-player controls consist of:

  • 1 Ultimarc Ball Top J-Stick joystick (love the short, fast throw of these things!)
  • 4 buttons in a square configuration
  • 1 spinner (geared fast for great Tempest play)
  • 1 custom-built mini trackball
  • 2 buttons adjacent to the trackball, configured to operate as mouse buttons or gaming buttons

On the cabinet ends, each player has a control panel of:

The guts of the machine are just an old desktop P3 computer and 21″ monitor.

The Build

The design theory of the cabinet is relatively simple: its basically just a large box with an internal frame to hold up the monitor and sections removed on three sides for the smaller control panel boxes. That’s the theory anyway. In reality, things were slightly more complicated.

To start, I built three boxes for the controls. The two end boxes were identical while the extended panel box was, well… extended. In almost every case, panels were put together with dado joints and a slight overhang so that all edges could be routed down to nice rounded shapes and no hardware showing from the outside.

Finishing and Special Features

One of the design components of which I’m proud is the latch mechanisms for the three control panels. Each control box is hinged along its bottom using a countersunk piano hinge, and then there are sliding barrel bolt latches in the corners of the main cabinet which mate with holes in custom steel plates on the controls. This means that the panels can be dropped open for maintenance, access to the monitor, etc. simply by pulling the bolt latches out. The top surface of the cabinet is also hinged, so access to the interior is very simple.

The CPU and power, audio, and network wiring internals are accessible via a pocket door in the back. On the outside power, network, and audio connections all use quick-connects on a panel so hookup is easy.

Drop in the monitor, the control panels swing up and lock in place, and the top surface hinges shut – easy, peasy.

The Finished Product

All buttoned up and ready to gobble some Pac-pellets!


From → DIY, Gaming

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