Lets face it, every person over the age of 30 will have played in the Arcades as a kid, either in Butlins, or Blackpool, or even in a little greasy spoon that had Double Dragon for 20p a throw by my house, seeing as space is of a premium having a full size cab is just not feasible in your average UK house.
So I decided to downsize, as luck would have it there's been a few inscrutables on here which show how to make one that would fit on a small coffee table or shelf.
But one that’s caught my eye most was by JackandWho
Which uses the ion iCade arcade cabinet, it was really helpful in giving me ideas on how to stuff everything in, the limitations to the design is literally your own imagination and patience.
I've stuck with the iCade as it’s a handy little kit, but changed a few bits, on JackandWho’s design
Bare in mind some pictures may come from my original build, some from the Donk-ade. It just depends what pictures I was taking at the time.
These are a bit hard to come by now, either people didn’t take many up in the UK, or they're hording it for themselves, but I've sourced a few on eBay and Gumtree, I plan not to pay more than £35 inc p&p to get them, anything else over that just doesn’t seem right when they weren’t that expensive to begin with (right?) Seriously though if anyone has these to sell please give me a shout.
What are you playing it on? PC/Pi/Android box?
I decided rather than use a Raspberry Pi I opted for an Acer Revo r600 mini PC running Hyperspin on Windows 7, the small footprint makes for slotting into the design really neatly. 500gb internal HDD 4gb RAM (about £60, but had one from an old media player setup I had). I can always put in an rPi if I ever wanted another "lite" version, which would drop the cost somewhat (but will probably go back up by the time Ive plumped for a 32gb Class 10 card). I've managed to get one as low as £40 just needed additional RAM (£6) and Ill run everything from an external HDD which I have lying around (750gb).
I was also able to add in extra emu’s like Sega Model 2 which runs perfect on this puter on these specs, PSX is the next level I need to test when I get emu's/ROMS.
Its taken me a bit longer than anticipated to get set up PC wise, as I'm sorting out the Hyperspin setup using videos from Simply Austin on YouTube, but its all ready to assemble once that’s sorted. It’s the downloading and messing about with roms and then hypersync to get artwork and everything, so far its coming in at around 100gb used, that’s games, emu’s cab art video etc etc, with still more roms and emus to add.
At present the consoles installed are as follows
NES, SNES, Gameboy. Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Colour, Atari 2600, MAME, Sega Master System, Game Gear, Megadrive, 32X, MegaCD, Sega Model 2.
Obviously more will be added as I go along, hopefully PSX,
10.1 inch Digital IPS screen (£42)
I decided if I was going to put a screen on, I didn't want a small one, I may as well play it on an iPad at that size, ideally Id have liked one with a speaker on but never mind, so opted for a 10.1 inch screen, it runs off a control board which also has an on off switch, but once its on you can remove it so its one less wire, and its got a HDMI input like the PC which is an added bonus.
It needs to be mounted somehow, as there are no mounting holes, but its slim (about 3mm) and light enough to have those 3M hanging strips stuck to it and mounted to a couple of scrap blocks of wood as the cab itself has about 3mm either side of the screen overhang on it from the screen, so to balance it out the wood comes in useful to stick against. I could also put a bezel on it if I wanted, but don't see the point, it looks OK as it is.
USB Encoder + 8 Way Joystick + 10 push Buttons (£24)
I asked them to change a couple of the colours on the buttons to yellow and blue they look great illuminated. They also fit perfect in the original holes (these ones linked specifically) so no additional drilling (apart from adding in new holes for start/select/escape/power buttons on the front and side).
As you can see from some of the images, this will be my second build, as I'm planning to do it all Donkey Kong Style, with matching colour buttons (not illuminated) and matching colours to the decals and marquee.
For information, if you're getting Sanwa type buttons that aren't illuminated, you will have to shave a mm off each of the button holes on the iCade in order to fit, the holes are just that bit too small.
Illuminated buttons fit perfect as they're a bit slimmer under the button and just screw in with the black locking rings that come with them.
I did the same as JaW's details with the on off button, but used the motherboard pins to create an off switch which was dead easy after taking off the power button I salvaged from an old PC so no additional costs, only issue is a loss of 2 USB slots, but I only need about 4 anyway, which it still has one for the joystick, one for USB speaker, one for LED strip light (for the marquee) and potentially one for a Bluetooth dongle should I decided to make it a two player setup and use a PS3/Xbox 360 Controller, which doesnt sound like too bad an idea if I put in PSX games.
If you cant salvage one from a PC you can get them cheap enough, and they come with LEDs too if you want to make it that extra bit more authentic on the Coin Slot (I tried and one LED started to smell burny, so binned that idea for now) I might try and link it to the arcade zero delay board which has a 5v out.
Whilst I have the space in the rear of the iCade case to put wires in, I didnt want that many to be messing around with, so this was a great little find, it doesn't need an audio jack and just goes straight into the USB slots, the sound output is LOUD! despite its diminutive size so I can adjust to suit via the PC's sound output, not too loud to be overbearing and not too quiet to not be enjoyed, I can adjust it all when the screen goes in as it will be behind the screen, its actually well held in place as its the same length as the gap between the panels, and is held in place properly by the two wooden pieces holding the screen in place.
Design - decals (Custom made for Donk-ade Kong - £30)
I used Rockstar Print to get a sticker-bomb design (about £10) to wrap around the cab on the previous build, on this one I plan to make a Donkey Kong panels like JaW's SW ones, they're happy to do it if you provide the measurements and requirements. For the DK version I've asked for side panels, Control Panel covers, and marquee which I think have come out really well, these will be the last things to go on unless I get dead excited and start sticking stuff on.
Ill also include a PDF with the arcade template with all measurements for the arcade
Plastic/Acrylic for Marquee (About £4 each)
Because RS Print don't print directly on to acrylic (shame really) I needed to get hold of some acrylic cut to size so I asked someone on eBay to cut to size for me, I'm usually crap with measurements but I nailed this so I've kept the details for future use, the sticker for the marquee fits perfect as a result of my expert measuring. As its clear I'm able to put a bright LED strip behind so it lights on startup, adding to the arcade feel of the, well the arcade.
Measurements are 223mm x 45mm, on a 3mm thick piece in case you were wondering,
LED Strip (about £4 eBay)
Again, eBay to the rescue, I initially opted for a book reading light with really bright LED's on, but I've lost it, who knows it'll turn up and go on another creation, so I plumped for the bright light strips that power off the USB, jeez are these bright, fit them first THEN check it works after you've put the marquee on. I'm bound to get a lot of bleed over onto the screen from the light, so Ill probably fill the area just above the screen, where the slant is on the box, with a piece of solid black perspex, its lighter and can be put on with a hot glue gun helping to reduce the weight, If I get really cocky I might get a blue LED strip, raise the arcade slightly on some rubber feet and have and LED strip around the base.
So that's my shopping list, I reckon all in its cost about £150, but worth paying out for a decent screen, solid buttons and if I'm going for Hyperspin, a small but quite powerful PC that can handle it.
So lets get building!
1. Rip it/Strip it
I started by dismantling the iCade with an Allen key and proceeded to remove the stickers/panels that are on the case, the front panel of the control panel peeled off easy, its just a sticker, but the side panels take a bit of work, take your time and use a sharp knife to get under it and peel slowly, it may come off in big chunks, it may come off in bits, you'll get there, after that I sanded it to remove some of the rough top layer, I may spray it but the sticker-bomb went on OK without spraying, so the DK panels should too.
2. Screw it!
Once the iCade is undone the control panel needs to be sorted, flipping the unit over there are 16(!!!!) screws in it, including two security screws, if you've ever dismantled an Xbox 360 to do an RROD fix, you should have a torx screw set big enough for these screws, take them off and bin them, dont bother putting them back on, 16 screws is overkill, Ive managed it with just 8 after fixing back up.
Next is to remove all the buttons from the case and the cables etc from the joystick and buttons, and remove the PCB board thats inside, as Im using a zero-delay board I dont need it, so rip and chuck, there is however an LED that goes on the Coin Slot which attaches to the board, keep that it may come in handy (it can go on the ZD board in the 5v slot and light when the computer is powered up - USB Power - huzzah!).
The arcade buttons are quite long, and the black rings that surround them are tight to the next one, eventually they all just twist out. and you can either keep the rockers that come with it or bin em, Ive kept them but got rid of the old buttons and kept a few of the rings in case I decide to use on any illuminated buttons.
3. Just slap a bumper sticker on it!
Its worth noting at this point that I said I wasn't going to install any stickers until I was done, I was a bit apprehensive here in that I need to install the control panel stickers before I mount the new buttons, it'd be too fiddly otherwise having to cut around the buttons, so a quick 15-20 min job laying down the sticker and using a sharp knife cut out rough holes, the buttons themselves will cover any discrepancies as they're pushed in. BUT, the sanwa style buttons are that teeny bit too big to go in the holes, so a quick job with a multitool to sand out a larger circle fixed that issue, then they pop in, as said the stickers and large size of the button cover any discrepancies, but it doesnt look like there is, YAY
I also needed to affix the front panel as I planned to drill and didn't want to be messing round later with further holes, so put it on, mark up and drill, which takes me on to.......
4. Mr. Driller
I also needed to add a couple of extra holds on the CP in order to create my Start/Select/Coin/Player one buttons, I'm only using two but when in an emulator they will simulate what I need, so I've drilled 2 24mm holes into the CP to allow the buttons to be mounted, this I needed to do quite early as it was a pain to do previously, I did it last time when the buttons where all in place and it wasn't fun trying to be careful not to drill into one of the buttons inside, so I'll do it this time whilst the case is empty.
It was also a good time to create an additional 3 holes, one 24mm hole on one of the side panels, and another just inside the CP for the cable for that button, this didn't need to be anywhere near 24mm, but needed to be in the right location on the CP to marry up. And a small hole for the power button which Ill make a decision on its location later, probably on the opposite panel.
Again with the holes Im making I may need to make them that fraction bit bigger, so 25mm in this case, so the buttons slot in ok. Now that I know this it wont be met with the same kind of fury as the CP buttons.
5. P-p-push it real good!
Assemble all the buttons as per the corresponding details on the Zero-delay board, you can then test out the buttons using the calibration on the PC once plugged in via USB, after its calibrated, screw it all back up, keeping the side panel cables out of the hole, no need to connect it to the side panel until we're rebuilding just yet, just test it works and then unplug it for now and set aside.
If you decide to calibrate it on a Raspberry Pi, you can just do it in game, and set it that way, so do it by console, press TAB or F1 I think whilst in game to bring up the sub menu, this is on RetroPie if using that particular emulator suite.
6. Build me up, buttercup
I reassembled the iCade minus the control panel for now, initially I'd put a base in to hold the PC, but it was too tight a fit with all the cabling etc, but at least with it in place its helped distribute the weight when the PC gets mounted, but I had a new dilemma where to put the PC and still keep it streamlined, the PC itself is really small no bigger than a dinner plate so its footprint is really small, and its quite light too.
The best way I found was to mount it against the back panel of the iCade, using a small bracket screwed onto the panel, it was easy to find a way to mount it, 3M frame strips! as I planned with the screen I placed the strips quite strategically on the rear of the case, then straight onto the panel, the bracket holds it in place nicely, whilst the strips keep the PC from moving, I decided to leave the strips attached overnight to give a good adhesive stick then removed it, no issues here, and Ive got enough room to put in the cables where I need them (4x USB, HDMI and Power).
Other sections that I need to add in are the two metal brackets that will hold the marquee, I glued the marquee on, rather than trying to be fancy, one idea was to use magnetic strips but I didn't think it would take the weight of the acrylic(it didn't, just that bit too heavy) so glue it is! I used a hot glue gun to just cover the bracket in and round it, it'll dry clear so less shadow on the marquee when its lit, I also need to figure out where the LED strip will go, I originally was holding it up myself and trying to judge a distance that would give light right across the marquee, but I needn't have worried as the gap between the back panel and the marquee is about 10cm which is more than enough, its got an adhesive strip on it, so it went on quite nicely, I drilled a small hole for the USB cable to go in, more of a recess really to let it sit on, the cool thing about the iCade is the top lid flips up, so that gives me some working space rather than having to guess and virtually work inside the case. I also need to add in the black acrylic to get rid of any bleed from the light in case it impairs on the screen, or use wood whatever.
edit, this actually worked out better than I thought, I definitely needed to put something under the marquee to remove the light bleed, as it may spill over onto the screen and I don't want that. as its just a home project Ill use a piece of cardboard and spray it black, but for other projects i.e custom making for someone I'd use wood or solid black perspex.
edit - It didnt bleed over, but looks odd so Ill pad it with a proper piece of perspex.
7. I'm running out of quirky titles!
The screen is dead easy, just connect it up, and use the slot that normally holds the iPad to house the cables, they just go in to the bottom and into the underside of where the PC is, that way I can just connect directly to the control board, then to HDMI, it uses separate power supply to the PC, which is a pain but what can you do?
Adding the two pieces of wood to either side of the panels allows me to mount the screen easily, much like I did with the PC stick on, slap on, game on.
8. Speak up if you have another quirky title for this one!
I also needed to add in the speaker, as its going to sit behind the screen, one problem is that the slot I mentioned that holds the iPad's needs removing, on the first attempt this was moulded on so needed a hacksaw taking to it, on the DK version this was screwed on so it screwed off and gave me the gap I needed, and with this version the speakers can face out rather than up and be behind the screen, so a little bonus there and the cables can fit down the holes
9. OK Computer
I now need to get the PC ready to use, opening it up is a doddle, it has 1 screw (as opposed to the 16 on the Control Panel!!!) and a quick snap open and Im in, I needed to remove the power button and replace with an on off switch, this was a bit of trial and error as it didnt tell me what one related to the power switch, eventually I found it and it was ready to go, although sacrificing 2 USB slots its worth it to not have to keep powering on with a power switch in the back, keeps it all nice and neat.
Now that I've done that, I need to go back to the computer and create a shell that loads directly into Hyperspin and not give me all the windows start up screens, this reduces load times and makes it feel more arcade like and less like a home PC with an arcade strapped to it. you get the idea.
Hyperspin itself, well what can I say, its a pain in the arse if you get it wrong, but get it right and its perfect, you cant really go wrong if you follow Simply Austins Hyperspin video tutorials on YouTube, he even gives you most of the stuff you need like artwork and files and stuff, just get the emu's and roms by other "means". If you're after the full hog, Id recommend signing up to emu-movies and hyperspin to get all the arcade artwork, and videos, it really does make a difference to your setup.
The hardest part I initially faced was setting up the joystick, I was happy with how the buttons went, but I just couldn't escape the game from the emulator through Hyperspin, turned out I had joy2key and xpadder both installed and they were conflicting, with that out of the way I'm happy and ready to get the games, install, get the game art and videos and set up the PC as above.
Once done, its ready to rock, assemble it and its done, dead easy!
Also I wanted to get rid of any Windows startup screens so I downloaded and installed AutoSheller, changed a couple of the image files that are in the folder to all black images and pressed start, it then reboots and clears everything off without having to go through the registry details and stuff, and does it all for you.
So now it boots as a black screen for about 25 seconds and then loads direct into Hyperspin, job done.
10. Lets Get Together
I'm not going to teach you how to suck eggs and explain how to fit a vinyl to something, you just do it, the vinyl I've received is really strong, so just take your time and you'll avoid any bubbles so now I've put everything together and lets face it, it looks ace, just a few cosmetic touch and tidy ups, but other than that I'm really happy with the outcome.
Ill post a couple more pictures of the completed arcade and the Donkey Kong one once I finish it up and the new screen arrives.
I hope you've enjoyed this as much as Ive enjoyed making it, as I said more pics to come, but any comments are defo welcome and Ill answer as many questions as I can.