Tutorial step 1: Installing MPF on your computer

The first step to using MPF is to understand some basics about how it works and to actually get MPF installed on your computer. So that’s what these next few steps will do.

1. You don’t need a physical pinball machine yet

First, you do not need to have physical hardware to go through this tutorial. You can complete the entire thing via MPF’s “virtual” hardware platform which lets you run MPF on your computer with no actual hardware attached.

We should point out that MPF’s virtual platform is not pinball emulation software. There is no 3D-rendered playfield like Pinball Arcade, and you can’t really “play” your game. (This is because MPF is not pinball emulation software, rather, it’s software to control a real pinball machine!)

That said, MPF has tools which let you control switches and see lights flash on your computer screen, and you can arrange them onto an image of your playfield, so you can actually build a complete game in MPF before you ever start on a physical machine!

2. Read the overview of MPF

You certainly don’t have to read through all the documentation to start this tutorial. However, the documentation is arranged in the order you should read it, so if you haven’t read the stuff leading up to this point, please do that now. (If you’re reading this online, start with the “MPF Overview” entry on the left. If you’re reading a PDF, please turn to Page 1. :)

3. Install MPF

Obviously before you can start using MPF, you need to install it. At this point it’s best to install MPF on whatever computer you use daily. There is certainly no need to try to put it on some small Linux single board computer or Raspberry Pi or whatever you ultimately plan to put in your pinball machine. For now just install it on your laptop.

MPF runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can find the installation instructions here.

Go do that now, and make sure that you get both MPF and the MPF-MC installed.

3a. What if you already installed MPF?

If you already installed MPF, let’s quickly make sure you’re using the same version this tutorial is written for.

This tutorial is written for MPF versions 0.51+.

To see what version you have, open a command prompt (like you did when you installed MPF) and run the following command:

mpf --version

That command should print something like MPF v0.33.12. Note that the version is three numbers, x.y.z. The last number (the “z”) is the patch number and doesn’t have any functional changes. (In other words, MPF 0.30.0 and 0.30.2 and 0.30.56 have the same functions and features.)

Tip

We highly recommend that you use the latest version of MPF, especially if you’re starting out and don’t have config files to migrate. To find out which version of MPF is the latest, visit the MPF Users Google Group and look at the banner welcome message at the top of the page.

If this command gives you an error, then go back to the Downloading & Installing MPF section to make sure MPF is installed. If it prints a version number lower than 0.51+, then install the latest version of MPF. And if it shows that you have a newer version of MPF (based on the first two numbers), then go to docs.missionpinball.org to get the version of this documentation that matches the version of MPF you have.

4. Let’s go!

If you’re reading this tutorial online, note that there are “Previous” and “Next” navigation buttons at the bottom of each page. You should be able to just click those to follow along. (And if you’d like to download a copy of this documentation to read offline, click the “Read the Docs” link at the bottom of the menu bar on the left for links to PDF, HTML, and Epub versions of this documentation.)