Each of the previous cabinets that I did had a custom-made marquee, so I knew that AP3 would also. And I didn't want to just have the standard "MAME" logo marquee, since this cabinet does have a name. I cracked open Photoshop and started playing around with ideas from scratch.
The first design decision that I made was that I didn't want the marquee to have a big smattering of arcade characters all over it. I had done this on Arcade Paradise and Arcade Paradise 2, but "marquee with a bunch of arcade characters all over it" has become a bit of a cliché these days.
I wanted the "3" in the logo to be behind the words "Arcade Paradise", and I wanted the "3" to be black and outlined in some manner (stroke, glow effect, etc.). I decided to have a lightning/electrical bolt coming across the middle of the marquee which then kind of made a big "3" when it hit the center.
(By the way, yes, I'm aware that I just talked about clichéd artwork, and then said that I was using the "lightning effect" - one of the most clichéd Photoshop tricks. The thing is though, you gotta bear in mind that the cabinet is doing retrogaming the huge majority of the time, and to that end, the whole "lightning" motif worked out perfectly. But yeah, don't worry...I am aware of it.)
One of the design ideas from the Arcade Paradise 2 marquee that I knew I wanted to do again with the AP3 marquee was to have the version number be in my own handwriting. Kind of a cool personal touch to it all. I drew the "3" with a marker, scanned it in, and then vectorized it in Adobe Illustrator so that I could eventually resize it any size that I wanted. This looked sooo much better than the "2" in AP2's marquee, which was just a straight scan into Paint Shop Pro.
It took me forever to get a lightning bolt that I liked, but I finally did. I also made the "3" into an outline and then did several iterations of the lightning effect around it so that I could pick a few pieces of the lightning to kind of curl around the "3", giving it the appearance that it's a byproduct of the lightning itself.
And for good measure - at the last minute - I put a "powered by MAME" logo toward the bottom right. This gave a much-needed salute to MAME, and it also helped to fill in a bit of the empty space there.
I had heard really good things about EMDKAY.net, so I figured I've give them a try. They have an option on their website to purchase a custom marquee, and they will set you up with an account on their FTP site to upload your file(s) to.
EMDKAY.net prints their marquees on a premium glossy photo paper, and WOW, does it look nice. The black is completely black (to the point where no light can shine through), the colors are bright and vivid, and the marquee itself feels very durable. I don't really know what else I can say about it, but I couldn't be happier with the quality of the marquee.
Huge customer service points to EMDKAY.net too: Shortly after I uploaded my marquee image to their FTP site, Brent from EMDKAY.net emailed me asking if I was aware of a large square of black that was cutting into the lightning. I opened the file up in Photoshop and thought to myself, "I don't see a black square??" I zoomed in on the area where he said it was and..."Huh, I still don't see what he's talking about." I then turned up the brightness on my monitor and..."HOLY COW look at that huge ugly black square cutting into the lightning on my marquee!!" DUURRRR.
So I corrected the picture, re-uploaded the file to their FTP site and informed Brent to please use the newly uploaded file. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mix-up, since when the marquee arrived it was the version with the huge ugly black square. And I didn't even have to adjust the brightness on my monitor to see it! I'm sure that part of the mix-up is due to the fact that I didn't bother changing the filename when I re-uploaded the correct picture, but EMDKAY.net still sent me a reprint of the marquee with the corrections that I made. The really nice thing about all of this is that you have to remember that if Brent from EMDKAY.net hadn't mentioned the problem with the picture, I never would've corrected and re-uploaded the marquee in the first place. Basically, they sent me a reprint of a mistake that I had made that THEY discovered for me.
So not only is the quality of the marquee first-rate, but the service that I've received from EMDKAY.net was above and beyond the call of duty. I'd definitely use them again and recommend them to anyone.
If you're interested, please see the Downloads section for details on how to obtain the artwork.