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#1
MoMetal

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Over the summer I built my own awesome computer for the very first time. It was mainly constructed with the help of this forum, so for that, thank you :) So that tinkering itch was scratched... temporarily. Now I have a new vision in my head and again I'm coming to you guys for guidance. I did a search and didn't really find anything on this so maybe this is a refreser to the normal "Building a computer, please give me your input" threads.

"I'm building an Arcade Machine, please give me your input"

I'm at the very basics right now. Planning out the cabnit design, which type of monitor to use, sound placement, control route, yata yata yata. Basically what I'm hoping to get from you guys is your strategy for building a computer only for running arcade games. Now, the library's over 1500 games but they're mostly 1980's era. I can't afford to buy the ones that aren't given free yet (and I'm wanting to keep this copyright legal if I can). I mainly want your input so I'm not killing a fly with a bazooka. I want it to run fast but I know it doesn't require a quad core processor, as much as I would like to say that I run pac man on one :)

So have at it, give me your opinion on what kind of system would be solid enough to do this.
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#2
Neil Jones

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Arcade machines are generally designed around the games they are meant to play. They're effectively totally unique set-ups. Technically they're computers as well but they don't work in the same way as the one you used to write your message.

These days of course we're in an era where the machine owner can effectively swap the ROMs out to make the machine play something else and apparently they're collectable.

Do be advised that just because a game is 20 years old doesn't mean it's not still copyrighted. The name of the company on the packaging may no longer exist but the rights will be owned by somebody somewhere, they don't just disappear. As an example, one of the biggest games going in the late 1980s/early 1990s was the computer game Lemmings. Everybody knows the game but the company who developed Lemmings, DMA Design, is now part of Take Two Interactive under their Rockstar North umbrella. Prior to this they were part of Gremlin who were taken over by Infograms who sold DMA Design to Take Two. They're now best known for Grand Theft Auto. Lemmings' publisher, Psygnosis, is now part of Sony.
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#3
MoMetal

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Don't get me wrong, this computer is just a desktop computer running ROM's. However, dated games, while still having a copywrite, are often "released" by their publisher with a green light to use either free or with a small fee. For example, Williams games used to sell a bundle package of their ROM's for like $10. They no longer sell the bundle and offer their ROM's free. A little google searching and you can play Defender on your computer without havning to look over your shoulder for "the man".

So again, this is just a computer runing a Mame program, which through my own limitations, will only use ROM's that I've gotten the ok to use. The computer will be in the cabnit and I'm going to use a I-Pac chip to bind the keystrokes of the control pannel to the computers keyboard. Sounds either going to be run through the computer via speakers or a TV if i use that for the monitor. I've found a few programs to disguise the start up on the computer to mimik that of an old school arcade machine and then go directly to a selection screen of the included ROM's.

It's not so much "how do I build it" but really whats essential and how cheap can I go without loosing a nice speed to run alot of 8 - 16 bit games. For example, I know those games are mostly going to feed off the CPU, but being from the 1980's anything 2.3 pent 4 and up should be plenty... I think.

Edited by MoMetal, 16 September 2008 - 03:12 PM.

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#4
Troy

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This sounds like fun!

I've always wanted to build my own arcade gaming machine for car racing games - in effect, like a F1 car. I'm sure you've seen examples around where you sit in the racing seat and use a steering wheel and pedals...

If this beast is only going to be playing those old games, you've got to think that back then processing power was basically non-existent. So even the most cheapest box should do the trick. A Pentium 4 sounds like massive overkill... and yet you'd be hard pressed to find anything less these days!

Have a look at this - I'd be tempted to try and build the system around it. :)

Cheers

Troy
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#5
Troy

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Case
Mobo/CPU/Video
HDD
DVD
RAM

Subtotal: $200.95
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#6
MoMetal

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That lil'mobo is awesome and would be perfect if I can locate an adequatly priced arcade monitor (and risk electrocution) or old tube monitor. However, its most likely I'm going to need to use a tube TV with an s-video plug and a power-return (so the tv comes back on by itself when I cut the power on and off). This will require a videocard with a s-video out. I could be looking at it wrong but I don't think I can put one on that mobo.

I love the price of that build, and its definatly in the right direction and I appreciate it :)


Oyeah, and I do know what you mean about the racing cabnits... Actually the wife got all excited and asked if I could make one of those for her when I get this one finished. To be honest it wasn't the normal "sigh, grunt grunt stupid <insert project> grunt grunt" I normally get and took me a little off guard. Kinda makes me wonder if there's a new dent in the car she's holding off telling me about.
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#7
Troy

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Is this any helpful? I've never seen it before (or heard of that brand), but if it does what it says... :)

Although I'm not sure about what TV to get... I'd be tempted to just buy a new monitor with it instead... But that wouldn't be true to the "old-school" feel, I guess.

And I suggest you go check out your car panels! :)

Cheers

Troy
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#8
Troy

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And don't forget you'll probably need to order an extra SATA data cable, it looks like the motherboard combo only comes with one, and I've given you two SATA devices.

Troy :)
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#9
warriorscot

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There is no reason you couldn't update the old Arcade machine with an LCD, if it has a glass front it wouldn't be so noticable and some of the old arcade games didn't even use tubes like in a TV. Also you could even replace buttons with a small touch screen LCD to let you play more games with the original or custom button configs, no reason a 1980 concept can't get a 2008 revamp. Maybe stick in a trackball to play some classic PC games as well, I also heard of a Linux distro that had a front end for using in arcade game cabinets.

Also Neil copyright law varies by some countries many including our own have limits placed on copyright that it wouldn't matter if anyone owns the rights the original games can be out of copyright and free to play. Depends on where you are and most of the arcade games have been taken out of copyright or open sourced so there is plenty of choice for games you can even play them online they aren't all like that but most of the good ones actually are free to play at the least.

It won't take a powerful PC to run the roms, you could get something and have it cooled nice and passively so it doesn't have any spinning fans to ruin the effect.

If its in a proper cabinet you should have plenty space for a full sized system, maybe one of the really cheap AMD based systems would be a good start and cannibalise a cheap case for mounting the motherboard and drives to the cabinet.
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#10
MoMetal

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Theres a couple reasons why I want to stick to tube tech tv's instead of an LCD. One is the issue of the light gun that is a must for the "Frankin-panel" control board. If I get my hands on actual light guns from Time Crisis or House of the Dead or even Operation Wolf, they aren't compatible with a LCD screen. However if I can't get those I know theres a few good guns for computers that are LCD friendly (and they're cheaper). So like alot of things on this project its a "I'll do ____ if ____ happens".

However, the other reason is scaling. LCD's tend to be widescreen in the size I'm wanting, not to mention expensive. Most of the games I'm using "fit" better on an old school 27" tube.

I agree that a face lift would be sweet, but really its going to come down to cost and availability. Although, the more I dig into this I can see it's addictive nature. There probably wont be just one :)

Edited by MoMetal, 18 September 2008 - 05:30 AM.

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#11
warriorscot

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Have you thought about a projection based system, they were actually not uncommon in older arcade machines and they still use them now. With a projector you could also vary the screen size or even make it so that the cabinet can be quickly modified to project a huge image on the wall behind it, and projectors are allot cheaper now and you can either use a screen to project images from behind or in front.

In terms of light guns I would get a more up to date one and then rip out the guts and stick them in a time crisis or house of the dead exterior either an original or get a replica made up and paint it. If you can get a 3d model of the old guns there are companies that can make you the shell using a rapid prototyping device and there are actually quite a few places that will actually have RPD/3d printers so you might know someone with one that could do it. A modern light gun would also make it compatible with modern games so if you got fed up with arcade games you could switch over to playing some PC games with it. Personally though I would like to see light guns fitted into airsoft frames that more resemble the real weapons and are a bit easier to use, not that that is ever a problem my marksman days mean I always kick [bleep] at shooting games.

I don't see why the light guns would be incompatible, my understanding of the way light guns work is either they work by detecting the IR position using a fixed reference point ala sensor bar in the wii and the return signal is processed by the gun or the light beam is registered on a glass panel that allowed sensors to detect where the hit was on the glass. Either way works with an LCD and there seem to be allot of people using LCD in arcade machines without problems, there were probably unique variations on how different games used light guns but I can't think of a way that would actually mandate the use of a tube. Also LCDs are dead cheap especially if you are only getting a 720p one, they are widescreen but you can mount them side on and use a resolution so that the screen becomes effectively 27" 4:3. The LCD would work just as well as a tube in some cases given that arcade machines used tubes that were very different from the ones used in televisions and hooking up a PC to an old CRT telly is an absolute pain and never comes out quite right in my experience.
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#12
MoMetal

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Traditional light guns for CRTs since the Super Scope use submicrosecond timing of blue and green phosphor flicker, which when correlated with the timing of the horizontal and vertical blanking of the composite or luminance video signal gives position. Even older light guns that rely on intensity, such as the Zapper, might get confused by LCD's slower response and lack of flicker.

However, there are some really cool new lightguns that are LCD and projector friendly (they're also cheaper). These use the system like the wii remote where there's a sensor near the monitor that relys they way you're thinking about. The downside of guns like EMS Topgun and other lcd light guns is that you have to stand a good distance back for them to function correctly (around 4 feet). In the cabnit that's somewhat of a stretch. Though seeing as these guns are only $40 and modeled after a sweet looking berreta, I'm probably going to give these a shot first regardless of what monitor I choose.

Lol, I'm thinking our definition of cheap is a tad different though. The cheapest 27"ish LCD at 720p I could find was $400. A flat CRT is $250, though the difference in comp build price for one to run a card with s-video may eat that difference. But again, it's all relative and I'm loving all the options you're throwing at me.

Now if I really wanna turn everything upside down, a half cabinet with a nice control panel enclosing the projector shining across the empty wall in my garage sounds like a fun project too. Maybe that'll be next summers project :)
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#13
Troy

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Well that motherboard does have a single PCI slot, not sure if you were planning on using it for anything. If not, you could add this to your build and solve the S-video problem:

http://www.newegg.co...N82E16814161011

Cheers

Troy
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#14
warriorscot

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What a weird way to get a light gun to work, but then again I suppose it was a long time ago. The range on light guns will vary some will work very close to the sensor bar and some don't even use a sensor bar and take on screen cues fairly similar to what the old arcade machines did but a little bit simpler and LCD friendly, but IR is the primary type now for use with a bar as they are much cheaper and more reliable and accurate. Newer arcade machines either use a gyro system or IR depending on the game, gyros have the advantage you can add in player movement like leaning but they need to be calibrated for someone standing in one position so you need to mark out where to place your feet and they cost allot more money. On the older guns the flicker is there in many LCDs but its different from in a CRT in that its technique called dithering and would probably make the light gun go a bit whacky.

You don't necessarily need a new LCD you can get second hand for cheaper, and like I said you can back project and you can get projectors dead cheap now even for quite good ones and like I said you can back project onto a screen and it should work fine inside a cabinet as long as its sealed to prevent light getting into the cabinet from behind.

You could always cannibalise a Wii, it has all the parts you need and you can make it run allot of games from the arcade days.
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