TLDR: I'm building a Sonic the Hedgehog Pinball machine. Why on earth did SEGA not make one? Follow my build here!
Since finishing up my dream restoration (Twilight Zone which I documented here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/twilight-zone-restoration-2) I've decided to move on to another dream project which will be my most ambitious to date: design and build my own pinball machine.
I have been lamenting for years that SEGA never made a Sonic the Hedgehog pinball machine. Despite having pinball as a recurring theme in the main games, making a pinball video game, a coin roller, a basketball game, SEGA itself manufacturing pinball machines, placing him in the DMD shows of several SEGA pins as well as their manuals, despite SEGA allegedly doing what nintendon't and the fact that his 90s rival Mario starred in TWO pins... no Sonic. I have been a huge fan of Sonic since I was a kid. I was forged in the console wars of the 90s, and I LOVED to go FAST.
While learning to restore pins, and during my multiple projects over the last few years, the idea of making my own game was always in the back of my mind, and the theme seemed obvious. I told anyone that would listen that I would do it "someday", and would even list off the features I planned. Then one day I decided to start writing my ideas down and see where the design evolved (and so i wouldn't forget them) On a whim one weekend, I designed an 80s SS style game called "Cosmic Lady" in order to teach myself to design using the excellent free Visual Pinball digital platform. The goal of the CL project was to eventually use the new skills to someday make a digital prototype of my dream Sonic game. It was perfect. No need to buy anything at all! infinite hypothetical parts, and I could try my creations and decide when I had something worth building.
After a year of planning during long car rides and excited hypothetical conversations with friends about features and how I would design it, I decided to get started. It only took a few weeks to finish the digital prototype. I had about 1/2 of the playfield planned out, and a few more ideas to fit wherever I could. The design came together very smoothly. Unfortunately, once it was done I didn't think it was very fun. It was missing something. Then a friend of mine made a recommendation: "you need another ramp, there is no way to feed your left flipper." I looked at my design, and immediately knew exactly where it would go. After adding that ramp I swear I played my rule-less digital prototype for 2-3 hours. It was suddenly REALLY fun to shoot even with no scoring to shoot for. That's when I knew I had something worth building, and the rest of this project started soon after.
At this point I had the party for my Twilight Zone restoration coming up, and I decided to code some rules for my digital prototype in visual pinball. I got started quickly since I was able to copy code from my previous project. I knew that these rules should only be basic, as they would be later thrown out in favor of coding on a real platform, but I wanted to demo to people how the basic game would be played to get them excited and get valuable feedback. I ended up with around 700 lines of code (450 or so copy pasted from previous project) and a mostly playable demo. It was FUN. I loaded it onto my digital pinball coffee table (previous project) and everyone at the party enjoyed it. It was at this party that Mark the creator of Metroid pinball brought me a bunch of parts from his donor game and a surprise playfield plywood to get me started. If you haven't seen his game you are seriously missing out: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/metroid-pinball
Since then, I've been slowly collecting parts, and started re-coding the game using the Mission Pinball Framework. One of their users created a bridge between MPF and Visual pinball so I am able to start writing real code using my digital prototype before I even start building. I'm a few weeks in, and have a basic game running, one major game mechanic completed, and just finished my first game-play mode tonight. I also picked up my donor cabinet today which is why I decided I finally have enough substance to this project that its worth starting a thread. I'll write a post detailing the code I have done so far soon. In the meantime, here is the donor cab: a really rough looking but surprisingly solid Space Shuttle cabinet.