Okay, this website contains highly classified information (^_-) but since you got this far
you are allowed to continue reading.
You may ask «what is this all about?»
Bobby the Bear and his friends always wanted to build an 80s-style arcade cocktail table!
We did underestimate this project at first - in the end, it took us almost eight months to complete it, but read on!Well, we did collect some basic ideas right in the beginning, for example: We would prefer using a modern industrial 19 inch LCD-TFT display instead of an "old-skool" CRT-monitor.
We also narrowed down possible arcade hardware systems until we came up with the legendary
Neo Geo MVS
(Multi Video System) which had been manufactured by the japanese company
SNK in the 90s.
Do not confuse the MVS with the Neo Geo AES home system from the same company! Both systems use game cartridges but they are not compatible at all.
MVS hardware had been installed in arcade cabinets and consists of a mainboard which can hold either 1,2,4 or 6 game cartridges which are player-selectable. Moreover, the Neo Geo MVS does not contain any moving parts like disc-drives or cooling fans. Thus saving weight and reducing maintenance effort to an absolute minimum.
It is also worth mentioning that the old SNK arcade hardware was quite proficient at handling games with 2D graphics (mostly with enormous sprites). This was achieved thanks to the huge ROM capacities of the old MVS' game cartridges. You will hardly see any good conversions of old classic SNK games nowadays because modern consoles rely on their disc drives and limited onboard RAM instead.
Meanwhile, the MVS system is no longer supported and you will be able to buy MVS mainboards and MVS game cartridges at reasonable prices, because literally millions of those boards and cartridges had been produced during the 90s (and early 2000 by the way...). With regards to our project, we decided to go for an MVS 4-slot mainboard (type MV-4F). Four cartridge slots will save us quite some time to change cartridges, btw.
Of course, we would need a stylish coin-door to access our mainboard to change game cartridges.
Let us also not forget that we would need a customized wooden cabinet for horizontal (screen) gaming and not for vertical games. Most arcade cocktail tables usually support only vertical (screen) games with two control panel at the sides opposite to each other. Our table will have only one control panel with joysticks and buttons for two players side by side.
Caution Please! The handling of high-voltage components (220V, 110V, CRTs whatever...)
is very dangerous and should only be done by professional technicians or engineers!
High voltage is dangerous and possible lethal which could mean «permament game over» to you!
In other words: Hands off of those components and installation work!
Our project description is no how-to guide! We just want to provide a general overview of our project to you, that's all!
Yeah, Bobby the Bear and his friends are management professionals, so you can expect a real project plan, just like professionals would do (more or less,...). But for the time being, we would be fine with a simple milestone planning for the early stages of the project. So we started with some preliminary estimations which gave us a rough indication of the expected timeline. To our surprise, it became evident that it would take several months to complete this project!
- Feasibility Study
- Buying Components
- Picture and Sound Testing
- Wooden Cabinet
- LCD-TFT Testing
- Cabinet Kit Received
- Controller Panel
- Final Integration of Components
- Upgrade - Integrated Interface
Cocktail arcade table, 80s-style, multiplex wood, cherry finish, T-moldings. Use of modern components is preferred e.g. TFT panel and modern audio speakers Only games with horizontal screen layout are allowed (max. 2 players). No moving parts like harddisks or, cooling fans are allowed. Based on Neo Geo MVS arcade hardware. We do not want to do major woodwork, because we are not talented at all, duh!
Before wasting our time and vast sums of money, we decided to analyze the
general feasibility of such a project.
This is usually called «feasibility study».
It is not necessary to write a novel about feasibility at this point. For example: «Are there any suitable LCD displays which work with the MVS?» or «Are there any wooden arcade cocktail table kits available?» and so on.
A hint: Try to answer all the important questions, search the internet, send emails with questions to possible suppliers, ask for help in forums, etc. This saves time and money! Here is our checklist for example:
Availability of MVS/JAMMA documentation? Yes Availability of MVS arcade mainboards? Yes Availability of good MVS games? Yes Availability of arcade hardware (joysticks)? Yes Any friends who can help you? Yes Availability of arcade cocktail table kits? Yes Availability of multisynch TFT displays? Yes Will a TFT display fit into the cabinet? Yes
Our feasibility study delivered excellent results, so we decided to enter the next stage
in our project:
Maintaining a consistent and up-to-date shopping list while buying all necessary components and parts.
A couple of items would be rather expensive, so we prepared for the worst.
Our first succes was the aquisition of an MV-4F 4-slot mainboard (made by SNK in 1994). We also bought the games "Samurai Shodown II" and "Metal Slug 2". Several other games would follow during the next couple of weeks.
This metal cover for those cartidge slots does not look cool enough, btw., so we decided to spend a couple of bucks for a professional paint-job soon.
We also bought our first set of arcade joysticks. These sticks do not need a metal spring for centering but use magnetic centering instead. Several days later, we ordered an MVS cartridge of «Blazing Star» - a cool side scrolling shooter with superb graphics and nice soundtrack!
Meanwhile, our coin door arrived. The coin slot can be illuminated, of course. There is no need for a coin validator, because we are going to use this arcade cocktail table in our private casino, set to free play, of course. The size of the coin door has been been almost a standard for old pinball machines and arcade cabinets during the last 20 years. Here is some background information about the pinball manufacturer Williams (meanwhile out-of-business).
Our custom wiring now includes the illumination for the coin slot as well. Instead of using a 12 volts lamp, we decided to go for a 6 volts lamp with 2 watts of power. This type of lamp was also very common in old pinball machines. Our power supply delivers 5 volts btw. Therefore the little lightbulb will last even longer.
We needed to build an interface for MVS mainboard and its SNK/JAMMA connector. After some soldering, we came up with a small little plastic box which interfaced to the most important functions of the mainboard.
Interfacing (part one):
- RGB video signal to SCART-connector
- power supply (5/12 volts) to 3-pin DIN connector
- stereo speaker output to cinch connectors
Lucky for us - the MVS mainboard already had two onboard joystick ports!
We planned to use those ports for our project. Our small interface box
allowed for a first test of picture and sound. All we needed would have been an old SNK joystick
controller to try out our games!
As soon as our interface wass working properly, we were going to contact possible LCD-TFT suppliers for further testing in April.
Our first tests with a standard TV set had been a great success. We even finished one week ahead of schedule.
At least we were able to watch the attract animations of our games.
Since we did not have any SNK joysticks, we had to skip the sound testing.
It was virtually impossible to configure the test-mode of the mainboard without a joystick.
However, it became evident that the whole hardware setup will not generate much heat. In fact, the mainboard stayed cool and only our power supply generated a modest amount of heat. We were confident that we would not need any cooling fan at all, but we had to wait for our TFT display because the power supply would have to provide power for all components.
We also bought a pair of Neo Geo joystick extension cables. Our idea was to modify those extension cables to work with our custom controller panel in our finished table later.
We did modify our small interface box in April, though:
Interfacing (part two):
- additional test mode button
- 3 knobs for color adjustment (red, green, blue)
What a nightmare!!! We had built a small 1/10 scale model out of reinforced paper and it looked terrible! We simply got all the proportions wrong!
We have to admit it - we are not able to design a wooden arcade cocktail table from scratch, so we decided to buy an arcade cocktail table kit from Gremlin Solutions (UK) instead!
Unfortunately there had been some problems with a certain email server and it took almost four weeks
before we received all the neccessary innformation from the UK.
Anyway, we got confirmation for our custom modifications.
This was just in time, because we almost handed the job over to a local carpenter. We were very glad that we would be able to buy a custom arcade cocktail table kit at that time.
This called for a little celebration and we decided that our 12-year-old MVS mainboard would get a paintjob at a local car shop. Well, not the whole board! Only the metal cover on top of the cartridge slots, of course.«Pimp my Arcade Board» «West Coast Customs», here we come!
Nice color! We could use some additional stickers but we will save that for later. This board will be visible whenever the coin door is opened, btw.
Videogame CRT (tube) or TFT industry display?
I bet you could discuss the pros and cons for hours! Anyway, we have to keep in mind that today's VGA displays are not capable of displaying the output of old arcade hardware. This is due to the fact that old arcade boards used a rather low horizontal line frequency of 15 kHz. In order to use a modern VGA display you will either need expensive converters or you have to use multisync industry displays (also expensive) from the beginning. On the other hand, standard CRT videogame monitors are pretty cheap nowadays and so on,...
Here is a small list of pros and cons for your amusement:
CRT (videogame monitor):
(+) true arcade feeling (^_-)
(-) high voltage! That's dangerous!
(-) needs more space
LCD-TFT (multisync industry display):
(+) light (not heavy)
(+) easy integration and connection
(+) no problems with magnetic interference
(-) check viewing angle beforehand!
Since this project was not about "faithful restoring the spirit of the 80s...", we decided to go for a modern 19-inch multisync display!
Connecting a multisync display could be done via VGA cable, but there has to be a special mapping of the arcade mainboard's composite sync signal to both, the H-sync and V-sync of the VGA plug, of course. Those cables (SCART to VGA) are available from various companies btw. (Vivanco, Oehlbach, just to name a few)
Alternatively, there are multisync display which use BNC connectors instead. Remember those old NEC multisync CRTs from the 90s? Well, you will still find cables for those, believe me!
Our preferred supplier for a TFT display had been the company Hantarex in Altenkirchen, Germany.
Those guys had been veterans in the arcade cabinet business as they had delivered many
arcade CRTs during the 80s and 90s throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, Hantarex does offer a wide selection of LCD-TFT displays for various applications as well. Unfortunately, their website was not up-to-date, so we did send them our requirements via email and soon got an offer for a 19-inch multisynch TFT-panel.
To be absolutely sure about the interoperability between our mainboard and the TFT-display, we agreed on a test-setup at Hantarex headquarters a couple of weeks later.
Testing was a huge success! The display recognized the antique video signal in an instant! After some very minor adjustments (picture size and position), we had an almost perfect picture! We were very excited at that point...!
Needless to say that we decided on the spot to buy that Hantarex 19-inch TFT-panel for our project. In case you are interested: The panel's driver board does recognize H/V sync, sync on green or composite sync.
Feast your eyes on our retro MVS arcade mainboard connected to a state-of-the-art display and working like a charm:
As you may recognize the yellow MVS mainboard in the foreground with our small black interface box directly connected. The bright blue light on top of our interface box is the test mode button.
On the top-right you can see our brand new 19 inch multisync panel. The multisync circuit will recognize analog frequencies between 15 and 64 kHz. Arcade hardware from the 80s and 90s usually delivers 15 kHz RGB signal output. Normal VGA display need at least 31 kHz and would be completely useless here!
We also got a brand new switching power supply from TRACO (top-left). This power supply does not need a cooling fan and can deliver up to 100 watts in total which is enough for our setup (TFT display and MVS mainboard). Nevertheless, we will need some openings in our wooden arcade cocktail table to allow for some air ventilation without cooling fans. We still need some cool metal covers for those openings, though.
We did omit all the cables for joysticks, buttons, speakers and coin-door illumination only for this photograph, of course.
We had already asked our supplier for a couple of modifications to the arcade table kit: The TFT-panel needed a custom cut-out as well as a special «horizontal» control panel for two players!
Expectations had been high but the guys at Gremlin Solutions certainly did not disappoint us...
Hoorray! We finally received our package from the UK! Holy cow! About 60 pounds of weight! Packaging was excellent, nothing was damaged. Finally we can enter the last stage of our project - the final assembly!
We had asked for the so-called «3rd Panel Option» at Gremlin Solutions.
Normally, this would be an additional control panel for two players. Intended for
occasional horizontal screen gaming, I guess.
In our case, this will be the one and only controller panel for this arcade cocktail table.
The panel is made entirely of wood and has a metal hinge to flip it open for maintenance.
A lexan overlay was also part of the package. We wanted to drill all the
holes for buttons and joysticks ourselves prior to assembly.
It was a good decision to save the drilling for later, because we had already changed our preferred arcade joysticks two times! Moreover, we had to think about the button layout more carefully again: The Neo Geo MVS requires four action button for each player. Additionally we would need a SELECT and START button for each player as well. After some thinking, we decided to omit the SELECT buttons, because they are usually mapped to the coin input of the arcade board. Those are not necessary, because we were going to set the MVS to «free play» anyway. Game selection between the 4 cartridge slots is also not necessary, because the MVS will cycle between all the games in the cartridge slots games in attract mode anyway.
In conclusion, we do need space for "only" 10 buttons and 2 joysticks on our panel!
As long as our control panel had not been finished yet, we were not able to play any games
without any Neo Geo joysticks.
What a drag! Finally we ordered a «Neo Geo to Playstation» adapter to check out our games beforehand.
This adapter allowed us to connect a Playstation DualShock™ pad to any Neo Geo system. Very cool and a good alternative to Neo Geo joysticks which are only available second-hand.
We began the assembly of our arcade cocktail table right after we received the kit.
Check out the front panel with our coin door attached!
You will recognize the baseplate of our control panel as well.
This part of our project was the most funny of all: We integrated all components into our arcade cocktail table kit until we were finally able to play our Neo Geo MVS games!
We started with the baseplate and prepped the mountings for the adjustable legs. We also installed nice metal covers for those ventilation holes in the bottom.
The MVS mainboard will be attached to the baseplate later. Do you remember when we checked the measurements during the feasibility study right at the beginning of the project? Now you know, why! Pretty tight, but it is going to fit inside. The remaining space will be taken up by the interface box and the power supply, btw.
We also ordered a tabletop glass (5 milimeters thick) at a local glass shop. This should be delivered
next week - we are very anxious!
We also received a different pair of joysticks (agan). This time, we ordered a «Redball»-design which is more accurate for a Neo Geo cabinet. The joystick's base is huge but it is going to fit into our control box! Lucky for us!
Woof, woof! Our tabletop glass had already been finished. Moreover, we had a very good idea on how to mount our TFT-panel underneath our tabletop!
Check this out:
Our TFT panel is rather thin and it weights only approx. five pounds. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, the arcade cocktail table kit was intended to be used with a CRT display.
There are no mountings which could be used for such a flat display.
After a while of thinking, we decided to use two aluminium profiles to mount the display.
High accuracy was required as we drilled the mounting holes for the TFT display into the aluminium profiles. The TFT display had eight mountings with a diameter of 3 mm each. We had to match all of them. Later, we will fasten the profiles underneath the wooden tabletop with wood screws.
Lets have a look at the tabletop glass and the TFT-panel...
We placed small rubber feet into each corner of the display's frame in order to prevent the panel from touching the glass. Eeeeek! Why are there fingerprints on the glass!? Oh well, it is just a test...
The finished table will have flyers and marquees right under the glass cover. As you can see there is plenty of room.
Do not worry - those are no genuine flyers, just laminated copies, of course, hoho,...
Back to the woodwork: We had to finish the assembly of the table's body first. Looks nice, doesn't it? Those edges were pasted with felt, btw.
The table top is mounted to the top-backplate of the table. Two angle irons provide additional stability. The TFT panel is connected to a 12 volts power supply and the RGB video cable.
We decided not to use the supplied hinge for the tabletop'S opening mechanism. Instead, we purchased two flight-case hinges which allow us to remove the tabletop completely. Maintenance is much easier when you can remove the tabletop. Here is a photograph of the rear panel. You can see the hinges as well as the power input module which houses an on/off switch, a mains fuse and the mains connector, of course.
More detailed photgraphs showing our two-way speakers and the air ventilation covers. Those automotive speakers do not come cheap but they certainly deliver good sound. The design is appropriate as well. (Unfortunately, JBL no longer sells this «GTO»-design.)
Those ventilation covers are reproductions of Midway's 80s arcade cabinet covers. They are made from steel with a sturdy black coating.
Just open the coin-door to change game cartridges!
We are almost finished - just cleaning the glass and inserting a couple of game flyers!
After having built two interface boxes (professionals usually call 'em "MAK" or "Supergun")
we were still not satisfied. Those interfaces are either too big or not
flexible enough. there had to be a different way.
After having seen several "consolized" MVS mainboards on ebay, we decided to take matters into our own hands and develop an integrated interface for our MV-4F mainboard.
First of all, we needed a spare metal cover for the mainboard.
Mandatory output are the stereo speakers, RGB video including attenuator knobs and video sync. So a total of eight holes had to be drilled into the metal cover.
After drilling the holes, we installed the output jacks and potentiometers just to make sure that
everything would fit inside. Each color has its own BNC output jack complete with potentiometer for color
correction. We have an additional BNC jack for video sync as well as stereo output (cinch).
You can also see the onboard Sub-D ports for the joysticks which are mounted on the lower board. We were using those onboard ports to interface with the control panel of our arcade cocktail table directly.
After painting the interface metal cover, we began to install the output jacks and potentiometers and soldered the necessary wiring connections. There is no use to solder the output wiring directly to the MVS mainboard. If you do this, you will never be able to dismantle the mainboard! Instead, we soldered the wiring of the output jacks to a JAMMA harness plug. This JAMMA plug can be attached (and removed!) to the MVS' JAMMA connector. The power supply will be connected to the JAMMA harness plug as well.
A view into the arcade cocktail table, now with the integrated interface.
The interior looks much nicer now.
There is plenty of room, so we even turned the mainboard 90 degrees!
Power supply (top-center), the MV-4F mainboard (center) and both audio speakers (left and right). The thick black cable is the BNC/VGA connection between our MVS and the TFT panel.
Nice idea, don't you think?
Of course, this integrated interface only works with an MVS mainboard which has additional onboard joystick ports. Moreover, we highly recommend to use the Universe-BIOS for the MVS, otherwise you will have a hard time to access the test menu without a dedicated test switch button!
Now it's time to start playing!
Please feel free to send a nice email to Bobby Bear's account in case you have additional questions: «ofni.regit-repap@ybbob»