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MAMEFrame - The battery-powered MAME system

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I love MAME .  What I don't love is moving MAME cabinets.  This project outlines the steps involved with building a MAME cabinet in a controller box, allowing it to be moved or stored.  In this project we will build a MAME controller that is self-contained, and battery powered.  I've broken it into sections so you can take this project as far as you want.

If you're asking yourself CAN I MAKE THIS the answer is yes!

It's pretty clear l'll never be a film maker or a photographer, but here's a quick video walk through.


Overview
Phase 1 - Building the controller
The hardest part of this whole project is building the plywood box, but if you're unable to do that, you can probably scavenge something that will work - an old chest, a toolbox, use your imagination!  In this phase, you will build a plywood box, attach a hinge, drill holes in it.  At the end of this phase, you will have a really cool, heavy duty, arcade style controller that can be connected to your laptop via USB.  Just skip steps 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8

Phase 2 - Adding the Raspberry Pi (AKA RPi)
If you choose to go this route, you will end up with a great controller that just needs power and a monitor (or external projector)- no laptop necessary!  Just skip step 4 and 7.

Phase 3 - Add the Projector - this is the finally step to make the whole system self-contained and wireless.  The RPi is powered from the projector, and the iPAC is powered off the RPi.  Of course the batteries have to be recharged eventually.

Disclaimer
1) As with everything, your mileage may vary.  I haven't tested all MAME ROMS on the RPi, and I've run into a few that seem to run slow.  It could be the ROMS, I'm not sure.  If you have specific games you want to play, perhaps try first with just an RPi and a keyboard and see what kind of performance you get.
2) I've been getting about an hour of play time out of a charge, but usually I shut it down after that.  I'm not sure what the total play time would be.  The projector is rated for two hours, but that doesn't account for the extra drain from the RPi.
3) I've done my best to list all the steps I can think of here, but it's possible I've missed something.  If that's the case, I'll do my best to add it once it's pointed out.
 
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Link20015 months ago
Cool! I'm looking to make something similar with my pi, but would the IPAC work with retropie, if you don't know, its like a MAME, but with SNES NES GB and GBA games?
NEIN, I followed your excellent instructable and am now the proud owner of a portable, wireless arcade console. I had a lot of fun working on it and even a newbie like me had no problems following the steps. Thanks for your work.
Unbelievably amazing!!!!!!! You should get an award for how detailed your instructions are and what a cool idea this is.
NEIN (author)  sheepsblood1 year ago
Thanks! I hope we see some other folks build this too!
tommyfun1 year ago
Very in depth, love it!
NEIN (author)  tommyfun1 year ago
Thank you! When I finished I was a little worried that it was too long, but I wanted everything covered, so I left it as is.
Wow vientos
NEIN (author)  esanjuro tadokoro1 year ago
Thanks!
ToolboxGuy1 year ago
Looks fun!
Not sure I'd embed the projector, as some players are a bit rough, and it's not great fun if the screen is bouncing.
Most of the ROMs that don't work well in MAME weren't designed all on the ROM. They had been manufactured with separate sound boards to generate the sounds, and not part of the "ROM" itself. It was a time of physical transistors and 16 pin chips - and the pinnacle of hardware at the time. Additionally, some of the ROMs being downloaded for MAME use could be corrupt images, given the hardware age.
NEIN (author)  ToolboxGuy1 year ago
Thanks! Yes, you need a stable surface to play it on. You could always put the projector outside and run the cables through the projector hole I guess. I did a few tests with mounting removable legs on the bottom, but I haven't found anything good enough yet.

I really love the original arcade machines. Brings back memories of a misspent youth!
I've wanted to make a wall mount version of this (sans Projector) to share with a wall mounted TV. Still haven't figured out a proper mounting for it, similar to your removable legs issue.
wanton1 year ago
Yes sorry left that part out :)
wanton1 year ago
shutdown -r now should reboot the system without having disconnect and reconnect the power. -r is for restart or reboot. -h is for halt.
NEIN (author)  wanton1 year ago
Excellent point - thanks for the tip! I believe the way this iso is configured, you may have to use sudo:

sudo shutdown -r now

Would that be correct?
ProfMuggs1 year ago
Great project! How well does MAME play on the Raspberry Pi?
NEIN (author)  ProfMuggs1 year ago
I don't cover it in this instructable, but there's also an option to run MAME4ALL in that RPi image. I haven't tried it, but from what I've read, it seems to be a bit more optimized for the RPi. https://code.google.com/p/mame4all-pi/
NEIN (author)  ProfMuggs1 year ago
I should probably run a comparison between the RPi and my laptop to say for sure. Most games are fine, but it feels like some of the more graphics intensive games may run a little slow, but that could just be my imagination. I've also noticed on some games, the audio is a bit distorted, but again, that could be the ROMS I'm using. For 90% of the games I've tried, it fine.