About This Site

Welcome to Pinball Intrigue, where I indulge my fascination with the silver ball. Here you will find posts regarding my pinball experiences, pinball machine repairs and mods, a virtual pinball build, and links to other pinball sites.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

New Design, And More About Me!

The site has a new design. I like the wider look, it feels less cramped. Added a few more gadgets and blog description too.

This was originally going to be 1 long post, but I've divided it into 3 parts: Why I like pinball, quick thoughts about pinball games I own, and games I want or don't want.

In this first of 3 posts, I'd like to talk for a moment about why I like pinball. I've mentioned that as I kid I was entranced by pinball machines in the arcades, and that I came to love pinball more than video games. But why? I've wracked my brain, tried to think of exactly what it is that draws me to a pinball machine and led me to wanting to own several of them. This is what I came up with:

  • Unlike a video game, pinball has a physical, tangible feel to it. While video games of the 80s and 90s were nothing more than pixels on a screen, a pinball machine is real. The ball itself is a metal object that spins across a playfield, bumping into things, traveling up and down ramps, is attracted by magnets, can be launched by cannons or kickouts, and is able to move in a different direction by bumping the table. Coils and solenoids activate flippers and kickouts, switches are tripped, lights are energized and flash. You can remove the glass from the pinball, reach in and actually touch the parts. A video game, on the other hand, is simply software code running on a two dimensional screen with some circuit boards and wiring.

  • Getting my hands dirty. Pinballs require maintenance. A lot of maintenance. I'm not talking just about circuit boards and wiring - video games have that too. I'm talking about cleaning parts, polishing ramps and playfields, repairing flippers and rubbers and broken parts. It is a blending of mechanical and electrical, video and electronics, elbow grease and troubleshooting. Maintaining a pinball is, to me, an essential part of the experience. Although it can be frustrating when a game goes down, and is sometimes hard to find parts, there is a certain satisfaction in bringing a machine back to life.

  • Visual Appeal. Between the lighting of the playfield and beautiful artwork on the backglass, plus artwork on the sides of the cabinet, most pinball machines are gorgeous to look at. Usually a lot of thought went into the design of the pinball in order to attract players to a machine that was one of many in a crowded arcade. Most pinballs of the 80s and 90s have what's called an Attract Mode. This is a flashing of the playfield lights (and sometimes backbox lights) in a sequence designed to make a player ooh and ahh. Sometimes instead of playing, I just enjoy watching the lights flash in Attract Mode - it's truly a thing of beauty. 

  • Unpredictability. No two pinball games are exactly the same. You can have a bad game and then have a good one. You are at the mercy of physics and the bounce of the ball. Games like Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong are coded to be the same every time you play them, and I get easily bored with that kind of game.

  • Multiball. Often chaotic and exciting, the release of multiple balls in to the playfield is a blast, especially when there is a buildup and then the adrenaline rush is released. For those games that do multiball well, it is an outstanding feature.

  • Toys. The addition of objects into the playfield in the 80s came to be known as "toys". Sometimes toys are only for looks, like some of the action figures in Lord of the Rings. In other games, toys are an essential part of the game, such as the bigfoot in White Water or the spinning trunk in Theatre of Magic. When toys are used in this manner, they add another dimension to the game and are a conversation point for visitors who walk up to the machine.

Well, this ends the first post, and should give you an idea of why I like pinball machines. In the second post, I'll talk a little bit about how I came to own my current crop of games and offer a brief opinion about each one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Latest Addition

Here is the latest addition to the cabinet materials:

It's a WWII era Mark-14 Torpedo Gyroscope.

Not sure how I'm going to make it work, but it was too awesome to pass up!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Steampunk Materials

So here's a few things I picked up off eBay:

A clock movement, in high demand for all the gears...

A Weeden Steam Engine. In good condition these things go for $125 - $150 on eBay. Mine was considerably less, and just needs a couple of reproduction parts and some polishing to look like the image below...

A cleaned-up Weeden Steam Engine.

More good stuff on the way...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cabinet Design Has Begun

Well, I've made some steampunk purchases...there's no going back now!

After a trip to Hippo Hardware in downtown Portland this weekend, this is what I ended up with:

4 copper canopies
2 trouble light cages
2 fancy lamp socket sleeves
1 ornate doorknob
1 small art deco knob
1 brass cap (over punched)
2 large brass fittings
4 60 watt Marconi bulbs

I was not impressed with Hippo Hardware. Don't get me wrong, they have some neat stuff there, but not much that could be considered steampunk, and the prices seemed a little steep...I've seen stuff there in the past, so either they aren't getting salvage like they used to, or other steampunks have picked them clean. I expected to walk out with an armload full, but instead only filled half of a paper bag.

Then I picked up the following items on eBay:

4 WWII-era ampere gauges

A mini plasma sphere, USB-powered

2 LED color-changing bubbler tubes, 30" tall and 3" diameter

It's going to take some time to collect parts...there's several more auctions I'm watching. Some people spend years looking for that one "missing piece". I hope that's not me!

In addition to the items above, I'll need to acquire 2 sheets of mahogany veneer that will become the new surface of the cabinet, stained deep red. I'm also looking at brass legs, rails, bolts, and leg-levelers to complete the steampunk look of the cabinet itself.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More Steampunk Inspiration

Here are some more pics of gadgets that are inspiring the cabinet design:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cabinet Inspiration

So I'm continuing software configuration for the virtual pinball machine, very tedious but I should be done by the end of the week. Which means it's time to start thinking about the cabinet.

Most people who are putting their cabinets together have decided to go with custom artwork on the side. It all looks great, and makes the virtual pinball machine almost indistinguishable from a real one. I had some ideas on how I initially wanted my artwork to look. I wanted my cabinet to be different, awe-inspiring even, but I hadn't put a lot of thought into it yet.

Then, one day as I was searching the internet for MAME controls, one of the resulting Google links took me to a site called the Steampunk Workshop, where I witnessed something truly amazing: a steampunk MAME cabinet. Here are a few pictures:

Now THAT is simply amazing! And absolutely what I'm going for...kind of a cross between mad scientist, Jules Verne, and Bioshock. I'm not sure if I'll rust mine or make it shiny & new, but I have lots of ideas now about where my cabinet is going. It should be incredible, so stay tuned for more details...