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.

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6 comments

  1. HI,

    I am not clear on how you created and installed the play field art work. Is this printed on mylar and then glued on? Can you give a better step by step description of this?

    1. Hi Mike,

      That sounds like a great topic for a post, I’ll try and put something together…

      I think the reason that I haven’t posted anything specific on this so far is that tried almost every technique available and still haven’t landed on the “best” method yet. What I think holds the most promise is a direct UV print using an industrial large-format printer. This is what I do for my back glasses (reversed print), but I haven’t yet been able to test on a wood substrate.

      So far I’ve tried 1) direct printing onto adhesive-backed wood laminate, 2) printing on white mylar with top lamination (applied with epoxy), 3) reverse print on vinyl with a mylar overlay and sheet adhesive, and 4) painting directly onto wood.

      Each has pro’s and con’s, but I think the best “one-off” technique is still yet to be found.

      Will try and post something soon,

      Thanks!

      Brian

      1. Thanks for the reply, Brian. I think direct to substrate would be the best, but also the most expensive. Since there really isn’t much to show for that other than finding a printer, I would like to see some of the other ways you have already used on your pinball machines.

        Thanks again!

  2. What do you make the walls of the playfield out of? Not the cabinet side panels, but the actual pieces on the playfield. I was just going to CNC out some walls then put some flexible sheet metal on the walls so that the wood underneath won’t be deformed by being smashed by a pinball. But then I though that there must be an easier/cheaper way to make the walls, because all the old pinball weren’t built with CNC machines. I just want to make sure I don’t waste time on CNCing out stuff if there is a better way. Thanks!

    1. I might try and do a blog post on this, but the side walls are traditionally wood, probably cut out at the same time the playfield. These walls are about 1.25″ tall, so that plastics attaching to posts can then span over to the side rail and be screwed down there.

      There are usually metal walls used for guides, and they are sometimes attached to the wooden side walls at the edge.

      My preferred method for custom games is to use 3D printed brackets that hold 1″ metal strips, and attach those to the side walls.

      I’ll try and detail this later in a post,

      Brian

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