Kickstarter and Indiegogo are, to me, two of the most original and unique sites on the internet to date when it comes to the level of creativity. If you have an idea and you want everyone to know about it and get involved, these two sites are the best ways to go. If you created a brand new mini light for a camera or a stool for you to put your feet on while you go to the bathroom, or even want to share one of the biggest funded ideas on Kickstarter, the Pebble watch. Well at least when the site was newer, ideas come everyday. There is no difference when it comes to video games and pinball.
Virtual pinball is not something that is brand new in the gaming industry. It is just something that is becoming more and more popular in the gaming community. Companies such as Zen with the Pinball Fx3, has created an overwhelming following. In October, they released their latest expansion of the Williams collection with the Monster Bash and Created from the Black Lagoon.
And the players continue to play on the Nintendo Switch, PC, Steam, Playstation and Xbox systems. But there are several groups on Facebook where users and players can exchange ideas on how to create your own personal pinball machine.
So I mentioned Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Virtual Pinball. What do these have in common? On November 7, 2019, Mac Gruber launched a Kickstarter project that ANYONE can take advantage of to be able to own their own table-top virtual pinball machine called the Sharpin.
This is a new and unique way to not only be able to play the virtual pinball games, but also play a lot of the retro classic games as well thanks to the hardware and the software that is packed into this sleek little box. Before the campaign started, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Mac about his background and details about the Sharpin.
OSG: Where are you based out of?
MAC: I am in Graz, Austria. Home of Red Bull, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mozart.
OSG: Tell me about your video game background?
MAC: Well, regarding software I am pretty much just a consumer not a creator. I started early with games like Prince of Persia (the original one on DOS ) Some games I remember from the early days are Warcraft (not WoW), Commandos, C&C, GTA (1&2) Mario Kart SNES. I kept playing till today but because of a lack of time, these days I don’t play as much as I used to. So the last titles I remember are GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher, Civilization, FiFA and of course Pinball FX3 and Pinball Arcade.\
I am not good with code. I am more a Visual Creative and a maker. My Professional background regarding computers or IT is my studies. I studied Information Design on the University of applied Sciences Joanneum.
OSG: What were your favorite games growing up?
MAC: Gothic, GTA, Resident Evil, Mario Kart SNES, Mario Kart 64, Golden Eye 64
OSG: Do you personally own your own video games or pinball machines? If so, which ones?
MAC: I started playing on PC a long time my parents did not allow me to have a own console. I played a lot on consoles of my friends. SNES, Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64. But I never owned an actual stand up arcade or pinball machine.
The first console I owned was a used Sega Dreamcast (RIP !!) Then I had a PS3 and today a PS4. I also have a Gaming PC. But I mainly use it for VR. Well until oculus quest came out… (I had nearly all VR headsets) but that’s an other story.
OSG: What gave you the idea of doing a desktop pinball project?
MAC: At first I saw some project of an full size Virtual Pinball machine anywhere online. And I am a maker, so I wanted to build that thing. So I started prototyping. First, I built a pretty small one without legs. When I finished it, I sold it to get money back for my next prototype. The next one was a 27” with legs followed by a fullsize Virtual pin.
My next goal was to make it cheaper. Smaller screen, fewer materials, but the hardware requirements for the PC had to stay the same because an input lag would be a deal breaker. After a lot of new prototypes and research I finally found a solution to build an affordable Pinball Bartop. With a specialized chipset running android the hardware cost is set to a minimum. And the official apps from pinball developers run perfectly smooth.
OSG: When you make this available on Kickstarter, what type of tiers will be available for customers?
MAC: For now I plan to bring 3 different tiers:
core DIY kit: 99€
– computing unit and special controller with arcade buttons
– a guide to build it with materials for about 30€ plus your PC-Sreen
medium DIY skills needed
Ready to play in about 90 minutes (after you bought the additional materials)
standard DIY kit: 249€
– including all the materials you need except the display. You will be able to use your own PC Monitor up to 24″
– a guide to build it
ready to play in about 90 Minutes
Medium DIY skills needed
complete kit: 399€
You get a fully prepared set with display included. Just put it together and you are ready to go!
Ready to play in about 10 minutes
No skills needed
OSG: What software will be used for the pinball engine?
MAC: Customers will be able to play any pinball app on android. Such as Pinball FX3, The Pinball Arcade or Pinball Deluxe and many more.
OSG: What were the major challenges with creating a project for Kickstarter?
MAC: Well after I finished the prototypes and everything worked perfect the biggest challenge was and is to find hardware suppliers that meet my requirements. I want to deliver good quality and it also should stay affordable. Also logistics for worldwide shipping will be challenging.
OSG: How many versions did you go through until you found the right one for the public?
MAC: I don’t exactly know to be honest. But at least 10.
OSG: How are you trying to keep the cost low for consumers to be able to purchase your product?
MAC: Design is a lot about reduction. I just use materials that are absolutely necessary. Also The construction is planned to be very simple. (Its very complex to achieve this).
OSG: Are you planning on doing anything past Kickstarter such as Indiegogo?
MAC: For now I’am focused on the Kickstarter. The future depends on the number of supporters. I would love to go on doing this. Maybe bring a version 2 with nudging, a plunger and some other improvements.
OSG: What hardware will be used for the core system. As well as the operating system. Is there a strong difference between windows and android?
MAC: Quad core CPU, 4GB RAM, MALI 450 GPU. There is a major difference between Windows and Android. Android is a Operation system desiged for smartphones and Tablets. (But Oculus Quest, for example, is also running Android) It’s less power consuming, much smaller and cheaper. But for the games you are limited to the apps you get from the Google play store. But I will also offer a pc connection so pc only games like visual pinball or future pinball can also be played.
The majority of the tables that are going to be on the machine, where are they coming from? Meaning are they home made ot are they purchased from the distributor or can they be buy the consumer.
We are also in talks with software developers. We have interesting partnerships on the way
We will bring an optional BACKGLASS mounting for the pc games
OSG: Why do you think people are starting to raise more interest in the virtual pinball industry?
MAC: I don’t think the interest have to raise. I think there are enough virtual pinball and real pinball enthusiasts out there. But I think with my low priced model more people have the chance to get a machine. I am sure there are lots of people who want to play pinball at home but don’t want to spend many thousands of dollars for it. Furthermore my cab can be a portable addition to existing cab owners. It makes it extremely easier to take it over to your friends or a party or whatever.
OSG: Something recently discovered about the Sharpin, this machine is much more than a pinball machine. With plugging in a USB controller and installing additional emulator software, you can be able to play all of the old classic games from the arcade and console machines as well.
Take a look at the incredible campaign information below and visit http://kck.st/2CmGWFL to order yours today!!!
Stay tuned to Old School Gamer Magazine for more information and an in depth review of the Sharpin.
MAC: I have earned a lot of experience in the last years of building virtual pinball machines. I specialized in low-cost models everybody can effort. I started this because I wanted a virtual pinball machine but did not have 5000$ to buy one. I build a lot of different sizes from full size to really small. Like tablet small.
Now I finally found the best model for a Kickstarter campaign. Giving all the people the chance to profit from my experience and make a little bit of money too 🙂
The pinball machine runs a computing unit optimized for Android and an encoder unit to translate the input from arcade buttons used in the Pinball machine. I use a pure, minimalistic product-design which uses only the essential elements needed. This combination makes it possible to offer a kit for a reasonable price. Furthermore, you can connect it to your PC to play Future Pinball, Virtual Pinball and more. For this purpose, there will be an optional backglass mount.
The computing unit is a customized Android chipset. The chipset is produced by the factory of our hardware-partner and is perfectly balanced for gaming. For the main controls, we use an encoder unit to translate the input from arcade buttons used in the pinball machine. The chipset also features multiple USB ports. So you can also use the system with a keyboard, mouse or a gamepad. For the shell, we use a simple design constructed with coated wood. The screen size is 24″.
SOFTWARE / GAMES
Our pinball machine is running android. It supports all apps available for Android. This includes Pinball FX3 aka Zen Pinball, The Pinball Arcade, Pinball Deluxe and many more.
CREATIVE PROCESS / PROTOTYPES
As mentioned before, I built a lot of prototypes until I found the final design and functionality. With the following pictures, I want to give you an idea of the development process.
The main pledge will be a complete kit. You get everything you need including a 24″ Full HD screen and every single srew.
Just put it together and you are ready to go! Ready to play in about 15 minutes
As mentioned before one of our goals is to bring an affordable solution for anyone. So we also offer some DIY options. With the DIY options, you can save a lot of money. You will get all the materials you need as well as a guide for constructing it. But keep in mind: The DIY option requires actual DIY skills. So you should own some tools and don’t be afraid of sawing wood and use a drill. We focused on a simple design so you will be able to finish it in about 90 minutes (depending on your skills).
Risks and challenges
We have already working prototypes that are fun to play. For the final product, we only need to optimize some details. The only challenge left is to sort out suppliers and hardware partners and deal with the logistics.