The ultimate arcade coffee table
It’s definitely an idea that I share with some people out there that it would be cool to combine the conviviality of the coffee table with the old arcade gameplay. I have seen designs floating around. But here’s what I would like to have.
The idea is to keep the price in check, so we’re not going to compete with the Surface or any other multi touch projects, but to try to see how we can cleverly gather existing and relatively affordable piece to have a convivial place with the old style arcade gameplay. It should be okay to have to do a bit of self assembling and programming though not too much is preferable (as time and skill is in short supply).
The table would be a wood or metal object with a glass top. The glass top is obviously important since it allows people to look at the screen while the object can still be functional as a coffee table to put drinks, foods and not let the components exposed to any bad spill. The type that opens to let people see the screen might not be practical enough. I’m sure there are enough existing coffee table designs with glass top that could be repurposed (our current coffee table already has a glass top but I doubt it could easily be repurposed).
CRTs or cathodic tubes sound a bit outdated, and a LCD screen or other type of flat screen would ensure a slick profile. The view angle of some LCDs is limited, that would be disastrous if from one side of the table we can’t see anything on the screen : we can’t justify to have people look from over the screen but also from the side. The advantage of LCD is that they are ubiquitous, we could even imagine salvage a laptop or something, how cool that could be I don’t know, plus cheap laptops come with even cheaper LCDs with bad viewing angles, bad contrast and so on. Organic LED (OLED) are probably way too expensive and hard to come by in large dimensions. Projection would be possible with a depolished medium on one side of the glass but would limit severely the sleekness of the design (or from the top but that would be obscure by objects between the projector and the table). Plasma may have good viewing angle but I don’t know if they would stand very well the type of display we will have there (lots of static imagery may result in a burnt plasma). I think the fight would be between a cheap (but with good viewing angle) LCD and a CRT with a flat surface and that can be fit under a coffee table.
Since the idea is to make some sort of arcade machine, the controls would be traditional arcade buttons. We would imagine putting either two sets of control in front of each other or four sets of controls around the table.
Unfortunately, this disposition would be another big problems in itself. Most games of arcade type we would find easily are not playable in this fashion. Some are thought for the multiplayer but with two players facing the screen most likely. Would we have to program the games ourselves ? Such as a pong clone, or gauntlet but without any main orientation. Or modify the existing games slightly to display themselves in a mirrored organization to face each player ? Programming games to take advantage of this is a dreadful prospect for an amateur endeavour with not enough time and those would be projects of their own (though we may tackle some quick and easy gameplays as proof of concepts that may not justify the total investment or to make your guests suffer through it). Modifying existing games might be feasible but might involve work too unless there exists a quick hack to do it..
Of course if we have a arcade machine in a coffee table and that allows two to four people to play together we need to have players that will be motivated enough to do something with it. Once again a big investment if you’re not going to use it (though some may find the construction itself a hobby as good as another one).
PC components can be cheap. A salvaged machine may even do. The less sophisticated the components are, the less maintenance and issues we should see hopefully. No big fans to dissipate heat, no powerful but overheating components : something that was cheap and sturdy even the day it got out. Plus if we have simple arcade games with no 3D, physics and the like there’s probably stuff we can do with a not so powerful and cheap machine. We expect most will be paid in the actual furnitures, the external components such as joysticks, buttons, the display (if we can’t salvage anything), and time. Software is an unknown.