Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mega PC Gaming System

In the preliminary stage of building a gaming/multimedia system. Turns out this is a far from original idea. Why it is popular is do to the fact that many people are upgrading or getting new systems and are wanting to get use out of old systems.

By far the biggest part of the community doing this seems to be building Mame cabinets, boxes looking like and running arcade games. Some include mp3 jukebox like features. Some include elaborate cabinets, custom created joysticks and buttons. A very big nostalgia factor drives this as well as simply put alot of older games are still fun to play. Mortal Kombat comes to mind. Check out this site for the best example of Mame cabinets:
and these Wiki for good over view and links

My thoughts on this are similar and at the same time quite diverse. I do not want to spend alot of time and money trying to replicate the arcade experience from my youth. I do want to enjoy the old style joysticks and buttons which made game play simple yet I don't want to limit my game universe any more than I have too (limited by the older hardware I will be using).

So, I will not be building an arcade cabinet per se but rather a dedicated pc gaming machine, designed to use Mame and other emulators as well as simply play a variety of games. To do this I will consider building some kind of enclosure but that is not the be all and end all. I would like to also like to experiment and use dedicated controllers, and unique interface options. I also want it to be able to use it as a mp3 playing setup (would like to have a party mode DJ like option and a robust play list setup).

Hardware needed/planned/recycled:

--Core PC will be leftovers from previous upgrade, 2.6 Athlon, 1gb ram, Geoforce 5500, WinXP (its stable and it works) all game requirements will be that they have to run at least on XP. Not cutting edge by very respectable specs to run emulators and alot of PC games

--Mass storage - couple of options here, small drive (say 20 or 40 in system) and networked mega storage that would also be available to main system say two 320gb WD drives in Netgear storage case. Or simple go big inside the box.

--Interface - key here is ability to launch everything if possible, regular PC games as well from one single interface, currently looking at:
both which have great looks and decent flexibility and more importantly for me, fairly easy setup.

--Controllers - Like the X-Arcade dual controllers for joysticks
and the Griffin Powermate for running the mp3 side
what can I say it just looks neat.

Lots of work and design decisions to make yet. To be blunt the interface options are pretty limited, what one is good at the other is not. Would also like to see alot more automation for working with emulators (configurations files already included). And ease of use for setting up normal PC games.

On the mp3 jukebox/DJ option have not really found a great option that just works and is easy to use. Think it would be great to have one that could create play lists on the fly, add to play lists, cross fade to new song when one is selected (replace one that sucks with a good one), has a touch screen friendly interface, easy multi-select. Was thinking as a basic party feature, have nice tree view grouped by album or artists, and as guests select a song is added to now playing play list and that song is removed from selection options so no one dups. That way they could all select their favorites and then just let it play. If anyone knows of a great mp3 program that includes all or most of this functionality let me know. It has to be dead simple for non-pc users yet robust in its execution.

Don't mind using two different programs as long as I can call one from the other, hopefully the game interface.

Ideas to expand on this is light gun games, using a TV 27in or bigger instead of a monitor, custom built launcher using some kind of multimedia program like Opus or Director, sound considerations plus simply building the whole thing from scratch, ground up.

I want to be able to play old arcade style Mortal Kombat then turn around and play Unreal II, then switch to play list of my favorite tunes all quickly and easily without having to deal with the man behind the curtain.

Any ideas or suggestions let me know as this is still in the design/consideration phase.