|My first sketch of my M.A.M.E. cabinet|
Since then, the M.A.M.E. project has become immense and is now growing rapidly. Some über-M.A.M.E. geeks try to get every possible ROM with every possible permutation and build extravagant cabinets to showcase their creations -- but it's like an addiction, once you start seeking the "ultimate collection," there's always another ROM out there.
My approach is this: Find a good collection (even if it's older), and stick to it. Once the collection is amassed, audited and polished - create a user interface that is seamless and aesthetically pleasing. Pay attention to the game-play, do not make things too fancy. Make whole experience authentic -- it needs to FEEL like you're playing an arcade game -- not some computer emulation. Lastly, make the cabinet work for as many games as possible without compromising authenticity and simplicity.
PHASE 1 - FILE COLLECTION (complete):
I have amassed a collection of ROMs, artwork, and miscellaneous files that I am happy with:
- A LOT OF GAMES (only ones that I am allowed to play legally, of course)
- 828 artwork overlays (older games relied on transparent overlays to provide color or visual aids that were otherwise impossible to render electronically)
- 2,541 images of the original cabinets (each cropped w/ transparent backgrounds)
- 3,201 images of the original flyers
- 3,689 custom 32x32 pixel icons
- 1,220 owners manuals (PDF)
- 1,866 images of original cabinet marquees
- 1,720 images of original PCBs (printed circuit boards)
- Total hard drive space for these files: 190GBs
PHASE 2 - COMPUTER HARDWARE (nearly complete):
I'm using a modular, air-cooled computer with a 3.8GHz dual-core AMD processor / 3GBs RAM / 2 x 250GB hard drives (with external expansion) running Ubuntu LINUX 12.04. The graphics card is an Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (I those this video card because it is a has good-ole' 480i "TV out" which will give the games the most authentic feel possible). The unit draws about 340 watts of power. Because the video card is a "modern" 3D card, I can plug this into any computer monitor or projector -- but that would compromise the "look and feel" of older arcade games, so for the final cabinet, it will be connected to a 32" JVC cathode-ray-tube (CRT) television.
PHASE 3 - USER-INTERFACE (in process):
I have done some research, and I think I am going to use some amalgamation of the MAMEWah front-end (I know -- the screenshots are HORRIBLE. Luckily, this front-end is extremely customizable, and it will look MUCH nicer when I am done with it). I have been tinkering with the idea of using some of the higher-end 3D front-ends, but I'm looking for simplicity, not flashy. I don't want to ruin the feel of playing old games by seeing crazy 3D graphics right before game-play for the exact same reason I hate seeing television commercials at the movie theatres right before the movie starts.
The motherboard I'm using is an Asus Ai-Life board (specifically: A8N32-SLI Deluxe) which has a really awesome (rare) feature: the BIOS splash-screen can be modified, and not only with a single image -- but with an animation. What this means is - when the power is first turned on and through the entire boot sequence, the screen will never display any computer-y text. In fact, I can spoof the BIOS splash screen to look like an old Zilog Z-80-based arcade cabinet boot-screen. HOW COOL IS THAT?
I will be putting just as much (if not more) effort on the authenticity of the actual in-game experience as I am in the process of creating a software "filter" that will mimic the phosphorescent burn-in on games that have static images (like the mazes on "Pac Man"). The filter will record a segment of in-game play controlled by me. I will purposely play the game in such a way that I get a good sampling of all of the graphics that would normally display during your average player's stint -- but then when the game is over, I will leave it on the idle mode for about the same length of time I played. The filter then runs that loop over again and examines what static images display the longest, and creates a "burn-in" ghost image that then becomes a transparent overlay to the game itself. This will give certain games a very realistic "worn" look, even if it does look horrible.
|Basic design of the "Rolling-Pin" controller|
My vision is this: A "stand-up" cabinet with a controller that has three faces that are interchangeable by swiveling the controller around 120 degrees (like a rolling-pin). Each face will have a particular controller / button layout to cater to a particular style of game. I have given it much thought as to which three layouts would be the best compromise, and currently am sold on the following:
- Controller 1: 2 players - each side has one 8-way joystick and eight buttons. This is the most common layout -- good for almost any game that doesn't require a specialized controller.
- Controller 2: Single player - one center-placed analog X-Y controller with top and side trigger (like a flight-stick), one spinner controller, one roller-ball controller and four buttons. Aligned on far-right is a row of fourteen small buttons (the first being a toggle for the other 13 - this can be used for many of the Japanese card games which can use as many as 26 buttons). This set-up will satisfy most flight games as well as "Tron" and "Discs of Tron" (which are two of my favorite games) and any games that require a roller-ball (like "Crystal Castles").
- Controller 3: A single 4-way joystick with a ball-top - like on the original "Pac Mac." Also on this controller will be a USB expansion port and possibly a harness to hold things like gun holsters for light-gun games, steering wheel, etc. The USB expansion on the controller portion will be proprietary and access only the controller interface, not the computer itself.
The computer will be locked-down and only managed by me (or anyone I authorize) -- I do not like the idea of a MAME front-end allowing for administrative access. Some features I've tossed around are: Wireless internet connectivity with a webcam on the bottom of the marquee -- so people playing can be broadcast (along with a live screen-view). See-through panels for sides to showcase the computer hardware. For the purpose of realism, I would like to add a quarter slot to the front, but that is technically illegal, so I may opt to have a "token slot." Finally, if money was no option, I would make the marquee out of a series of LCD screens and have it display the current game being played -- or just animate as per my design.
Again, the cabinet phase is all pie-in-the-sky dreaming on my part -- but the rest of it is very real - and nearly complete. I AM VERY EXCITE!!