It's Sean!

UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

Printed from www.sean.co.uk. © Sean McManus.
You are here: Home > Blog Home > Sean McManus's Writing blog: How to play classic arcade games on the Raspberry Pi with PiMAME

Sean's Tech and Writing Blog

How to play classic arcade games on the Raspberry Pi with PiMAME

11 January 2013


Shea Silverman has ported MAME to the Raspberry Pi, which means you can play classic arcade games on your Pi.

MAME is short for Multi Arcade Machine Emulator. Emulators are programs that that enable software designed for one machine (in this case an arcade cabinet) to run on another (your Raspberry Pi). As another example, you can use an Amstrad CPC emulator to play the games I wrote in the 1980s on your Windows PC. Emulators are popular because they're convenient (it's easier to use an emulator on your current PC than to set up a dedicated machine). Some people believe early video games are as historically significant as early black and white films, and emulators can also help to preserve software for future generations.

To use Shea Silverman's PiMAME, you need to download the SD card image and flash it to the SD card as you did for the Linux operating system originally. For example, you can use Image Writer for Windows to copy the image file to an SD card using your Windows PC. You need to take special care with this process, because anything on the SD card is wiped, and if you specify the wrong drive, that might be erased by mistake.

PiMAME comes with Gridlee (pictured), which was never released when it was made, but has since been made freely available for non-commercial use by its creators. Other games have also been made freely and legally available by their creators and can be downloaded here.

You add any additional games in the /home/pi/roms/ directory on the SD card. The PiMAME SD card image includes the desktop environment so the easiest way to copy or move files is using the File Manager. When you switch the Raspberry Pi on, the SD card boots into PiMAME, but you can press Escape to go back to the shell prompt and use 'startx' to go into the desktop environment. Alternatively, you can download the ROMs using the Raspberry Pi itself and save them in that directory. You don't need to unzip them: zip files work fine.

The default keys are 5 to insert a coin, 1 to start, cursor keys to move, and the buttons are (in order) Left Control, Left Alt, Spacebar and Left Shift. In practice, that usually means Left Control is fire.

Not all games I've tried work. Some won't load and some have problems with the sound, including Gridlee. It's a little bit hit and miss then, but when it works, it's fabulous. Shea Silverman has done a great job on bringing classic games to the Raspberry Pi.

My book Raspberry Pi For Dummies is available for preorder now.

Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

Comments

That's step one. Now look at *this* http://spritesmods.com/?art=rpi_arcade

I wanted to use a RPi in my own arcade cabinet, but so far I have not found a viable way to make it drive a 15Hz arcade monitor. I could put a modern screen in the cabinet, but it just wouldn't be the same.
 
Also in the spirit of the RPi's positioning as an educational tool, an interesting thing about MAME is that it's philosophy is *not* primarily to be a means of playing games for fun. Yes, it allows you to play the games, enjoy them (sometimes), and appreciate them as a historical artefact. But also, the MAME source code serves as a record of how arcade hardware was designed.

Other emulators are faster; where MAME developers have a choice between clear, portable code, and performance, they choose the former.

There's a somewhat abortive effort to document the basics in plain English at their Wiki too. http://mamedev.org/devwiki/index.php/How_Arcade_Games_Work
 
That mini cabinet looks amazing! I don't know anything about arcade monitors, but there's a list of video modes the Pi supports and the codes for them here: http://elinux.org/RPiconfig. I can't see anything for a 15Hz monitor, though.

You make a good point about the source code being a way to record how hardware was designed so the games can be preserved for the future and analysed now for educational purposes. As you say, MAME considers the ability to play to be a nice side effect of that. Very few users probably dig into the source code, but the point is that it's there for those that do, and these are the people who will ensure we can preserve these important cultural artefacts.
 
Post a Comment

Blog Home | Website Home

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | April 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | October 2017 | November 2017 | Top of this page | RSS

Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in 

Easy Steps

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Learn to program with the Scratch programming language, widely used in schools and colleges.

Set up your Pi, master Linux, learn Scratch and Python, and create your own electronics projects.

Coder Academy

Coder Academy

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Learn to make games and other programs in Scratch 2.0, and make a web page in HTML, with this highly interactive book for 7-10 year olds.

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

More books

©Sean McManus. www.sean.co.uk.