Pinball Machine

TL;DR -> Download and play everything here.

Idea

I have wanted to build my own pinball machine since first playing Cue Ball Wizard at our local Buzztime/NTN establishment we frequented when I was in junior high. I even had a bet with a friend to see who could build one first. I won, because my dad bought me three pinball-sized ball bearings and I bought a huge plank of plywood and drilled a few holes in it.

Now that I think about it, this project is probably what got me really interested in digital electronics back in junior high. I thought about how the scoring would work electronically, and learned enough to wire up a 7490 Binary-Coded-Decimal IC, hooked up to a 7 segment display. It’s amusing to look back now, and realizing what I didn’t know then…it would have taken a lot more than that. But hey, we all start somewhere.

End Goal

As I type this in August of 2021, my end goal is to create a full sized table, implementing the design shown at the top of this page. I plan to make regular updates to this page documenting my progress.

4 Jul 2021: Playfield layout and Game Logic Design

I started by researching online forums for other folks that were into custom pinball game design. I stumbled onto vpforums.org and quickly found a couple different avenues to begin design.

There were a ton of downloadable games (both commercial reproductions, and custom designs) using Virtual Pinball designer/simulator, so that’s the tool I chose. I looked at several designs, saw what I liked, what I didn’t like. I also spent a few hours watching Youtube videos about game design, what to consider, etc.

Visual Pinball enabled me to come up with a quick initial design, play test, refine, and play test more. It has a built in emulator with a pretty good physics engine. Pinball events are scripted using VBScript. You can implement all the game logic you can come up with (various modes, bonuses, etc) and even play audio. A good portion of my design time has been spent ripping audio from the real Beerfest movie, which is an amusing aspect of game play. I fully understand I probably won’t be able to sell this game without obtaining some kind of legal right to do so – but for now I am just creating this for me and friends to be played inside my home.

23 Aug 2021: Download and Play Simulation

Note: Downloading and installing Visual Pinball X will install VPX, but also VP 8 and 9. Use 9 to play my tables (specifically, VPinball992.exe – and run in administrator mode!) I’ve only developed/tested with 9, because VPX runs too slowly in my Win10 virtual machine.

Get Visual Pinball, the standard Beerfest table, and a “wimpy” version that has blockers on the out lanes and a blocker between flippers (so it’s easier to test and play all the game modes without dying!)

Download from Google Drive here

Directions:

  1. Install VPX. This will also install VP 9.
  2. Browse to the install directory (c:\Program Files (x86)\Visual Pinball).
  3. Right click on VPinball992.exe -> Run as Administrator.
  4. Click File->Open to open the Beerfest table of your choosing.
  5. Play and (hopefully) enjoy!

23 Aug 2021: Game Rules

Main Goal: Complete the 5 Beer Games to unlock DAS BOOT for massive points! Hit “Game” kicker to enter these modes.

  • Long Pour (Shoot the ball up the ramps)
  • Quarters (hit the shot glasses/quarters)
  • Strike Out (hit the drop targets)
  • Volume Chug (hit all targets for points)
  • Trojan Keg (hit the Trojan Keg target)

Multiball: Lock 3 balls by hitting them up either edge ramp and drop it into one of three beer pong cups that are rotating below the beer glass platform. In this virtual pinball game, the rotating cups are simulated by a lid appearing over the cup in regular intervals. In the full game, I plan to have 3 cups rotating below. This was too hard to simulate so I faked it…

Spell B-E-E-R K-E-G by playing Plinko (or Drinko?) in the upper level to increase end-of-life bonus.

Hitting the tavern alley on the left will increase an end-of-life bonus.

Hitting Chance target in a round will increase score multiplier (2x – 7x).

What’s hidden in the upper playfield: There are two “Quarters” targets behind the rotating beer cup object. There’s also another kicker hidden behind the two ramps to the right – whenever you hear “You play rim rules?” – you’ve got it!

28 Aug 2021: Blender Modeling

Began modeling the pinball machine in Blender a few days ago. I’ll be able to model and 3D print many of the playfield devices on my own. Learned a lot about using curves! Here’s some screenshots of my progress:

28 Aug 2021
29 Aug 2021

3 Sept 2021: Blender Dev (Pong Table)

I decided to modify the “beer pong table” rotator (seen above) that held 3 cups into a table with 2 cups – looks a lot more like a beer pong table now. In Visual Pinball, I had coded multiball based on the rotator/3 cups. Now that I’m down to 2 cups on the table, I can use one of the kicker targets to activate multiball, of course after the player has successfully dropped two pinballs into the cups.

There’s a pinball-sized hole at the bottom of each cup, and extends through the top of the table. A hinged trap door, held up by a solenoid’s actuator arm, prevents the ball from falling. When the solenoid is activated, the actuator is pulled toward the solenoid, which then allows the trap door to fall down due to the weight of the pinball. I plan to rotate the table using a servo motor mounted below the playfield (hence the 20mm shaft you see at the center of the table). I think this is a much better design than the circular rotator in my original design – it will add to playfield randomness nicely.

6 Sept 2021: Ramps Modeled

Once I had the Pong Table modeled, I could fine tune the modeling of the ramps. There are two ramps leading up to the pong table, a ramp that loops around the center of the playfield, and the ball launch ramp. I also figured out how to animate the Pong Table in blender, to make sure there is enough clearance between it and the loop ramp. Also, it’s awesome to watch.

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