(Topic ID: 248496)

Want to design my own pin!

By swampwiz

1 year ago


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  • 17 posts
  • 9 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by jabdoa
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    #1 1 year ago

    Rather than look for an existing pin to add to my herd, I have this desire to custom design and build my own pin, so I need some ideas about the basic logistics involved.

    I figure that the best way to do this is to do it as a conversion from an existing SS pin, but with a different game ROM. As I understand the early Bally SS system (and have 3 of these in the herd already), and new parts (including boards) are easy to source, this would make the basic logistics work out the easiest, although if I want to get something more advanced, I could do the more advanced Bally system of the early/mid '80s. Based on the problems I have encountered with Williams System 11A (Fire!), I want to avoid that. All I would need to do it pick up an old, cosmetically ugly pin that I know to have a maximum amount of wires for switches, lamps, coils, etc. (where could I get that information?) and strip off the playfield, and I would have the basics in place (I might move around the playfield items, but that could easily be spliced in).

    So here comes the hard parts:

    [1] Game ROM for the MPU. I am not sure how this would be done, but obviously there is some Master IC(s) that would need to be installed. I'd also like to be able to use COTS remanufactured boards like the Alltek MPU and have it work with that, including being able to use the 32 board switch settings. I am an "early retired" programmer, so writing the code for the IC would not be a problem (what language could it be, BTW? Assembly? C?), but then I would need some IDE and that would make the proper components that could be programmers into the Master IC, and some hardware device that would physically load the Master IC with the component. I'd also like this Master IC to be something that could be rewritten. Also, I would tend to think that the code for existing pins is accessible in the public domain (i.e., for Bally).

    [2] Sound board ROM. If I go early Bally, this wouldn't be an issue, but I think I want to have much more ability to do sounds, being able to do add in snippets of human voice or synthesized MIDI tracks, etc. I figure that 8-bit digital audio should be good enough. Again, I would need to somehow program the Voice IC(s).

    [3] Backglass. I would come up with an easy design, but then I would need to get it printed somehow. I supposed that BG Restore could simply printout as per a PNG file I would supply, or if I wanted to go the translite route, it seems that I could get a local printer to do that, in which case, I'd like to know what kind of "paper & ink" would be used for this. (This would be handy in me replacing one of the translites I currently have, as I could scan that and reprint it.)

    [4] Plastics. I think I could get someone to print this out, so it wouldn't be an issue, but I'd be interested in anyone that has done this before and could do a proper professional job), and that could do a one-off.

    [5] Playfield. This is the toughest one. I know that CPR and I think someone else is capable to doing a professional job of milling and painting, but I wonder if the costs for doing a one-off would be prohibitive. I presume that I would simply supply an engineering drawing of the playfield, detailing the location of inserts, screw dots (I'm not sure of the terminology; this would be the very small & shallow hole where a screw would be installed), and of course the artwork (which is going to be quite generic, although with the standard test associated with a regular playfield). As for the design, I am looking for an overall design that would allow for different orientations of posts & rubbers, so I need to think about that; if anyone has any pointers

    I should say that part of the goal of this is to be able to change the game essentially by swapping out a populated playfield (and the associated wire harness) and the MPU & sound boards (I think I would just have separate boards for separate designs rather than fools around with popping out ICs). The artwork for the backglass and cabinet would stay the same. Something of use here could be a COTS storage box for a playfield.

    I also plan to set up a simulation of the game on VPinball before I get to the "cutting" phase of the playfield.

    So that's it. I'm open to any & all suggestions.

    #2 1 year ago

    Ballys run on 6800 asm. You can't use custom roms on alltek. There are no ides for this, just a text editor, command line, and an emulator (pinmame). Bally is hard to program for compared to Williams/gottlieb.

    There are mypinballs and lisy35 replacement mpus which will let you program using modern stuff, might be easier.

    Also check out http://www.pinball4you.ch/okaegi/pro_pck.html

    I've been trying to write one from scratch but it's been slow: zacaj.com

    Not much is known about the sound roms, esp voice

    #3 1 year ago
    Quoted from zacaj:

    Ballys run on 6800 asm. You can't use custom roms on alltek. There are no ides for this, just a text editor, command line, and an emulator (pinmame). Bally is hard to program for compared to Williams/gottlieb.

    Hmm, that's depressing. I don't think there is anyone else who makes a remanufactured Bally board, although your description on how to mod it is excellent. I wouldn't have a a problem with Gottlieb, but I would tend to think that with the licensing issue, it would be hard to homebrew off of it. Based on my experience with Williams 11A and Rottendog's poor remanufacture thereof, I'm a bit leery of going the Williams route. I want the backbone of this project to be SOLID.

    #4 1 year ago

    There are a ton of resources for this out there, and people happy to help you. I'll say this: it's a massive undertaking, it's going to cost you money, and lots and lots of time, and be longer and harder than you thought.

    Given the investment you're going to make, you shouldn't try and make it harder than you have to. Ditch the idea of reusing things that aren't going to be easy, and just start with a proper aftermarket control system. It will work better, be more flexible, and you'll have lots more support when you get stuck.

    Unless you're specifically looking to go down your own programming rabbit hole, and not trying to actually work on making a game. Then knock yourself out.

    #5 1 year ago
    Quoted from zacaj:

    Ballys run on 6800 asm. You can't use custom roms on alltek. There are no ides for this, just a text editor, command line, and an emulator (pinmame). Bally is hard to program for compared to Williams/gottlieb.
    There are mypinballs and lisy35 replacement mpus which will let you program using modern stuff, might be easier.
    Also check out http://www.pinball4you.ch/okaegi/pro_pck.html
    I've been trying to write one from scratch but it's been slow: zacaj.com
    Not much is known about the sound roms, esp voice

    What about this COTS board from NVRAM?

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/new-bally-35-stern-mpu-200-repro-boards

    #6 1 year ago
    Quoted from Aurich:

    There are a ton of resources for this out there, and people happy to help you. I'll say this: it's a massive undertaking, it's going to cost you money, and lots and lots of time, and be longer and harder than you thought.
    Given the investment you're going to make, you shouldn't try and make it harder than you have to. Ditch the idea of reusing things that aren't going to be easy, and just start with a proper aftermarket control system. It will work better, be more flexible, and you'll have lots more support when you get stuck.
    Unless you're specifically looking to go down your own programming rabbit hole, and not trying to actually work on making a game. Then knock yourself out.

    My idea of easy is to use a platform that is already tried & true, and where I can get COTS parts. I don't mind going down the programming rabbit hole; all I need is a good manual, an IDE that can compile the final product, and the hardware to program the ICs. To paraphrase the old farts in "Trading Places", I've worked on worse.

    EDIT: For whatever reason, I can no longer post replies to my own thread here! It says that I need to get verified by getting someone to vouch for me. Can someone do that for me?

    #7 1 year ago

    Look at the options available from Multimorphic.
    https://www.multimorphic.com/p3-pinball-platform/hardware-control-system/

    That system was used for Bride of Pin-Bot 2.0, the upcoming TotAN rewrite, and several other projects.

    Also check out the Mission Pinball Framework.

    #8 1 year ago

    Those boards will work with custom roms, yes. They also have extra rom and ram space, iirc, beyond what a normal Bally board would have, which could be helpful. Plus you could clock them at 1mhz with the Stern mpu-200 setting

    #9 1 year ago

    I made my own game, just like you're describing. Here's the Forum topic where I chronicled my progress:

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/flash-retheme-project

    A few recommendations:

    1. It helps if you're either an artist, an experienced programmer or an electrical engineer (or know people who are who can help). I'm an artist (the least valuable of the three) and taught myself the other two.

    2. Think through everything before you start. Visualize how you want your game to flow, what you want each playfield element to do and how the modes will work (if you're going for mode-based play). Make sketches and diagrams. Do you want ball saves? Multiball? Mode stacking? Think through how different features will interact with each other before you begin. Your questions in the initial post show that you have a great start on this.

    3. Don't give yourself a deadline. Take things one problem at a time and give them the necessary attention before moving on. Also, don't give yourself a firm budget. My build ended up costing less than a Ghostbusters Pro, but I'm still glad I didn't cut corners.

    To make things way easier on myself, I started with a populated playfield and a used cabinet - it saved me about six months of build time and probably $1000. Because I wanted a completely new ruleset and sound package, I used P-ROC boards with an Asus Tinkerboard for a CPU and I did my programming in Mission Pinball Framework (MPF). Both P-ROC and MPF have excellent online forums to help with any questions you have along the way. My local library has a "maker space" with a laser cutter - I brought a sheet of plexiglass from Lowe's and a PDF file with my plastic shapes and 30 minutes later I had all my plastics. Graphics for the plastics, playfield, cabinet and backglass were made at a local sign shop - basically giant vinyl stickers.

    Finally, be aware that once you start this project there will be times when you get frustrated and angry and want to give up. Just remind yourself that you're doing it for fun and focus on how awesome the finished product will be. You can do it!

    #10 1 year ago
    Quoted from TopMoose:

    I made my own game, just like you're describing. Here's the Forum topic where I chronicled my progress:
    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/flash-retheme-project
    A few recommendations:
    1. It helps if you're either an artist, an experienced programmer or an electrical engineer (or know people who are who can help). I'm an artist (the least valuable of the three) and taught myself the other two.
    2. Think through everything before you start. Visualize how you want your game to flow, what you want each playfield element to do and how the modes will work (if you're going for mode-based play). Make sketches and diagrams. Do you want ball saves? Multiball? Mode stacking? Think through how different features will interact with each other before you begin. Your questions in the initial post show that you have a great start on this.
    3. Don't give yourself a deadline. Take things one problem at a time and give them the necessary attention before moving on. Also, don't give yourself a firm budget. My build ended up costing less than a Ghostbusters Pro, but I'm still glad I didn't cut corners.
    To make things way easier on myself, I started with a populated playfield and a used cabinet - it saved me about six months of build time and probably $1000. Because I wanted a completely new ruleset and sound package, I used P-ROC boards with an Asus Tinkerboard for a CPU and I did my programming in Mission Pinball Framework (MPF). Both P-ROC and MPF have excellent online forums to help with any questions you have along the way. My local library has a "maker space" with a laser cutter - I brought a sheet of plexiglass from Lowe's and a PDF file with my plastic shapes and 30 minutes later I had all my plastics. Graphics for the plastics, playfield, cabinet and backglass were made at a local sign shop - basically giant vinyl stickers.
    Finally, be aware that once you start this project there will be times when you get frustrated and angry and want to give up. Just remind yourself that you're doing it for fun and focus on how awesome the finished product will be. You can do it!

    Thanks for giving your experience. Yes, this will be a long-term project. I am an "early retired" programmer, so if you could manage to do the electronics/programming yourself, it will be easy for me. Like I said, I was going to just hitch off of an established platform, but maybe a new OTS platform could be done. I do want to re-use the wiring harness and even the underside elements themselves in some way, so that new OTS platform would need to be compatible; I don't want to be running wires and terminating them into pinblocks,

    I didn't think about a MakerSpace shop. I see a few places in my area that have membership with a fee. Perhaps being unemployed, I could get the state to buck up for the fee, LOL. That could help in more ways than the new pin, as I also have plastics for another pin I need to make.

    I was planning on using an existing cabinet and wire harness, but as I would like a wide body at least, and perhaps lifted as the playfield goes back, there might not be many around that either exist or that could be gotten cheaply.

    Something I definitely need a professional do is make the playfield as per my specs, both the cutouts and the artwork. I think places like CPR and others could do it, and for not much. Of course, maybe a Maker place could do it (the artwork would be something the old Vitrigraph that Gottlieb had done, which I wouldn't have a problem with.)

    #11 1 year ago
    Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

    Look at the options available from Multimorphic.
    https://www.multimorphic.com/p3-pinball-platform/hardware-control-system/
    That system was used for Bride of Pin-Bot 2.0, the upcoming TotAN rewrite, and several other projects.
    Also check out the Mission Pinball Framework.

    That doesn't seem to be much - just a plain screen and targets along the side & top. I want to have physical things in the middle that the pinball actually bounces off of, with drop targets, etc.

    #12 1 year ago

    https://pinballmakers.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

    and go ahead and post in the homebrew thread here https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/forum/homebrew-pinball

    Quoted from swampwiz:

    That doesn't seem to be much - just a plain screen and targets along the side & top. I want to have physical things in the middle that the pinball actually bounces off of, with drop targets, etc.

    You need to look at their control systems, the P3-ROC and the PROC, not the P3 machine although you can make custom games and hardware for that too if you like. There are other control systems out there as well, FAST, OPP, etc the first like I posted to Pinball Makers has lots more info.

    #14 1 year ago
    Quoted from swampwiz:

    My idea of easy is to use a platform that is already tried & true, and where I can get COTS parts.

    This is your game, so of course do whatever you like. My experience tells me your route isn’t easier. It’s certainly more limiting.

    So just consider the benefits before you dismiss it. You’ll spend some money on boards. But you’ll save a ton of time and headaches and gain a lot of advances and modern conveniences.

    There’s a reason most personal games, even by programmers, go that route.

    #15 1 year ago

    If you want a System11 style solution have a look at the Arduino Pinball Controller (https://github.com/AmokSolderer/APC). You can use in with MPF or also program it standalone in case you do not want any host PC. However, running and developing software on a PC is much easier and faster. Documentation in MPF is still a bit slim (http://docs.missionpinball.org/en/dev/hardware/apc/index.html) but we are here to answer questions. Otherwise, P/P3-Roc (http://docs.missionpinball.org/en/dev/hardware/multimorphic/index.html) is a great solution. Fast (http://docs.missionpinball.org/en/dev/hardware/fast/index.html) is another one. Or you can go with the Open Pinball Project (http://docs.missionpinball.org/en/dev/hardware/opp/index.html) as a low cost solution which requires more manual work.

    Jan

    #16 1 year ago

    There have been a few who designed their game first using visual pinball. Played it for awhile before ever doing white wood design.
    See https://www.vpforums.org/ for the community of that stuff.

    The road or journey that you propose is a long one that is not for the timid. Jan's recommendation provide the most variety of options for hardware and software combinations.

    I would not get to hung up on roms, when you can write your own rule set, sound effects and background music, and lighting effect.

    I have done two home brew machines (re-theme) but never white wood. Both projects started with a dead donar machine (williams Phoenix, Gottlieb Close Encounters). The playfield remained the same but my own rules, skill shoots, sounds, points, etc.

    This allowed me to learn the hardware software side without crafting a white board.

    Good luck in what ever you decide to do, this community is fantastic in a support role.

    #17 1 year ago
    Quoted from legtod2:

    There have been a few who designed their game first using visual pinball. Played it for awhile before ever doing white wood design.
    See https://www.vpforums.org/ for the community of that stuff.

    You can also use VPX with MPF (dev only currently - will be on 0.53) if you want: http://missionpinball.org/2019/05/25/virtual-pinball-and-mpf.html

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