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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games Hardware

Building Your Own Skeeball Game? 36

Squarepusher wonders "When a friend of mine started talking about building his own skeeball game, I knew exactly where to go for the scoop on this undertaking. Many people seem to be making their own arcade game cabinets now-a-days, but hows about skeeball? Does anyone have plans, tips/tricks, or knowledge of the inner workings? In short: Where does one begin and what exactly is my buddy getting himself into?"
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Building Your Own Skeeball Game?

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  • Break into Chuck E Cheese one night and crack open one of their skeeball machines. See how the little suckers work.

    While you're at it, could you grab me one of the gigantic robots?

  • I'm trying to figure out how to get away with building a mame cabinet and you've got a buddy with enough space and spousal support to build a whole SKEE BALL?!?!? WOW! it would be pretty cool to have one... maybe in my home office instead of the guest bed... just let them lay a sleeping bag on the "alley" if anybody stays over.

    • Not only do I have a cool wife, I bought a skeeball machine for HER! It's not one of those itty bitty toy ones at Chuck E. Cheese either. It's an old school 13 (or is it 16?) foot long job. Including an area to stand, it barely fits in the garage. One of our coffee tables in the house is actually a Space Invaders cocktail table.

  • Doesn't this seem like one of those things that should fall under Ask Slashdot? It took me a good couple of seconds before I realzed the site wasn't about how to make your own skeeball game.
  • Nothing to it (Score:3, Informative)

    by SlowDancing ( 687920 ) * on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @06:40PM (#7849109)
    Use a solenoid to dump 9 balls (it's usually 9) in a trough. Watch the scoring hole switches for points. In many of these games, dropping a ball in any hole other than the lowest one causes it to roll past all the switches for the lower holes - and all those switches are in parallel. Count the pulses and display the score. Another, still lower (ball count) switch in the game indicates when a given throw is over.
    • Re:Nothing to it (Score:4, Informative)

      by fat_hobbit ( 638298 ) * on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @06:51PM (#7849214)
      This is correct from my experience with skeeball repair. (See my other post.) I forgot to mention the selonoid to contorl the ball release. Usually a game will operate with less than nine balls installed, it will release what it has and then count until 9 have been played and then close the selonoid. Skeeball balls available at Happ controls []
    • Re:Nothing to it (Score:3, Informative)

      by WTFmonkey ( 652603 )
      Depending on how purty and robust you want it, look into laminate bending with plywood. It's the same thing they do with skateboards. The radius at the "jump" might be a bit much for plywood, I can't remember how steep it is, but use some nice hardwood ply (personally, I like dark wood... mahogany or walnut would be nice, if you can find & afford it) and you'll have something much cooler than, for example, fiberglassing it. Put a nice hard finish on it and it'll last forever.
  • Skeeball (Score:5, Informative)

    by fat_hobbit ( 638298 ) * on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @06:43PM (#7849144)

    I was employed as a video game technician for about a year until I was laid off. Prior to that I had been employed repairing standard consumer electronics for about 10 years. When I wanted to get up to speed on how most video games operated I found Randy Fromm's [] videos and Big Book very helpfull. Skeeball games in particular are very simple. I'm not sure that Randy has a video dealing with them directly. Essentially they are just switches, either mechanical or optical behind each hole and a board that tallies the score and send signals to the ticket dispenser to give the appripriate amount of tickets. You can buy ticket dispensers, coin accepters, or just about any arcade related device from Happ Controls []. They don't have the lowest prics, but they carry just about everything. Amusement Warehouse was where we bought most of our stuff, but they will only deal with businesses. I am not sure of their web site, as I recall they only operated from a small catalog, but that was 3 years ago. The company I worked for owned about 30 Skeeball machines total and we were always willing to part with them for much less than you could build one. Of course they were hammered, but functional. Check with the operators in your area, many will be willing to sell. Even if it's really hammered you could pull all the electronics and build a nice new cabinet for it. You could very easily build a skeeball game using a Basic Stamp [] and some easily available switches. If you wanted to make it authentic with ticket dispenser they can be easily interfaced with theStamp. I think they hardest thing to recreate would be the scrolling display, if you want one of those I would consider buying a used machine. In my opinion you could have a working skeeball machine using a Basic Stamp and parts from Happ in a weekend. Hope this helps.

    • Along those lines, I worked in an arcade for a while in high school. If you go in on a slow rainy day and ask the monkey behind the counter nicely, I'm sure he'll open up the machine and let you take a look at the guts, as well as take whatever measurements you need. I did the same thing with a foosball table once, the guy was amazed I was going to build one and was totally helpful.
    • Seems to me the hard part of skeeball would be the ramp. Yah, the electronics are simple, but what do you build the ramp out of, what kind of shape characteristics to give it for optimum skeeball-ness, etc.?
      • That's a good point about the ramp. Like the previous poster mentioned most of the employees don't care too much and would let you look inside. It seems a digital camera would be helpful if you find such an individual to let you peek. I would seriously look for a used machine for $100 or so and just copy everything if you built a new machine. Also you would be suprised what bondo (the automotive repair product) and paint can do to an old cabinet. Just because a used one looks bad doesn't mean you can't
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The switching and scoring should be pretty straight forward.

    Being that all the effort is in the wood working, I'd probably shoot for something a little beyond just skeeball. What are the things he could add to make it super-skeeball? Stuff from minature golf as in moving obsticals? Spinning crap that lights up and makes noise ala pachinko? A more complicated surface at the end before the holes to launch balls in more clever and challenging angles. Built in prize dispenser when a person got a ball in t
  • From an owner (Score:5, Informative)

    by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @08:12PM (#7849813) Homepage Journal
    I own a skeeball machine (16 foot model) and let me try to cut through some of the BS here.

    First, the people who are fretting over construction materials are overthinking the problem. I can stand on the middle of the field with little or no give. I'm 300 lbs. The construction is just some 2x4 and plywood.

    They are also overly worried about the play surface. This isn't one of those shuffleboard type things. The surface appears to be a very thick layer of matte paint. Of course, you want it smooth, but it doesn't need to be perfect. Much like a bowling alley, each skeeball lane plays differently.

    Scoring is very rudimentary. A few solenoids wired up to a counter. Coin mechs are cheap from many, many sources, or just push to play. I'd do push to play. The novelty of coin op in your home wears off quickly. Same thing with a ticket dispenser. I could have gotten one with mine, but why bother? Maybe for kids' parties or something.

    Size IS a concern. Not only do you need room for a machine, you need room to stand while playing. A foot or two wider than the machine, and at least four feet behind it are needed to be comfortable. The machines are also very tall. If you lower the score area, you may not have enough angle to play very well. One thing to be careful of. They can also be really wide.

    Getting things levelled up is very important. It took a few hours of playing before I was happy with the levelling of my game, and I knew that the 'guts' were correct.

    Decent balls are hard to find. IMHO, the best are wooden balls. Sure, you can use some hobbiest crap you can find here and there, but they are generally very light, and the laminated construction means they aren't too strong. The last ones I got came from TNT amusements (where I bought the machine, BTW).

    In some ways, 2-3 smaller machines is more impressive than a single unit. Also more fun and enables head-to-head play.

    If you want some photos and/or measurements, email me. I don't play much (it was my wife's machine, actually) so it'll take me a day or so to get it uncovered to get decent shots, but I'm happy to help.
    • on the skeeball balls: you can also find cheap thick hard plastic black ones. Think of them as giant golf balls. They work well at the arcade I work for and they'd crack the concrete under our rugs before they would break.
    • Gosh I only just today found this darned post. Now that I have I'll just say thanks to everyone who posted a good response. (which is most of ya)

      I know my friend will appreciate all the great .nfo

      "Champagne for my true friends, and true pain for my sham friends!"
  • by jwriney ( 16598 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @08:20PM (#7849869) Homepage
    To build Virtual Skeeball. Or Virtual Virtual Skeeball.

    "Wow, I could swear I was really playing Virtual Skeeball."

  • A quick search on google turned up the following site []. I am sure there are more but this one was in the top five or so.
  • So anyway, I'm triyng to imagine a Beowulf cluster of those things, and I just see a whole bunch of geeks giving each other concussions...
  • Thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:40PM (#7850596) Homepage
    I currently work at a midway and recently took apart all five of our skeeball lanes. Wish I had pictures. Some posts here seem to be pretty good so I'll just offer some tidbits that might be helpful.

    - Our lanes are covered in a sort of think painted cork. This probably does two things; makes the lanes a lot smoother and forgiving on the balls and keeps the noise a lot lower. Your wife will thank you for it.

    - We have some lanes that have optical switches, some that have mechanical switches. The mecahnical ones have a wire that juts out and blocks the path of the ball as it goes down the chute after it has gone in one of the holes. The problem with this is that sometimes the wires snap, sometimes the wire slips over the ball rather than actually triggering the switch, etc. I recommend optical. For 1-3 lanes, this *isn't* going to kill you. Just blow them out once in a while.

    - Get a cheapo meter if you don't already have one.

    - Oh, this is probably a good time to explain how the scoring actually works... Generally, you have two 100's (top left and top right) and one each of 50, 40, 30, 20 and 10. But the 50 hole does not score 50 right away. The switch right below that hole is worth 10. When the ball goes into the 50 hole, it hits the back of the chute and starts to roll down. It meets the switch below that hole and registers 10 points. The ball continues to fall and as it does, goes past (and behind) the "40 hole." It will then triger the sub 40 hold switch, giving another 10 points.

    I should mention that the two 100 holes trigger 50 points each. They then accumulate the last 50 by each of the five switches it encounters on the way down.

    Hopefully this makes sense. Let me know if it doesn't. The reason I bring this up is because it can simplify diagnosing problems. Say you get it in the 50 hole and you only get 30 points. Well, you know that two of the switches are probably out.

    - I kind of agree with the person who said that the wooden balls are the best. I prefer the plastic balls only because I find they wear better and a very worn wooden ball is very hard to direct properly.

    That's all I can think of. Good luck!

    PS: If you need clarification on anything here, just reply and I'll check back.
  • Not that it wouldn't be an interesting project, but why build one when you can pick up a complete and working skeeball machine for about $100 at an arcade auction. I can't imagine that building one yourself would cost much less that that.

    One of my buddies bought 3 at a Knoxville auction last year and ended up having to leave one at the side of the road because he ran out of room in his truck. Once he cleaned the dust off the two remaining machines, he kept one and sold the other for $250. At parties, h

  • why not build your own wall-mounted Plinko game [], as seen on The Price is Right?

    Add ropelight or neon, digital scorer/counters, digitized sounds activated when the puck bounces off the pegs (imagine a library of Simpsons audio of the dozens of Homer "Doh's!" sounding while the puck drops.... "Doh! Doh! Doh doh ooof!", then landing in the zero scoring spot... "Ay Carumba!")

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein