(Topic ID: 237143)

Motor City Taxi - A rookie attempt at a custom game!

By msbenzik

2 years ago


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  • 32 posts
  • 11 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 69 days ago by msbenzik
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    #1 2 years ago

    What's good pinside Homebrew subfourm. So like many of you I got the bug to build my own game, cause who doesn't love a money pit.

    So I got to thinking, what would be a cool theme? I'm a huge Foo Fighters fan so maybe a Foo's game? Nah, that's too Stern... What about a Michigan themed game?! Something involving all the awesome things in Michigan like the teams (okay okay I know most of them suck right now), the lakes, the ski hills, and tourist traps! That one got the juices flowing but it wasn't quite enough.

    Then like the Jake Blues I saw the light at brunch fueled by bottomless mimosas and in the distance I heard YA YA YA YA YAAAA and that Offspring guitar and I was brought back to the hours behind BD Joe's Impala convertible taxi. At that moment I knew I was on a mission from god to create a Crazy Taxi Pinball machine. Once the haze of mimosas was lifted I realized the logistical issues with creating a crazy taxi machine, and I came to the idea of Motor City Taxi. A pinball adventure through the city of Detroit, with your wild taxi drivers played by some of the biggest Detroit musicians jamming out to the music of their generation and sound.

    So yeah, you can cut the radio/movie announcer voice now.

    But here's where it all began. A poorly scaled sketch but at least it got my feel and flow on the board.

    Basically it's going to be a fully round orbit for speed, a jump ramp on the left to feed the top lanes, a right redirect to the pops that can lift to allow access to the ball lock, a saucer for mode use, and some drops or standups. Now I know what you're saying "Matt, that orbit looks far toIMG_9302 (resized).jpgo tight a ball surely couldn't fit there" and I would respond "yes pinside member, you are completely correct... I realized this when I decided to do some cad and moved a ball block through the game!"

    Here's my first attempt at the cad where I realized my failures.
    cad (resized).PNG

    So at this point I realized that I didn't like the layout, my scale drawing didn't give enough room for what I wanted and since this is my first game I probably need to work in 1/1 scale so I can toss a ball around and just figure it out. Well I got a piece of wood and did just that, I realized that I wanted standups instead of drops and then I moved the saucer to the left. I'm right handed and I love hitting the left saucer on my Space shuttle or the right spinner on Iron Maiden.
    IMG_7627 (resized).jpg

    And this looked okay for at least the orbit and ramp but the pop/redirect/lock area needed some work. However I was hitting the wall and was afraid of failure so I stopped all progress. Fast forward to Expo and the Pinball Life party and so I did what every pinball addict would do and bought parts! and a Cab!
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    So now that I've spent money I got my motivation back! Got some foam core, hot glue, polystyrene, and a beer.
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    I realized that since I'm using Detroit as a theme I needed to have Joe Louis' fist as a skill shot bash toy. So I threw together a little platform that will hold the figure. Then I realized the ramp launch for the top lane feed wasn't going to redirect well and required extension. This will be a feature that is themed after the Detroit Auto Show and Cobo hall.

    Where the drops originally were is now a semi circle target array with a magnet that will be similar to the No place like home outlane. The targets will spell Detroit and have RGB lights below.
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    This then seemed like the perfect place for the Spirit of Detroit
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    I got the flippers installed and then tried to fling the ball through the shots with hand actuated flippers and it felt good!
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    This is where I noticed that my ball guides did not line up to the models I had so it was time to redesign them and make clones of the pinball life guides
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    Took 3 revisions but it's within reason and will get the job done.

    Now it's on to Electronics! Again, another load let off my wallet and pocket for some P-ROC switch/driver boards and the main controller.
    This is where I have run out of information as I have brought you all to date with the project. I'm going to post more on the rules and game flow in the future but for now I want to make sure it actually flips and plays well then I'll get into the programming and rule sets.

    #2 2 years ago

    Very interesting project! Just make sure you don't use Cobo Center or it'll be out-of-date immediately!

    #3 2 years ago

    Pothole multiball.....

    #4 2 years ago

    Parking Wars Mahem mode

    #5 2 years ago

    There needs to be a mode where you dodge hookers and crackheads that are in the middle of the street and you need some billboards of that lady lawyer.

    #6 2 years ago
    Quoted from Puffdanny:

    There needs to be a mode where you dodge hookers and crackheads that are in the middle of the street and you need some billboards of that lady lawyer.

    Wizard Mode should be 8 Mile

    #7 2 years ago

    Should have an "Avoid Layoffs" mode;
    - Shot is lit that you must avoid. If you accidentally hit it, you are laid off and lose half your points.

    Could be the second level after Mr. Bally's "avoid potholes" mode...

    Later,
    EV

    #8 2 years ago

    I like the potholes idea. Also there’s going to be 4 smart drops in the playfield blocking some of the targets so that could very well be a part of the game.

    For now I’m leaving them out since I want to make sure the shots feel right before dropping another 500 on parts.

    #9 2 years ago
    Quoted from msbenzik:

    I like the potholes idea. Also there’s going to be 4 smart drops in the playfield blocking some of the targets so that could very well be a part of the game.
    For now I’m leaving them out since I want to make sure the shots feel right before dropping another 500 on parts.

    There are some horrible ones on Sheldon & Ann Arbor Trail that I avoid daily.

    1 week later
    #10 2 years ago

    NEW UPDATE!!!! So after moving I kind of hit a block on progress, took forever to get my shop set back up as I was traveling for work and then didn't have the energy when home. But I finally got it done and tried to make some progress! I did some sketching on how I want the right side loop/half horeshoe to work and if I want it to raise like a garage door or lower like one of those security barriers. I'll show more of that once it's a little bit more fledged out (requires a few more iterations and beer).

    However, I did get a chance to finally get my PROC boards to control the machine! I was initially going to design an arduino system to do my initial testing using a similar setup to how proc and skeleton game control the coils with pulse time and hold strength. I however saw the light when I realized for the amount of time it would take me to do that and get it all tuned how I wanted it would be cheaper and faster to just buy the right thing now. I will however probably still create an arduino system for starter home brewers that can just fire coils for geometry and strength testing. For starters I bought the main P3 board, 1 driver board, and 2 switch boards. This should be enough to get me well on my way for testing and initial coding.

    On the modeling side my newest progression has been on the board holders for under the play field. I wanted something compact that would hold the boards close to the devices they control so I came up with these guys. I'm going to do some further revision to them, like a mid mount so a switch board can be mounted right behind a driver board. But for now this will work.

    Using fusion 360 I made blanks of the PROC boards then took a photo of them and inserted that on a face. I will probably also put space allocation blocks for the connectors and transistors but for now it's close enough.

    Hopefully this week I can get the play field roughly drawn in Draft-sight and send it to the print-shop!

    Proc_Mount (resized).PNGProc_Driver (resized).PNGProc_Switch (resized).PNG
    #11 2 years ago

    Hot off the printer, looks like I'm going to have to make some modifications to the mounts. The bosses for the nuts are probably too tight and will need to be adjusted, other than that they printed great. 6 mounts in 8.5 hours using my AnyCubic kossel plus.

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    3 weeks later
    #12 2 years ago

    So this weekend I made some progress on the game! I did some streaming of design and took way to long to get way too little done, but that's kinda gonna be the mantra of this project as I'm kind of making it up as I go.

    On Saturday I took measurements of my orbit guides that are currently made of foam core and drew them in cad. I had to do some on the fly modifications to make sure that the positioning was proper and that they would feed the flippers as I expected. When I got that done I then moved on to the pop bumper placement. Using draftsight and the DWG files from pinball makers I edited the DWGs to only have the lines where I needed to cut or drill into the playfield. From there I took that DWG saved as a DXF and then brought it into my design. Using locating points measured off the white wood I placed the DXFs on the PF and then extruded them through.

    At that point I hit a wall on progress and called it quits.
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    Sunday I streamed again and started work on reverse engineering the stern apron so I can throw it into the model and make sure everything lines up as it should.
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    Added it into the main assembly
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    Then today I decided that I needed slings in my machine as well. So I took my calipers and angle finder then blew apart my pinball life slingshot assemblies and went to town. After a few beers and some time I got it complete and taking measurements it doesn't look terribly off. I still need to make the leaf switches and the top plastic/roll pin for the contact with the sling rubber. But for now I'm most worried about below the playfield as I want to make sure there is no interference between mechs/wiring looms/and other obsticles for service.
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    Got the Slings added to the PF
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    Next on the list of things to do is the "Auto Hauler Jump" that is to the right of the Left orbit. Once that is in place we can add the upper left loop, and begin figuring out how to COBO roof parking door is going to work.

    If you have twitch check out my channel https://www.twitch.tv/benzikspinball I'm trying to stream every saturday and sunday at noon eastern.

    3 weeks later
    #13 2 years ago

    nice work, watching

    9 months later
    #14 1 year ago

    So you know when you get busy as hell and you are working on your homebrew pinball machine but forgetting to update your pinside thread for god knows how long? Well that's what happened to me so prepare yourselves for about 10 months of backlogged work and shenanigans.

    First in our time machine posts, the completed base CAD for the game. I don't remember what was wrong with this version. I think the orbits were set way too far back and that made some geometry not work as I expected. My process for laying out the game on the wood was taking the cad and projecting a sketch of all the holes and orbit walls and then converting that to a DXF which I could print at a 1/1 scale. I then took this print and glued it to the wood and that became my guide. This is what I called Revision 2.

    Upon the mistakes made and learned from in REV2 I created a DXF of the flipper holes, trough location, and then made an inch by inch grid across the entire playfield along with a centerline of the flippers. This was REV3 and I used foam core and my eyes to lay out this setup. Using the grid I could then accurately measure the locations of the components and convert it to a 3D model.

    This was my first playable version, I took the 48v power supply and wired it directly to the flippers and flipper buttons. Using this technique I could feel for how the shots would feel and if they were makeable or not. I couldn't trap or hold the flippers so everything was from the inlane guides and at speed. This got me teeling good about the layout and I found where I needed to make changes to improve on.

    Once I measured everything I then began modeling REV4 that would be laid out using CAD and have very little by eye adjustments (or so I told myself) I did the same technique as before where I printed the PF on to paper at 1-1 scale, and then glued it to the wood.

    Here you can see all 4 revisions up to this point next to each other and the slight changes in geometry that happened. 2 and 4 have the same standup target layout. Also in this time frame I bought a TNA and since I'm using a spooky cab I replicated the playfield bottom to match the TNA and my cab.

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    #15 1 year ago

    Here's a glimpse of the CAD for V4, On the right you can see there is a subway car looking thing there which is inspired by the Detroit People Mover, it will be one of the side features of the game and I thought it would be a fun sculpt to put in the machine. It will be printed in two parts so that it can fit in my 3D printer.

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    Now that I'm getting serious and wanna see how it plays I need to get the P-ROC system up and running. I'm tired of living in fear of frying my filler coils. Since I'm in development mode I bought some heavy duty power supplies that will provide way more current than I would ever need but I figure I can always fuse them down I can't pull more than I have.

    So I picked up some terminal blocks and got to work.
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    Again it's all overkill but I don't wanna make a bunch of molex connectors and have to constantly pin and depin things to get it to work.

    I then wired up everything and picked up a capacitor board to handle the coil demands
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    Now for some P-ROC wiring and installation
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    #16 1 year ago

    Made some breakout boards for my SW-16 boards, this way I wouldn't have to crimp new pins or worry about ground loops while moving and removing stuff.
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    Here you can see I also printed some board holders that would get the board above the breakout and take up the smallest amount of playfield area possible.
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    #17 1 year ago

    Now it was time to start mounting and wirirng everythying. as you can see I moved the Driver board off to the side and then have a big aluminum ground buss behind the board. This was to reduce the amount of soldering needed and worrying about wiring looms. However it did bite me once so I do not recommend it. Also the other drawback was that I had to run a +48 and GND to each coil.

    For the lower third I was able to get by with only one PD-16 which was really nice. However I did have to power the second half of the board for the scoop coil on the left.

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    Next was switch wiring!

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    I also have my serial cables made at this point and connected to the boards. I routed them as best I could to avoid running parallel with coils.

    In that photo you can also see I have the Magenet, pops, and upper orbit posts connected too! WAHHOOOOO!

    #18 1 year ago

    Now for some topside stuff!

    The black jump will be themed after the ambassador bridge in Detroit, it is short due to the print failing but it was tall enough to get done what I needed to get done.

    All of my ball guides are 24 gauge sheetmetal. This is super easy to bend but it also feels incredibly cheap when you hit a shot. You know that nice solid feel you get when you rip an orbit? Well this is like take that feeling and half it, kinda like when you buy the cheap silverware and you drop it. Just doesn't have that solid sound we're used to hearing. Also the stuff is sharp as hell.

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    #19 1 year ago

    Everything is mounted! Everything is wired! Time to power this baby up!
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    OOOOOOOOOHHHH AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH Pretty lights and no smoke!

    Well actually that may be a lie, I think I had one of my 12v lines shorting out and it melted some insulation but that's neither here nor there. Remember kids practice safe power, use a fuse.

    #20 1 year ago

    So now it's powered up and ready to JAM! However my nemesis joins the fray and that is software!

    So like every code deficient homebrewer does who's running skeleton game and I take the #terminator-2-judgment-day example code and see how I can bash it into shape to fit the Motor City shaped hole I have. But in a feat of procrastination I jumped into photoshop and made a background using the sky line and then put the scores at the bottom. In the top left will be an animated readout device that will show you where your fare is taking you, and other random information.

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    Now that I've wasted sufficient time back to code.

    In this initial version I determined that the Following were needed to make the game playable.
    -Smart Magnet
    The smart magnet will trigger any time you hit one of the un-hit semicircle targets. It will pulse in a way that grabs the ball and throws it at the other targets
    in an attempt to hit more unhit targets. As soon as it hits a hit target it will not pulse and resume standard play. I think this feature gives the game some
    randomness that the lower playfield lacks right now.
    -Woodward Dream Cruise Multiball
    The three stand ups at the orbits and jump shot will trigger the WDC Multiball. The multiball will have three levels first completion allows you to lock 3 virtual
    balls in the left scoop and then starts multiball instantly. Second level you need to complete WDC twice to start. Third you need to hit WDC for each lock.
    -Detroit People Mover
    Just a three bank of standups next to the people mover sculpt. Further functionality will be sorted later.

    #21 1 year ago

    Now I know what you're saying you keen eye Pinsider; "Matt, you're writing code and all this but how the hell are you going to get the ball into the playfield???!!!! The orbit doesn't have a gap or anything to elevate the ball!" To which I would reply "F*** you are right!" so it was time to break out the welder and start some things on fire!

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    I took some blocks of wood and drilled two .135 holes in them at .75in on center. I assumed this would give me a good amount of ball control and also not scrub too much speed. You can see I also made some heavy duty hoop earrings to weld into place. I wound the .125 rod around a 1.125 wooden dowel and then band sawed them to be single hoops. I will attach a third wire to the upper edges of these hoops to make sure on the curve the ball does not find alternate routes to the playfield or to the bottom of the cab.

    #22 1 year ago

    After some blood, sweat, tears, beer, and more tears I had a completed playfield that I could finally mount the glass on and play! Right up to the point where the ball got stuck cause I don't have plastics anywhere.... (Sad day)

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    Also you'll notice that my garbage sheet metal ball guides have been replaced with nice shiny and strong stainless steel. I found a stainless fabrication house that could sheer me 48x1.125 strips for 8 bucks a piece. Way less than anywhere else I could find. So feast your eyes on pretty stainless, and yes I know the grain direction is wrong in the brushing, but I wasn't about to get picky when they're cutting me a deal.
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    Now, at the time of this photo we are at about 2-3 weeks till Chicago Expo, and in playing the game the paper was making it play super slow. I could do all the things I wanted to do on the playfield but everything felt really sluggish.

    With that being said I did what any sane person would do and got a new playfield cnc cut 14 days before the show! Also the cnc was in Chicago so I had to cannonball run to Chicago and back once it was cut cause now I was against the clock.
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    It looks beautiful and everything is where it needs to be making me incredibly happy! However it wasn't shiny and my squirrel level brain wasn't having any of that. I then broke out the spray can clear and went to town. The directions said it needs 10 hours or something before sanding. I gave it like 4, and then buffed the hell out of it. Not bad for 6-7 hours of work.
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    The PF could then be mounted to my new rotisserie and the swap could begin.
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    Also, I painted the back side primer gray just like the old machines, I think it gave it a more production and cleaner look.
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    #23 1 year ago

    Now the swap really starts, I ended up redoing all of the wiring to make it cleaner and get rid of the wonderful buss bars on the side.
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    I then proceeded to spend 20 some hours streaming over the weekend before the show getting everything wired up. I don't know what order the photos were taken in, the beer and sleep deprivation made it all a blur. Let's all take a second to remember that Expo starts on Thursday and I need to leave by Wednesday.... Again the keen eyed pinsider reading this will go "Matt you have like 3 days left, and the playfield is still on the operating table not in the cab" to again I say "$***, you're right this is about to get messy"

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    #24 1 year ago

    Well we did it! Got everything wired up and the game plays! We now have 2-3 days to figure out the code of the game and get as much in the machine as possible to not make it be a dud.

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    #25 1 year ago

    The clock ticked noon and it was time to go. I grabbed the machine and ran out the door. Heading to Pinball Expo and hoping for the best. Would my wiring hold up? Would something catastrophically fail? Only time would tell!

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    And since I'm not one for dramatic pauses I'll clue you in on what did break. One of the coil wires for the scoop snapped, probably because I'm using cheap wire and I will be paying for this choice for the next few months. Luckily I brought my full service kit complete with duplicate 3D prints of parts that are printed on the machine should something fail, and the wiring, fuses, connectors, and whatever else I could fit in the toolbox.

    IMG_2183 (resized).JPG
    #26 1 year ago

    Here's some pics from Expo and the homebrew pinball section. It was so cool to have my game there with Ghost in the Shell, Nightmare before Christmas, Castlevania, Undertale, The Dumpster Fire, and Party Zone. I got to see a ton of people play the game and give me their opinions of the shots. For the most part the review was "The orbits feel great, the magnet is fun, your pops hold the ball too long, the cross shot feels like a dead shot why do I wanna shoot that, and the jump shot is fun, I like that. A lot of designers commented that I left a lot of open space up at the top right and I should do something about that. One designer was "Hey you actually made it, I saw you got a PF cut what 10 days ago and I thought there was no way in heck you were going to make it to the show"
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    I also got to bring it to the pinball life party and show it off there, which about 5 minutes before the event was to start Terry turned off all the lights while Scott was playing and we realized I had no GI!!! So it was off to the hardware store down the road to pick up a headlamp to light the game
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    #27 1 year ago

    Now Expo is complete and it's time to figure out how to make my game more fun and satisfying. The first is the open area on my right inner orbit. The solution? a diverter and scoop. This will give me a new place to end a mode and allow the game play to be more variable. Well that takes up that area, but like a few said the pops felt dead or worthless to shoot and that hurts cause I really like how smoothly the cross shot feels. The best thing I could come up with is a trap door, but not a normal trap door as I need this one to rotate up not pop up. This will allow me to give the pops another exit and also act as a shot directly from the cross shot. If the ball gets stuck in the pops for more than 3 seconds or so the door will pop open and allow the ball to exit and subway down to the lower scoop.

    Now this had me thinking, I've got a scoop up top and a scoop at the bottom with a trapdoor and subway in the middle. Why don't I connect all three! (cue Guinness men cheering "BRILLIANT!") So I grabbed my old playfield with the paper and found the path of least resistance between the three points.
    ADF86010-CAB1-4B35-8331-59535CE21010 (resized).jpg

    Looking at this I realized I was going to need a custom mech for the upper scoop that could fire the ball out of the open back and push it to the subway with enough force to get over the upward stretch.

    This also made me realized how tight the space was in the pops and I was going to need a compact mech to get it work, so I sketched up what I thought would work best and made it servo drive for the time being cause I'm good with servos and 3D printing.
    3E07544C-05D8-4A54-9ACC-9014A355640A (resized).jpg
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    This mech has two connected arms that hold the trapdoor and allow it to rotate up giving the clearance for the ball to fall into while also keeping the room behind minimal since I have the jump ramp right behind it. In my initial sketch I thought the subway would be behind the trapdoor, but then I realized if I made the rotation point low enough along with not having a center drive shaft going through the whole mech I could thread the subway through it and reduce part count.

    Fast forward a few weeks and that is exactly what I did, In the below screenshot from cad I have the two scoops aligned how I want to work with the flipper controlled diverter and then basically sketched the most gradual curve I could to reduce hangups.
    59987886480__1E1BBFC3-2B63-4518-96B0-CF043FEC0742 (resized).JPG

    On to the upper scoop, I needed a way to fire the ball back through the scoop's open back so I went to pinball life and picked up an auto fire coil. I assumed setting it up at a 45 to the ball would be enough angle to kick the ball up and out of the cradle and then push it back. I modeled up the scoop first and then also modeled up an open back.
    IMG_2369 (resized).JPG

    Then modeled up the autofire and its associated bracket.
    AutoLaunch (resized).PNG

    Took the autofire and roughly positioned it in cad to how I thought it would work.
    CustomScoop (resized).PNG

    Finally created a projected sketch of the bottom part of the scoop and the bracket on the auto fire to make an adapter to hold the autofire at the perfect position.
    Scoop2 (resized).PNG
    I made some recesses for hex nuts to seat into and provide a strong connection between the two components.

    Threw the part on the printer and voila!
    IMG_2930 (resized).JPG

    At this time I also adjusted the cad of the game, I opened up the pop bumpers to get some more movement and play. The upper lanes are now tiered to give more room for the pops to breathe and not just fire the ball up a single lane like MM. This change will probably mean I need to adjust how the ball is captured from the jump shot as right now when it comes off the jump it's got a lot of speed and needed the distance between the upper orbit and the lane guides. I will probably have a plastic wedge that acts as a brake and redirect. Also I changed the thin standups for wide to make it less likely to have ball hangups.

    Playfield (resized).PNG

    The next thing to do is to get this playfield cut and see if the trapdoor, scoop, and subway work as I expect! At this point we are about 50-60 days to Texas Pinball Festival and it is my goal to have it at that show!

    #28 1 year ago

    So getting worked up about cad and custom mechs I forgot to post this update about the game story and layout. Previously I had been struggling on how the games story was going to play, like how can I keep you interested in this relatively simple layout. I kept drawing ideas out and writing but it just would not stick. However I picked up some inserts from PBL and after a beer or two just started placing them on the play field. I knew I wanted 4 levels of fares; Green, Yellow, Orange, Red. Green ones are easy and are almost all qualified as soon as you start the game, yellow require a bit more skill but most novice players should be able to complete them with little issue. Orange is when the party starts, things are timed tighter, combos are tipped well. Red, well good luck I'll probably make these impossible just out of spite of my poor pinball abilities

    Now when I look at the play field I originally wanted the play field to be a top down map of Detroit where all the locations would have inserts behind them and it would show off the city in a cool cartoonish way. But, looking at a map there is no level of artistic rendition I can come up with to make the map fit a play field in a pleasing way. So I took my list of locations, and grouped them into a few different categories. Venues, Sports, Government, Tourism, Museums, Shopping, and Buildings (architecture). It then dawned on me to put each location type in a group with a rectangle for the miniwizard mode, and then in the center of this pinwheel arrangement put a big flasher insert that would be the main wizard mode.
    IMG_2876 (resized).JPG

    Each of these location groupings would get an assortment of fare levels, and if you time out a fare it will complete and qualify you for the wizard mode of that collection.

    I then created a flow chart of how I think I want the code to be organized and what the hierarchy should be, this allows me to coordinate priorities in Skeleton Game so that I make sure that the modes get the proper switch hits and I don't have game breaking overlaps.
    MotorCityCode (resized).PNG

    In this there is the feature manager, I have this here to basically keep track of all switch hits on the play field and upon each hit send the count to the location manager. This location manager will check against the game variables if a location is available or not. Once the proper conditions are met the location manager will notify the scoop manager that the following locations are unlocked. If the scoop sees a ball come from the proper shot it will allow the player to select the mode and start progress.

    They're horribly color coded but each color represents a location type that feeds each of the mini wizard modes, this will be future development cause at this point we're still trying to figure out if this geometry is going to work or not. But, since we are in a time crunch planning ahead now saves us a lot of headache later.

    #29 1 year ago

    Just caught up and am following! Awesome work so far man!! Keep it up your organization is impressive — my work bench looks like a tornado after a day of working on mine lol.

    4 months later
    #30 1 year ago

    Played this at expo and it was one of my favorite things there. Glad to have stumbled on the thread hope all is well with the project.

    #31 1 year ago

    Absolutely awesome! I'm sure many of us have dreamed of being able to build our own machine. Great work!

    1 year later
    #32 69 days ago

    Guess what guys! I'm not dead! even worse yet I haven't given up on this project!

    So where we last left off the gang was trying to figure out how to incorporate some new features in the game that were suggested by designers and players at Expo. Once the CAD was complete of this new revision I needed to get it cut out via CNC, on my last revision I got a taste of cnc blood and now anything less than precision is not enough for me.

    So I phoned up a friend who has a small format CNC machine and got some information on what his machine could do. To cut the whole PF I would have to do the cut in two passes. To facilitate this I designed a fixture that could mount to the machine and be parallel to the Y axis of the machine and hold the playfield in place securely but after the first cut allow it to slide so the machine could get the rest of the cuts complete. I settled on a simple fixture of a piece of coated particle board and a milled piece of lumber with some edge clamps that used inset t-nuts. I then split up the playfield into two cuts and at the end of the first cut I had the machine do a plunge near the far left edge of the playfield at the top of the cut. This geometry would then be the origin for my second cut so I could move the playfield down the machine and then center the bit in the plunge hole and set my machine x y zero point. This plan worked perfectly I think the overall offset between the two cuts was less than a millimeter.

    Now I took this playfield and started to populate it with components and doing all the wiring.

    I got it all set up in the machine, turned it on, and boom..... I had a configuration file wrong and it ended up damaging my output boards since they pulled too much current and or I had a bad ground.... So that kinda took the wind out of my snails, especially since it was right at the start of the pandemic so getting parts was tough. Let down and a bit dejected I let the machine sit for a few months, I didn't wanna check all my wiring and I didn't wanna just reconnect the boards and possibly cook another set.

    So I started working on code for the game and improving a lot of my previously hacked code.

    The first thing I did was designed the heads up display I wanted to use for the machine, figuring out where I wanted the locations to be displayed when you hit the scoop, where I wanted the game to tell you there was locations unlocked, and things like that. The layout I settled on was on each edge of the screen there is a display tray that has a "handle" which is visible at all times and then can pop out when information needs to be displayed. These different displays have various layer priorities and none are tied to a mode specifically. I did this so that I could then put whatever information I want on them. The controller modes for each of these trays then would just have methods to pop the display out or retract it depending on what the modes ask it to do.

    The first tray that was designed is the center fare display. I wanted something that looked like a 90's video game level display with a "TV" screen in the center showing the location that is desired and then two side panes that could display text information like location fun facts (after all I am thinking this is a tourist game) and then the "Directions" for the location on the other side in a similar format to how your maps app lists directions. I made the top of this follow the lower score display to kind of resemble a car dashboard and the gauge cluster behind the steering wheel.

    Next was the location unlocked indicator, this would be on the left side and would pop out as soon as you did something to unlock a location. Unlocking locations could be as easy as starting the game, or doing a combo of shots to get the highest level locations. As soon as the feature manager (think maiden power features) saw that enough spinners or whatever were completed for a location group the feature manager would tell the location unlocked indicator to display the number of locations and pop out the tray to be a background.

    Finally (for now) was the upper tray that serves as background for the various location modes to display the current task at hand things like "shoot the orbit" or whatnot.

    So now we've done a lot with the code what about the mechanics?! No progress, don't remind me....

    Back to code; Now that we've got the display trays set up I had to start writing the modes to actually display stuff and make something legit. I started with the fare display and made some really painful brute force code that was hundreds of lines longer than it needed. This worked, but it wasn't pretty. I spent a while learning a bit more about python and how to implement arrays and lists to my benefit, this way I could do a for loop to check variables instead of manually checking and updating each one individually. This saved a lot of pain although getting it work at first was very painful. I kept optimizing things cause procrastination and not wanting to plug hardware back in.

    I also started to write the actual location modes first making four of the same type at once and then individually debugging. This was a nighmare cause I would get one working but then have to copy and paste all the different fixes and handlers from the working one to the non working ones. I decided this was a bad plan so I came up with a new method, I would write one mode to completion, getting core working perfectly so it could start the mode, and process what it needed to and then properly finish it's self and tell the manager modes if it finished successfully or unsuccessfully. This took some time (with more procrastination than I'd like to admit).

    So now we've got the mode handling it's self very well, but I know I'm going to need to consider lighting calls in the very near future. Before I can go off starting writing other modes I need to make sure I have the core for updating the lighting of the mode and clearing the lighting calls from the mode. This finally got me to the point of getting back into hardware mode. I started by first repinning all of my crimp connectors as I had used the wrong size crimper so all my heavy gauge crimps were poor. Once that was complete again I tested all my grounds and supplies to make sure everything was getting the proper voltage. All tested good so I decided to finally plug it in and see how it goes. IT WORKED! no fire, no smoke, so I was a happy man. I tried to play a game but it was ball stuck heaven since my flippers had not been tuned (foreshadowing) and I didn't have any plastics on the machine.

    Now I'm writing lighting calls for the modes, first the location manager that looks at all the fares and their conditions (locked, unlocked, complete) and then created lighting calls to run through the list of locations and the associated LEDs I wired up some LEDs to my PDLED boards and put the leds on the speaker panel of the cab so I don't have to worry about inserts yet. Once that was working it was off to the location mode to get it set up with lighting for the drop targets and better understanding how to use arrays to my benefit. So now my game has lights! I wrote a few modes in the meantime that are kind of side ones, the first being the upper lanes and the lighting for completion when you roll through the switches. The second was the Detroit People Mover where completing the three targets indexed the station to the next. In both of these modes I better learned the player variables and ball start and end events that further optimized the location manager and location modes.

    The next challenge was my trap door. This trap door I had battled with before trying to get stepper motors to work with skeleton game. The PDLED board can control stepper motors but it needs specific serial data packets to specific data and address registers to get them to operate. Jan with MPF has these calls figured out but even with his comments in the MPF code I didn't have enough experience with python to understand what he was doing. Fast forward a year and I was looking through the pdb.py file in skeleton game and noticed how the SG guys were sending these data packets. Then looking at Jan's code and the PDLED reference material it finally clicked what exactly I needed to do to configure the PDLED to have a stepper motor, and then subsequently control that motor. Once it all clicked I was able to get the trap door working perfectly! I still need to polish up the code a bit but for now its working. I still need to fully mount it in the machine but that will wait for the next revision since I'm cutting a new PF soon.

    So now we're almost up to date, In playing the game testing the first location mode I realized my drop targets were set far too close to the flippers and needed adjustment. Luckily the pindev guys stepped in and mentioned that my flipper power may be too high, Looking at my longest shot I tuned the flippers back so they had enough to hit the far shots and that was enough to prevent the ball from airballing off the drop targets.

    Now that we've got lighting, geometry tests, and most things done it's time to think inserts. So I reverse engineered all the inserts I wanted to use in my game and created a test CNC geometry to test the fitment of the different types. In my game I'm using a large triangle, 1.5 in circle, 1 in circle, and 1.5 by .75 inch rectangle inserts. I created the NC code and brought it over to the machine and the inserts fit perfectly! The triangle is a bit tight but it'll work.

    The next step was to then take those geometries and lay them out over the entire playfield in the format I want for the game. Once that is complete I can generate the code for the whole playfield and cut out the next revision!

    The goal is to have a solidly running demo game for Expo with most of the lighting installed, along with as many modes as I can solidly write for players to get a good idea of the game and how it will play out.

    Schedule for the next few weeks is:
    Finalize NC code for CNC cutting
    Write radio station mode for music for each driver
    Cut playfield (likely next friday)
    Sand and clearcoat playfield (next sunday)
    Playfield swap (who cares about clearcoat hardness)
    Code like mad!

    Expo....

    MGC.....

    Sleep....

    I'll post some progress photos once I get them off my phone

    -Benzik

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