Tonight's game on OpenPOWER: Space Cadet Pinball

I've always loved pinball even though in league play I was always pretty much bang-up average. My first experience was with a Williams Pin-Bot at the local roller rink (I can't rollerskate either) and I was hooked. In Floodgap Orbiting HQ we have a Williams Star Trek: The Next Generation which I'm doing a long-playing LED upgrade on and a Stern Sopranos.

Computer pinball, however, has been a mixed bag, largely because of the simulation fidelity necessary for good play. Nowadays you have Pinball Arcade on mobile devices and Visual Pinball on Windows, but for years the physics never really exceeded what you got in Bill Budge's 1982 Pinball Construction Set and table features were even more limited. The mid 1990s introduced probably the first generation of computer pinball games that actually played vaguely like real pinball and some real pinball tables were even ported (I played a credible if low-res version of Bally's Eight Ball Deluxe on my Mac).

Of these, one of the best known was Maxis' Full Tilt Pinball in one of its tables' incarnation as 3D Pinball for Windows - Space Cadet, included first with Windows Plus! for Windows 95 and then with every version of Windows afterwards (including NT 4 and Windows 2000) through Windows XP inclusive. This version was a port of the original Space Cadet table written in cross-platform C and had a slightly different ruleset. I enjoyed this version on my father's AT&T Pentium 75; later I got Full Tilt Pinball for Mac, which was a dual-version disc with Windows.

Apparently I'm not the only one that liked it because the 3D Pinball version was eventually decompiled and rewritten. This redux not only plays authentically with the assets from the Windows Plus! version, but can use the higher-res versions with Full Tilt, though the ruleset is still from the Plus! game. It uses SDL and can scale to larger screen sizes and faster frame rates.

Compilation on Fedora 34 on this Talos II was straightforward. With development headers installed for SDL2 and SDL_mixer, grab the tree (do this from tip, not version 1.1), mkdir build, cd build, cmake .. and make. Copy the resources from the game — for Full Tilt this is pretty much CADET.DAT and the SOUND folder, but for the Plus! version copy everything in the same folder as PINBALL.EXE — into the build directory (if you're using the Full Tilt version as I did, you may need to loop-mount the disc to get the Windows XA session to show up) and start with ./SpaceCadetPinball.

For best results, under Options make sure Music is checked (you'll need something that plays MIDI files), under Options, Table Resolution make sure Use Maximum Resolution is checked (if you use the Full Tilt assets, you get 1024x768, and you can enlarge the window for sizes even larger), and under Options, Graphics make sure Uncapped UPS is checked so you get all the frames.

Good luck, Cadet.


  1. This is a more exciting game release than most triple-A releases for me nowadays. Plus, more POWER software is never a bad thing.


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