One day, a long time ago, I wanted to build an arcade machine. Today, much much later, I have made two arcade controllers instead…
It has been a long project, not so much in hours, but in the huge timespan from start to finish. I think its probably 2-3 years from start to finish. It started with the planning of a full-featured arcade machine. But as I found out that I really didn’t want a big arcade machine sitting around taking up space, the project eventually was shrunk into arcade controllers instead. I am happy with the outcome, as the most important factor in the “retro feeling” is the controllers itself. So let’s start at the beginning… (If you don’t like backstory, jump straight to the build!)
Step 1 – Plan to make an arcade machine!
Oh yeah! Finally, I decided to build an arcade machine. It has to be overly complicated, and include too many features. H*** yeah, let’s go! It has to be lightweight, so let’s make cutouts everywhere to save space. And yeah, let’s design it in IKEA style. One Phillips head screwdriver to assemble it all!
All of these features and constraints I put upon myself made the design process too slow. And when I had to do some changes, there were too many dependencies in the design. This is probably the main reason the project was put aside. It was simply too tedious. I think this is my biggest learning point. Don’t overdesign the first prototype, instead make a prototype fast, then improve the next version instead.
Anyways, I designed a two-player machine since the most important feature of the machine is to play competitively with friends. Also, to save space, I made it as a table top machine.
I designed the cabinet in Fusion 360. Here are some specs for the cabinet:
- 19mm MDF
- Two player button layout
- Only a screwdriver needed for assembly (IKEA style)
- 19-inch LCD monitor
- Illuminated banner
- Hinged back door for easy access and storage of keyboard
Step 2 – Buy lots of stuff!
Then I bought all of the hardware and components needed such as screens, buttons, joysticks, raspberry pi, speakers, amplifier, and a power supply.
However the project wasn’t very fun, so it went many months before I did anything more. I realized I didn’t actually like retro games enough to have a large arcade machine sitting around. Therefore I canceled the project.
“A year passes”
One day I was curious however how Retro Pie worked, so I flashed an SD card with a Retro Pie image and booted up one of my Raspberry Pi machines.
Hmm, that was easy!
I tried playing around with different games, and it worked pretty well. At the time I used my Xbox 360 controllers, and that didn’t feel very authentic. Perhaps I could put some of my arcade hardware to good use?
Step 1 – Let’s design arcade controllers!
It is a really basic design of a hollowed out wooden body and a plexiglass lid. Easy to produce, and nice to look at. I went for a 6 button layout, as that covers most of the games. 8 buttons would have been a bit too much. I bought some small cheap buttons on eBay to use as auxiliary buttons on the top row. I will map “start”, “select”, and leftover buttons to this row. Down to the right, you can see the controller board. All of the buttons will be connected to this board. The board connects to the Raspberry Pi via USB and is recognized as a PS2 style controller. I could have used a Teensy board for this, but I just bought a pre-made Chinese board.
Okay, good enough… Let’s MAKE IT!
Step 2 – Make it!
Okay, the design is good enough. Lets make it! (click the pictures to view the whole captions)
Step 3 – Invite friends!
Since I made two controllers, I might as well invite some friends over. This is the invitation I made and sent out to my friends at work:
I wanted it to have a “Mario” theme to it. I found a nice free font on the interweb and ripped off Marios color theme. I also made a matching “Hall of Fame” screen.
Below you can find the files for the arcade pad. Have fun <3