3. A Visual Guide to the Virtual Pinball Cabinet

A Visual Guide to the Virtual Pinball Cabinet

When I first started building my own pin cab, I found it hard to get a handle on all of the pieces involved. I knew I wanted real flipper buttons, but how do you connect them to the PC? I wanted a plunger, but how the heck do you make a PC take input from a plunger? I wanted feedback devices to simulate the flipper solenoids and replay knocker and so on, and I understood that I needed an LedWiz for that, but beyond that I didn't really know what it could do or how to connect anything to it. And knowing how many questions I had, I shuddered to think about the questions I didn't even know enough to ask.
The diagram below will, I hope, clear up some of that fog, especially the unknown unknowns. It's is a comprehensive map of all of the electronic systems and devices that make up a virtual pinball machine. It doesn't answer the detailed questions, like exactly how you hook up the LedWiz or install software, but it offers a bird's-eye view of everything that goes into one of these machines. It shows what each component does and how everything fits together. The idea is to let you see the whole system at a glance. This diagram shows pretty much everything electronic in a pin cab, so you should be able to quickly spot any major components that weren't already on your radar, and decide if you need to add them to your plans.
This is a big-picture view, but it's also loaded with details that you can view interactively. Roll over any component with the mouse (or tap it) to learn more about it. There are also some general notes following the diagram. But don't feel like you have to cram for a quiz: we'll cover everything in the chart in much greater depth in later sections.
Roll over/tap features to show details • See notes below

Feature Details


  • The machine shown here is fully decked out. A bit more than fully, in fact: some things are redundant, such having both a "real DMD" and a "DMD TV". If you're in the planning stages for building a cab, you'll only need to consider the components related to the features you plan to include.
  • This isn't a complete wiring diagram or schematic. For that, refer to the Build Guide sections on the individual subsystems.
  • "DOF" (referred to several times in the detail popups) stands for DirectOutput Framework, one of the key pieces of software you'll want to install on the PC inside a cab. DOF is the software that handles the feedback devices.

How the Pinscape Controller fits in

You won't find any one box on the diagram that represents the Pinscape Controller. That's because Pinscape is only one of several possible choices for the functions it performs, and because Pinscape can perform several different functions. So the diagram instead shows boxes for the individual functions conceptually. If you do decide to use a Pinscape Controller, it can fill any or all of these roles:
  • Key encoder
  • Accelerometer
  • Plunger interface
  • Output controller
Even though these functions are shown as separate boxes on the diagram, a single Pinscape unit can fill all of these roles simultaneously.
The Pinscape Expansion Boards also serve as the "Power Booster", which is shown as another separate box. If you're using the stand-alone KL25Z without the expansion boards, you'll need something to serve as the power booster if you want to connect feedback devices. The Build Guide includes circuit plans.