After a ton of requests I have finally got round to making some handy PDF guides which show all the necessary dimensions to make this arcade machine even easier to build yourself! I’ve knocked up full 1:1 scale printable guides for the side panels and the control deck, plus a reference sheet with dimensions and angles for the rest of the panels. You can download the PDFs below. If you want to follow along at home, here is the basic recipe for the build. Substitutions for similar items are fine — this is just documenting what I personally used. I’ve shown how much I found each item for online, although bear in mind that quite a bit of this stuff was already lying around the house and I didn’t actually go out and pay for. This list should show you the total cost if you were to buy everything.
You will also need the following tools. A lot of these are pretty common but if there’s something you don’t have — borrow it! He pops up in a few of the photos and generally helped a lot with the build. I did a lot of research before building this cabinet. Mainly looking at other people’s designs. I wanted to make something that would look vaguely ‘real’ with authentic controls for a convincing arcade experience at home. A couple of sketches later and I was on my way!
I already had a basic shape and style in my head, but the modelling process helped me figure out the angles and dimensions that worked best aesthetically. I wanted a versatile setup that could handle all the main gaming platforms I was trying to emulate. Select buttons on the front. This layout is perfect for beat ’em up games and has enough face buttons to adequately represent all the consoles the Pi can emulate. I knocked up an instructional poster to explain the control schemes for each console, as it can get a bit confusing for new players switching between systems otherwise. This will be framed and hung on the wall as an official reference guide for arcade machine newbies. In terms of dimensions and button spacing I used a lot of trial and error and prototyping to see what felt right.
I feel that the final design is wide enough for two players and with enough wrist support to be comfortable during long gaming sessions — very important! The marquee is the backlit title graphic found at the top of all arcade machines. Hence the zero results on google. The starry background is from the original Space Invaders cabinet and the title style is a kind of homage to classic arcade game logos. I would highly advise full-scale prototype modelling if you’re designing a cabinet yourself. That said, if you want to work from my designs exactly, feel free to skip this section!
Using some spare cardboard, I taped together a pretty rough mockup of the cabinet design. I had only really designed the arcade machine digitally and wasn’t certain it would look and feel right in the real world. I’d left enough space for two people to play side by side. Overall I was very happy with the size and shape of the mockup and only made minimal changes. After designing my control panel layout on the computer I drilled a few holes in some scrap wood and set up a standalone controller to test out the setup before committing it to the cabinet. This is a great way to test the ergonomics of the design with some actual factual game time. I wired up the test controller and played a good few games on it to see how it felt.
See later sections on how to wire up and configure the controls. Overall I was pretty pleased but the prototype taught me that the buttons should go a little closer together and that a little more space at the bottom for wrist support was needed. I then fed these realisations back into the final design. Better to tweak now than when its too late! I left the prototype wired up and used it to play games on my computer to scratch that retro gaming itch while I was working on the rest of the arcade machine. If you made it look nicer the standalone controller could be a full project in its own right!
Step 7: Cutting the Panels Pt. Picture of Cutting the Panels Pt. IKEA style because, well, why not? First up we cut some 12mm MDF into 500mm wide panels on the table saw. For the screen cut out, we carefully measured the screen and cut a hole in the panel using the jigsaw. The screen was then laid in place and chunky bits of wood were glued and screwed up against the edges to provide a tight fit. That’s the prep work done — more detail on the monitor mounting later. Step 8: Cutting the Panels Pt. For the sides we taped a printed template onto a bit of 9mm MDF and cut through it with a stanley knife to mark the shape. This was cut out using a jigsaw, and given a little love with some sandpaper to round off the edges and suchlike. Its important none of the corners are too sharp to ensure the T-molding will fit properly later. The other side was cut from this using a template bit in the router so we knew they would be identical.