I've always wanted an arcade cabinet of my own, but I don't have the materials, tools or the know-how to get started. Fortunately that's no problem for Matt Shaw, an Adelaide gamer who has enjoyed a little bit of internet fame after he decided to transform an unloved wine barrel into something special.
The idea, Shaw told me, came from a post on the Arcade Controls forum where someone took an oak wine barrel of their own. "With a mind to do something like that I asked for a Wine Barrel for Christmas last year as we do a Kris Kringle thing," he told me.
Shaw scored the 4:3 screens, which are perfect for arcade machines, for free from work. "They were getting rid of a bunch of monitors around at work they're trying to get rid of (all about wide screen now, not much use for the old 4:3 monitors in my industry any more)," he explained.
The casing for the controls were built with medium-density fibreboard, an angle grinder, circular saw and a jigsaw, while the glass was picked up for free after a search of the local online classifieds.
The cabinet itself is running off a Raspberry Pi machine with PiPlay, a custom-build OS designed for gaming and emulation on the Pi's low-end hardware. Interestingly, there isn't a single soldered connection and wiring was relatively easy, with the configuration for the controller proving to be a more substantial (but not insurmountable) problem. "The guys at the PiPlay forum were an AMAZING help, and still help me out (and anyone else that asks it seems) today," Shaw says.
The glass is mounted on some non-slip rubber edging and thanks to the weight — around 20kgs, Shaw says — there are no issues with it moving around. It's also quite comfortable for someone sitting at a bar stool or standing (if you're around 6 foot).
"I reckon its cost me $200 as I've only had to pay for the [Raspberry] Pi, buttons/sticks, paint, cables and I did recently grab a wireless keyboard that works with it," Shaw explained. "It probably took me 6 months all in all as I have a 1 year old kiddo and work in the film industry so do long hours. I reckon I only found about 3-4 hours a week to spend on it."
He added that while this is his first project building a custom cabinet or DIY gaming machine of any kind, he was formerly a boilermaker and welder and has always had a penchant for making things. "This was an opportunity to lean a bit more Python scripting (which i can use at work) and do some fun DIY stuff."
Shaw says that old arcade games and the early versions of Street Fighter run perfectly fine on the Pi's hardware, although newer versions have been a little problematic. But the effort has clearly been worth it: Shaw's a massive fan of the older arcade games, which remind him of his childhood spending time in the arcades.
"Wonder Boy I love as its such fun and a long game ... but the Street Fighter 2 series are the best, such epic battles with friends (which we’ve already done over many many beers)."
Something I'm sure he'll continue doing for many, many weekends.
This story was originally published on August 20, 2015.