This article was written in 2002.

This is the chance to speak your mind. It's not news. It's not fact. It's just the chance to get things off your chest or talk about something that's been bugging you.

Every now and then we come across features or ideas which aren't exactly news but are worthy of your consideration. So we'll write them down here....

...and that's where you come in.

You must have some thoughts about pinball or even Pinball News. How is pinball doing in your area? Have all the games gone or are there still plenty left. What about maintenance? Do operators care about cleaning games? What about new games? Are they what you want to play? How about pinball shows? That's only scratching the surface of pinball today. Do you own games? What about the availability of spares?

E-mail us here at Pinball News and tell us what you think.

Once again the Editor of Pinball News kicks things off:

If you've been keeping up with our reports you'd have seen how Gary Stern told us that Stern Pinball Inc was redesigning its game hardware. Those are the electronic circuit boards and software which run the game control, sound system and display animations.

Not since William's brought out Pinball 2000 has there been such an opportunity to bring the pinball game much more up to date by adding new features while enhancing older one.

The system currently used is called the White Star Board System and its use stretches back to Sega's Apollo 13, although there are elements that far predate that game.

Since then we've had Golden Eye, Twister, Independence Day, Space Jam, Star Wars Trilogy, The Lost World, X-Files, Starship Troopers, Viper Night Drivin', Lost In Space, Godzilla, South Park, Harley Davidson, Striker Xtreme, Sharkey's Shootout, High Roller Casino, Austin Powers, Monopoly and Playboy.

So, given the chance to start again or to redesign the game systems, where would you make the changes?

Is the sound most in need of improvement? Although the BSMT-based sound system produces stereo outputs the quality has always lagged behind the Williams' DCS boards. Should the memory be increased? More memory means more varied sounds and/or better quality but remember - more sounds means more development time.

What about the dot-matrix display? Is it time to move on the LCD or TFT screens or are 3 shades of orange sufficient? Sega tried larger screens in Maverick, BayWatch, Frankenstein and Batman but decided the costs outweighed the benefits.

Where should Stern be looking to save money and increase the availability of parts? Can cheap and ubiquitous PC parts be used? Larger memory usage is now much more common, and the range of storage options is much wider. Are hard disks suitable for a pinball environment, and can sounds or display animations be recalled quickly enough?

As you can see, there are plenty of options and factors to consider.

So tell us what you would like to see improved, and how.

Please consider the costs involved and the human effort required too but apart from that go wild, be controversial and who knows....

Here's one to kick things off. Difficulty levels.

When you start a video game you're usually given 3 or more starting levels - novice, medium and experienced - and the rules change accordingly. Now, pins have had a kind of difficulty level that the operator can set and a guaranteed time play has been tried too, but how about using the display to let the player choose and then adjust the rules accordingly? Even better, add different features for the different levels - some common to all, some exclusive to the chosen difficulty. It would extend the playability of the game on site and even more so at home.

Now, what do you think?

Send us your comments here

From: Jonathan Joosten

Actually there are 2 ways to look to this situation: Do you want to build a technical advanced, state of the art pinball game, or do you want to build a simple pinball game that doe not require extra memory and so on, but is just fun to play?

If I look at the list of games above I am very sorry to say that none of these games are one of my favourites. In most cases one look at the (wide open) playfield tells me that it probably has been wrapped together quickly in order to get the game on the market while the theme movie was still 'hot'. Most of these games are simply boring to play as the playfield is not very challenging, artwork looks like crap (or like an easy Photoshop job) and the sound quotes library is only a fraction of what we are used to in WPC games. If the intention is to build a hi tech game, then at least make sure is can compete with WPC games. With more memory and technology available it is a pity that this is not used, due to the use of an old hardware system. Besides this I think the latest Stern games look too fragile, compared to the more solid looking WPC games. If you play pinball you do not want to risk you might break something. If the playfield looks like you might easily break something, you don't enjoy playing it that much and hold back.

I think we are talking a different story if games would not be that complicated anymore. My own experience is that people like to play pinball, but stay away from a game after playing it once or twice as it is too difficult to understand the rules. A simple clue like "shoot everything that blinks" makes the player look like a brain dead idiot who is too stupid to understand the idea of the game. Recently I rented a pinball game to a barbershop, so the waiting clients could play in order to kill time. In stead of placing a recent WPC game, I brought in a 1979 Harlem Globetrotters. It turned out to be a great success, mainly because the game is so simple. Players try to knock down 4 inline drop targets in order to get to the saucer behind them. Just knocking down 3 and then draining makes them want to try again and again. Besides that, the game does have way less hardware problems, so I don't have to go there to fix something every week.

Now, as Stern is in the market to sell pinball machines, maybe they might want to find out what kind of game the average John Doe would like to play. If it turns out that John Doe rather plays a Eight Ball Deluxe than a High Roller casino, then there is no need to upgrade the hardware. If John Doe rather plays Addams Family or Arabian Nights then there is a need to upgrade the hardware to a point where it can compete with those kind of games. Besides that in both cases a good game design is required. In my opinion I rather see a good game released that took a little longer to develop than a rushed game that could have been more but had to go out because the movie hit the street.

If Stern is up for an experiment I would like to see what would happen if 2 games where released at the same time: 1 as they are building them now, and 1 simple 'retro' game in the style of HG, EBD, etc. I would not be surprised if the simple game would sell better, and bring in more money, while it also would cost less to develop and to manufacture.

From: Brian Jeanneret

Thank God someone is still making pinballs.

I have played the new Playboy. It was OK, but I still like the first one better. My reasoning for this is simple:

1. The Bally Playboy had hand drawn art.

2. The sound I feel was more fun with the old playboy Vs the other two.

3. The original had a bank of Drop Targets that had a sturdier feel to them, compared to the drop targets of today.

I think Stern is definitely capable of making a fun inexpensive pinball. I still remember uncrating a Flight 2000 pinball that had awesome sound, cool art, a wide playfield, spinning targets, and the only company that had the sweeping drop target shot. This game was up against Williams Gorgar for us at the time, and the Flight 2000 was the house favorite.

As far as the newer Stern product I give the nod to Monopoly and Striker Extreme. I do feel pinballs are getting too complicated for their own good, a nice return to a fun but simple pinball would be a nice change.


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