Orlando Makers are going big this year in preparation for the fourth annual Maker Faire to take place in the theme park capital of the world. Maker Faire Orlando, coming up on September 12 and 13, will feature an 18-foot banana, a foot-long solid chocolate Makey, and what is on track to be the world’s largest arcade game.
The project is an impressive collaboration between two Orlando Makerspaces, FamiLab and Factur, the organizers of local video game and pinball event Free Play Florida, and Shea Silverman, the Orlando-based creator of PiPlay, the retro arcade game distribution for Raspberry Pi (featured in Make:). Their goal is a machine that’s approximately two and a half times the size of a standard upright Bubble Bobble arcade game. It’ll debut at Maker Faire Orlando and fairegoers will have the opportunity to stand on a riser three feet off the ground to play the game.
As team member and President of FamiLab Mike King describes it:
We were looking to build an arcade cabinet to beat the current world record. After looking at the current builds and the record for the world’s largest arcade, our team decided that 15 feet was an achievable number to shoot for. The unit will be over five feet deep and five feet wide. The arcade is so large that we have to break it into tiers and actually put a ladder into (and trap within) the structure as we build it — not to mention the ladders and lifts we’ll probably use to put it together. Thankfully, the entire design can be assembled and disassembled with just a few basic hand tools, to flat pack and transport to and from Maker Faire Orlando.
We’ll be using a Raspberry Pi running PiPlay to provide the graphics and a large screen LCD to provide the display, although it’ll be “cropped” in the frame to achieve the older 4:3 screen ratio standard.
About the use of Raspberry Pi and PiPlay to power the game, Silverman adds:
I’m a member of FamiLAB and for the past few years I’ve been collecting and restoring arcade machines. When the Raspberry Pi was released, I started porting arcade and video game consoles to the device. I made an all-in-one gaming distribution for the Raspberry Pi called PiPlay. I’m excited that PiPlay is now going to be powering this awesome creation at Maker Faire.
The internal parts of the game are all ready, and the four-level housing structure is almost done being built, after which it’ll be covered in black sheeting. With two Makerspaces involved, it’s hard to say how many folks are helping out with the build in total, but one team member estimated roughly 20.
King, Silverman, and Doug Brown, founder of Factur (Orlando’s first nonprofit Makerspace) helped us gain further insight.
How did the idea for the project come about?
Brown: It all started with building a 15-foot dinosaur, but don’t most things start with dinosaurs? After a few meetings, Jessica [Eson King] mentioned a dino-themed arcade, and who could say no?
King: The original intent was to do something big — and something with dinosaurs. After realizing that a herd of CNC dinosaurs would have its own challenges, we decided to go bigger and focus on a single build instead of multiples.
How was the collaboration between FamiLab, Factur, and Free Play Florida formed?
Brown: Factur has worked with Free Play Florida in the past, and there is no way we could even think of building a giant arcade without their involvement. FamiLab and Factur have been looking for the right project to show how our spaces are more collaborative than competitive. A giant arcade cabinet doesn’t scream collaboration, but everyone involved has contributed their unique ability to make it a success. Also, when choosing the game, we really wanted to work with the original dino theme, and again it was very important that the game be cooperative. Both of those boxes get checked with Bubble Bobble.
King: We all end up attending the same events, parties, and hanging out at the same bars, talking shop and going over “what if’s” and “how would we make this” scenarios. It just kind of naturally happened that we were able to draw on all of our talents to make this happen.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about collaboration while working on this project?
Brown: The importance of communication!
King: There are often multiple ways to solve the same design problem, and patience and communication with fellow teammates plays a big role in finding the best solution for everyone.
Silverman: Compromise. When you get a lot of passionate people dedicated to a project, nobody is going to agree on everything 100% of the time. It’s an amazing sight seeing so many Makers expressing so many ideas and then as a group figuring out the ones we can actually make happen.
To be amongst the first people on the planet to play the world’s largest arcade game, head to Maker Faire Orlando on September 12 and 13. The game will be installed on the second level of the Orlando Science Center in the “Science Park” exhibit hall. With over 250 Maker exhibits on display, boredom doesn’t stand a chance.