First up, some Floating Point news:
I’m working on the plot outline for FP2.4. This book in general has been pretty rough, due to the disruptions in my life and the overall structure of it; it’s more character-focused and less investigation-focused compared to the first book. I wish I could promise a steady week-to-week flow but at this point I can only say “check back on Fridays” and hope my creative juices keep it coming. I appreciate your patience and hope you stick around to see where we’re going. Fun times are ahead, even if the pace isn’t as lively as before.
Right. With that out of the way, let’s get to this blog post, which is more of a personal / hobby post outside the domain of writing. Namely, the MAME arcade cabinet I’ve been putting together. Folks who follow me on social media have seen bits and pieces about this, figured I’d do a rundown on it here, get it all in one place.
I had this wooden shell of an arcade cabinet built for me by my father over a decade ago. Being a person of short stature I always had serious problems enjoying the arcade games I loved as a kid, because even with a footstool I couldn’t comfortably reach the controls. Dad solved this problem for me in my adult years by working with me to build a cabinet that was sized just for me.
When my father passed away earlier this year I decided one way I could honor his memory was to pull this thing out of mothballs and make it sing again. No small task; the cabinet was running a 1ghz Pentium on a 17 inch CRT monitor. Not what I wanted for a modern cabinet that could emulate modern hardware. I’d need to replace nearly everything except for the shell itself.
Here’s a picture of it right now. Notice the old school Furniture Warriors marquee graphic… adorable, but I’m going to be replacing it with a Q*Bert marquee to better match the sideart. Also missing is the bezel around the monitor and a proper holster for the light gun. Otherwise, it’s basically complete.
This time around I’m using a PC that frankly makes my desktop gaming PC look like a piece of crap. Way more power than you need to play Pac-Man, right? Wrong. I bought a lesser video card and smaller power supply at first, and found out that to add the post-processing effects I wanted to simulate an old arcade cabinet’s monitor, I’d need something stronger. Paid a lot to replace the hardware with better stuff. Live and learn.
The monitor’s an LCD, which is anathema to most arcade collectors who prefer CRTs… but with post processing effects it LOOKS like an arcade monitor, and it’s a much higher quality screen for other emulators and modern games. Of course, nobody makes 1600×1200 4:3 non-widescreen monitors anymore, so I had to find one used. Pricey but worth it, and a much larger screen than before.
For controls I had to buy a new X-Arcade control panel; my old one, the wiring went bad and the PS/2 port it connected through is something Windows 10 doesn’t work well with. The light gun is actually a glorified WiiMote-style pointing device, which works reasonably well for shooting games. Finally if you look in the lower left you’ll see an Xbox 360 controller wireless dongle, so I can play PS2 and Dreamcast games with proper analog controls on a pad. There’s a hidden shelf behind the control panel where I can tuck away the (matching black!) controllers.
For the front-end I’m using HyperSpin, heavily customized to display my hand-picked list of titles across the entire history of video games. Arcade, pinball, 8-bit consoles, modern consoles, indie PC games on Steam… all of it available at the push of a button. For more complex games a control list displays before the game starts, so you know what buttons do what.
I’m planning on a video walk-through of the entire project once I get the last two pieces in place (marquee and bezel).
This project has been my obsession for a few weeks now. Tons and tons of work getting the front-end to work, so EVERYTHING can be done with the joysticks alone. (Except, oddly, for Phantasy Star Online. Which won’t let you start a session with tapping the ‘enter’ key and won’t allow rebinding with AutoHotkey. Darn.) Once fully complete… it’ll outclass my first cabinet from 2002. And definitely be a fitting testament to my Dad’s hard work with the wooden shell.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Got any questions, feel free to post ’em — anything about the emulators or the hardware or my favorite games or whatever. Thanks!