Many years ago I spent hours upon hours dreaming of building my own MAME cabinet. I bought a keyboard encoder, joysticks, buttons, two light guns. Unfortunately there they've sat - in a box - for years in my basement. I couldn't get past finding cabinet plans, figuring out how to put it all together, if I had the right stuff, and so on.
All the information is out there to complete my dream - it's all free, too. The problem? Hours upon hours of reading, digesting, and comparing endless message boards, discussion forums, and vendor websites.
The answer - this book. The author is the owner of one of those websites and he does an excellent job in this book of distilling all the choices of every aspect into an easy to read, neutral, and helpful manual of how to make that dream a reality. He chronicles the various parts and design options for your cabinet, lists the major pros and cons of each choice, gives vendors and buying tips, and then leaves the final decision to you. I loved this neutral writing style - he doesn't ever say "option x is the best" or "these are the best widget", leaving it open for you to decide what is right for you. Since virtually every home-built arcade is different, this is the most appropriate message.
While the cabinet building instructions are centered around 1 design, it's still packed with tips to avoid common mistakes no matter what type of cabinet you choose. I was also surprised at the range of topics including everything from standard buttons and joysticks down to DDR dance pads and Star Wars yolks.
Whether you build or buy, want a bartop, cocktail or upright cabinet - he's got it in this book. Not only that, but you'll probably save the cost of this book by all the extras included on the cd - cabinet plans, high-res images, and sample games.
If you're on the fence about this book because you can find all the info free on the internet, I'd say that you'll more than save the cost by saving yourself time and aggravation in finding all this info on the internet. Read this book, then go to the internet just for the small portions where you need to know more. Additionally, the CD includes a number of plans for cabinets, spinners, ddr pads, and more. Tracking all of these down separately would be a chore - again having them in one place is worth the cost.
I do wish the book had color pictures. I think it would really add to many of the photos to be shown in full color. While they are included on the cd, it's just not as convenient. Additionally, the cd uses flash player by default to navigate to the chapter you want more information on. Unfortunately, it then opens a new browser window for each chapter you select. Therefore, to search through multiple chapters you end up going back and forth between the flash window and all the different browser windows it spawns. You can browse the cd via Windows Explorer, but again, it's not ideal. I feel it would have been better to skip the flash wrapper and simply have an html index of all the chapters. Overall, though I'm not deducting any stars because these don't affect the content, just the style of delivery.
Since there's no "look inside" feature yet, here's a chapter listing:
1 Picking you Path to Game-Playing Nirvana
2 Building Your Arcade Cabinet
3 Pushing Your Buttons and the Joy of Joysticks
4 Taking Your Game Out for a Spin - Spinners and Trackballs
5 Arcade Controls for Power Gamers [Steering wheels & pedals, Flight Yokes, Arcade Guns, and Dance Pads]
6 Building the Control Panel
7 How It Works - Turning a Computer into the Brains of an Arcade Machine
8 Using the Keyboard Connector for Arcade Controls
9 Arcade Controls Using the Mouse Connector
10 Miscellaneous Biths of Arcade Trickery [Gameport, Using the USB Port, Dual Strike V2 Interface, Ultimark Rotary Joystick Interface, Game Console Controllers and Adapters]
11 Audio - Silence Isn't Golden [Speakers, Arcade Jukeboxes]
12 A Picture is Worth a Thousand...Tokens? [Monitor choices and mounting]
13 Installing the Computer
14 Choosing and Loading Software [Emulators (including Emulator legality), Commercial Arcade Software, Shareware]
15 Buttoning Up the Odds and Ends [Decorating, Lighting Effects, Protecting the Cabinet, Coin Door, Power]
16 Stuck? Frustrated? Out of Quarters? [Troubleshooting Tips, Getting Help, Giving Back]
17 Buying Your Way to Gaming Nirvana [Kits, Arcade Controllers And Cabinets, Game Console Controller Adapters]
18 Online Places to Go
Appendix A: Where to Find Arcade Parts for Your Project
Appendix B: The Great Debate - Preserving Versus MAMEing the Past
Appendix C: What's on the CD?