With the success of Budge's Raster Blaster pinball game, he decided to expand the tools he had created for that title and make a game about making games. After writing a mini-paint program, sound editor, a save/load system, and several other tools, he dubbed the title Pinball Construction Set, then started BudgeCo with his sister and distributed it to software stores in plastic bags. But Budge soon became burdened by the marketing work needed by a software publisher, and he struck a deal with Trip Hawkins, who was looking for titles to fill Electronic Arts' launch roster.
PCS came with five sample pinball tables; Budge claimed he made "Astro Blast" in a half-hour. The title's main draw, however, was the construction tools, which were controlled with an icon-based drag-and-drop interface. As one would expect, players could adjust the board's boundaries, place components, wire items and establish scoring rules, paint the playfield and title, and even adjust the physics engine. Players could then save the game for later replay, either inside PCS or as stand-alone binaries to share with others.
With EA's distribution, Pinball Construction Set became a blockbuster hit, eventually selling over 300,000 copies across the Apple ][, Atari 8-Bit Computers, Commodore 64, and IBM Personal Computer versions. Budge became famous as one of Electronic Arts' premiere "rock star" developers, and was sent on junkets in computer game stores, shopping malls, and television shows. EA followed PCS' success with similar Game Makers like Music Construction Set, Racing Destruction Set, and Adventure Construction Set.
Pinball Construction Set was ported to the Sega Genesis in 1993 with the title Virtual Pinball.
Computer Gaming World named PCS "Most Innovative Computer Game" in their 15th anniversary issue. In 2008, it was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for "User Generated Content/Game Modification", and was an inductee in GameSpy's Hall of Fame.
This game demonstrates the following tropes:
- Endless Game: "Endless" insofar as there is no limit to the number or types of pinball games that can be made, anyway.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The "Pinball Construction Set" is exactly that; a game that lets you make digital pinball tables.
- Game-Breaking Bug: The IBM Personal Computer version has a bug where adding too many parts prevented you from saving the game... or from removing parts so it can be saved.
- Game Maker: The Ur-Example and Trope Maker, as the game lets you make your own pinball games.
- Level Editor: The game involves building custom, digital pinball tables.