Recently I have been considering what it would take to build a custom pinball machine. When you add everything up, starting from scratch, it’s quite a long list. There are many skills and tasks involved. The “big” items in my mind are (and I’m probably forgetting some things):
- Cabinet with foldable backbox
- Playfield with light lenses (aka inserts)
- Drive solenoids and lamps
- Read switches
- Drive dot-matrix display
- Sound output
- Ball guides
- Ball outhole/through
- Playfield toys
- Playfield Layout
- Game rules
- Cabinet artwork
- Playfield artwork
- Input/Output: control of solenoids, lamps and switches
- Implement game rules
- Video output (DMD)
- Sound output
I quickly decided that this was way more work than I wanted to take on. Building a cabinet, for instance, doesn’t seem particularly interesting to me. Nor is replicating the mechanical parts of flippers. Similarly, the electronics needed to drive a game are more a mean to an end than what it interesting to me.
When it comes down to it, I’m more interested in building a unique and fun game than tackling each and every one of these tasks – cutting the “todo” list down to a manageable size means I actually have a chance one day at finishing 🙂
My solution is to find and use a Bally/Williams DMD game to use as a basis for my custom game, and re-use all the common bits that all pinball games share:
- Cabinet, backbox
- Flippers, shooter, ball through
A product called the P-ROC allows you to control the driver board from Williams WPC machines, read all the switches, and drive the DMD. Hence I am re-using not just the cabinet and some of the mechanical bits, but the electronics, too! Not only does this save a huge amount of time and work, but also cost. Considering all the hardware and parts that you would need to buy just to make a cabinet, it makes a whole lot more sense to start from an existing game and build starting from that.
I found a Doctor Who machine locally for not a lot of money, and thus my custom game build is underway. I am a bit sad to tear it down, since it’s in great shape and is a fun enough game, but I am way more excited about building my own custom machine! Beside, I will be able to sell all the Doctor Who specific parts (playfield, topper, plastics, etc) and recoup some of the cost of buying the machine 🙂
Finally, I do have a theme in mind for my game, but at least for now I am keeping it secret 🙂 In upcoming posts I will instead refer to my game by codename, “Alpha Bravo One”.
Here’s a pic of Doctor Who before the teardown begins:
i agree i do need to improve my brain!
just found this post! I’ve been looking for a few parts to my Doctor Who machine, especially ramps and the Dalek topper. Do you still have any of these parts? would you be willing to sell them?