View Full Version : Mame Cabinets, new listener, yes!

30-03-11, 12:56

I'm a new listener and I'm going through the archives at work. I love the podcast guys keep up the great work. Is there a podcast that details how you all came together? If so what one? I got back into retro games about a year ago. My first child/son was on the way and I wanted to get a collection going to give him the full experience. He's 9 months now, sooo it's still going to be a while before we're playing street fighter.

Your podcast inspired me to start a project I've been wanting to do for a long time. Build a mame cabinet. I had a pc that was doing nothing so I've started the journey. It's a Pretty good pc, quad core 2.4ghz, 8 gbs of ram, ati 4870 512mb. So I've spent the last two weeks downloading roms, artwork, and movies for hyperspin. It's going to take a long time to get this thing up to snuff. The artwork, themes, and getting the roms working is a big task. Anyway I was hoping you guys, and your listeners could help me with a little advice for the cabinet.

A couple of things I'm wondering about are:

1) Is there an x-arcade alternative for a pre-built joystick setup. I've heard there are places where you can get custom ones built. Do you know any? The reason I'm asking is because I heard that the build quality of the x arcade isn't top notch, also I want a more uncommon look.

2) Cabinet shape/plans what do you suggest as far as the shape of the cabinet. I definitely want an upright, I was probably going to find some classic plans. I want a big screen. Can anyone suggest anything different or point me towards some good plans?

3)MDF, Plywood, or Particle board. I don't know what I'm doing but I want something that isn't going to be too expensive and will look good. Are there places where I can buy artwork that you can stick to the sides?

4) What's up with the roms that show loading until 100% but then nothing happens? Also why won't any of the Neo Geo roms work?

Any other helpful advice you can provide for my venture would be great!

Thanks ahead of time for your help!


30-03-11, 01:23
We talked about how we got started a few times, the first episode has the most important parts as I recall.

1. You can always buy the raw buttons, joysticks, spinners etc. and a keyboard interface like the iPac (http://www.ultimarc.com/ipac1.html) or Keywiz and build whatever you like. It is much easier than trying to retrofit a dismantled xarcade.

2. You can find cabinet dimensions on the web with some searching, and if your handy you can certainly make one. However it is almost always cheaper and more authentic to just buy a cab and convert it. It is harder to get details like the coin door, marquee etc. to look right. Sub $100 for sure for a good cab missing various game parts or just plain broken, under $50 or free if you look hard enough in most places. Where do you live?

3. MDF isn't bad, good particle board is more accurate, and again a good cab is probably better. As for the artwork there are many sources, gamegavel, ebay, and dedicated shops like arcadeshop.com. What you are looking for is called side art (on the sides) CPO (control panel overlay) kick plate (front art on some games) and the marquee (lighted sign on top). It is almost certain to cost you more to buy those separate than a good clean cabinet.

4. Talk to UKMike

Other than to again say it is best to just convert an existing cab not much, in the end a MAME machine is a PC in a wooden box. Don't be put off by building your own control system using a controller. All you do is wire the buttons, joystick etc. to the controller with one wire each, link them all to ground, and plug the USB/PS2 connector into your PC and the computer thinks your using a keyboard while your playing with authentic arcade controls. The most complex board is still very simple when you think about it.

30-03-11, 01:42
Thanks so much for your insight!

I don't have a lot of tools and I'm not super handy so I might just get an old cab. How easy is it to setup those glowing and blinking controls? Are the x arcade controls any good? I'm not too shy around electronics, I've been building computers since the 486 days and I used to mod ps1's.

I live in Ontario Canada, I'll start looking around for cabs.

30-03-11, 02:07
The xarcade stuff is not commercial quality, not junk mind you, but isn't as tough and does not have the look and feel. Just get the real stuff and you will have a better platform. Glowing buttons (http://www.ultimarc.com/ultralux.html) of which there are many types, are easy to setup, just an extra two wires. Although it is a matter of taste I find less is more, just a nice authentic button and joystick panel looks clean.

30-03-11, 10:14
Is there a podcast that details how you all came together?

The first one has an intro from us all.

1) Is there an x-arcade alternative for a pre-built joystick setup.

Like Scott says, make your own control panel, it is much easier and much better than modifying an X Arcade or similar. If you want glowing buttons you will be replacing the stock ones anyway, plus you will need extra wiring in the harness to light them, so just go that little extra step and build it yourself with an i-Pac.


2) Cabinet shape/plans what do you suggest as far as the shape of the cabinet. I definitely want an upright, I was probably going to find some classic plans. I want a big screen.

You should go for a reclined monitor I think, so you can get a big ass one in there, and I like the Defender style personally.


3)MDF, Plywood, or Particle board.

You get what you pay for. Ply will be the most expensive, but rock solid. MDF the cheapest but not as sturdy when you kick it after dying for the 20th time.

Again, I would echo, get an existing cab and refurb it.

4) What's up with the roms that show loading until 100% but then nothing happens? Also why won't any of the Neo Geo roms work?

Could be a low spec PC but you have that covered, so it could be the romset version. You have to match your romset to the mame version you are using.

To exclude everything else, do your testing from the command line rather than through the frontend. MAME uses basic commands and switches, so try to run pacman with no sound intially

(from the mame directory at the command prompt)

mame pacman -nosound

if that works try

mame pacman

and build it up from there. If you have such a powerful system it may try to run them too big so you may need to specify a resolution with an extra switch, but the frontend should handle it nicely.

Any other helpful advice you can provide for my venture would be great!

Read this, it covers the start to finish of my own project from a couple of years ago.


Incidentally, my own cab PC just crapped out with a hard drive issue. I did have a backup of it but that too has failed so now I am trying to recover everything rather than rebuild the whole thing.

At the same time my daughters laptop died as well as my wife's, so it has been a week of rebuilding computers.

30-03-11, 05:49
I'm not replying to this message because I speak with any kind of authority on this topic, I only do so because coincidentally I am on the home stretch in building my own MAME cabinet (just put the first coat of paint on the other day) so I can share my experiences while they're fresh in my mind.


1) Is there an x-arcade alternative for a pre-built joystick setup. I've heard there are places where you can get custom ones built. Do you know any? The reason I'm asking is because I heard that the build quality of the x arcade isn't top notch, also I want a more uncommon look.

As already stated, strongly consider biting the bullet and designing/building your own control panel. The Ultimarc iPac is the board that interfaces to your PC. What it does is translate button presses and joystick movements into keyboard presses, and then you map the controls accordingly in MAME. Very simple, actually. Items to consider:

Re: Joysticks

- make/model. There are several options out there, with widely differing opinions on what is best. Really, it seems to come down to what types of games you like to play. For example, a good Street Fighter II joystick may not (read: probably won't) make for a good Donkey Kong joystick.
- 4-way vs. 8-way. Some games (usually older games like Pac-Man, DK, Frogger, etc.) only recognize up, down, left, and right and if you hit a diagonal, your character behaves unpredictably. Enter the 4-way joystick, which eliminates this issue. I've played these games with 8-way joysticks and they're still playable, but it really does suck when you lose a life in a good game strictly due to the controller you're using. There are also joysticks that are switchable between 4- and 8-way. Make sure you research before you buy.

Re: other controller types
- trackball. Do you need/want it? If you can't come up with a decent list of trackball games that you MUST play, then I'd say skip it. It takes up space on your CP and can be pricey. You either need to buy another interface board or buy a trackball that is plug and play via USB (this is what I did with mine--product is called Ultimarc U-Trak). Purists will cringe, but aside from the classic trackball games like Centipede, Missile Command, and Marble Madness, the trackball can be used in MAME to "fake" your way through other games that originally used analog controls (i.e. Star Wars, Pole Position). Something to consider.
- spinner. I don't have one on my CP. Again, really think about whether you need it or not. Aside from Tempest and Arkanoid, I can't even think of any games that originally used one of these.

2) Cabinet shape/plans what do you suggest as far as the shape of the cabinet. I definitely want an upright, I was probably going to find some classic plans. I want a big screen. Can anyone suggest anything different or point me towards some good plans?

I decided to be a hero and completely design and build my own. I have no regrets, but there are definitely some things I would do differently if I was given a mulligan. I fully expected that, but the other thing is, this project has taken waaaaaay longer than I originally expected. Thing is, if you have standards for your work, you're constantly going to be taking on little challenges in order to address little details that are just bugging you about how something looks, etc. I'm not much of a "handy man" with wood working but I'm not a total blank slate either. I definitely have learned a lot building this thing. Whether you want to do a scratch-build is up to you, my only recommendation is that you don't even consider it unless you have (or have access to) the following tools (among others):

-circular saw
-router with slot cutter bit, straight bit, and flush-trim bit
-at least 4 big (2-3 ft) clamps, and assorted smaller ones

3)MDF, Plywood, or Particle board. I don't know what I'm doing but I want something that isn't going to be too expensive and will look good. Are there places where I can buy artwork that you can stick to the sides?

I went with MDF. This material leads to an end product that is nice, but the process of getting there has made me HATE working with this stuff. It's heavy as hell, it disintegrates into a fine dust that gets EVERYWHERE (including your lungs) when you cut it, screws sometimes pull out of it if you're not careful, etc.

4) What's up with the roms that show loading until 100% but then nothing happens? Also why won't any of the Neo Geo roms work?

I'd recommend you try to hunt down a reasonably recent version of MAME with a set of confirmed working ROMS and leave it at that. In other words, don't concern yourself with always trying to have the latest and greatest MAME version, because there is a good chance you'll break many of your games when you change versions. I'm running v122.

Any other helpful advice you can provide for my venture would be great!

If you have any other questions that you would like answered by somebody with very recent experience slogging through a MAME project, let me know. Like I said, I'm not an authority but it's all fresh in my mind right now.

Good luck

31-03-11, 03:41
You guys are the best. I'm working though the mame themes on hyperspin and getting them all installed. Thank you so much for the help, I'll keep you posted on my progress!

V1.22 fixed sooooo many games! Why do newer version of mame have less compatibility? Strange.

Listening to ep 1 now.


31-03-11, 04:19
Super point about the 4/8 way switchable, you want that, good catch. Mame comes and goes, one version plays a game great, and the next version won't buyt it will do other games well. Their stated goal is accuracy so if they make a change that results in a 40 frames per second game turning into a slide show they consider it a good move. I recall in a really early version, maybe 20 or so, Mrs Pac ran great on a P2, many versions down the road and it needed a P4. My favorite for solid performance with a good game selection is version .66 which will turn any old P4 into a nice machine using the DOS version of Mame. Many of those embedded all in one boards, and mobile device versions use .32 because it had low overhead and works well on ARM CPUs.

31-03-11, 09:41
I have a friend who always chases the latest MAME version including all the CHD files and who has no end of trouble.

I have a DOS machine running dmame 0.66 on an old 800MHz PC that runs fine and my cab runs 1.01 or something similar.

02-04-11, 04:14
Can you make Mame cabinets run off of the coin slot by wiring it to the J-pac??

02-04-11, 07:41
Yes. MAME adds a credit on the 5 key which the i-Pac and j-Pac etc can control.

You could basically use anything that can trigger an electrical contact, so as long as your coin mech is complete enough to complete a circuit when a coin is dropped in it will work.

06-04-11, 05:02
Never mind I got this answered in podcast 2 or 3.

06-04-11, 05:03

06-04-11, 12:11
To add to what UK said, you can remove the coin mech and just put a straight channel between the slot above the coin mech and the slot with the switch and then you can drop in quarters, tokens etc. and they all work. If you look on ebay you can find lots of tokens if you want to use those.

12-04-11, 01:53
Is there any point in keeping the beatmania games for you mame cab? I'm not going ton install a dance mat.

Also has anyone hear ever setup Hyperspin. I've been installing themes for days now. There has got to be a better way to do this, it's taking forever. If I pay hyperspin do they make it simple?

17-04-11, 05:20

I found a cab that I'm going to go pick up next weekend. Here are the details about it:

What was done:

- the entire cab was stripped down
- inside of cab was cleaned/painted white
- new wheels were installed at the bottom for easy moving
- new black, matt laminate (Home Depot, kitchen grade) was installed on the entire body
- new black T-molding installed
- new marquee light
- bulbs in coin slot installed (When PC was in machine, you could put quarters into the coin slot to get credit for the game)
- I have keys for the back door as well as coin mech
- Logitech 2.1 speakers installed (2 speakers behind the marquee, 1 sub-woofer next to the machine) Volume controller sticks out from control panel and behind. You can control volume as well as plug headphones into it (for playing the machine if others are sleeping in the house)
- the monitor is a Wells Gardner 7000 series 25" (it's a very good, known monitor). When I got the monitor, it had issues. I since had it professionally recapped (where the capacitors on the main board are removed, and new ones are installed) as well as converged. It's clean and works great. It has a remote board inside the control panel that allows you to adjust size/brightness/etc. The monitor has an isolating transformer inside the cab (required, and works great) The great thing about this monitor is that it doesn't need a JPAC (video amp) to work. It will work fine with low voltage from PC video cards. It's also a great monitor to be used with a gun!
- inside the cab is a power bar which the marquee lights, monitor, speakers and PC plug into. Everything is grounded and wired correctly (through AC line filters, fuses, etc). This way, to turn everything on, all you do is click 1 button on the outside, and it all starts up nicely.
- I also installed a button inside the coin mech (which you get to with a key) which hooked up to the reset switch on the PC. This way, you can reboot the PC without moving the machine/getting inside.
- The control panel itself was redone using MDF and a green/black laminate installed on it. It takes abuse well, but you might not like the color. Which is ok, because now you'll have a woodworking project to make a new CP with your own artwork! :) But you can use it as-is for now. There's 6 buttons for each player, Player 1/2 start buttons, and there's a hidden button under the control panel which I had wired to escape (to exit out of a game into the main menu)
- I had 8 way standard joystick per player

What needs to be done:

- custom artwork printed and put on side of cab
- custom artwork printed for marquee
- CP redone (if you want custom artwork)
- PC to be build and installed inside (software, etc.)
- ArcadeVGA/equivalent required
- JPAC might/might not be required. The cab is a JAMMA cab, so hooking everything up should be much easier with JPAC, otherwise you're making your own VGA cable
- I have a set of Ultimarc UltraStik 360's (the best joysticks out there, since you can program them to be any-way you want 2/4/8/etc depending on the game you're playing!) They also have a USB connector to connect more buttons into it.. if you care about it. I can sell them for 50$ each (new/never used/purchased for this cab). I paid ~140$ for them originally. More info: http://www.ultimarc.com/ultrastik_info.html

That was from the sellers pm to me. Apparently I may need a couple joysticks (he may have some 8 ways but he has to find them), a J-Pac, and possibly an arcade vga card.

I have an ati 4870 in the pc right now. Is there anyway I can use this card with the monitor and a j-pac?



17-04-11, 07:35
Sounds like a good one, are you familiar with the Arcade VGA card?

17-04-11, 07:43
It sounds like it has been a project done in the right way and just needs some final touches.

A couple of things I would do is make a new Control Panel and as a part of that, move the Esc key from underneath to above it so it is easily accessible.
I've never seen teh advantage of 2 way joystick options as in my experience 4 ways work very well as 2 ways but 8 ways do not always work well as 4 ways, so a 4/8 way switchable is fine and not worth the extra expense for a 2 way option.

You will need a dedicated Arcade VGA card to use that monitor I think.

Do you have any pics?

17-04-11, 08:10
Here is the only link i have with pictures.


It wasn't finished or at the state it currently is in so I don't know what it looks like now. I was hoping to get away with just getting a J-Pac but it sounds like I have to get the arcade vga as well.

01-05-11, 01:17

01-05-11, 01:20
more pics

01-05-11, 01:21
more pics

01-05-11, 01:29
Looks like it is coming along nicely, lots of space for all kinds of controls.

01-05-11, 03:36
yeah it was a 4 player cab. He only built 2 player replacement controls though.

I bought this today. I got two ultrastick 360 joysticks with it. They have wiring harnesses which I can use to wire 8 buttons to each stick. The buttons still have the ground wired to them but I will have to re-solder the buttons to the joysticks because the previous owner was going to move the sticks to his astrocity. Turned out they are too big. He used to have a jamma harness and a j-pac hooked up to this cab. They did not come with the cab. Due to the limit of 8 buttons per stick I don't think I can hookup the coin mech or the escape button which is located under the controls.

It has a WG 25k7191 Wells Gardiner 25inch monitor. There is no harness so I will have to either get that and a jpac or just get a vga breakout cable. Apparently this monitor doesn't need an amp. I need to get an arcade vga card as well.

Am I right about the buttons or what? Maybe I'll hook it up without the jpac and harness for now and get them later when I have the extra money.

01-05-11, 04:04
The coin mechs and esc don't count against the joystick buttons, they are separate connectors. Sounds like your on track with the monitor and graphics card.

02-05-11, 05:28
Here's the cab sitting beside my collection. Where are the pics of everyone's collections?

16-05-11, 12:45
Another thumbs up for going Jpac, as you will be able to set it up using Mame and a jamma board (mine is a manual unplug and plug job, but it is cool to compare the real boards running on the same hardware. Also shows how good the Mame emulation is or isn't ).
I have tried a few old ati and nvidia cards in the last year, but I have got better coverage and quicker setup with the arcadevga . I used a program called soft 15khz when not using the arcadevga.
Just a few random stuff, which may be of help or for consideration;
- I do try and update my Mame version, because in addition to the playing old games i do enjoy a few of the 'not so old CAVE' shooters and newer versions of Mame is always adding to the games supported list and fixes. Like mike mentioned earlier just make sure you update your Rome at the sane time, tbh I have never had a problem.
- If you like to have your highscore saved, consider either learning to compile you own Mame program, or download one of the many out there with it already recompiled. The one I use also has the 'ok warning screen' at the beginning removed.
- to power the machine up I installed a on/off button on the top, somewhat hidden. This I connected to the same connector on the motherboard that the normal pc power switch uses. I also have a safe shutdown from within my dashboard. Eitherbway makes sure the pc gets powered down correctly.
- power in the cab and stuff, I installed inside the cab a 5 socket power adapter, which has a plug for a slave appliance and 4 slave ones. Therefore my monitor, lights and sound amp don't power on unless the pc is switched on.
- sometimes when I use a front end to launch the game, if the game fails because i am missing a file, it doesn't show me. Whereas if I launch it using mameui, it tells me the file I am missing.
- sorry don't know much about hyper spin as it looked to modern for what i wanted, and slow with the movies running. I use maximus, although I haven't really tried that many as this just did what i wanted it to do. One tip if you try maximus, it seems to have a bug that assigns the cmd 'end' to the exit Mame program, the programs ini file needs updating to 'ESC' instead so the exit program works much better.
- I really try to leave the machine alone once setup and just play games, else you can tinker with it and setting forever. IMO
- if you are using a arcade monitor, remember to use the setting suggested at Ultimarc so that you get the benefit. They also have a program which you can download which will setup all the resolutions for your games, this really does speedup setting it up right for the correct res.
- although I try always to use the correct resolution for the games (using direct draw, switch res on, no expand) I have installed my monitor vertically in the machine so my beloved horizontal games don't look great. So for horz games I change the setting to switch res off, expand on)

Anyways hope this is useful and enjoy the gaming, and sorry for the writing style as typing on wife's iPad and the virtual keyboard is something I have yet to master. Can't seem to review what I just written to tidy it up :)

17-05-11, 04:35
Hey There, I'm in the early stages of building my MAME machien, does anyone know of any decent places to source arcade machines in the UK? I'm currently scouring Ebay and Gumtree on a regular basis, but there's not a massive amount of choice on either with regards to something I can get cheaply for converting.

17-05-11, 05:33
does anyone know of any decent places to source arcade machines in the UK?


18-05-11, 09:56
That is pretty easy to do, actually. Since the coin-up is just an input stream assigned to the keyboard, you just need to connect the switch in the coin mech to the corresponding line on your encoder. There are also quite a few projects where people have installed a switch in back of the coin-reject lever so pushing the coin reject causes coin-up. In addition, I have seen a square slot machine-style button for sale with a lighted insert that looks just like a coin slot, has the right sizing and all.

If you have trouble locating a cabinet locally or still want to build one, there are a few companies that sell CNC-cut arcade cabinet kits. Most of them look absolutely fucking hideous, however.

20-05-11, 08:41
Woops, looks like I forgot to check the other two pages of posts in this thread. Nice cabinet, btw. :)

23-05-12, 02:42
I was curious if there is a need to have a dedicated Insert Coin button(s) on a 2-player MAME cabinet (without a coin mech)?

Can MAME be configured so that the first press of a Player 1 Start gives a credit, the next press actually starts the game?

Also, If I just have one Insert Coin button, will I still be able to run games like Gauntlet (with 2 players)? I think it used separate coin slots to determine who would be which character.

23-05-12, 03:10
You can jumper coin 1 to player one start, or set the games to freeplay, easy.

23-05-12, 08:52
If you have an iPac you can use the SHIFT facility and assign an extra function to another button to use as a coin up.

P1 Fire 1 could be P1 Fire 1 and with SHIFT could also be Coin Up.

25-05-12, 03:07
Thanks for the quick replies, guys.

I am using a Xin Mo & have 22 buttons total to work with. Although I want the action of coining up (I love the Atari BONNNGGGG sound for some reason), I didn't want to waste any inputs for it.

Here's what I settled on. The pinball flipper buttons will be the coin buttons while running MAME. One of the fire buttons or whatever can be the COIN while running PinMame.

Yep, it was easy!

13-09-12, 04:17
Just "discovered" this thread... lot's of great information for my MAME cab build, now that I finally have a suitable cab to use.

13-09-12, 08:21
Yeah there's a lot of good information and ideas in this thread. I definitely want to build a cab some day, but I'm torn between a mame cab and one of those X in 1 boards. I like the expand-ability offered by mame, but Scott's multi-board description make them sound like a nice low maintenance solution.