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Hardware Hacking Classic Games (Games) Build Games

Pinball 2000 + Ethernet = ... 93

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-a-cool-hack dept.
Eric Priepke writes: "I have 2 "Pinball 2000" machines, both of which I've added ethernet to. Via that ethernet, it's possible to telnet in to the pinball machine and get to a shell. I'm using that shell to dump out a bunch of statistic information on the games, and then build a web page with a backend perl script. Any time my games are on, the local FreeBSD box notices and updates the web pages every 1/2 hour." The link is to a mirror. Really impressive hack. Revenge from Mars is among my favorite pinball tables. Since Williams is giving up on Pinball 2000, it would be sweet to see if we couldn't make new games out of the old hardware.
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Pinball 2000 + Ethernet = ...

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  • by snubber1 (56537) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:57PM (#513341)
    You can read information about the pinball 2000 machines here http://www.pinball.wms.com/pinball2000/home.html [wms.com].

    They appear to be run off a standard PC so a ethernet hack shouldn't be too hard.
  • by oiC989 (139427) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:57PM (#513342)
    The mirror was my own idea. The real thing runs on my measly cable modem, and is essentially for my own amusement and the amusement of my friends that get to come over and play. I've seen plenty of things on /. get burned by traffic, so I figured I should put it on the biggest server I had access too. -Eric
  • it's possible to telnet in to the pinball machine and get to a shell. I'm using that shell to dump out a bunch of statistic information

    It was getting cool until I got to the part about statistics. I was really hoping to read a list of key commands to control the pinball machine. You know "/" for left flipper, "Z" for right flipper, "L" to launch a ball....
  • Williams closed their whole pinball division. They gave up on pinball altogether, not just Pinball 2000. It was a sad, sad day when they did so.

    Indeed it was, a tough decision, but sound from a business perspective. Consider the following:

    An operator wants a few things in a pinball machine:

    It's cheap

    It never breaks
    When it does break, it's easy to fix and parts are cheap/available
    Players will keep pouring money into it ad infinitum

    From the Williams perspective, to retain top pinball engineering talent (i.e. Mr. West above, Tom Uban, Patrick Lawlor, et. alii), you have to keep them paid and producing. If you produce, you have to sell...

    In the heyday of the late 80s-mid 90s, arcade operators were gung-ho about purchasing the latest machines because it generated revenue. But as the arcade traffic began to dwindle, operators that were still in business were more and more reluctant to purchase a new machine to replace an older, popular one.

    Add in the fact that Pin2000 has great tech, research expenditures, expensive monitors and other factors that drive the cost up, coupled with customers that don't want to buy in the first place, and you've got a division that won't be profitable. As much as I hated it and felt deep down that we were losing a piece of Americana/history/my childhood, I understand the reasoning.

    I only hope that someday the effort and knowledge used to produce these machines will be made public or otherwise put to good use, and not left in a closet until the shredder comes.

    These opinions are my own and don't reflect those of my employer *G*

  • Sorry but you've overstepped the boundaries of nerd into something completely new... ;-)
  • Indeed it was, a tough decision, but sound from a business perspective.

    I have no doubt that it was.

    The sad, sad day comment was supposed to be the reflection of the fact that pinball playing in specific and arcades in general had fallen to such a state. (Also, I knew quite a few people who worked there, so I was sad to see them have to find a new job, especially because they loved the one they had.) I sympathize with the operators because, compared to their video game cousins, pinball machines are very high maintenence in terms of both time and money. I also sympathize with the players because games are getting harder and harder to find, and its even harder^3 to find machines kept in good condition.

    That reminds me, I need to buy a bigger house, so I can own some games. :)

    I only hope that someday the effort and knowledge used to produce these machines will be made public or otherwise put to good use, and not left in a closet until the shredder comes.

    Yeah, should all pinball companies everywhere deceide to throw in the towel it would be great if all the technology and ideas that are sitting around as "IP" inside the various pin companies was released to the public in some way. (Man, I don't want this to sound like the obligitory "yeah, man, open source!" slashdot comment.) It would be horrible if this knowledge just "disappeared." That's one reason I give mad props to people building their own machines at home, prehaps some of the knowledge will be retained within that small community.

    In any event, I figure, like most things, pinball playing will come back into style. Thanks to home video games, people have been driven into their houses, when that gets old, and people want to socialize more, prehaps they'll go back to the arcades. Okay, maybe not, but one can only dream.

    On a somewhat related note, places like Dave&Buster both give me hope and depress me. They give me hope because people DO want to go someplace and play video games. They depress me because I find most of the games uninteresting. Its either driving or shooting. Did everyone forget that there are other kinds of games out there?
  • And he had us lackies at work test out his machines again and again until we believed that he would continue to give us free plays. And then, once we got addicted to his crack, he took it away from us!!! Glad you got it workin, Eric. ;)
  • I'm also putting my pinball machine on the web. Only difference is, mine is a 1977 Bally Night Rider Electro-Mechanical (anyone remember those?)
    I'm using the TINI processor, www.ibutton.com/TINI [ibutton.com] and a 20x4 lcd screen www.matrix-orbital.com [matrix-orbital.com]. In case you're not familiar with TINI, it's an embedded java processor on a SIMM. It's got onboard ethernet and serial, as well as its own proprietary "One-Wire" IO.

    I will start out by keeping track of the high scores and storing them on the embedded java computer. Once I get that down, there's no end to what I should be able to do. This project has just started, it's not even documented online yet, but if anyone is interested in it, or has any ideas or opinions, please let me know.... beb1964@cs.rit.edu
  • I'd love to see someone do this with Dance Dance Revolution [visual-shock.com]. If you got the ball rolling (so to speak) people wouldn't just compete with people, arcades could compete with arcades! "You hang out at the Metreon? Damn, those people know how to stomp. I've seen the stats (and the replays)!"

    Then of course there's playing Street Fighter N against someone in another city or country. eventually there won't be such a thing as a 1P game, they'll all either be physical head to head, or networked against someone in Taiwan or Amsterdam. Nifty.

    Kevin Fox
  • My first job out of high school was running a local arcade company for a neighbor. In addition to a real arcade/pool hall, we had video games, pinball machines, etc, scattered all over the surrounding counties. Before long of course, in addition to everything else, I'm in there repairing these beasts. Some of these companies really seemed to at least make an attempt to make the thing easy to maintain, others must have enjoyed engineering something completely flimsy and difficult to work with. I made weekly orders to parts vendors, it really was amazing how much work went into maintaining these wonderous machines. While I am very sad to see them go, I can completely understand it. It's expensive, requires skilled technicians to diagnose and fix problems, and with the skyrocketing cost of games and their limited appeal to "Turbo Ninja Street Fighter Deluxe III", I saw their demise coming long ago. For the record, early video games blew up all the time too. Flyback transformers for the monitors, crappy mainboards, controls, etc. I have no idea if they've gotten a lot better or now. They take a lot of abuse as well.

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • Why should this neat hack be limited to pinball? Companies should consider enabling a hack on other types of machines, such as

    Thermostats/Tempature Devices
    Imagine controlling and checking the tempature from your PC.

    Televisions
    Think of your computer recording programs and changing channels. It would be great for pranks and when you need to 'override' your girl-friend's decision to watch figure scating.

    Microwaves/Ovens
    I'd like being able to continue playing my games while I sit on my computer and make dinner start cooking.

  • Do you mean controlling the actual machine with keyboard or pinball software such as Epic Pinball or whatever. Pinball programs I usually map left/right flippers to Z and /, plunger to space, and if the program is cool enough to have nudge functions then left/right nudge would be X and . Come to think of it, controlling an actual pinball machine would suck with a keyboard. there's a certain "feel" you have to have to be good at real pinball. Plus you couldn't give the machine a nice little shove. :)
  • P2K hack: Very impressive. Hope WMS Industries does not bring a suit against this.

    Pinball in general: I enjoy playing so much, that I always look for pinball games when I travel. It is difficult to find a game that is in complete working order (easiest way to tell if a game has something wrong with it is to look for a '.' next to the number of credits in the game. If the '.' is not there, then all switches do work). I'm also saddened by the shutdown of the pinball division of Williams. P2K was a step in the right direction. Only way I can see reviving the industry is to start a company whose sole mission is to construct pinball games with parts that are cheap and durable. That way, owners will be able to achieve maximum profit from a pinball game, since the parts can be produced in mass quantities, and can be replaced at a minimal cost to the operator.
  • You say you can play for hours on 1 credit, but are you actually progressing through the table? Most pinball tables I can remember had some vague resemblence to progressing through it whether it be multipliers or whatever. You also have to have skill to be able to shoot the ball where you want it. If you can do that and are able to score extremely well by hitting jackpots and so forth, good for you. You're a good pinball player. Somehow I doubt that is the case though. Also, I dunno if you're trying to be funny or just plain dumb, but Sega's Final Fantasy for Neo-Geo? That's just... I dunno, I'm not sure there's a word for it.
  • SF Rush used Ethernet to talk amongst the machines, storing the data (I believe) on all the hard drives redundantly ; no server. The modem squawk you hear when entering your ID number is just audio fluff to make it "all high-techy and junk"...it is not really dialing out anywhere. There were plans to add Rush to the "Midway Tournament Network" and actually be able to compete around the world, but I have not seen any evidence of that actually happening yet. We had so much more planned for Pinball 2000; the Expo 99 tournament was just a taste of things to come. Sigh.
  • Okay, I apologize for this...

    But if it ran on windows, would there be a Pinball Wizard? =-O

    --floss>/p>

  • It's amazing because there's a CRT underneath the playfield so you can squirt new backgrounds into it whenever you want, among other things

    ummm... the CRT is actually in the backbox. it just reflects onto the specially treated playfield glass.
  • I was in the video industry back in its heyday, and worked for several game manufacturers in the Chicago area. Taito had designed in an RS-232 port on their 'American' system (Qix, Zookeper, Space Dungeon, Kram, Electric Yo-Yo). Damn shame they never wrote firmware to use the port, though. Supposedly they had plans to up/download accounting info, diagnostics, even new game code via that port. Also they discussed using them for back-to-back game connectivity (2 player, 2 cabinet games) like some of the new driving games that are interconnected. This unfulfilled vision was back in 1983. Funny thought: Tilt - core dumped
  • I'm pretty sure I was able to go to the Dave & Busters in one city and play then go to another one in another city and use the same record there.

    I tried finding information on this on Midway's site, but it seems there doing some house cleaning.

  • Why should this neat hack be limited to pinball? Companies should consider enabling a hack on other types of machines, such as

    Thermostats/Tempature Devices

    Televisions
    Think of your computer recording programs and changing channels.

    ---- I already have a device that does this....I call it my VCR.

  • That is my guess as well - BUT it wouldn't surpise me if a big fat warning would appear on the guy's terminal if a non-registered number would appear. (on the other hand different timezones have different numbers on their servers). In any case it's interesting to think of the security aspects of this =).. -- jon
    --
  • heh...i should have known...but maybe the solution is for the readers...slashdot has to get the news up quickly
  • It actually counts TILTs, Slam TILTs and a few other stats of the same variety, but I take the tilt plumbs out of all my home machines, so they're all 0 stats and not very interesting :) -Eric
  • This reminds me of a pinball machine I saw at Burningman [burningman.com] this year called The Visible Woman [bloodflower.org]. There was no score keeping, and you basically played until the woman in the game made orgasmic sounds.I got to talking about the machine with the technical guy behind it, and it runs on linux. There are 10 or 11 triggers on the pinball machine, and each of those corresponds to a pin on a serial cable. There's a tiny computer hidden underneath the pinball console, and that emits the sound. There's no mention of the technical aspect of this game on the web site, so this is all from memory.

    Here's [saroff.com] a picture of people playing the game. You can see the computer underneath covered up by a blanket.
  • That's understandable. I guess if you *really* like pinball... I never was much of a fan, but as long as you're happy, I have no complaints. How long did the process take from start to finish?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, 2001 @03:02PM (#513367)
    This is so l33t! I'm gonna h4X0R into the machines and get r00t. Then I'll put my name at the top of the list with 999,999,999,999 points! I'm so k-rad, just wait and see!
  • Actually, Bally-Williams (under the Bally name) put out a basketball themed pinball game where you could hook two of them together and you could play truely head to head. As there was a basket and you played for points similar to regular basketball. The local Dave&Buster's had them set up like this for awhile and it was a very neat variation on head-to-head pinball.

    http://www.pinball.com/games/fastbreak/ [pinball.com] is the URL of it. Unfortunately, this web page doesn't really talk about that "networking" aspect of it.
  • Two days. Pretty much one day each for the perl that generates the HTML and getting it looking all pretty. (dissapointing, eh? Should I have said "Four years! I hardly slept, I worked my fingers to the bone!) heh
  • Thanks for filling in the extra info Graham ... but what do you think of the pages ? :) -Eric
  • by jimmcq (88033) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @03:10PM (#513371) Journal

    Now, to make it complete, you need to add webcams to this setup!

    We should be able to SEE you get that high score!
  • The average in-game time for the ball is less than a minute! Geez, talk about people getting stuff that they can't use to it's fullest! :)

    Still, interfacing it the way he did is helluva cool.
  • More important to me than telnetting to pinball machines (heh...that does sound neat) was the fact that slashdot avoided slashdotting the site!

    Could this be the end of slashdotting? Recognising when a site can't take the hits? I would like to send a thank you to the slashdot crew for listening to the readers.

  • by Anonymous Coward


    If anyone actually takes the time to read this guy's site, you'd find out that there was no "hacking" involved. The game is DESIGNED to have an SMC ISA network card installed, and it's DOCUMENTED how to do it. The game is DESIGNED to spit out all those cool stats, and the commands are DOCUMENTED.

    There was no soldering invovled, no deciphering some obscure OS or byte codes. All he did was follow directions. Hell, even *I* can do that. Sure, it was a cool idea to have a web page updated live with the machine's stats, I'll give him that, but hardly a "hack".

    After spending some time reading the rest of his website, I was much more impressed with the section where he describes restoring old pinball machines.

    Come on Slashdot! This is yet another example of you guys not reading/researching your own stories. I guess with was a slow news day.

    Posting as AC cuz I feel like it.

  • by dubl-u (51156) <[2523987012] [at] [pota.to]> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:28PM (#513375)
    Pinball is not very fun.

    I've owned an Addams Family machine [geocities.com] for a few years, and I've never tired of it. I don't play it every day, but it has outlasted a number of (software) video games I have owned.

    Some pinball makers had the right idea by adding lots of lights and pseudo-video-game displays to the machines, but they never took it far enough, and the same boring slap-the-ball gameplay was the core of the game. Sorry, but I'm not a retard. I need something a bit more challenging[...]

    Saying that pinball is just "slap-the-ball gameplay" is like saying that video games are just "press-the-buttons gameplay" or that role playing games are just "rolling some dice". Although on one level it's true, you're mainly missing the point.

    Note that people have managed to find entertainment for years with things as simple as a slab of wood and bunch of black and white stones (the game of Go [usgo.org]). Also consider athletes; runners do nothing more than put one foot in front of another, but there's no shortage of people who find challenge and reward in it.

    So instead of saying "X is for retards", try saying "X is not my cup of tea". Because acting like you're the final arbiter of all that is interesting is, well, for retards.
  • Hey Eric,

    Is it possible to get the stats on the current game difficulty settings? I'm thinking about ways of verifying the validity of high scores.

    Yes, yes. I realize I could just pull the glass off my machine and rack up 1B, but where's the fun in that? :-)

    and how similar was the SW:E1 to the RFM? I've got one cabinet but both tables.
  • The site survived because I had the foresight to mirror it on voyager.net's web server farm (a distributed linux network crafted by one of our own) before telling /. about it. It took the same beating most places do, it was just better equipped to handle it. -Eric
  • The machines can dump all the adjustment & earning information in the same way I'm getting the stats. It would be pretty trivial to add that in, but I didn't think that information would be as interesting so I left it out for now. My machines are mostly stock settings, barring enabling the ball saver.

    I'm not sure what you mean by 'how similar'. As far as the hardware, network hookup and script -- they're very much the same. Only the HTML generation had to change to make the different page.
  • I can't wait! An arcade game where the objective is to root the guy on the machine next to you!

    Then again, if you go to a university, this is probably already done.
  • Really? I must have misread it. My bad.

    --
  • by 11thangel (103409) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:35PM (#513381) Homepage
    Only one thing i can say:

    [root@pacman /]#

  • embracing a hardware hack like this, and communicating with curious hackers, could allow the entire community to breathe life into new and old willians pinball systems. this is a good thing because the world needs more pinball.

    .brad


    Drink more tea
    organicgreenteas.com [organicgreenteas.com]
  • he has 2 machines...

    so how many more does it take to make a beowulf cluster of these ??
  • When playing pinball on your PC, what did you map the flippers to?

    -Never trust a man who tattoed his IP address to his arm, expecially DHCP
  • Sometimes practical application has to take a back seat to geeky coolness when it comes to leisurely activities. Very cool!
  • when you could finger coke machines from around the world to find out stuff about them. This is something I thought was gone on the net but it is cool to see that people are doing some neat stuff just because they can.
  • Um...well...
  • by Lozzer (141543) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:37PM (#513388) Journal

    Do you have details of how you added the ethernet? Were the tables already running a *nix under the covers that you can shell into, or is it a more custom hack? Any other arcade machines you fancy having a go at?

  • My favorite stat:


    Balls Played 1528

    Avg. Ball Time 49.28 seconds


    That's just such a rich vein of potential humor I don't know where to start.

  • In Australian TimeZone gamehalls all games(including those stupid throw balls at the dinosaur =)) have been ethernetted to a central server in the gamehall (and it wouldn't surprise me if the timezone gameplace was in turn linked to HQ).

    The ethernet link from the machines seem to be used primarily for payment purposes. You get issued a paper card with x dollars credit "on it", the card contains a unique number that identifies your account on the server. Then with each swipe the money in the account on the server get's reduced by the game cost. You can also "re-charge" your account at the counter.
    --

  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:39PM (#513391) Journal
    I always wondered how many people actually read Slashdot...

    If the pinball machines are designed to download information anyway, how exactly is this an 'impressive hack'? It seems like he's doing exactly what the designers of the machine expected: download play data and use it. What's to separate Bob and Joe's Circus of Fun's using these stats to determine their next purchase and this guy's posting his high scores on his website?

    I don't get it.

    Dancin Santa
  • Remember that time is an average of all balls played. Lots of people come over that aren't pinheads. The phone rings. Etc. I'm not _THAT_ terrible. .. er.. I hope. -Eric
  • If only our beloved Williams would start making pinball machines again. :(

    I've got a High Speed II - The Getaway at home, and several of my friends have some Williams machines also. I'll hopefully have a Tales of the Arabian Nights next week sometime. Never will I buy a Sega/DataEast machine, they suck.

    I could swore the pinball 2000 machines said that they ran QNX on boot.
  • by Chuck Flynn (265247) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @03:25PM (#513394)
    Pinball. Heh, I remember when we used to play stickball in the streets and duck in and out of traffic. And then when pinball came out, our parents were happy to keep us out of traffic and in the penny arcades, hitting constrained balls instead of each other. Those were the days, I think.

    Pinball is dying now, and it's little wonder why. Pinball machines have countless mechanical parts subject to mechanical wear and requiring mechanical replacements. All that banging around can equal a whole lot of wear and tear, and without vigilance, your shiny new quarter-eating machine is a worthless hunk of scrap. Your video machines, instead, don't need repair and can be upgraded with a single new chip. That's the power of the internet, you know.

    I miss pinball already. It was much more real than video games. You were hitting a real ball with your real stick just like back in the streets of Brooklyn growing up with Jimmy and Pudge. When you scored a point, you got a reassuring *thunk*, and not another epileptic seizure like those pokemon games give you. One pinball machine used to be all it took to get a room moving and grooving, but now where are we? Typing away at our individual boxes with big screens and complete sensory deprivation. What would the Who's Tommy have done with a modern video machine? He certainly wouldn't have written a musical; that's what.

    We need to keep pinball machines alive. We need to keep the knowledge of tuning them alive. Pinball repair is a necessary skill I'd hate to see us lose. Then, where'd we be?
  • Actually, Atari's San Francisco Rush 2000 games keep track of users/scores and other info.

    It displays all sorts of statistics concerning track times, etc.

    You can also use the same ID at any of the machines.

    I believe it only requires that the machines are able to hook up to some sort of server. I think it dials out to get the information it needs, cause i hear a modem squawking whenever I enter my ID.
  • by keefer (60778) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @03:44PM (#513396) Homepage
    Someone else already pointed out some info, but as another former pinball 2000 programmer, I'll add a bit more...

    The default webserver in a p2k machine only displays the pinball 2000 logo and the current high scores on the machine. Of course, those were just hacked in there in a couple days to show that http was working. All kinds of stuff could've continued to go into it, eventually you could wire it up online and get updates, tournament results, etc. etc.

    There was unbelievable potential for everything that was going on at Williams Pinball at the time it shut down, it's most unfortunate that it'll never see the light of day. But life goes on.

    keith
  • I realize there's a large group of people who have nostalgic feelings for pinball, but I just have to be the dissenting voice..

    Pinball is not very fun. Even the 'expert' pinball machines are just way too easy. I can play them for hours on a single quarter.

    Some pinball makers had the right idea by adding lots of lights and pseudo-video-game displays to the machines, but they never took it far enough, and the same boring slap-the-ball gameplay was the core of the game. Sorry, but I'm not a retard. I need something a bit more challenging than hitting a ball with some flippers. Even Whack-a-mole is more exciting.

    If you want some real fun, try some original video games, like Sega's excellent Final Fantasy games for the NeoGeo.

  • As near as I can tell, the deal with these Pinball 2000 machines is that they have NO moving parts. It's a last-ditch attempt to make an economically viable pinball machine. The ball slides around, interacting with magnets (?) while the targets are all "virtual," displayed on a video screen below.
  • Hey, we did it !!

    Real cut'n paste from an ssh :

    Last login: Thu Jan 11 20:22:24 2001 from foo
    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
    NE PAS REBOOTER
    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
    cool, 80 Mo de ram

    You have new mail.
    [root@pacman /root]#

    Seriously, this is just an internal linux box ;)
  • The game averages have to be sucked way down when he has one of his "festival of lights" and all us lamers come over. He has to play at least twice as long as the normal man.
  • by pen (7191)
    From the page:

    Stroke Of Luck Lit 176 (39%)
    Stroke Of Luck Awards 501 (111%)
    S.O.L. 500,000 10 (2%)

    Funny, I always though that S.O.L. stood for something else...

    --

  • This TINI device is intriguing... Do you have any pointers on where someone is running linux on these? Seems kinda like the uCLinux proect has been reborn into a different and [more] promising package..

    Oh, the possibilities..
  • Well, there's a difference between plodding along and doing what was intended for the system, and doing what was planned but never actually implemented.

    As the guy states later on in this thread, there was a web server in the system but it crashes after a few hits. Not exactly the robust system you seem to be implying. Nor did it track the kind of information you're listing, it just showed the high score table.

    So what this guy has done is to implement what the development team couldn't do (but probably wanted to do at some point). Because, after all, the entire Pinball division of Williams is gone (if you can buy a unit, it's because there's stock left in the channel). Pinball2000 was a bust, even before they shipped to distribution (how much is due to ol' meglomaniacal George Lucas is debatable).

    That leaves only one US pinball mfg... Stern. Last I checked they only have plans to release one each year, and certainly not the wiz-bang Pinball2K variety.
  • Cool hack. I knew that there still had to be some intelligent people at CoreComm/Voyager/ExecPC still. (At least the WI side of the pond.)

    ExecPC's roots go deep. Despite the two recent buyouts, there's no reason to switch dialup provider; I don't know of anyone better in the Milwaukee area. There are tradeoffs of course - if you move the account to Voyager you get two free mailboxes but lose the shell access. A whole lot less hip than my former Chicago ISP, the late, lamented Tezcat, of course.

  • Come one geeks,
    you know what the next thing to do is...
    I want to Slashdot a server running on a Pin-Ball machine.
  • Slashdotting a the included httpd (from experimentation on my own) only takes about a dozen hits. Not a dozen hits at once, just a doezen hits. It just stops answering after a while, even if the hits come in slowly.
  • by atrowe (209484) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:39PM (#513407)
    Eric, I understand the motivation to hack CSS/Tivo/iopener/whatever.., but what exactly motivated you to want to hack a pinball machine. Most of us want to hack devices that are copy protected or have their functionality limited by the corporation who built the device, but what advantage could you possibly gain by hacking a pinball machine? This may sound ignorant, but what were your motivations for this project?
  • by Trumpet (42631)
    Maybe I'm missing something, or missed an earlier /. post/story, but adding ethernet to a Pinball 2000 machine? Does it already run LInux/*BSD/something else? On the page it said he would have made links the the httpd sitting on the machine. I'll admit I haven't done any research on this as I'm posting, but is there something really special and cool I'm missing about this Pinball 2000 platform?

    Other than that - very impressive hack for hack's value. Too bad real arcades don't have something like this set up so people could compete against other franchised arcades for high scores/prizes/etc.
  • Via that ethernet, it's possible to telnet in to the pinball machine and get to a shell. I'm using that shell to dump out a bunch of statistic information on the games, and then build a web page with a backend perl script.

    Man you got some serious free time!

    Here's my next project

    Via the crouded highway I go to work. Is it possible to get beat down any more by my boss and the 50 projects and meetings I must attend...When I get home I retreat into my 'shell' dump a bunch of beer down my throat, build a nest on the couch and show my wife my backend all night.
  • Cool hack. I knew that there still had to be some intelligent people at CoreComm/Voyager/ExecPC still. (At least the WI side of the pond.)

    Love the hack. Now you all you need to do is write a webserver INTO the Pinball 2000 machine.
    They did it with an old Atari computer didn't they? Could have it randomize a page every time a bumper is hit.

    On a side note, (one of the Interactive guys, Bill) is writing a mIRC based webserver. It even has support for binary files. Can we get the instructs on how to do, or at least what you had to do to do it?

  • by boinger (4618)
    Is there a page somewhere that descibes the process of adding an ethernet card?

    How feasible is it to add such a thing to an older game (if at all)?

    Is there a method to derive such information from, say, a Spy Hunter game? (oh please, oh please)

    Are there any other ways of extracting high scores, etc from an older game (other than copying it down and typing it in elsewhere, of course)?

  • Williams closed their whole pinball division. They gave up on pinball altogether, not just Pinball 2000. It was a sad, sad day when they did so.
  • I guess what I'm wondering is how much control you have over the hardware? Are you able to trigger or record events on the playing field? For example, can you record statistics on which players have made the most loops in a row? Are you able to turn on all the magnets at once if the score goes over 100,000,000?

    --Alex
  • Here [wms.com]'s how you update this AMAZING pinball table. (It's amazing because there's a CRT underneath the playfield [wms.com] so you can squirt new backgrounds into it whenever you want, among other things.)

    --
  • It's been slow to start, but a few of us that used to be at Williams are here now, and things are picking up. Given enough time, and a real chance, you'll see some very good things coming out of here, I feel.
  • by xtal (49134) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @03:53PM (#513417) Homepage

    The TINI from iButton [ibutton.com] is the shit for doing this sort of thing - $50 gets you a board that has ethernet, serial, loads of goodies, it's a joke to interface to, and it speaks Java, so it's easy to program, has a full suite of internet connectivity and you can do it in linux to boot! These things are a great deal, and offer all sorts of interesting possibilities with the addition of iButtons and the Java Ring, for instance..

    I'm sure this stuff was covered on /., but I'm too lazy to look :).

  • by mbadolato (105588) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @04:01PM (#513418)
    This is a cool hack! I'm actually surprised it took someone this long to do it, as the P2K machines are heavily computer based. I would have thought this would have been done a while ago, though I suppose most people aren't up for experimenting with a $3,000+ machine.

    Williams, who also owned the Bally name, made the greatest machines. Sega, Data East, Gottlieb, etc machines just don't have the right feel to them. I love the Williams/Bally line (I own High Speed and Pin*Bot, both from 1986, and I really want an Attack From Mars machine).

    A lot of people were not impressed with the P2K set up. I played Revenge From Mars twice and I enjoyed it a lot! I don't know if it is something that I would get sick of, but I did find it fun. I think Williams did an commendable job of integrating the video display onto the playfield.

    As for getting together to build another game, that would be quite noble, but I don't know how attainable. Obviously, /. has many users that would be quite capable of designing the video aspect of the game, but to engineer and produce a playfield and the "toys" would require a lot of material, production costs, and people with specialized knowledge in designing pinball playfields (which is a unique talent).

    I know of one guy locally who DOES design machines for fun, and he has been featured on the Phoenix news stations for different things he's done. Maybe one of these days I'll ask him about what he feels the feesability of a P2K game is. =)

    Great hack though! :)
  • Heh, I always find it perverse fun to have people over and watch them get excited because they scored X amount of points in a game, then I'll play against them and score three times that on the first ball.

    Yeah yeah, plenty of practice since they're my machines, but still :)

    /me posts whilst humming Pinball Wizard
  • Pinball 2000 + Ethernet = ...
    some words are missing. it should read Pinball 2000 + Ethernet = a web page
  • He did write some nice HTML and perl. Sure, the data was there waiting to be collected, but he had to write a shell script to actually collect it!
  • I worked in an arcade for 3 yrs., way back before I was into computers. I will say that the pinball maintainance was one of the "chores" that no one liked. It wasn't that difficult if you had an ounce of common mechanical/electrical sense, but it was extremely time consuming. Mostly the cleaning & waxing the deck. It had to be done at least twice a week, and could take up to an hour for each machine. The video games were easier, but required replacement parts more often. The joysticks & buttons on the video games received a lot more use/abuse than the pinball machines. Surprisingly enough, most people who play pinball machines are affectionadoes (sp?), and respect them, and therefor tend to treat them a little nicer.


    jred
    www.cautioninc.com [cautioninc.com]
  • If only our beloved Williams would start making pinball machines again. :(

    Agreed... out of all the pinball I've played, the Williams machines were by FAR the best designed and most enjoyable. (Sorry to anyone who worked on machines anywhere else) I still, someday, am going to have at least a few machines when I have the money and the room, and hopefully I'll still be able to find Williams machines for sale, and they won't have been all snatched up.

    *sniff*
    ---
  • Cool. Put a Striker Xtreme next to a Flipper Football and you'll really have something! (Just what that thing would be, I have no idea...)

    Seriously, I hope Stern can turn a buck or two in this industry. I worked at Capcom Coin-Op up 'til the bitter end. I love pinball, and really wish I was still making them... :-(


    Chelloveck
  • I beg to differ... Sure, pinball manufacturing is in the tubes, but that doesn't mean pinball is dead. Now is the best time to go to an auction and buy the pin you've always wanted. I've got 3 pinball machines at home (all bought at auction for about $700 a piece.) As for repair... Pinball machines are built to take punishment. They are a model of survival. All my pins are +10 years old. Most problems can be traced to dirty or bent contacts and bad repair jobs from previous owners. Replacement hardware (coils, switches, pop-bumbers...) can be ordered on-line. Other hardware such as the cpu, power, and audio boards are interchangable between games of the same system (I've got two Williams System 11 games.) If you run into trouble... You can find manuals and repair guides on-line. The people in rec.games.pinball are also a valuable source of insight. (now go buy a pinball machine...)
  • If you want to read about the creation of Pinball 2000 from one of the inventors standpoints check out this article [pipex.com].
  • The targets are physical, not virtual. Most of the playfield is a standard pinball game, with ramps, targets, etc. Video images are projected over the top of the playfield (usually over ramps, or a hole), so that different virtual targets (a Martian, or a spaceship, for example) can be displayed, and other information provided. But the traditional elements of pinball are still there. As for economic viability.... These things are quite expensive. The plan to make them economically viable was to make it easy to change the machine - - rather than having to get an entire new machine, you could simply get a new playfield and new software from the distributor after the original game wasn't generating acceptable revenue.
  • by Karma Sink (229208) <oakianus@fuckmicrosoft.com> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:44PM (#513428) Homepage
    The most interesting part of all of this is that I think this is the first tim I've seen someone braced for the /. effect... I'm not too much of an old timer, but is this a first? Did the /. crew actually suggest this to someone, or was it his own idea?
  • The pinball 2000 system is PC based running an operating system called "XINA". There's a really nice reference about XINA here: http://members.home.net/ratherplaypinball/rfmnotes .htm (when it works) The ouput from the XINA shell is basically a plain text dump of info, and I parse that into the HTML.
  • by fence (70444) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:52PM (#513430) Homepage
    The real reason he decided not to put a webserver on his pinball machines is:

    Too many hits will tilt the damn things!
    ---
    Interested in the Colorado Lottery?
  • by algae (2196) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:52PM (#513431)
    One thing that immediately comes to mind is the possibility of true head-to-head pinball. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to "bomb" the other player by executing special moves that turn off their ramps, or turns on magnets? The mind just boggles at the possibilities. So, while a shell and web-based statistics are a cool idea, do these people have any plans to do something *really* cool with this capability?

    --ALex
  • by oiC989 (139427) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:54PM (#513432)
    "because it was there" more or less. It's really a snowball of inspiration that started with hearing that you could add an ethernet card to the system. I found one of the type it needed and hooked it up, just to play around with. The games include a little httpd of their own that ONLY shows high scores, and crashes after about a dozen hits or so. Dissapointed with that result, and seeing how much information could be had with the various shell commands, I thought it would be fun to make a page of the variety that _could_ have been done, had WMS and Pinball 2000 had more of a lifespan. Mostly, it was just for fun. -Eric
  • by grahamwest (30174) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @02:56PM (#513433) Homepage
    As one of the Pinball 2000 programmers, maybe I can shed some light.

    Pin2000 uses PC-Xinu as the basis of its core OS although we added a lot of functionality to it. This was the decision of Tom Uban who was the chief software engineer on the project and all-round hardcore superstar programmer in general. PC-Xinu already includes a TCP/IP stack, and he had already written a packet driver for one kind of Ethernet card because we did all our code and image downloads via ethernet during development. A really simple web server wasn't too hard to write on top of that - all the statistics it reports are already collected by the game and displayed on-screen in the administration menus.

    We demoed another use of the TCP/IP stack at Pinball Expo in 1999, where we had a tournament automatically running. We produced barcode badges for entrants, they walked up to a game, swiped the badge in a barcode reader, played, and their score was recorded. We also took their picture with a webcam and printed it on the badge, and the games showed the current high score list including their digitised pictures on all the games during their attract mode (ie. while they weren't being played).

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

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