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Pac-Man Legion

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This project is the one I enjoy working on the most at the moment. It's a modern take on a sit down cocktail cabinet.  Curvy and without T-Molding but also featuring a big CRT screen.  Here is the design I did for it and from which full scale cutting plans were created:





This cabinet will run a small selection of games including variations of Pac-Man and few other games suited to a cocktail machine.  It will run the latest GroovyMAME using CRT Emudriver and output video to the CRT (taken from a 27" flat screen TV) via a GreenAntz VGA-Component Transcoder.

Most joinery in this design is by using threaded inserts and bolts, the cabinet can be dismantled as needed.  I'm mostly using thick 32mm MDF for this (and some marine ply) so threaded insert/bolts make strong joins. The build is nearing completion but I'll share some of the initial construction details here first:
















The next steps will be to fit and adjust for the CRT and complete the base of the cabinet.





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On 06/09/2021 at 8:27 AM, namastepat said:

Wow, that's phenomenal! I love the design. Using a massive CRT in a cocktail is certainly going to be different. It's like a candy cab in cocktail form 😄

Thanks namastepat, glad you like it. I have really good memories of playing pac-man on a cocktail cab when I as a kid.  This cabinet is my nostalgia fix, especially the big CRT.  I'm not a big fan of the traditional cocktail cabs from an artistic point of view, they were kinda squat and ugly IMO.  This curvy thing is my go at something more pleasing to look at.

On 07/09/2021 at 7:13 AM, CandyLand said:

Just as pretty as I had pictured...Jennifer is amused (wink)...You got mail.

Thanks Jenn, nice to have your point of view on my projects again. 😉

So!  I'm back to posting this project in real-time, Wooohooo!   The school term is over for me so I'm back in the workshop again, what a joy!  Today I did some basic testing of the GreenAntz VGA-Component transcoder I recently acquired.  On a first look I have to say I'm very impressed.  These units are hand built by Dekkit and Zebidee.  The picture quality on a CRT TV really depends on the quality of the CRT unit. On a decent CRT the images are very crisp indeed. There was slight noise in the picture but I suspect that's more to do with the long cable I'm using than anything. The PC hardware for this build is on my bench.  You can see the HDMI feed which goes to my LCD monitor and the VGA feed which goes to the GreenAntz board.


Here is the VGA cable connected to the GreenAntz board and the Component cable out.


I have GroovyMAME set to display on Screen2 (the CRT).  I run it from the LCD screen1 while I'm testing and configuring the software.  CRT emudriver has been setup with the video modes which suit a PAL 50Hz TV.  Game display resolutions are taken from GroovyMame config.


here are the initial results:


I have an over scan issue on the TV but I will resolve that in the TVs settings.  A close-up shows the image is quite clean.







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That is quite impressive, guess that Z/dee was the real deal, (Always did like him), curious did it come with those fancy RGB cables too, or are those yours?... Kind of a shame they ran this Princess off like they did however,  I could have seen myself totally buying a box of those boards. *(Sad face, and kicking rocks)...Anyway, as for that one it does look good, and have to say I am actually quite surprised that tube even fits the cabinet, that has to be some wicked close tolerances and measurements, If memory serves, last time I saw that thing it was hanging from the ceiling on chains and remember thinking "No frigging way is that ever going to fit, Not without some steel substructure anyway"...But aparently it will and Jennifer was just wrong...Nice work man.

Edited by CandyLand
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  • 3 weeks later...

That Component cable cost me $2.  They originally retailed for $39.  No one buys Component cables anymore, they were practically giving them away.  Yeah that CRT is a very tight fit.  I will have to adjust the woodwork very slightly from the original concept to make it all work. Here is a gratuitous photo real render to show the intended finished look.


Here is the reality so far.  Big ass CRT goes in!  😆


I had some challenges with over-scan adjustment on this CRT.  I just could not access the service menu and so had to use a more radical approach to getting the image right.  In the end I re-calibrated the convergence settings using the centering rings on the yoke and got the raster image with no over-scan and finally.... properly converged.  I've spent much of my holidays working on the software side of things.  At a high level, this machine will have no menu.  It will play just 16 games including most of the variations of Pac-Man.  Switching between games will involve swapping a Pac-Man disc from the side panel of the machine (about the size of a CD).  Sixteen games - sixteen discs or 'Pacs'.  I'll detail the way this works in future posts.  The Pacs sit in a display holder on a shelf.  Choose a game by selecting a Pac.  No menu, no re-boot, no need to exit the game with a button. I'm using Arduino for the switch sensing and a simple batch file to switch the games.

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Last night I further tested my Arduino code with mame running on my laptop and a few bits and pieces.  A Keywiz, an Arduino board, a switch board I made and a testing breadboard.

In essence the Arduino sends keyboard input to a batch file on the laptop based on switch combinations (four switches and a control switch).  The Arduino also switches the escape key on the Keywiz via an npn transistor.

The switch board lets me test the speed at which the code works and the timing.  I can now start work on building a prototype pac to test my system as it will used on the cabinet. 


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That's a pretty slick idea. Am I understanding that you are still going to use the arduino to talk to the pc via the keywiz - or are you going to get the arduino to eventually emulate a keyboard? If you need the keywiz anyway for the other inputs, then it will be a lot less work going via it than trying to set up a keyboard USB HID setup on your arduino!

Either way, I like the Pac idea for making it simple and fixed purpose machine, that should make sense to anyone.



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On 30/09/2021 at 12:06 PM, CandyLand said:

Omg dude, You make my left eye twitch...That IS cool.

😄 Thanks Jenn, keep watching, I'll put some effort into detailing how this works.


On 30/09/2021 at 12:51 PM, AskJacob said:

That's a pretty slick idea. Am I understanding that you are still going to use the arduino to talk to the pc via the keywiz - or are you going to get the arduino to eventually emulate a keyboard? If you need the keywiz anyway for the other inputs, then it will be a lot less work going via it than trying to set up a keyboard USB HID setup on your arduino!

Either way, I like the Pac idea for making it simple and fixed purpose machine, that should make sense to anyone.



Thanks for the interest! There's a bit of complexity to this but the end result: being able to switch games just using attachable Pacs is the goal.  The Arduino does a number of things, the only input it has to the Keywiz is to toggle the Escape key when a Pac is removed from the machine (ending the current game).

The Arduino sends input to a batch file on the PC when it senses different '4 bit' combos (using switches).  For instance 0001 ends up sending the character 'a' to the batch file which in turn runs the game 19xx the War Against Destiny.  The machine will always boot to Pac-Man original but swapping a Pac out with another will instantly change games.

Each Pac will be embedded with between 1 - 5 magnets, reed switches on the machine will close according to the pattern of magnets, which the Arduino senses etc.

The Arduino also switches AV modes on the TV unit I'm using, the sequence goes:

1. Power on PC

2. Power on TV via 12v relay from PC PS

3. Power on Arduino via 5v from PC PS

4. PC Boots to Batch file and runs default game.

5. Arduino sends button presses to TV via NPN transistor to set AV mode, this is cool because I can time the sequence to switch after Windows has finished booting, the user experience is that they only see the TV switch on and begin running Pac-Man i.e. no visible OS at all.

6. Arduino waits for a Pac to be changed and runs the game for that Pac.

The Keywiz, other than taking input from the Arduino for the Escape key, will function as normal for the control set.

The same power on button powers off the system.  The player experience is really simple, in fact you can switch games faster than browsing a menu.  The cabinet feels more "old school" if you know what I mean, which I like!

I'm the workshop today working on this.  Today I'm working on the switching circuit for the TVs AV mode.  Here's a pic of the boards and wiring tidied and mounted on acrylic sheet. The switches on the board I made are only for testing.  Reed switches and magnets will provide the actual input in production.


If I get the time I will post a video of testing the system thus far,  the game switching already works fine and looks simple in action.

Edited by Ond
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This looks great. I have done some prop making in the past, and using an arduino to sequence stuff that normally doesn't work together is a familiar problem 😄

A little side note: those "dupont" style wires you are using - if they are from random china supply, then you can expect some of them to be crimped without being stripped (maybe only 1 in 100 or so) - enough to make you go insane thinking everything should work but it doesn't. A quick bleep out with the meter before using them has helped maintain my sanity...

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Thanks, yeah I didn't trust the plug style headers on the Arduino and as you can see I removed them.  I may ultimately remove the remaining wiring plugs and just solder them directly to the boards once testing is done.



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I spent the last few days getting the game switching rig working with my CRT.  I don't want any visible signs of an operating system and everything has to synchronize nicely for a clean power up and game select. This means tweaking the Arduino code and the Operating system, testing and repeating. Until the cabinet is ready to properly seat the CRT with all its boards and the PC etc. I'll make use of the TV case to test the CRT for now. A bit of disassembly and reassembly required if I want to work on components tucked in under the tube.  I'm getting quicker at the pull-down every time!

Soldering some control cable to the button board - to allow the Arduino to switch AV modes after boot-up.


Solder a relay in across the main switch - allowing the CRT to turn on when the PC boots.


Refitted into the TV case before refitting the main board:


The various boards that make up the switching assembly so far (this will probably grow!):


A quick n dirty video to show the switching working.....yay!  😁

Next up, completing the proof of concept using Pacs and reed switches.

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Relays sure are useful especially in this project, there are in fact three which switch various things when the system powers up, these are the TV, the TV Menu and the +power line in the USB cable to Arduino. Together they work with Arduino code to make sure everything syncs.

A picture is worth a thousand words....so here's a pic and a render video to show the PAC game selection switching design:

There will be 16 15 of these sitting in a little display stand to choose a game from. 

Magnets are embedded in the PAC to trigger reed switches in the mount panel. There is also a small metal plate embedded in each PAC which sticks to an embedded rare earth magnet in the mount plate. The PAC will attach in place around a small wedge shape which fits the 'mouth' of the PAC. The power button powers everything up or down.


To switch to another game at any time, just change one PAC for another.  No menu, no exit button.  That's the theory anyway 😆

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I see where you are going with that but seems a little busy and overthought (Imho),  it would make one wonder for a second what it is they are actually looking at distracting the eye from the simplicity and beauty of the machine itself...A Led backlight would set it off however.

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But than again after some thought, With a appropriate game list I could see that as a modern take on the subject...I think it was the teeth that threw Jenn, they have the illusion of braces or something and come off as just scary...Lol.

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Sorry Jenn, I'm being naughty...that Terminator style Pac-Man has nothing to do with this cab.  The actual PAC will just be the simple disc in the video above (or the picture with labels).  I drew the Terminator Pac-Man on a whim ha hah.

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Ok, this was kind of important, getting the perfect list (for me) of 15 games for this machine.  I originally mentioned 16 games but I need the '0000' number for control purposes, so 15 it is.  A mix of mainly golden age classics, all which have cocktail flipping enabled (I think).

1.  Pac-Man
2.  Pac-Man Plus
3.  Ms. Pac-Man
4.  Jr. Pac-Man
5.  Pac-Mania
6.  Frogger
7.  Donkey Kong
8.  Galaga
9.  Burger Time
10. Dig Dug
11. Nibbler
12. Flying Shark
13. Aero Fighters
14. 19XX The War Against Destiny
15. 1943 The Battle of Midway

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You know Ond, That list seems quite comprehensive while keeping the C/p relativity simple...I dont really mess with MAME, or own all of those  games,And I may be wrong, but from what I know of them it would be basically a stick ,a fire button and 1/2 players on the control side...Good choices man.

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On 15/10/2021 at 6:13 AM, Ataraxia said:

What an absolute gem of a build! Can't wait to see this one finished!

I really appreciate the interest in the build, thanks!

I decided to to a video of the work, it shows my approach to making stuff from MDF and surface finishing.  Enjoy!

Here are some build pics also:








Switching magnets in their potential positions in the PAC.  They sit just under flush with the surface. The steel washer will adhere to a strong rare earth magnet of the side panel of the cabinet.



Everything gets hidden under a thin surface finish.




ready for the next few coats of primer...




Next I'll build the cabinet side of the PAC system which includes reed switches and mounting magnet.


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