Quoted from NicoVolta:
Hey there... has this project moved ahead? After examining "broken EM's" (games with poor rule sets) in another thread I was curious to know more about Hot Tip. Looks like there is no reason at all to shoot for the captive ball. Risky shot and not many points. Looks like a good candidate for a rules tweak.
Hoo boy, this thread has gone without an update for a while...
So, starting back from my last post: I assembled the pictured boards, and discovered some major design flaws with my solenoid control board (as in, when I plug them in the CPU starts smoking). So I redesigned those, and put them in the queue for my next PCB order. And then had a flash of inspiration and redesigned them again. Still haven't ordered them. While working on them and the light matrix boards, I realized I'm a complete idiot. What does a light matrix need? 8 PNP transistors for the columns and 8 NPN transistors for the rows. What does a solenoid driver board control? 16 Solenoids, via 16 transistors. No reason to design a whole second board, a generalized 16 transistor board could handle both cases easily.
I also got the display board produced and assembled, and while I was bored one week wrote the entirety of the code to handle both the original rule set and my redesigned ruleset, and let you switch between them by holding the start button in attract mode. Then I stumbled across a working system 6 boardset, so I stuck that in Hot Tip, and it worked! Well, darn, I've spent all this time making half of an entire replacement boardset and code for the game, and now the game plays just fine. Not the best rules, but it's still pretty fun! Actually playing the game also made me realize that the left kickout hole is really hard to hit on purpose, which makes me question my ruleset centered around shooting the hole to collect your bonus. (It also kicks down the middle half the time, grr) Luckily, I also picked up a Laser Ball without boards, and Laser Ball seems to be another game with, if not broken rules, than at least really boring ones (or at least I assume, since it seems to be really unpopular). So, I figured, my replacement boardset would work just as well in Laser Ball as in Hot Tip (and so would the original Williams boards), so I planned to go back to building the boards, design a ruleset for Laser Ball as well, and then decide which of the custom rulesets I liked more to determine which game got the custom boards and which got the original.
While I was designing some custom Laser Ball rules, and also working on numerous other projects, and starting to get parts and ideas together for a custom build I've been wanting to do, I stumbled on another system 6 boardset, mostly working,and stuck that set in Laser Ball. Crap, now I've got two mostly working games, half a set of custom boards, and two rulesets I've designed for them! What am I going to do now?
While I was fixing some problems on Laser Ball's boards, I noticed that they had the memory addresses for all the chips labeled on the schematics, but didn't pay much attention. Weeks later, driving home from league night, my mind got to wandering: "it's not like those boards are that complicated", I thought to myself. "I understand what all the chips do, and how all the IOs work... And if you know how all the IOs work, how hard can it be to write the logic to control the IOs? And if that's not hard, then it can't really be that hard to just teach myself 6800 ASM, backwards engineer all the boards, and write my own custom OS and game code from scratch!"
Night time zacaj driving down the highway alone gets some really stupid ideas.... But a week later I'd taught myself assembly, backwards engineered the hardware, and written code to manage all the solenoids, lights, displays, and switches (at least, in pinmame). I was on a roll! Within a month I could easily have a playable base game implemented on the original hardware; this could be great!
And then I bought a disassembled flood damaged PotC last month and all that other fun stuff went on the backburner I'm super good with managing my time and projects, yes I am.
As for the captive ball, Nico, it's not the biggest shot ever, but it's worth more than it looks. A good lit spinner is worth what, 10-20k? A lit captive ball, besides being much easier to light, awards (iirc) 3000 points right away, plus 3000 bonus, which is often doubled to 6000. So the captive ball might be worth 9k, and it's worth that much way more often than I manage to get the spinner lit. And lighting the spinner turns on the invisible outlane magnets too. It's no Algar, but it's not like you avoid shooting it. Also it's really satisfying to hit... If I were coding the game I would have made it worth, say, 5k unlit, and 25k lit with double bonus, for a bit of rebalancing. Or maybe even have it temporarily light the spinner? But it's not quite as broken as some people make it out to be, personally.