I have a huge number of games that need restoration. Many of them are EM games which require a lot of work and some, especially ones that use Vacuum Tubes, require a bit of thought and experimentation. I don't have time to work on these and focus on them the way I should but I wanted to clear some cabinets out of my 'to-do' area.
I had a project which has been on my mind for a long time. I wanted to re-create a prototype Defender arcade cabinet. This was a simple project which required little work and little thought.
What I did NOT do!
Before I continue I want to be clear that I did NOT buy a good game and chop it up. You should never chop a good classic cabinet for a project like this, or for any project. Restore it or let someone else have it who will restore it. I turned down several cabinets because they were in too-good condition. I refused to paint over good original Defender graphics to make this cabinet. I waited until I found an original Defender cabinet that was suited to this project.
A local dealer, Gene at VintageArcade.net, gave me the cabinet. It had a monitor, power supply, and transformer already in it. Someone had converted the Defender to a Double Dragon so it already had a JAMMA harness installed and all of the buttons and joysticks I needed. The cabinet had serious water damage and the dealer was not interested in fixing it up. This was the perfect cabinet for me. It was already converted and in bad shape but no so bad that it was unusable.
This is my cabinet. You can see someone started spray painting it and when they ran out of blue paint, they just quit. The defender was converted to a Double Dragon. It still had the original monitor and the control panel had been re-cut for Double Dragon.
The cabinet was severely water damaged. The interior was OK. I wire brushed off the loose paint, sanded down the raised wood grain.
I used bondo to fill gaps and a skim coat of bondo to smooth the surface(just like in the Terminator 2 Video).
Many dealers trash good cabinets just because they are not worth the time to fix. It is possible to fix these water damaged cabinets. I only had to re-glue the edge of this one after filling the gaps with wood glue. More severe damage may require cutting out the damaged piece and replacing it. Then fill in the gaps with wood putty or bondo. You can save damaged wood by using a special resin that is made to penetrate water damaged wood and hold it together. It is like the resin used to seal bar tops but specially formulated to penetrate rotten wood. This resin is available at systemthree.com
Here I am testing my monitors before swapping them out.
My monitor was hard to see and very dark(bad CRT). I was surprised that it was so bad. I would have expected it to have been taken out of service long before it became that bad. I had a replacement monitor that I use for testing but it was also hard to see and I had to max out the brightness for a decent image which was still not great. When considering the options, a new monitor was the only way to go. Sometimes you can fix these old monitors but they are really old and for the time invested, it is simply not worth it. I can buy a new monitor for around $150.
I ordered the Happ Controls monitor 49-1329-VP2 19" CGA Shelf Mount Monitor. It came with a nice plastic bag for the kids to play with, a remote mount adjustment board to set brightness etc. The electrical connection had a standard 3 prong plug instead of the two pin molex type connector on the old unit so I had to plug it into the accessory plug on the power board.
It fit right in place with no problems.
If your monitor is dark try adjusting the Screen control, that is the brightness. I don't know why they couldn't just call it brightness. You can find more info on monitor repair in Randy Fromm's arcade school if you really want to try repairing an original monitor.
What is a prototype Defender?
This is the original cabinet built to test the Defender game. It was an internal experiment to see how the graphics would work, what gameplay was like, and how much it would cost to produce. There were only a hand full of these made. Some went to gaming shows and after that many actually were sold to arcades. Early Defender literature shows these prototypes. The company was still working on them and that was all they had to promote, so that is what they put on the flyers and magazine ads. They later changed the sideart before going into production and made some other minor changes.
I first saw a prototype defender on eBay and after some research I found andys-arcade.net which had more information on many prototypes. The production version of Defender had stencil painted sideart which is much less expensive to produce. The prototype had vinyl silk screened artwork that is eerily similar to that Star Wars movie that was so popular at the time. The photos on eBay were clear enough that I was able to hire an Adobe Illustrator artist to re-draw the sideart. I then printed out the artwork and set it aside until I was ready to tackle this project.
I always liked Stargate and Defender and wanted a game but did not want a single game(too much space for the cabinet just to play one game). I also did not want a MAME'd box because I wanted it to be more original and something anyone could play without going through a Windows menu. Basically I wanted the feel of an original game but the flexibility to play several games. The perfect solution was the MultiWilliams board from Arcade Shop. This board was recommended to me by a local dealer because it is very accurate and the controls are responsive(some boards out there do not respond correctly or do not play like the original games). This gave me 10 games instead of just one. The first board I received was bad. It would only show one game and I could not change to another so I had to return it. Apparently they re-flashed it something because when they returned the board, it was working.
Installation was quite easy. I already had a jamma cabinet so I plugged in the card and by shorting each button while Defender was running, I figured out which was which. There was a button test feature in the card setup but nowhere did it say what button was for what function. It only called them button1, button2, etc. It still only took a few minutes to figure out what each button was and stick it in place.
I will not go into the details of the cabinet fix-up. The same techniques were used in the Terminator 2 video. I sanded the wood smooth, bondo'd up the holes and broken wood pieces, painted it. Then I rebuilt the control panel using a new control panel overlay I created. The new CPO had extra buttons for the MultiWilliams board and labels so I know which button goes to which game. I took the original Defender cpo artwork(the real original not the redrawn version commonly available) then changed the labels and added a button and joystick. I cut out the panel, drilled the holes and put in my controls. I used the test feature of the board to identify which button was which before installing.
I applied the sideart and kickpanel artwork.
I took the artwork from an original Defender bezel and modified it to look like the prototype which is the same except it had none of the blue clouds. The instruction sticker was also shorter. I do not know what the original looked like so I squished the Defender card down to fit.
I used the leaf type buttons because those were the type originally used with this game. I had to use a 4 way joystick to play Robotron, Joust and other games on the board.
Engineering Prototype stencil
I do not know if the original cabinets said Engineering Prototype on the back, but the Robotron prototype did and I liked that so I painted a stencil on the back showing Engineering Prototype.
My customized control panel. Two joysticks for Robotron and each button has a small (button label) by it to indicate which button goes to what games.
This is not an exact copy of the prototype. My backdoor is not hinged, there are no headphone jacks, the front coindoor was silver mine is black, mine plays multi williams card. But none of this matters. I wanted a fun game to play that just looked like an original. I will be much happier with this than I would have been with a real original prototype.
Due to the support I received when I first made the sideart that I had commissioned for this project(from one individual in particular), I have decided to make the sideart and kickpanel artwork available to everyone. For those out of the loop, I hired an artist in India to re-create this artwork based on photos of the original prototypes. When CAG was producing artwork, this sideart was available but only for a couple of months before we stopped offering printing services. You can have a company like mamemarquees.com print this sideart for you or a local sign shop(as explained in the arcade artwork restoration book at classicarcadegrafix.com)
Click the image to download a zip of the artwork(150dpi jpg due to size) 3.3Meg
If you are interested in seeing the Terminator 2 restoration video project, visit our Video Page to find the one hour video that shows how this restoration was done.
I eventually pulled the insides out of the Defender and sold them along with the control panel to a gentleman in Brazil. Who cares about a 10 in 1 card anymore? Boring!
I then converted the cabinet with a computer to play various emulators.
A wireless USB network adapter makes it easy to update your emulator box without running cables or copying files to a thumb drive.
I added a momentary button by the power switch to turn on the computer.
I added a leaf switch to the coin return. I can now wire it up as a credit/coin switch which means I do not have to use the button on the control panel. This is a great trick when you have limited space on your panel or if you do not want too many extra buttons on the panel.
I used an extra CRT monitor I happened to have. Unfortunately it sticks out the back so I can no longer use my cool Engineering Prototype back. You can also see I used strapping to secure the computer and wood blocks to hold it and the monitor in place. I have learned that it is a good idea to secure these and anything else in the cabinet, otherwise it falls over or someone wants to move the game by laying it down which means at the destiation they have to re-connect the computer and to some people that seems like a big chore with "all the confusing wires."
This is the final custom panel. Two joysticks allows you to play Robotron and other 2-js games plus it allows two players to go head to head. I always have to reprogram the game interface though. I also like using smaller buttons for control buttons(enter, esc, tab, etc). I used to always use full size arcade buttons because I thought it had an arcade feel, but now I like the smaller buttons because they take up less space, and it is clear they are not gameplay buttons. Also I had problems with people hitting the big buttons and exiting games in the middle of play. I will be using smaller buttons for control buttons from now on. I will keep searching for som cool mini buttons. It is actually hard to find really nice buttons.
Here I am setting up the computer berore installation. You can get used computers cheap on eBay or Craigslist which are perfect for projects like this.
This is my key decoder before being wired up.
This is the bottom of the panel. The small key decoder fits nicely on the bottom and makes for a clean installation. If I had used a trackball and did not have the space, I could have used some shelf or bracket mounts and mounted it vertically.
This is the sideart. Nothing changed with it, it was still really cool so I took another photo.
The control panel before assembly in the game.
The final emulator version.