The Frinkiac 7 – prototype 2

Frinkiac 7 prototype 2

Frinkiac 7 prototype 2, side view

This is the second prototype of my arcade cabinet: the Frinkiac 7. My goal was to have something that resembled a bookcase or armoire rather than something that was a gaudy arcade-ish kind of thing. I didn’t succeed too well on that point with this prototype. This version of the cabinet was too large. I wanted a 30″ wide control panel because I thought I might try to put together a four-player panel someday. But the current version of the cab is only 26″. This second prototype was also too deep. The current version has the monitor sticking out the back a bit.

My first prototype (which I didn’t take any pictures of!! Ugh!!) was just a wooden box, really. I used some scrap wood to play around with making control panels. When I created this second prototype, I didn’t want to have a non-working cabinet while creating the control panels for the wider cabinet, so I just screwed on little wings on each side of the existing panels from my older prototype. It looked really crappy, but the games were playable.

Grant plays Pole Position

Here’s a shot of my (then) 3-year-old nephew playing Pole Position on prototype 2! His father is stepping on the gas pedal and handling the shifting.

The control panels

I designed the cab to take swappable control panels. This page shows what they looked like when I was running prototype 2. I’ve since rebuilt just about all of these panels in one form or another for use with the current version.

The Defender/1 Player panel

Original 1 Player Panel

This panel was originally constructed to allow playing of most one player games (or more properly, games where only one player is playing at a time). There were two joysticks, but they were both wired together (this is still true of the remade version of this panel). The black joystick on the left is an 8-way stick, while the red stick is a 4-way. Actually, the red stick is an original Pac-man stick I got off eBay!

The black stick used (actually still uses) a joystick plate from Oscar controls that can take joystick restrictors as well. I don’t think the joystick mounting plates or the restrictors are available anymore. The intent of the layout was to make playing Defender a more genuine experience (hence the single orange button next to the stick).

The button layout on the right works well for many games. The two black buttons on the left of the button layout were hard-wired to the left and right direction of the joysticks. This is great for games that had two buttons for moving left and right and gives the player a choice of controls (games like Space Invaders and Asteroids). However, when I remade this panel I decided not to include the left and right dedicated buttons. I found that I almost never chose to use the buttons myself, and nearly no visitor to my house preferred them either.

Sometime after creating this panel, I decided to redo it. I made a dedicated Defender panel using a real 2-way stick. This redesign also lasted into the current version of the arcade machine. Since the defender game-playing needs are taken care of by that panel, this panel was remade in a more generic in form. You can see the current 1 player panel on the current version of the Frinkiac 7.

The 2 Player panel

Original 2 Player Panel

This panel was basically for games where two people play at the same time. It had two 8-way joysticks in place with six buttons each. As on the one player panel, the two joysticks are mounted in plates and can take joystick restrictors.

This panel was really a great panel for other emulators that I have running on the cab. In particular, one that I’m most excited about is an Intellivision emulator called Nostalgia by Joe Fisher. I LOVED the Intellivision unit I had growing up. It played games that were more sophisticated than what our friends’ Atari VCS (Atari 2600) could handle. And I think those games stand up better today than games on the old Atari.

For Intellivision games that just need a few buttons, this is really great. For example, Night Stalker has four firing directions that are chosen on the keypad. Within Nostalgia, I can map those four button presses to the four arcade buttons that are arranged in a diamond pattern. And of course other, simpler shoot-em-up type games are perfect for this treatment as well (Space Armada, Buzz Bombers, River Raid, etc., etc.).

I also had two Intellivision controllers mounted right onto the control panel. I got these controllers cheap from eBay auctions. The seller couldn’t guarantee that the Intellivision unit itself worked, but I didn’t care! I just needed the controllers. I hollowed out the backs of them and mounted a 4×3 array of switches just below the keypad. I was able to use the original Intellivision overlays and everything! I didn’t bother attempting to deal with the side buttons or the directional disc, since that was handled much better by the arcade controls.

Alas, this design just didn’t survive. It was decently cool, but I found that if I wanted to play Intellivision games, I really wanted to hold the controllers in my hand, just like when playing the real thing. Having them mounted into the panel just didn’t turn out to be a fun way to play the more complicated games.

Now I use the CGC controller adapter from Joe Fisher at Shiny Technologies. See the main Frinkiac 7 page for more info about that.

I also put two spinners on the panel for the Atari 2600 emulator and for dual spinner games within MAME. I made those two spinners by following directions I found on a website. It detailed how to make spinners using the interior of old hard drives. You can probably find it by googling around, but I’ve lost track of it now.

Those home-brewed spinners always seemed a bit flimsy to me. When I remade the 2 player panel for the current version, I didn’t include the spinners. I still may create a dual-spinner panel at some point in the future.

The Trackball/Sinistar panel

Optical Panel

This panel has a trackball and an original Sinistar joystick that I got off eBay. As of version 0.77, the
MAME Analog+ variant of MAME supports the Sinistar joystick natively. Since Sinistar was one of my favorite games, and it is nearly unplayable on a normal arcade 8-way stick, I grabbed up a joystick for it.

I didn’t end up having much success with the Sinistar stick. It quickly developed problems that I wasn’t able to fix. I haven’t yet rebuilt a panel that can play Sinistar well. I’m thinking that the right solution to Sinistar is probably going to be an analog joystick instead of attempting to use a real Sinistar stick.

The arrangement wasn’t very good either. Having the trackball non-centered made control of games like Centipede awkward feeling. When I rebuilt the trackball panel I didn’t attempt to make it a dual-purpose panel and just put the trackball centered on the panel.

The buttons were arranged such that left or right handed players were able to play without too much trouble.

Miscellaneous older panels

Here are just a few pictures of the older versions of panels that really didn’t need any redesign when they got remade for the new version of the cabinet.

Tron panel

The Tron panel

Defender Panel

The Defender/Q*Bert panel

Driving Panel

The Driving panel