Single Status Update
My friend and I have been drilling and sawing for two weekends here, and we've got a basic frame down. I'm pretty good at eyeballing measurements, but that's no substitute for an actual workbench (which we don't have). We bought some stuff from a guy named Jack-- a semi-retired semi-grandfather guy who makes custom arcade cabinets as a hobby. He also had a buttload of priceless advice for us.
Here's what we have so far. We've been using scrap wood from around the house, which works just fine. You can see 2-by-4's in there, along with some MDF, or "ghetto plywood". It's dense, straight, and paints well. Jack tells us that not even most arcade cabinets don't have or need that kind of support-- but we'll need it, as we're winging it the whole way.
You can kind of see (no thanks to a crappy camera that can't do closeups) the master workmanship here. Crossbeams ahoy! We created a nice "cradle" for the display here, to angle it up and make sure it doesn't jiggle. We're trying to see if we can be economical and not have to buy extra wood, and so far it's looking good.
The workbench. You can see two power drills, as the cordless one just didn't have enough juice to drill through that wood. One of the bits ended up snapping off. Thank god we haven't split any wood though. Yet. Also, there's a supply of Guinness in the garage, because nothing compares to using power tools while drunk.
It may be hard to tell, but that's a 19" CRT there, and it works fantastically. If I didn't have this here 20" LCD, I'd still be using it. You can see the outer case was taken off to give an extra inch or so of space. It's crucial to get the angles and height of the display and input panel JUST RIGHT. (It's also crucial to ground it... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)
Jack tells us a good way to figure out an angle is to put your arm straight in front of you (kind of like a Seig Heil thing), and turn your hand back at the wrist as far as it will go. The angle and distance of your palm is where you want the screen to be.
This is the monitor sitting in the cabinet. Yeah, it's not perfectly level, but we'll shave it down soon. The back of the monitor rests against the back panel, so it has all the support it needs. I have another board here where all the controls are going to go; you probably can't see it, but I've drawn out guide lines for drilling holes.
THIS IS THE SHIT RIGHT HERE! These are our electronics bought from Jack. They're actually accessories that you can buy from a website. The thing is called "I-Pac"; do a Google search on it. It's a handy little interface that connects all these buttons and such to your PC via PS/2 or USB. We have a plethora of buttons, 2 8-way joysticks, drivers, a CRAPLOAD of wires, and even a trackball (For Golden Tee, of course.) This is all stuff we could've gotten from the website. He might have made a little profit, and we wasted a whole night trying to find his house, but the advice he gave us was worth the trouble.
We actually went into his workshop and saw a crapload of gutted arcade machines (Cruisin' was working). He himself had a 4-player CUSTOM-MADE cabinet running MAME32 and every game in existence. 26" widescreen LCD monitor, pull-out drawers, T-strip lining, cupholders, you name it. The thing had those electricity things that follow your fingers on the sides, for christ's sake. Although he did admit he admired what we were doing, because when we saw his scrap cabinets, he admitted that he literally traced the design from an old NBA Jam machine.
Oh yeah. This is going to be a pain, but it'll be awesome.
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Well, it basically looks the same, except with all the guts in. We have a couple of issues left to work on: the monitor's tilted by about a quarter inch, the controls are unresponsive (not so when we tested with a laptop), the LED backlight for the trackball is unresponsive, and a bunch of other annoying details.
Pics when it's playable.
The wiring was a bitch. There's about 100 wires in there, all rigged up in funky ghetto ways that I can't even begin to describe.
So, I know you want to see it.
Yeah, wow, that's... awful. The funny thing about hobby projects that have no importance? The moment you get them working the way you want them to, you're infinitely less inclined to keep working on them. I imagine this is what the thing is going to look like for a LONG time. The display will remain unbeveled and slightly off-center, that rope-light thing will also stay there because we bought it for no other reason than to wire stuff up in the dark... and so on.
But hey-- it's working just fine (except for a crappy power supply and a CD-ROM drive that pukes on CD-R's), the input panel is responsive and delightfully clicky, and we went from start to finish no matter how difficult or tedious it was. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I can feel it.
Also, now we know how to make one. Specifically, we know we didn't have to go through half the work we did. The next one will be bigger, sturdier and sexier. And we won't have to buy parts again, because we won't feel bad at all ripping this one apart. Finally-- what it looks like isn't as important as what it does... what it MEANS.
It means Double Dragon II the way it was meant to be played. It means 4-player action with USB joysticks. It means splitscreen Doom Legacy goodness:
Now to go work on my novel.