(Topic ID: 310976)

Feasibility of a build from scratch?

By trecemaneras

2 years ago


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#1 2 years ago

Not exactly a restoration question, but I'm asking here since all the build from scratch threads are here*.

So, I decided I want to do a scratch build. I also would like to have a Total Nuclear Annihilation. After pouring over every build from scratch thread on here, Quicksilver, Fathom, Seawitch, Haunted House, Medieval Madness, etc, and seeing what a headache it is to source old parts, and more often than not, having to modify them to fit a game they weren't intended for, it hit me that with so many TNA parts being off the shelf stuff available from pinball life, maybe TNA could be my scratch build.

As for the preferable option of just buying the game like a normal person, people are asking collector prices for it now - trying to get their money out of it before a potential new run from Spooky I guess? So buying used is probably a no, and who knows when or if Spooky will actually do a new run. I want to do a scratch build anyway, so here I am, looking for some expert opinions. Apologies if this question has been asked here before. I looked, but didn't find any relevant discussions.

Firstly, I'm sure TNA would be a more complicated build than an early SS - I have looked at pics of the underside of the playfield, and there's a lot going on. But, with no game-specific toys and ramps, it seems like it would have to be easier than something like MM (or TOTAN lol, I'm cheering for that brave soul to succeed!). Also, there would have to be some aspects that would be way less frustrating than an old SS build, like availability of parts. As for the big pieces, I already have a playfield lined up and I'm going to build the cabinet and head (woodworking is my side hustle). I don't know what I would do about the backglass, but realistically I'm not going to need that for well over a year. I wouldn't put a coin door or coin mechs on it (not trying to pirate anything or make money off it) so that's not an issue.

I guess my question is can anyone think of an aspect that would make TNA outside the realm of feasible scratch builds? In the context that people can and do build games from early SS on into the 90's from scratch?

*With so many scratch builds happening, any chance it needs its own sub-forum?

Edit: I posted this in the Restorations sub-forum, because all the build from scratch documentations are there. So, I'm really not sure why my build from scratch post has ended up here in the homebrew forum.

#2 2 years ago

Helpfully, many of the parts are even listed off on Danesi's website: https://www.scottdanesi.com/?page_id=783

One thing that might be harder than an older game is that there aren't really any schematics available. You'll need to figure out how to wire all the stuff together, set up a power supply, etc.

Also you'll need some way to set up the computer to run it all. It'll need an OS, the software, etc.

A lot of that is probably doable if you have access to another TNA for reference to copy stuff off of

Probably best to actually message Danesi and ask him about this, if he'd be cool if with or could give you extra information, etc

#3 2 years ago

Isn’t Spooky planning to make more TNA down the line anyhow? Most likely be cheaper and quicker to wait on that.

The service manual does an ok job explaining how to wire the switches/lamps/coils and the address ID of the P3 boards. https://www.ipdb.org/files/6444/2017_Total_Nuclear_Annihilation_Service_Manual_dated_4_17_2019.pdf

Not sure about getting the software to work besides cloning a drive.

The custom parts seem available at Pinball Life.

#4 2 years ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

Isn’t Spooky planning to make more TNA down the line anyhow? Most likely be cheaper and quicker to wait on that.

Yeah, I'm sure it would be. This is more about me just wanting to build a pinball machine from scratch. I've thought about early sterns like Quicksilver, but I think I would find the lack of some off the shelf parts and having to mess around with sourcing parts from a donor game or games really aggravating. Plus, I would be way more excited about having a TNA to play than one of the early SS games that TNA pays homage to.

Quoted from zacaj:

Probably best to actually message Danesi and ask him about this, if he'd be cool if with or could give you extra information, etc

But combining both your thoughts, I debated whether to post about this idea because it's this tricky area where no one would bat an eye if I bought a used TNA, even though neither Scott Danesi or Spooky would get a dime from that sale. But building my own version of a game that's very likely to be in production again at some point feels iffy. Even though no one is out money any more in that scenario than if I bought one secondhand.

Lastly, thanks for pointing out the software/OS issue. I did some more reading and realized I had oversimplified what the P-ROC controller does. I somehow got the idea that the P-ROC plus the latest version of the game's code would be all that was needed :facepalm:

#5 2 years ago
Quoted from trecemaneras:

Yeah, I'm sure it would be. This is more about me just wanting to build a pinball machine from scratch. I've thought about early sterns like Quicksilver, but I think I would find the lack of some off the shelf parts and having to mess around with sourcing parts from a donor game or games really aggravating. Plus, I would be way more excited about having a TNA to play than one of the early SS games that TNA pays homage to.

But combining both your thoughts, I debated whether to post about this idea because it's this tricky area where no one would bat an eye if I bought a used TNA, even though neither Scott Danesi or Spooky would get a dime from that sale. But building my own version of a game that's very likely to be in production again at some point feels iffy. Even though no one is out money any more in that scenario than if I bought one secondhand.
Lastly, thanks for pointing out the software/OS issue. I did some more reading and realized I had oversimplified what the P-ROC controller does. I somehow got the idea that the P-ROC plus the latest version of the game's code would be all that was needed :facepalm:

this thread might be up your alley. https://www.aussiearcade.com/topic/85652-homebrew-tna-inspired-build-first-time-build/

I thought there was a thread on it here on pinside but I can't find it. Very interesting build.

#7 2 years ago

I won't speak to the legality/morality of making an illegitimate copy of software that is not freely distributed or has been abandoned by the creator. Scott/Spooky might not see any money off used game sales, but they did get paid for the work to design the game and software when that unit was built.

If you want make a game from scratch, I suggest making one from scratch and buying a TNA if you want a TNA. (Or work on a retheme/custom based on a donor game, which is what I do in my spare time)

But you can certainly build a TNA from scratch.... Doing some quick estimates based on what Pinball Life does and doesn't have, you're probably looking at least $8,000 in parts if you cant scrounge up some donor stuff (like a donor cabinet). I wouldn't be surprised if it costs over $10k with various sales taxes and shipping fees on all the parts. Plus you'd still need to custom fabricate some parts like the ball guides.

You do you, but sit down and start seriously scoping out the amount of work you want to bite off. There's a lot more in the game than a Quicksilver or similar.

#8 2 years ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

I won't speak to the legality/morality of making an illegitimate copy of software that is not freely distributed or has been abandoned by the creator.

TreyBo69 Yeah no, I would never do that. As I said in post #4, this was an issue of my dumb ass thinking that the P-ROC plus the freely distributed game code (currently v1.4.2 on Scott's site) was all that was needed. Somehow, I missed or spaced the fact that the P-ROC isn't a standalone thing that runs the game, and the answers earlier in the thread made that fact clear to me.

In retrospect it seems very obvious that of course there's proprietary software that makes the game tick. Since there's no download link for it on Scott's or Spooky's site, clearly they must wish it to remain proprietary, and I would never do anything to sidestep that. So yeah, I can cross TNA off the list of games I might try to build from scratch.

Thanks everyone for your contributions/suggestions, it was educational and interesting!

#9 2 years ago

I don’t want to sound too discouraging. You should still try building a game, be it a remake, retheme, or an original. It’s a great hobby.

A lot of people have contributed a ton of work to make open and free software to use and modify which makes the daunting task easier.

SkeletonGame, which TNA is based on and has a lot of contributions from Scott, is certainly a good framework that will greatly jumpstart that end of the process

There’s the open Bally/Stern OS project if you want to remake a classic with some modern tweaks

I use MPF myself and Jab rocks.

Lots of others options out there.

I would never be able to get my project up and running without the labor of passion by people in the community.

#10 2 years ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

I don’t want to sound too discouraging. You should still try building a game, be it a remake, retheme, or an original. It’s a great hobby.

Quoted from TreyBo69:

SkeletonGame, Bally/Stern OS project, MPF, and Jab rocks

Thanks for the encouragement and for suggesting those resources. I’ll start checking them out

#11 2 years ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

I would never be able to get my project up and running without the labor of passion by people in the community.

And I’ll have to keep an eye out for you posting about your project!

#12 2 years ago
Quoted from trecemaneras:

And I’ll have to keep an eye out for you posting about your project!

I don’t post much about it because it’s just for funsies and a learning project. Not especially interesting.

Here’s a gif from a few months ago once I figured out the light show generator

D41A5820-1071-4A49-8090-7FFFE370580B.gifD41A5820-1071-4A49-8090-7FFFE370580B.gif

A donor game, a weekend of rewiring, and using some of the software written by others.

#13 2 years ago

It's perfectly feasible, but you will sink a ton of time into it, especially your first build. Find a project game or even a populated playfield that is too worn to reuse and go to town. Lots of controller boards these days.

#14 2 years ago

Honestly it’s not that hard to accumulate donor pays for a classic Stern or Bally build. I’ve acquired all my quicksilver parts over the past 6 months casually watching eBay.

Going the classic route has advantages since there’s a large supply of salvaged mechs like drop targets out there. Electronic are either readily available on eBay or can be purchased new. Cabinets can be built from scratch and fitted with repro trim etc. Plus there’s a lot of knowledge out there on the early ss electronics and wiring to help if you get stuck.

#15 2 years ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

I don’t post much about it because it’s just for funsies and a learning project. Not especially interesting.
Here’s a gif from a few months ago once I figured out the light show generator
[quoted image]
A donor game, a weekend of rewiring, and using some of the software written by others.

No, that's really cool Thanks for sharing!

Quoted from jgreene:

Honestly it’s not that hard to accumulate donor pays for a classic Stern or Bally build. I’ve acquired all my quicksilver parts over the past 6 months casually watching eBay.

Thanks, that's encouraging - I am kinda leaning back toward Quicksilver now. That may be because Hoakypoakie's QS scratch build documentation was the one that made the biggest impression on me. I spent a few days pouring over that thread!

Quoted from ThatOneDude:

you will sink a ton of time into it, especially your first build. Find a project game or even a populated playfield that is too worn to reuse and go to town.

Yeah, if I'm being honest, doing a smaller scale project like restoring a Meteor, comparatively easier to find than a QS, would probably be a beneficial next step before going all out with a from scratch build.

#16 2 years ago
Quoted from trecemaneras:

Yeah, if I'm being honest, doing a smaller scale project like restoring a Meteor, comparatively easier to find than a QS, would probably be a beneficial next step before going all out with a from scratch build.

One thing you can do is to look for a cheap Williams sys3-11 or Gottlieb System 80. They have some interesting playfields, and easy to acquire(and relatively cheap) replacement boards that will let you run your own rules with Mission Pinball Framework. Plenty of stuff to do before commiting to cutting a playfield.

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