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AdminGG's Arcade building project
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AdminGG's Arcade Build
Welcome to my first ever Arcade Machine build

Hey all of TVGF! Today I'll be introducing you to a new project of mine that I am about to get completely underway with. About a month ago I decided it would be pretty sweet if I had my own full size arcade machine in my garage. I started investigating the many ways you can go about building a machine like this.

So now I'm going to be building an arcade machine, all from scratch. Buttons, joysticks, wiring, cabinet building, I'm doing it all!

I'll be covering the entire build and configuration of the machine in this thread over multiple posts.


Part 1: This post

Part 2:
Parts List and initial pricing

Part 3:

Control panel layout and Arcade design specs

Part 4:
I) Arcade cabinet frame

II) Arcade cabinet panels and housing

III) Arcade cabinet panels and housing cont.

Part 5:
I) Button and Joystick placement

II) Button and Joystick placement

Part 6:
I) Painting and Wrapping

II) Painting and Wrapping - Gloss coat

Part 7:
I) Custom vinyl wrap designs

II) Wrapping the arcade

Part 8:
 Control setup and button configuration

Joystick and trackball mounting

Part 9:
Finishing touches


Screen install

Light Guns

Virtual Tour of the completed Arcade:

Part 1: Project Overview

The arcade machine I want to build is going to be classic and old school. I am going to build a full size standing arcade machine capable of running several arcade games and game systems up until the PS1 era.

I want to keep this arcade build as cheap as I can. After watching many videos I was sold on the idea of using an old desktop computer that would be more than powerful enough to run all the classic games I wanted. This way I would already have 80% of what I needed and would only have to worry about sourcing some wood.

However, after a lot more research, I decided on slightly different alternative, that was both cheap and would provide me with a bit of a challenge. My arcade machine will be running on a Raspberry Pi 2.

Whats a Raspberry Pi?

If you have not heard or seen one yet, a Raspberry Pi is a low cost microcomputer that runs on Linux. It has many applications and a lot of people use them for various projects as they are so easy to work with and can be used to make all sorts of cool things.

Now I've got a Raspberry Pi 2 which was just released this year:

It's quite an impressive machine, with double the RAM of the previous model:
  • A 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4 USB ports
  • 40 GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core

I was attracted to the idea of using a Raspberry Pi after discovering a project called RetroPie.

What is RetroPie?

RetroPie is an awesome free open source project that turns your Raspberry Pi into a retro-gaming console:

I'll be using Retro Pi v3.0 beta 4, unless a newer version is released while I'm working on building it all.

RetroPie uses a program called EmulationStation which is a collection of multiple gaming emulators from the arcade era up until the PS1 era.

You basically install the RetroPie image onto your RaspberryPi and you have an instant front end for running all your arcade games with pre-installed (but not configured) emulators.

RetroPie can run all of the following emulators:
  • Amiga (UAE4ALL)
  • Apple II (LinApple)
  • Atari 800 (Atari800)
  • Atari 2600 (RetroArch/Stella)
  • Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon (Hatari)
  • Apple Macintosh (Basilisk II)
  • C64 (VICE)
  • Amstrad CPC (#CPC4Rpi)
  • Final Burn Alpha (RetroArch/PiFBA, RetroArch/FBA)
  • Game Boy (RetroArch/Gambatte)
  • Game Boy Advance (GpSP)
  • Game Boy Color (RetroArch/Gambatte)
  • Sega Game Gear (Osmose)
  • Intellivision (jzIntv)
  • MAME (RetroArch/mame4all-pi, RetroArch/mame4all)
  • MSX (openMSX)
  • PC – x86 (rpix86)
  • NeoGeo (PiFBA, GnGeo)
  • Nintendo Entertainment System (RetroArch/FCEUmm)
  • Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus-RPi)
  • TurboGrafx 16 – PC Engine (RetroArch/Mednafen/pce_fast)
  • Ports
    • CaveStory (RetroArch/NXEngine)
    • Doom (RetroArch/PrBoom)
    • Duke Nukem 3D (eDuke)
  • ScummVM
  • Sega Master System / Mark III (RetroArch/Picodrive, Osmose, DGen)
  • Sega Mega Drive / Genesis (RetroArch/Picodrive, DGen)
  • Sega Mega-CD / CD (RetroArch/Picodrive, DGen)
  • Sega 32X (RetroArch/Picodrive, DGen)
  • Playstation 1 (RetroArch/PCSX ReARMed)
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System (RetroArch/Pocket SNES, snes9x-rpi)
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum (Fuse, FBZX)

I've already started collection rom sets for each of these systems too:
Show ContentTotal roms and size:

What will you be using for controls?

To keep the retro arcade feel, I will of course be using classic arcade buttons and joysticks. I found a supplier online that deals specifically in arcade machine parts.

My goal will be to have a 2 player arcade machine setup. This will require 2 arcade joysticks, 8 buttons per player, insert coin buttons, and player 1 and 2 buttons. I am also going to incorporate a classic arcade trackball for use with classic games like Missile Command and Centipede.

All these buttons and joysticks has to be manually wired to an arcade controller board and then connect to the Raspberry Pi via USB to work. This is going to be a lot of configuration work, as well as trial and error.

I have thought about finding some old NES, SNES, and PS1 controllers (for example) and the appropriate adapters so that I can hook those up to, but that might be something I look into when it's all done.

What will you be using for video out/display?

As I said before, for the most part, I really want to keep this arcade build as classic and old-school as possible. I'll be using a 27" CRT TV for playing all the games on. People are literally giving these away for free on places like TradeMe, so it cost me nothing to obtain and I can probably get one the same way should it ever break.

How will you build the arcade cabinet?

My current plan uses sheets of custom wood to build the arcade cabinet with. At a rough estimate I'll need at least 4 sheets of custom wood to build the cabinet with. This will probably be the most expensive part of the build too.

That's all for now. In my next post I'll be covering the parts list for this build and provide costing for everything. 90% of what I need I have now as I've been ordering everything over the last 3 weeks. Really all I need is the wood to really get started.

This is an ambitious project and I'm looking forward to documenting it all here!
Liams Wrote:make a car out of scrap metal from genie lamps
Awesome! Looking forward to following this project and eventually playing on it
This is genuinely awesome, man! What game are you most looking forward to playing?
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(08-07-2015, 08:31 AM)Selegraphon Wrote: This is genuinely awesome, man! What game are you most looking forward to playing?

Probably all the games that run on MAME. When I was a kid I had an emulator on our first computer that played loads of MAME games like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Missile Command, and Joust etc. Seriously can't wait.

Part 2: Parts List and initial pricing

In this post I'll be going over the parts required for this project. There will probably be more things to come, and the total cost will most likely change before the end. This is just to give a general idea of what is needed for what I am doing.

Controller parts:
  • 20x street-fighter type arcade buttons 
  • 2x 8 way arcade joysticks
  • 20 button switches
  • All required cabling for buttons and switches
                     Total - $60
  • Classic Arcade trackball - $20
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These are all the buttons and joysticks for my build, including a classic arcade trackball that I manged to score for $20 (they reetail for at least 60$ usually).

  • Arcade USB Control Kit - $30
This tiny little control board bellow will literally be the central hub and configuration for all the above buttons and joysticks. I'll cover this in more detail later as to how it all wires up.

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For size comparison, the button switch and cabling next to the arcade control kit.

Raspberry Pi
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Case for Raspberry Pi
  • USB 1.8A(or 2A) Power Supply
  • 8G class 10 micro SD card
                      Total - $90
  • Wifi usb dongle for Pi - $15
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Picture above is my Raspberry Pi. They are about $50 from most NZ sites but I bought a starters kit for 90$ that came with the Pi and all other things listed above (minus the wifi dongle).

All other current items:

  • 27" CRT TV - free
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Bit of a sneak preview there of the Pi running EmulationStation and outputting to this old CRT TV. Sound included! As you can see I have a 2.5" HDD hooked up to the Pi for storing all roms.

Rest of parts:
  • USB to SATA cable - $9
  • Castors Wheels 4 x 100mm - $30
  • 3.5mm 4 pole to RCA composite cable - $8
  • 320gb 2.5" sata hard dive - Already owned
  • 4 sheets of custom wood (for now) estimated cost: $140

Total cost currently:

$402 NZD. I want to try and keep this below the $500 mark if I can, and It looks like I'll be able to do that (so far).
Liams Wrote:make a car out of scrap metal from genie lamps
Nice! Where can we order? Sign me up!
This is incredibly cool! What are you going to do for decorating the machine? Paint?
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y-y-you're alive??
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(08-07-2015, 11:29 PM)Lazy Dave The Monstrosity Wrote: This is incredibly cool! What are you going to do for decorating the machine? Paint?

Yeah I plan to paint it but then I'll wrap it in vinyl with custom decals that I'm yet to decide on. Will probably be a mash up of video game characters and such, I'm not sure yet. My dad is a sign writer so he does custom vinyl wraps all the time which is sweet :P
Liams Wrote:make a car out of scrap metal from genie lamps
Part 3: Controls layout and Arcade cabinet design

I) Control panel layout

A big part of an arcade build is the control panel layout. I've done a lot of research on this and found that are there are many different ways to lay out your controls for the optimal playing experience.

A fantastic resource I found Is a site called The site is dedicated to information about control panel layouts and even includes all the various templates that you can use for your own arcade build.

This is the page worth reading, and covers all know panel layouts:

After extensive reading here, I've chosen (at least for now) to go with the standard Japanese panel layout:

[Image: cluster365_l.png]

I will personally benefit from this layout as I have big hands and long fingers. This layout gives decent distance between each button and a nice arching horizontal layout so my hand can cover all buttons at once. This layout is similar to Sega's arcade button layouts, but with more space between the joystick and buttons.

Now I have tested this layout in practice to see what it was like. I experimented with a few layouts to see what worked best. Originally I was going to do the classic 2 rows of 3 buttons with 2 more buttons beneath the 2 rows. However this 2 row 4 button horizontal layout really works for me. Here is the layout in practice:

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I used an old cardboard box that came with my new monitor and bored so holes into it for testing. The layout on the left for player 1 is what I'll be using for my two player setup.

II) Arcade design specs

The actual design of my arcade took awhile. I found a lot of sites where people had built similar cabinets to what I had in mind, but I never really found solid specifications and measurements to go off.

Most arcade cabinets can be between 1.6metres - 2.0metres tall. I myself am 1.8metres tall so I based the height off myself initially.

Now as you know, I'm using a beast of an old CRT TV for the display in this arcade. The design of my cabinet is basically built around this. The cabinet itself is just going to be a shell really, and on he inside will be some sort of frame to hold the TV is place and at the proper viewing angle.

I found this free 3D design software called SketchUp ( and after some playing around to learn it, I build a to scale 3D model of the cabinet I wanted to build so I could take the measurements from this model and build it.

Below is the design for my cabinet. The model I created can be considered a work in progress and I really only needed to base measurements to get a proper idea of the scale of things. The final product with most likely be different in a few ways. But this is basically what I am aiming for:

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The arcade control panel is going to be 750mm x 400mm which should be enough space for both player 1 and 2 buttons and joysticks plus enough room for my trackball too.

I also plan to have it so the back opens up completely on hinges or something so the TV can be removed if need be. The arcade panel will also be able to be lifted up so I an get at the wiring and change buttons as required. I will also have a hinged door/access panel at the front of the cabinet so I can get completely beneath everything and at the Raspberry Pi for wiring and maintenance.

These are all just ideas! Once i start the actual build I'll know how practical these things are going to be. With any luck the wood will arrive this weekend so I can make a start on things and post an update about the build then.
Liams Wrote:make a car out of scrap metal from genie lamps
Part 4: Building the arcade cabinet

I) Arcade cabinet frame

So over the weekend I got to start building the arcade cabinet. I went out and bought all the wood I would need to complete the initial frame for the cabinet. All up that cost just under $60 which isn't too bad.

The frame pretty much matches my original designs, however some changes were made to layout and size. The frame is also designed to mount and hold the TV in place at the optimal viewing angle and height.

Big thanks to my Dad for helping, cause lord knows I couldn't have a achieved a frame of this build and quality anywhere near as quickly or good without him.

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The TV sits elevated at the appropriate viewing angle.

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As you can see here, the TV rests on these little stoppers are the back.

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All that is left now is to pick up all the custom wood sheets and cut out all the housing that will surround the frame so it takes on it's arcade form.

The wood should arrive next week, and ill be able to work on it during the next weekend. Then I'll cover the rest of the build below.

II) Arcade cabinet panels and housing

Coming soon.
Liams Wrote:make a car out of scrap metal from genie lamps

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