So, I am building a MAME cabinet for my next Rabbitcon, which means I have exactly four weeks. Since there's just a ton of old, outdated, and not very good stuff out there on this kind of project, and a few choice links, I thought I'd use this thread to document where I'm at.
My first order of business was to put some boundaries around the project. Jumping into the whacked out world of MAME led me into 100 ratholes of people who spent WAY to much money and time building monstrosities.
My core concept here is to play all those games which simply suck on the couch, for a variety of reasons. The top of my list:
Discs of Tron
Smups (Love Galaga in all its crazy knockoff brethren)
I could come up with another dozen I'm sure, but I only got this far before I realized I was in some trouble. Marble Madness means having TWO trackballs. I definitely need a spinner, and half these games are vertical. Plus, 4-player gauntlet means having a big control panel.
Taking a deep breath and backing up, I decided to make sure I got the software working first. My plan is to use the machine which is currently my house server as the cabinet machine -- I figure it's on all the time anyway. It's an old P4, with integrated sound and graphics. I installed the latest mame from Mamedev.org, and bittorrented 8000 roms overnight. Surprisingly, it just worked on the old windows XP machine. I just ran the Mame executable and poof, a giant list of games, most of which seem to run fine.
Poking around for front ends, I stumbled across http://www.maximusarcade.com/, which you can set to just replace the windows shell on bootup.
For hardware, a friend is giving me a 19 inch LCD monitor. While I like the idea of a giant 27 inch arcade screen, there a few hundred bucks, and would necessitate me deciding on a monitor orientation permanently (although some folks have made enormous wheels to turn their monitors). With the LCD, I can just mount it on a rotating mount, is my idea, and eventually rig up a switch to drive a lego-motor or something and turn it from vertical to horizontal.
As far as cabinet design, I'm looking at something simple like the stuff at arcadecab.com. I'm also getting a TON of ideas and advice from the forum at http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/.
So far, all I've ordered is a spinner setup and a keyboard encoder from ultimarc.com, and 20 buttons and 2 joysticks from xgaming.com (the guys who make the x-arcade console fighter sticks).
This week, I need to figure out what else I need (at least one trackball, I know, but I do love 2-player marble madness... decisions, decisions).
Anway, anyone who's been down this journey and has ideas, let me know.