Monthly Archives: April 2015

4/24/2015, Measure how many times?

So the OPP team is getting really close to ordering the final playfield art.  Through my incompetence, this has taken more time than it should have.  Back in January when I had the top of the playfield disassembled, I should have printed out a template of where all the features were on the playfield and verified the positioning of the template.  Well, I did print it out, and looked at it, and said, hey, everything looks about right.  I didn’t take the time to really examine it and make sure everything was spot on.

So in the last two weeks there has been a huge push to finish the playfield art.  The art department (located at OPP mid-west headquarters) had to spend many a late night to get it done, and they came through.  The only problem is I printed out an art proof, and I suddenly realized that many of the inserts were off about .15 inches.  I realized the enormity of the situation around Monday of this week.  I also realized that the first template I printed back in January was not correct because FedEx printed it and shrunk one of the directions to fit on their printer without telling me.  That being said, if getting a printout from one of these places, insure that they don’t “help” you by shrinking it to fit.  The FedEx place that I use can comfortably make prints that are A1 size which is 23.4″x33.1″.  I allow at least 1/2 inch of margin around the edge for safety.  Last night I updated the template, and today I’ll get another printout to verify the newest template.  The art department has already been sent the template, so hopefully this will be the end of the debacle I caused.  The take away is to not rush things.  Spend the time to verify your playfield template even if it means that it will be another week or two until you build the playfield back up.  It will be worth it in the end and will end up taking less time.

So verifying the locations of the inserts was more difficult than expected.  I tried to use the method the Goonie’s guy did with a flashlight, and just could not get enough light to really tell the location of the inserts.  The method I found which worked best was the old 100 watt incandescent bulb in a desk lamp beneath the playfield.  I turned out all the lights in the room and it was suddenly very easy to verify the locations.  The lamp had to be moved a couple of times to get light at different spots in the playfield, but it made the verification really easy.  I then used a digital caliper to measure the offsets.

Here’s a couple pictures of the art with the offsets marked:

Playfield Lower Changes Playfield Upper Changes

Next up was updating the template.  My tool of choice is Gimp because it is open source.  I truly dislike the program, but every once in a while, it surprises by making something easy.  The menus are really non-intuitive to me, and I’m almost always certain that it could do something, but I just don’t know how to make it happen.

Here’s the Gimp process for modifying the template.  First create a new layer from the previous template layer.  Only view the one new layer, and highlight it so you are editing just that layer.  Now change the cursor to rectangular select by pressing the ‘r’ key.  Now for each part of the template you want to move:

  1. Draw a rectangular select region around just the piece that you want to move.
  2. shft-ctl-L, float the selection
  3. shft-ctl-O, offset floating layer.  (Change the units to inches, and change the edge behavior to “make transparent”.  Modify the x offset and the y offsets.
  4. ctl-h, anchor the floating layer
  5. Repeat the above steps for each item that needs to move.

That makes updating the template a breeze.  (It just took me 30 minutes of searching the web to figure out how to do it efficiently).

Much of the playfield is going to be painted white so that the vinyl overlay will look as good as possible.  The vinyl printers can’t print white reliably.  The options are to use an opaque overlay (the overlay is white vinyl and then the art is printed on top of that), do a second overlay that is simply a white backing layer where necessary, or to paint the playfield white where the wood grain should not show through.  The first option won’t work because the inserts would be too dark.  The second option would work, but doubles the cost of the overlay, and it would involve a lot of xacto knife work to get it right.  The last option seems the simplest to me.  If I get white paint on an insert, I can easily clean it off using paint thinner or water.  I’m planning on two layers of white, then another layer of clear to make sure that the vinyl overlay will adhere properly.

The OPP cabinet department has been hard at work on painting the black background paint on the cabinet.  That is completed, so just one more sanding, then applying a clear coat layer and the cabinet art can be installed.  Then it would be a rough sand and a couple of clear coat layers on top of that to make it rock solid.  I found that 600 grit sandpaper is the sweet spot for insuring the paint is smooth before applying the next layer.  I tried using 440 grit, but it removed too much material.

The OPP software department has finally started to work on the actual code for the machine.  They spent a good bit of time this week, and right now in simulation mode, the game starts, inlanes are rotating using flipper buttons, solenoids are getting reset, etc.  Having written out the rules in advance helps a lot so that the software department can quickly refer to them when questions arise as to what should happen when x gets hit.  There have been some minor updates to the rules documentation, but it is mostly clarifications.  The original version of rules looks like they were written by somebody that was watching TV at the same time as writing the pinball rules.  The second rev cleans up a lot of the language/grammar issues.

Here’s a quick link to the current rules.  All those attending Pintastic can study up to find the holes in the rules and use them to get the highest score possible.  It is saved as an .odt file (open document text).  RuleSheet


4/17/2015, So The Teardown Begins

New wordpress interface is giving me issues.  It keeps converting my posts into pages.  Grrr.  Stop it, I just want it to be a blog post.  I apologize if it sent out multiple emails to the one follower I have.

So I’ve played two or three “games” at this point.  A game is essentially as follows:  run the pinball framework which starts in attract mode, press the start button for as many players as you want in the game, the machine serves up the first ball, each switch scores you one point, when the ball drains either move to ball two or the second player, at the end of three balls go back to attract mode.  Truth be told that is all it does at this point.  I have verified all the switches are working, but there really aren’t any deeper rules at this point.

I have a bunch of cabinet stuff to do, so while I work on the cabinet, I can continue coding the rules.  The pinball framework has a debugger built into it where each of the switches can be simulated on the machine.  I don’t really need the physical pinball machine to program it with the simulator, so why not tear it apart.

Two weeks ago I took the cabinet apart and started working on finishing it.  I sanded everything down to bare wood on the base of the cabinet (why?  I could have just rough sanded it, and painted it black, but I didn’t realize that until too late.  Maybe sanding it down to wood will make it look better.)  Since then, I’ve got two coats finished and sanded in between.  I’m planning on at least one more coat of black, then a coat of clear before attaching the vinyl side art.  After that, probably one or two more coats of clear to protect the vinyl.

One of the riskiest things is the playfield art and insuring that it matches up perfectly with the playfield holes/inserts, etc.  This week, I decided to try and reduce risk by printing a copy of the newest playfield art, and verifying the position of each of the inserts.  I did a rough job of this before and moved some of the inserts slightly, but now I want to make sure it is absolutely perfect.  If the first order of the playfield art is exactly correct it will save a lot of time and significantly reduce the time before I can get the machine back together and start really play testing it.  I’m also going to verify every single post/hole in the playfield to make sure that the holes are easy to find when they are covered with the vinyl overlay.  The goal is to get the playfield overlay ordered by the end of this month.  Joe has essentially finished the art, it’s just waiting for me to re-verify the insert positions.

The speakers are finally mounted on the piece of plywood that I cut out so many months ago.  I have a beautiful pieced of pleather which should go with the whole western theme.  I would have like real leather, and to tool a design into it, but I don’t have time for that sort of project.  That might be one of the things that I can eventually update.

That is really all that is happening right now.  Things seem to be on track to get it finished which makes me happy.  When it goes to Pintastic, it isn’t going to be finished, but I’m hoping it will be very playable.