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JaysArcade last won the day on May 14 2017

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  1. I just wanted to write some questions and answers explaining for anyone who cares why virtual pinball is different that regular emulation. This topic is mostly aimed at Visual Pinball, but can also apply to Future Pinball in regards to the community work involved. The commercial offerings to a lesser degree. Q. Why is Visual Pinball so hard to set up? It's just a program running a ROM like any other emulator, right? A. Not exactly. You should probably think of Visual Pinball more like a simulator than an emulator. Emulators run ROMs that somebody dumped/copied from a real machine. Virtual Pinball tables have a lot more variables than simply running a ROM. When we are emulating/simulating a table, there are several moving parts that all need to come together to make it all work. First are the pieces you can see. The playfield, the backglass, the DMD. The table has been constructed by someone, or in most cases many people that we call table authors. The table authors have several things they have to do to make a table work. They scan or photograph the playfield and backglass of the table or create the art by hand. A lot of times this means physically deconstructing a real table in order to get the images correct by removing the glass and sometimes ramps and bumpers to get the shot correct. They script the table. They create the art or reconstruct the images, place all the bumpers, slings, etc. They have to get the sounds just right. The person that scripts the table needs to know how to interface the ROM from the table with events that happen on the playfield for scoring purposes and interaction with lights and sounds. This is all over simplified of course, but is a basic overview of what the table authors have to do to get a table running. The table that is created by the author, is created in the Visual Pinball editor and the game play is ran through the Visual Pinball program. If the table is being recreated from a real live production table, it will usually be running in combination with Visual PinMame, which is the software that runs the ROM that was dumped from the real table. If this is the case, the table is considered a re-creation. If it doesn't have a ROM, it is usually considered an Original. When an Original is scripted, the author also has to figure out the rules and gameplay part of the table as well as create a DMD visual experience or some other visuals for scoring, etc. If there is no ROM involved, PinMame is not used. Most of the time, the scoring is viewed on the DMD or Dot Matrix Display. A lot of games have additional stuff on the DMD such as mini games or quests, etc. Games that don't have a DMD often had the scores on the backglass in either a digital format or reels if the table was older. A lot of people nowadays have built their own pinball cabinets to play virtual pinball, so now the authors have to consider not only the original landscape composition but also portrait or cabinet mode. Since a lot of these playfields are so large, a big effort has been done to make they playfield graphics 4k. In consideration of cabinet mode, the programs now need to be able to not only talk to each other but also to multiple displays. In addition, another program is now needed called the B2S Backglass Server which also talks to the table at the same time the rom does. The Backglasses are also created by an author (a lot of times different from the table author) and is not a simple picture but often times include flashing lights and scores that react to game play. There is another backglass that uses video in a program called Pinup Player which can have pretty elaborate stuff going on. In this case the Pinup Player will be used instead of the B2S Server. The backglass needs to run on the monitor specified and the DMD also needs to run in it's own monitor or a real DMD display that the software needs to know how to talk to. If running in landscape mode like most of the stuff we do in Launchbox, the DMD can be set to a side of the main screen and the backglass is not used. The DMD is run by a DLL that is included with Visual Pinball. Third Party DMD DLLs can sometimes give better results such as colorized DMDs and cleaner looking interfaces. Just another thing to be taken into consideration. Q. Why are there so many versions of the same table? A. Different authors, varying quality, updating tech. As you can imagine, depending on the skills of the table authors, the quality of the re-created tables may vary. In some cases, one table author might see a table created by someone and think he can do a better job and will make his own version of the table, or maybe with that author's permission, he may MOD the original table resulting in a different version. For example, there are several versions of Attack from Mars table. In many cases the table author may revisit his older creation to update it. For example, a new process called fast flips was recently developed within the community that does just what you might think, reduces lag in the flippers. An author may revisit his table to add something like that so a new version of the table will come out with fast flips. Maybe someone has better scans of a table so the author might revisit and update the graphics. There are many reasons for all the versions but it mostly boils down to each author loving what they do. Q. Are there any good download packs of tables? A. Why would you want to do that? There are a couple places I've seen where you can download several tables at a time, but with everything involved in getting a table set up properly, don't you think doing one at a time would be a better way to go? There is just way too much to set up and in all honesty, it doesn't pay any respect to the table author to just download a mega pack of tables. Those Mega packs are usually not very up to date anyways. I would rather have 30 or 40 really killer tables that I actually enjoy playing than trying to collect them all. I know many of you won't care about my opinion here and will do whatever you can to get every table ever created, but I think you are really doing yourself and the community a disservice, and frankly - I don't think you get it. Q. Why doesn't the database have any art assets for my tables? A. Read my answer to the first question. Now try and understand that after all the trouble and work a table author or asset creator goes through, they might not want their work shared all over the internet. Pin heads are a pretty good group, but they are also very protective of their work. I didn't understand this when I first started out and I wanted to share every asset I could find, but the more I got into it, the better I understood what it is all about. This is why you won't find a good resource for mass downloading of art assets out there that is supported by the Vpin community. Q. Why treat Tables different than arcade/console ROMs? A. A very vocal community that takes pride in its work. Seriously. Look into some of the pinball forums or even better, join a Visual Pinball Facebook group. Stick around a while and see how much love these guys pour into the work. I don't really know how else to answer. If you don't care, then I can't really help you, but if you get it, you get it. Me and my mini cabinet.
  2. There actually is a naming convention of sorts in the works that includes a lot of that metadata, but again, its one of these closely guarded things and currently intended only for Pinup Popper. It's called puplookup.csv and is a database of proper table names. I believe the idea is the Pinup Popper frontend will use it to rename either the filenames of the actual tables or maybe it just cross references the names for the Pinup frontend to use to when it creates table media. I'm not really sure. I think its more about enforcing strict filenames and retaining author information in the meta than actual deep meta like the IPDB would provide on commercial tables, but again, I'm not entirely sure. So when you download AC-DC_Luci-1.5.vpx and add it to the frontend, the database cross references the name, and the name reflected in the frontend will be AC-DC (LUCI Premium) (Stern 2013). Its kind of the same way Launchbox imports games. It strips the .zip or .bin from the name and renames to what is in the database - or at least that is the name you see in the frontend. Since there are several AC DC tables all built and based off of the same table, you wouldn't want to simply name the first table imported as AC-DC. You need something to differentiate them so having the year and manufacturer helps with that. So VP10_Attack_From_Mars_Dozer_RTM.vpx would be seen as Attack from Mars (Bally 1995) while the metadata would reflect the authors as Dozer - ICPJuggla/Hauntfreaks acknowledging their work bringing the table to life. Batman Dark Knight tt&NZ 1.0.vpx would be seen as Batman The Dark Knight (Stern 2008) while the metadata would reflect the authors as Ninuzzu and Tom Tower acknowledging their work bringing the table to life Legend of Zelda.vpx would be seen as The Legend of Zelda (Original 2015) - Note how the manufacturer in this case is Original since there is not a physical table. Also this is a JPSalas creation so he would be credited as the author in the meta Lord Of The Rings (Stern - 2003)Neo LED Mod 1.0.3.vpx would be seen as Lord Of The Rings (Stern - 2003) - etc, etc, etc For my 2 cents, if Launchbox were to do any kind of database stuff with Visual Pinball, it would only be to get the proper naming down and some basic metadata like table authors. To be able to populate media, there would need to be some kind of built in media recording function, either within LB itself or with a third party plugin. This is how the other frontends deal with gameplay media. the other stuff like logos and such are a little harder to figure out. There are a few Visual Pinball groups on Facebook that have built a spreadsheet that users have created that list all the major tables with links to each table and where to find media for each table. It is amazing how spread out the tables and media can be. The spreadsheet will list a table you like at one forum, the backglass for that table at another site, and a wheel (clear logo) at yet another. The spreadsheet seems to be the only approved method I've seen of sharing among the true vpinheads. This is all just food for thought. Something to ponder. I've said it before. the rabbit-hole is very deep with virtual pinball.
  3. In a nutshell and very dumbed down explanation, traffic is encrypted between you and the middleman on a VPN. With a proxy, there is no encryption.
  4. I agree with you. Pinball is such a different animal. It almost needs it's own frontend, separate from Launchbox. Although its still great that we can launch tables if we want to go through the trouble of figuring it out. @Jason Carr, since Pinball is still an interest for some of us, would it be a good idea to have a separate forum category for it? Maybe call it the Unofficial Pinball Support or something like that? I'm sure there are plenty of us that could step in and answer set up questions since it is not exactly a straightforward process. Just a thought. No big deal either way.
  5. Well I'm sorry (to you and everyone else) if I discouraged you from tackling pinball. If anyone could figure it out, it would be you. Maybe you can move on to something else and let this perk in the back of your mind for a while. Maybe you'll have an epiphany moment!
  6. Oh yeah. I forgot about these. I actually have one that I messed around with on my RetroPi bartop. I had connection issues with it so I threw it in a drawer and kind of forgot about it. I need to look into setting it up on my BigBox cabinet as an extra controller. I will add them to the list.
  7. There used to be a script you could launch, I think it was called NukeLauncher or something to that effect. It would receive whatever table was being launched from the frontend and it was basically a big elaborate AHK that used some positional stuff to tell the mouse to click a certain area of the screen after a period of time to launch the table from the FX2 or The Pinball Arcade menu. The problem was the developers would constantly change the menu when new tables came out, LOL. That was some serious hack stuff there. I think there was some RocketLauncher scripts that did the same thing to some extent. The developers at The Pinball Arcade long ago promised cab support but never came through with that promise, so the bad mouthing of TPA was started. None of the serious pinball dudes will touch The Pinball Arcade. FX2 and FX3 have fared better and at least let you get a code to unlock cab support. The whole scene is/was a hot mess!
  8. The Pinball Arcade is even worse. LOL
  9. I think its to make it harder for commercial cab builders from profiting from it for one reason or another.
  10. Yes. And in order to do that I had to take a picture of my cab and send it to Zen to get the code. Maybe something has changed since then, or maybe it is only required for 90 degree rotated displays now?
  11. I'm using the Steam version. I have every FX2 and FX3 table if you need help testing. I think I told you in a previous post you couldn't launch tables without going into the FX3 menu first. I believe that was only for the cabinet rotated versions but I'm not certain on that.
  12. Well, after considering everything else, I think for "proper" support, you need to consider separating all the different pinball platforms in the database. I get the feeling you'd like to group everything together, like the Arcade platform for example, but these pinball simulators are all very different from each other and have different ROMs and requirements. But, some of the platforms have the same games. For instance, there is a different version of Medevial Madness for VP X, VP 9, FP, and PB FX 3. How do you lump them all into the same pinball platform? You are the expert here with this kind of stuff and I trust you'd come up with something that works good, but if it were me, I'd think of these as different consoles that each need their own treatment. As for images. I hear these guys saying they are willing to screen grab everything and that is cool. What happens when the one guy grabs a pack of wheels (clear logos - the pinball guys call them wheels) from one of the pinball sites that someone has spent hours to create and decide to upload those? Look up Tarcisio style wheels and you'll see a special stylized wheel set. This dude probably doesn't want to share these everywhere so he might get pissed if someone were to share them here. Then again he might be OK with it if someone got his permission. Who knows? If you found a way around the shared image issue, there is still the "proper" support issue for Backglass images, DMD images, Playfield images, etc. You can sort of get around it now by putting these in different categories like the playfield would be Screenshot - Gameplay, the Backglass can be Marquee and the DMD could be, well not sure where that goes. It would be super helpful to have entries in the database for these, assuming you work out the other issues and go forward with this. I do hope you can figure something out. Virtual Pinball can be a deep rabbit hole, but I think if you were to stick to basics, you could come up with something that works well in Launchbox. As it is now, we can do just about anything we want in Launchbox as far as adding Tables. It's just not as straightforward as adding an emulator game. Think 'ease of use' and you'll probably narrow down what you could do to make things better. Let me know if you need help testing anything or you have ideas you want to ping off me. I'll try to help if I can.
  13. In Pinball FX, you can't launch individual tables unless you have unlocked table support via Zen Pinball's support. Pinball Arcade is even harder to work with. Future pinball is not supported any longer but still has a bit of a following. Visual Pinball X (10), is really where all the table creators are spending their time these days. I hope you don't completely abandon the cause. Maybe some more voices will chime in that can give a different perspective.
  14. Or maybe have some kind of verification process of who uploads what to the pinball database. Not sure how easy that would be to manage.
  15. Yeah some of it is pretty silly to me too and there are a lot of big egos, but a lot of tables are original creations. Check out the Stranger Things VPX table. Its a complete virtual table that somebody created from scratch. There is not a real table in existence. A lot more creative work goes into these things than you would imagine at first glance. I'm really a relative newcomer to a lot of the pinball stuff, but I know some people that have been in the game a long time that could possible give a better perspective. It might not hurt for you to seek out some opinions from the pinball community. I know for a long time I wanted to share the pinball media assets I've collected, but over time I've decided its probably not in my best interest to do so. I could put you in touch with some people if you'd like to have an off-line discussion on how you could proceed? I don't want to be the guy that turns you off to doing anything with pinball because I think it would be amazing. But I also don't want to see the Launchbox brand to get bad mouthed by the pinball community either, as I have witnessed them do with Pinball X with the media sharing stuff. Man, talk about biting the hand that feeds you. PBX was the only major player in town for a while and those guys would bash it to no end. Seemed crazy to me.
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