Planning and Design
First, plan out your control panel. I wanted two players and enough buttons to cover most games. I used the Neo-Geo format of 7 buttons per player, 2 rows of 3 buttons each and a seventh button under them. I wanted one player and two player buttons and corresponding coin buttons so you didn't need to use quarters.
Here is the Visio I designed that contains the Control Panel layout.
Next, know what size monitor you plan to use. There are many monitor options, I decided on the cheapest solution using an S-Video out video card and TV. Now, I need to find a good 25-27" TV with SVideo in. My ideal size would be a 24Ē TV. I decided against rotating the monitor as many have said it's not worth it if you get a big enough monitor, and youíll be right on top of it anyway. Design your frame around the major components. If you build the cabinet first, finding a monitor to match properly may be a real task.
I opted for an upright solution. I have a Space Invaders Deluxe Coffee Table game and donít like the configuration that much. Iíd rather stand or sit on a stool to play and stand or sit on a stool next to someone. I think itís more of a genuine arcade feel. Itís also more fun if you have kids. They can stand and bang on the buttons. The littler ones will have a harder time reaching it while youíre playing too (a real plus).
So, planningÖ..Visio, Visio, Visio.
I mocked up the control panel in Visio from all angles, but only used my top panel design in construction. I tried making templates for myself, but that proved to be a waste of time (except for determining how much wood I would need). I did the same for the cabinet. The only thing I missed was allowing enough space for the marquee retainers to be flush, so they stick out a little. I adjusted the Visio posted to accomodate for this. See the download page for the Visios.
Things I wanted to do:
I got most everything I wanted with the exception of the exposed USB ports and the bigger TV. Turns out the 27" TV is much deeper and heavier than the 20" I got, so it ended up being better in the end. The 20" is just fine for virtually all games. I also kept the fans down to one inblowing and one outblowing to keep the noise pollution down.