Control Panel Initial Planning
When I first started planning this build, I knew the control panel would be important. I want my Dad to be able to play all of his favorite old arcade games with the controls set up the way he's used to them but still have only one panel that has enough to play just about any other game he might ever want to play and not be too cluttered. So, I looked around online at a lot of MAME cabinets and control panels to see what I might glean from the experience of others. Got a few rough thoughts and ideas, but not much else. I decided the only way I'd really get anything set would be to look at the original control panels from the main games I'll be incorporating and go from there, so I drew them out and started trying to figure out how I could combine them.
My main problem came from the various joystick configurations. Dual 8-ways for Robotron, centered 4-way diagonally mounted for Q*bert, and centered 4-way square mounted for the other joystick games. I considered just using the two 8-ways but didn't like the idea of having to use an off-center joystick for some of the most iconic games, so that quickly made me realize I needed three joysticks. Looking at some of the builds online I decided to make a split-level control panel to prevent hitting controls unintentionally that are not being used. Then I started thinking about the 4-way joystick and how I wanted to still have it feel like the original games and work for diagonal or square control. I came up with an idea of mounting it to a circle section of the upper panel that would rotate on a lazy susan bearing and lock into place with a pin in front of the panel. After realizing how much more complicated that would make the panel and how much space the bearing would take up, I tested playing Ms. Pac-Man and Congo Bongo (a diagonal control game) on our multi-game cabinet at work using an 8-way joystick, and it worked better than I thought. In the end, I realized my dad would probably end up not making much use of the rotating panel and just not play Q*bert much, so I switched to just using an 8-way joystick. After that, I just pieced together the lower panel with the other games and added some buttons and a spinner to increase game compatibility.
Here is the resulting diagram, that is obviously not to scale.
The smaller top panel will be a "classic" control panel based on the Ms. Pac-Man Galaga Reunion cabinet with left and right-handed fire buttons and enter and escape buttons replacing the two player buttons on the left side. You can see the circle around the joystick and pin sticking out the front from where I was drawing the rotating 4-way joystick. After measuring, it would've been a close fit anyway. The large bottom panel is close to a standard 2-player MAME control panel with additional spinner, trackball, and pinball buttons on the sides. A few small changes have been made since I drew this however. The artwork is still in planning stages, but you can see some initial notes on this layout.
Hopefully this weekend and next week I'll have some time to work more on the final control panel layout and rough artwork mock-up.