Pinball Construction Set

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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
Distribution 5¼" disk

Pinball Construction Set (PCS) is a video game by Bill Budge published by Electronic Arts. It was released for the Apple II and Atari 800 in 1983 and was later ported to other platforms, such as the Commodore 64 and DOS (as a 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.[1]


Budge does not enjoy playing videogames, and described having to play pinball for months while developing Pinball Construction Set as "sheer torture".[2] He originally published and distributed this game via his publishing "company" (Budge and his sister), BudgeCo. In the competitive publishing era of the 1980s, however, he willingly allowed EA to publish his game when they approached him in 1983, since he didn't really want to be an entrepreneur.

Budge was inspired to program the game after developing Raster Blaster, the first pinball game for the Apple II. He encountered many hurdles in trying to develop an open-ended pinball development tool, mostly because of the Apple's relatively limited processing power and graphics capabilities. Pinball Construction Set was ported to the numerous home computers of the era, including the Commodore 64 and as a PC booter. PCS went on to sell over an astounding 300,000 copies in all platforms. EA followed with Music Construction Set, Adventure Construction Set and Racing Destruction Set all from different authors.


Computer Gaming World considered the game quite revolutionary, and easy to understand because of its representative icons and drag-and-drop method of constructing a table. The nine-page manual was considered "overkill", since Pinball Construction Set required no programming knowledge; the magazine reported that an eight-year-old had no problems creating his own tables.[3] BYTE stated "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".[4] Ahoy! wrote "you owe it to yourself to pick up Pinball Construction Set. It is among the best home entertainment programs ever written".[1] Compute! listed it in May 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", calling the game "a programming work of art ... a classic that never seems to grow old".[5] Orson Scott Card stated in the magazine in 1989 that the program was so flexible that his son used it as a graphics program.[6]


In 1993, Budge went on to port his game to the Sega Genesis under the name Virtual Pinball.

Will Wright cited the game as an inspiration.[7]

In 2013, Budge released the source code to the Atari 800 version of Pinball Construction Set to the public on GitHub.[8]


Pinball Construction Set is an inductee in GameSpy's Hall of Fame.[9]

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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Davies, Lloyd (May 1984). "Pinball Construction Set". Ahoy!. p. 49. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Darling, Sharon (February 1985). "Birth of a Computer Game". Compute!. p. 48. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Besndard, John (May–June 1983), "Pinball Construction Set", Computer Gaming World: 12, 43 
  4. ^ Holden, Elaine (January 1984). "Pinball Construction Set". BYTE. p. 282. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Card, Orson Scott (January 1989). "Gameplay". Compute!. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  7. ^ GDC 2012: The games that influenced our influential game designers from
  8. ^ Budge, Bill. "billbudge/PCS_Atari800". GitHub. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ GameSpy Hall of Fame from GameSpy
  10. ^ 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from

External links[edit]