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Pinball Construction Set

Pinball Construction Set

The box cover for 1983's Pinball Construction Set. The square "album cover" boxes were a popular packaging concept by Electronic Arts, who wanted to portray their developers as "rock stars."

Developer(s) BudgeCo
Publisher(s) BudgeCo
Electronic Arts
Ariolasoft (Europe)
Designer(s) Bill Budge
Platform(s) Apple II
Atari 800
Commodore 64
Apple Macintosh
DOS (booter)
Release date(s) 1983
Genre(s) Pinball simulation,
Game creation system
Mode(s) Single player

Pinball Construction Set (PCS) is a video game by Bill Budge published by Electronic Arts. It was developed for the Apple II[1] and ported to the Atari 8-bit computers in 1983. It was later ported to the Commodore 64, Macintosh, and MS-DOS (as a PC booter).

Pinball Construction Set created a new genre of video games—the "builder" or "construction set" class of games. With PCS, users can construct their own virtual pinball machine, by dropping controls onto a table. Controls included bumpers, flippers, spinners and other standard pinball paraphernalia. Attributes such as gravity and the physics model could also be modified. Users could save their creations and develop custom artwork to go along with them. Tables could be saved on floppy disks and freely traded; Pinball Construction Set was not needed to play the tables.[2]


  • Development 1
  • Reception 2
    • Awards 2.1
  • Legacy 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Bill Budge, the author of the popular Raster Blaster pinball game for the Apple II series,[3] began developing Pinball Construction Set in July 1982. He did not want to write another game ("all the current (arcade) games are either maze games or Pong; I didn't want any part of that"), but began experimenting with game and graphical tools he had written. As part of the development process he purchased and disassembled an old Gottlieb Target Alpha pinball machine, so his new project could accurately depict its components.[1] Budge does not enjoy playing video games, and described having to play pinball for months while developing Pinball Construction Set as "sheer torture".[4]

The project was very ambitious, especially for the Apple's limited memory and graphics capabilities. While Budge did not work on the Apple Lisa project as an Apple employee from 1980 to 1981 he was aware of it and the Graphic User Interface research at Xerox PARC, and gave Pinball Construction Set a Lisa-like user interface. He originally published and distributed the game via his publishing company BudgeCo in late 1982; the box art was a photograph of the parts of the disassembled pinball machine. It did not sell well, however, as BudgeCo did not have the distribution network that other, larger companies did. Budge agreed to have EA to publish his game when Trip Hawkins approached him in 1983. Raster Blaster and other projects had already made Budge a celebrity among Apple II owners, and his name was much larger than the name of the software on EA's Pinball Construction Set box art.[3]


Pinball Construction Set sold over 300,000 copies in all platforms. EA followed with Music Construction Set, Adventure Construction Set, and Racing Destruction Set all from different authors.

Pinball Construction Set‍ '​s scope and flexibility on a 48K Apple II was impressive. Steve Wozniak called it "the greatest program ever written for an 8-bit machine", and for thousands the software was their first experience with a GUI.[3] Computer Gaming World in 1983 considered the software toy revolutionary, and easy to understand because of its representative icons and drag-and-drop method of constructing a table; the magazine stated that "there's something almost magical about the way this product works. You take everything it does for granted after just a few minutes". The nine-page manual was considered "overkill", since Pinball Construction Set required no programming knowledge; an eight-year-old had no problems creating his own tables.[5] Reviewing the Atari 800 version in their "Arcade Alley" column, Video magazine described Pinball Construction Set as a "remarkably clever and easy-to-use program", and noted that a third party company had already published a suite of pre-made pinball games for use with the construction set.[6]:32

BYTE stated in 1984 "it is hard to find anything wrong with this game ... Creativity is encouraged. [Users] are gently encouraged and aided. This is valuable for children and inexperienced players and computer users".[7] InfoWorld compared the game's importance to that of Scott Adams's Adventureland, and predicted that it "is sure to have lots of children and grandchildren".[8] Ahoy! wrote "you owe it to yourself to pick up Pinball Construction Set. It is among the best home entertainment programs ever written".[2] Compute! listed it in 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", calling the game "a programming work of art ... a classic that never seems to grow old".[9] Orson Scott Card stated in the magazine in 1989 that the program was so flexible that his son used it as a graphics program.[10]


In 1984 Pinball Construction Set received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Most Innovative Video Game/Computer Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards.[11]:29 One month later Softline readers named the game the ninth most-popular Apple and Atari program of 1983.[12] Pinball Construction Set is an inductee in GameSpy's Hall of Fame.[13] In 2008, Pinball Construction Set was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for "User Generated Content/Game Modification". Bill Budge accepted the award.[14]


In 1993, Budge ported his game to the Sega Genesis under the name Virtual Pinball.

Will Wright cited the game as an inspiration.[15]

In 2013, Budge released the source code to the Atari 800 version of Pinball Construction Set to the public on GitHub.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Things to Come: The Pinball Construction Set". Softline. November 1982. p. 8. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Davies, Lloyd (May 1984). "Pinball Construction Set". Ahoy!. p. 49. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Maher, Jimmy (2013-02-01). "The Pinball Wizard". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Darling, Sharon (February 1985). "Birth of a Computer Game". Compute!. p. 48. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Besndard, John (May–June 1983), "Pinball Construction Set",  
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Holden, Elaine (January 1984). "Pinball Construction Set". BYTE. p. 282. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Mace, Scott (9–16 January 1984). "Electronic Antics". InfoWorld. p. 69. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Card, Orson Scott (January 1989). "Gameplay". Compute!. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "The Best and the Rest". St.Game. Mar–Apr 1984. p. 49. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Hall of FameGameSpy from GameSpy
  14. ^ 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from
  15. ^ GDC 2012: The games that influenced our influential game designers from
  16. ^ Budge, Bill. "billbudge/PCS_Atari800".  

External links

  • Pinball Construction Set can be played for free in the browser at the Internet Archive
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