Building a MAME Arcade Console - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
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I am starting a new project... Building a full size standup arcade system!

First the question is probably Why? Sure there are game consoles all over the place, this was more of a nostalgia reason. I grew up with Defender, Asteroids and all those cheesy but classic games.

I have been working on my HT setup and am very happy with my screen and that setup, so I started looking for some other things like a popcorn machine, and I stumbled on this...

The price was unbelievable, which was the first telltale sign. The reviews I read were less than stellar.

People were talking about add on game packs, which lead to a search and before I knew it I found MAME- Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

I downloaded MAME and in a couple of minutes I had an actual arcade game running on my 3GHz PC and running in all of it's original 6800 CPU glory! Everything was there, the sound, graphics... you even had to 'add' quarters to be able to play. So I know first hand this isn't as hard as it may seem. It may not be cheap and the games are probably too cheesy for anyone that didn't grow up playing them and wants to remember some of those teenage memories... but it can be done!

I dug out my old tank of a joystick, a Wingman Extreme, cleaned it off and within a few more minutes had every button programed through MAME. Next was to look up kits or plans to build your own arcade cabinet... and there are plenty of them out there!

I came across this site and knew I wanted my own system!

It didn't take long to determine the Wingman joystick wasn't going to cut it for a true arcade system look and feel. I found these controllers:

x-arcade was the first one I found. The Tankstick looks interesting and comes with 18 games on CD. At $199 it is more than a regular old joystick, but it was much cheaper than buying an old standup arcade game that only has one game, or the much better (than the Midway Classic console Walmart and Target is selling) Arcade Legends, but that is also $2800 and I know this can be done for half that price or even better than that.

Also there is the HotRod arcade console for $99, but no trackball...

Last (for now) is the SlikStick. This one is much more expensive than the other two, but also is more like a real arcade setup.

SlikStick CO2 controller- $599

SlikStick Quad Unit at a whopping $699

"Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein
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post #2 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
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First thing to say is I haven't even started building this yet. So far I have only spent a week looking things up and testing MAME out.

If you want a more true to life arcade and not just a fancy game console, MAME is the way to go. It emulates all the classic arcade consoles and there are free ROMs and you can buy ROM packs too. The PC specs are not that demanding either, so it would be easy and inexpensive to do on an old PC sitting around the house. I plan on going a little beefier though. They will allow me to play other games than just arcade games.

Plus using a PC allows games like one of my wife's favorite's Timon and Pumba's Jungle Pinball!

Supposedly with a modded XBox you can also run MAME and arcade ROMs.

A couple of things to note from my findings so far... the x-arcade will work with any PC, MAC, or game console including PS, PS2, XBox, Game Cube and the Sega DreamCast. It looks like the adapter for each of these consoles connects to the x-arcade controller via a serial cable, so it would be possible to use a serial selector box to switch between different consoles. More on that though with the individual controllers.

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post #3 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 01:58 PM - Thread Starter
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x-arcade has several controllers ranging from a single player console to the two player TankStick.

Here is the Solo Stick, it is $99 and doesn't come with any game CDs.


Next is the Dual Player for $125


... and then the TankStick for $199

The track ball in the TankStick is perfect for games like Major Havok, Marble Madness, and any arcade game that used a trackball. The downside is the trackball only works with a PC and not a game console. So if someone is interested in doing a project like this too but only wants to use a PlayStation, XBox, Game Cube, Dream Cast or a combination of just those dedicated consoles and not a PC, you can save $75 by going with the Dual Player over the TankStick.

Each of the above controllers comes with one free adapter, only the TankStick comes with the 18 arcade games on a CD. The titles that come with the TankStick are--
12 Atari® Classics for PC Use:
  • Asteroids®
  • Asteroids Deluxe
  • Battlezone®
  • Centipede®
  • Crystal Castles
  • Gravitar
  • Millipede
  • Missile Command®
  • Pong
  • Super Breakout®
  • Tempest®
  • and Warlords®

6 Full Version Midway Titles:
  • Gauntlet®
  • Defender®
  • Smash TV®
  • Robotron®
  • Rampage®
  • and Joust®

I am not affiliated with x-arcade or pushing their product, I am just listing pricing and what's included. I will include as much information for the other controllers as I have too.

"Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein
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post #4 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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The HotRod controller essentually looks like the x-arcade Dual Player and is $99 vice $125, so if a trackball isn't a desired requirement here is another $25 you can knock off the price.

Here is an expert from their website
"The HotRod Joystick is a PC based model on the original arcade control panel designed for home use. It plugs right into the back of your PC, through the PS/2 keyboard port in between the keyboard and the PC. The HotRod Joystick is a low-level bios input device, and it simulates a keyboard to your computer. It is designed to replicate that classic arcade feel using Retrogaming emulation programs such as M.A.M.E., Retrocade, and commercial release titles such as Microsoft's Return of the Arcade, and Atari Classic Arcade hits.

HotRod simulates that real classic arcade experience, by using real commercial grade arcade components, that are actually an overkill for the home market. However, it produces a nice effect for that avid classic gamer who demands that authentic play.

It is a very unique joystick, unlike any regular joystick you will find on the market. It is capable of playing 1 to 2 player games side by side with your friends, or complex arcade games that require dual joystick usage such as Robotron, BattleZone, or even CrazyClimber. That old analog PC joystick could never do this!

Thanks to some very good programmers, several PC based programs called emulators let you play actual arcade machine ROMS (Read Only Memory chips) on your PC at home. These emulator programs are completely free and can all be found from a variety of sources on the Internet. M.A.M.E. (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator), is by far the biggest emulator project with many programmers writing drivers for well over 4000 supported games to date. The original video game hardware cabinets to these games, may be long gone after near 20 years now, but the spirit of these great classic arcade games live on through emulation. Emulator programs such as M.A.M.E. have allowed us to relive our fondest memories of good times at the local video arcade pumping thousands of quarters into our favorite video game.

Thanks to your feedback, suggestions and support, we have succeeded in producing a world class PC hardware product that has that true arcade feel built into it. We have come up with what we believe is the absolute best joystick control panel at the best possible value and we are proud to put our name on it!"


All in all this is a nice looking unit for the price. I'm not su sure I like the purple and the big HotRod logo, but it's not that bad.

Also, I would be willing to play with this system and modify/customize the look with contact paper or someother way of changing the look. I don't think I would be too keen on messing with a $200 item though incase I screw it up somehow.

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post #5 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 02:01 PM - Thread Starter
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This really does look 'Slick' and they picked the right name.

It has the look of a real arcade system and can go all the way up to a four person layout.

At $699 though it is around seven times the price of the HotRod controller.

SlikStick offers custom configurations as well, but I am sure the cost quickly goes up with custom layouts.

This unit is made for use with a PC running an emulator like MAME and they do have an XBox controller, but that is all right now. I do not know (yet) if the trackball or spinner will work with a game console though.

Speaking of spinner, this is the only premade console I have seen that includes a spinner. I really don't know how many arcade games used a spinner, but there were a few so this may be a much desired option for some people.

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post #6 of 11 Old 03-12-2007, 02:03 PM - Thread Starter
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So far I plan on using a PC running MAME and maybe a PS2 or XBox.

Here are some of the pros and cons for the different controllers as I see them.

x-arcade has decent prices and goes from a single player up to a two person setup and has a trackball. They have the most adapters available and have gotten rave reviews. It is a little more expensive than the HotRod, but with the TankStick it includes a boat load of games that should get anyone more than started. Not many cons to list.

HotRod has only one setup that I can see, a dual player layout. Price is fantastic and doesn't cost much more than some of the fancy force feedback joysticks I have seen. The only con I can see is it just has the one layout and possibly the color.

SlikStick. Right off the bat the price is daunting. It's because it is using better components or anything like that, both the x-arcade and HotRod use actual arcade joysticks and push buttons. It is probably because they are more true to an actual arcade look and from what I infer from their web site, it sounds like they hand make each unit.

If someone has the skills (meaning knows how to solder and work with premade circut boards) you can also make your own controller for more than half the price of the SlikStick Quad, but probably not much less than the TankStick. I priced a trackball at $89 so that is almost half the price right there. I'm sure they can be gotten cheaper than what I saw, but probably not in the $20 range... at least not for an actual arcade trackball. Genuine arcade joysticks and push buttons are pretty inexpensive though. A joystick will cost around $12, and buttons are less than $2 each. Joysticks can go all the way up to $100 though for a trigger stick. A spinner is around $30.

eBay has a lot of arcade parts. I saw several Star Wars flight yokes for around $30, and I am sure a trigger joystick can also be found cheaper than the $100 mark.

My 'dream' system would be the 1uparcade setup, but I know I can't build that and the person that made it doesn't give out plans and doesn't sell a setup like that.


As much as I love that layout, I will probably end up going with a modular design where I can swap out the main controller and pop in a custom one for certain games.

I am sure there are other companies making controllers and places to buy parts cheaper. When I run across more sites and information I will post that here as well.

"Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein
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post #7 of 11 Old 03-14-2007, 09:00 AM
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This is a friend's site, he builds/sells MAME arcades. http://www.mamemarquees.com/

-Jeremy
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post #8 of 11 Old 03-14-2007, 01:28 PM
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Another option is to purchase a JAMMA arcade cabinet (like Street Fighter II) and hook MAME up to that. While you may not have quite as many controller options as listed in the other posts, I feel this provides the most "retro" feel since you are using a real arcade monitor/cabinet, have coin slots, etc.

You can pick up these cabinets relatively cheap at auctions.

Edit: I started building an Asteroids replica sometime ago but got side tracked and never finished. I bought all the buttons and an IPAC to build my own control panel from Ultimarc.

So far this has been a very informative thread and I look forward to hearing more.
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post #9 of 11 Old 03-15-2007, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerry S View Post

Another option is to purchase a JAMMA arcade cabinet (like Street Fighter II) and hook MAME up to that. While you may not have quite as many controller options as listed in the other posts, I feel this provides the most "retro" feel since you are using a real arcade monitor/cabinet, have coin slots, etc.

You can pick up these cabinets relatively cheap at auctions.

Edit: I started building an Asteroids replica sometime ago but got side tracked and never finished. I bought all the buttons and an IPAC to build my own control panel from Ultimarc.

So far this has been a very informative thread and I look forward to hearing more.

I just started getting into all of this so I'll freely admit I do not know all the ins and outs. Can the controller in a JAMMA cabinet connect to a PC?

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post #10 of 11 Old 03-15-2007, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whostolemynick View Post

This is a friend's site, he builds/sells MAME arcades. http://www.mamemarquees.com/

Cool link, I see some bezels and marques I like!

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post #11 of 11 Old 03-15-2007, 08:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbassett View Post

I just started getting into all of this so I'll freely admit I do not know all the ins and outs. Can the controller in a JAMMA cabinet connect to a PC?

Sure, you just need one of these:
JPAC
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