Here is a short update on the progress with my 1979 Bally Paragon pinball machine with custom rules and sound. The game is close to being complete. Take a look!
I’m now at the point where I’m getting various feedback from players about the content. Most people like it, but some seem to think the music is a little too “mellow” given the theme? I can see that. I wanted to do something a little more stylized and different. You’d probably expect some kind of dramatic orchestral score with the game, and not a kind of funky prog-rock type of music. So I’m torn on whether I should keep it or change it? I’m going to talk with the artist and see if he has any ideas — maybe we might record something specific for the machine? I don’t know, but I do like the idea of using a real band that we’ve actually recorded – so every sound in the game was completely created. Let me know what you think?
Here is an update to my progress completely re-coding a 1979 Bally Paragon pinball machine, with an Arduino Nano, with all new rules and operating system. This game will be an enhanced version of the original with extra features and deeper modes, and 14-channel polyphonic CD-quality sound.
This is an introduction to an up-and-coming technology that a small group of pinball and electronics enthusiasts are developing. A custom microcontroller that interfaces with Bally-35 MPUs and allows you to write customized rulesets, even completely re-theming games. This is the first part of a journey that I hope to take everybody on.
NOTE: This is a video I recorded several months ago that I forgot to make public, so I’m much further along.. But thought it might be interesting to show this early look at the development of this technology. Now there are etched boards that can be acquired.
After restoring a vintage 1979 Bally Paragon Pinball, I go on a quest to see what’s involved in re-programming a game like this and doing my own, custom ruleset. You may be surprised at how many things you have to take into account and keep track of. Let me show you some early progress trying to hack a pinball and re-design a new operating system and set of code.
This video goes over some general, philosophical considerations in pinball design. In future videos I will dive in deeper into the specific technology and coding.
After getting my Trident operational, I installed the BSOS system and have been working on fine-tuning the custom code and sounds. Here’s a short demo of what the new Arduino-based controller does to a standard Bally 18/35/Stern early solid state game.
Resources (courtesy Dick Hamill):
The code is all available on GitHub. It’s broken down into a base library and then machine-specific implementations. Rewriting other games requires a moderate knowledge of C/C++. https://github.com/BallySternOS
Here’s a suggested parts list. If you bought all these things, you could create 6 of these boards. If you don’t need that many boards, you might find cheaper ways to source smaller quantities. I haven’t done any work to figure out if this is the cheapest way to source any of this stuff.
Cheap Arduino knockoff x6 ($20.99) – needs CH340 driver for programming / has to be ATmega328P https://www.amazon.com/ATmega328P-Controller-Module-CH340G-Arduino/dp/B08NJNJCTX/
0.1″ 40-pin connector (40 pieces for $7.99) https://www.amazon.com/Honbay-Single-Female-Connector-Arduino/dp/B06Y4S6G29/
32-pin Prototype PCB (2 pack for $9.99) – this won’t work for Alltek or MPU-200 because they have a 34-pin connector https://www.amazon.com/Prototype-Snappable-Arduino-Electronics-Gold-Plated/dp/B081QYPHHP/
Wire ($7.99) – tons of wire https://www.amazon.com/REXQualis-Breadboard-Assorted-Prototyping-Circuits/dp/B081H2JQRV/
Boot switch – x2 ($8.99) this switch will work for activating the Arduino board and toggling the speaker (see the writeup here to find out why: https://ballysternos.github.io/install.html) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XMH174C/