Pinball Arcade Controllers. Plungers and Analog Hook up

Pinball Controller for Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection.

I will be editing the First post as a how to for setting up a analog plunger and how to hack analog sticks to PSP-1000 replacement analog sticks.

For now though I will just want an opportunity to share my Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams’s Collection Pinball controller. I know it may seem like a lot of effort to make a controller for 1 game, but if you think of it, it is mountain’s cheaper and more space conscience than buying and maintaining 12 pinball tables.

I hacked a PSP-1000 analog and a authentic Happ pinball plunger to a Madcatz 4716 pad. The controller is really big, it is a combination of having the approximate width of a pinball machine and the space needed to hack the plunger.

A few angles of the controller

My Wiring

On the left of the PCB the prototype board with screw terminals is just a terminal block I made because I didn’t want to go to radio shack to get a Eurostyle terminal strip. used to connect the PSP analog stick.

The left Analog is used in the game for nudging the table. In real pinball this tactic is used if so you can change the ball trajectory slight to try to avoid a drain. To mount the PSP analog I drilled a 3/4 in hole in the top panel and underneath I picked up I think a 1 1/8 forstner and went about 3/16 inch deep, then a smaller bit for 16th for the bottom of the analog that sits lower than the mounting holes that go off on the sides. I then drilled a 1/8 inch hole for the wires to feed through.

Hacking the Analog sticks. I hope these pictures are self explanitory. Just solder. The image with the stick shows the analog in correct orientation.

Pictures of the Plunger Assembly

Here is a video:[media=youtube]nT_jNCvf_xc[/media]

For those curious about the Joystick, I used a compact joystick available on, but it is a piece of crap and don’t recommend it you are better off using buttons. Put a Yellow Sanwa Balltop on it. I bought it out of curiosity and this is the only thing I think it is suitable for. the joystick body screws on like a Happ button and on the bottom the microswitches slide on to 2 upside down L shaped notches on the bottom of the plastic cylinder. The switches are mounted sort of wobbly so the engage distances constantly are inconsistent and diagonals cannot always be hit due to this. Works fine for menu navigation.

Originally I had the player 1 button on front mapped to start, but instead I mapped it to “A” because in PHF the games are actually started with the “A” button.

Below is the original First post.

I recently got Williams Pinball hall of fame for the Xbox 360 and am loving it. Brings back memories since the bowling alley I went to as a kid had a few of these games.

I am wanting to make a pinball box just for this game, but am stumped on one problem. I want to use an authentic plunger for the stick.
Universal Ball Shooter Assembly
In the game the right analog stick is wired for the plunger. The amount you pull it back and let go controls the power.

I was wondering if anybody had any ideas to get this thing to work with a madcats controller. I need the plunger to go from 0 to 10k resistance based on how I pull the plunger. I know very little about optical sensors. I want to try to recreate this
NanoTech Entertainment, Inc. - Digital Pinball Plunger
But I want the output to be to a 10k variable resistor.
Any clues?

I was wondering the same thing about a month ago. I am in the process of building a controller with the bumpers on the sides for the sole purpose of playing pinball. I gave up on the plunger idea though and just went with regular controls. I’m not sure if this would be easier or not, but if you use a madcatz fightpad, you don’t have to deal with the analog stick. You would just connect to the copper d-pad connections and have to install a 3-way toggle switch if you want to be able to switch between the two sticks and d-pad. I’m actually working on desoldering the small switch on the controller tonight to see if I can connect a different type of switch to be mounted in the top of my case. Not sure if this helps. It seems like the d-pad may be easier to work with than an analog stick.

I am wanting to use this with “William’s Pinball Hall of Fame” The plunger is mapped to the analog and isn’t assignable. and some of the games require a plunger skill shot as they are virtual recreations of actual tables I used to play. For me if I don’t have the plunger working, there is no point in me making the project. My budget for just the plunger part is in the $150 range.

What I mean is, with the fightpad you can use a switch to make the d-pad act as the right stick. The controller itself has a switch on the back for this purpose (see pic). You would just need to desolder the switch and attach a new one on your case. This is what I am going to do so I am able to play the same game you are talking about. The how-to part of the plunger is what I am unable to help you with. Just thought I would throw it out there in case this type of set up would be easier to work with than an actual analog stick.

But doesn’t the MadCatz simply convert the digital input from the DPad to a full “push” from the analog. This means that if you use that, I don’t think you’ll be getting the same input every time you pull the plunger which defeats the purpose of having it in the first place.

You’re right. I just finished testing it. I removed the switch on the pcb, attached wires and tested to see if I could adjust the power of the plunger and it didn’t work. I was hoping that the duration of the button press might equal a stronger/weaker pull, but it was either full power or nothing at all. I guess you can scratch this idea

Sliding pot:

You also might be able to do some shenanigans with a normal pot and a lever.

i actually wanted to get a hrap stick and put the buttons on each side so i can play my zen pinball games. but i ended up getting a TE stick. please do update us if you ever find a way.

you can always go the mechanical way and wire up a levered spring type thing that pulls on the analog pot and then goes back to neutral. the spring setup on the plunger would return it to neutral. i got a picture in my head of this but i’m pretty sure it would be fairly easy.

Thanks brighenne for that link. I have a lot of trouble using Digikey product search.
So this is what I am going to try. I will mount the Pot in front of the plunger. The Lever Idea is good but requires a pivot and the forces on the springs may not work well. I am thinking that placing the pot mounted in front of the plunger and having two sets of springs used to pull it back. Also a Stopper is placed to keep the pot at neutral. Going to have to make stopper out of metal rods and use shrink tube.

I think I am going to give this a shot.

I’d love to see how this turns out.

Never was good or into pinballs, but this idea is just too interesting to ignore.

Good luck on your project. :smiley:

Interesting stuff.
rtdzign, I think you may be focusing too much on the resistance of the pot, instead of the analog voltage level the device needs to give off. Analog sticks and triggers use a potentiometer as a voltage divider in order to get an analog voltage; that voltage is what is read by the controller to determine how far the plunger has been pulled.

In all honesty, sliding potentiometers like brighenne linked to would be the easiest to electrically connect to the plunger; if you can physically set it up in a way that will handle the abuse well, it’s the best way to go about it and the easiest way to wire it electrically. The hard part is physically setting it up so it works and can handle the abuse.

The digital plunger you linked to could be used, and it’d be the easiest way to physically install it, but it’d be the hardest to electrically wire up. You’d have to use a microcontroller to read the status of the plunger over i2c, and then use that data to report the state as an analog voltage. [ That part could be done with a PWM output pin and a a low pass filter, but frankly, I wouldn’t. It’d feel more comfortable using an i2c controlled digital potentiometer. ]

If you’re worried about price, the electronics I described to go with the digital plunger could be had for less than $10; but you’d have to learn how to program them and test them out so there’s a big time element involved. Using an Arduino and an i2c digital part would make the learning and development easier and quicker and add another $20-$30 to the electronics cost.

I can try to help out in recommending parts if you’d like, but I dont think I’d be able to help out too much after that.

So whether or not it is 10k or 100k range, it doesn’t matter then? It is more about the ratio of the voltage? If so that is good to know.

Programming is out for me. The only progamming I’ve done and badly is javascript, and from what I hear that isn’t really programming.

I think I am going to go with the Slider Pot. I think the spring setup I have up there will be able to take a reasonable amount of abuse, but if there is a heavier duty slider that is longer than 10 cm. I’m going to have to play around with springs a lot and fashion things out of weldable steel. Looks like I’m just going to order the plunger for now.

Edit: Scratch that idea. How about this;

Use the controller’s analog stick, mounted sideways with it’s action going front to back on the inside of the left wall, in the cabinet. Attach a piece of all-thread to the analog stick that is long enough to span the width of the case over to the plunger on the right side. Drill a vertical hole through the plunger for a bolt, two washers and a nylock nut to go through. On the end of the all-thread at the plunger side , thread on a piece of slotted flat stock that has a nut welded to one of the flat sides and attach the slotted end to the bolt and nylock nut with the plunger.

You can adjust the slot on the linkage to allow full throw of the plunger and adjust it up and down a bit on the all thread, like a tie rod end on a car or a turnbuckle. You may have to mount the analog stick inboard of the left wall a bit, depending on it’s angle from full throw (back) to neutral and the throw length of the plunger.

All you would need for this is an L bracket with slotted holes going left to right on the bottom and some more slots going front to back on vertical bracket. This will allow the stick to adjust to go to full neutral when the plunger is at neutral and also allow a bit of adjustment side to side so you don’t run into clearance issues, aside from the slotted bracket adjustment along the all-thread.

This also completely eliminates the need for a durable switch, because it is at the absolute axis. Think about it like the surface speed of a tire tread vs the speed of the roller bearings in the middle of the wheel hub. All of the abuse would be on the left side on the plunger. The further away the analog stick is from the plunger, using the all-thread as a lever, it would devide the motion down to the natural motion of the stick by default. It would also be cheap as hell to make, because you could get everything at the hardware store. This would require absolutely zero programming or purchasing of any electromechanical devices/ potentiometers. just a mechanical linkage system and a pad hack.

Here is a top view illustration of the linkage system description idea above - plunger linkage.jpg

The analog stick switch wouldn’t endure any additional abuse that it wouldn’t already handle as a pad. The radius of the linkages swing would also slightly ramp up the speed until it’s stopped at 90 degrees from the plunger, keeping analog stick in straight neutral when released.

thanks for that.

It’s a really good idea for a controller, man. I hope that design idea works out okay. I’ve designed progressive carburetor linkage. The geometry checks out on this idea… I’m almost tempted to do this myself!

I was thinking about this thread while I was falling asleep and a few additional ideas on this controller as well.

You could run lights or other button driven devices with a small power source in this thing that would make for some interesting additional pinball simulation. You could use power door lock servos and a small mallot against the case to simulate the feel and sound of the flippers. I haven’t played the game, so I don’t know if the bumpers in the game trigger the controller vibration, but you could do the same thing with the bumpers, triggered from in game signals if possible.

Top art suggestion:

^ I second this. When it was actually cool to watch sesame street…

Pinball Shooter

So I know I’m late to the game on this forum but back in October I actually built a pinball controller that utilizes a pinball shooter. My method was a bit complicated, and a bit more costly than I’d expected. It also looks a bit gimpy as the first box I made was a housing I tacked together quickly for proof of concept and am only now building a better looking one that I hope to have looking pretty by PAX. Oh and aside from adding a shooter it also recognizes tilt functionality. :slight_smile:

The main key to doing it lies in using a digital potentiometer to replace each of the pots that make up each analog stick. Each analog stick is really just two potentiometers. Using a single 4 pot chip I was able to send my own data to each of these. As the shooter doesn’t recognize right and left I left that one alone. Now to communicate to the digital pot I used an Arduino microcontroller (as I’m only just getting into electronics and wanted to make it simply as possible). For the tilt I added a Memsic 2125 Dual Axis Accelerometer from Radioshack ( Reading the x and y accelleration data and writing the x and y pots of the left stick gave me the ability to nudge the machine to tilt the one onscreen. The digital plunger was a bit trickier… and more pricey.

For the plunger I ended up buying a digital plunger from nanotech entertainment ( I then had to get them to send me the schematics for this to learn how to communicate to it. Basically they’re using a red LED and a TSL2561 light to digital converter. After a LOT of trial and error I figured out how to correctly read the data from this chip and them mapped it to the the right analog stick. At this point I found that the resulting shooter movement looked shaky on the the screen. After some research I found that adding a small capacitor to the wiper pin of the analog stick smoothed out the signal and made it look great.

Now in all my trial and tribulations there has been one bug I have been able to overcome and that has to due with the speed of the pinball plunger vs the speed of the analog stick. If I allowed the plunger to be pulled all of the way out and released that would be a distance of about 3 inches. The analog stick utilized by the 360 controller only travels about 1/2 an inch. What this results in is a dynamic looking plunger that barely taps the ball. ie… no good. So, until I convince Crave to modify their game to add a sensitivity adjustment (haha) I need to limit the shooter to only being pulled back about 1" at most. On the plus side, with the tension of the spring being as strong as it is if you pulled it back all of the way the controller takes a pretty good wack every time you shoot the ball and would likely tip over over (if I ever get off my ass and add legs to the thing).

Anyhow. That’s my story. Feel free to hit me up for more details, and if you’re going to PAX this year let me know and I’ll be happy to let to you give it a play. :slight_smile:

Here’s a little pic of the current state of version 2. I’m still rewiring and graphics are in the works.