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Digital Simulated Pinball. Ashlyn Zoecklein David Hawkey. Introduction.

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ashlyn zoecklein david hawkey

Digital Simulated Pinball

Ashlyn Zoecklein

David Hawkey


A digital pinball machine that utilizes a general purpose computer for a simulated 3D pinball game displayed on flat panel monitors. The machine has actual pinball controls for authentic pinball look and feel. The machine is capable of simulating multiple playfields and accepting payment for game play.

  • Fun Project
  • Most components already available
  • Simple hardware interfaces using general purpose PC
  • Creative freedom for playfield and game play design
  • Scalable
  • Display 3d graphics of pinball playfield
  • Have realistic physics
    • Minimal low-level physics implementation
  • Use actual pinball controls
    • Authentic look and feel
  • Accept payment
    • For use in arcades / casinos
  • Scalable
    • Use displays of different sizes (desktop version)
    • Alternate input options
  • Utilize two displays
    • Video card capable of dual display with hardware 3d acceleration
    • No lag on primary pinball application and minimal lag on secondary backboard application
    • Communication between the two display applications
      • Speed – must not interfere with pinball performance
      • Low Overhead – use minimal resources. Code library easily incorporated
      • Flexible – must be easily changed to accommodate new communication
proposed design hardware

Mainboard with processor and RAM

Sound Card


Coin Mech

Input Adapter

Standard PC Power Supply

Flipper Buttons

Dual-Display Graphics Card

Ball Shooter

42” Plasma Display


15” LCD Display


Proposed Design (Hardware)
  • Computer / Operating System
  • Dual Displays
  • 3D Pinball Game Application
  • Backboard Application (Dot Matrix Emulator)
  • Playfield and Game-Play design
  • Input Controls and Interface
  • Enclosure
computer operating system
Computer / Operating System
  • Pentium 4 2.26Ghz
    • 512 MB RAM
    • NvidiaGforce 7600 GT
    • Sound / Ethernet / USB
  • Ubuntu Linux 7.04
    • Freely Available
    • Stable
    • Easily Customizable
    • Excellent hardware support and documentation
    • Capable of running from CD or USB Drive (Live CD)
    • Works well with chosen libraries
dual displays
Dual Displays
  • Main Display
    • 42” Plasma (Sony PFM-500A2WU ) running at 1024x768 rotated vertically
  • Secondary Display
    • 15” NEC flat panel running at 1024x768 resolution (not rotated)
  • Each display runs on its own X server.
  • Each is 3d accelerated by video card and initial tests showed no performance loss during communication.
3d pinball game
3D Pinball Game
  • Ogre 3D
    • Open Source Graphics Engine
    • Multi-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac)
    • Widely used, supported, and documented
  • Newton Game Dynamics
    • Realistic physics engine
    • Real-time physics simulation and collision detection
  • OgreNewt
    • Links Ogre and Newton
  • Fmod
    • Music and sound effect system
    • Used in many commercial games
    • Multiplatform (Windows, Linux, Mac)
  • OIS
    • Multiplatform Input abstraction layer
    • Handles input from keyboard, mouse, and joystick devices

Activated Coil Torque

Max Angle Constraint

Center Pin Pivot Constraint

Rest Angle Constraint

Spring Return Torque

Flipper Pressed

Apply Coil Torque

Flipper Released

Apply Spring Return Torque

Flipper Physics

backboard application

Branding Graphics Area

Emulated Dot Matrix Display

Player Scores / Animations

Backboard Application
  • Uses shared memory approach for communication with pinball application
    • Provided by Linux kernel
    • Flexible – allows arbitrary data to be shared
    • Easy to use – read and write memory using pointers
  • 300x100 Grayscale Bitmap (1byte / pixel)
    • Each pixel interpreted as a single LED on the emulated dot matrix display.
backboard application1
Backboard Application

Backboard Application

Pinball Application

Shared Memory

Draw Graphics

Draw Text

Each bitmap pixel interpreted as a brightness level for a single dot matrix led

Score: 1500

300x100 Grayscale Surface

(array of bytes)

Emulated dot matrix display drawn to screen

  • Music Themed
  • Standard Pinball Elements (Flippers, Bumpers, Drop Targets)
  • Obstacles trigger music loops
input controls
Input Controls
  • Coin Acceptor
    • Standard unit for arcade machines
    • Momentary switch when coin accepted
    • Interchangeable coin mechs (US quarters)
  • Flipper Buttons
  • Ball Shooter
    • Universal Pinball Assembly
    • 2” Travel
    • 10K 60mm Linear Slide Potentiometer
input interface

C4 - C16

C22- C24

C1 - C3

Pin Headers

U1 - U4

C17 - C21



Analog Sticks



Input Interface
  • Low cost USB gamepad
  • Has many buttons and analog input
  • Already designed for gaming use (acceptable lag)
input interface1

Auxiliary Button Switch

Right Flipper Switch

Left Flipper Switch


















Coin Acceptor Switch

Ball Shooter

Input Interface
  • Due to size of coin operator and ball puller, a separate enclosure must hang off of table (must be sturdy enough to use ball puller without worry)‏
  • Buttons can be mounted within handles already located on all corners of the TV.
testing strategy
Testing Strategy
  • Pinball Control Test Application
    • Tests all buttons, coin operator and ball puller.
    • Quick test if hardware signals are registering on PC.
  • Shared Memory Unit Tests
    • Tests all functionality of shared memory library
    • Tests output of secondary backboard application
  • Pinball Testing Mode
    • Special keyboard commands (keyboard not available during normal play) allows the ball to be moved via the mouse to any area.
    • Allows testing potential problem areas in the playfield easily.
    • Allows accurate testing of the scoring system.

42” Plasma

Flipper Button

Ball Shooter

Coin Acceptor

  • Full-Size Enclosure
    • Similar to actual pinball enclosure
    • Large, Bulky, hard to transport
  • D-Bus for backboard display communication
    • Abstracted shared memory communication
    • Requires more overhead and extra library
    • Has many features that are unneeded
  • USB Interfaces
    • Costly
    • Some require specialized drivers
anticipated difficulties
Anticipated Difficulties
  • Ball Shooter
    • Needs to feel authenticate
    • Difficult to mount and calibrate potentiometer
  • Playfield
    • Intricate components (bumpers, ramps)
    • Require realistic physical behaviors (mostly handled by Newton)
    • Needs to be stable (ball shouldn’t get stuck)
project plan
Project Plan
  • Pinball Input
    • Sept. 19, 2007
  • Pinball Application
    • October 12, 2007
  • Gameplay / Playfield
    • September 27, 2007
  • Backboard Application
    • September 29, 2007
  • Music and Sound
    • October 3, 2007
  • Integration and Test
    • October 23, 2007
  • Report and Presentation
    • October 30, 2007