I love seeing this sort of thing

The Internet is jam-packed full of blogs, fansites, and small networks fighting to carve out their space and find an audience. The downfall of many of these sites, however, is that they tend to regurgitate the same old news or the same old arguments. There are many exceptions, and a fellow BYOAC forum user directed me over to a prime example of a site whose staff is passionate about their covered topics.

The site is small, and there isn’t a lot of content thus far, but what is there provides for a good read. They aren’t in it for the chance to score a few ad bucks, and they aren’t dreaming of becoming the next mega site. The guys over at Before the Dark Times are sharing their experiences in entertainment media (mostly related to Star Wars) and allowing their excitement for the hobby to show right through. Here are two little pieces I particularly enjoyed:

A BtDT author grabbing an Asteroids arcade cabinet: here

The same author picking up a Ms. Pac-Man; one of my favorite arcade games ever made: here

Donkey Kong Arcade Cabinet Restoration

Lately I’ve been getting into arcades again. For the past year I’ve been consumed by them. I can’t pass even the junkiest looking cabinet without approaching it and checking it out. After selling my Bubble Bobble this morning, I decided it was time to get working on my Donkey Kong cabinet. The cabinet is in 100% working order, it just needs some TLC to get back to mint condition.

Step one was general cleaning. I got some of those nifty Mr. Clean Magic Erasers to cut through random grime and tough spots, and just a wet rag and some soapy water for the rest.

After cleaning up everything, I had to replace the marquee light and get the monitor in better working order. Fixing the marquee easy. I just picked up a replacement from The Home Depot for $10 and that took care of that. The monitor image had faded pretty badly, but there wasn’t any burn-in. To make it look new again, I ordered a cap kit from The Real Bob Roberts. There were about 30 capacitors to replace on the monitor board, and it was quite the undertaking (for me) to replace them. Today, I installed the kit, and the results were spectacular. Check out the comparison pics below:

Capacitors (the blue cylindrical things):


Mid-way through. I had to go back and fix some mistakes after the first attempt. Notice the distortion on the left of the screen and some odd colors:

After (bluriness is due to long exposure time) It looks brand new!

And to think that the magic all happened here…on a crappy old card table in a small area of my garage. Not the most professional place to work, but it’s all I had.

Here’s my list of what I have left to do. I’ll provide updates as I make progress. Since I have trouble finding large blocks of time to dedicate to the machine, updates will be sporadic. By the end, however, it should be an enteraining read. So, here’s what’s left to do:

  • Remove the old, damaged sideart
  • Order replacement joystick (it works now, but it’s worn)
  • Repaint the cabinet and replace the t-molding (white trim around the cabinet)
  • Replace the joystick, buttons, stickers, and control panel overlay
  • Replace the sideart
  • Invite friends over to play!

Selling an arcade cabinet…hard to let go

tr.v. ca·thect·ed, ca·thect·ing, ca·thects
To invest emotional energy in (a person, object or idea).

I’ve never really liked selling my videogame stuff, no matter how little I used it. Eventually, however, I learned to be a bit more budget-minded with my hobby, and I was forced to start unloading some of my collection.

Lately, I’ve been getting into arcade collecting and restoring. While it’s not the world’s most expensive hobby, it costs just enough that you’ll eventually have to start flipping some of the cabinets you pick up in order to get new ones. Today, I was able to get over my emotional attachment to the first cabinet I ever purchased: a Bubble Bobble game in what I thought was a repainted Pac-Man cabinet. The game is one of my all-time favorites, and a hit with the wife. I picked up the cabinet initially because I was going to gut it, and use it to make a dedicated Pac-Man. Upon closer inspection, however, I found that the cabinet was an old Rally-X cabinet, and not a Pac-Man cab. For me, a bit of a purist, it wasn’t going to cut it. I stripped the paint off the cabinet, repainted it, and made it a pretty nice Bubble Bobble cabinet. Upon sharing this with the BYOAC community, I found that the Bubble Bobble game was in high demand. While I was a fan, I felt that maybe I should put the cab into the hands of a true enthusiast.

So just after work I met with the man who will be picking my cabinet up Saturday morning. He played the machine, admired it’s clean and solid condition, and offered me $300. While I could get more for it, he seemed so happy to have found the game he’d been looking to own since the mid-80’s. I did turn a $100 profit on the deal, but it was the exchange itself that was so satisfying. I’m sad to see it go, but I guess it’s part of the hobby.

The extra money is going to go into restoring a Donkey Kong cabinet that I picked up locally. I’ll post pictures of that process as it comes along.

MAME cabinet project update – 3.19.2007

So I’ve made some significant progress since my last update, so here’s what I’ve done.

Primed and painted control panel

Looks pretty, no? Here I’ve cut out the vinyl control panel overlay, installed the buttons, joysticks, spinner, trackball, and plexiglass covering.

Here’s the printed marquee. It looks wonderful backlit. I’ll post pics of it lit up later down the line.

Here’s the control panel completely assembled and wired. The monitor in the background is just being used for testing purposes. Later this week I’ll get it running through the 27″ TV set that will be in the cabinet.

More updates are on their way!

A few arcade building resource pages

Lately my posts have been pretty heavily focused on the arcade and MAME scene, but that’s because I’m inching ever so closer to the completion of my own MAME cabinet. I’ll get back to “normal” posting habits soon, but for now you’re all going to have to live with my arcade fascination.

If anybody out there is interested in either restoring an old arcade cabinet, converting a cabinet to a MAME cab, or building a cabinet from scratch, there are a few sites that you’ll want to check out beforehand and continue to visit throughout your project.

BYOAC Forums – These forums are home to the finest arcade builders/restorers/MAME wizards out there. They can answer any question that is related to arcade building, playing, or emulating. Many vendors of arcade parts are active on this forum daily and you can buy direct from trusted sellers. Do not attempt to get into this hobby without registering on this forum and visiting it at least semi-daily for quite some time. Also, before ordering from any retail websites, check to see if any BYOAC member resellers have the product in stock first.

RetroBlast! – This is a great resource for arcade building enthusiasts. You can find all sorts of product reviews, interesting write-ups, and many videos of arcade components in action. Many of your buying choices will be swayed by this site and its wealth of info.

GroovyGameGear – This site sells arcade components, encoders, accessories, and related items. RandyT, of the BYOAC forums, is one of the most helpful and trustworthy guys you’ll come across in the industry. I simply can’t express how awesome the products and service offered by GGG are. Whatever you can buy from GGG when building your cab that is available elsewhere, make sure to go with GGG.

Mame Marquees – Scott, of Mame Marquees, is a very helpful member of the arcade enthusiast community. On his site, you’ll find replicas of classic and modern arcade marquees, side art, and control panel overlays. Also, you can have your own art printing for your cab. If you are artistically challenged, Scott will also design something for you if you provide him with specifications and an idea of what you’re looking for. All products are of the highest quality and the service is excellent.

T-Molding.com – T-Molding.com sells t-molding and accessories to give your arcade cabinet a nice looking trim and to help protect your corners from dents and dings. Colors that have been matched to classic cabinets are available for restoration projects.

Ultimarc – Ultimarc, like GroovyGameGear, provides high quality products matched with great service. Andy, the site’s owner, is another active member of the BYOAC community.

Knievel Kustoms – If you want to see some truly inspirational projects, check out Brad’s (knievel of BYOAC fame) work on his website. Brad also sells control panel kits that are of the highest quality and craftsmanship you’ll find anywhere. For Brad, it’s about art as much as fun.

Local Arcade – Local Arcade has vector graphics of arcade artwork and characters. This is an extremely valuable resource when it comes time to design your control panel artwork, marquee, and side art.

SlikStik – While often criticized for slow or inconsistent customer service, SlikStik has some of the coolest arcade accessories on the market. While pricey, their products are rock-solid and will definitely turn the heads of anybody that enters the room.

Nieman Displays – Rick Nieman is one of the most passionate monitor builders out there. The customer service offered by Nieman is unmatched and they work hard to get you the best deal possible.

There are many other useful and informative sites out there that can make your arcade building project much more enjoyable. However, the most useful tool you’ll find is actually offline. Before you buy a single thing, make sure to pick the Project Arcade book, written by John St.Clair. This book provides a wealth of information and is entertaining to read. It comes with a companion CD that will also give you some free utilities, cabinet building plans, and links to lifesaving resources. You can find the book on Amazon.com and it’s well worth the money.

MAME project update

So I’m really moving forward with the arcade cabinet building and I’m starting to see it come together. Here are a few pics of the latest achievements:

Getting the control panel box assembled:

Making sure everything fits before moving forward:

The inside of an old Mortal Kombat II cabinet that had been converted to NFL Blitz. I’ll be stripping this out Saturday and giving away the parts to members of the BYOAC community.

The 27″ Samsung TV I’ll be using as my monitor. I’ve had to de-case it to get it to fit into the cab. I’ll be using the component connections coming out of a Radeon 9800 video card. I had to order a DVI –> Component adapter from Newegg, and it’s scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Priming the control panel box. I’m using an oil-based primer that’s been tinted. The final finish is a black semi-gloss paint. The oil-based primer will “seal” the wood so that the final coats aren’t absorbed by the MDF (medium density fiberboard) that my control panel box is made out of.

Here’s the vinyl overlay that will cover the top of my control panel. It will sit between the wood and my plexiglass cover. The vinyl looks speckled in this pic due to some dust, but the actual product is just a shiny black. It should look sharp with my lighted buttons.

Tomorrow I’m going to start the finish coats on the control panel box and rip out the insides of the current arcade cabinet.

Here’s what’s left on my scratch list:

  • Assemble computer and install OS w/ front end software, emulators, and games
  • Clean out the inside of the cabinet
  • Assemble and wire the control panel
  • Secure TV into the arcade cabinet and set everything up through a one button power up solution
  • Order new T-molding for the control panel and arcade cabinet
  • Finalize my marquee artwork and send it off to be printed from Mamemarquees.com
  • Configure my emulation software and get everything hooked up
  • Have a bunch of friends over for the unveiling

It’s exciting to think that this long and costly project is finally coming to the point where I see the end before me. Once I’m done with this, however, I still have two more cabinets to work on. My job is paying me to build one for the office, and my brother is going to build another with my help. At least cabinets 2 and 3 will go much faster and will be paid by somebody else.

The Arcade Ambiance Project

Andy Hofle has going what he calls the Arcade Ambiance Project. Basically he drags audio recording equipment around to arcades, finds classic games, and gets to recording them. Later he mixes these sounds, including stuff like coin door returns, to make audio tracks that sound like an arcade would have during it glory days. There are a few tracks available on the his website and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the once lively arcade scene.

See the Arcade Ambiance Project here: http://arcade.hofle.com/

UPDATE: Apparently Avril Lavigne has take notice of the project herself. Her new video uses a sample from Andy’s 1983 track at the opening of her video. See it, ugh, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M095u4YQfGY

The 30 arcade titles that kept my piggy bank empty

The arcade scene is dead and for the most part gone here in the United States and it’s a sad thing to see. There are tons of things that can be credited for destroying the coin-op industry, but I’d rather not go into it here. Instead, I’m going to list 30 arcade games that I enjoyed the most through the 80s and 90s. These aren’t necessarily the best arcade games of all time, or even my favorite arcade games of all time, but simply the ones that I dropped the most quarters into.

Coming up soon I’ll post what I feel are the best arcade games ever made, but for now, enjoy my little list of the ones that robbed me of the most quarters. The list is found after the jump.
Continue reading The 30 arcade titles that kept my piggy bank empty

I’m starting back up on my MAME cabinet

A while back I purchased and restored a dedicated Street Fighter II cabinet and I spent countless hours inside my garage perfecting my skills before moving the cabinet into my office at work. Ever since moving the cabinet out of my home, I have had an itch to get arcade gaming back into my home life. That itch led me to start building a MAME cabinet, but I didn’t get too far before I was sidetracked by work, school, other hobbies, and some personal medical issues. Things are a bit different now, however. I’m done with school, work is settling down a bit, and I’m over my medical problems. I’m ready to build again.

Hopefully by this weekend I’ll be able to pull out what I’ve done so far and get going again. I’ll post pictures along the way and keep a good log of my work so others can see if it’s a project they might be interested in themselves. To think that thousands of arcade games are only a few saw cuts, wiring projects, paint jobs, and computer hacks away…it makes my skin all tingly.