Monday, 14 March 2016

Weekly progress 7 - 11 March

I’m at a crucial point in my MA studies, with only a few months left till the degree show, I’ve taken some time off my part-time graphic design job to focus on my projects.

The plan for my 6 weeks off is to make goals each week and try smash them to move the project on to make it a reality, this post is a journal of what I got up to during week 3.

This week my basic goals were:
  • Playfield & design + start printing process
  • Continuation of powering up the cabinet (and fixing problem from last two weeks)

Playfield Template

I feel like surrounding myself with inspiration when I work on the artwork for the playfield. On one hand I think it needs to be quite simple, with references to 1970s pinball machines, but on the other I really want the art to be striking in a white wall gallery setting. There is a risk of the pinball machine being overwhelming, I do want to make sure it isn't too stimulating.

During the week I've made updates to the playfield digital cutter template, based on the paper test stencil I made last week. It made it easier to spot the mistakes. I may come to a point it can only be so perfect, so will just have to go for it and if anything is majorly wrong, I can make a second version.

Who wants a plywood sandwich?

I have laser cutter time booked and plywood set aside for Thursday next week - it's happening! Having a deadline and time booked helps move things on.

Toaster model prototype

One of the first ideas for my custom rethemed playfield was "Never put your hand in the toaster" - using the current five drop targets and modifying to a model of a toaster with fingers for each target.

Inspired by what I learned on a tech lab workshop last year with Rusty Squid's David Mcgoran, I used cardboard to make a prototype for the toaster model. Using the rough and ready cardboard method lets you quickly improve a design, from my original drawings there are some considerations I overlooked.

The lane behind is blocked.
Firstly the left lane becomes blocked using this full boxed style for the toaster. I would like to have the toaster resting on the playfield itself. Can I move the drop target assembly forward a bit to give more room? Or can I reroute the lane to exit above the toaster? Or make the ball travel through the toaster?

The next is protection to the model toaster - you can see the post with the rubber bumper on in the above post, I need to build something like this into the toaster to avoid it shattering with the force of the ball hitting it.

The other consideration is the height of the toaster and fingers - I do plan to have glass covering the playfield attached to the cabinet, so the fingers cannot come up higher that the top of the cabinet.

Materials? Wood/metal?

Power up

I fixed the transistors on the control board. I wasn't confident enough to jump right in so decided to learn more about the technique I looked up tutorials on YouTube for soldering and desoldering PCB boards. One thing is evident my tools are not really made for the job, by £10 soldering iron is no match to the desoldering tools that are available. However I always think it's amazing what can be done with limited tools, and it works.

First power up using MyPinballs Custom Pinball Controller with a Bally Supersonic playfield, which I will be re-theming. Currently running a slightly modified version of MyPinballs original High Voltage game - so code is not meant to be correct. I don't have all LEDs installed and properly setup yet. All coming soon...

This is huge progress! Milestone in the project. Quite nice just to spend some time playing, noticing how some of the shots work gives me ideas for artwork.

State of Play / Now Play This

I've been speaking with State of Play games (the makers of the wonderful, BAFTA winning, Lumino City game) who got in contact with me relating to my pinball prints, as they are currently working on their new pinball game, INKS. The game is launching at the Now Play This exhibition, part of the London Games festival in April.

As part of the launch State of Play want to have a playable version of my pinball print using their game artwork, and also will have a full size pinball cabinet style arcade for people to play their game.

As their game is optimized for iOS, the ideal scenario is that the game can be displayed on an iPhone or iPad with a separate controller. Unfortunately its become evident that it's not going to be easy to add physical controller, as iOS is just not setup to easily accept inputs, with out too much hacking. The deadline is tight so things need to be quite straightforward.

Of course the other option is to run the game from a laptop of mac mini, but it means the point of the self contained frame is a bit faked and pointless.

However in the process we tried out a few interesting techniques to hack having a controller. One was to use a USB keyboard connected via the USB in an iPad camera connection kit. The thing we overlooked was keeping the iPad powered with this connection attached is not possible. Dan at State of Play also suggested using the volume control buttons on a set of apple headphones - I thought this was a really interesting idea so went about breaking those buttons out to separate controls. Unfortunately the buttons don't 'hold' like you expect in a game, and would take some more hacking to work out how to bypass this.

The other thing I've been helping out with is the controller for their full size game. By hacking a USB keyboard and adding in wires and arcade buttons to create a fully wired physical controller, which can easily be added to their pinball cabinet. See photos below for work complete for State of Play:

The lineup for Now Play This exhibition at Somerset House (1st – 3rd April) has gone up online. The exhibition, part of London Games festival includes some great games, including the launch of INKS the beautiful pinball game by State of Play and the Cardboard Arcade. Along with inspiring talks and workshops over the weekend, I'd really like to get along to it.

Studio Layout

Had a bit of a rearrange of the studio during the week. The new layout gives me a bit more open space by compacting the pinball machines together, but also allows a better position to work alongside the project pinball machine. This will likely all change again when I get the legs for the custom machine.

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