Here’s the version I first modeled in Visual Pinball:
And here’s what it currently looks like IRL:
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.
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
- Install VPX. This will also install VP 9.
- Browse to the install directory (c:\Program Files (x86)\Visual Pinball).
- Right click on VPinball992.exe -> Run as Administrator.
- Click File->Open to open the Beerfest table of your choosing.
- 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:
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. I also modified the cups after taking screenshots of the modeling to make them more realistic, and also printed them in multiple colors. Mostly final version is shown below.
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.
Here’s the first version of the left ramp printed in two pieces, attached by screws.
26 Sept 2021: Full Size table modeling in Blender
I started buying parts a few weeks ago. I now have two flipper assemblies, two slingshots, some posts, a plunger, and some playfield inserts. That enabled me to precisely model objects in Blender, and so I’ve made some revisions. Here’s its current state:
I still have the ramps and pong table, but I’m focusing on the lower third right now. Specifically, I decided to tackle the ball trough/ball eject functionality (shown in the bottom right). I looked over a few different designs, and I settled on an above-playfield one. I could have bought a trough/eject mechanism, but I’ve spent a good deal of money lately on all the other parts, and so I decided to implement my own design using 3D printing.
In this design, when the ball is drained, it rolls to the bottom, where I will have a ball sensor. The solenoid to the left will fire, which sends the ball through an elevated-in-the-middle guide, where it will be collected along with the other balls on a descending slope trough. The other solenoid to the right, when commanded, will launch the ball through a second guide which places the ball on top of the plunger, ready to be launched for play. While I initially thought this design would be easy to implement, it has proved challenging – I’ve adjusted the height of curved ramp several times to get it just right. My first revision had the height too high – the left solenoid was not powerful enough to get the ball to the other side (it’s only a 12V/2A solenoid). I also had issues with the slope of the right side of that curved trough not being steep enough – sometimes with only 1 ball, there was not enough slope for it to start rolling down on it’s own. That seemed to be a limitation due to 3D printing. Because the slope was not that great, there were flat spots, and the ball could rest on one of those. Sanding helped, but it wasn’t perfect. I’m currently printing my latest revision which I hope will solve all of those issues.
I also recently bought some MDF and starting prototyping the playfield in real life, so I could work out bugs like the ball trough. Here’s the latest with that:
I also recently purchased two power supplies (48V and 12/5V) and all the solenoid/switch/LED control circuitry I think I’ll need. I decided to go with the P3-ROC system, which has plenty of online support from tinkerers like me. This system has a primary CPU board with USB that can be connected to something like a Raspberry Pi. The Pi will implement the game logic, sound, and video/LED matrix. When various lights need to be lit, solenoids fired, or switches read, the Pi will communicate with the P3-ROC, and it then handles all the low-level functionality, like driving the high-powered solenoids or lighting banks of LEDs. Here’s its current state:
I’ve got the Power Supply Units mounted to a board, and cables connected, but that’s about it. Once I get the ball trough/eject mechanism finalized, and the two flipper mounted, I’ll work on getting a rough software framework implemented, and I just might have enough working to get absolutely minimal game play up and running! I’m very excited for that…
6 Oct 2021: First Flipper Test
I’ve installed Mission Pinball Framework onto my development workstation, and have been working through the tutorials. MPF is an open source pinball machine framework designed to control everything pinball: switches, solenoid coils, custom devices, game logic, audio, and video. I’m developing everything on my dev workstation, but ultimately MPF will be running on something small that will be fit inside the machine, maybe a Raspberry Pi. For now, I can start developing all the actual game logic and test it out on actual hardware.
I’ve got my power supplies connected to the P3-ROC controller, a 16 port solenoid driver control board, and a 20 port switch controller. That’s enough to start developing actual game play on my prototype playfield!
Check out my first flipper test demo on Youtube here.
16 Oct 2021: Outer Playfield Walls Complete
I’ve spent the last several days modeling the playfield walls in Blender, and basically 3D printing nonstop. Once I get the plunger lane ramp complete, I’ll mount the plunger and actually be able to play a full round using all the mechanisms instead of dropping the ball with my hand! Here’s what the playfield looks like now:
24 Oct 2021: Fully Automated Game Play
It’s been a busy week! I designed and 3D printed the launch ramp, and mounted the plunger, a start button, and all opto sensors required for fully automated game play. After configuring MPF so it knows about all my additional switches, I can now start a game, play the ball, and when it drains, the system detects that, punches it into the trough, and launches a new ball into the plunger lane. It does this for 3 balls worth. MPF has a built in GUI display (in place of the eventual Dot Matrix Display).
See here for a demo!
30 Oct 2021: Playfield Redesign
I decided to redesign the upper third of the playfield. After playtesting the flippers and seeing the force the pinball can run into things, I was not comfortable allowing the pinball to smack into the pong table. It would take a beating. I also thought I was wasting a lot of real estate by placing it in the center, with two smaller paths to the upper playfield on either side of the rotating table. I also didn’t like the redundancy and wasted ramp space by having two ramps to get to the “Drinko” upper playfield. I could re-purpose the left ramp to something cooler. I decided to make it a ramp that splits into two possible downramps that are wireframes, that lead to either flipper lanes. I think that will provide a cooler playing experience. I can also add more targets in front of the pong table that both serve to protect the table, and add additional ways to score points.
Here’s the latest blender design:
I also now have the “Drinko” upper level designed. Since it looks like “Plinko” from “The Price Is Right”, and because we own this novelty bottle cap Plinko-like game called “Drinko”:
I decided to name the playfield by the same name. All rights not reserved. There will be sensors on each pathway that originally had the player spell B-E-E-R-K-E-G, instead I think I’ll have them spell D-R-I-N-K-O-!
Because of the redesign, I was able to better utilize the upper third of the playfield. I decided to add an additional pop bumper. That will make for some slick loud action when the ball is up there. I downloaded some free models of pop bumpers and modded them to the size of mine. Here’s a screenshot of the upper playfield, with the Drinko level hidden showing what that layout now looks like:
21 Nov 2021: Playfield Printing & Assembly
I’ve been busy the last few weeks printing a lot of walls, ramps, and assembling various playfield devices. I’ve installed both slingshots, the two pop bumpers in the upper playfield, a few targets, and most of the posts/rubbers. Here’s the current Blender design:
Here are some pics of the current playfield:
All of the construction so far has been on MDF particle board…I wanted to make sure things would line up and to iron out any mounting issues. All I have left is the 3-target Drop Target mechanism, I’ll do that in the next couple days. I feel confident enough with all the major parts being mounted so far, so I ordered the “real” playfield wood (cabinet grade birch) last week. It should be arriving at Home Depot in a couple days, so I’m excited about that.
I had originally purchased just one solenoid driver board and one switch input board from Multimorphic, knowing that would not be enough. Well, I’m running out of switch inputs, so I ordered two more of those. The coil driver boards allow for two different voltages if you need them, but can only support 8 coils per voltage. I have 9 coils that require 48V, and 4 coils that require 12V :-(. So, I ordered another one of those…
11 Dec 2021: Constructing the “real” Playfield
I’ve been busy the last few weeks re-building the machine using a nice 1/2″ Baltic Birch piece of plywood. First, I built a custom rotisserie for the playfield. Its function is just as it sounds – it allows me to easily turn over the playfield so I have easy access to both the top and bottom surface. Totally worth it. I definitely won’t be a carpenter anytime soon, but it does the job. Dog not included.
It took a bit of work, but I was able to produce a using drill hole pattern from my Blender design, and printed out a full size stencil at Fed Ex. That was definitely quicker and more accurate than measuring and drawing lines/intersections on my prototype board. Here are a slew of pics showing the progression of construction:
18 Dec 2021: Designing Ball Eject Mechanism
So…I made a purchase error. I apparently had incorrect vocabulary for the pinball-sized drop holes that are often found on pinball machines. I have two of those in my design. One just to the right of the far right ramp, and another in the upper third of the playfield, to the left, under the left ramp. I purchased two coil mechanisms for “out hole kickers”. Well, apparently out hole kickers are meant to be mounted parallel to the playfield, and are designed to kick the ball back up outlanes, or the main drain slot (to resurrect a dying ball, perhaps). Instead of returning the hardware, I decided to re-purpose them for my needs, which were to vertically eject the pinball after it has dropped into one of those holes. Here is what I came up with:
After a couple iterations of the design, and the kicker arm and IR sensor placement, I had a working design. Enjoy this super slow-mo video of it in action (prior to mounting).
22 Dec 2021: Updated Playfield pic and demo vids
Here’s the latest snapshot of the playfield:
And a couple videos I took:
2 Feb 2022: (Final?) Playfield Redesign
So after playing some pinball at Rad Bar recently, I realized my table might be a little too slow to play. The drop hole in the upper third of the playfield was too hard to hit, the (two) pop bumpers were too far apart, and my attempt to create more bounciness in the pop bumper area by adding walls of rubber just slowed things down. I also felt the drop hole in the bottom third of the table on the right was a little too hard too hit, because the slingshots were too tall.
So, I decided to redesign the table a bit, which turned into a lot.
- I created an alley for the upper drop hole. Now, a straight shot from the flippers can hit it directly.
- I converted the rubber walls in the top right to a huge orbit. Now, if the ball is hit straight up from the flippers, it travels (FAST!) around the walls and comes back out/down immediately. This really speeds things up.
- I found room to add a third pop bumper, and moved them all closer together.
- The Tavern Ramp (far left) now drops the ball right above the pop bumpers, so hitting that ramp will give good pop bumper action.
- Lowered the tops of the slings, and moved the entire slingshots slightly outward.
- Designed full walls for the separation between the outlanes and flipper lanes, and shrunk the width of those lanes to something more standard. They were too wide before and that shrunk the playable area in the lower third.
- Widened the distance between flippers by several millimeters.
- Designed layout for another slingshot right below the shot glass. I think this will give more opportunity to hit the game mode drop hole
- Designed a 3D printed shot glass with three stand-up targets built into it (red, white, and blue of course).
- Designed a solid wall for the Pong Table release instead of using wire guide.
- Converted the two stand-up targets that were in front of the Pong Table to a row of three larger targets.
I also found a cool looking 3D tavern online and bought some brown filament to print it. I also found a cool wooden keg that’s now mounted above the game mode drop hole.
I also started the commission for the playfield artwork, which is exciting. I discovered that Al’s cousin, Sammy, is a pretty awesome artist. I’ve been working with him on the artwork design. It’s coming along pretty well.
Here are some updated pics:
Notice the new flipper lane walls, additional slingshot and shot glass to the left, brown Tavern and Keg, and the old holes for the slingshots. Due to the updated design, I’ll have to buy another piece of playfield wood. This is actually fine, because I was not fully happy with the piece I got from Home Depot. It was great to work out kinks, but it seemed too soft. Also, I’ve modified it too much to use…
I’ll be buying some higher ply count wood from a local lumber yard. I also have a sign shop in mind that is able to screen print my artwork onto the playfield.
I also spent time getting LEDs working within MPF. I populated the Drinko upper level with 7 RGB LEDs, and 7 opto sensors. Check it out:
Here’s a slow-mo video of the ball being ejected from the game mode drop hole.
7 Feb 2022: First Wire Ramp + Diverter
It’s only been a few days, but I’ve made progress on a looming task: Building the wire ramps. Up until now, If the ball made it up the loop-around-and-back ramp to the left (next to the far left Tavern Ramp), the ball would just fall down. I had a vision of it choosing two different paths – both wire ramps – to either flipper lane.
Thanks to Steve and his Youtube channel Pinballroom, I learned some great tips on making wireform ramps. Thanks Steve! I also modified the end of the split ramp, to accommodate a servo-driven diverter that will be able to force the ball down either the left or right wire ramp back to their respective flipper lane. Here are some pics and a video:
And some updated pics of the whole playfield:
12 Feb 2022: Updated Play Test Video
6 Mar 2022: Playfield Art Complete
Thanks to my wife’s cousin, Sam Irizarry (IG: sillydoodlesnstuff), I now have an awesome looking playfield! He did outstanding work, and I’m super excited about it. It now has character! Here are some pics:
23 Apr 2022: Lights!
It’s been about six weeks since my last update. Been busy installing playfield lights and well, retiring from the Air Force and stuff. There’s not much to say here, other than it was a little nerve racking drilling into that beautiful playfield for the first time. But, I think it all turned out very well. When it comes to the lights, pics don’t really do it justice. So, here’s a video!
19 Mar 2022: Machine has moved across the country!
I’ve retired from the Air Force, and we’ve moved back to Colorado from Florida. I decided to pack the machine up in my car instead of worrying the movers would break it. I felt like Dexter…
It made it mostly all in one piece. I have to reprint a few plastic pieces that broke, and fix some of the upper playfield area. All in all, I think it was a success.
I finally bought a cabinet from virtuapin.net. It should be arriving in about 4 weeks. I’m super excited about that…it will really become a machine after I install the playfield, backbox, speakers, display.
6 Jun 2022: Some minor playfield mods
I’ve been busy reprinting broken pieces, and I also decided to trim .25″ off the left side of the playfield. When I started my design, I didn’t do enough research on standard playfield widths. Well, up to now the width has been 20.5″. A standard WPC playfield is 20.25″. I was a little nervous about it fitting inside the cabinet I ordered, so I decided to use some of the down time before the cabinet arrived and just shorten the width. I redesigned the left walls and left ramp to accommodate the reduction.
I also posted an update of my homebrew on pinside.com, and one of the comments was “I’m surprised you didn’t make the left ramp a boot!”. What a great idea! So I found an awesome boot 3D model online and got to work. Here is the result:
30 Jun 2022: More game logic, and CNC design
I finally decided to write the Game Mode framework in MPF:
- Beer Mug fills up (lights turn on) at the start of your turn every time a target is hit
- When it gets full, the “Game Mode” saucer/hole is lit
- If the player sinks it in that hole, a random game mode will be selected
- Long Pour, Quarters, and Strike Out
- Corresponding Game Mode light in the center starts blinking
- A 30 second timer is started
- After timer expires, game goes back to normal mode, and player must fill up Beer Mug again before attempting next game mode
- Created the Drinko Playfield bonus tracker
- Now, when the ball rolls over one of the D-R-I-N-K-O-! opto sensors, the corresponding light lights up
- If the player hits all paths, a special light show and sound clip plays
- Drinko Bonus lights (on the playfield) successively light up each time the player completes all letters
- Will incorporate those bonuses during gameplay
I became a member at the local Makerspace here in Colorado Springs. They have a huge 4’x8′ CNC machine – which can be used to very accurately cut playfields. The holes on my prototype board have all been drilled out manually, and I was able to do circular inserts (lights) OK, but never drilled out the arrow shaped ones – those would be very hard to do manually. So, I’ve been teaching myself FreeCAD, and now I’m just waiting for the last endmill bit to arrive before I test out the CNC on a cheapo piece of plywood – before the real one!
7 Jul 2022: The Cabinet has arrived!
I just realized as I wrote this update, that it’s been one year since I started this project and began designing a playfield in Virtual Pinball. That is…crazy!
After 8 weeks (I was quoted 4-5 weeks), the cabinet has arrived! The LCD display, speaker, and amp should arrive in a couple days. Paul from Virtuapin was very helpful, it just took a lot longer than I had hoped.
I decided to throw a coat of black paint on the outer walls first. Then I hauled everything to the Makerspace and attempted gluing and trim-screwing the primary part of the cabinet together. It’s my first foray into woodworking something this large, I hope it turns out okay.
I guess I painted the wrong side of the bottom board ha! No biggie. The paint is mostly there so that decals I put on the sides will stick better.
Instead of a coin mechanism, I think I’m going to put a tiny fridge there – to fit the theme of the game!
9 Jul 2022: First CNC Cut
After a few test cuts using FreeCAD, I was ready for the real thing. I first bought a “throwaway” 2’x4′ sheet of plywood from Home Depot to test on first. Glad I did because apparently the drill code I created had a slight depth issue, the drill bit dragged across the board. Once I figured out how to move past that issue, I drilled out my good wood.
15 Jul 2022: Full Cabinet Assembly
I’ve installed the legs and backbox onto the cabinet. Here she is:
Also installed the lockdown bar receiver, trim, flipper buttons, and the coin door (for now).
Like a glove…
Two issues have arisen:
First, I hadn’t taken into account the playfield shifting toward the back of the cabinet several inches because of it now hanging off the lockdown receiver bar. The plunger does not even come close to where I initially thought it would be on the playfield.
Second, the playfield hangers need to be mounted on top of the playfield; otherwise the plunger sits way too low. And even when I did mount them on top of the playfield (which required me to redesign the trough/trough eject mechanism slightly), the plunger sat a bit too low still.
3D printing to the rescue! I modeled inserts for the hanger brackets, that lowered the playfield enough. I also designed and printed a plunger lane “floor” that provides a good angle for the plunger to hit the ball. I cut the playfield farther up the plunger lane, past the rollover switch hole. Also incorporated the standard launch trough found in most pinball playfields. Here’s the result:
And some slo-mo video I took of the plunger in action. Looks clean!
19 Jul 2022: Artwork for New Playfield
I found a local sign shop (Fast Signs) to apply the same artwork to the new CNC’d playfield. They did a wonderful job! I took my time cutting out all the holes with an exacto knife to prep it for clear coating. Also printed and stuck decals to the appropriate inserts.
26 Jul 2022: Clear Coated Playfield!
This has been a long time coming. I’ve been anxious about how I was going to clear coat my playfield. After watching a couple hours of Youtube videos on folks clear coating their own playfields, and additional research, I decided to have it professionally clear coated. I didn’t want to mess with those chemicals, and well, I’ve never done it before and I wanted it done right.
After calling ALL the pinball shops in Denver (~6), none of them could provide me that service. I called about 5 auto detailing shops in CO Springs, and finally reached one who was up for the challenge.
McCloskey Appearance Center did a wonderful job. Special thanks to David Hisgen. Here’s a side-by-side of pre- and post-clear coat:
And a close up of the finish:
My only concern is it’s not 100% smooth across the six circular inserts and the rectangular beer mug insert – but I tested with a pinball and I don’t see any big issues with it. Waaaay better than what I could have done. It’s protected, and SHINY!
26 Jul 2022: LED Mounts and Wiring Harness Diagram
While my playfield was being clear coated, I worked on designing mounts for all my LEDs. I’ve switched over most of my under-playfield lights to ws2812b LED strip. All of these mounts are designed so that the circular PCBs can be snapped in. Took a few iterations, but I’m happy with this design:
I also created a rough sketch of a wiring harness diagram to help me route all the wires efficiently and cleanly. I bought several 16 pin molex connectors to enable me to cleanly disconnect the playfield, I think that’s better than just straight wiring everything to the control boards.
7 Aug 2022: Under-Playfield Wiring Complete
Took about a week, but finally completed the final wiring under the playfield. Sadly, I didn’t snap of pic of the underside of the prototype playfield before disassembling…only pics from the top! But here are a few old ones I scrounged up to give a semblance of what it looked like before final wiring:
Here she is after mounting all the mechs just prior to wiring:
All wires that go off-playfield (power, serial comm, etc.) are routed to the top of the playfield. They will all connect to two 16-wire molex connectors. Easy disconnect if I ever need to remove the playfield.
15 Aug 2022: Playfield has found its home!
Huge milestone! I completed the molex connector assembly and dropped the playfield into the cabinet. Wired up the remaining switches (left/right flippers and game start), installed the amp and woofer, and hooked up the video display and speakers. After a few tweaks to switch and coil definitions in my config file, it was up and running! I also installed two playfield brackets so that the playfield can rest on the lockdown bar receiver without damaging any components on the underside. Here are some pics:
And a playtest video I took:
24 Oct 2022: Denver Pinball Showdown Expo
I felt the machine was at a point where I could start showing it off at pinball expos, and Denver’s was 21-23 October 2022. What an experience! I got to chat with so many people about the machine and get some great feedback. I also gave a “PinChat” talk about my development experience. My machine took 2nd in “Most Unique” – I hear there was a D&D Re-theme that took first. I am taking all the feedback, and more importantly, all the play test observations I made, and will make it so much better for the next show! Here are some pics from the event:
13 Nov 2022: Post-Expo Updates
I have spent the last couple weeks implementing many updates based on my observations of people playing my machine at the Expo. Here’s a summary:
- Redesigned my custom trough – I placed a small recessed groove in the ball drain portion so that the ball always settles reliably in the same spot for consistent eject into the trough
- Replaced Pong Table coils with 24V versions. I was lucky enough to find they’re made in the same form factor – no pong table redesigns needed. Previous versions were 12V coils, that I was driving (albeit short pulses, but still…) at 48V. That abuse eventually caused the coils to seize, probably due to the heat generated. Now, I have installed a 48V-24V step down supply, and the coils are now running at their proper voltage.
- The multiball Pong Table logic is now bug free. This caused many issues during the Expo. The table would get confused during player turns, and sometimes during Game Modes qualified. I’m very excited about this: I spent a LOT of time learning about queue_relay_player and state machines in MPF, but that’s part of the fun!
- Drinko Bonus logic is now bug free. Light shows play at the right times, and audio callouts are working properly.
- Printed the Pong Table curved wall just to the left of that mech with a higher wall. Several times, players at the Expo somehow got the ball to jump over that wall. Hopefully this will prevent that.
- Added Base Mode light show to let player know what to shoot for in order to qualify for Game Modes.
- I now have a good visual indication that multiple players have started the game. Prior, I only showed which player was playing (bottom left) and what ball they’re on (bottom right). Now, when players are added, another score appears in each quadrant of the screen – standard locations as “real” games. Player scores that are not playing are slightly smaller, and red. When their turn is active, their quadrant score is slightly larger, and colored white. Current player score is also very large, and centered in the middle.
- I purchased 2x professional VUK mechs to replace my 3D-printed ones. This will make the saucer holes much more reliable. I’ll also use this time to slightly adjust the Rim Rules saucer, which every now and then ejected the ball straight-down-the-middle.
- Adjust plunger height. Right now, it hits the awaiting ball in the plunger lane pretty low. It’s probably putting a lot of backspin/english on the ball.
- Add more graphics on the display. Ohmbrew logo, a “special thanks to” slide, credits slide, high score slide.
- Tie out lane switches to ball drain so that shoot-again timer is triggered off that. Also, add “grace period” to timer.
19 Dec 2022: Backglass, GI, & PongTable re-design
I now have a professional looking blackglass that lights up. Note: 50W Halogen bulbs don’t play well with a 12V driver board that can drive ~8 amps. I was wondering why when I just had 1 light in, it was pretty dim. 5W bulbs work much better :-). But now I have control over the backglass lighting. Will probably flash it on jackpots and whatnot.
I designed some general illumination (GI) lights along the sides and back of the playfield. I finally designed a black back wall to hide all the cables going up to the backbox, and left room for some inserts and lighting. Those extra lights really make the playfield pop.
So I was all ready to take an updated playtest video, and my pong table mech starting going on the fritz again. This one was frustrating, because I thought I solved all my issues when I bought and installed 24V coils powered by a 48V-24V DC stepdown converter. No more overheating the coils. But a silent design flaw was still there. When I first designed the trap door system, I decided to make vertically dropping trap doors, that are spring loaded to return horizontal. Well, every time a ball would fall into one of the cups (about a 2″ fall), it would apply a shear force to the coil’s actuator arm. This was actually causing the arm to bend eventually, until it wouldn’t smoothly be retracted when the coil was powered. So, I decided to redesign the trap to be a horizontally moving trap door, and the coil would just pull the plastic trap along some grooves. The plastic trap now absorbs most of the force from the ball. Here’s a side-by-side of the old (left) and new (right) designs. I hope this is the last time I have to deal with this mech!
Here’s my current near-term TODO:
- Still need to install the new VUKs to replace my 3d-printed ones
- Design a skill shot for plunger release
- And a big one: I decided to add flippers and targets to my currently kind-of-boring upper playfield. I think I can easily add mini flippers, with 6″ rods that go thru the playfield to coils below the playfield. That will provide a way better experience!
- Install a free-game knocker coil (on order)
- Install a shaker. Thinking to activate it on burp shots (Boot and Drinko ramp), and when a ball lands in one of the pong cups.
- Finish remaining game modes.
Here’s an updated playtest video.
28 Jan 2023: New Upper Playfield
I installed the new professional VUKs into each of my saucer holes. What a difference in eject smoothness! However, I had a new issue. They were ejecting in non-optimal paths. The upper saucer was basically ejecting straight down the middle every time, and the saucer on the right was ejecting too high. So I redesigned the exit angles and reprinted/re-installed. They are perfect now.
I completed the redesign of my upper playfield. After toying around with a few layout ideas, I decided to incorporate a horseshoe ramp at the back of the upper playfield, in addition to adding a flipper. I decided to add only a single flipper instead of 2, to make it not-as-easy to keep the ball up there for too long. I iterated a few times on how to make it as easy as possible to remove the upper playfield if I needed to. The wiring is also a lot cleaner.
Another positive consequence of having this clear plexi upper playfield is that now, the player can see the ball while it’s in the pop bumper area of the playfield.
I decided to keep the “DRINKO” theme even though it doesn’t look “PLINKO”-y anymore, because I still have that text on my playfield art. It’ll be my little secret where the DRINKO name came from. One bonus, I only have 6 lights up there now, and that spells DRINKO a lot better (I had 7 because of the Plinko paths, and so I had added a “!”. I never liked that.)
Here’s what the upper playfield looks like. Check out the video here.
- I have purchased a high-score knocker coil and a shaker. Want to get those installed and integrated soon!
- Redo cabinet wiring. I bought a female power receptacle that I want to mount to enable easy power plug removal for transport, and also clean up/protect the boards that are mounted to the bottom of the cabinet.
- Integrate upper playfield targets and scoring.
- Create timed skill shot
- Finish remaining game modes.
20 Mar 2023: Texas Pinball Festival Ready!
Many upgrades to the machine since my last update:
- Installed quick power disconnect plug in the back. It’s no longer hard-wired
- Created timed skill shot mode on ball launch. Created a cool video slide with instructions
- Designed and printed complete cabinet graphics – inside and out
- Implemented a high score tracker, end-of-ball bonus summary slides
- Installed fridge in place of coin door, developed nice bezel/edge for it. It has a removable piece so I can get access to the lockbar release (which I had to shorten due to the fridge)
- Printed cup holder
- Developed remaining theme modes, including DAS BOOT. Standardized graphics and theme bonus slides, audio, transitions
- Created flipper-swap mini mode
- Installed adult/PG switch so I can play dirtier audio and video if wanted
- Installed a shaker and coded it to shake on all ramps
- Cleaned up inside wiring – installed plexi protectors on critical electronics
- Added an Easter Egg video (adult and clean versions)