I love video games, not just the latest one, but also the old retro games way back to the 90s, or even earlier. I see them as an art form, from 2D 8-bit pixel up until today’s high definition 3D graphic; and I like both of them, also anything in between.
I’ve never thought of building an arcade cabinet myself, I normally play retro arcade games through emulators on my PC. The intention was simply kicked in when a close friend of mine said that he wanted to build one, so me and my friend started the research and brainstorming for the design, also decided both of our tasks and responsibilities.
Me myself took up the task of designing the cabinet structures, drafting and layout the blueprint for the wood panels laser cutting, the device operating system setup, emulator configurations and testing. My friend is more on the hands on assembly, components installation, and paint job. We both decided on the cost, all the hardware components, and components shopping.
We had decided to use a single-board computer called Raspberry Pi 3, not super powerful, but good enough to emulate retro games. Together with a free operating system just for retro games emulation – Retropie, both served as a core component of this arcade cabinet.
I spent quite a long time designing the cabinet’s internal and external structures (I’m not an engineer/industrial designer/carpenter), struggled to put everything together in a mini-sized cabinet with limited knowledge of what I’m not proficient in.
Long hours on the UX design for the control panel (joystick & buttons layout) together with the controller config; in order to provide minimum physical controller interface but with multiple functions.
Setting the Retropie OS was not an easy task as well, especially for a newbie like me, spent long hours trial and error to get the best setting. Then followed by game ROM compatibility issue, what works on PC doesn’t mean that it will work on Retropie, so a compatible game ROM version required.
After the to have the cabinet design ready with the all panels layout plan, we sent the digital plan for wood panel laser cutting, we used 9mm thickness Medium-density Fibreboard.
Starting from here, my friend did his magic to put things together – sanding, gluing, screwing, soldering, a lot of adjusting and minor modifying. Hooking up all the internal components and squeezed into the mini cabinet space. The most cool part was his paint job, although we did not apply any vinyl graphics, the final outcome was awesome! We spent a lot of time on the structural design due to our limited knowledge and skill sets, we did sacrifice the aesthetic part of the project, I managed to add some last minutes graphics on the marquee and the control panel. Eventually, the project was complete.
This project took us 6 months to complete, but we enjoyed the process and the outcome very much. Although the design was very generic, small sized, and only 1 player able to play; it was a great learning process and with this experience, we can now do an even better one.