Month: February 2014

Playfield :: Design :: Reference

My philosophy is that Pinball is an art form, and a knowledge of current and vintage machines is essential to understanding the “grammar” of this artistic communication. Aesthetic is said to be “Content put into an overall Structure in order to create Meaning”. In the case of Pinball As Art, the content is our flippers, bumpers and targets; the structure is our Playfield geometry and rule set. Speaking the language of pinball means understanding how these elements have been used in the past, and how they work together to create game-play.

Here are four different Playfields that were designed and fabricated within the last three years. I’m posting links to DXFs, SVGs and VP simulations, for use as templates or reference for your own design. Two of these were recently on display at the Seattle Pinball Museum show featuring custom Pinball machines…

Jupiter Crush : 

Click to view the VP simulation, or Right-Click to download the DXF file or SVG file for this table.

This Playfield was designed to be reminiscent of tables from the late 70’s and early 80’s, with features similar to games like Bally’s “Skate Ball”, “Rolling Stones” and “Harlem Globetrotters”. Every game should have a hook or twist that makes it unique, and this game features a Negative Bumper that subtracts points when lit. Reseting the bumper requires a skill-shot to the lower left U-turn.

Jupiter Crush custom pinball machine

Completed Playfield with artwork, mechanisms, lights and plastics, next to the DXF used to fabricate the this table.

 

Retro Spa: 

Click to view the VP simulation, or Right-Click to download the DXF file or SVG file for this table.

Wide-body games were an attempt to make pinball more exciting by adding more features, but unfortunately most of these games didn’t make good use of the extra space. The engineering challenge for this Playfield was to maintain all of the features and game-play of a classic wide-body, while proving it could be done in a standard-size machine. As an added twist, early artwork for the classic game that was rejected 40 years ago was used for reference on the Playfield and Backglass.

Retro Spa custom pinball

Retro Spa completed table with DXF for reference.

 

Tattoo Mystique: 

Click to view the VP simulation, or Right-Click to download the DXF file or SVG file for this table.

This Playfield is meant to be reminiscent of games like “Fathom” and “Blackout”. The simple set of rules is deceptively difficult, with game-theory elements of risk-and-reward designed to thwart those players who are only out to get the high-score.

Custom Pinball Tattoo Mystique

Screenshot of simulation for Tattoo Mystique, and DXF of cutout locations.

 

Miss Adventure:

 Click to view the VP simulation, or Right-Click to download the DXF file or SVG file for this table.

This fourth game in the series is designed to literally “take it up a level”. It has features inspired by classics like “Fan-Tas-Tic”, “Freedom” and “Silverball Mania”, as well as a lower level similar to games like “CFTBL” or “Black Hole”. This lower level is actually intended to be a “virtual” Playfield that will have many different features that can change on-the-fly.

The upper level is also meant to be changeable to keep the game fresh and interesting. The symmetry of the ramps was chosen to allow maximum flexibility of future upper level designs.

Custom Pinball Miss Adventure

White board of Miss Adventure, with DXF.

Control :: Electronic :: Solenoid

A renewed interest in vintage pinball machines, combined with the growth of the “Maker” movement, has made this an opportune time to build your own pinball machine. Individuals all over the world have simultaneously discovered that we’re now at a technological crossroads: designing and building a pinball machine is a real possibility for the average tinkerer or hobbyist. And a cottage industry has sprung up, providing new and reproduction pinball parts, as well as electronics and control systems, that are ideal platforms for these new Pinball Artists.

The system that I have used the most, and have had the best experience with, has been the “Power Driver 16” from Multimorphic (aka PinballControllers.com).

This system was originally developed to replace older stock controllers, and then evolved to allow modification to the code and thus custom control. Although the Power Driver 16 is meant to be run with a P-ROC system, you can easily connect to almost anything with a serial interface, including an Arduino. This is the approach we will be detailing here…

You will need several things to build the test system outlined:

  • A computer, with the Arduino development environment loaded. You can find it here.
  • An Arduino Uno board, available for purchase many places, including here.
  • A Multimorphic Power Driver 16, from PinballController.com.
  • A Mini Master RS-485 level shifter, also from PinballController.com.
  • Wiring and connectors.
  • Solenoid mechanisms (e.g. Bumpers) to be tested.

The Arduino code detailed in this post uses the Serial Monitor to control the Power Driver 16, and can be found on the Space-Eight.com download page here.

Documentation for using the Power Driver 16 can be found here, or reference the schematics and images below (to be added later).