Virtual Pinball Machine – Week 1

I set off to build a virtual pinball machine last week. I went out and bought all the stuff to build a PC for it. I haven’t built a PC from scratch since high school. I had to base it on a Windows machine for a few reasons. First is because it all runs on some open source software that only exists on Windows. Second, and the reason I couldn’t use Boot Camp or Parallels, is because I need to have access to some pretty beefy video cards. Parallels just doesn’t have that ability to utilize a big card, let alone two of them that I eventually need to run three monitors. So, a PC it is…


All the parts for the big PC build.

Anyway, here are the results after the first few days of work. I got the machine up and running, the software loaded and the skeleton of the machine built. It’s all controlled with a keyboard now, but when the i-Pac gets here, I will have the ability to control the game with real buttons. I have a long way to go including making a cabinet and buying larger monitors, but it’s been pretty fun so far. As with most of my silly obsessions, I’m not sure where this will end up. But, I certainly am having fun.


It worked!

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31 Comments on Virtual Pinball Machine – Week 1

  1. Wizard of Smiles says:

    That is a TON of horsepower for just pinball…No?

  2. James White says:

    You are the new Doc Brown. This new project looks amazing, man. Pumped to see how it progresses.

  3. HI Chad!!
    I don’t want to end up updating this thing a lot, so I got a bit above what I needed. However, there are some good reasons I got what I did.

    Load time is always annoying, so I got an SSD. Besides, because of the hard drive shortage, the SSD was about the same price as a regular drive.

    I’ve been told by the smart people who build a lot of these things that the physics processing during multi ball can really eat up cycles and slow down the machine if it’s not fast enough. So i7 it is.

    I’m sure it’s a bit overkill for now, but in the end, it’s a game machine and it’s something that I want working for a long time without needing a big upgrade. Last thing I want to do when this is finished is mess with the hardware (or software).

  4. Wizard of Smiles says:

    Your fan base minds blown that you bought a PC?

    No 8 ball deluxe or other 70′s/80′s classics?!

    I would think an old non working unit could be found cheaply.. gut it and go from there.

  5. Wizard of Smiles says:

    being in Chicago (home of pinball for YEARS) you should be able to grab a case cheap.
    Good luck, I can see where this is heading. I would think a 37″ up top and a 50″ down low would be close to the real deal too.

    • @Wizard of Smiles

      I’m going to end up building a cabinet by hand instead. I think it will be a better fit. Besides, a big reason I am doing this project is to learn how to actually make physical stuff. Circular Saw, here we come.

  6. Wizard of Smiles says:

    Looking at CL in chicago.. I’d hate to guy even a non working unit.. They are like works of art.. I bet a retired dad would LOVE to build a cabinet for his son.. stencil GSG on the side.. get a coin op door to get into it.. that would be a lot of fun.

    Looks like a great project.

    How many pre loaded games? mostly 90′s up games?

  7. Christian Tafur says:

    What size monitors are you going to get?

  8. Wizard of Smiles says:

    http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?gid=2067

    the one that my dad had in the basement.. something about the smell and just turning it on.. Loved that thing.

  9. Wizard of Smiles says:

    Can you set a relay to get that loud extra ball sound? LOVE that sound.

  10. Wizard of Smiles says:

    Remember you have a wife. I know how you can get ;)

  11. Oliver says:

    Hey, I am also building a new machine. The Intel Sandy Bridge E Prozessors are out and they run pretty well. The 6-core model costs around 550 $. Next week the hardware arrives and I am pretty exited ;-)

  12. Adam says:

    It’s funny that I’ve just bought the same CPU, mobo and GFx card (pretty much the same).
    Po popopp pppowerrrrr

  13. Wizard of Smiles says:

    osx86 … might be able to run your beloved OSX on that.

  14. Max says:

    How come you didn’t just install bootcamp on your mac and then install the pinball machine software?

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  16. Clement says:

    Hi Nick, I’ve been ‘following’ you since your aperture/photoshop tuts on GSG quite a while back. Made me burst into laughter when I saw you got into pinball too as I started playing (regularly) this summer.
    I’m wondering about the gaming experience on these virtual pinball machines. (Keep in mind that I’ve never tried such a machine.)
    - There seems to be some distortion of the gamefield (inherent to the ‘flat’ render) which really isn’t pleasant to watch.
    - The graphics seem pretty ‘poor’ or off, they look seriously new/polished, without any character to them. (can’t find the exact words)
    - I guess you can’t nudge the machine when it gets close to the critical drain zone/push the ball up a tad to complete ramp, etc…
    - What about the physics ? How well do the bumper react, does the ball bounce ?

    Anyways, still a great way to train; the whole process of building it adding to the fun too.

    Merry belated christmas and happy upcoming new year!

  17. bryan says:

    may be able to use an arduino for the controls…
    perhaps even team up with someone from makezine

  18. Wizard of Smiles says:

    these machines look amazing if done right… and you can get edge to edge tvs so easy now.. I’m excited to see how it shapes up.

  19. Wizard of Smiles says:

    putting it under glass w/ a few lightbulbs between makes a HUGE difference I notice.

  20. Samuel Costa says:

    Hi Nick!

    i recommend you building the “No Good Gofers” machine. It’s awesome!

    Keep up!

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  25. Rockola says:

    Posted on January 16, 2011 by Hi Patti!This is an inspiring post beascue I struggle with beliefs all the time. It’s great to read about how you have conquered yours. Congratulations!I have a block about making money through my talents, so what happens is I take jobs that have nothing to do with what I want out of life, then become sad when these jobs steal my time to write, etc.Still stumped. XXXGGR

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