Faqs By Arcade Cabinet FAQ


What's the difference between your Standard & BOSS arcade machines?

The differences between our Ultra Custom Cabs "standard" and "BOSS" arcade cabinets comes down to computing and graphics processing power, storage space, and add-ons such as lighting for the marquee and the base of the cabinet or under the control deck.

We only make PC-based arcade machines - not Raspberry Pi or SOC (System On A Chip) units.
We ONLY use brand-new components, not cheap, recycled second-hand ex-government or business PCs, and clearly state what our machines include on our product pages so our clients actually know (not "think" they know) what they're buying.

Put simply, Pi/SOC machines (and low rent second-hand computers) lack the power required to run tens of thousands of emulated titles and can't run the Hyperspin/RocketLauncher menu system....or "front-end".
This (and budget materials and electronics, such as joysticks, controllers, buttons, and screens) is why they're cheap.
We wouldn't compromise our gaming experience with an under-powered machine and don't believe our clients should either!

Software System
Just on the gaming menu system....
We prefer, recommend, and use the well-established and rock-solid Hyperspin/RocketLauncher system because it is stable, looks amazing, and is faster than other options like Launchbox/Big Box, Maximus, etc.
RocketLauncher is the "brain" behind the Hyperspin menu - and it is required on our machines due to the size and complexity of our systems.
RocketLauncher is continuously developed.

We plan to offer clients the option to choose/use BOTH Launchbox/Big Box and Hyperspin later in 2021, but will continue to use RocketLauncher as the "brain" - because LB/BB does not have all of the technical features/functions required to run our machines.
The ONLY reason we will be adding LB/BB support is because we like to provide options for our clients, and know that people have different preferences.

Please don't be suckered by claims that LaunchBox/Big Box is in any way "better" than other menu systems, simply because it is "newer".
It doesn't make games play better, it doesn't offer support for games that no other front-end can launch, it doesn't walk the dog, deliver pizza, or make you a coffee in the morning, etc. etc.
NO front-end menu is used to actually "play games".
Launchbox/Big Box, like Hyperspin, Maximus, etc. is only a menu system that is used to associate titles with particular "emulator" programs.

There are dozens of different emulator applications used on our machines that mimic the HARDWARE (and operating system, if applicable) of old-school arcade machines, gaming consoles, computers, handhelds, and so on. The most famous of these - M.A.M.E. - is not a single "emulator", per-se. It is actually a collection of thousands of emulated machines - mostly old arcade cabinets.
Games run on these emulator programs / virtual machines.
Games DO NOT run directly from LaunchBox/Big Box or Hyperspin, or Maximus, etc.
When you launch a title from ANY front-end, it simply opens the appropriate associated emulator program (via RocketLauncher on our machines)...and the game is loaded into/played on the emulated virtual machine.
When you're done with your game, you hit the "Exit" button to close the emulator which returns you to the menu, where you can choose another game.

LaunchBox/Big Box is most definitely a decent front-end that is easy to set up for noobs (hence it's popularity) and is fine for basic systems, but lacks some of the "smarts" needed to support more complex collections/configurations - such as those found on our machines.
LaunchBox/Big Box will be configured to use RocketLauncher on our machines in order to provide "under-the-hood" features that it does not offer - so BS about "Hyperspin being old and out of date" is neither valid or relevant - as RocketLauncher is where the actual functionality and "magic" happens.
Put more plainly, neither Hyperspin or LaunchBox/Big Box (or any other front-end, for that matter) is powerful enough on it's own to run our systems.
At the end of the day, Hyperspin and Launchbox/BigBox are simply pretty menus.
RocketLauncher does the heavy lifting and provides the behind-the-scenes "smarts" for both.

We will offer the LaunchBox/Big Box menu option at some point late in 2021, once we have fully tested it, but will only release it if the gaming/user experience for our clients is not compromised.
For the present (and future), we'll continue to use/recommend the RELIABLE and FAST Hyperspin menu system on our machines.

To ensure your gaming system ALWAYS works, we use a reboot to restore feature on our machines. Check out the video to see our bulletproof systems.

Cabinets
ALL of our machines:

  • Are made from locally manufactured and sourced matt-black laminated MDF board. Every (glued and screwed) panel we use is precision-cut with computer-controlled machinery. This minimises waste, and ensures a perfect fit for every component of your machine - bottom line, this makes your machine look great inside and out, but more importantly, makes your cabinet incredibly strong and durable.
  • Our decals (artwork) have a flat, matt or gloss vinyl coating and are applied flawlessly to our precision-cut laminated panels. This ensures that there is no bubbling, lifting, or unsightly paintbrush marks showing through the skin on your machine - even under the brightest light. Speaking of decals - if you're a fan of a particular theme and want artwork that isn't in the store - just ask. We might have it on file, but if we don't, we can can create custom artwork for your machine. Just let us know.
  • Our machines have extensive, precision-cut ventilation slots - minimising the risk of overheating, and providing you with years of trouble-free use. We include shelving and additional power outlets for your console hardware, if applicable to your build.
  • Our machines have a lockable front-door, providing easy access to consoles and switchboxes, controllers, etc. but also keeping curious hands out.
  • All of our upright cabinets feature heavy-duty castors on the rear which make it easy for you to move them. We recommend that at least two people do this, for safety.
  • We ONLY use gold-leaf buttons for game play, which don’t contain the micro-switch of “standard” arcade buttons, and offer a zero delay response. They also have no “click” when pressed.
  • Search and Pause buttons, along with hidden left/right mouse-click buttons, and pinball flipper buttons are standard on all of our cabinets.
  • We ONLY use Happ joysticks in our BOSS/Standard arcades (and cocktail tables/decks/2 in 1 machines). They can be operated as 2, 4, or 8-way - and work well in ANY type of game - from fighters to platformers.
  • In all of our machines, we use discrete AUTO-SWITCHING power supplies - that work for multiple international voltages - for the PC, sound, lighting, and screens. We use multiple power supplies because it reduces electronic "noise", which can come through speakers and can show up as visual glitches on displays, or can cause problems with PC components. More importantly, this provides better protection for each subsystem in the event of a power surge. If this unlucky event happens, it's much better to lose one subsystem/power supply (or just a fuse), rather than the whole machine. Our modular approach makes parts user-replaceable, should something unfortunate happen.
  • All electrical components comply with the safety standards outlined in AS/NZS 3820 and the RCM, detailed in AS/NZS 4417.2.
  • It's a small thing, but we're as particular about the "details" inside the cabinet as we are about the outside. We use heavier gauge wire and spade/screw terminals for most components, we use cable ties and clamps (and hot glue) to keep things neat and to ensure that components and connections don't come loose during transit or use, and provide easy access to controls that you may want to adjust for game play (or to run the machine near silently at night).
  • This approach and attention to detail makes EVERY machine we manufacture durable, and easier to use, maintain, diagnose, service, and update.

Standard Arcade Cabinet
Offline vintage gaming at a great price...
Our standard cabinet features a Ryzen 3 CPU/GPU.
It ships with a Full HD computer monitor and a discrete 2.1 sound system.

It features our reboot to restore system, which means that the machine can NOT be broken by accidental deletions, virus or malware activity, or Windows updates.

  • It is designed to run old school arcade and vintage console games only.
  • It does NOT have the graphics power to run more modern titles.
  • It ships with a 2TB gaming system.
  • You can add an extra hard drive to the system for new titles, media, and so on, if you wish.
  • 2 or 4 Player models can be ordered.

BOSS Arcade Cabinet
Offline retro and modern gaming heaven....
Our BOSS cabinet features a Ryzen 5 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a dedicated GTX-1660 (or higher) graphics card.
It ships with a Full HD computer monitor (can be upgraded to a 4K monitor) and has a discrete 2.1 sound system.
It also features LED light strips around the base or below the control deck and a backlit marquee.

It features our reboot to restore system, which means that the machine can NOT be broken by accidental deletions, virus or malware activity, or Windows updates.

  • The BOSS is designed to run old school arcade games and more modern titles, including newer consoles.
  • It ships with an 8TB gaming system.
  • You can add an extra hard drive to the system for new titles, media, and so on, if you wish.
  • 2 or 4 Player models can be ordered.

Our Arcade Decks come in Standard and Xtreme flavours - essentially the equivalent of our upright cabs, without the screen/big ole' box. Our 2 in 1 Sit-Down cabinets provide a unique combo of pinball and retro gaming.

Do I need to do any sort of setup when I receive my upright arcade machine?

No you don't.
There's an instruction document attached to your machine.
Give it a read to learn about the key, remote control(s), etc. and follow the steps.

There's video instructions and other Help documents in a folder on the desktop of your machine. These cover all operational aspects and provide extra info, tips and tricks.
Please watch the videos from start to finish and take the time to read all of the documentation.

We understand that this is probably not something you'll want to do right at the beginning, but try to make the time over the first few days/week.

Have fun!

Can I get a bigger screen in my arcade cabinet?

We occasionally get asked if we can put in a bigger monitor (and have built machines in the past with 40 inch or larger screens), and while we "can", we think that the best size is 32 inches - even with a 4K screen.

The reason for our take on this is that you and other players are within a foot or two of the monitor and pixelation is highlighted when you're this close. It's just the way human beings "see" things.
This isn't a problem with modern, high resolution games, but low resolution retro titles look increasingly worse as the screen size gets larger - basically it can become a "blocky" mess.

To clarify a misconception, old school titles are upscaled to the size of your screen, not magically "converted" or "remastered" as high definition games.

  • Old arcade games were 8 bit 320 x 240 pixel (or lower) resolution...so a total of 76,800 pixels were used to create everything you see onscreen. Old arcade games also ran on a 12-20 inch CRT monitor.
  • Newer arcade games from the late 80's through the 1990s bumped things up to 640 x 480 resolution (a total of 307,200 pixels), 16 bit graphics, and upsized to 24 inch CRT monitors.

For comparison...1920 x 1080 screens have 2,073,600 pixels and 4K - 3840 x 2160 screens have 8,294,400 pixels.
Your phone probably has 25 - 30 times the resolution of vintage arcade screens!

While old school arcade titles can be run to fill a modern 32 inch, 40 inch, or even 100 inch Full HD or 4K screen through upscaling, this is NOT "remastering" of vintage games in high definition.
The same number of pixels are used for characters/sprites in retro titles...but these are multiplied and made bigger to fit larger, high resolution screens. You can also apply processes such as oversampling and filtering to subjectively "improve" colours, sharpness, and so on - but there's a limit to this because there simply isn't a lot of data in the original game code....so these processing "tricks" are making a guess. Sometimes the guess is good and the picture looks "better"....and sometimes it looks like garbage.
At the end of the day, it's some cool maths to make the picture fill your screen, but it doesn't (and can not) make vintage games look like the latest Playstation or XBox title.
The ONLY way to make games truly high definition is to actually "remaster" them by replacing the in-game graphics and animations....and updating the game code.

The way modern displays work emphasizes the "blockiness" of 8 and 16 bit graphics.
Old CRT monitors had inherent characteristics due to the way they generated images on the screen, such as scanlines and tube "glow", which made retro games look better.
Programmers and game art designers actually took advantage of these CRT display characteristics (or flaws, if you prefer) to save memory, and to make their 8 or 16 bit artwork and animations look smoother.
We replicate these aspects of CRT screens with software filters on our machines because without them, the flawless nature of modern monitors expose these programming "tricks"...and makes retro games look horrible.

Given these realities, our favourite size is a 32 inch screen - either our default 1080p or the upgraded 4K monitor. Both are a great size when you're standing a foot or two from the screen, look fantastic, have bright colours, and offer great response times - for modern or old skool games. Obviously, more recent titles are designed for modern displays, so look brilliant on them.

We will be featuring a 4K, 50 inch monster in our upcoming BEAST arcade machine.

As always, you can choose to go for higher-spec components if you wish - it's your custom machine after all!

As an alternative you may not have considered...
If you have your heart set on a bigger screen, a cool way to do this is to grab a VR headset and play through this. You can have a movie theatre size screen in your VR world if you like, but you won't be a foot or two away from it...and, in our testing, vintage titles look surprisingly good on a virtual 100 inch screen.

Can I add new titles to my arcade system?

Yes, you can.

Our Boss and standard arcade machines are protected by the reboot to restore feature.
You cannot directly make changes to the system or gaming drives, but you CAN add further drives which can be used as you wish - for new titles, artwork, a completely separate Windows gaming system....you name it!

Can I save high scores on my arcade system?

Yes, you can.

Our Boss and standard arcade machines are protected by the reboot to restore feature but provide a non-protected partition which is used to store high score data and other volatile info.

You should note that not "all" M.A.M.E. arcade titles save high scores. This variance is because individual arcade games present their high score data in different ways to M.A.M.E. Some games (at least 2500-3000 titles) do NOT present high score data at all, or if they do, it is not natively "understood" by M.A.M.E.
High score data can not be saved for these titles.

Arcade Quick Comparison Chart

Arcade Comparison Chart

All machines offer the same external features: gold-leaf player buttons, coin/player start/enter/exit/search/pause/power buttons, high quality vinyl decals, extensive ventilation, CNC-cut cabinetry, lockable access door, etc.

All electrical components comply with the safety standards outlined in AS/NZS 3820 and the RCM, detailed in AS/NZS 4417.2.

Feature
Standard
BOSS
BEAST (Not Final Details)
CPU Ryzen 3 with integrated GPU Ryzen 5 Ryzen 7
RAM 4 GB 8 GB 16 GB
Graphics Card
None Nvidia 1660 6 GB Nvidia 3060
Screen 32" LG Full HD monitor - 60 Hz 32" LG Full HD monitor - 60 Hz
(Option to upgrade to a 4K monitor)
50" 4K Screen - 60 Hz
Sound System Logitech Z333 2.1 + 2x50W speakers Logitech Z333 2.1 + 2x50W speakers Logitech Z333 2.1 + 2x50W speakers
Joysticks Happ Competition Happ Competition Ultrastik 360
Flightstick No No HOTAS Warthog
Spinner No No Yes
Steering Wheel No No Yes (Details to come)
Light Guns x 2 No No Yes (Details to come)
Switchable Controls
Yes Yes Yes
Active Marquee No No Yes
Light-Up Marquee
No Yes No
LED strips around base of machine
No Yes Yes
Online Gaming No No Yes
Reboot to Restore Yes Yes Yes & No
2TB 40,000+ System
Yes No No
8TB 70,000+ System No Yes No
10TB System No No Yes
Extra Hard Drive No No Optional
External USB Port(s) No Yes Yes
Topper Optional Optional Optional
Choice of any available artwork Yes Yes Yes
Custom artwork Extra Cost Option Extra Cost Option Extra Cost Option

What can you tell me about your 2 in 1 sit-down (cocktail) tables?

Our 2 in 1 sit-down...or cocktail tables, if you prefer...are amazingly cool little boxes that provide huge gaming choice in a compact package at a great price - and you've got a place to put your drink!

  • They feature two side-by-side player controls - each with a joystick and six gold-leaf buttons - along one side of the machine.
  • Arcade-style titles are played on a horizontally-aligned (desktop) 1080p monitor screen.
  • At the end of the machine, you'll find pinball controls - allowing you to play pinball tables on a vertically-aligned 1080p screen. This provides a much larger playfield and delivers a great "pinny" fix, without the footprint of a full-sized pinball cabinet.
  • We've modified the virtual pinball table code so that scores appear in a corner of the screen (usually the lower or upper left).
  • For gaming titles that are best (or can only be) played with a console-style controller, wired/wireless X-Box controllers are supported by default.
  • X-Box controllers can also be used for players 3 & 4 in four-player arcade titles.

Just like ALL of our machines, our 2 in 1 sit-down machines:

  • Are made from locally manufactured and sourced matt-black laminated MDF board. Every (glued and screwed) panel we use is precision-cut with computer-controlled machinery. This minimises waste, and ensures a perfect fit for every component of your machine - bottom line, this makes your machine look great inside and out, but more importantly, makes your cabinet incredibly strong and durable.
  • Our decals (artwork) have a flat, matt or gloss vinyl coating and are applied flawlessly to our precision-cut laminated panels. This ensures that there is no bubbling, lifting, or unsightly paintbrush marks showing through the skin on your machine - even under the brightest light. Speaking of decals - if you're a fan of a particular theme and want artwork that isn't in the store - just ask. We might have it on file, but if we don't, we can can create custom artwork for your machine. Just let us know.
  • Our machines have extensive, precision-cut ventilation slots - minimising the risk of overheating, and providing you with years of trouble-free use.
  • Our machines have a lockable door, providing easy access to components, but also keeping curious hands out.
  • We ONLY use gold-leaf buttons for game play, which don’t contain the micro-switch of “standard” arcade buttons, and offer a zero delay response. They also have no “click” when pressed.
  • Search and Pause buttons, along with hidden left/right mouse-click buttons, and pinball flipper buttons are standard on all of our cabinets.
  • We ONLY use Happ joysticks. They can be operated as 2, 4, or 8-way - and are by far the best sticks around. They work well in ANY type of game - from fighters to platformers.

Can I add light guns or a steering wheel to my arcade machine?

Yes, of course you can. Our systems support them (in particular games).

You should note that many “light gun” or shooting games work well and are quite playable with X-Box controllers. Depending on the encoder type installed in your machine:

  • On your Xtreme Gaming Cabinet (or Boss/Standard/Deck machines built in 2020/2021 that feature the Mode switch): Switch to Mode 4. Switch back to Keyboard Mode by sliding the Mode switch to position 2 (BOSS) or 1 (Standard).
  • On Boss/Standard/Deck machines that DO NOT have a Mode switch: Hold down the Player 1 Start + Button 3 (for 10 seconds). The switch back to Keyboard Mode command is: Player 1 Start + Button 1 (for 10 seconds).
  • On a 2 in 1 machine: Hold down the Player 1 Start + Button 3 (for 10 seconds). The switch back to Keyboard Mode command is: Player 1 Start + Button 1 (for 10 seconds).
  • On any of our machines, you also have the option to plug in an X-Box controller - which may be the BEST choice for some titles. Some games, however, really NEED a light gun to be playable.


Some light gun games also work with the trackball (or a mouse, which you might find is more “accurate” when aiming).
Driving games
may also work with X-Box controllers/in X-Box mode, using the arcade controls.


We will be including/supporting Sinden Lightguns (or perhaps another option - due to supply issues with Sindens) and a specific steering wheel/shifter/pedal (and the Warthog FlightStick) on our upcoming BEAST arcade machine – which will be released later in 2021.
Once programming is complete for these peripherals, we will include this configuration on ALL of our arcade cabinets….allowing you to add these SPECIFIC
devices to your machine.
It will be ready/released when it’s FULLY tested on all
emulated systems/titles and not before.


We do not – at this stage - sell light gun or steering wheel/shifter peripherals, nor can we offer any direct support for them. There's plenty of info online about adding these types of controllers to arcade machines, but be warned that it's often a technical process that requires patience and good knowledge of computers and gaming systems.


How about other brands/types of peripherals?

Light guns and steering wheels come in a range of styles at different price points. Some are cheap as chips and others cost a bomb. The underlying technology used by these devices can vary widely - with certain peripherals being better suited to a particular environment (bright/dark), certain games, or a user's special needs. Different people also have a preference for a distinct style of gun or wheel.

Away from the huge variety of devices/tastes/budgets/technology, and the support they would require if we carried them all, the main reason we don't currently sell light guns is because they require calibration - often on a per-game basis. When the machine is moved (from our workshop to your place, for example), the calibration would be knocked out of alignment. Sensor movements as small as a millimetre can make certain light gun systems go from awesome to unusable.
Depending on the type of light gun technology, ambient lighting in the room can also affect performance, so it works great at night, but sucks during the day. Again, if we calibrated these types of light guns for your arcade machine in our workshop, it would be unlikely to exactly match the lighting conditions at your place - with the end result being poor performance.

Note: Even when you do calibrations "in-situ", you may need to regularly re-calibrate your light guns/system as bumps to your cabinet during a hardcore "beat-em-up" session can knock light gun sensors out of alignment. Some games require you to run a calibration routine every time you play. This is how the original machine works, and can’t be changed.

We're well aware of
light gun systems based on Wii remotes, coupled with a Mayflash (or similar) sensor bar. We've given them a crack and the fundamental problem is the fact that WiiMotes work in a relative fashion to the sensor bar. In essence, you can point the WiiMote at the screen and shoot a target with “reasonable” accuracy - from around 10 feet away. You can then turn toward the back or side wall, looking away from the screen, and also shoot with the WiiMote. There is not a direct relationship between the reticule (on-screen mouse pointer position) and the actual screen...merely a relative relationship of the WiiMote to the sensor bar.
This relative relationship affects sensitivity and accuracy as you move toward/away from the sensor bar
and ambient light conditions can also affect performance. Another problem with WiiMotes is "jitter", which shows up as a "drift" or "float" of the reticule/crosshair on-screen. This can be remedied easily enough by recalibrating the WiiMote - which you'll need to do from time to time, just like other light gun systems – but it’s certainly not a “set and forget” thing.
While using a WiiMote
or two is cheap and relatively easy to implement, it does not offer the accuracy that we (or you) would be happy with - and we wouldn’t be comfortable charging our clients for a "sort of OK" gun solution. That said, if you want to give the WiiMote/Mayflash combo a crack, feel free.

Another popular option is the AimTrak guns, which can offer decent performance, but they’re expensive and can be tricky to set up (particularly when you use more than one light gun). We have found the AimTraks to be a bit "inconsistent", making it more or less impossible to use a universal calibration configuration that would work across all of our machine builds. Put another way, if you had ten guns, each would require a slightly different calibration profile (not only global settings...but per-game). We simply don't have the time or resources to do this (check/calibrate every "gun" title) for every machine we build.
If, however, you are using a couple of AimTraks on a single machine - and calibrating only for that machine/pair of guns, they work pretty well. As with the WiiMote option, if you fancy giving the AimTraks a whirl, they're definitely worth a look.

The Sinden Lightguns work in a very different fashion to WiiMotes/Aimtraks...and while they will also need to be calibrated periodically, it is a very simple - universal - process that works across titles and can be (much more) consistently set between our machine builds.
They are among the best options available at the moment and we will look at developing our systems to support them. As always, we won't compromise our gaming experience, nor that of our clients.
The downside is that Sindens are expensive and are very hard to come by.
As of early-mid 2021, the wait time is well over 9 months!
We are also looking at other options, given the supply issues with Sindens....so keep watching this spce.

Steering wheels are usually pretty straightforward to add via USB, but behaviour with different games can vary. As with light guns, you will need to adjust/calibrate/remap steering wheels on a per-game basis.

Some games may work fine out-of-the-box with the wheel you decide on, but you'll find most titles will require at least some calibration or remapping of controls. The reason for this variation between driving games is because there is no universal standard for arcade steering wheels. On the plus side, once you've set up your steering wheel for each game, your settings generally won't need to be recalibrated regularly (or at all).

We will set up our systems to work with a particular steering wheel model later in 2021 for the BEAST arcade machine (and our other machine types), but this presents the following potential issues for us/clients:

  • The wheel may be too expensive for some clients. We can’t (and won't) consider a cheap wheel as they are less precise/consistent and because they’re not as durable.
  • The wheel may lack features that some clients want, or may have features that some clients don’t want. As examples, clutch pedal, gear shifter, force-feedback (vibrations and resistance).
  • Some clients may hate the look/feel of the wheel/pedals/sticks.
  • Most importantly - our calibration is not YOUR calibration. Everyone has a different idea of what "feels right" when it comes to driving (in the real world or on-screen).

So....you can choose your own wheel or you can go for the model we’ve selected for the BEAST. We will calibrate our systems for this SPECIFIC wheel on all of our machines, so if you decide on another option, you’ll quite probably need to re-calibrate everything.

Note: Not ALL driving games on the system actually support a steering wheel. Games without steering wheel support will only work with the joystick or an X-Box controller/in X-Box mode.

Believe us, we'd love you to add a couple of light-guns and/or a wheel to go with your arcade machine - but we know they won't work well without doing all calibrations and setup.
By limiting choice to only specific guns & a steering wheel/shifter/pedal model, we can offer clients a system that will work “out of the box” with no - or minimal - calibration
.
It will cost more, but it will work!

As always, we want to be straight-up with our clients - even if it costs us sales - rather than "talking up" capabilities and selling people something that won't perform the way that either they or we would be happy with.

As covered above, if you're prepared to occasionally calibrate your light guns and/or wheel, then you'll enjoy the "hands-on" experience that these peripherals bring to the party.

So in the meantime while we’re developing the BEAST - if you're keen and a bit of a tech-head, you can do some research online and add light gun and/or wheel peripherals to your machine.

How do emulators work on your arcade machines?

Our arcade machines run multiple "emulators" that mimic different gaming hardware devices. There are hundreds of emulators available and hundreds of thousands of games that have been created over the decades - so to make life easier - some clever people came up with the idea of "front-end" software to manage and access all emulators/games from one location.
A front-end is essentially a cool-looking menu that you can scroll through (or search) to find what you're looking for.
When you load a title, different things can happen behind the scenes: the game is unpacked (data is usually compressed to maximise storage space), the appropriate emulator is launched, control maps are assigned, support files and programs are loaded, graphic settings are changed, etc.

We use the outstanding Hyperspin front-end on our systems, which you control with the joysticks and arcade buttons.



So...what are emulators?
Games run on a number of different software programs called "emulators". These programs are so-named because they emulate the actual HARDWARE of the original machines.
Put another way, the emulator software mimics the functions and behaviour of a chip or circuit (or several chips and circuits and the base-level operating system, or BIOS) used in an old arcade machine, a game console, a handheld device, etc.
Old school computer emulations (Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, and so on) not only mimic the vintage hardware, but also the operating system used on these machines.

The most well-known “emulator” – M.A.M.E. (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) - is actually a collection of thousands of emulated machines. As the name suggests, it emulates multiple arcade MACHINES, such as Space Invaders, Frogger, Galaxian, Galaga, Asteroids, Pac-Man, trackball games, shooters, racers, classic beat-em-ups, and thousands of others.

Old arcade machines were often collections of circuit boards and chips that each had a different job. One circuit or chip would generate the background art, one would generate the "bullets", one would translate what you were doing with the joystick to move your spaceship, race car, paddle, sword or whatever - with a further circuit or chip actually drawing it on the screen.

This is very different to modern-day gaming where a general purpose computer CPU and/or graphics card is sent software instructions to do all of these jobs. More or less all arcade machines - from around 2000 onwards - take this approach. As such, more recent arcade titles generally aren't run on "emulated" hardware, as they run natively on PC hardware.

M.A.M.E. is a modern piece of software that mimics the old circuit boards and operating systems found in classic arcade machines. The memory (game instructions) of these vintage machines has been read and stored as a ROM (Read Only Memory) file.
This ROM is read by M.A.M.E., which then loads the necessary modeled "circuits" (i.e. a virtual machine) needed for the game, and you get to enjoy some retro gaming goodness.

It is important to understand that emulators are not always 100% accurate and will NOT run EVERY game/title perfectly, so you may see or hear an occasional video or audio glitch,
There are certain titles that cannot (technically) work on an emulator – due to an enhanced chip used in a cartridge, non-standard computer code, a dongle, or hack, etc. that a game developer may have used back in the day to make their game work on a particular machine.
That said, the majority of supported titles run without issues.

Emulator controls and use
When you send instructions (a game ROM/computer code) to an emulated machine, it behaves just like the original machine. In essence, you are loading a title onto a “virtual machine”.

If the emulated machine is a computer – say a Commodore 64 – user interaction is the same as it is on a real Commodore 64.
When you boot a Commodore 64, you'll see a blue screen with a command prompt.
This is also what you will see in an emulated Commodore 64.
Your interaction with an emulated Commodore 64 will require a keyboard/mouse and possibly a joystick - just like the original machine.

Emulators don’t automatically make every old school system (or title running on these old school systems) “magically” work with the arcade controls on your machine – at least not without significant intervention.
This is NOT how emulators function - particularly old school computer emulators - and it WILL require an amount of knowledge about the original machine and the commands it used, about the software title and the commands it used, and at least some configuration on your part.

We wish it was a “click and play” experience for every title on every emulator, but it just isn’t that simple.
It is, however, an authentic – and decidedly “retro” experience.

Console and handheld gaming device emulators are a different prospect to computer emulators. These typically don’t have a physical keyboard and have a defined number of buttons and directional controls (D-PAD or a Thumbstick) on game controllers. Some handheld units have a touchscreen or stylus, which is emulated by a mouse.
You can use the built-in trackball and left/right-click buttons for “touchscreen” interactions in (some) handheld emulators.

Emulated console and handheld machines are usually simple to set up for use on an arcade machine – and these have been pre-mapped on our machines for EACH emulator, but it is NOT possible to map controls for each and every supported GAME.
This is NOT how (most) emulators work.
Emulators tyically allow you to set a global control "map" for the entire emulated machine and all titles you run will use this global map.
Just like computer emulators, multiple developers used different control schemes/button (or key) mappings for their games. In many cases, these are great to play with the arcade controls – but in some titles, it can be a bit trickier to pull off certain in-game actions….so you might to need to practice a bit to reclaim your “legend” status.

Just on this, there are particular consoles that had VERY different controllers. The most obvious one is the Wii Remote (WiiMote), which can be: used as a mouse/pointer, used vertically or horizontally, has motion sensors, can be used with or without a Nunchuck, etc. etc. Emulating all of the various ways that a WiiMote is used in every game with arcade controls is not an easy task (nor is it possible for every title!).

You need to experiment with EACH supported title to work out how arcade buttons are mapped – because developers used unique control schemes for each game. You can search online for individual game manuals to learn which controls it uses.

This is true for EVERY emulator/supported title - there’s not a “universal” control scheme that every game uses – so spend the time to work it out and don’t immediately assume a supported game is “broken” or the controls are mapped “wrong”.
As mentioned above, there's a global "map" for each emulated machine, which is used for every game you run on that virtual machine.
Sometimes this default emulator-level button mapping layout works beautifully and other times it makes the button mapping a bit awkward to use.
Also keep in mind the reality that certain games are not truly “playable” with anything other than the original controller(s).

Other emulator features
Emulators sometimes add features that were not available on the original machine, such as the ability to save your progress. Only a handful of emulators do this.

Similarly, some emulators allow you to save high score data. M.A.M.E. - which is a collection of old arcade machines - allows you to save scores for around 70% of titles.

Emulators may also allow changes to graphic settings. This enables "upscaling" of the original game to the size of your screen and the application of "filters" or "shaders". Filters/shaders - if available in the emulated machine - basically change the way the overall game image is shown on the screen.
Just on this...if looking through your nostalgia glasses - 8/16 bit graphics were truly crappy by today's standards, but the inherent flaws of much smaller, low resolution, blurry old CRT screens made them look better. Modern TVs and monitors expose and magnify the limitations of 8/16 bit graphics and machines. Filters can help, by “taking the edge off” low-resolution graphics, but there’s a point where it becomes a blurry mess because there simply aren’t enough pixels in the original game data to make Ms. Pac-Man look like a supermodel. Old-skool gaming is about simple goals, simple controls and fun, not razor-sharp eye candy.

All emulated machines are run in their original aspect ratio - which is generally 4:3 (or 3:4 in "vertical" arcade games - where the manufacturer actually turned the screen sideways in the cabinet).
As screens on our machines are "widescreen" (16:9 aspect ratio), bezels (artwork) or black bars are shown to the left/right of the game.
While you can switch the screen aspect to widescreen, pan and scan, or zoomed modes, this isn't true to the original machine(s) and results in stretched images, with squares becoming rectangles and circles looking like ovals.
This not only looks bad, but also makes game controls less accurate, so we don’t recommend switching the aspect ratio.