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How to Build a Kick-Ass MAME Arcade Cabinet from an Old PC

Considerations for Control Panel Design

How you build your control panel—what controls you include and where you put them—is entirely up to you. That said, here’s some tips for how to design the perfect controller for your cabinet.

• Consider the games you’ll be playing. If you absolutely love Centipede, but hate fighting games, then you’ll definitely want a trackball, and you can probably do with just 4 buttons.

• Don’t go overboard. It’s tempting to try and make a panel that can play every game under the sun , but before you try to shoehorn that second spinner onto your controller ask yourself “Am I really going to use both of these?”

Image Credit: Crapmame


• Similarly, you probably don’t need as many buttons as you think you do. If you try and fit 6 play buttons, a start and coin button for each player, as well as a pause, menu, and exit key, you’re controller is going to be way too crowded. MAME is highly configurable; which means that you don’t need to bind a specific button to add a coin for player 1, for instance. Instead, you can create a shift button, then tell MAME to add a coin when shift +button 1 is pressed.

Image Credit: Crapmame

• Consider how the controls are going to feel in your hand before you commit to them. After you design your panel, make a printout of it and see if the scale feels right. If possible, make a temporary panel out of cardboard and install the controls into that first, to make sure that everything feels comfortable.

• Need inspiration? Check out some of the awesome MAME cabinets people have built to see what works in controller design.

Image Credit: Jeff's Arcade

• Need to know what to avoid? Check out this site , which maintains a list of awful MAME cabinets. One look at some of these cabinets, and you’ll understand exactly why you should exercise restraint in designing your control panels.

Image Credit: Crapmame