Phase I: Parts, Planning, and Patience
The first step: I just ordered the Wells-Gardner D9200 27" Arcade Monitor. Next step, a custom SlikStik controller.
The monitor arrived today, and I quickly got to work setting it up for testing. One of the things I noticed almost right away was a large off-color section of the screen in the lower left-hand corner, which was especially noticable when the screen was mostly green. It looked like a bad case of burn-in on the screen.
I degaussed the monitor, but it didn't help. I tried tweaking everthing I could think of, and even began construction on a manual degausser (design compliments of Kelsey at Oscar Controls). Then I had an idea: I lifted the front of the monitor (not an easy thing to do!) so that is was just about at the angle (20-30 degrees) that it would be when mounted in the arcade cabinet. Then I degaussed it again. Success! The discolored area is almost totally gone now.
I'll probably have to go through this entire procedure again once I've gotten the monitor mounted in the MAMEframe II, but at least it's comforting to know that I have a procedure which may fix the problem should it show up again.
After some testing of different game resolutions on the D9200, I've decided that I need to get an ArcadeVGA card to fully realize this monitor's potential. I've ordered one, and as soon as I get I can give this monitor the real "workout" it deserves.
I find myself stuck waiting for products that I've ordered to arrive. While I'm waiting, I've been doing some preliminary plans on the little things, like planning on where to put the power and reset switches and whether or not to use fans for ventilation. Until I have the cab, this is all academic, but at least it keeps me from looking out the front window every five minutes waiting for the delivery truck!
It had to happen — literally just hours before I leave for a family vacation, all of the items I ordered finally arrived. Oh well, something to look forward to when I get back...
With the MAMEframe sold and gone, I find myself with the funding needed to go on a MAME cab spending spree: an Asus P4PE Black Pearl motherboard, a Pentium 4 2.66ghz processor, 512 mb of PC3200 DDR memory, a Samsung 16x DVD / 48-24-48x CD-RW combo drive, and a white LED cluster to illuminate the trackball on a new custom SlikStik as well. I also ordered a new set of MAME ROMs on DVD from Don S. of the Lazarus Burners Group,
My first big hitch in the building of the MAMEframe II: My custom SlikStik layout is, to put it mildly, a mess. The design looked great on paper, it even looked great when the top panel was routed and all the holes drilled. It wasn't until the SlikStik crew actually put in the joysticks that some of my bad decisions became painfully apparent. My design just won't work. Period.
This taught me a valuable lesson: always make sure your plans are to scale. My drawings looked a lot roomier, and that led both myself and Christian at SlikStik to believe that the design would work.
Unfortunately, there are two very, very big problems with the layout: first, the top-fire joystick is just too close to the player 2 joystick. This means you can't use the top-fire joystick without accidently bumping the player 2 joystick while you play.
Second, by moving the trackball into the center of the panel and putting two buttons on either side, I've inadvertently put a button right under the player 2 joystick. This means your wrist will be right over the button, and an accidental press is almost guaranteed.
The design did have its good points, like the ideal Asteroids button layout. Unfortunately, to get that layout I messed up several other very important parts of the panel. A MAME panel is an exercise in compromise, as trying to enable a single control panel to play 4,000 games is nearly impossible.
I'm thinking of a swappable-panel setup, which the new SlikStik cab would easily accept. All I need to do is come up with a common latching system and I'm set. (Well, that and designing and creating all of the swappable panels!)
In the meantime, I've gone back to the tried-and-true, my self-modified SlikStik Classic design that I used on the MAMEframe:
It's identical to my original design, aside from some different button colors and different types of joysticks (Perfect 360's vs. the Competition Joysticks in the original unit). Unfortunately, this sets back the timetable a bit, but only a little.
The new SlikStik Arrives! Basically the same as my old design, only with a different color scheme, an IPAC/4 instead of an IPAC/2, and Happ Perfect 360 joysticks instead of Happ Competition joysticks. I'm impressed — everything from the custom form-fitting foam packaging to the fit and finish show this to be a quality product.
DISASTER TIME, again...my WGD9200 arcade monitor just died! The previously colorful display is now an extremely dim green/gray color. I spent some time with a very helpful Wells-Gardner tech, and he eventually decided that one of the boards had gone bad.
They're shipping out a new chassis and board set, which means that to fix the monitor I'm going to have to detach the tube from the existing chassis and then attach the replacement chassis. I'm not looking forward to the repair job, but it beats trying to ship back this monster!
The replacement board set arrived for the D9200, and after a lot of nervous disassembly and reassembly, everything works. In fact, it works even better than it did before — the colors are more vibrant, the text sharper, everything just looks great. On to the installation of the software...
The hardware god giveth, and the hardware god taketh away — my hard drive, a Maxtor 80Gb drive that I've had for less than a year, died. This is the first drive failure I've had in, oh, about 10 years or so. I'll contact Maxtor and see how they handle warranty service.
In other problems, I still can't get the ArcadeVGA to work properly in the BIOS screens — the bottom half of the screen is missing, and no adjustment can bring it back. Andy Warne of Ultimarc is looking into the problem.