Here's a quick n dirty guide and explanation of pinmame, visual pinball, etc.
1. PinMame (formerly known as WPCMAME) is the same thing as "regular" MAME that you all know and love. The only difference is that it emulates pinball boardsets instead of videogame boardsets. It uses the same command syntax, etc. It's homepage is at http://pinmame.emuviews.com
2. PinMame32 is the Windows version of PinMame, just as MAME32 is the Windows version of MAME.
3. While emulating a pinball boardset, PinMame and PinMame32 accept switch input via the keyboard (see the readme for keys) and outputs the display (alphanumeric or dotmatrix), audio, lamp information and solenoid information. This is displayed in grids on the screen.
4. PinMame and PinMame32 are not recommended for non-pinball enthusiasts, as a good knowledge of the machine is necessary to even get anywhere. You have to manually set and unset switches in the switch matrix to actually do anything.
5. Visual Pinbal (http://www.randydavis.com/vp/intro.htm) is a 3D, modern-day "Pinball Construction Set" - you can use it to design, build and play pinball games using parts found on real machines (bumpers, posts, ramps, spinners, etc). There are many homebrew tables available already - check the links on Randy's site. Visual Pinball also has the ability to link to PinMame, giving us...
6. Visual PinMame (also known as VPinMame) is a special version of Pinmame32 that can interface with Visual Pinball. Using this combination, one can build a recreation of a "real" pinball machine in Visual Pinball, and then write a script to call VPinMame for rules, sound, display, lamp and solenoid information. Visual Pinball feeds VPinMame switch input as the ball moves about the table, and obtains lamp and solenoid information from VPinmame and uses this information to light lamps and flashers, fire solenoids and light flashers on the simulated table. VPinMame also provides the audio and display for the game, just as MAME does for the videogames.
7. How do I make it work? For tables with VPinMame emulation, you need to: A. Download and install Visual Pinball. B. Download Visual Pinmame and unzip it to the same directory you installed Visual Pinball to. C. Run the setup utility that came with VPinMame (to register the components). D. Download a table file (.VPT) E. Download the appropriate ROM set for that table, and place it in the /roms directory in the Visual Pinball directory. F. Start Visual Pinball, open the table you just got, and go Table -> Play to fire it up. Press F2 to see the keys. Note that the first time you bring up a game, it comes up in bookeeping mode because there is no nvram file.. simply close and restart the table to get it going (F3 reset sometimes causes problems with sound).
8. Tables that don't use VPinMame can be played without worrying about ROMS or VPinMame, etc. Some tables, such as 8-Bal Deluxe, are excellent *recreations* of the real things but do NOT use emulation for the rules - the ruleset, display and sounds were recreated. If a particular table needs VPinMame, it will call it automatically.
Thats about it.. enjoy! If you enjoy these games, try to find a real machine on location (nothing beats the real thing) and play it...