Hi All - mostly a lurker on this forum but I've found it invaluable figuring out the millions of things to tinker with building my machine, but figured I'd show it off. Dunno if this is anybody else's experience, but I find its about 4:1 ratio of time I spend tinkering with it/LB compared to actually playing it. Have mostly just MAME games on there, although a few Atomiswave/Naomi games, etc - I'm yet to find that many console games that really feel like they play well on an Arcade setup, but that's personal preference
There was a couple of things I knew I wanted with the machine - I wanted cool lights, a clean design, 2 players, trackball and I wanted to be able to play most joystick arcade games without compromise. The first initial stumbling block was not having the means or the knowledge to cut my own panels for the frame, so I mitigated that challenge by paying for a company to do it for me and picked up a flatpack kit from BitCade...
That almost immediately ran me into my second issue - I'd chosen Ultimarc ServoStiks, but I'd not really thought about how they'd mount to the control panel. I soon discovered was that the recesses for the control sticks were smaller than Id anticipated, and it meant the joysticks I wanted to use wouldn't fit. Luckily I had a friend who owned a dremel tool, so I was able to (clumsily) carve out a larger recess
The kit for the frame had arrived a few weeks earlier, but I was waiting for the vinyls to arrive for the artwork. Now I don't know about you, but I am terrible at even putting a phone screen on, let alone a 6 foot equivalent that cost a couple of hundred quid, but I bravely carried on. Unfortunately I am the worst mix at doing this sort of thing, as I am caught stranded between being a perfectionist at this kind of thing and noticing every minute imperfection, whilst simultaneously not actually being great at it whatsoever. Somehow I actually did the first one absolutely perfectly, only to somehow completely mess up the second one beyond all comprehension. Luckily my wife came home and managed to completely salvage the mess I had made, what a woman
Added the T-Moulding around the edges, which I felt like gave it a nice added bit of pop (Actually more effectively than I'd anticipated). I finished applying the vinyls and started to build the main cabinet, only to realise soon after this point that some of the joints didn't fit together properly - it had been a couple of months since I'd originally bought the kit, and it's freezing in the games room, so I'm not sure if it was wood swelling or just poor workmanship, but that put a halt to the proceedings as I needed to buy some sandpaper - at the time I was fuming at being held up by an evening as I was so excited - if only I'd known what was to come!
I decided to stay positive and try and maximise the time by putting together the control panel and wiring everything up in the meantime, However it was at this point I discovered they'd somehow made a mistake cutting of the control panel, vinyl and plexiglass cover - literally all 3 were cut to different alignments, meaning I couldn't do anything with it. After that I couldn't progress with it at all, so I contacted the company and let them know what had happened and they said they'd fix it as soon as they could - annoyingly they said they'd need to cut me a new CP rather than a vinyl and plexi, which potentially sent me back a step with cutting the recesses for the ServoStiks - I explained what I needed and gave them the dimensions, and they said they'd pre-cut it for me.
Decided at that point to build what I could, knowing the rest was turning up in 1-2 days. Cabinet started to take shape, but after a while I couldn't progress any more, so for a while the whole thing looked like this, taunting me
Had further dramas when the replacement parts got lost in the post, further delaying proceedings. The same week the monitor turned up from Amazon completely smashed out of the box, and at this point it just felt like a cursed project. I was so done with all the hassle that I was barely even excited anymore, and tbh didn't even trust there wouldn't be more problems - I'd become a bitter, jaded old man in the space of a week! haha.
The replacement control panel turned up and was almost perfect - they'd actually preattached the vinyl which was great, and it did match up with the plexi - however, they hadn't cut the recess how I needed it - they'd centered the wider dimensions around the screw holes, rather than shifting them over, meaning most of the extra space they'd cut was totally redundant. At that point I was so annoyed with having to wait, and had morphed into an impatient ape, so I just took matters into my own hands - I took apart the joysticks and reorientated the mounting plate so it would fit horizontally, and then brute forced a screw hole through the plastic plate to I could mount it to the joystick
It didn't fit flush that way, but I could get it down tight enough where the servos could still move properly without their own torque pulling them out of alignment - at that stage I'd now been messing around for about 3-4 hours just to mcguyver a solution for something that's supposed to screw in, which probably says a lot about my brute forcing capabilities, but again just felt like every single step was more difficult than it should have been
After all that I had to wire up the control panel - everything is so delicate and the encoder board is so small and there are SO many connections that even using literally about 400 cable ties, it was still difficult to maintain any sort of neatness, at least for me. This is how it looked when it was finished being wired - and that's with making an attempt to keep it tidy! That's 133 different wires connecting into an encoder board roughly about the size of an iPhone plus. Insanity. Ran into a few problems with running out of ground points on the board, but just stripped some wires and daisy-chained them into one, which I felt proper smug about even though it's the most basic electronics job ever. I did actually tidy up this cabling a little more after this photo just in case it's giving anybody anxiety
Afterwards though, it was actually starting to look like an arcade machine. Set the PC up inside to see if all of my wiring connections had held up and my lights still worked...
The very last thing to was to paint the front plexiglass - masked it out with from Frog Tape and sprayed it up. Weirdly this was by far the most difficult bit for me. Dunno if it was just me being an idiot, but I had to redo it about 8 times to get it right - you can see in the pic below that I initially didn't block out enough of the screen, so I had to go back again and redo it
The finished product looked something like this
Overall I am really happy with the outcome, although there are loads of little issues I had with the flatpack itself - Bitcade's custom built machines look second to none quality wise, but there are loads of 'flaws' I found with the flatpack that have ended up with a bunch of imperfections/compromises I've had to make with my machine which is a bit disappointing, which was a shame considering how much I shopped around before buying one. For starters the monitor is only hed by a single bracket that I had to glue in to stop it pulling itself off the sides, nothing feels that secure. The pieces didn't fit together that well - could be swelling but was still hassle to put together. This is my own fault but the square looking plexiglass is ever so slightly longer on one side, meaning that I painted it up and realised id done it the wrong way, so it doesn't sit in there that well - their custom machines have really nice, flush custom bezels and you just can't do that on these. The back just screws on and there is no gap for cabling so you're basically sealing it up and then there's no easy way to access the back. My vinyls were ever so slightly smaller than the actual panels, and lastly I am dreading anything going wrong because there is no easy way to access the CP - I'll basically have to take it apart if I ever need to replace anything. Bit disappointing all round really, but maybe I was expecting too much from a flat-pack
That said, I now have an Arcade machine, so it's helped get over it a bit!