Homebrew Pinball #3, Part 89

Cross posted from the original Pinside thread, this is one of many posts regarding my third homebrew pinball machine, creatively nicknamed 'P3'

Heading to pintastic, I was mainly worried about three things: broken 3d printed parts, ball sticks, and something going up in smoke. I arrived early Friday morning and set the game up in the free play area:
A quick inspection showed that everything had survived the journey intact, except that the upper 3 bank of drop targets had nearly worked its way lose from the playfield somehow. I'd never seen it come loose at all before, so this was a bit of a surprise, although considering that, for various reasons, it's only held in by two screws, I probably shouldn't have been so surprised. If any bank was going to do it, it'd be this one. It was at this point that I also discovered I didn't have any half inch, #8 wood screws, which I'd bought specifically to replace loose #6 wood screws (which is what I used for everything on this game) with in exactly this sort of situation. But I did have 3/8", and I reasoned that the thickness was probably more important than the length here, so I installed those. A few test games, and a quick chat with the creator of the Pincraft homebrew who walked by, and then I reset all the high scores and pronounced it "good to go" and left to check out the seminars.

I came back a half hour later to check, and the game was... still working! Had a few nice chats with players, and got a quick interview done by a youtuber, and then I left again. I tried to check on it every half hour or hour or so throughout the days, but I wasn't planning on really being there the whole time and sometimes I didn't get back for 4 hours at a time.

Issues encountered, day 1:
- about an hour in, I came back to check on it, and it was turned off! Uh oh, what could have happened? So I turned it back on and it all worked fine. No idea why someone turned it off, and didn't try to contact me
- soon after, I got a text that there was a part loose on the playfield. Turned out to be a random 1/2" wood screw. I searched all over the game but couldn't locate anywhere missing the screw, so I just tossed it in my spare parts and closed the game up again
- another text, another part loose on the playfield. This time it was the spring off my left inlane gate. There's nothing holding this on besides gravity and friction, so I'm honestly surprised this had never happened before but, more than a year of testing and it didn't, so I never worried myself about improving it.
Oh well. I put the spring back on and we're good to go
- came by, a player was trying unsuccessfully to start a game. "Ball Missing". Oh boy, we finally have a ball stuck! I confirm there's only 2 balls in the trough. Search high and low all around the playfield... no ball. I finally find it in the coin box area, sitting right on top of one of my boards, but no damage luckily. No clue how it possibly could have gotten down there.
- another part on the playfield. it's the spring again. I reinstall it.
- game has crashed. The cause? No space left on the SD card; my debug logs have filled up the entire 32GB. I sorta knew this was a possibility, but besides from turning off the logs I hadn't found any good solution since I can't delete the old logs while the game is running easily. I delete the logs and restart the game, problem solved.
- another part on the playfield. it's the spring again. Grr. I wonder if maybe the spring has gotten stretched out over time, and replace it with a new one. Maybe the extra tension will hold it on well enough?
- while showing the game to someone, I notice that the left outlane diverter gate is stuck down. Did the mosfet blow? Nope, it's being PWMed properly to stay down, so the driver board software is working properly. The game software thinks it shouldn't be engaged though. Something must have gotten out of sync between them, so I restart the software and it resolves the issue. No idea how long it was like that, but the coil still hadn't gotten hot, so I guess my PWM settings must be pretty good. I'd considered just having the gate stay down during play (vs turning when the outlane switch is hit) but had been worried the coil would eventually cook, so I'd avoided it. Might be worth another look since I've been having issues where the gate doesn't turn fast enough to divert balls
- someone reports a stuck ball. hopefully it's not in the cash box again. nope! It's... stuck on the left inlane gate. the new spring is just strong enough that a very slow ball isn't heavy enough to push the gate open. I try to stretch the spring a bit and find a happy medium between the two and cross my fingers
- finally, near the end of the day, I again get a stuck ball reported. This time it's sitting in the outhole, and not getting kicked over. I worry there's a switch issue, but it turns out the coil fuse for that bank has blown. I replace it and get ready to turn the power off quick once I see what's locked on but the game works fine. Not sure what blew the fuse. Looking at it, it's a fast blow, 4A. In retrospect that probably should be a slow blow to account for random situations where too many coils just happen to fire at once, but it's never been a problem before, and I'm wary of swapping fuses at the event, so I put another 4A in.

Day 2:
- while showing the game to @McSquid, the left drop target bank starts having trouble resetting. Luckily, my code will retry a few times and then give up, so it's not a huge deal, but after the game I check it out and see that it's starting to come loose like the 3 bank did the previous morning. Again, this is a bank where I had to remove one of the 4 mounting brackets to make it fit, so maybe that's a problem, but there's not much I can do about it. I swap in some #8 screws just in case
- a few hours later I get a report that the game is 'stuck'. When I get there it's sitting on the bonus collect screen, but not counting down. Somehow, the bonus 'total' that's supposed to be awarded has become NaN, which basically means a divide by zero or something happened somewhere. The game keeps trying to subtract 1,000 from the total and give it to the player, but when you subtract something from NaN you get... NaN. Not sure what caused it, but a reboot fixes it.
- a couple more uneventful hours pass, and the NaN bug strikes it's head again. Weird that this didn't happen on day one, but twice on day two, but nothing I can do about it right now
- another part on the playfield. it's the spring again. I reinstall it. Looks like this will just be a thing for now. I'll try to make a new version of the gate with some little overhang to hold it on in the future
- around 8pm, the fuse blows on the outhole again. Still no idea what's causing it, but again just replacing the fuse fixes it. I suspect that maybe the left outlane gate (which is on the same solenoid bank) might be stressing out the fuse when it gets stuck on, and that combined with some other coils may be blowing it?

And that's it! Not a single broken 3d printed part. No smoke. Not even any real ball stick areas for me to address. The game was received pretty well; a lot of praise for the lower flipper and the right outlane VUK/popper once I explained it.

That's probably my biggest 'failure'/takeaway from the weekend though... Most people didn't pick up on any of the more advanced features/rules I'd worked in while playing. A lot of people got confused by the secondary flipper buttons for the magna save and popper, and I'm reminded sadly of the new Black Knight's action button magna save. Not many people actually picked up on how the poker hands worked, or at least, they didn't have the flipper skills needed to actually aim at good cards. Most people just flailed around at the targets and got random hands, then double flipped through the 'end of hand' animation without even noticing if they'd won or lost. Also, very few people figured out the skillshot. Most just full plunged, which tended to send the ball flying all the way around to the left inlane to their surprise. I thought I'd done a pretty good job of making the skillshot obvious, flashing the lights brightly, etc, but apparently that wasn't enough. It's a bit saddening to see, but I guess that's just how a lot of players are. I don't really plan on changing anything on that front though; I didn't design this game with the 'mass market' as my goal. When possible I've tried to make it so the layman player can also enjoy the game as much as possible, but I'm not going to remove features that expert players can enjoy just because they may slightly confuse other players.

Posted Tuesday, December 07, 2021
at 07:56 PM

Tags: Blog Post, Pinball, Project, P3,

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