On April 1st 2014, Manifold turned 4 years old. We kicked around a few ideas, but the like old saying goes, “The cobblers child has no shoes” – you get so busy creating ideas for everyone else you never have time to produce your own.
We can’t remember who it was, but someone said “Let’s have a 4 year old’s birthday party: juice boxes, cookies, and…arcade games with strangers out in front of the office?” Seemed simple enough, and it would be fun: our main office windows in San Francisco are floor to ceiling and face the sidewalk. We see these strangers wander by daily. Of course, like all ideas, soon this thing started spinning up, and we ended up with a 3000 game arcade machine with a custom design Manifold skin on the arcade cabinet, custom designed cookies, and juice boxes for all. Ballon animals too. Never go small.
- Brand Strategy
- Campaign Management
- Creative Direction
- Public Relations
- Social Media
The Technical Details
The cookies and balloons were pretty analogue, and so behaved predictably. Building our own arcade machine is where the fun started. We aren’t going to cover all the technical details for building such a machine this in this post, but if you are interested in such a thing then we have put together a document that does cover everything here – https://goo.gl/6awTex. Below is a brief summary of the arcade setup.
The first part of this project was to build a custom arcade that looked and played much like the old school ones we all remember. Our arcade runs the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME – https://mamedev.org/) software. This is the software that is capable of emulating old arcade games called ROMs. MAME runs on just about every operating system so one could just put this on a standalone PC and be done with it. However, we always enjoy a good challenge so for our setup we decided to drive the entire system with a Raspberry Pi (the popular $35 credit card sized computer board). Raspberry Pi runs Linux and for a MAME specific setup like our machine we actually found it best to use a Linux distribution which has been created specifically for running MAME on a Raspberry Pi called PiMAME (https://pimame.org/). PiMAME comes preconfigured with most everything someone needs to put together a solid arcade system. There are plenty of options around for arcade joysticks, but we ultimately settled on the X-Arcade Tankstick (https://goo.gl/DGRYiU). Again there are many paths one could take for assembling an arcade cabinet. In our case we wanted something that looked good, could accommodate our joystick selection, was easy to assemble, and allowed for custom graphics. We selected the Xtension Arcade Cabinet (https://www.recroommasters.com/x_arcade_p/rm-xt-arc-t.htm) and had our fiend Josh Ellingson (https://ellingson.cc/) design us some custom skins. This arcade now lives in our conference room, but before landing there we decided to let others have some fun with it as well.
We love keeping tabs on what others do in the hardware hacking community. A while back we stumbled onto a great project on Hack A Day (https://hackaday.com/2013/11/27/turning-a-storefront-into-a-video-game/) that had people playing a game from the street that was actually located inside the building. It was then that we decided to try and let others share in the fun of our new system as well. The goal, for one day, split our arcade system into 2 parts. Place the joystick base on the street outside our office in SF and let people play games on the TV that lives just inside the office window. Of course the challenge was the lack of power and audio outside. With the help of some batteries, powered USB hubs, a bluetooth speaker, and a USB to bluetooth KM switch the mission was a success as you can see by the video above.
All in all, a good day for a birthday, celebrated by every stranger who stumbled by the office window. Congrats you little rascal, you get more unruly by the year.