(Topic ID: 128778)

a Popeye P-roc Project

By uncivil_engineer

4 years ago

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  • 27 posts
  • 14 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by chad
  • Topic is favorited by 9 Pinsiders


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#1 4 years ago

This is not my first P-roc parade, but this one is far more ambitious than my last project: a remake of the 1979 game Flash. (you can read about hit here: http://www.pinballcontrollers.com/forum/index.php?topic=1512.0 )

A bit of history first. Popeye Saves the Planet has the distinction of being one of the WORST of the wide body WPC machines. It came out in 1994, just after the hugely successful Star Trek: The Next Generation. The game is so bad, the distributors threatened to sue Bally/Midway if they tried to enforce their ‘minimum buy clause’ in the sales agreements. Worst of all, they guys at Bally/Midway knew they had a flop on their hands. It only sold about 4,700 units. Some people consider this machine to be the beginning of the end of Bally/Midway/Williams.

So why is the game so bad? We first off, the theme just sucks. A Popeye themed machine could be fun, but why on earth did they go with an eco-environmental theme? I just seemed that they started out on this machine completely on the wrong foot.

Then to add insult to injury, the playfield is IMO overcrowded. I haven’t gotten my machine up and running yet, but just from looking at it, there appears to be so many obstructed shots it is almost unplayable. The upper playfield, while a nice idea, is just too big. On the left side of the playfield is a large blue shoot that is used to select ‘animals’, and on the right side is a huge rotating skill shot drum. Both of these (especially the animal shoot) tend to obscure the playfield. The end result is a wide body pinball machine that plays like a much smaller machine.

My goal in this project is to make a Popeye themed machine that is much more playable through a re-write of the rules, some re-theming, and possibly some changes to the playfield. I have some P-roc code writing experience, but this will put me back on the programming learning curves because now I have a lot more devices to deal with and a DMD to work with.

Right now I am in the ‘idea’ stage while I go through the machine to get it playable again. I am seriously considering getting rid of the Animal shoot on the left side of the playfield, but there is a ball popper that feeds into it that needs to be considered.

The candidate machine was purchased here on the board about a week ago, and I am going through the machine to get it all up a running again on the stock WPC boards so I can make some honest evaluation as to how I can improve the machine.

The machine came to me in ‘project’ condition. It had a bad IC in the chip matrix that kept the game from booting, a missing ball shooter, and lots of rotten rubber. The machine came out of the Las Vegas area, and it looks like the desert heat has indeed done a job on the rubber inside of this machine.

On Monday night I was able to get the machine to boot for the first time buy ‘borrowing’ the ULN2803 out of my P-roc. Lucky for me, the P-roc uses nearly the same setup for it’s switch matrix that the WPC MPU board did. In the excitement of getting the machine to boot, I put some credits on it, and tried to start a game. That is when I made the discovery of the missing ball shooter coil. At least the shooter brackets are still there. I ran through the rest of the coils self tests, and confirmed the other coils all worked. The flippers were not working too well either, but a quick cleaning of the flipper opto board got them going again.

Last night I was able to spend some quality time with playfield. I guess there is one advantage to being a sucky game, it had so few plays on it the playfield looks to be almost perfect under a thin layer of grime. I think this machine will clean up nicely.

So now I just am waiting for my order form marco specialties so I can finish rebuilding my ball shooter, and start doing 'research'.

IMG_2911.JPG IMG_2913.JPG IMG_2912.JPG
#2 4 years ago

You can say all you want, I like Popeye. It has its faults, but don't we all. But.... Oh wait!!!!! New rules

#3 4 years ago

Good candidate for a ruleset change, and heck I like Popeye. (But then again, I own a Bugs Bunny. )

#4 4 years ago

The rules are not the problem with this machine, the rules are actually pretty good. I find the machine quite challenging, and only beat the wizard mode once. The physical design and mechs, and lack of the true Williams QC was the issue.

#5 4 years ago

I find Popeye a lot more fun than one would expect considering the hate for it. Rules are pretty good from the little time I had with the game.

#6 4 years ago

I like Popeye too. Much more fun than expected

#7 4 years ago

Figures this would happen right after I sell my Popeye. Yeah, I think most of the hate for this game comes from people with little to no time on the game that just jump on the hate train. I think it is a good game, not great, but challenging for sure. I had never seen a Popeye before, so I sought one out and bought it so I could play it and figure it out. The obstructed shots complaint is so exaggerated. Those holes are huge and many times the pops throw the ball in there anyway, you don't need to see the shot perfectly to hit them. That complaint is weak IMHO. From a rules standpoint, I think the game could use some changes. They are okay as is, but if I were to make changes, this is what I would focus on...

#1 - Skill shot wheel, make better options. You should never choose points as it sits. You either want light lock or spinach can. Shooting a lit spinach can doubles the shot and spots an animal. Lock is actually super beneficial. You can actually chose light lock, shoot lock. Same skill shot, plunge ball again, do the same thing, do it again, same thing and start multiball in 3 flips. I would make some different options that bring in more variables or maybe require an additional shot after choosing your award to collect it like in The Shadow.

#2 - There are only 4 modes, but 2 of them can be a pain to complete (forest and nuke plant), the bricks and oil are very easy if you put the ball in the pops. I would vary the shots for modes more and make them more unique. There is a lot you could do with them, but right now, outside of the dots, they are very similar. Maybe incorporate the upper playfield or ramp into some modes.

#3 - Upper playfield is too limited. Right now, it is to find Sweet Pea for 50 million and that's about it. You can also award an EB when lit on the right up there, which is the only time you would ever shoot that shot. The escape out the left is 2x animal which just isn't worth it either. With 3 exits, 2 targets and 3 lanes up there, there is so much more purpose you could give the upper playfield.

#4 - Animal shots. I like this idea, but it is too easy to save animals. Push the ball over a lit animal rollover and then hit the orbit. All animals lit to start. The lit animals should be random to increase challenge and require more than a single same orbit shot everytime to save. Once again, more variety.

#5 - Ramp shot EB. Make this lit on the upper playfield on the right exit as well. I hate having to lose the ball down the left outlane to get an EB when I do the work to light it.

#6 - Update the bonus and make it meaningful. It's pretty worthless as is. You have to destroy the game to get a 20 million bonus for instance.

#7 - Fix bugs. You can start and complete Save Olive Wizard Mode with Sea Hag running, but not completed. The game drains all balls after completing Save Olive, but with Sea Hag still running, when it drains, it ends your ball thinking you drained playing Sea Hag instead.

#8 - Make saving all the animals something more than a hurry up. Lots of opportunities there.

#9 - Incorporate the ramp. During normal play it really doesn't do anything, just increases ramp shot numbers for awards at certain intervals. Make it do more during normal play or modes or animals. It needs some other purpose.

#10 - Incorporate the pops more. Right now, OYL lights mode and increases multiplier so you want to put the ball up there often, but the pops don't have much points or purpose. It would be nice to see something done with those like when you get x number of pop bumper hits.

#11 - Incorporate the Popeye characters people know. Where's Wimpy? Poopdeck Pappy? Eugene The Jeep is only just pictured during the escalator awards? It would be nice to see them used in the game somewhere.

#8 4 years ago
Quoted from LesManley:

You can actually chose light lock, shoot lock. Same skill shot, plunge ball again, do the same thing, do it again, same thing and start multiball in 3 flips

This breaks the game. Seriously. Do what Butterflygirl did and install a flasher dome over the light lock skillshot hole to remove this exploit.

#9 4 years ago
Quoted from metallik:

This breaks the game. Seriously. Do what Butterflygirl did and install a flasher dome over the light lock skillshot hole to remove this exploit.

I was hoping it could be fixed with the re-write. I don't have the game anymore. You could also do virtual locks or lock a ball and turn off the game. The game will not clear a locked ball on start. That way, each successful lock shot will shoot the ball out of Brutus' mouth instead of plunging a new ball for another skill shot which is much better.

#10 4 years ago

I just got a project Popeye. Cosmetically everything is pretty good, but needs all new rubbers and many lights. My kids are excited to play it, but I'd look at converting it if this project goes well. Best of luck, I'll enjoy following.

#11 4 years ago

Wow, there are a lot of good suggestions here. I am still waiting on my shooter coil, after that I can't wait to start playing it.

#12 4 years ago

Order the latest rom now if you don't have it. Popeye is buggy at best, but the early roms really had issues with the center scoop/lock. Move the lightning flippers to the mini PF, and install normal ones on the main flippers.

#13 4 years ago

What is the latest version of Popeye? Mine gives me LA-2.

#15 4 years ago
Quoted from Atomicboy:

The rules are not the problem with this machine, the rules are actually pretty good. I find the machine quite challenging, and only beat the wizard mode once. The physical design and mechs, and lack of the true Williams QC was the issue.

I agree. If you want to make the game better, a really good start would be to change the upper playfield so there are not blind shots.

#16 4 years ago

Wonderful thread. And LesManley did a better explanation than any online sheet I have seem.

But on #10 you mention more about the pops. I have seen my screen say Pops Complete but I don't know what is did. I figured it added to a bonus I didn't see explicitly like on the Anchor screens.

And #11. Well the game can only have so much. Popeye and Bluto are fighting as always. And after what? The wizard mode prize Olive. Eugene The Jeep guides us up the escalator, the Sea Hag awards us our items and Wimpy wants the Katsup for his hamburger during Item Multi-Ball. (Also the EB shot on the upper play-field)

If anyone is missing it would be Alice the Goon. Considering it was made by Python Anghelo I would expect more whacky and environmentalism.

#17 4 years ago

Well I have the flippers on order.

I did get my shooter coil installed tonight, and was able to play a few games. Even with tired flippers, the game is fast.

#18 4 years ago

Popeye gets a bad rap due to the fact that it came out during the golden decade of pinball. Its not the best game, but there are far worse.

1992-10 Fish Tales Williams SS 13,640 4p 50005 44 8.0
1992-12 Creature from the Black Lagoon Midway SS 7,841 4p 20018 38 8.2
1993-01 White Water Williams SS 7,008 4p 50018 54 8.3
1993-04 Bram Stoker's Dracula Williams SS 6,801 4p 50001 53 8.1
1993-04 Twilight Zone Midway SS 15,235 Widebody 4p 50020 55 8.4
1993-08 Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure Williams SS 12,716 Widebody 4p 50017 41 8.3
1993-09 Judge Dredd Midway SS 6,990 Widebody 4p 20020 37 8.1
1993-11 Star Trek: The Next Generation Williams SS 11,728 Widebody 4p 50023 66 8.3
1994-02 Demolition Man Williams SS 7,019 Widebody 4p 50028 26 7.8
1994-02 Popeye Saves the Earth Midway SS 4,217 Widebody 4p 50022 28 7.1
1994-02 World Cup Soccer Midway SS 8,743 4p 50031 41 7.9
1994-06 The Pinball Circus Midway SS 2 4p 60020 36 7.6
1994-07 The Flintstones Williams SS 4,779 4p 50029 42 7.8
1994-08 Corvette Midway SS 5,001 4p 50036 37 7.9
1994-10 Red & Ted's Road Show Williams SS 6,259 Widebody 4p 50024 50 8.0
1994-10 The Addams Family Special

#19 4 years ago

Yeah, with the characters if someone is redoing the rules anyway, I thought it would be nice to see more of them. Brutus is well integrated as is the Sea Hag. I thought maybe when you are collecting everyone's items that the characters could be better utilized there for example. If not call outs, maybe some more animations of them. It's just a little odd to have more animations and game time focused to some random animals then the Popeye characters. It was the last thing on the list for a reason, it's a nice to have, but not a priority certainly IMHO.

For the pops value, I almost imagine something like WMS Indiana Jones with Popeye and Brutus slugging it out for example. Maybe 100 pop hits and the ramp lights for a knockout punch for bigs points or something and you really deck him like in the match sequence.

1 week later
#20 4 years ago

Ok, an update of sorts....

I have finished shopping out the game, and I today I replaced the lower lightening flippers with standard sized flippers, and moved them to the upper playfield. I also got a Version 5 chipset.

Replacing the flippers has a huge impact on game play. With the slightly longer standard flippers on the bottom, the loop shots are much easier, and completing the animal stampede is almost too easy. I may have to dial my difficulty level form easy to medium to make it a little more challenging.

With the lightening flippers on the upper playfield, finding sweet pea has gone from something you dream about to something that is almost achievable. I the ball doesn't drain nearly as easily, and now more often than not get lost by flying out of the upper playfield. That is one thing I can address with the P-roc, as I think I will be able to dial back the pulse strength of the flippers. I almost with the flippers were about 1/4" shorter, as it would give the ball a little more room to drain down the middle.

Version 5 of the standard software feels a little more finished that the version 2 chip I took out. One of the first things I noticed is that popeye has a lot more one-liners in it. Other than that, the game play doesn't appear to have changed much.

Having played the game for about a week now, I can say the animal ramp does not obscure the playfield as badly as my first impression lead me to believe it would. The skill shot wheel is much worse. I may have to try to figure out how to get that off the playfield. This presents a real design challenge because there are three hamster trails that go in and a round it. Plus the fact that it is the skill shot. More thinking needs to go into this problem.

On the P-roc front, I have put together a machine YAML file, and I am may remove the CPU board tonight and try to get PinMame running. Small steps...

1 week later
#21 4 years ago


There are several programming frameworks that can be used with the P-roc. For this project I will be using PyProcGameHD and SkeletonGame. The PyProcHD is setup to allow for the replacement of the DMD display with a regular lcd monitor, and supports such things as image layering, and playback of mp4 files. SkeletonGame is a basic game frame work that takes handles a lot of the basic game functions, like trough management, ball management, and score keeping in the background. This allows the programmer to concentrate on creating game modes.

When you are doing a P-roc project, one of the first things you do is set up your development environment. There are some neat tools that the P-roc community have developed that allows the programmer to test their code without having to hook the actual P-roc up to the machine. SkeletonGames has built into it an OSC server that starts up when you launch your code. This allows you to use an OSC client software to do such things as send switch inputs, and read the lights the game code is calling for.

The client software is a neat little python based OSC server that one of the guys over at pinballcontrllers.com cooked up that allows you to overlay the lights and switches on a game image. This allows you to do alot of your development without taking your game out of commission.

On the hardware front, my LCD monitor came in! The monitor is a LP156WF1 15.6" laptop LCD screen I picked up off ebay. I also got a kinda rough lower backglass section that I plan on mounting the monitor.

The LCD monitor will just fit between the posts that were used to mount the original DMD display.

Now all I need to do is get a controller for my LCD monitor so I can hook it up to my computer. It will be run as a second monitor.

#22 4 years ago
Quoted from uncivil_engineer:

neat little python based

Python based? Well that there is a good sign.

(Angelo Python was the artist for Popeye that passed away last year).

#23 4 years ago

Nice. I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

1 week later
#24 4 years ago

I got some more of the hardware up and running tonight.

To run my monitor, I purchased a M.NT68676.2A LCD Controller Board Kit off ebay. The kit came today, along with a 12v laptop power supply for the monitor.

It took me longer to find my mini-port adapter than it did to setup my new monitor. The screen hooks into the video card of the computer and is seen like a second monitor. All you have to do is adjust the configuration settings in your config.yaml file to make the display window appear in the second monitor, and set the flag to false that control the window outline. The result is a good looking LCD laptop monitor that will become my Popeye's main display.

Here it is in action, along with my development environment:

Here is a sample of the screen resolution. Right now I have it set pretty low, mainly because I only have a VGA mini-port adapter. A visit from the post man may fix that in the next day or two.

This is my current skill shot splash screen:

So now I need to get it mounted up into my lower backglass...

2 years later
#25 1 year ago

Did anything ever come of this project?

#26 1 year ago

No, I'm afraid not. Like a lot of projects, life caught up to me, and the game got sold.

#27 1 year ago

Bummer , was looking forward to this.

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