Here Comes Santa Claws

Liberty Games in the UK was looking for a fun way to support charity for the holidays, and we think they succeeded. They decided to set up an arcade crane machine to run over the internet, with each type of toy snagged earning  a donation. Snag a bear, and they will donate £5 to St Mungos, a UK charity that works with homeless or at risk people. Snag one of the rarer Santa toys, and they will donate £20. It’s a great cause, and a nice hack. Behind the scenes, the Internet side of things runs on a Raspberry Pi connected to a PiRack and a couple of PiFace digital interface cards that are wired into the electronics of the crane machine so they could control the buttons on the machine from a Web interface. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be running when we tried it, but hopefully someone will give the machine a swift kick shortly to get it going until the Hackaday traffic invariably brings it down again.

One of the interesting thing that they discovered while working on these hacks: they have a pay-out ratio that is determined by the strength of the grabbing arm. The owner can tweak this so that the arm does not grab very firmly, which means a dropped bear. Want to torture your friends with hopes of snagging the best stuffed animals?. Follow the example of this claw machine build all from parts on hand.

Bartop Arcade Honors Aspect with 4:3 iPad Screen

Let’s face it, we all love arcades, but not all of us can fit a full size stand-up in our homes. [Bentika] knew the solution was a bartop style cabinet, but it had to be designed and built to his specifications. You see, [bentika] is an aspect ratio nerd. Only a proper 4:3 screen would do for emulating games designed for just such a display. Modern 4:3 displays are hard to come by, unless of course you have an iPad handy. The 1024 x 768 screens used on the early model iPads are perfect for the task.

Driving these screens used to be a chore, but thanks to hacker reverse engineering and overseas manufacturing, these days, controllers are only a few clicks away. [Bentika] ordered a controller for the iPad 1 screen from eBay. What he got was a controller that only worked with the iPad 2 screen. Thankfully he had a pile of old iPads to play with, so it wasn’t an issue.

[Bentika] designed his cabinet using AutoDesk 123D based upon reddit user [joshendy’s] basic outline. His final cut patters were created with Adobe Illustrator. He was able to get the entire cabinet laser cut for around $160, including materials. Cabinet assembly was easy, thanks to plenty of square gussets used to align the various pieces.

The controller for this arcade is of course a Raspberry Pi 2 running RetroPie. [Bentika] used a control block to interface the joystick and buttons to the Pi itself. RetroPie lends itself to “keyboardless” operation, he didn’t have to bring any of the Pi’s USB ports outside the case.

We have to say the final results are very nice. This system has all the portability of a CRT based bartop setup without the weight. You can check out more discussion of this hack over on [Bentika’s] Reddit thread, or click past the break for the video.

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Arcades: Don’t Call it a Comeback

nothing2Video arcades may be a thing of the past, but they’re still alive, well and were ready to play at this year’s World Maker Faire. The offerings weren’t old favorites, all were brand new games many being shown for the first time like the long-awaited VEC9. The Hall of Science building was filled with cabinets and no quarters were necessary, all were free-play.

Death By Audio Arcade was there in force with games like Particle Mace and Powerboat Italia ’88. Our personal favorite was Nothing Good Can Come of This. [Michael P. Consoli] devised a simple game: Two players in an empty room. A bullet drops from a hole in the ceiling, followed by a gun shortly thereafter. What happens next is up to the players. The simple graphics and gameplay give this title its charm. [Michael] was showing off a new stand-up cabinet for the game this year. He built the entire thing himself, working until the wee hours before load-in at Maker Faire.

[Batsly Adams], [Todd Bailey], and [Mike Dooley] teamed up to create what may be the first new vector arcade in decades. VEC9 has been teased for over 2 years. They’ve finally wrapped this game up and showed it off at the faire. VEC9 started with an old
Asteroids vector monitor found by [Batsly].

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Retro Games on ArduinoCade Just Shouldn’t Be Possible

Making retro video games on today’s micro controllers brings many challenges, especially when using only the micro controller itself to handle the entire experience. Complex graphics, sound, game logic and input is taxing enough on the small chips, toss in NTSC color graphics and you have a whole different bear on your hands.

[rossum] set out making the Arduinocade retro game system using an overclocked Arduino Uno, and not much more. Supporting 4 voice sound and IR game controllers, the system also boasts 27 simultaneous colors all in software. These colors and the resolution feel like they’re impossible without a graphics chip to offload some of the work. While doing all of this the ATmega328p is also playing some faithful reproductions of classic arcade games.

The uses a couple of interesting tricks. Color is generated with NTSC color artifacts, where the screen is really black and white, but thanks to a delay or two in the signal generation the bits are out of phase from the reference “color burst” signal and appear on-screen as unique colors. This approach was used in the 8 bit Apple II personal computers to generate its colors, and also on the early IBM PC’s with CGA cards to drastically increase color depth. In this case, the chip is overclocked with a 28.6363 MHz crystal (a multiple of NTSC timing) and the SPI hardware leveraged to shift out all the necessary pixels. Check out how great it looks and sounds after the break.

It’s good to see an old trick on a new project and we are off to play some games!

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Engineers Create Super-Hard Whack-a-Mole

Is your latest project driving you mad? Are you subject to occasional fits of rage? This project might help: for a class called elecanisms at Olin College, [Forrest] and a team of three other students made a whack-a-mole arcade game that lets you vent your rage on a helpless furry animal by whacking it with a large hammer. He built most of it from scratch, creating his own solenoid driver and LED sensor board. However, there is a twist in here that gives the moles a fighting chance: there is an accelerometer built into the hammer that lets them know that your heavy hammer of doom is approaching.

Will they escape before your righteous wrath descends upon them? That depends on how you decide to set it up, and how merciful you want to be. The build even includes a coin-operated pay-to-play slot. They kept the cost low at a penny, but this is just begging to be installed at the local pub to rake in those quarters.

This course has been the source of a few projects that we have featured before on Hackaday, including the Confectionary Canon, which tracks your face and fires marshmallows right into your gaping maw.

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Observercade, Portable MAME System Of The Future.

[GarageMonkeySan] wrote in to tell us about his latest project. It’s a MAME arcade emulator, but not just any MAME arcade emulator, it is housed in a briefcase. And if that was not interesting enough, it was built in the style of the TV Show “Fringe”, specifically like the Observer briefcases. He calls it the Observercade.

The hard-shelled Samsonite briefcase was taken apart to assess the best way to move forward. A Sintra frame was added to the top half of the briefcase and would hold a scavenged laptop LCD screen. A monitor faceplate was then made from 1/16″ polystyrene sheet to fill the gap around the screen.

The bottom half of the case holds the remaining electronics, which consists of a Raspberry Pi Model B (running RetroPie), power supply, speakers and LCD driver board. They are all mounted to the bottom of the control surface which also supports the controller joystick and buttons. Notice that the buttons are labeled in Observer symbols. These symbols are as accurate as possible roughly translating to ‘credit’, ‘player’… etc. This is a wonderfully done project that shows [GarageMonkeySan] pays extreme attention to detail.

If the Observercade rings a bell, you may be remembering the project that gave [GarageMonkeySan] his inspirations: the Briefcade.

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Scratch-Built Bar Top MAME Cabinet

Video game enthusiast [Mike] is all about the journey and not necessarily the destination. That is why he likes working on projects and documenting their progress with great detail. His bar top MAME machine is certainly no exception.

One of [Mike’s] goals was to see if he could keep the look and feel of a large arcade cabinet but scale it down so that it was portable. He started with drawing up a model in Sketchup. Once satisfied with the layout and making sure everything would fit, the side panels were cut out of pine boards and will only be clear-coated. The remaining panels are cut from MDF as they will be covered in a matching decorative vinyl wrap.

The control panel may look simple but a lot of thought went into it. Of course, there is a joystick but [Mike] chose to only use 4 game-play buttons. He did this to save space and estimates he’ll still be able to play 90% of the available MAME games. Those 4 buttons are illuminated and the MAME front end, Mala, was configured to light up only the functional buttons for the particular game being played. Front and center on the control board is a rotary encoder for playing games like Arkanoid or games requiring a steering wheel.

In the end this build came out pretty nice looking. His build log is a great reference to hit before starting your next arcade cabinet project.

Although [Mike] calls his MAME cabinet ‘mini’, it’s not the most mini we’ve seen here on Hackaday.