Building a Polybius Arcade Cabinet

The Basics

I found a plan on this website. It’s not a bad start but the design misses a few key dimensions — we had to work out a few of them with a bit of maths. Still, it’s something. We built the cabinet out of 12mm plywood which is quite strong, but not wide enough to take a T-Mould — indeed, the plywood laminate would split apart even if it was wide enough. Typically, arcade cabs are made from cheaper materials such as chipboard, but my Dad isn’t a fan of such things.

Colour-scheme and Marquee

The original Polybius cabinet is a very dull affair, adding to it’s mistique no doubt! I wanted something a little more hauntologically 80s. You know — the neon, the pink and blue, Kung Fury 80s that never really existed. Looking around the internet I spotted a couple of Polybius designs that fit the bill. I went with a greeny-blue for the stripes and the control deck, matt black for the majority of the shell, with green and white controls. The overall scheme looks pretty good I think.

Perspex and wood

We bought the wood from Alty’s, a local builders merchant in the North West. The perspex cam from Hamar Acrylic in London — a staple of the hacking community in the East End — the Maker’s choice! They did a really good job of cutting it to size and packaging it up for me so I could cycle home with it.

The Electronics

The electronics consists of a few things:

  • LCD Panel for the screen (sadly we don’t have space for a CRT).
  • RaspberryPI to run RetroPi, MAME, retroarch and all that.
  • A light for the marquee.
  • Buttons and joysticks (with a satisfying click).
  • A board to convert buttons and joysticks to USB.
  • A 4-way power strip to distribute the power.
  • A set of speakers for the sound.

Software

I use the RetroPi distribution and a slew of emulators on the cabinet. Installation is pretty straight forward with programs like the new RaspberryPi OS imager. Once installed, there are a few things worth setting up like the time and region, overclocking and such, but it all depends on the Pi you are using. I’m using a RaspberryPi 3 I had knocking around. It’s probably the minimum spec for this — you won’t get the 3D stuff like Tekken working well, but most 2D stuff should be fine.

The final analysis

Lets take a look at the rough costs:

  • Plywood from Altys — Roughly £20.
  • Dell Monitor from eBay — £24
  • Arcade World bits (buttons, joysticks) — £59.92
  • iPac2 — £25
  • Vinyl sticker — £25
  • plastikote 2 cans — £20 ebay
  • plastikote extra black can (we ran over!) — £9
  • Fluorescent strip light — £13
  • Perspex — 92mm x 500m x 2mm x 2 — £5.00 + vat
  • Perspex — 400mm x 500mm x 3mm — £7.00 + vat
  • Raspberry Pi and SD Card — £20 to £50 depending on options.
  • HDMI to VGA adapter, VGA cable, 4 way power, USB PSU, Audio Cable, speakers — ??? (I either had them lying around or forgot how much they were. Not a lot I imagine).

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Benjamin Blundell

Benjamin Blundell

Freelance Research Software Engineer and Bioinformatics Student.