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Author Topic: A DIY Pinball Machine  (Read 11318 times)

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johnmartin

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A DIY Pinball Machine
« on: August 14, 2008, 04:53:10 pm »
Well I have given the idea much thought and I decided I may have a go at designing and building my own pin.  I am not going to make something that rivals Stern by any means.  I simply want more of a modern EM type machine. No multi-ball, no huge jackpots, no mini playfields, etc.  Just a simple, albeit more modern playfield.

I am also going to purchase on in the next 6 months or so once I save the money so this will be something to wet my whistle so to speak.

I have the tools to build and design this and I think I have many things figured out but I am a bit stumped on something.  Since this machine will be simple in operation scoring should be simple as well.  I am hoping to interface the playfield parts to a PC via an I-Pac.  What I wold like to be able to do is assign each playfield item (bumpers, drops, etc) a numerical value and when the item is struck or activates it accumulates the score on an LCD PC monitor behind the backglass.  I am not sure how I would go about this.

Would PinMAME do this? Or would a more custom program be better?  Any ideas on how I should make this work would be appreciated.

John
John M.
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Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2008, 05:11:17 pm »
I worked on a similar project once and rapidly discovered that it would be FAR more expensive than buying a real nice pinball machine.  Of course I was designing discrete circuits for rules and scoring rather than interfacing to a PC.

PinMAME would only be useful if you were using a rule set from an existing machine, in which case you'd be better off just buying a board and display from that machine.  Custom software would be your best bet.

If you can find a pinball that is electronically fairly complete but with no backglass or playfield, that would be a good bet to re-invent into your own machine, especially for late 70's/early 80's solid-state machines that had fairly generic sound effects.

Also, see the thread at http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?topic=23428.0, where this subject was previously discussed.
--Chris
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ChadTower

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2008, 08:22:35 pm »
PinMAME would only be useful if you were using a rule set from an existing machine, in which case you'd be better off just buying a board and display from that machine. 

That may not be true.  Depending on exactly how PinMAME is implemented he may be able to get away with any code that would run on the instruction set of a CPU that PinMAME currently emulates.  Depending on whether or not compilers are available for those CPUs, though, and what languages those compilers will handle, this is probably even harder than working off of the ruleset of an existing machine.

In the end I agree that a custom daemon for whatever the physical interface is would be the best bet.

Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2008, 08:46:41 pm »
That may not be true.  Depending on exactly how PinMAME is implemented he may be able to get away with any code that would run on the instruction set of a CPU that PinMAME currently emulates.  Depending on whether or not compilers are available for those CPUs, though, and what languages those compilers will handle, this is probably even harder than working off of the ruleset of an existing machine.
PinMAME wil only execute ROMs for which it knows the checksum, and since it is not open source there is no way to add one.

PinMAME also has an expiration date; every new version bumps the date forward, but it will expire.  I think they may have done this specifically to prevent it from being used to drive an actual machine, to cover their legal behinds.
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ChadTower

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2008, 09:12:56 pm »
PinMAME wil only execute ROMs for which it knows the checksum, and since it is not open source there is no way to add one.


Well that is certainly a showstopper.   :-\

johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2008, 09:15:42 pm »
This whole endeavor, while I would like a nice working machine in the end, is more about taking something I did not think I could do and doing it.  I do have a guy at work that may be able to help with the coding to make it all work.  He designs circuits for a living.

I agree that I would love to have a nice NEW machine though but the cost is prohibitive at this point.  I have a son starting college and another going into HS.  Maybe in the next year I can save up.  I did go by a local distributor yesterday and they had several new Sterns in there.  I was particularly fond of the WPT and the Spiderman.

John
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Mauzy

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2008, 09:25:16 pm »
I think it would be neat. Near everybody here has a scratch built MAME machine, but I doubt there are many (If any) that have a custom pinball machine. I cant really help with programming or hardware, but I look forward to watching this project if it takes off!
"Son, all hobbies suck. But if you keep at it, you might find you managed to kill some precious time."

johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2008, 08:40:54 am »
I can guarantee it will take off, just whether or not it has enough airspeed to stay in the air is the big question ;D

I gave this some thought last night though.  I am going to interface the machine with the PC via an I-Pac from Ultimarc.  It will allow me to register keystrokes (or combinations thereof) to the PC without using a keyboard hack.  Now how I  translate the keystokes into point values and output them to a screen is the question.

I want to be able to have basic scoring in the early game, and using either a point value or timed series of targets activate 2x or higher scoring for a timed period, after which basic scoring is back in effect.  Free games will work as they used to based on score or matching last two #s. I'd like the software to vary the free game score between a range of values so you never know what you need to get one.  Obviously it will log high scores and display them.  Still a lot to think about though

I plan on getting the playfield design started tonight so we'll see how that goes.  I am using Autocad for the design and Adobe Illustrator for the artwork.  I am looking at a theme that is based on the US Air Force since I was in it for 20+ years.  I will set up different scoring scenarios tied to things the USAF has done in the past 25 years.  Should be cool.

John
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Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2008, 09:39:00 am »
Interfacing with the PC is really the least of your problems.

I highly suggest mocking things up in Visual Pinball first to get an idea of game flow.
--Chris
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johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2008, 09:48:12 am »
Chris,

Don't worry, I am.  I just registered at VPForums this morning.  I am going to get VP and mock up in that while at the same time designing the playfield in Autocad.  it will allow me to make sure the Autocad file and the VP file remain the same throughout the design process.

I did just see something on VPF that I thought was really cool.  The dude made a VP cabinet with a 42" monitor as the playfield and a 15" on the backglass.  It was freaking awesome.  Got me wondering on whether or not VP can accept an input from a real bumper and translate that into the same bumper in the VP table.  I can however see an issue in that a ball could drain on the VP table but not in real life. I guess that is an issue I will have to tackle when I get to it.  VP is going to be a big plus for me in the design phase.

John
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Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2008, 10:13:04 am »
Got me wondering on whether or not VP can accept an input from a real bumper and translate that into the same bumper in the VP table. 
There's be no real good reason for doing that... you'd just be using VP as a script engine.  Note that VP includes NO pinball rules at all... no ball count, ball drain, scoring, nothing.  You have to write ALL that from scratch in Visual Basic scripting.

I've written a "table skeleton" that does all the basic game management: driving a display, counting balls, handling credits, etc.  You may want to use it to get a jump start.  You can download it from http://webpages.charter.net/celamantia/vp/
--Chris
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johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2008, 10:19:48 am »
Why did I know that was the answer I was going to get. LOL  It makes sense after you say it.  I guess there is a reason it takes so long for a real machine to get designed.

I am still not daunted though.  I am set on this.  It will get built and it WILL work LOL  It just may be harder than I thought. ;D

John
John M.
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Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2008, 10:47:27 am »
You have both a Happ Controls distributorship and Marco Specialties (http://marcospec.com) right there in South Carolina so you should at least be able to get parts fast!

I still dream of making a pinball someday.. I've dreamed of that ever since a child when I would build "tables" with straight pins and rubber bands in cardboard.  I may try something simpler like a pitch and bat machine.

Going back to interfacing: You say you want to use an IPac and not hack a keyboard... however, it's worth noting that modern pinballs usually used matrixed switch arrangements, just like keyboards, so you may find that a keyboard controller chip is actually easier for this case.

One of my big stoppers was having no idea how to do lamp inserts into the table without having something as precise as a CNC cutter.  I never did solve that.
--Chris
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johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2008, 10:59:20 am »
The I-Pac is my method of choice since I can assign any keystroke to a specific item on the playfield and I can save the configuration to the I-Pac.  I actually have a 1/2 dozen Happ pushbuttons sitting at home right now from my MAME build.

As far as lamp inserts, I was thinking that a Forstner bit would do nicely for that as long as you could control the depth accurately.


John
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Chris

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2008, 11:05:58 am »
As far as lamp inserts, I was thinking that a Forstner bit would do nicely for that as long as you could control the depth accurately.
Well, Marco has the inserts:

http://www.marcospecialties.com/storeitems.asp?txtkey=insert&PageNo=4

Just looking at that page makes me want to build one!
--Chris
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johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2008, 11:12:00 am »
It is now on my favorites list.  Man that site has a lot of stuff.  I had never looked at that site before and it is well organized and easy to find things.

You are right in those would be difficult to cut out properly.  A Forstner only works for round components.  I would think a Dremel tool and a LOT of patience would work but would be slow.

John
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ChadTower

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2008, 11:13:00 am »
There are a couple of sets of forstner bits on sale at HF right now.

John, people did do stuff like this before power tools... make a round hole and square it with a chisel.   ;D


johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2008, 11:16:11 am »
I have a nice set of Forstner bits and chisels already begging to be used.  Soon, very soon.

Here is another question.  How thick are most playfields?

John
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ChadTower

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2008, 11:26:17 am »
IIRC a lot of them were 17/32 mapletop ply.  I know that's what the CPR guys are using for their repros.  I've seen it in person, raw untouched all the way to finished product, and the stuff they use is flawless.  I'm pretty sure that's what Stern uses for new games too.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2008, 12:00:56 pm »
You are right in those would be difficult to cut out properly.  A Forstner only works for round components.  I would think a Dremel tool and a LOT of patience would work but would be slow.
Well you could just do round ones... but the triangles and arrowheads are just begging to be used, aren't they?  The only "home-built" machine I've ever seen used all round inserts.
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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #20 on: August 15, 2008, 12:10:14 pm »

Your hole doesn't have to be dead perfect to the insert.  It just needs to be pretty close.  You can fill the gap with epoxy and sand it down before applying art.  That's what the CPR guys do and probably what the original manufacturers did.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #21 on: August 15, 2008, 06:49:12 pm »

 FYI :

 According to the recent news,   Pinmame no longer expires.  Its also now
Open source:

-------

# 08/01/08

    * PinMAME, PinMAME32 and Visual PinMAME 2.0 released
    * As of 4:59 EST today, Visual PinMAME is completely open source!
    * Since the last of Stern's Whitestar games turned 3 years old today, we are able to release the full source code to the public.
    * At the same time, the expiry date was effectively removed, so there you have it, cabinet builders. :)
    * Not a whole lot of new features I'm afraid, but it's all in the whatsnew.txt anyway.



Mauzy

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2008, 07:13:16 pm »
Well that was a handy turn of events...
"Son, all hobbies suck. But if you keep at it, you might find you managed to kill some precious time."

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2008, 07:44:23 pm »
Thanks for the news... great timing!
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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #24 on: August 15, 2008, 08:21:01 pm »
The I-Pac is my method of choice since I can assign any keystroke to a specific item on the playfield and I can save the configuration to the I-Pac.  I actually have a 1/2 dozen Happ pushbuttons sitting at home right now from my MAME build.

As far as lamp inserts, I was thinking that a Forstner bit would do nicely for that as long as you could control the depth accurately.


John

You might want to think about using a U-HID rather than an I-Pac. It'll give you everything the I-Pac does, plus you can use it to control your lighting and solenoids (ie, fire your flippers, slingshots, popbumpers etc). When Andy first announced the U-HID, I was thinking that using a one (or a few) for this kind of application would be the balls.

Its built-in "U-HID locally-controlled LED output based on the state of any switch" feature would be perfect for easily setting up bumpers etc.

http://www.u-hid.com/

Now if you can find some powerful solenoids that fire nicely using 5v....

ChadTower

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #25 on: August 15, 2008, 08:26:37 pm »
Now if you can find some powerful solenoids that fire nicely using 5v....


You have to use the 5v as signal to a transistor to turn power on/off from a higher current source.  Or a relay if you want to go mechanical.

johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #26 on: August 17, 2008, 08:44:24 am »
I'll have to take a look at the U-Hid.  It may work as well.

For now though I am going to focus on the playfield design.  I am going to start with my rules, then move to a playfield design, get it functioning electrically and mechanically without scoring or rule implementation, and then worry about how to tie it all together in the end.

John
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 09:37:03 am by johnmartin »
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Xiaou2

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #27 on: August 18, 2008, 11:50:23 pm »

 Just a thought...

 You may wish to change your order of operations.

 Its best to start out with a blank layout, and create a dummy table.   Such as
a table that has holes all over it where parts can easily be moved.

 (Pop paper over the holes to allow smooth ball travel when testing)

 The thing is... you really want to make sure you have a field that is playable
and fun before trying to make up any rules.

 If you built the thing based on preset rules... and then found out after you built it
that certain shots were 98% impossible... or that the flow was purely awful playing...
you would be stuck with useless rules on a useless table.

 
 Theme is part of the game too however,... and as you design, you may try to implement
different playfeild tactics, toys, ideas..etc.   Just try not to be set in stone around the
ideas.   Some things may have to be moved.. and some things may have to be scrapped
altogether.   And yet some new ideas may develop from the playtestings as well.

 Once you have a great playing table... it should be a cakewalk to make rules for it.

(getting them implemented is another story...)

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2008, 01:27:49 pm »
I can't add anything to this thread from a techinical point of view but the project sounds excellent and I look forward to seeing things develop.

I think it will be tremendously difficult to do well but if you want it bad enough there's no reason why you shouldn't succeed.

Good luck!

johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #29 on: August 19, 2008, 01:34:17 pm »

 Just a thought...

 You may wish to change your order of operations.

 Its best to start out with a blank layout, and create a dummy table.   Such as
a table that has holes all over it where parts can easily be moved.

 (Pop paper over the holes to allow smooth ball travel when testing)

 The thing is... you really want to make sure you have a field that is playable
and fun before trying to make up any rules.

 If you built the thing based on preset rules... and then found out after you built it
that certain shots were 98% impossible... or that the flow was purely awful playing...
you would be stuck with useless rules on a useless table.

 
 Theme is part of the game too however,... and as you design, you may try to implement
different playfeild tactics, toys, ideas..etc.   Just try not to be set in stone around the
ideas.   Some things may have to be moved.. and some things may have to be scrapped
altogether.   And yet some new ideas may develop from the playtestings as well.

 Once you have a great playing table... it should be a cakewalk to make rules for it.

(getting them implemented is another story...)


You caught me on that.  In a fit of dyslexic typing the order was reversed.  The playfield is coming first.  But I am thinking about what rules I want it to follow during that time. ;D Mocking it up in Visual Pinball will certainly help with the game play aspect.

John
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johnmartin

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2008, 01:35:51 pm »
I can't add anything to this thread from a techinical point of view but the project sounds excellent and I look forward to seeing things develop.

I think it will be tremendously difficult to do well but if you want it bad enough there's no reason why you shouldn't succeed.

Good luck!

I agree about difficult, but I am definitely going to try.  Whether I succeed is to be determined but I am not giving in easily :soapbox:
John M.
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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2008, 03:21:02 pm »
There is some PinMAME source on the PinMAME Page.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #32 on: August 19, 2008, 04:02:53 pm »
You should read up on this groups work:
http://www.diypinball.com/Welcome.html

They are also developing a diy control board, which will help you out immensly if they get it done.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #33 on: August 19, 2008, 04:11:44 pm »

I'm trying, to read, that article, but dude uses too many, commas.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #34 on: August 19, 2008, 04:32:43 pm »
When they come out with the controllers for the playfield, I will be building a couple machines. Thats the most exciting thing Ive heard all week!
"Son, all hobbies suck. But if you keep at it, you might find you managed to kill some precious time."

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #35 on: August 20, 2008, 12:09:57 am »
Mocking it up in Visual Pinball will certainly help with the game play aspect.

 It may be an easier way to do mockups...  However... I wouldnt trust the
results that you get from those simulations.

 A real machine can play dramatically different than what the simulator shows.

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Re: A DIY Pinball Machine
« Reply #36 on: August 20, 2008, 01:27:06 pm »
Mocking it up in Visual Pinball will certainly help with the game play aspect.

 It may be an easier way to do mockups...  However... I wouldnt trust the
results that you get from those simulations.

 A real machine can play dramatically different than what the simulator shows.


Im gonna have to agree with him on that one. Ive played many machines that play completely different in real life as opposed to simulation. You'll often find that shots that are easy or hard in the arcade are quite the opposite on a computer. Simulating will help you, but it won't be completely accurate.
"Son, all hobbies suck. But if you keep at it, you might find you managed to kill some precious time."

  
 

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