How To Build a MAME Arcade Machine

Building a MAME machine allows you to play multiple classic games in the privacy of your own home. A person who wants to build his own arcade machine must consider the cabinet, and the computer hardware that he will use for his cabinet.

The Computer

Most computers made after 2005 will have hardware that surpasses the original hardware of the equipment of the original coin operated video game machines. A do-it-yourselfer does not need to use a Windows computer, but the best front end loader programs are made for Windows machines. Most arcade ROMs run without problems on a 1.6 GHz computer.

Other Electronics

Home arcade cabinets require other electronic devices in order to run properly. A cabinet builder needs a television set; a special PCI card that allows you to use the television set as a computer monitor; a joystick platform that plugs into the game card or the USB slot of the arcade cabinet's computer, and a surge protector to protect your investment. Arcade cabinets also need a bevel to place the monitor for the arcade cabinet. The joystick controls should be purchased as a single unit.

The Cabinet Itself

Arcade cabinet builders choose to build the cabinets from plywood or a similar material. This part requires power tools. A MAME arcade cabinet builder can follow preset patterns or draw out his own patterns. He can also, if he so chooses, place a lighted marquee to complete the genuine arcade machine look. The easiest solution involves buying pre-cut molded plastic and placing it onto the cabinet. Arcade cabinet builders can buy a pre-built cabinet or an old coin operated video game case to use for the purpose.

Arcade Cabinet Software

A home arcade machine that runs off of a personal computer needs several pieces of software. The most important software is the emulators. For a machine that allows you to play the classic arcade games, you will need MAME. If you wish to run Nintendo and Sega Genesis games in addition to arcade games on your cabinet, you will need emulators capable of running the ROMs for these systems. The ROMs contain the original software that ran on the machines. The emulators interpret this code so it can run on a computer.

Concealing Windows

Seeing the tell tales signs of Windows or another popular operating system ruins the true arcade experience. Setting up a front end loader can solve this problem. Most front end loaders are free ware that allow the user access to a user defined list of ROMs on the machine. (The user can download many of these programs.) Atomic FE and GameEx offer excellent front loaders for Intel computers running the Windows operating system. The ideal set up does not let players know that the games are really being run on a computer, rather than an actual coin operated video game.


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