Currently I am known for being a fairly PC centric gamer, but this was not always the case. Once upon a time I had a game loft with all of the major console systems prior to the Xbox hooked up and playable at any given time via a complex set of switches. It was a ton of fun, but also a massive pain in the ass to remember which combination of video switches produced which actual game system being fed to the arcade style RGB Monitor. Ultimately things happened that lead to at least in part the dismantling of the game loft, and other interests kept me from ever really rebuilding it in the same fashion.
During the summer we cleaned out the loft and set up the loft again, but this time I did not want to string cords all over the place like I had before. Currently I only have my Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 hooked up long with a cable box. The problem is… I still want access to all those retro games, or for me “the good old days”. Essentially I decided I was going to create a dedicated emulator PC, but I wanted it to be something small and quiet. I ended up going with a Foxconn Nettop machine similar to this one.
The current iteration of the box relies upon XBox Media Center and quite honestly has been more fiddly than I would have liked. As a result it is still sitting in my office instead of hooked up out in the loft as it should be. So yesterday when an interesting thing crossed my feed I had to explore it. One of my friends on G+ shared a link to a project called ICE. Essentially it is an interface between Steam and the various Console Emulators, allowing them to be added to your game library and accessible through Big Picture mode. Personally I thought this was a really awesome idea, as running a system through steam big picture mode would also give me access to a lot of the indie games that would run just fine through the nettop as well.
I did quite a bit of research into how it actually worked, as I did not want anything accessing my steam account and potentially compromising it. Essentially it only acts as a go between, in a sort of batch file mode, automatically registering a bunch of roms with steam and configuring them to load the emulator and the file as command line arguments. For the most part it works really well. I had no problem getting the Nintendo 64 and Gameboy Advance games working, however I was unable to get any Super Nintendo title to work. The list of currently supported consoles is a little something like this.
- NES – Nintendo Entertainment System
- SNES – Super Nintendo
- N64 – Nintendo 64
- Gamecube – Nintendo Gamecube
- PS1 – Sony Playstation
- PS2 – Sony Playstation 2
- Genesis – Sega Genesis
- Gameboy – Nintendo Gameboy
- GBA – Nintendo Gameboy Advance
Were I only interested in having console games on tap… it would have been a pretty solid solution, pending I could get all of the games to register properly and get the super nintendo emulation working. The problem is… I also want access to Mame which Ice currently does not support or have listed for future intended support either. Why play a console port of an arcade game when you can just play the actual arcade title. So this has lead me to search further for an easy to use solution, and I have landed upon a nifty piece of software called Maximus Arcade.
Once upon a time I worked as a developer at a Palm Pilot software company. Before the environment got the life sucked out of it by corporatization… we had this amazing Mame cabinet that one of the developers had built after hours… and then brought into the office for us all to enjoy. Through a whole bunch of arcane bullshit he had cobbled together this really cool menu system that let us have over 4000 arcade games “on tap” at any given time. Maximus Arcade seems like a piece of software that does all the configuration for you and just presents a really nice and cohesive interface. Currently the software ships with all X-Arcade joysticks, but you can purchase it separately for the really paltry sum of $25.
So once again begins a little phase of me determining how best to build a Maximus Arcade machine. Right now all suggestions are pointing at WIndows XP, specifically a derivative known as Micro XP. The software has decent forums so I intend to do quite a bit of research there before I do the system build out. The cool thing about it is, that it supports every console and arcade emulator I have heard of… as well as several that I have not. So it seems like I would be able to grow the system to support anything I might want to add in later. For the time being the important things to me are Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis, Master System, Gameboy Advance and Mame and it seems to do all of those without issue. I will keep you guys updated as I work on the build and get it rolled out into the game loft.