Virtual Pinball Cabinet Provides Real Thrills

Being a fan of pinball is bittersweet these days. In the go-go 1990s, you could still find pins in places like coffeehouses and the odd gas station here and there as the commercial arcade began to fade into the past. Things were looking up once booze-fueled b-arcades became a thing, but the pandemic economy may come for them soon enough.

Poor [smithsa3] doesn’t have a table around for hundreds of miles. Instead of settling for an older table or agonizing over the average price of newer tables, [smithsa3] found a happy medium and built a full-size virtual pinball cabinet to play pretty much any table there is. The only non-negotiable game was Addams Family, which you can see in the demo after the break.

Inside is a PC running PinballX, along with a 37″ TV for the playfield and two 17″ monitors that make up the backboard. Between the physical inputs and the faithful recreations of current and classic pinball games that are out there, this really is the best of both worlds.

We love that [smithsa3] combined stock and DIY hardware to pull this together. The cabinet uses standard legs and arcade buttons, but [smithsa3] built the plunger, interfaced it with an old keyboard controller, and made a coin slot mechanism that rejects everything but 10p coins.

Spend enough time playing pinball, and you’ll no doubt begin to fantasize about building your own. We’ve seen one or two of those, but not too many that can play themselves.

25 thoughts on “Virtual Pinball Cabinet Provides Real Thrills

  1. Man..I have been thinking about building almost the same thing for several years now. I never thought about using a actual pinball cabinet to house it though. DUH! Great Job Scott!!

  2. I’ve got a friend who’s trying to restore an old empire strikes back…. I feel like I’d be betraying him if I built one of these when I’m meant to be helping him lol

  3. >Things were looking up once booze-fueled barcades became a thing, but the pandemic economy may come for them soon enough.

    Aw man I hope that’s not true (it probably is though). NOTHING beats playing a real, well maintained Williams Medieval Madness machine IRL.

    But I don’t know how my local place can survive Boston commercial rent while being closed for 3-33 months.

      1. Wow I’ll definitely have to check that place out. A bit of a drive but could be worth it.

        Nothing will even come close to this gas station in rural-ass North Carolina I accidentally discovered a few years back that had 60+ pins including ALL of the top ranked ones, in perfect condition.

          1. Just looked it up again, it’s now called Flippers and it’s on Caratoke Highway in Grandy. Looks like it’s set up like a proper arcade now, they really improved it. When I was there it was a run down gas station with a crappy building attached with a “play pinball now” sign in the window. They have a Big Bang Bar- made by Capcom. One of the rarest pinball machines of all time!

          1. It sounds like one of the ones that move around… just hit all the highway exits that were closed off or planned and never built in your area, you’ll run across it sometime.

          2. In Michigan we had a yearly pinball expo. Might be in other areas as well like the maker fair. The first time I went I saw a pinball table like this one. That was back in 2009 I think.

  4. Fun fact: There are methods to integrate a Kinect into a VP machine so it tracks your movement and adds the appropriate parallax effect on the playfield. It’s been a while since I’ve really tracked the VP community so my memory is a bit rusty, but there’s a subset of playfields that are developed as full 3D where this works out for.

  5. and i’m restoring my old Electro Mechanic Bally “The Wiggler” from 1967. the back plate is in bad shape, but fortunately I found a man who can reproduce it here in the Netherlands.

  6. Hi guys…Yes I built a Virtual Pinball cabinet using PinballX as my front end.
    Games consist of programs Pinball Fx2, Visual Pinball 9, Visual Pinball 10, Bingo Gameroom and Future Pinball.
    37 inch playfield and 37 inch LG tv as backfield…bought a new computer and some buttons for flippers and selecting games
    I have over 1500 tables and still counting….It is a WIP and enjoing adding and configuring the games in the pandemic,
    gives me something to do. Im the only person here in Arnprior Ontario Canada or heard of in my area that has tackeld this job. It takes a lot of reading and trial and error to get this to work.
    Bought a bare wide body pinball game no back and made some adjustments to get this to work.

    1. Nice to know that I’m not alone. I’m also restoring a Delta Queen but the one I got is totally destroyed. I’m working on the solenoids driver board and logic of the game now (points, bonus, score, hiscore, etc). I only have the playfield itself, so no cabinet, no backglass, no boards. I’m using an Arduino Mega and an Arduino Uno + Sparkfun Wav Trigger and I’m really enjoying the ride. :)

      All the best!

      Marcos, from Auckland, NZ.

  7. Look up Terry Red and His PinUp Popper videos and you will see where it can go. Video on the backglass and digital DMDs are so much better than physical that they almost make you forgive the loss of a mechanical playfield.

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