I loved going to the arcade as a child. Five dollars from my mother amounted to what seemed like a mountain of quarters. The Boardwalk Arcade (still there? still there.) in my hometown was the place most typical.
So I built a home arcade
It’s inspired by a fewdesigns on the internet but it’s more an original design. If someone really wants the plans I’ll take some exact measurements on request.
The goal of the project was to create a semi-portable arcade machine capable of playing most arcade games and cartridge based systems (Nintendo / Sega / Etc). While it would be a PC under the hood running windows, I wanted the OS to be as invisible to the user as possible with navigation and game selection done entirely through the arcade controls. I wanted it to look classy and not too out of place in a nice bar so I decided to stain it dark oak.
About 4′ x 4′ of Plywood
Flooring Plywood (very thin 1/8″ plywood generally used for underfloors)
Clear Lucite Acrylic Sheet
1″ Aluminum Angle Stock
2″ Gold Wood Screws
Pipe Hanger Strap (Plumber’s Tape)
16x Sanwa Style 30mm Arcade Buttons
2x 8-way Joysticks
1x Generic SPST Switch
4x Xbox 360 Wired USB Controllers
Jig Saw, Circular Saw, Standard Saw and Miter Box
3″ Hole Saw, 30mm hole saw, 28mm hole saw
Miscellaneous Hand Tools
Shuttle mini-ITX Donor PC
Dell Optiplex Power Supply
Core2 Duo Processor
80mm Fan and Grill
ATI HD5450 Low Profile Graphics Card
WiFi USB Dongle
Windows 7 x64
USB bus-powered speakers with 1/8″ input
USB bus-powered LED strip
Color Laser Printer
Stain with Polyurethane
I started by standing at the bar and seeing what felt right height-wise. I did some quick math on the height of the motherboard components (notably the video card and Processor Heatsink) and drew up some basic plans and got to cutting.
First I stained and poly’d all the wood so it would be well protected and easy to work with.
This took forever.
I chopped up the PC with an angle grinder, it was a Shuttle Mini-PC from some years ago. I saved the front of it, cut it apart, and mounted it on the back so there would be USB, power, reset and headphone jacks.
Just a jumble right now.
Rear Panel with power, reset, headphones and a few USB cords hanging out.
Bolted it to bottom of the Arcade, I used a power supply from an old Dell Optiplex I had laying around because it fit better (the photo above shows the old power supply, below is the better fitting Dell one).
See the dell power supply and HD mounted on the right side.
For the controls, I used a template based on the Sega Layout shown by slagcoin – minus 2 of the buttons on the far right. I put two extra buttons on the front for either start/select or to emulate inserting a coin and 1P / 2P start buttons.
Slagcoin was a great resource – these printable controller templates are just one of the great things they do.
To cut it, I taped the template on the wood and cut ~2mm deep with the 30mm hole saw. I then cut the rest of the way with the 28mm hole saw. This created a nice countersink for the button surround to sit in perfectly snugly.
The arcade buttons are relatively simple momentary SPST switches. They get a bit more complicated because each one has an LED that requires 2 more wires. The Joysticks are also simple banks of 4 SPST switches with diagonals signaled by being a combination of two directions.
OK getting better. See the white SPST switches in a pile on the right and the LEDs just above them.
They get wired up via header pins to a USB controller device that is seen by Windows as two 10 button gamepads. Getting all this to fit with the motherboard below was a bit of a stretch – or a crunch as you can see in some of the photos.
I added in a generic SPST red button to exit games that mounted on the LCD panel holder. it’s out of the way and discreet. It’s only purpose is to exit games and submenus.
What’s another hole in this thing?
Do. Not. Press.
I used a single very long wood screw (4.5″ I think) to secure the video card. I shaved the stress reliefs off the cables to make sure they would fit with the back on.
This video card is solid.
The monitor is a Dell 1705FP 17″ LCD Monitor I picked up off Craigslist from a nice gentleman for five bucks. It has a Digital DVI input which allows me to not worry about adjusting it. I discovered it would automatically turn on when power and/or display signal was applied, which was a win as I don’t want the user to ever have to do anything to turn it on other than push the power button.
Very low profile when the bezel is stripped – it was surprisingly well suited
Nearly flush mounted
I removed all the bezels around the monitor leaving the bare panel. I mounted it on the underflooring plywood by tracing it’s outline and cutting it out, then mounting some small pieces of scrap wood to hold it in place. I wired the power cable into the PC power supply to have one source of electricity for the unit.
How the monitor is held in.
The marquee is backlit by an LED strip that picked up on eBay for a few bucks. The LED strip is USB powered so it easily turns on and off with the arcade. The marquee border is 1″ aluminum angle stock from Home Depot, it was very cheap and it looks good and was easy to drill/cut. The marquee itself is acrylic sheeting from home depot sandwiching a logo just printed on a laser printer and cut to fit. I designed the logo in Photoshop.
This is the rear, the LED strip is center and held by zip ties
The speakers required some searching – it’s one of the few things I couldn’t source from spares lying around. I found speakers that are powered by a USB port (again, on and off with the arcade). They have a standard 1/8″ input which made it easy – Earise AL-101 is the model – they were on sale on Amazon. I mounted them behind the marquee and turned up the treble on the EQ in Windows to compensate them being behind the acrylic marquee. This worked surprisingly well to compensate.
Speakers held snugly in place with pipe strapping wrapped in black tape
I found the PC was overheating so I took a 3″ hole saw to the side and mounted up a standard case fan with a nice looking chrome grill. This fan pulls air in, which then the processor fan blows over the heatsink, followed by the power supply that has an exhaust fan. This creates a good crossbreeze inside the arcade and eliminated any issues with overheating.
Again, what’s another hole going to do?
I found that a permanent marker masked a lot of knicks and imperfections in the stain and edges – I would swipe the marker followed by a wet paper towel to blend it in quite effectively.
Here are some more photos of the build!
Windows 7 x64 seemed the clear choice for operating system. XP is missing a few features and doesn’t perform as well and Windows 8 has compatibility issues with some emulator software and doesn’t always like some resolutions and hacks that older emulators use to work properly.
Hyperspin is a front-end for that handles launching the correct software to play the selected game. It also handles showing artwork and videos of each game/system you have. Configuring Hyperspin is a massive undertaking and has a steep learning curve. I recommend you start with their forums and get involved with their community if your heart is in it. It’s very rewarding because nothing compares to it in terms of hiding the fact that it’s running on a PC.
Xpaddermaps gamepad buttons/movements to keyboard keys. this allows me to standardize keys across different emulators and allows me to easily control systems – with this virtual keyboard – that don’t support gamepads. It also allows me to double up controls so I can plug Xbox 360 controllers in and have them work as P1 and P2 (along with P3 and P4 with more controllers!)