Building A Pinball Emulator

Building a MAME machine – an arcade cabinet that will play everything from Galaga to Street Fighter II – is surely on the ‘to build’ list of thousands of Hackaday readers around the world. It’s a relatively simple build, provided you can put a sheet of MDF in your car; it’s just an emulator, and if you can find a CRT and have an old computer sitting around, you’re already halfway there.

There is another class of arcade games that can be emulated. This is, of course, pinball machines. [Jan] built a virtual pinball cabinet over the last few months and his build log is incredible. If you’ve ever wanted to build a pinball emulator, this is the guide to reference.

The most important part of a pinball emulator is the displays. For this, [Jan] is using a 40-inch TV for the playfield, a 28-inch monitor to display the backglass art, and a traditional 128×32 DMD. Instead of manufacturing his own cabinet, he repurposed an old electromechanical machine, Bally’s Little Joe.

The software is the real star of the show with PinballX serving as the front end, with Future Pinball and Visual Pinball serving as the emulators. These emulators drive the displays, changing out back glasses, and simulating the physics of the ball. The computer running all of this has a few neat electromechanical bits including a shaker motor, an original Williams replay knocker, and some relays or solenoids give the digital table a tremendous amount of force feedback. This is the way to do it, and if you don’t have these electromechanical bits and bobs securely fastened to the machine, you really lose immersion.

You can check out a video of the table in action below.

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Digital Pinball With Force Feedback

pinball Hang around Hackaday long enough and you’ll hear about MAME, and all the other ways to emulate vintage arcade machines on a computer. The builds are usually fantastic, with real arcade buttons, MDF cabinets, and side graphics with just the right retro flair to make any connoisseur of ancient video games happy. MAME is only emulating old video games, though, and not physical systems like the digital pinball system [ronnied] put up on the Projects site.

[ronnied] was inspired by a real life, full-size White Water pinball machine at his previous job, and decided it was high time for him to acquire – somehow – a pinball machine of his own. He had a spare computer sitting around, an old 16:9 monitor for the main playfield, and was donated a smaller 4:3 monitor for the backglass. With an MDF cabinet, PinMAME, and a little bit of work, [ronnied] had his own machine capable of recreating hundreds of classic machines.

The build didn’t stop at just a few arcade buttons and a screen; [ronnied] added a 3-axis accelerometer for a tilt mechanism, solenoids and a plunger torn from a real pinball machine for a more realistic interface, and a Williams knocker for a very loud bit of haptic feedback. We’ve seen solenoids, buzzers, and knockers in pinball emulators before, and the vibrations and buzzing that comes with these electromechanical add ons make all the difference; without them, it’s pretty much the same as playing a pinball emulator on a computer. With them, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself you’re playing a real machine.

Videos of the mechanisms below.

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Mini Pinball MAME machine is small enough to fit in any game room

A huge collection of pinball machines in your basement is one of the crowing achievements of a geek, but what if you could have a huge library of physical pinball machines at you fingertips? [veriix] shared an imgur gallery in a reddit post documenting his wee little pinball machine he built from scratch.

Inside the pinball cabinet, there are two monitors. A 4:3 Samsung monitor serves as  the backglass for the machine while a 23″ HDTV provides the playfield. On the software side of things, [veriix] used PINMAME and Visual Pinball 9 running on an old motherboard he had lying around. The result is impressive. The HD monitor playfield provides the right perspective to fool [veriix]’s brain into thinking he’s playing a real pinball machine.

We’ve seen PINMAME builds before, but those were encased in full-size pinball cabinets that took up far too much room. [veriix]’s machine is much smaller, and perfect for the garage, den, basement, or anywhere you’d like to set up an awesome game room.

You can check out [veriix] playing his mini pinball machine after the break. Thanks [Johnny] for sending this one in.

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Hackaday Links: January 5, 2012

Now make it life size

Here’s a scale model of the classic Playstation game Wipeout. It uses quantum levitation, superconductors, liquid nitrogen, and incredibly detailed models of the cars in Wipeout. They’re able control the speed and direction of the cars electronically. Somebody get on making one of these I can drive. Never mind, it’s totally fake, but here’s a choo-choo that does the same thing. Thanks for the link, [Ben].

Found a use for eight copies of Deep Impact

Where do you keep all your wire? [Paul] keeps his inside VHS tapes. It’s one of the most efficient ways of storing wire we’ve seen, just don’t touch those VHS copies of the original Star Wars trilogy.

There’s MAME machines for pinball?

MAME arcade machines are old hat, but we’ve never seen something to emulate pinball. The build uses two LCD monitors, a small computer and PinMAME. There’s videos in the build log; tell us if we’re stupid for wanting to build one. Thanks go to [Adrian] for sending this one in.

LEGO binary to decimal conversion

[Carl] is doing a few experiments to see if it’s possible to build a calculating machine out of LEGO. He managed to convert four bits of binary into decimal. We’ve seen a LEGO Antikythera mechanism but nothing on the order of an Analytical Engine or some Diamond Age rod logic. Keep it up, [Carl].

Lubs and Dubs that aren’t for dubstep

The folks at Toymaker Television posted a neat demo of heart rhythms emulated with a microprocessor. It cycles through normal sinus rhythm, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and everything else that can go wrong with your heart. We know some nurses that would have loved this in school.

Mini pinball is all-pixels

You won’t find those familiar steel balls inside this mini-pinball cabinet. That’s because [Luis’] latest creation is a fun way to play virtual pinball. The playing field is a 10″ LCD screen with an accompanying 8″ screen in the marquee. Inside the well-crafted case you’ll find a mini-ITX motherboard running HyperPin, a frontend software suite for LCD-based virtual pinball. He’s also using PinMame for the score board that was often provided by a gas plasma display on newer mechanical machines. There’s video after the break, and take a moment to check out [Luis’] other mini-cabinet builds.

What’s that you say? No substitute for the real thing? That’s exactly what [Ben Heck] thinks too.

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