It's entirely possible to run MAME without any kind of additional user interface. It won't be pretty, and you'll need to use your mouse and keyboard to select your games, but it will work. When envisioning how I wanted my arcade machine to function, I wanted conceal the fact that it's running on a PC (though obviously it is). That meant making things like game selection and any commonly used MAME functions accessible through the control panel.
Fortunately there are many user customizable user interfaces that work perfectly well in conjunction with MAME. After some research, I went with MaLa because it is extremely flexible and I would be able to expand should I want to run additional emulators on my machine. In additional to simple game selection, MaLa can display associated material for each game however you like. And there are tons of pre-made layouts should you want to get up and running quickly. I elected to design my own using my somewhat limited Photoshop skills. I knew I wanted to do some kind of spacey grid thing and that I wanted to display a screenshot of each game as well as a graphic of the controls. After a couple of weeks of on and off work, I ended up with this:
It's functional and I'm pretty happy with it. I decided to carry the grid theme to the control panel as well, so I whipped up a simple design which looked like this:
I figured I could print this out at Kinko's, glue it down on my panel, and then apply several coats of polycrylic. That didn't work as the printed out material bubbled and wrinkled almost immediately. So an intense sanding job later, I was back to square one. The answer came from Eric's work colleague who was kind enough to rework my design and print it out on a vinyl cutter. I lost the color I was looking for, but gained a really awesome looking control panel.
For the sides of the machine, I decided to stencil some spacey designs in three colors. So I grabbed three cans of spray paint and got to work. I had never done this before and I think it turned out ok.
|Quite pleased with the little rocket ship.|
All that was left was the marquee, which is a pretty important piece. I knew I wanted to pay homage to the arcades of yesteryear, so I named my machine after the best arcade in the greater Burlington, Vermont area.
Upton's was a fixture on lower Church Street for years. Starting out as a sandwich shop and ice cream parlor in the 40s, Upton's switched to video games in the 70s. During the arcade heyday of the late 70s and and early 80's, Upton's was hands down the best place to play video games. Friendly staff, well serviced machines, and new titles shipped in regularly. As home consoles and arcades fell out of favor by the mid 80s, Upton's fell on hard times. They move a block down the road to a cheaper location, but the writing was on the wall. Things got grungy. Drug dealers and riff raff settled in. It just wasn't the place that it used to be. But at least now I've got a little virtual piece of Upton's in my living room.
NEXT POST: Finishing touches.