Homemade Virtual Pinball Cabinet

Bild: Westimage Photo- & WebsolutionsDuring the construction of my MAME Retro Arcade Video Game cabinet I came across the pinball emulators Future Pinball and Visual Pinball. These programs are able to emulate most of the old pinball tables and selfmade pinball tables on the PC. By now the tables offer a very high degree of realism and good ball physics. Through the use of multiple monitors and a dot-matrix display, installed in a standard pinball housing, you get real pinball feeling. This feeling is further supported by the use of software-controlled Flasher LEDs and special shooters who simulate the clicking of pinball fingers, slingshots and bumpers. This is what I want! Therefore, this construction project started in early 2014 with the purchase of an old, broken pinball from Bally with the name "Little Joe", which I'm going to rebuild into a virtual pinball cabinet (short: vpin).

I hope you enjoy reading and tracking my project "selfmade virtual pinball - vpin". Questions, comments or suggestions are always welcome via the comment function!

 

Currently it's going quite well. The LedWiz board which controls the output of the lamps, contactors, shaker, knocker etc., was easily deployed and configured in Visual Pinball. Depending on the pinball table, the player gets differents force feedbacks. First I wired the lighting of the buttons and the coin slot to the LedWiz. Three buttons are configured for "Start Game", "Extra Ball" and "Exit". The coin button simulates the coin insert. And pressing the plunger causes an "Enter." 

Here is a short video and a picture of the button setup:

 

button setup with illumination
button setup with illumination
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Last night I got a whole piece further. For analog plunger functionality (Shooter Spring) I tinkered a construction with the 10k potentiometer kept parallel to the plunger and the slider of the potentiometer is pulled along by the plunger. With two plastic discs which fits the slide, it works perfectly. One screw from the plunger attachment was replaced by a threaded rod. On the rod I've glued the potentiometer with two-component epoxy - it was an idea I copied from Sven from konsolenhal.de.

Now in the games the spring can be positioned accurately for skill shots. If you push the plunger, an "Enter" is triggered, which is the ball-firering-button in some tables such as "Iron Man". Therefore, I could save that extra button. The potentiometer is also connected to the controller PinAna 1 that offers analog nudging with his acceleration sensor. I had already written about Pinana 1 and the big brother Pincontrol 1.

Here are a few photos of the construction and at the bottom you'll find a little demo video where you can see the function:

Analog plunger with 10 k potentiometer side view
Analog plunger with 10 k potentiometer side view
Analog plunger with 10 k potentiometer front view
Analog plunger with 10 k potentiometer front view

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The PC components are now installed on the wooden board into the pinball cabinet. I noticed that the graphics card and the USB expansion card doesn't really hold good on the mainboard and could slip out of the PCI slots in shock or when moving the pinball cabinet. Therefore I still needed a little fixing with threaded rods and a few nuts. A source of error less, the cards are now sitting bombproof on the board.

Fixing the PCI cards on the mainboard with threaded rods
Fixing the PCI cards on the mainboard with threaded rods
Fixing the PCI cards on the mainboard with threaded rods
Fixing the PCI cards on the mainboard with threaded rods
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Again I completely cleaned the pinball cabinet and then coated it twice with clear lacquer. Thus, the pinball has a smoother finish and the very old, original color is better protected from abrasion. After that I installed the three control buttons at the front side and then the flipper was finally ready to move from the rather cold garage in my study. There I have installed a new (used) coin door, since the old door was too much affected. I'd bought a new lock for the coin door a few months ago, which is also mounted. The painted flipper feets are doing well with the cab. Oh, and the two lower fans including filters have been installed in the floor plate, just like the red power button.

Front side with buttons and used coin door

new lock for the coin door

two ventilators with dust filter and the power-on button on the left side

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Today it was time for drilling and sawing. In addition to the existing standard flipper buttons I installed buttons for "magna save". Pinball tables such as the "Black Knight" using them for keeping the ball draining into the outer lanes. For the holes I had to drill gently about 1 cm deep with a center bit and do the rest of the breakthrough with a 16 mm drill. The 40 years old and quite dirty flipper buttons were replaced with new, original white buttons - finally, I want to keep the old "Little Joe" style.

Then I cutted the large openings for the subwoofer and the two lower fans in the base plate. Two more fans will be installed later in the backbox, that ensures a sufficient cooling. Finally, I was able to install an IEC socket for the power supply.

 hole for the magna save button

pinball button and beneath the magna save button

Logitech Z4 subwoofer

IEC socket

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