MAME/Arcade, Pt III

  • by Gitabushi

Here’s a good tutorial for the emulation part:


You can be very picky about your joystick and buttons. If you played arcades in the US in the 80s, you are most likely familiar with the feel of Happ devices.  If you want to get really good at playing the games (and why else would you be playing the games, except to get better?), then you should know that Happ prioritized durability over precision. Happ joysticks sometimes overcorrect when you release them (due to strong springs and heavy sticks), and you have to push them farther to get them to register the movement.  Happ buttons are concave and need to be pressed farther to register the push.  Japanese-style joysticks tend to feel looser (and so feel cheaper), but register your movement more quickly and don’t move as far. That makes them more nimble and more responsive.  Japanese-style buttons are concave, and register with lighter touch.  If you are playing a game where rapid presses are necessary for a better rate of fire, you want Japanese style.

And once you decide whether you want US-style or Japanese-style, you can decide to go name-brand or cheaper copy.

I’m going with the cheaper copy.  I figure if they wear out, I can always upgrade on replacement. Or the cheaper might be good enough, so why waste money on quality I’m not experienced enough to perceive.

Now, I’m still exploring what I want, and how I’m going to arrange it.  At this point, I know I want build a control board that can hook up to any TV.  This is more than partially because my wife opposes having an arcade cabinet.  But there are still things I don’t know about how the games will play, configuring the controllers, etc., so my current play is to buy a full set of controllers and temporarily install them in a cardboard box to test out locations. If it all works for the games I want to play, and once I’m satisfied with the location, I’ll build my box.

To that end, here’s the set I’m going to buy:

EG Starts gets good reviews, overall, even though this set is not yet reviewed. It is a Japanese-style copy. The buttons light up, which is cool, and will help if I play in the dark. It includes the joystick/button circuit board, so that’s one less thing you have to buy, and one less thing to figure out (good instructions are included).  Moreover, if you have LED buttons, you often have to be careful of the positive/negative input, but this one avoids that problem with a simpler installation that avoids having to worry about positive/negative poles.

Once I try them out, I’ll provide my review here.

So at this point, here’s what I have or have on the way:

Display (whatever TV I want to use)
All controller inputs (including player number and coin inputs)
MAME software

Now, I say I have MAME software, but what I’ve done is tried out the games I want to play on MAME32.  I have MAME33, as well, but I wasn’t able to immediately load up roms with it. Now, MAME32 is for Windows, and I’m going to use a Raspberry Pi 3B for my “brain”, which means Linux, which means the MAME32 won’t work.  However, many of the MAME32 roms will work with the Linux emulator MAME4ALL, running under RetroPie.  If not, I’ll figure out how to put a Windows XP OS on the Raspberry Pi 3B and use MAME32.

Instructions on how to install a Windows OS onto a Raspberry Pi 3B can be found in links here:

I do happen to have an old computer I got at a garage sale that runs Windows XP. I bought it to be able to play old DOS games, but haven’t gotten around to installing them yet.  I should be able to get a disk image from that and install, if necessary.

But we’ll go the Linux and MAME4ALL route first.

So the input connects with an HDMI cable attached to the HDMI output of the Raspberry Pi 3B. The controllers connect to the included circuit board using pin connectors, and then those boards connect to the Raspberry Pi 3B via USB connectors.  The Raspberry Pi 3B has a mini-SD card slot, and I will download and install RetroPie (operating system) and MAME4ALL (program), plus all the Roms (program plug-ins) of the games I want to play onto the mini-SD card.

I’m having a hard time finding out exactly how big RetroPie is, but there is widespread agreement that 32GB is enough to install RetroPie, several emulators, and up to about 10,000 roms.  That should be plenty.

I have a bunch of 32GB mini SD cards sitting around.  I have no need to have 10000 games loaded onto one card, so  I’ll probably have one 32GB card with all my favorites, and a second 32GB card with games I want to try out to see if I want to move up to my favorites card.  That should prevent being confused by the number of choices on my main card.

Here’s a great description of how to get that up and running:

And here’s another take on the same issue:

Retro Gaming on Raspberry Pi: Understanding ROMs, RetroPie, Recalbox, and More

So at this point, all I need to do is decide on a Raspberry Pi.  I’ll probably go with the Raspberry Pi 3B, as I said, but I’m open to the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Wish me luck!

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