Last year, at the Midwest Gaming Classic 2017, there were a couple of custom games floating around, and I developed a massive inspiration, and within several months I had confirmed myself 100% insane.
If I were to build a pinball machine, what theme would I reference? Now granted, I do have an original theme idea that I plan on exploring after this project is done, but my soul was already filled with determination. 11 design iterations later, I finally had a playfield design I liked, laid out in Visual Pinball... attached below.
The VP pic doesn't show my final version of the light shield artwork or a few other details that got changed along the way, but it was a good start. A local sign shop printed me vinyl decals for my cabinet, printed and applied my light shield decals, and even suffered through printing and cutting a plastic overlay for my playfield.
For those planning their own builds, take heed; do not do that. It basically worked (with full control over lamp shapes, and a black mask backing gave them nice contrast when backlit), but real lamp inserts definitely look MUCH better. I will definitely be researching how to properly cut them for next time.
I initially set the game up to be driven by a Raspberry Pi 3B, but ran into some pretty serious performance issues when trying to push full-screen animation (via the Allegro video game library) to the LCD. After it began throwing me undervoltage warnings, too, I dropped it and set up a full desktop motherboard inside the cabinet, and all my performance problems vanished.
The playfield itself is controlled by a trio of Teensy 3.5 boards. There was really no good excuse for this, given that even a single board is enough to emulate a Commodore 64. The biggest issue was the fact that there were only 40 breadboard-compatible GPIO pins, so the solution was BUY MORE BOARDS. Honestly, this entire process was a huge learning experience for me in a wide range of fields, and at the time I knew neither what a shift register was, nor how easy it is to wire up addressable LEDs. Live and learn.
As it stands now, Underpin has all the lights wired up, switches soon to be wired up, and all the coils in place, although there's a communication issue keeping a few of them from working yet. There was a little issue with the flipper buttons (particularly on the right) causing a weird grounding problem that caused several switches to detect as closed and a few solenoids to fire briefly, but I will soon be testing a fix that I came up with using an optoisolator chip, so hopefully that's cleared up now.
Here's an Imgur album of a bunch of build details up to now. Under-playfield shots are included! And for those who need a tiny bit more than just a static photo, here's a video fly-by that includes the attract mode light sequence. It's a bit dark, definitely more so than it appears in real life, but it should give you an idea where I'm going with this: