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Setup arcade cab as simple media player - no jukebox software required


I wanted to have an arcade cab that could also play music. Aha! I thought I needed some jukebox software. However, ultimately I decided to use no jukebox application at all.

Jukebox software like DWjukebox and others are great for arcade cabs, but here is a key limitation: once you have the right music queued up, you probably want to play a game. So you have to quit out the jukebox application, losing the music you just started, to load the game!!! Obviously this isn't an issue with a dedicated jukebox, but is annoying with an arcade cab.

Instead, I went with a few free software tools including MP3tag, MPlayer, Nircmd and MameWAH (almost any front end capable of launching games will do).

Use MP3tag to "curate" the collection (getting the tags right, like artist/album/title etc) and, once done, use it to generate playlists. Generate your playlists into multiple "romsets", like "Albums", "Singles", whatever you want.  You can use MP3tag to download media info from online libraries. It works for all kinds of music formats afaik. This "curating" will likely consume much of your time, but you will need to do it regardless, even if you use jukebox software.

Use MPlayer to run the playlists from command line. MPlayer is a free open source highly customisable and compilable media player that can be run from command line and importantly (by default) has no GUI or any control interface at all. It uses very little memory and does not impact on most games performance, even when running both MPlayer and MAME on a pentium 4. Launch MPlayer with a batch file that takes one parameter, the playlist ("MPlayer.bat").

I use the Nircmd free windows command line utility to kill any MPlayer processes early if desired. Set this up in a batch file "kill.bat". Create a shortcut to the batch file (desktop will do) and edit the properties so you can launch kill.bat with a keyboard hotkey combo (I use CTRL-ALT-2, which corresponds to default P1 buttons 1&2 and P2 start). You would also call kill.bat before starting a new playlist.

For those interested in keyboard combos, you need no special software, it is available for vanilla Windows shortcuts/properties. I also have CTRL-ALT-1 setup to launch the frontend.

Finally, setup your favourite frontend to run Mplayer (via batch file) with your playlists as parameters. For the frontend, you can treat sets of playlists like "romsets" and individual playlists as "romnames". With multiple playlist "romsets" you can have multiple music lists (e.g. collections, albums, singles, genres, years, etc.) to choose from via the front end.

After choosing your music playlist, you can then go to your games lists, play pretty much whatever you want, and the music will continue in the background. If you decide the music is too much, you want it to stop, just hit CRTL-ALT-2 to kill the process.

I just quickly hammered this post out - if these ideas excite people, I'll add extra details soon like the batch files I used, how to generate the playlists, and sample command lines for the frontend. There is a lot of flexibility, with the software tools used, to customise for your own needs.

So you have the music and the game audio coming out of the same speakers? How does that sound? I have a similar setup in that I can select music from my front-end, but the selection gets sent to a server connected to my stereo.


--- Quote from: DoghouseReilly on June 10, 2022, 09:33:31 am ---So you have the music and the game audio coming out of the same speakers? How does that sound?
--- End quote ---

It sounds fine. The cab has its own amp/speakers, which are from reasonably good Harman Kardon 15W desktop speaker system I pulled apart. Quality of the HK system is OK, great for something so small, but still a compromise. However, lately I have been running the audio (both games and music) out to my party speakers. Running both audio streams at the same time creates no issues I am aware of.

--- Quote ---I have a similar setup in that I can select music from my front-end, but the selection gets sent to a server connected to my stereo.

--- End quote ---

There are clearly some advantages to your setup and it makes a lot of sense. However, I keep my cabs away from any network, for security reasons mostly, unless I am updating them or something. I think that, if I was to take the approach of connecting to a server for music, I'd maybe try implementing it with a bluetooth tablet, phone or something similar (use wifi to connect to network, bluetooth to connect to amp). You can easily extend the idea to the whole "smart home" concept to control/access any number of things from the same device.


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