With the shooter lane in place, an easy part to test (since it needs no mechs/voltage/etc) is the skillshot/plunge.
When sketching out the playfield, I sorta forgot about the plunge, so I ended up with this weird shooter lane to nowhere:
I didn't worry about it much though, since that square in the middle is a scoop. I figured, at worst, you could just plunge into the scoop, Doctor Who style, and the game would handle it from there. But I'd like to at least have some sort of skillshot....
I sketched out this vague idea of a circular area similar to how Taxi+Cactus Canyon work, since it was the only obvious thing I could come up with to use the remaining space in a 'physical' way. (as opposed to just having some code based timing skillshot like Medusa)pasted_image (resized).png
My thinking was that the bottom part would be a flap/gate, so the ball would spin around in there one or more times to decide which award you get, then drain into the scoop from the side. Since the scoop feeds the subway, the plunge can also vary in feeding either inlane, or ejecting straight out, for variety.
As the rest of the design progressed, things moved around a bit, and this area got smaller, until eventually there was no path for the ball to get around the deflector and enter the scoop. From the top, at least! The scoop is already below the playfield, so why not add a second little subway to feed the back of the scoop from a hole in the skillshot area? And if I'm already adding a little chute there, I might as well add another hole or two, it won't add any real complication...pasted_image (resized).png
The lower hole is positioned just low enough that the center of the ball (where it rolls) won't touch it, so the ball can run around the edges of the circle fine, but as soon as it slows down, it'll fall into the hole. The two upper holes are also positioned so the ball can freely roll by them, but the player can do a 'super skill shot' and try to lob the ball directly into one of the holes via a soft plunge instead of going around the full circle. There's even a bonus third super skillshot you can do by arcing the ball between the two center holes into the bottom hole, without going around the edge.
I love having lots of variety and choices in my skillshots, so having lots of different things for the player to go for is super important here. My last build had six distinct places you could plunge to, while this has one main skillshot (going around the loop a bunch) and 4 super skill shot options, which isn't quite as much, but when you add in that I can vary the main skillshot based on how many times you loop the ball, and that any of those 5 options can feed the ball three ways (and maybe even set up some combos for bonus skillshots...) and I think this should be good!
After transforming from "rough sketch" to "3d parts ready for manufacture", it ended up like this:
Two metal guides with 3d printed plastic behind them, and one metal flap, inspired by seawitch. I'm not sure if the floppiness of the flap will kill the momentum though, but I can always change it to a one way gate or something if it doesn't work
Assembly... did not go quite according to plan. pasted_image (resized).png
My spring steel flap I got from SCS was much stronger than I expected. Not only did it rip my 3d printed mount in half, but it basically acted like a solid wall when I tried to plunge the ball. I tried a bunch of other materials, but any that were weak enough to not steal all the ball's momentum as it pushed past from the shooter lane would bend too much when the ball came back to it from the loop and kill the momentum that way.
Alright... backup plan. Gate time! Designing these is way more complex than you'd expect, since you need to take into account two different ball paths at once with the shape if you want them both to be smooth. I end up with a single really heavily constrained sketch that I keep rotating back and forth in CAD, tweaking it in one orientation, then checking those tweaks in another. There's probably some fancy trick to make it show both views at once as I edit but I haven't found it yet... pasted_image (resized).pngpasted_image (resized).png
In the end though, I have a weird gate that should push itself open smoothly from the plunge, then close itself smoothly as the ball hits it from the loop.
And it mounts to the same two screws as the original metal flap did pasted_image (resized).png
Sadly, it doesn't work at all. Or rather, the gate allows the ball through just fine, but even with the gate I barely get one full revolution before the ball loses all its momentum!
At this point I'm a bit stuck. On games like taxi, you can easily get 10-15 revolutions around the bowl before the ball falls in, and that's after launching up a ramp! When sketching all this stuff up, I try to identify possible issues where I'm doing anything "weird" that hasn't been battle tested elsewhere, and have some contingency plans in place, but I didn't anticipate any issues with this aspect of the design... Since I know this theoretically 'should' work though, it's time to try and eliminate any variables I can that could be causing the issue.
First, I wonder if the plunger just isn't strong enough. On the original cocktail game, all the ball had to do was get to the top of the playfield; there was no need for a lot of speed. So I go to replace the spring with a red spring (the strongest available). And then I realize that the game doesn't use a standard shooter rod! pasted_image (resized).png
This shooter rod is almost 3" shorter than a stock one, so it also uses a custom shorter length spring. I cut a red spring in half to make it fit, and try again, but it makes almost no difference. Maybe 1.25 revolutions instead of 1. I'd like at least 4-5.
Maybe with a rod this short it's impossible to get good strength? Lets rule that out too! I print up a custom shooter rod housing that's compatible with the allied leisure mount, but sticks out an extra few inches to accommodate a standard rod: pasted_image (resized).png
The plunger is now way harder to pull back, which is a good sign.... but I barely get 2 revolutions even on a good plunge!
Okay, maybe the gate is the issue.... I print up a small, fixed guide that's slightly taller than half the height of a ball, and tried to roll the ball around the loop by hand (even though I can't plunge now so it's not really a good comparision)pasted_image (resized).png
This was a bit smoother than the gate, so I think part of the ball's momentum was being lost from the gate rattling into place instead of being fixed, but that can't be all of it....
Since the fixed guide showed some progress, I took it to the next step and made an elevated shooter lane to shoot over it
pasted_image (resized).pngpasted_image (resized).png
With that in place, I do another test plunge.... and the ball goes straight over the skillshot and hops out of the game. So I make another guide to catch the airball and curve it down into the looppasted_image (resized).png
Finally, we've got some good action!ezgif-1-5d6b8d8db0.gif
You can't really see it in the video but the ball actually gets like 12 revolutions here. There are occasional airballs that escape still so it might take some tweaking, but considering I don't even have a shooter gauge to hold the ball or the rod properly aligned, I think this is solid enough for now.