It's not like is has neven been done before, but still: it's a project.After a trip to www.retrogames.info I decided that I would need an arcade cabinet. The entire project gets along very slowly thanks to several other projects, some of them more important in real life. I've spent quite some time to get the layout of my control panel right. The approach to use 3D printed mockups to get the placement and packaging right saved me at least one actual hardware prototype, I highly recommend it.
Raspberry Pi 3
Sanwa JLF Joystick
Ultimarc U-Trak Trackball
White translucent with USB Interface
A few hours of printing later I had actual, tangible parts of all my control elements. I designed the models in a way that the controls hat a 1mm "bounding box" of their footprint under then panel, so that it was not possible to move the parts into a position that might be comfortable but unfeasable.
I grabbed a plywood sheet, cut it to the indended width of the machine, placed it under the Monitor and started to move my controls to a desired position.
It tunred out that I underestimated how much space I would need for my hands to lay comfortably on the panel. In my originals drawings everything was too close to the edge. Furthermore, I noticed that this is even more so on the left side of the panel, as the hand on the buttons Needs more resting-space than the hand on the stick.
After all was figured out I placed the orders for all the parts and played the waiting game.
After measuring the exact positions of my mock-up controls I transferred everything back to the digital model and transferred the center points of each hole to the prototype plywood board.
The next challenge was the layout of the control panel. At first, I considered a design with two joysticks. But after I've played Missile Command and Marble Madness for the first time in an arcade (i.e. the way those games are supposed to be played) I wanted to add a trackball to the panel.
Thing is: trackballs typically come in 2,25" or 3" variants. Most of them are meant to be mounted in metal panels which are about 2-3mm thick. My DIY panel will be made of Wood, most likely 15mm plywood. This narrows the options down. The U-Track by Ultimarc is designed to be flush mounted in rather thick panels without an adapter which would ruin the appearance. Unfortunately, it is hideously large, so it takes up lots of space behind the panel.
At this time I started designing models of my favored joysticks, Buttons and the trackball in OpenSCAD.
I used the relatively low-quality "package models" for Placement of the parts. Everything was moved upwards quite a bit so that the large technical stuff that was going on under the Panel were visible from the outside as well. So I played with various configurations and ended up with something like this:
Note that there are two buttons close to each stick. They are intended for C64/Amiga games. Also note that there are two spinners. They are currently shelved but might be revived lateron.
At this point I fugured that I can only get so far using digital models only, around the same time my 3D printer arrived...
I've found plenty of well documented cabinet builds online, but from my own experience at arcade machines, most of them are not quite tall enough for me. I often end up bowing down and having the marquee too close to my forehead. So I decided to start testing out different heights for the display. Luckily, IKEA sells near-perfect prototyping hardware for the job. The Individually adjustable vertical rig. Or IVAR, as they call it.
I use plenty of those for storage anyway, it is possible to mount horizontal boards roughly every 4 cm and I figured that a height of ca. 110 cm for the display and about 100 cm for the control Panel are reasonable measurements. Next stop: layout of the control panel!