Friday, July 25, 2014

The color of nostalgia is brown...

Sat and looked through the 'Making-of' folder on my harddrive and found some old pictures from the Fallout days. It's pretty remarkable how little the designed changed from one idea to the other, and how well the features from Fallout translated into BioShock ones. Which in turn also explains why everything worked out so quickly while designed the new artwork. I guess I was, and still am, pretty confident about the general game design.

1) The very first hand drawn artwork with the overlaid Autocad approximation of the playfield.
  Come to think of it - the fallout version is not that bad and very, very, close to the final version already.

Considering I had almost no parts to measure at that point in time, it's amazing that I got the proportions pretty much right by looking at photos online. Internet is a beautiful thing! :)

2) Close up of the top playfield. Pretty much the same here as the BioShock version, even got the "big figure to shoot at". The bobble head may actually have been more satisfying to shoot thou. Instead of the vent we'd have a Vault (with moving door). The bumpers would of course be the boxing ring at New Reno...

3) The lower playfield is also very similar. The lights have changed a little but, otherwise it's pretty much the same. The PipBoy would naturally be the center piece and the saucer was intended to be a drophole, to take the ball to the upper playfield, in the shape of a crater.

4) Players view of the top playfield. I think the Bobble Head and the accompanying stats board would have looked killer in real life! While sketching I pretty much draw what comes up, but I'd really love the idea of having a Vault Ball lock. It was supposed to lock the ball physically with a moving gear door and a rotating red "warning light" on top, although I changed the position of the vault in this later sketch. Awesome. 

5) Finally - The red lines are the old Fallout drawing, and the image is of course the BioShock artwork that was created around the final drawing. Not a lot changed, as you can see. The main target was moved a bit more centered, and the lights were changed/moved...
If I had to regret one thing - It would be not having either the stats board or the vault. Actually, I might do the stats board in the future with the spare Arduino I have... so the thing I regret is the vault.

Next time thou! ;)  

Clogs of War!

After playing a couple of games, as well as letting "outsiders" play,  I'm pretty confident I need to improve the ball through - or more precisely, the drain. Sometimes if the balls drain too fast during multiball (hey, don't judge me!) the balls pile up and the old school drain can't keep up with the pressure. The balls on top pretty much prevents the drain from clearing and the system has to be unclogged manually. The drain I'm using was only designed for single ball usage, so the joke's on me for trying to adapt it. ;)

I'm thinking I might need to fully replace it with a modern one, but I guess I'll try to improve the actual drain first so that only one ball at a time might enter. The downside with getting a new one is the rather substantial cost, so I'd rather avoid that as much as possible. But it is a problem at the moment, since the game has trouble counting balls as well if the drain doesn't function properly.

1) Top playfield with some lights active. I really enjoy just starting the game, seeing everything light up and playing a game. Even if it's not programmatically finished (by far) it's still very enjoyable! Shortly after this pic thou - Mr B's arm fell off... Will need to fix that.

I've noticed that programming the rules aren't all that trivial - even for an experienced programmer there's a lot to consider, especially when breaking it down to simple parts. Take a function that should raise the up-post when doing a left loop. How should we define a left loop? During single player it's easy, but during multiball it gets tougher since you can't simply compare it to the last switch and determine the direction from that. Well, it's somewhat doable by having a rule set that ignores faraway or unrelated switches etc, but still it's something that I've underestimated. I've also noticed that keeping track of all features and modes to prevent them from interfering with each other is rather cumbersome. But at least this can be improved upon without doing any major "surgery" - just open the front door and plug in the USB-cable. 

Furthermore - I really wished I didn't place the electronics under the pinball table... When the time comes for upgrades other than actual programming, such as music, sound or videos, it's a rather big operation compared to just removing the translite on a regular machine... But done is done and now I've tested that. Won't do that again!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Days of future past...

In the essence of 'two steps forward, one step back' I've spent most of the day figuring out why all of a sudden some switches stopped working while playing a game but working flawlessly in the diagnostics menu.

Turns out I did a little sloppy coding that overrode the later functions...Whoops.
All fixed now thou! 

I've also replaced the switch in the center VUK to one that should be more robust. The downside is that it can only detect if a ball is entering the VUK, not if there's a ball in the VUK. This shouldn't be a problem if the VUK functions normally and if it doesn't - the ball search will eject the ball anyway.

While working continuously on the machine it's somehow second nature, but being away from the hardware a while really gives you respect for the amount of wiring and work that has gone into the machine. When time comes to do hardware maintenance it's really a case of inventing the wheel once again. And this is despite all my attempts to keep everything neat and organized / documented.

Just a reminder of what it looks like under the hood...
1) Oh, the joy of troubleshooting this... I still don't know why the magnet works now and why it didn't a while ago. I just close my eyes and pray that it works every time I've tinkered with the playfield.

...which is somewhat forgotten when the hood is closed.

2) Players view. Somewhat. At this point, with the glass and all - it really does look commercially made!
The translite is, obviously, not a very tight fit but I intend to put some small edges around to prevent light from leaking out. It's also missing the metal side protectors at this point.

It's a beaut', ain't it! ;) 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Darkness, be gone!

I added a couple of lights and a spotlight to the global illumination of the board.
The upper left corner was very dark but is now nicely lit. I'll probably need to put a light shining between the flippers as well, since that area is really dark if the room lights are turned off, for instance. I want the machine to be able to play in complete darkness and fully light up the playfield on its own!

I also need to fix a better switch solution for the center VUK. It's not very reliable at the moment, I'm afraid.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Glass house and rocks!

Hi guys!

I've been extremely busy since the tour with promotion and work with the band, but I have at least put the glass on now and re-seated a cable to the plasmid saucer. This also (miraculously) fixed the magnet that I deemed to be broken a couple of posts ago(!). Weird!

Anyway - to try to make up for my lack of updates, I'm posting not one, but two videos of the playfield. One idle playfield overview and one where my girlfriend plays a game. The software is running in debug mode, so the lights flicker a bit (due to low refresh rate) and there are not many game rules in play so the game seem more sluggish than it is.

I've also concluded that I must shrink the gap in the right outlane...that thing is ball hungry.