Hold Flipper for Status Update

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!

In spring 2005 I decided to build a pinball machine. Several minutes later I came up the theme “Bill Paxton Pinball” and several minutes after that I knew exactly what I wanted on the side panels. It’s Bill paxton as “Simon”, the sleazy, womanizing used-car salesman from True Lies, driving his ’59 Corvette. I had a helluva time getting the screen cap to look decent blown up to this size (not only do I not own True Lies on Blu-Ray, the DVD I have isn’t even anamorphic!) but several Photoshop filters later and it became pretty good.

The idea with the pinball is to have the modes based off popular Bill Paxton movies, for instance, in “True Lies” mode, you’ll need to shoot combos and multipliers to I guess get into Jamie Lee Curtis’ pants.

Some current other mode ideas:

  • Titanic: Probably a ramp shot, then the ball rolls down a miniature “sunken Titanic hallway” with a chance at 3 exits for x1, x2 or x1 multiplier. This fills a “Heart of the Ocean” light matrix near the flippers (hung around the neck of Britney Daniels from Club Dred) that gives a big bonus when full.
  • Aliens: Hitting the 4 position drop target cues “Hudson, run a bypass”. There will be (2) 2 digit LED counters near the drop targets, representing the ammo in the Alien guns (starting at 99 each) At random intervals gunfire is heard (aliens being shot) and the counters drop. The goal is to clear all drop targets before they reach zero, if successful, you get points equal to the counters X 1000.
  • Twister: Probably not much for this one as there already exists a Twister pinball. Mostly quotes, and one of the metal rails will probably be vaguely tornado-shaped.

If the ball goes down the drain the game will play a mode-specific negative comment, for instance, in “True Lies” mode, Paxton would probably say “I got a little dick, it’s pathetic!”

Look it’s Bill Paxton’s family from the weird HBO show “Big Love”! Instead of multiball this game has BIG LOVE MODE, in which you must juggle 3 balls at once – fitting, eh? Also notice above the moon (“Apollo 13”) there is a greasy pork sandwich being served in a dirty ashtray.

The square hole is where the speakers are going to go – I didn’t want to “use up” space on the backglass with speakers so I put them here instead. Should sound fine.

Temp playfield made from high-density foam. I’ll use this to fine tune the shots and see how the game is working before I rout a final wooden board. You can see the “Aliens” drop targets on the left, I may need to rotate that counter-clockwise if those shots prove too easy.

I’ll be honest, I don’t want this game to be THAT difficult because it’s more about having fun and getting a laugh from the cheesy dialog, but I don’t want a cakewalk either.

Main backglass. I did this over a year ago, and I started wiring the LED matrix in 2005! It’s kind of a struggle to make parts go together, well, not physically, but when it takes so long to build you get kind of “stuck” with your old engineering.

The backglass contains the following references:

  • Can of Hamm’s – he drinks it in several movies.
  • Alien holding a Fish Head – 3000 years ago Paxton directed a Barnes & Barnes video called, well, Fish Heads, about, well, Fish Heads.
  • Blob of crap from Weird Science.
  • Axe from Fraility.
  • Cow / truck from Twister.
  • Skyline of Paxton’s hometown in the background.
  • Crew of Apollo 13.
  • Plane from Slipsteam.
  • Mountain / photo from Vertical Limit.
  • ROV from Titanic.
  • Some wives from Big Love.

From a design standpoint, all objects are facing / going inwards to draw attention to the main photo of Bill Paxton.

Inside the backbox. I was able to light it with a single flourescent bulb, as well as using extra white vinyl to make a light bounce. As usual this contains the Ben Heckendorn special “vent holes covered with 2 layers of plastic screendoor material”.

Back of the unit. It’s a little rougher than the rest but hey – it’s the back, who cares? Note the data, power and speaker wire bundle coming out of the backbox.

Well that’s about it for now. Gotta return to my usual Xbox 360, custom controllers kind of work, but I’ll keep you all posted on the progress of this as well. Until next time…

65 thoughts on “Hold Flipper for Status Update”

  1. Amazing so far…lots of time and dedication definitely placed into this machine. I’m home from Iraq now so if you DO bring it there, I will definitely try to make it out there and view it in person.

  2. You dare insult the great Bruce Campbell!!! People have seen the Evil Dead trilogy and Burn Notice and stuff and junk. Seriously though, Paxton is a great idea for the wtf factor. Very impressive.

  3. Man, I’ve been waiting for this since you first posted about it way back in 05. You HAVE to add the best quote from Club Dread (“I WROTE PINA COLADABURG SEVEN YEARS BEFORE MARGARITAVILLE WAS EVEN ON THE FUCKIN’ MAP!”) in somewhere.

  4. If there isn’t a “Game over, man! Game over!” clip from Aliens when, naturally, the game is over… then this entire project is very odd indeed. Not that it isn’t even with the Aliens clip.

  5. Dude, thats awesome, but your missing one key movie. A little gem called The Dark Backward…and if you have never seen it, you must find it and watch it. One of, if not the most bizzare movie I have ever seen. And ive seen it more than once. Here is a link…

    You should add a little figure of him getting lost in the fat folds of an enormous manatee of a woman, like on the movie.

  6. I trust you’ll do the only sensible thing and as soon as the last ball is gone, the “Game over, man.” quote will be used.

  7. This is awesome. Me and couple buddies have a Bill Paxton club on Facebook. Good job dude!

  8. To answer a few of your questions, yes there is a decent amount of Club Dread stuff in this machine. Some lines of dialog aren’t always suitable for recording (background noise, context, etc) but it does contain the line “I think you’re referring to my song Pinacoladaburg” and “Jesus! Does Eddie Money have to put up with this shit?”

    There are a lot of voice samples so things will be randomized a lot, but YES, it will say “Game over, man” when the game is over. I mean, why wouldn’t it?

  9. Don’t forget Bill Paxton is the only actor to have been killed by an Alien (Aliens), a Terminator (Terminator), and a Predator (Predator 2).

  10. So when you tilt the machine, does it use Chet’s “that’s not a joke, that’s a severe behavioral disorder”?

  11. I am so in love with this project. My recommended Paxton flick – my absolute favorite – is Near Dark. Shit-kicking vampire Bill hits a level 10 Paxton in this one, peaking his level 9 Paxton in Aliens.

  12. I’ve been wanting to by a pinball machine and found this in my research. Absolutely amazing.

  13. Pure genious.
    I would love to learn how to do this. Great work!
    He has been in every movie ever so you might as well.

  14. “Don’t forget Bill Paxton is the only actor to have been killed by an Alien (Aliens), a Terminator (Terminator), and a Predator (Predator 2).”

    With the release of AvP, Lance Henrikkson get’s this dubious honour also.

    I’m very curious as to what hardware you will be using? I’m currently working on a project that enables you to use tried and tested Williams WPC hardware with custom software:


  15. Aw, c’mon, somewhere in this, you’ve got to work in, “I hate it when they ain’t been shaved!” from Near Dark.

  16. I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear how many people say: “Hey! Look at that awesome Bill Pullman pinball machine!”

    Seriously–excellent job on this, not something I could ever do, even if my life depended on it.

  17. Amazing…. Although, i think this would have been even better if you decided to do a Bill Paxton pinball machine and ended up with pictures of the President from Independence day.

  18. Apparently there is a movie called “Braindead” with both Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman in it.

    RE Steveo, yes, that line is in the sound library.

  19. Paxton is awesome, but I would personally build a Bill Pullman machine. They were in Brain Dead together in 1990 though.

  20. What a terrific idea for a pinball machine! One more good quote, also from Hudson in Aliens, in addition to the “Game over!” line: When the lander crashes, he says “That’s great! That’s just f*ckin’ great!” This would be good for when a ball goes down the drain…

  21. LOVE the Bill Paxton theme! Keep up the fantastic work! 🙂
    I concour with several comments…Mr. Paxton’s Alien’s quote “Game over man, game over” should be one of the highlights of losing a ball.
    Brilliant! Simply brilliant!

    Any word from Bill Paxton yet?

  22. How did you wire up your LED’s and how are you going to run the animations and text? Also, what kind of “brain” are you going to use the game? I’m slowly working on a custom TRON themed game myself.

  23. Hi There, great looking project. Any update to this yet? I’m really interested in the whole “hooking up the parts” & “getting them to talk to each other” section that must still follow.

  24. so, I guess the completion date is slipping?

    “The event will be held on Saturday, March 27, 2010, from 10:00am to 8:00pm and Sunday, March 28, 2010, from 10:00am to 5:00pm.”

  25. This is one of the greatest projects I have ever seen! May I suggest a Tombstone or Twister mode…

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