Solid Oak Arcade Cabinet: When Particle Board Won’t Do

Having an arcade cabinet of one’s own is a common dream among those who grew up during the video game arcade heyday of the 80s and early 90s. It’s a fairly common build that doesn’t take too much specialized knowledge to build. This cabinet, on the other hand, pulled out all of the stops for the cabinet itself, demonstrating an impressive level of woodworking expertise.

The cabinet enclosure is made with red oak boards, which the creator [Obstreperuss] sawed and planed and then glued together to create the various panels (more details are available on his Imgur album). The Mario artwork on the sides and front aren’t just vinyl stickers, either. He used various hardwoods cut into small squares to create pixel art inlays in the oak faces. After the fancy woodwork was completed, the build was finished out with some USB arcade controllers, a flat-panel screen, and a Raspberry Pi to run the games.

While the internals are pretty standard, we have to commend the incredible quality of the woodworking. It’s an impressive homage to classic arcade machines and we wouldn’t mind a similar one in our own homes. If you’re lacking the woodworking equipment, though, it’s possible to get a refined (yet smaller) arcade cabinet for yourself with a 3D printer instead.

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Throwing Down The FPGA Gauntlet

Gauntlet is a well-known arcade game from 1985 with many sequels and ports to more modern architectures such as Xbox and GameCube. Thanks to its popularity and relative age, the original arcade cabinet is well documented with the schematics available online. It was regarded as the most complex and ambitious hardware Atari had ever developed at the time it was released. In what can only be described as an absolute labor of love, [Alex] has recreated the arcade hardware on the Pipistrello FPGA board.

The project can actually play Gauntlet, Gauntlet II, and Vindicators II as they all ran on the same hardware. Four joysticks are supported so up to four players can play, though the EEPROM is emulated in RAM so high scores are reset when the device is powered down. The FPGA is almost out of space and can’t quite squeeze in the SRAM needed. So an SRAM expansion daughterboard is required; nothing a quick board run from our favorite purple PCB manufacturer can’t solve.

In the repo is an incredible write-up detailing the system, how it works, and the process of debugging it. This project also includes a complete simulation of the TMS5220 Voice Synthesis Processor, as Gauntlet was the first coin-operated arcade machine with a voice synthesizer. Getting the video correct was particularly tricky and it took several tries to get the color palette and motion looking right. Since [Alex] didn’t have access to an original Gauntlet arcade cabinet, they had to make do with MAME. After writing a test to make sure the FPGA was working correctly, there were differences between the MAME emulation and the FPGA output. To help out, [Colin Davies] came to the rescue. After [Colin] hooked up an original Gauntlet Arcade PCB with the motion test loaded up, the test showed that the FPGA had the correct behavior.

During development [Alex] actually simulated several frames of the game in ISIM (at a whopping 90 seconds per frame or 90 minutes per in-game second). Using ISIM allowed them to compare system state to MAME and validate the design much faster as they could better inspect the interworkings of the different modules. Using a clever trick of grabbing state from MAME after a few seconds, they primed the FPGA state and saved themselves a few hours of simulation.

If you’re looking to get into old hardware style arcade game development, give the browser-based 8bitworkshop IDE a spin. Or start with something a little smaller in scope and size with this adorable mini CRT arcade cabinet.

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Toddler Arcade Cabinet Is A Stand-Up Job

A few years ago, [Mark] built an arcade cabinet into a low table. But once his new gaming buddy [Grayson] came along and started crawling, it wasn’t practical to have a low, pointy table around. Trouble is, [Mark] had already given [Grayson] his first taste with a Thomas the Tank Engine game. Since the kid was hooked, [Mark] rebuilt the table arcade into a toddler-sized arcade cabinet that they can both use.

The brain — a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie — should be familiar to most of our readers. [Mark] found the perfect crappy old monitor when they were upgrading at his office, and found some nice speakers to give it good bass. We love the details like the chrome edging, and especially the kick bar/footrest along the bottom. It can be difficult to decide how to decorate a multi-arcade cabinet, so [Mark] went the sticker bomb route with 700 of them randomly distributed and safe from toddler wear and tear under five coats of clear wood varnish.

We think this looks great, especially since [Mark] doesn’t have a workshop and cut all that MDF by hand on a jigsaw in the kitchen. Check out the happy train engineer after the break.

Maybe once [Grayson] is old enough to break tablets, [Mark] can build a gaming tab-inet out of it. Just sayin’.

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Greeking Out With Arduinos

Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.

Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.

[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.

Typing Greek with a modern keyboard will have you reaching for an alt-code table unless you make a shortcut keyboard, and if you learn Greek, maybe you can figure out what armor they wore to battle.

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Miniature Star Wars Arcade Lets You Blow Up The Death Star On The Go

If you have fond childhood memories of afternoons spent at the local arcade, then you’ve had the occasional daydream about tracking down one of those old cabinets and putting it in the living room. But the size, cost, and rarity of these machines makes actually owning one impractical for most people.

While this fully functional 1/4th scale replica of the classic Star Wars arcade game created by [Jamie McShan] might not be a perfect replacement for the original, there’s no denying it would be easier to fit through your front door. Nearly every aspect of the iconic 1983 machine has been carefully recreated, right down to a working coin slot that accepts miniature quarters. Frankly, the build would have been impressive enough had he only put in half the detail work, but we certainly aren’t complaining that he went the extra mile.

[Jamie] leaned heavily on resin 3D printed parts for this build, and for good reason. It’s hard to imagine how he could have produced some of the tiny working parts for his cabinet using traditional manufacturing techniques. The game’s signature control yoke and the coin acceptor mechanism are really incredible feats of miniaturization, and a testament to what’s possible at the DIY level with relatively affordable tools.

The cabinet itself is cut from MDF, using plans appropriately scaled down from the real thing. Inside you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ running RetroPie attached directly to the back of a 4.3 inch LCD with integrated amplified speakers. [Jamie] is using an Arduino to handle interfacing with the optical coin detector and controls, which communicates with the Pi over USB HID. He’s even added in a pair of 3,000 mAh LiPo battery packs and a dedicated charge controller so you can blow up the Death Star on the go.

Still don’t think you can fit one in your apartment? Not to worry, back in 2012 we actually saw somebody recreate this same cabinet in just 1/6th scale.

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The Google Chrome Dinosaur Game, In Real Life

[Ryan] wanted to hack the Google Chrome Dinosaur Game so he could control the dinosaur with his own movements. The game only requires two keyboard presses (up and down arrow keys), so controlling the game with the Arduino Keyboard library only requires a few simple function calls.

He uses the Arduino MKR board in his build, but notes any number of other boards would work as well. A force sensor detects his jumps and a stretch sensor detects him ducking. Both the stretch and force sensors are resistive transducers, so two simple voltage divider circuits (one for each sensor) are needed to convert changes in force to a voltage. You may need to adjust the sensor threshold to ensure the code responds to your movements, but [Ryan] makes that pretty easy to do in software as both thresholds are stored as global variables.

It’s a pretty simple hack, but could make for some good socially-distanced fun. What other hackable Google Chrome extensions do you like?

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Jumbo LED Matrix Brings Classic Sprites To Life

Despite all the incredible advancements made in video game technology over the last few decades, the 8-bit classics never seem to go out of style. Even if you weren’t old enough to experience these games when they were new, it’s impossible not to be impressed by what the early video game pioneers were able to do with such meager hardware. They’re a reminder of what can be accomplished with dedication and technical mastery.

The grid has been split up for easier printing.

If you’d like to put a little retro inspiration on your desk, take a look at this fantastic 16 x 16 LED matrix put together by [Josh Gerdes]. While it’s obviously not the only thing you could use it for, the display certainly seems particularly adept at showing old school video game sprites in all their pixelated glory. There’s something about the internal 3D printed grid that gives the sprites a three dimensional look, while the diffused glow reminds us of nights spent hunched over a flickering CRT.

The best part might be how easy it is to put one of these together for yourself. You’ve probably got most of what you need in the parts bin; essentially it’s just a WS2812B strip long enough to liberate 256 LEDs from and a microcontroller to drive them. [Josh] used an Arduino Nano, but anything compatible with the FastLED library would be a drop-in replacement. You’ll also need a 3D printer to run off the grid, and something to put the whole thing into. The 12×12 shadowbox used here looks great, but we imagine clever folks such as yourselves could make do with whatever might be laying around if you can’t nip off to the arts and crafts store right now.

Beyond looking great, this project is a fantastic reminder of how incredibly handy WS2812 LEDs really are. Whether you’re recreating iconic game sprites or fashioning your own light-up sunglasses, it’s hard to imagine how we managed before these little wonders hit the scene.

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