June 5, 2003

Design

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

The control panel is fashioned almost entirely out of 1/2" plywood. It is basically a shaped box that attaches to the machine in a modular fashion. As stated before, I had no intention of modifying the Millipede cabinet itself, so fitting the new CP to the existing cabinet was the goal. This presented the challenge of determining how to make it fit, not look utterly stupid (that's for you to decide, but I'm happy with it), and attach in a sturdy enough manner that it doesn't bounce up and down when you are hammering your brains out on the fire button.

We started the design of the control panel by (obviously) removing the original one from the machine. We then notched a sheet of foamcore so that it fit around the side panels and rested where we wanted the new control panel to sit.


The attached foamcore prior to being used to sketch a template.
(click to enlarge)

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Mounting

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

As I've stated many times in previous pages, the primary goal was to mate the new control panel to the cabinet in a manner that did not alter the Millipede cabinet itself. The original metal control panel fastened to the body using three large 1/4" diameter bolts along the bottom edge below the hinge. The top, like many arcade control panels, was locked in place by two latches mounted on the inside wall of the cabinet in the control panel opening. You opened the system by reaching in through the coin door and unlatching the control panel. It then hinged open to reveal the backside of the controls.

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Layout

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

The joystick and trackball layout was determined back at the beginning of the process and played a role in deciding the overall shape of the control panel design. At this point the primary task was determining how many buttons and where to place them.

My overall design is based around three sticks, two of which are player one and therefore functionally identical. The reasoning here was that most games I will play are single player (or alternating multi-player) and should therefore be centered on the monitor much like any classic arcade game. For two player simultaneous games, though, you need to stand side by side necessitating more room. This is the purpose of the two outer sticks with player one on the left and player two on the right.

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Surfacing

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

I didn't think to take any pictures of the actual process of surfacing the control panel with formica. You could likely attribute this to the fact that it was both late at night and I was probably killing tens of millions braincells with the formica adhesive. The lovely burnt smell of formica that hangs in the air after routing off the edges is not high on my list of favorite odors, either. It is, for the most part, a tremendously fun-filled process that you're sure to want to repeat over and over...

Yeah. Right.

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Wiring

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

While the wiring is not a difficult process, it is most definitely a long one. I spent about three solid evenings putting together the harnesses. I did most of it sitting on the living room floor while watching, though, since it doesn't completely absorb your concentration once you decide how you want things configured.

I initially started with the wiring before the cabinet was underway. This allowed me to sample the functionality of some of the controls and get a feel for where things were heading. To do this I cobbled together what I called the "ghetto CP". It was a scrap piece of that horrifying composite board that I found out in the garage. I drilled a few appropriately sized holes in it, screwed it to some blocks for height and mounted a few of the controls.


The "ghetto CP" used for my initial wiring tests. This is not a thing of beauty.
(click to enlarge)

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Final Touches

Category: MAME'd Millipede :: 2. Control Panel

By this point the control panel was designed, surfaced on the top, wired and sitting in place on the cabinet. There were still a few key things, though, that needed attention.


The functional control panel in place but with a few remaining details to be addressed.
(click to enlarge)

The previous section on surfacing discussed the facing pieces of the control panel for the sake of covering the entire topic of formica installation. The actual timeline, though, was such that the face pieces were not surfaced with formica until after the wiring had been done. I had the system functional for about a week before this could be addressed.

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