Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cactus Canyon collectors plate

I finally have a matching collectors plate for my Cactus Canyon number 729 !

No it's not an original, I made it myself. Borrowed an original from a friend, made a silicone mold and cast a reproduction piece. Had the number engraved at a sign shop so it would match the font size and type of the original, and then airbrushed the color myself as the original cast plastic was white.

It's not exatly matching the original: the material used is totally different (resin plastic, originals are a light metal alloy) and the color also isn't a complete match, the original has some metal flakes in the paint that make it look sharper.
But still it's good enough for me as it's probably impossible to find the matching original number for my game, installed on the apron of my game almost nobody will notice any difference..

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

200th post ! and new cactus canyon rules

200th post to this blog ! :-)

Anyway more about the new Cactus Canyon rules I'm programming.

I have not everything defined yet, don't know what the final result will be.

My first idea was to just take the existing CC rules and just extend them with a few extra modes (like Bionic Bart). But the more I worked on this, the more I realised I had a lot of freedom.
I can turn this into anything I want, not what the original designers wanted.

I can take every insert on the playfield and make a special mode for that (catch train, stop train, ..).
I can define myself if modes can be stacked or not, the way they're started, ..
I'm bound by the inserts but can totally change what they stand for - what will you have to do to earn stampede, showdown, combos, .. ?

These unlimited changes make it easy and hard at the same time.
I really like the way this machine plays now. The game rules that exist are fun.
I do not want to ruin this. I also want to keep the same general feel - if you are a CC owner now and like how it plays, I want you to get the same joy when you play my version.
I also want to keep the flow. I was thinking of having modes start as bounties (so you have to shoot the saloon each time), but that will probably make it too much stop-and-go.
One idea was having to shoot the beer target a lot, but that's not an easy shot and making it too much is also not fun for a player.

Otoh I've been studying rulesheets from a lot of other games with more depth, and do want to take over certain things. I'm still searching for the perfect combination - some easy and familiar things that already exist in CC, but at the same time make it a lot deeper, add stacking or mode modes, add more rules and modes, make it more challenging, make strategy more important, ..

I now have programmed 4 new modes and 2 existing ones.. They run in visual pinball. No animations have been drawn yet - this is for later when all modes are ready, then I'll start on dmd animations and fine polishing everyhing.
The idea is to take over other modes like stampede multiball, showdown multiball, goldmine multiball.
I do have settings so you can make the game similar to the existing, or make it more challenging.
Defeating Barts will be changed, that is not programmed yet but I know what I want to do with them.
I also know how I will make Bionic Bart.
But still know I need about 4 other modes and only have a general idea that imo isn't excellent enough yet.

Some things I know I have to implement and I even have no idea how I will do them.
I just have to implement something, try how it plays together with the new modes I have added, then try something else, and see what goes best.
Gunfights are one example. I like how they're implemented now (ball is stopped on the up-post, animation is played, and you have to shoot one raised droptarget on time). But I have no idea what will trigger them, what they will earn when you complete them.
Right now no mode uses the up-post on the inlanes, so I have to make something that uses them :-)

Ranking up is another thing. Now when you defeat a Bart you get a gunfight, win it and you rank up.
That's 2 other things that depend on defeating Bart. I don't really like this, and am considering other goals that would trigger you to rank up, but have not found one that I really like.
Bounties too. What are available bounties, when will you earn one ? No idea yet..

But I do want to make everything as good as possible, and make everything together consistent.
I could easily make up 20 modes in which you have to make certain shots and have them all started as a bounty. But that would make gameplay totally different from what it is now, and it would not be fun or consistent.
The story and experience the player gets playing this game towards the wizard mode needs to be correct.
It has to be fun, challenging, but make sense. All parts have to fit together logically.

Any comments and input are welcome.. if anyone reading this blog is familiar with CC game rules and rulesheets for other games, and want to brainstorm, let me know.
People that enjoy playing pinball in Visual Pinball and want to test, please also let me know.
Within a few weeks I should have a version that's fairly complete with all modes and then need testers that want to play it all in Visual Pinball and give feedback - bugs, but also if it makes sense, if modes are fun or not, ..

new Cactus Canyon rom in freewpc

The last weeks I've also spent a lot of time programming in FreeWPC.
I'm working on new rules for Cactus Canyon.

I really love this pinball machine. It has a great playfield layout (some hard shots, some easy shots, I love the flow of the ramps), great theme, excellent artwork, ..  Everything is great on it except the game rules;
On default settings the game is too easy (my 6 year old daughter can even get wizard mode sometimes !), you really have to put it to extra difficult or adjust some features yourself to make the machine challenging enough.
The rules are also pretty basic, a lot more could have been added.

Cactus Canyon was the last WPC-95 game Williams produced before starting with Pinball2000. Therefor not a lot of machines were produced, it was only meant to be a 'filler' game to keep production lines going. Production was stopped as soon as P2K machines could start.

In the game rules it's most obvious that this game was not complete. Rules are fun but shallow. You really get the impression more could have been implemented, as there are 3 save polly inserts on the playfield but only 1 save polly mode (which is started whenever you complete 3 shots on either of the 3 ramps).
The instruction cards make mention of a 'Bionic Bart' but that mode is not programmed in the game.
Some small details also show there was no time to fine-polish this software, when you finish the wizard mode there's nothing special (no spectacular sound), there's no real match mode, ..

Like I posted a few weeks ago, starting to program in FreeWPC was on my todo-list for a long time already. Now I've started and I'm going along on full speed :)

The advantage of using FreeWPC is that it compiles into a 'real' rom that anyone can plug into their Cactus Canyon pinball machine, without having to buy other expensive hardware.

Programming goes better than expected, although I sometimes lose a lot of time on stupid things :(

FreeWPC is a whole framework, you get to program game rules but the environment is the base OS for the pinball machine and does a lot of things for you.
Display definitions (deffs) that are in the machine file need to exist in the other files you compile, or you'll get a linking error. Same for callset_invoke(), these need a matching callset_entry() or the linking will fail (without giving any indication of what is missing).
I wasted many hours already with these errors.. It's mostly because of the way I program.
For instance I made a modes.c file that's almost completely ready - when you made 3 shots to the left ramp it'll do a callset_invoke() to start the mode for that left ramp, same for the other ramps.. but not all modes have been programmed yet, so the linking fails :(

Whitewater missing mountain mod

Been a while since I posted something here, which means I'm busy with a lot of things;
First made some changes to the website. Dropped a few categories from the homepage and other index pages, decided I will not maintain these anymore. These are pinball in Belgium, the agenda of shows and the things I learned (which was updated bi-weekly).

I'm busy shopping my Attack From Mars pinball machine. Playfield has been removed from the game, everything on top is removed. Now have to remove the bottom assemblies and clean everything.
Cabinet has been sanded, ready to  put new cabinet decals on.
I had shopped this machine when I bought it (7 to 8 years ago) and it's amazing how dirty it is and even how worn some rubbers were. The slingshot rubbers almost broke, theywere so thin !

I'm also busy on making a new Whitewater missing mountain mod.

If you've ever seen the whitewater pinball machine, you know there are mountain shaped plastics in different places. There's a large ramp that's on the left side of the playfield which has a U-shaped turn on the top left of the playfield. Underneath there's nothing, it's completely open, showing the back/side black wood of the machine and an exposed microswitch. Not a nice look.
Someone else had made a mod for this years ago, he had made a new mountain plastic that fit inside this hole.
It made the machine look so much better, it really belonged there;

The mod isn't for sale anymore, so I decided to make my own mountain plastic.
Last week made the base shape using modeling clay. Now it was dried out enough, so yesterday evening I finalized it, build up onto this shape adding the details. I tried to make it look like the other mountai plastics, although that was not easy to do, I'm not a sculptor. Now it has to dry again for a few days.
Then I will make a silicone mold out of it and cast a mountain.
That one I can paint and then I'll see how good it is.. (the model now is in white clay so it's not easy to see it shape correct and predict how it will look painted, as the dark brown paint will stay into the deeper parts).