Monday, October 22, 2007

Pink Skin!

Now that the cabinet is working and the computer is mostly configured it's time to start polishing the details. The first order of business is replacing the "gamelauncher" skin on my front end with something a little nicer - and customized for Bella.

When the cabinet is first turned on it loads directly to the MaLa front-end with the "gamelauncher" skin and looks like the picture to the right. There's nothing "wrong" with it I guess - it displays all of the game names over top of a screenshot. It's simple and easy to use but I really want to tie the front end in with the rest of the design - and that means making it pink!

The great thing about MaLa is that it is totally customizable but unfortunately you need some computer skills to get the job done. I was lucky enough to have superbigjay over at the BYOAC forums take a few minutes away from his awesome project to design something for Bella's Arcade.

Check out the results:

It looks great! The main gamelist appears in the largest box on the left and the screenshot for each game appears in the large box on the right as you scroll through the list. The other rectangles contain information like the name of the Gamelist (Favorites, Maze, Puzzle, etc.) or the controls (4-way/1 button, etc.). This is all customizable so I can get it looking however I want.

The design isn't finalized yet - I still need to pick a "girly" font to display the game names (Arial is the default and it's a little plain) and finalize the type of information I want to display in each panel but it's a great start. The cabinet's pink theme is really coming together!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quick Update

Argh! I've been using MAME .118u2 with the hi score patch (compiled myself using Mr. Do!'s excellent tutorial) but Mappy and Super Pac-man were giving me errors when I tried launching them. Apparently there is a known issue with the mappy.c driver in MAME .118u2 which both games use to run. This is completely unacceptable.

I decided to recompile MAME using version .119u3 with the hi score patch hoping that the games would work again and I was right - they worked! Unfortunately, Galaga is no longer playable. This is doubly unacceptable. Galaga is on the short list of must-have games for an arcade cabinet. I'm missing a file called 51xx.bin which was added in the Galaga file starting with MAME .119u3 so tonight I have to recompile yet again and go back to MAME .119u2. What a pain - hopefully I can get everything working!

I'm not sure why I posted this... maybe this information will help someone else out there. I don't know.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Coin Door (Wiring)

One of the last things I have left to do on this cabinet other than configure the software is to get the coin door working. I bought a Happs "Small Single Coin Door" which comes with two $0.25 coin mechs to accept quarters (or tokens).

The setup is pretty basic - a microswitch is tripped when a quarter is inserted into the coin slot which sends a signal just like any other button press on the cabinet would do. I decided to wire both the player 1 and player 2 coin slots to the same input on my U360 joystick wiring harness so no matter which slot the coin is put in it will register as a "credit" for player 1. This doesn't pose a problem because most of the alternating 2 player games don't care which coin slot the quarter is inserted into. If two coins are entered into the same slot you press the "Player 2 Start" button for a 2 player game. Also, since the cabinet does not have 2 player simultaneous controls all of those games will be available in 1 player mode only.

Anyway, wiring up the microswitches was a snap - I wired the NO (normally open) pin on each switch to the last wire on the U360 wiring harness (which has been set to "insert coin") and the bottom ground pin on each switch to another ground wire on the control panel completing the loop. I should note that the microswitches on my coin door had the NO and NC (normally closed) pins reversed compared to the standard white pushbutton microswitch. It took me a minute to figure out when nothing was happening when I inserted the coin. Simple!

Everything works like it should but I realized after about 10 minutes of playing on the cabinet that fumbling for quarters/tokens every single time I wanted to play something was a huge pain. I think I'm going to try and rig the coin return buttons to act as "insert coin" buttons when pressed which should eliminate the need to have quarters/tokens on hand all the time.

I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to do this but I don't think it will be too hard. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New "Punch-List"

Well, I'm coming down to the wire... there's really not much left to do on this cabinet other than software configuration and getting the coin door up and running. I figured I'd make another "to-do" list just to keep me moving forward - this one is really nit-picky but here goes:

  1. Wire coin door to U360 wiring harness (assigned to "5" in MAME)
  2. Rig the coin reject buttons to register a credit when pressed
  3. Power the LEDs behind the coin slots
  4. Install a coin box to catch the quarters/tokens (cardboard?)
  5. Apply pink vinyl button labels
  6. Relocate power button from front of PC to rear panel of cabinet
  7. Relocate volume knob from speakers to somewhere on cabinet

Computer Configuration

  1. Finish tailoring my Horizontal Gamelist (vertical one is finished)
  2. Change font in MaLa layout for game names to something girly - make it pink!
  3. Download and install "snaps" for background of gamelist
  4. Configure 45-degree maps for the U360 joystick (for Q*bert)
  5. Configure MaLa to play "Arcade Ambiance" when browsing gamelists
I think that's it for now - I should be able to finish this up over the next week or so. A long term project will be swapping out the amber coin return buttons for some pink ones but no one makes them so I'd have to come up with something on my own... probably not happening any time soon.

We will be having some friends over to the house in about two weeks so I'll try to have it 100% finished by then - I'm also coming up on the year anniversary of starting this thing which is pathetic so I'd like to finish before that day passes too.