Pinball machines have traditionally been ‘closed-box’ devices. You play a game, get a great score, but then what? The details are trapped inside the machine’s memory, and if your score isn’t one of the top few, all trace of it is lost the moment the start button is pressed again.
You could take a picture of the display or post a message on social media, but it’s a cumbersome manual process.
Just as with tournaments, where someone has to read the score and manually enter it into another device (without making any mistakes) so it can be processed by the tournament software.
Why, you might wonder, can’t scores, achievements, audits and even faults all be read automatically? An electronic pinball is a computer, after all, with the information all stored in memory. So, couldn’t these details be extracted so that tournament scores can be automatically recorded and progress to the next round calculated, high scores routinely uploaded to a central server, and operators immediately alerted to faults on their machines?
Unfortunately though, digging around in the game’s memory while it is running the game code is likely to be fraught at best, as you try to second-guess where various pieces of information are stored. Fortunately though, all that information is available in a different form – on the display. If you could machine-read that display data, you could get all the information you need.
Well, Spanish company Allplay has developed a hardware-based system to do exactly that. It reads the score, audit and diagnostic information from machine’s display and uses it to track scores, run tournaments and give operators remote information about their machines. It also makes this information available on a second display, and adds a webcam so players in different locations can play simultaneously against each other.
The system is called Pinball House and it was recently demonstrated at the TMAP tournament in Madrid.
The Pinball House system
Pinball House already works on a range of popular Stern and Williams titles, with more promised according to demand.
The eighteen machines currently supported are:
Addams Family, The
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s
Game of Thrones
Indiana Jones (WMS)