(Topic ID: 333227)

Homebrewers: what software for playfield R&D / layout testing?

By goingincirclez

1 year ago

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    #1 1 year ago

    I might *finally* be ready to attempt a homebrew idea I had 5 years ago... sooner the better before I get distracted by the next project machine I have a layout concept and a few parts, but before I buy all the rest and commit to the white wood rabbithole, I want to mock it all up in software to test and refine first.

    Googling around I see all sorts of frameworks and platforms, but at my homebrew noob level it's hard to discern which is compatible with what; which has lagged support; which might lock into some dead-end or forced software/hardware, etc. As an "OS in the Machine" platform it seems MPF offers the most flexible compatibility and community support come build time (correct me if I'm wrong!) and would be worth pursuing. BUT I'm nowhere near there yet!

    What I need now is... something that offers a CAD-like interface and parts library, that would allow me to quickly build and refine the concepts to see if they even work and are worth pursuing in physical space. (Something that does that and is compatible with other wares for rules development and playfield cutting and hardware interfaces and the like would be even better). Seems VPF/VPX has a lot of libraries for virtual rigs as one would expect... but I can't tell if it works well for converting to "physical space"?

    Can anyone recommend a solid launchpad or two? Call me weaksauce, but I'm trying to avoid the "install > test > banghead > wastetime > delete > installnext" (or worse yet: the "ooh yeah this is great... until 120 hours later the next step makes you throw it away to start over") gauntlets. What can I say, I got too many other things to do which is why I'm 5yrs behind already...!

    #2 1 year ago

    Besides vpin the only other thing like this is future pinball iirc. Less features than vpin but it's nice for quickly laying some stuff out to get an idea.

    I wouldn't trust the physics in either if them though, sooner or later you've gotta get a blank playfield with some flippers on it and test things.

    #3 1 year ago

    Virtual Pin is good for laying out some stuff, then you can export it into CAD and start dropping in CAD models/rough-dimensions of mech footprints beneath. It helps a lot to have the mechs you know you want to use and some calipers to measure their mounting hardware and overall dimensions. The first whitewood you make is mostly just for testing fit and basic shots anyway. You'll quickly notice a lot of things that need to be slightly moved.

    For rapid prototyping, I just use cardboard. Let's me see how close I can put things together.

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    #4 1 year ago

    I’m a fan of the “get a drill and go to town” approach. That’s probably because I was working through a virtual creation and got tired of learning every aspect. I’m a design engineer and proficient in Creo and dangerous enough in Solidworks and that was probably the source of my frustration. It wasn’t a case of “where did my button get moved in this CAD package”, but an annoying learning curve.

    Just drill stuff, get some flippers working, and see how it feels. Some stuff might be perfect, some stuff will move a little, and some stuff you will hate and just scrap for something else in that area.

    Once you are happy, measure and model it into Fusion360, and have a clean playfield cut on a CNC.

    If you are “only” ever going to have your game live in a virtual cabinet, then virtual pinball specific software is just fine. If you want a physical playfield some day, why not today? Best of luck no matter what path you take.

    #5 1 year ago

    Appreciate the feedback thus far. I'm certainly not afraid of getting dirty and mocking things up, but ATM I don't even have a power supply / control set rig to even drive mock flippers on cardboard, otherwise I'd probably have done just that. So maybe I mock it up "virtually" to see if buying that hardware is worth it? In that regard this feels like a chicken/egg scenario, haha.

    I do have motivation in that the folks I've shared the concept and rough layout with are all "holy hell that's amazing / how has it not happened yet" BUT sadly they're all somewhat far away and spread thin themselves, so at this point I'd be doing this as a one-man show with no assistance.

    But ideas and reality are very different. What I don't want to do is go through all the effort buying parts and fitting them just to discover it shoots and plays like ass. I already have a few mech packaging challenges to solve, which could be in the realm of "just cuz I can doesn't mean I should". Would be nice to validate it virtually first. And then if it works, drill baby drill!

    #6 1 year ago

    When you get to a physical whitewood, you can test shots with a very simple setup.


    #7 1 year ago
    Quoted from goingincirclez:

    the folks I've shared the concept and rough layout with are all "holy hell that's amazing / how has it not happened yet"

    If you’re ready for lots of trial and error, start with a physical game. If you want to refine everything before you spend money, build a virtual game. Pros and cons with each.

    But unless you attach flippers to a piece of wood, mock up some foamcore and start flipping, this is where your concept will end up. Just a concept.

    Good luck on your journey!

    #8 1 year ago
    Quoted from desertT1:

    When you get to a physical whitewood, you can test shots with a very simple setup.

    Interesting! No joke, I'd previously thought and wondered about trying almost exactly that, but talked myself out of it since "flippers always on with straight DC" sounded... hacky. And since the biggest spare supply I have lying around is only 35V and low current I didn't really pursue it further. But I guess it's fine for a dirty R&D stage and more importantly if it's good enough for Danesi then my insanity has good company, haha.

    Looks like I can get a cheapo suitable PSU for under $50. Since I already have some old flipper mechs, and plenty of blank wood... just gotta dedicate space and maybe find a cabinet.

    AAAND carve out time for reading/watching homebrew resources since I've admittedly only spent maybe 90 mins on that so far. It gets overwhelming kind of quick, and "Analysis Paralysis" is a very real thing and a personal nemesis. I tend to make progress and learn best by just diving in and figuring out as I go. But having a solid foundation for starting is key.


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