The Arcade Machine

In an effort to further fill Imagination’s London office with sensors,Tim Brooke and I are building an arcade machine. The machine uses a webcam and the architecture of the building to generate game elements based on the movement of staff throughout the building.


Week 1

The idea was sparked in a session of idea generation for the improvement of the lobby area of Imagination’s London offices. The London offices are made up of two buildings, joined by a series of bridges in an atrium (click for enlargement):

This will be streamed into a Donkey-Kong-like platform game, where the employees crossing the bridges have an effect on the game (drop power-ups, bonus points, etc.)

The necessary parts were ordered, first to arrive being the screen followed by the arcade controls. This gave us enough to build our first prototype, so we did just. In one day, the controls were integrated into a cardboard box (the one they were delivered in) and the screen was flipped 90 degress and ran a very early gameplay demo (built by Simon Sarginson). The cardboard prototype gives a robust platform to test gameplay elements. Even in one play of the game it’s clear what is good about it, and what it lacks:

Week 2

The flat-packed arcade machine arrived and building began.

To get the main cabinet shell built took approximately 3 hours. The screen mount, marquee and control panel need to be custom built. Here’s a time-lapse (shot as an experiment with the Miniatures app) and how it looks now:

The rest of the week has been spent prototyping and developing button layouts for the control panel. The control panel on the cabinet is quite small – especially since we are opting for 2 player. After reading this article on button layout 2 custom layouts were prototyped:

After testing the two, the one below was selected as the final layout. It gives enough space below the buttons to support the wrist and the buttons are in an ergonomic shape. This will be drilled into the actual control panel next week:

Week 3

Week 3 began with a trip to the laser cutter.

The marquee (the lit up bit at the top) Imagination logo graphic, screen surround, screen mount, speaker mount and Mac Mini cradle were all cut for the machine. These were fitted and the control panel was completed and this is how the machine stands now:

The gameplay is still in the final stages of development and currently looks like this;

The object of the game is to collect all the letters of Imagination before time runs out. The player can gain more time by collecting the stopwatch objects, that appear when the webcam registers movement across one of the bridges in Imagination’s offices.