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JaysArcade

Why Virtual Pinball is different - a Vpinhead's confession

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Posted (edited)

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. Some tables run a different kind of 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. Most assets you'll need are easily created with OBS or other screen capture techniques. Logos are only an internet search away. Not a big deal if you're really into it.

 

Q. Why treat collecting Tables different than collecting arcade/console ROMs?

A. This is comparing apples to oranges. The members of the pinball community are very vocal and take pride in their 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.

 

Edited by JaysArcade
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Nice! I've been toying with the thought of building a vpin cabinet. What size TV/monitors did you use?

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47 minutes ago, scooter1974 said:

Nice! I've been toying with the thought of building a vpin cabinet. What size TV/monitors did you use?

Thanks.

The playfield is 27 inch, the backglass is 19" and the DMD is a 7 inch. Besides the PC and monitors, it has a 7.1 surround sound for SSF (Surround Sound Feedback), Two power supplies, one of which powers the LED Matrix and the other powers the strobes, beacon, Led Wiz and other toys. Besides the PC speakers in the backbox, there are also two 2.1 mini amps that power the other speakers and sub below the playfield for the Surround Sound Feedback. A lot of the other guys that build real size pins will also include other toys like shakers, fans, chimes, knockers, solenoids, among other things to simulate real feel and sounds coming from their cabs. With my mini setup, I didn't have room for any of that so I was pleased to find the SSF stuff simulates that stuff pretty well. When the ball hits the bumpers you can hear AND feel it coming from the table. Its pretty insane. There is also an accelerator type board (KL25Z Pinscape) in the cab that feels motion so you can bump the table and see the ball move. It's really neat. 

For what it's worth, the frontend on the table is not Launchbox/Bigbox, but I think with some work and a good theme, @Jason Carr could easily make Bigbox cabinet ready. I'm really just showing the video to demonstrate what a proper pinball cabinet is capable of. I do have Visual Pinball set up on my BigBox arcade cabinet playing tables in landscape mode. I'll try to post some video of that next. Possibly this evening if I get time.

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Awesome right up.  Some day i will get to building a vpincab. Completely understand the different versions.  I toyed with setting up Future Pinball and it's amazing how many different versions of tables there can be!  Until you play it and get the "feel" it's hard to tell which is the better version or at least the one closest to what you may remember playing.

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21 hours ago, JaysArcade said:

Thanks.

The playfield is 27 inch, the backglass is 19" and the DMD is a 7 inch. Besides the PC and monitors, it has a 7.1 surround sound for SSF (Surround Sound Feedback), Two power supplies, one of which powers the LED Matrix and the other powers the strobes, beacon, Led Wiz and other toys. Besides the PC speakers in the backbox, there are also two 2.1 mini amps that power the other speakers and sub below the playfield for the Surround Sound Feedback. A lot of the other guys that build real size pins will also include other toys like shakers, fans, chimes, knockers, solenoids, among other things to simulate real feel and sounds coming from their cabs. With my mini setup, I didn't have room for any of that so I was pleased to find the SSF stuff simulates that stuff pretty well. When the ball hits the bumpers you can hear AND feel it coming from the table. Its pretty insane. There is also an accelerator type board (KL25Z Pinscape) in the cab that feels motion so you can bump the table and see the ball move. It's really neat. 

For what it's worth, the frontend on the table is not Launchbox/Bigbox, but I think with some work and a good theme, @Jason Carr could easily make Bigbox cabinet ready. I'm really just showing the video to demonstrate what a proper pinball cabinet is capable of. I do have Visual Pinball set up on my BigBox arcade cabinet playing tables in landscape mode. I'll try to post some video of that next. Possibly this evening if I get time.

Thanks for all the info. Looks like I have some reading to do :)

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I put this together to show VPX running from BigBox. Sorry for the hum. Not the best mic in the world

 

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On 7/4/2019 at 7:19 PM, JaysArcade said:

I put this together to show VPX running from BigBox. Sorry for the hum. Not the best mic in the world

 

Hey Jay,

Your YouTube video inspired me to learn Visual Pinball X. It was a bitch of two days, but I have it mostly figured out, with a hand full of games playing well in landscape.

Now I am trying to figure out how to get it setup in Launchbox. I have experience with the consoles games, but with Virtual Pinball X, I assume I will need to type in a specific code line into the "Command-Line Parameter". If so, can you give me an example of the code you have for one of your games? If that's not how you do it, I would love to know how you get it to launch specific games and not just open the program. Thanks for the great write up ... it really makes sense now that I rammed my head through the front door and learned it all by trial and error.

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On 9/8/2019 at 10:19 AM, JoeViking245 said:

Setup your Visual Pinball emulator like so...
Then for the game (table), just point to your .vpx file.
 

Awesome sauce bro. That worked. Now Im in Pinball heaven ... VPX is amazing

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20 hours ago, JoeViking245 said:

Yes! VPX is awesome!  Now you'll start getting that 'itch' to build your own pin-cab. 😁

Yes I have. Actually been spending too much time googling that topic today when I should be working  😃
Do you have a full scale table build?
I am just playing in desktop mode now and having a lot of fun. But I can imaging the full pinball table setup would be amazing!

The artist and programmers doing all this voluntarily really blows my mind. The attention to artistic detail and physics really has me dumbfounded. I can't believe I stumbled into this hobby ... no looking back now.

 

Edited by ItchyRobot

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No, I don't have a pin cab.  I do have a full size upright arcade cabinet that has buttons on the sides for flippers.  Baby steps. lol

It's been a while, but I believe on vpforums there's a pinned topic about building one.  Pretty thorough as I recall.  And of course many others I'm sure scattered around the internet.

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 @JoeViking245 @JaysArcade

Do either of you have issues with BixBox losing focus after you exit a table, and re-enter Bigbox?

About half the time I exist with Esc, I will have to wiggle my mouse and click on the screen to regain control of Bigbox navigation.

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Do you think it would be easier to setup Bigbox to launch something like PinballX rather than individual tables?

I've been working on setting up custom Desktop versions of the tables to use in my next arcade build so it can be a sort of all in one build Arcade w/pinball. Also to use in a dedicated EMU PC to be used like a console.

an example of what I'm doing can be seen here but it has changed a bit since then.

 

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@ItchyRobot I just tested a couple tables in BigBox without any exit problems.  Are you running VP in fullscreen or windowed?

@Casdha Easier?  I'm thinking no.  Reason being you need to setup PinballX and then setup BigBox to launch PinballX.  To me it seems kind of a redundancy and a step backwards from the reason for having LaunchBox/BigBox.  There may even already be a Theme similar to your video available for LaunchBox/BigBox.   These sorta show my simple setup.1975767183_bbvpx.thumb.jpg.cafb2a2a46d4e5335e9da0320e5f02c5.jpg1601669806_bbvpx2.thumb.jpg.3011157bce022ff1477e8daa6d0a7898.jpg

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@JoeViking245 I suspect you are right. I however would still be able to use all of my custom made assets, I'd just have to install them manually (videos & a few wheel images).  All of the tables on my desktop version have been modified by me to my liking. 

FYI for other folks, moving the position of LED numeric displays is a bit time consuming, everything else is pretty easy like making and inserting the backgrounds or moving the DMD.

 

I'll still stick with PinballX for my real cabinet it makes multiple screens so much easier to set up for theme as well as play.

 

Old video just to share

 

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7 hours ago, JoeViking245 said:

@ItchyRobot I just tested a couple tables in BigBox without any exit problems.  Are you running VP in fullscreen or windowed?

1920 x 1080 (Windowed Fullscreen) ... if I choose "Force exclusive Fullscreen Mode", then some of the tables won't load. I have read I can fix this by editing portions of my registry for each of those tables.

Edited by ItchyRobot

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