Building the 7e Arcade HD Prototype MAME Cabinet – Part 1

Half complete MAME Cabinet

The 7e Arcade HD MAME cabinet is my second arcade cabinet build. You can view my Atari 7800 Arcade Cabinet by clicking HERE. This cabinet is a much bigger and more complex arcade cabinet then my first.

Goals

The goals I want to achieve with this MAME cabinet will take some time and money to complete, so this will take several months to build. I want this machine to have the ability to emulate most arcade cabinet games and console games. In addition I will be able to play PC games that function well with the consoles control scheme.

The front end menu system I will use is Hyperspin, which will start after Windows has booted. This gives you an arcade look and sound while choosing your game.

Controls Included

  • 4 arcade quality joysicks with 8 buttons for player 1 & 2 and 6 buttons for players 3 & 4
  • 3 Pinball Buttons – Two for flippers and one for the launcher
  • Trackball
  • 2 Spinners
  • 2 Lightguns
  • 2 USB ports for game controllers and RockSmith guitar cable

Design

MAME Cabinet in Google Sketchup

MAME Cabinet in Google Sketchup

I began with the design stage of my MAME cabinet with some sketches on paper. With the help of my buddy Richard Boots converting it into Google Sketchup we finalized the design, size and features the cabinet would have.

Building the Cabinet

We began the project with two free pieces of 8’x4’x3/4″ MDF that we got from a bankrupt custom cabinet store. Our goal was to make the entire cabinet out of just these boards, but we ended needing an addtional 2’x4′ piece of MDF for the top control board.

3 - Sides

When we got to the point of tracing the cuts for the side panels we began to realize that what looks good in CAD doesn’t always translate well to the real world. The base of the cabinet was too shallow, so we streched it out to give the cabinet a more stable footing. This also caused us to change the angles on the bottom front of the cabinet so that the depth of the control panel would not change.

With all the lines traced we made a stencil and drew the other side on the same board in a ying yang fansion to optimize board useage. Next we made a rough cut on one of the sides so that we could make the final cut for both sides at the same time. This technique made both sides identical.

Half complete MAME Cabinet

Half complete MAME Cabinet

At this point the cabinet has really begun to shape up.

Prototype Control Panel

Mini Prototype Control Panel

Mini Prototype Control Panel

Richard and I created a small prototype control panel to wire up and test on my desktop PC to ensure proper functionality. This allowed us to test out the button layout and joystick placement before implementing the final design to the cabinet.

The final template is on the left.

The final template is on the left.

The final design is on the left shows the button layout I will be using. I will use this as a template to trace and drill out holes on the final control panel.

Planning the Layout

Planning the Layout

Above I am planning the layout. The buttons and Joystick in their final poisition, while the spray paint cap repristents the trackball and the Atari paddles are placeholders for the spinners. The Start, Coin and Function Buttons have changed location in the final layout.

This is as far as I have gotten with my MAME cabinet so far. Check back in a month or so and I will post part 2 with the progress of my cabinet.

Atari 2600/7800 Arcade Cabinet

Finished Atari 7800 Arcade Cabinet
Playing Space Invaders for the Atari 7800. Published by Atari Age

Playing Space Invaders for the Atari 7800. Published by Atari Age

This project began as a cabinet to house an Atari 2600 with a Harmony multi-game cartridge. While searching for a donor Atari 2600 unit I ran across an Atari 7800 to use as the brains and I couldn’t resist. This would allow for a larger library of games, but would make the build slightly more complex.

The Atari 7800 console was an underdog that never really got a fair shake against Nintendo. The 2 year delay of the console may have been the reason that Nintendo was able to get such a good foothold in the console market. This console was capable of graphics similar to the NES, but was lacking in the audio department due to the use of the TIA chip that was also used in the original Atari 2600. This can be overcome by adding a Pokey chip to the game cartridge itself, but this increased the cost of the game cartridge making it uncommon.

Changes

Because I used the Atari 7800 for the brain of the system I was able to include Atari 7800 in the library of games, but building in the paddles became to complex to permenitly wire into the system. In the future I would like to add a DB9 port to allow for the use of all Atari controls with this system.

Hardware Mods

I modified the Atari 7800 in several ways to make it feel at home in the arcade cabinet. I added an aftermarket component/s-video mod to remove the interferance that you typically get with the RF output. I also hardwired the Power, Pause, Reset and Select buttons to Arcade Quality buttons mounted just under the display. The front mounted power button allows for power cycling of the console to select a new game from the multi games cartridge.

Construction

This cabinet is my first real attempt at working with wood, so fortunatly I still have all my fingers. Since the completion of the project I have learned many skills, fixed old mistakes and I will be much more confident with my future wood working projects. *cough* MAME Cabinet *cough*

The primary building material in this cabinet is 3/4″ MDF, of which I have used two 8’x4’x3/4″ and a single 8’x4’x1/2″ boards. In addition I used 2×1 for screw strips  and 1/4″ piece of plexiglass.

Paint

4 - Painted

I have learned a lesson on the paint step of this project. Don’t use Latex Paint. It peels far to easy.  Otherwise the Onyx Black paintjob makes this cabinet look like the real thing. A temporary black mask has been added to the screen until the printed graphics show up.

Nearly Finished

Nearly Finished. Updates will include T-Molding, Decals and the addition of paddles or DB-9 ports.

Nearly Finished. Updates will include T-Molding, Decals and the addition of paddles or DB9 ports.

The Atari Arcade Cabinet is nearly finished. I plan on adding a few cosmetic updates to the cabinet. The first update I will make will be T-Molding, possibly black or Red. In addition I’m think about adding brushed aluminum with decals symilar to the orignal console system decals to the sides of the arcade.

Additional functionallity I would like to add would be built in paddles or DB9 ports that could accomadate additional controllers such as paddles, drive control or light guns. Finally I would like to add a coin slot that will function as the reset button. When these are added I will post an update.

Planned updates to the Atari 7800 hardware are planned as well. I have pre-ordered the Atari 7800 XM expansion module, which adds the ablility to save high scores, adds additional RAM and a Pokey sound chip. Also, I would like to add the Harmony 2 multigame cart to the system when it’s released.

The addition of the Harmony 2 cart will allow the cabinet to be used as originally designed, without having to swap out game carts for the 7800 games. Currently you can play all the Atari 2600 games from a single Harmony multi-game cartridge, but playing Atari 7800 games requires you to change cartridges. Because of this I have just left the back panel off. When the Harmony 2 is released this will become just a service panel.

Conclusion

This arcade Cabinet is capable of playing hundreds of classic Atari games. In the above gallery I have included pictures of the cabinet playing Classics such as Asteroids, Combat, Joust and Space Invaders. It will continue to hold a place in the family room for years to come.

Knights & Merchants Remake adds new life to an old game

Knights & Merchants: The Remake Multiplayer

Knights & Merchant is one of the games from my childhood that I will always remember.  Recently I had the itch to play again and discovered that it had be remade from scratch to improve compatibility, game play and fix problems that plagued the original game.

Knights & Merchants is an RTS style game with a complex economy and battle system.  The economy is much like playing a game of Sim City.  You must build multiple building for the merchant units that include farmers, bakers, blacksmiths and miners.  Each building and merchant depends on one another for food and supplies.  The Knights depend on the Merchants to produce their weapons and the serfs to feed them when they get hungry.  The Serfs moved around supplies, products and food to all the building and units in the game.

The fighting system in Knights & Merchants: The Remake is balanced and functions like the original.  Their is no technical limit to your army with the exception of available resources to build the needed weapons and armor.  Unlike most RTS games Knights & Merchants only have one civilization, so each player has the same advantages / disadvantages.

Both of the original single player campaigns are available in the Knights & Merchants remake.  The story remains unchanged and holds up very well with its age.  The tutorial has been improved and many bugs have been remedied with the complete rewrite of the engine.

Multiplayer has received the most significant improvement because they fixed the crippling multiplayer bug that caused the game to go out-of-sync, making the game unplayable in any condition.  The Knights & Merchants remake team has also included a dedicated server for both Windows and Linux.

To install Knights & Merchants: The Remake use must own the original Knights & Merchants: The Peasants Rebellion CD or purchase it DRM free at the GOG.com website at: http://www.gog.com/gamecard/knights_and_merchants_the_peasants_rebellion.  The Knights & Merchants: The Remake installer can be found at:  http://www.kamremake.com/download/.

I would personally like to thank the Knights & Merchants: The Remake team for all their hard work and attention to detail.  This game is a highlight in my childhood and they have made the memories better and now allow for me to battle my brother in a game of multiplayer without the horrible out-of-sync issue.

Bug Fixes:

  • Multi-player out-of-sync bug fixed

New Features:

  • Add a beacon with the new ‘B’ hotkey
  • Holding the “t” hotkey identifies plays units
  • Assign groups to number keys with ‘CRTL + 1, +2, +3, …’
  • New tutorial messages
  • Peacetime of up to 2 hours added to multiplayer games
  • Auto reconnect in multiplayer when server drops out of the game.
  • All standard resolutions are now supported, including HD resolutions.
  • Re-sizable chat window
  • New victory and defeat music
  • Music track shuffling
  • New stat screens
  • New icon when under attack
  • In-game map editor
  • Multiple language translations
  • Mutliplayer AI that build their town and fights is in the works
  • Windows and Linux dedicated servers

Free Game: Battlefield 1942 (2002)

Battlefield 1942 Box Art

Battlefield 1942 Box Art

Release Date: September 10, 2002
Publisher: Electronic Arts (aka EA)
Platform: Windows
Cost: Free
Download: Here

Battlefield 1942 is game that started EA’s most popular franchise, and it’s now available for free on the PC in celebration of the franchises 10th anniversary.

Battlefield 1942 is an on-line multiplayer FPS that takes place during WWII.  Singler player is available, but lacks a story line, decent AI and lacks anything resembling fun.  You can’t knock BF1942 for this because it was designed as a solely multiplayer game, at which it excels.

Battlefield 1942 allows players to battle up to 64 players per server as either an Axis or Allies soldier.  You can play as one of the following classes: Scout, Assault, Anti-Tank, Medic and Engineer.  You are able to control Jeeps, tanks, fighter planes, bombers, battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines.  The variety of weapons, classes and vehicles at your disposal allows for the highly dynamic multiplayer gameplay the Battlefield franchise is know for.

Your objective is to capture and hold “Control Points.”  Control Points act as a base for your team to spawn reinforcements and vehicles.  Hold as many points as possible until the timer runs out or the opposing forces run out of reinforcements.  Accomplishing this task requires teamwork, which was a often a  foreign concept in first person shooters at the time.

The graphics in Battlefield 1942 are dated, but the game play is as strong as ever.  Head over to the Origin website and download the original Battlefield now.

Xbox 720 Rumor Round-Up

Microsoft Xbox 360 Closeup

Microsoft Xbox 360 Closeup

The Xbox 360 celebrated it’s 7th birthday last week.  That’s quite a long life for a gaming console, and that means its time to get excited about the next generation of consoles.  Nintendo has already kick off the next generation of consoles with the Wii U, so everyone is waiting to see what the Xbox 720 and PS4 has to offer.  We have compiled all of the Xbox 720 rumors we believe have merit into one article.

CPU

The Xbox 720 is rumored to be powered by a 16-core IBM PowerPC, compared to the current generation Xbox 360 with a 3.2GHz Tri-Core PowerPC processor.  Although we don’t know the clock speed of the processor in GHz, the fact that the processor will have 16-Core means that game developers and gamers alike will have massive amounts of computing power for their Eighth Generation console games.

RAM

The Xbox 720 is rumored to contain 8GB of RAM.  This is a massive jump in memory compared to the Xbox 360 with 512MB of shared memory.  That is 16 times the memory of the Xbox 360.  Even if the 8GB of RAM the Xbox 720 will be graced with is shared that gives the developers a lot more room to store AI algorithms  textures, models and code to cram into the memory.

Optical Disc

The Xbox 360 was released too early to receive an HD disc format, and even still Microsoft put there money on an external HD-DVD drive.  We all know that HD-DVD lost the format war to Blu-Ray, but the Xbox 360 never got an HD optical storage disc in mid-life refreshes.  Will this generation of Xbox finally include Blu-Ray?

Rumor has it that the Xbox 720 will include a Blu-Ray Disc drive or not include an optical drive at all, but instead rely on downloaded content.   My money is on the Xbox 360 including at least a Blu-Ray Disc drive.  The shear power that will be packed into the Xbox 720 means that AAA games will require a massive amount of storage, and this would cause the gamers to wait an outrageous amount time before getting to play their games.  Microsoft is also pushing the Xbox as an all-in-one media center, so playing Blu-Rays would just add one more trick to its list.  At minimum I believe Microsoft will include a proprietary disc format based on the now defunct format of HD-DVD, but I believe this is unlikely.

GPU

The Xbox 720 is rumored to receive a AMD Radeon HD 7670 Series GPU which is seven times more powerful then the Xbox 360’s GPU.  This seems to be a little underwhelming compared to the massive jumps the CPU and RAM received.  This still puts the Xbox 720 graphics chip on par with the PS4’s rumored GPU, but will outpace the Wii U’s AMD Radeon HD 5670 by leaps and bounds.

Controller

The Xbox has had quite an interesting history with controllers.  Starting with the massive “Duke” controllers of the original Xbox, which ended up getting slimmed down in the S controller.  The Xbox 360 received it’s own controller based heavily on the privious generations S Controller.  The Xbox 720 is rumored to be getting an updated version of the 360 controller with a twist.

The rumor has it that the new controller will receive an HD touchscreen in the middle of the controller.  This will be similar to the Wii U tablet controller, but about the size of a Playstation Vita.  This is a welcome improvement in my book, as long as the near perfect controller formula doesn’t change to much.

Kinect 2.0

Xbox Kinect 2.0

The Kinect 1.0 was an amazing advancement in motion/controller-less gaming, and we are excited to see the next generation of the Xbox Kinect.  In addition to an updated Kinect sensor there has been rumor of Kinect glasses floating around as well.

Kinect 2.0 is rumored to support tracking of up to 4 players at a time with precise tracking of small movements like fingers.  How the new Kinect will pull this off is unknown, but may have something to do with the multiple Kinect sensors rumor.  As you can see in the picture there appears to be two separate Kinect sensors place on opposite sides on the TV.  Such a setup would give Kinect a better and wider view of the player(s), thus allowing improved tracking and 4 player support.

The above picture that was part of a 52-page leaked document above also shows the rumored Kinect glasses.  The kinect glasses seem to allow for multiple players to experience 3D virtual reality in games.  The prospect of having virtual reality in addition to controller-less control is exciting to say the least.  An additional perk the Kinect glasses allow for is multiplayer support taking screen looking out of the picture for same room play.

Conclusion

The Xbox 720 has some big shoes to fill, and if the rumors hold true the Xbox 720 will have no trouble doing so.  With a improved Kinect and Kinect Glasses powered by 16-Core processor, 8GB of RAM and a powerful AMD Radeon 7000 series GPU the 2013 holiday season will blow gamers away.

Free Game: Battlezone 1 (1998)

Battlezone 1 1998 Cover Art

Battlezone 1 1998 Cover Art

Release Date: February 28, 1998
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Windows

Battlezone got a refresh in 1998 as a FPS/RTS hybrid(aka Action-Strategy).  The genre combination sounds odd but worked out extremely well.  You play as a commander in the first person view, while building a base in a similar manner to other RTS on the market.  The game was released in 1998, but after shutting down the multiplayer servers Activision released the game under GNU license.  The game is available for free at: http://www.Battlezone1.com

Story

The story in based in an alternate cold war era universe in which the moon missions are a cover up for a much larger campaign.   The US and the Soviet Union have moved an entire military to space in the pursuit of a extraterrestrial material called “Bio Medal”, which had landed on earth via meteors.  This “Bio Medal” was created by an ancient alien civilization called the Cthonians.

Single Player

The single player is divided into two campaigns; one following the United States(NSDF), the other follows the Soviets(CCA) forces.  Throughout each mission you will build up your RTS style base, offensive and defensive units in attempt to defeat the opposing forces.

Multi Player

The multi player system includes two modes: Strategy and Deathmatch.  Strategy plays like the single player campaign and allows two or more players to collect resources, build units and the winner is determined by the last man standing.  Deathmatch gives two or more players a map with power-up to kill each other.  The winner is determined by the highest score.

Expansion pack

An expansion pack know as “The Red Odyssey” was released that featured the US, Soviets and Chinese.  This expansion contains an entirely new Single Player story arc pitting the Chinese Red Army forces against both their allies, the CCA, and their enemies the “Black Dogs”.  This expansion was also released under the open source GNU license, but has not yet received the compatibility updates for the latest versions of Windows that the original campaign has been given.

Whats new in the open source v1.5

  • Bug fixes
  • Windows compatibility updates
  • Multiplayer exploits closed
  • Xbox 360 controller support
  • Support for HD and widescreen resolutions

Conculsion

This classic games from the 90’s has held up very well over time, and to this day still has active players on the multiplayer servers.  The compatibility fixes for the latest versions of Windows made avaliable thanks to the fact that Activision released the source code under the GNU license.  The game play has also received small tweaks to improve game play.  Multi player exploits have been closed to make sure that Battlezone’s multiplayer afterlife is just as fun as the original.

Download

Both the original and Red Odyssey campaigns can be legally downloaded for free at: http://Battlezone1.com/downloads.index.htm

Screenshots