Welcome to the world of MAME

Sunday night on the Bank Holiday Weekend led to a very mellow few hours. Vikki was out. Eilidh was tucked up in bed havign an early night. I was playing on my new Games Machine, which Vikki and I had (somehow) manhandled into the conservatory last Thursday..

Not for me the cutting edge world of the XBox, or the Playstation 2. And no, not the Gamecube. Modern day gaming machines are simply there to extract your cash (I’ll make a slight exception for my Gameboy Advance).

After a lot of work, I finally have my very own Arcade Machine in the house.

First things first. It’s not a single game. While that would be exceptionally cool, it would be a lot more expensive and not as useful as what I have now. In actual fact it is a MAME cabinet.

My CabinetMAME stands for “Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator,” and put simply, it allows a computer to think it is a real Arcade Machine. So when you play Asteroids on Mame, rather than something that someone has re-coded by looking at the original program, it is the actual code that was in the chips, that was on the circuit boads, that were in the cabinet that Atari built. Mame is a perfect archive of those early games.

In fact, Mame runs to around 3,500 Rom files, which is around 2,000 games with all their variants. And while the copyright on these Roms is dubious at best, there doesn’t seem to have been a huge fuss made over them in the way the RIAA is doing with MP3’s.

So you’ve got Asteroids on your PC. Great! Well, almost. It’s just not the same as being in an arcade when you’re pounding cursor keys, ctrl and shift as your major controls. If you’re playing real Arcade Games, you need a real Arcade Machine. And this is where the final step comes in.

You go out and get yourself your very own Arcade Machine Cabinet, and put a PC in it that runs Mame. Now, with the flip of a switch, you can stop your game of Asteroids, pop up a Menu, and choose the next game you want to play (Defender, for example). So one cabinet hosts not just one game, but pretty much every game if you have the Hard Drive space.

So over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about my cabinet in detail. One thing to point out is that I’m going for ‘simple’ solutions every time. I didn’t want the hassle that a lot of Mame projects go through, so at every step of the way I’ve attempted to use easy solutions. Hopefully this will show that with a little bit of investment, you too can have your own Arcade at home.

Read the next Mame entry: Designing The Cabinet