Since 2005 I have been working on building my own custom pinball machine and now it is finally finished. It is based off the endlessly quotable films of Bill Paxton and thus is called… get this… Bill Paxton Pinball. (Very creative, I know)
Aside from “stock” items such as flippers and solenoids it has been completely manufactured from scratch. Most of the artwork is from his movies and has been assembled in stylized montage form as is typical for a pinball machine. It is controlled by a single Parallax Propeller CPU which runs PCM audio music & voice clips as well as handling game logic, I/O and driving the custom LED display. I did the mechanical design, layout, construction & programming all myself, except for the sound player libraries that I got off the Parallax Object exchange website.
I’ve prepared all sorts of stuff for people to check out, so please check out the links below. Also, I did consider creating a “Virtual Pinball” version of this machine but ultimately didn’t have the time. If anyone is well versed in that tool and wants to take a crack at it, let me know, I can supply with you specifications.
“Making Of” Story
A four part article that describes the making of the machine in great detail. Includes photos of the guts, making of video links and source code.
These are just the ramps that DIDN’T make it into the game! (I think I ended up making every ramp at least 3 times)
Wow it’s been a couple months since the last official Bill Paxton Pinball update! The playfield is complete, the code is less buggy and it will definitely be done in time for the 2010 Midwest Gaming Classic.
The full, final reveal of the machine on this site will likely be around March 17th. You can keep up with the progress by subscribing to my YouTube channel or Twitter feed. (Warning: Twitter feed also contains a lot of non-work-related ramblings, usually about beer, the weather or waiting in lines)
For a sneak peek at the vector drawing of the final board, hit the rest of the story after the bump. We’ll see you soon!
The finest in American engineering and pinball amusements.
Been kind of slow lately (could the recession be catching up to me?) so I’ve made a lot of progress on Bill Paxton Pinball. Features now include:
Up to 4 players per game – Modes are shared between players so it’s a race to see who can activate the big point bonus first.
High score save – Saved in the unused top half of EEPROM so it’s there forever, unless specifically wiped or of course beaten.
Animation – Using a separate program from the main kernel, Windows bitmaps are pre-loaded off SD onto the EEPROM for faster access during play.
Non-buggy sound playback – Sounds can interrupt each other without chance of lockup, thanks to a system of flags that properly closes any playing file before opening a new one.
In some sad news, there will come a point where updates on BPP come to a stop as the unit nears completion and I’ll want to keep its final look a secret until the reveal. This will probably happen when I put the main artwork on the playfield. However the goal still is to have this done in time for the Midwest Gaming Classic 2010 in Milwaukee Wisconsin, so it’s playable at our booth.
Again, this is being done as a personal “fun” project and is not for resale, however if you’d like your own custom pinball made I would be willing to discuss ideas. I may create a “kit” of the circuitry when it’s all said and done.
Work continues on Bill Paxton Pinball – the longest suffering Ben Heckendorn project of all time. The unit now has legs, a functioning input/output controller, tilt sensor, power supplies, fuses, front coin door panel, plunger assembly, start button, sound amplifier and some temporary targets.
Definitely a nice change of pace from the usual interviews I do!
Fear not though – I am working on other, non-Paxton pay projects, including a new Atari 800 laptop that I hope to make look even more retro than the recent C64 project. There’s other stuff too but I can’t talk about it yet.
A while back I decided to take some time off and now I’ve finally done it! I’ve spent most of the last few weeks working on a long-gestating “dream” project of mine, which is to build my own pinball machine from scratch. Since my time off is coming to a close, I thought I would my show progress from these last few weeks.
Shown above is the main cabinet that I built last week, as well as the illuminated backbox. As many of you know, the theme of the pinball machine is Bill Paxton – a fine American actor who has thrilled audiences with a variety of characters over the years.
Why Bill Paxton? Well it’s as good a theme as any – I guess I could have gone with a more obvious geek choice like Bruce Campbell but to be honest, Paxton’s more interesting and has made movies people have actually seen. In the end what this project is really about is building something very complicated from scratch, so the engineering is the real star.
I should make clear that this is a personal, non-commercial hobby project for myself, since it clearly contains artwork and sound from movies, it could never legally be resold. But considering how few projects I actually build and keep (this would be the 3rd, after the original VCSp and my Neo Geo Arcade) I deserve to make myself something cool every once in a while!
For some more pictures and info, click below. You can also see some making off stuff on my YouTube channel.
My current plan is to have this completed in time for demonstration at the 2010 Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee, WI – let’s see how I do!
Just one more day to bid on this fine piece of American engineering! It’s a two of a kind item, and it can be yours! To place a bid that benefits Child’s Play charity, click here to submit a bid. (Auction ended, thanks!)
In other news I am taking off work until August 16th. If anyone wants work or projects they can contact me to discuss, but no work will be performed until then. I’m tired, I’ve built, what, 6 or 7 Xbox 360 laptops this year, usually I only do one! But don’t worry, when the time comes I’ll be rearin’ to go.
All is not lost, however! One way I am spending my free time is getting some serious work done on Bill Paxton Pinball. As you can see above the display is done and working… next is sound, which Chris Kraft and I have already started working on. Should be pretty cool, though I’ve still got a lot to learn before I get it all working – stay tuned!