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*** EVH's arcade machine build thread - NO EMULATION TALK PLEASE ***

Discussion in 'Retro Gaming and Vintage Computing' started by EVH, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    Hey guys,

    So, this has actually been finished for a few months now but I just thought I'd share my DIY arcade build project. Arcade machine builds are entirely new to me, but it was a fun project to do and I think it turned out great.

    Anyway, I got married on New Year's eve 2018 and the story goes that my wife-to-be and I were wandering around a wedding fair about 18 months prior when we saw those 4-way arcade sim racing set ups for hire. Being a F1 fan I was hooked and she was very keen on the idea to get something fun for guests that would get people of all ages involved with some friendly competition. However, upon finding out the cost (£2500 to hire the lot) I quickly proclaimed that they were too expensive... but I did suggest that I could build an arcade machine for a fraction of the cost which we could keep afterwards. Surprisingly, she said yes and here we are!

    Despite my cousin being a joiner, I knew that in order to get it done relatively quickly I'd need to know what I wanted. Yes, I could have downloaded some plans and tweaked them but to be honest, with the wedding planning and the other stuff going on in my life I didn't start the project until the first week in December and I was keen to avoid lots of "so what angle does this need to be?" type questions that I'd never be able to answer. Therefore, I started by finding a website that I could buy a DIY kit from. My goal was to build a full size 2 player stand up machine that could play old school console games and I had a spare Raspberry Pi 3B laying around so it seemed logical.

    There are a few options available for kits, but I wanted something available in the UK and someone that would answer questions if I had any. I went for something from ArcadeWorld UK, which is essentially a MDF build-it-yourself machine that you can choose to have plain or with themed stickers. I chose street fighter as that's what I grew up playing :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  2. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    First stage... get it all out of the box. This was a daunting prospect, but suffice to say it wasn't glamorous and I didn't bother uploading that image.

    The first real step was to get the control surface working so that I could test the machine. The MDF is a black coated melamine finish, so you need to put on your own vinyls... BIG NEWS to me, as I assumed it came pre-made :rolleyes:

    A little bit of soapy water and an old credit card and the vinyl was on the playing surface.

    [​IMG]

    The buttons are branded "IL" concave buttons that you simply push through the holes and attach by screwing on a washer to the rear, which clamps it against the wood.

    [​IMG]

    I could have chosen any colour scheme (they really have a wide range of colours) but I wanted to keep it simple. Player 1 is red, Player 2 is blue, player 1 start and player 2 start have their own dedicated white button and I thought about having black "coin" buttons for the older arcade games. I decided against the black buttons in the end, purely because I couldn't be sure on the lighting at the wedding venue and didn't want people struggling to find the black buttons.

    [​IMG]

    Each button has its own switch that activates when you press down on the button itself. You simply attach each switch (the white components) by pushing them on to the bottom of each button. You connect the wires with a 2,8mm push on fitting.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  3. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    I am skipping some steps so I can focus on the wiring later but essentially the joysticks screw in from above and the hole around the shaft (ooo eer) is covered by a dust plate to stop crumbs getting down inside the stick. Both sticks are Sanwa JLF sticks which are renowned for being good sticks in the fighting community.

    So that the Raspberry Pi or PC can interpret the signals from a button I found a device called and iPAC 2. Think of it like a USB keyboard emulator. You press button 1 and it tells the PC that you just pressed the "A" key, that sort of thing. This connects to the PC via USB and is pretty much plug and play, however I did need to do some tweaking for some games. More on that later.

    Here is the control panel being tested, complete with not-cut-to-length wires. You can see the IPAC 2 below the panel (green PCB). I've also switched to the white coin buttons at this stage too.

    [​IMG]

    Wiring this was a LOT easier than I had anticipated.

    Each button needs a common ground (the black wires connecting each button in a daisy chain) and its own individual signal wire. The joystick comes in it's own colour-specific harness, so you just need to do some Googling to find out which colour equates to each directional input... yes, seriously... it comes with no instructions :o

    Despite being an 8-way joystick, you only need 4 wires connected for each one as the diagonal directions are simply interpreted from a mix of the horizontal and vertical inputs.

    Did I need to be so neat when wiring it? No, but I wasn't sure how the rest of the arcade fitted together at this point and I didn't want wires dangling everywhere and getting caught in joints etc. I used zip tie bases and proper cable management, the insulation tape is really on there for my own sanity whilst routing cables.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
  4. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    Ok, so once the control system is wired and tested I set about opening the rest of the packaging... being so big, it came as 2 parcels. The two side panels were wrapped together and everything else was in a separate box... No issues with the box of goodies, but the side panels... :mad:

    [​IMG]

    In fairness to ArcadeWorld they immediately sent a replacement set of panels but being so close to Christmas (20th December), I was at the mercy of the courier madness. I ended up with some minor damage on the replacements too which was unfortunate but not a huge deal as the damage was limited to less-visible areas (inside the main body) and they gave me some money back. Nevertheless, it was still crushing to open the wrapping to find you have to stop everything to wait for a courier. At Christmas.

    I wasted no time in getting the vinyl stuck to the other pieces. Soap and water was the order of the day again.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  5. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    A few days later... Christmas Eve, and much stressing later (including a trip to Parcelforce to collect the replacement panels) and I could set about finishing the build. FYI that countdown sign is not accurate.. it became the bane of my life, so I refused to change it.

    If you go down this road, be warned that the kit comes with NO instructions. None, nada, niente... I was advised that they are working on them but I can't be sure they come with instructions as of this post. It was not really an issue as I've built my fair share of Ikea furniture but it helped immensely that ArcadeWorld were available on Facebook Messenger whilst I shot them the odd picture (mainly the back where the rear panels connect).

    This is it, sitting on it's side in my living room as a proof-of-concept. Much to the mrs' delight :D

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The back panel splits in to two pieces, a lower and an upper section. Both have vinyl stickers... the lower have was decidedly swear-inducing thanks to the numerous ventilation slots.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  6. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    Now, I should point out that I strayed away from using a raspberry pi at this stage. For three reasons...
    1. I wanted something that could play more modern games for future proofing
    2. The artwork was all SF5 themed, so I wanted it to be the showcase game
    3. I didn't want to build a massive cabinet and have a tiny Pi stuck to the rear.. it seemed... wrong
    I did some research and found that most projects like this are done with PCs for their ease of installation and maintenance. I've made lots of retro gaming machines out of Raspberry Pi's but they don't offer the performance that I needed.

    I considered an Odroid XU4 and other smaller single board machines that have more grunt than a Pi but the cost for the board plus PSU and heat sink was bordering on £120+ so I decided that I’d base it around a PC running Windows 10 and see what I could find in my budger. As you’ve probably worked out, I decided this early on (as witnessed in the photos) but I managed to up an old Dell Optiplex 7010 on a Black Friday sale. The total cost for i7 machine and a Dell P2717H 27" LCD direct from Dell refurb store ... £300. Bargain.

    Naturally, I wanted something that could play modern games so I had to add to the purchase. To that end I went bought an extra 8GB RAM (total of 16GB) added a 1TB Samsung SSD and purchased a nVidia 1050Ti low profile graphics card from OcUK to give me the storage and the grunt that I needed for the games. All the titles I've run on this to date (MK X, Tekken 7, SF5, UMVC3 and DBZ Fighterz) run at 1080p at a solid 60fps, max settings.

    The next challenge was “how do you secure a PC inside the cabinet so that it doesn't fall over, move or get destroyed in transit?” The answer: bungie cords!! Using some screw-in hooks as the anchor points, I used 2x bungie cords to grip the case which is further trapped by the hooks themselves. The machine was rock solid and survived being transported in a transit van on 3 occassions, so I class that as a success.

    I also bought a 3m length of black trunking that you see on the left hand side of this photo. All the cables run inside so there are no dangling chords anywhere. The front piece of trunking is the left over that carries the single USB cable from the pc to the IPAC 2.

    [​IMG]

    The audio itself is powered via a cheap chinese amplifier and a pair of speakers mounted in the top panel above the monitor. The volume is much louder than I’ll ever need and to stop myself from needing to take the back off to turn the amp up, I simply whacked the amp to a reasonably loud level and turned the volume in Windows down.

    I’ve set a series of shortcuts within the arcade front end so that I can press P1 + button 2 to turn up the volume. For reference, I play it on volume 10 at home and it was set to volume 50 for the wedding reception. Plenty of scope for additional range

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  7. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    This is the machine fitted with the 27” lcd monitor and the panels (minus the top marquee) on.

    [​IMG]

    The t-moulding was next up and it was actually much simpler to install than you’d think. The arcade world website worked well again here as it specified that I needed 30ft and the size I needed.

    I went with a black colour as there was a good chance it’ll get replaced and black is subdued compared to the red I had in mind. To fit it, you just cut out a triangle from the back whenever you get to a bend which stops the moulding from kinking. A rubber mallet would work better but I managed with some Chuck Norris palm action. Excuse the crap in the background!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  8. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    I opted for some dimmable LED lighting, so that the marquee lights up when the machine is on. The strip I bought was a cheap one and cut to length, so I stuck it on the inside of the top section... the downside is that the perspex marquee sticks to the front... so you end up with dead zones top and bottom where the wood is. Not the end of the world but the slot you see isn't used unless you buy a different kit and I feel they've missed a trick here.

    [​IMG]

    This is the LED lit up to the max setting. The green and blue thing you can see is my makeshift reflector. Essentially, it is just some white card that I've taped to the roof of the cabinet at 45 degrees (white green tape) to help reflect some light back at the perspex and prevent light bleed inside the cabinet.

    I was keen to avoid light bleed as the inside of the cabinet is all open (you could reach up from the PC to the marquee if you were Mr Tickle). I didn't want someone playing on the machine and have the monitor lit up from the light bleed of the marquee so I devised another crafty trick. To achieve this, I cut some thick black card as a separator between the bottom half and the top of the machine and the same near the top.. the entire monitor section becomes segregated and as a result there is no bleed :)

    [​IMG]

    Power and networking are also kept pretty simple. I cut out and added 2x back boxes with a jig saw so that I could add a Cat6 socket for wired networking and a switched spur for power.

    There is a Cat6 patch cable which connects the LAN port of the PC and the rear of the socket. Ghetto, but it means that I don't have a flying lead trailing out of the back when it's not in use. I planned for no network connectivity at the wedding venue and didn't want to mess around with Wi-Fi at home (my home is wired for Cat 6).

    I toyed with some ideas about power and ended up with this solution.. In a nutshell, the entire arcade is plugged in to a standard 4-way fused power strip inside. I cut off the plug that you'd normally plug in to the wall and wired it in to the rear of the switched spur. A single power cable comes from the spur and pokes through the back of the machine for connecting to the wall. What this means, is that the switched spur will isolate the machine even if it's connected at the mains.

    [​IMG]

    With the Cat6 socket open you can see the USB extenders that I use to connect a keyboard and mouse. I did everything I could to avoid having to remove the back panelling whenever I needed to do some admin stuff and these work well as they curl up nicely behind the Cat 6 module.

    Day to day, I don't keep a keyboard or mouse attached as the machine boots straight in to the front end software.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  9. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    Obviously, I cannot discuss the specifics of the emulators or tell you where to get the games but I can say that the game library, artwork, sound and overall management is handled by an app called LaunchBox. The main front-end which boots up is the premium extension to it called BigBox. This cost me around $79 for a lifetime subscription and it's worth it.

    Their forums are immensely helpful and contain lots of user created artwork and videos etc.

    [​IMG]

    The theme I've chosen for the machine replicates the EmulationStation interface commonly found on the Raspberry Pi. I have other themes that I can cycle through including some that show images of each console when you cycle through the platforms.

    Launchbox allows you to link to your Steam library through an API. This allows you to open games from the BigBox interface without having to open Steam first (I keep it running in the background to get updates anyway). The "Windows" platform that you can just about see on the left of the first screenshot is how you access these games.

    When testing each platform I found it that most emulators "just work" once they're configured and don't moan about online connectivity once they're running. However, as anyone with a PC will know Steam likes to be online. I came across another challenge when I realised that simply disconnecting the LAN cable would cause Steam to ask the user if they'd like to play in offline mode. Without an attached keyboard and mouse, you can't actually select "yes" and to be honest this prompt is enough to ruin the experience. I wanted something that a child or drunk adult could use without calling me every 2 minutes.

    To do this, I found a post from a forum online that allowed me to create a specific copy of a steam config file and force Steam in to offline mode with no warning.

    Code:
    Make sure you've set Steam to remember your password. Now open <Steam_installation_dir>/config/loginusers.vdf and change value of WantsOfflineMode to 1. Default location of this file:
    
    Windows (32-bit): C:\Program Files\Steam\config\loginusers.vdf
    Windows (64-bit): C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\config\loginusers.vdf
    Linux: ~/.steam/steam/config/loginusers.vdf
    Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/config/loginusers.vdf
    If you don't want warning about launching Steam in offline mode just do the same with SkipOfflineModeWarning. If you can't see those values, just add them so it looks like this:
    
    "users"
    {
        "<your profile number>"
        {
            "AccountName"       "<your login>"
            "PersonaName"       "<your display name>"
            "RememberPassword"      "1"
            "Timestamp"     "<timestamp>"
            "WantsOfflineMode"      "1"
            "SkipOfflineModeWarning"        "1"
        }
    }
    There can be of course more users listed.
    
    You can change those values back to 0 to launch Steam in online mode.

    As I created a copy of the original config file, I just needed to attach a keyboard and mouse and switch the config file back to the default whenever I wanted to play online. This isn't normally an issue as at home I use the machine connected to my LAN, so the offline config was really only a wedding specific adjustment. It worked well, so I keep the offline config in the directory, should I ever want to use it.

    The final challenge I came across was actually hiding the mouse cursor in some Steam games. Apparently some software developers aren’t capable of doing this themselves so you end up with a game running and a white mouse cursor dead centre of the screen.. i'm looking at you UMVC3 :o A tiny free application that runs on boot called AutoHideMouseCursor saved the day. After 5 seconds, the mouse cursor disappears from the screen (long before BigBox opens) and it's never seen again. If a mouse is connected it reappears when you move the cursor, so you don't notice it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Artwork specific to that platform appears in the background when you cycle through the main platform menu. These backgrounds are linked to the list of installed games, so you never get an image of a game you can't play.

    In this example, Tekken 7 background is showing when it's left on the Windows platform.

    [​IMG]

    There are lots more options available when you select a game but I've locked the machine so that a user can basically only play, exit or flip the artwork of the game box.

    Player 1 start + player 1 coin pressed together exits any game back to BigBox.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  10. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 26,513

    Anyway, here she is. I will upload some videos of the interface and some gameplay if anyone is interested. Thanks for reading!
     
  11. wedrum

    Mobster

    Joined: Aug 11, 2016

    Posts: 4,214

    Location: Cheshire

    looks fantastic great work
     
  12. robfosters

    Caporegime

    Joined: Dec 1, 2010

    Posts: 29,003

    Location: Welling, London

    Wow! That’s amazing. Top work there. Well done. I would love that. Bet it was still expensive all in though.
     
  13. elrasho

    Soldato

    Joined: Jan 12, 2009

    Posts: 5,881

    Awesome build but why is Fei Long on the side... he isn't in SFV :confused:
     
  14. mrbell1984

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 9, 2008

    Posts: 20,177

    Location: UK

    That's one of the nicest builds I have ever seen! Absolutely amazing work.
     
  15. doodah

    Capodecina

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 19,625

    Location: London

    You win the internet.

    A massive congratulations :D.

    I might look into LaunchBox as I need a solution for playing games on my HTPC when I move in with the Mrs.
     
  16. Evangelion

    Capodecina

    Joined: Dec 29, 2007

    Posts: 21,902

    Location: Adelaide, South Australia

    Fine work! Those vinyls are gorgeous.

    :D
     
  17. Pyr0m@nI@]{

    Hitman

    Joined: Oct 31, 2005

    Posts: 709

    Location: Merseyside, UK

    That's brilliant. I'm well impressed :)
     
  18. aardvark

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Jan 2, 2005

    Posts: 7,776

    Location: leeds

    nice - i had thought about the arcadeworld kits myself (when i have some space of course)
     
  19. Marky

    Capodecina

    Joined: Apr 16, 2007

    Posts: 22,317

    Location: UK

    Shouldn't this be in Home & Garden considering it's DIY? :p

    Looks great though! Hope to do one myself sometime in the future!
     
  20. JunkBot

    Gangster

    Joined: May 21, 2006

    Posts: 303

    Or Project Logs :D