Don’t design pins just for the pros…

By Davidus56

January 18, 2024

This story got frontpaged on January 22, 2024

43 days ago

One thing I’ve noticed in many ‘pro-sports’, table games and pinball… The great players, tournament players - tend to become designers in these games. And they desire high complexity/ deep rules/ etcetera. They are designing a game that they would enjoy. And that makes perfect sense. But consider this. Most people are not pro or tournament players. People like me who are collectors (and getting… old)… don’t want shots to be too hard or rules to be too arcane. The average player wants a great experience. Neat call outs, a great theme, interactive playfield toys. They want to enjoy the game - and could care less about racking up points or bragging rights about the highest score. The fact is, I have been collecting for years and I do not know specific rules on any of my 70 odd pins on how to maximize the score. I don't care...

So, I am writing this post to plead to the Pinball lluminati… remember the little guy. The new player. The average player whose reflexes and age impair their ability to make the hard ramp shots. I think the best hope for pinball to survive and flourish is to have (some) games that are more appealing to the masses….
For me, Scared Stiff is an easy game, but it is so well done. The call outs are so hilarious and the toys and gimmicks are so compelling, I would consider it my all time favorite. A game like Houdini was terrible (for me). The ramps were virtually impossible to hit. Great games that might not appeal to the pros... I'm guessing... Theatre of Magic, Godfather, Grand Lizard, Party Animal. Of course, Dracula, Fish Tails, No good gophers and White Water appeal to everyone.

Just my two cents for what it's worth. The pic is my son and grand daughter - who is quite good, but has never learned how to 'stack' multiballs/high scores... either.

Story photos

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38 days ago

Very good point! I don't like having to think too hard to know how to play a game of pinball, or have a rule sheet next to me to figure out what I have to do next!

38 days ago

Agreed. Anyone know how much of the price of recent games is due to the rule depth and large number of features? As in if a new game was designed with the same level of depth and number of features / toys / mechs as Scared Stiff, how much cheaper would it be, assuming same build and component quality?

37 days ago

Munsters, Toy Story, Beatles, easy rules, easy shooters. They are out there already. Deadpool has a good mix of shoots and understandable rules for the beginner and more advance rules for strong players. Also, all the remakes are early games that started to get more complex. I think we have lots of choices for beginners, but they also have not sold well. TS sold terribly, Munsters too. Beatles is great but expensive. Bond 60th has easy to understand rules, but a hard game. They made Turtles why too hard for the IP. That should have been an easy shooter.

37 days ago

There is a reason why the Bally-Williams games from Space Shuttle to Cactus Canyon, many Data East, many of the Gottlieb/Premier are so popular and why many folks love and collect EMs and the early SS games. Fun to play and easy to understand. Chicago Gaming will have continued success no matter which B-W game they reproduce. It is fine that new games are more complex and complicated to keep the expert players happy, but fortunately there are alternatives. If Stern could reproduce the Simpson's Pinball Party with some newer tech & story updates but sell it for $5000, they could sell many thousands. I would buy one.

37 days ago

Spot on...right there with you. Great post and pics.

36 days ago

Pat Lawlor is a designer that seems to keep the casual player in the forefront of the design.

34 days ago

I really enjoyed this post, and would agree that many modern games overweight the importance of certain attributes that appeal to the pro or HUO prosumers that like to stack modes or prefer playing a 45 minute game. Nothing wrong with any of that, but I hope the future brings more games like Pulp Fiction or Total Nuclear Annihilation that may not have the same depth of other modern games, but excel in delivering a compelling wholistic pinball experience regardless of skill level. So more diversity? Yes please!

31 days ago

I am with you as enjoying games with lots of shots, not too hard to shoot and not too challenging on the rule set. However, if I spent more time to learn the rule sets, the complexity would add to the game. I am never going to do that for a game at an arcade, but for home use, the challenge to learn the rules keeps the game from getting old.
Pin designers are getting better at including optional game modes that can be simple or complex or have other objectives like additive multiplayer play. For example, Mando has alternate rule sets for standard, challenge mode, coop mode, etc. I choose different modes whether I want a short game focusing on hitting targets or a long game going for a big score, or playing with my son to combine to a higher score.
I think that games will evolve to be more versatile in the rules. But it will be hard to increase versatility on the playfield. Right now, all we have is adjusting the outlanes. Thanks for the post

26 days ago

Great post, and I agree. I reconnected to pinball after not playing since the early 80s when video games took over. I find myself liking the "fan layouts" the most. Games with tight shots that are difficult to progress in (looking at you JP) are not for me, and to be honest I don't have the desire nor the time to be an expert or better than average player. I only have room for 5-6 machines, so I try to keep the lineup with machines that appeal to new players and themes that are family friendly.

25 days ago

I so agree with this. Partly why I don’t buy new pins. Great post!

23 days ago

I would say Godzilla is very approachable to new players and satisfies the tournament player. I would stay away from Dwight coded games as they usually require a cliff notes to fully emerge yourself in a game. Most jjp are not for tournament players and they seam to have their fan club due to the very easy to get multiball strategy they have used in the past. New players at my garage gravitate to AC/DC premium, MM AFM and Taf. Also setting up your pins consider lowering outlane rings to make game easier and set up flatter to slow play down can up the fun level for a newbie player. I recently procured a LZ premium for a client and set up easy for him because he is new to pinball and he is loving the game. He would hate mine at the garage because it’s steep tight out lanes and tight tilt.

23 days ago

ahh yes, the little guy who owns 70 pins. that's the target market...

21 days ago

I totally get it! I like a lot of new pins too, but where did all the fun toys go? For sure, some of them need a lot of tutorials to figure them

16 days ago

Totally Agree with this! I want to have fun! Too much challenge takes the fun away and turns it into a job. Easy does not need to be boring. Nobody wants boring. A hard shot in the game for bigger reward is not a bad thing as long as missing the shot does not equal a quick drain. That takes all the fun away for me.

13 days ago

How about back to some original themes too?

10 days ago

I've been seeing a trend back to "old school" games like Beatles, Bond 60th, and Pulp Fiction, which is great. There are people who like simple rules and those who want complex, and the industry should cater to both. I was the former, now turning into the latter. I can only fit so many machines into my home, so I now want the ones that don't get boring too quickly. If I had 70 to choose from I probably wouldn't care that they are simple! I will say that Stern IC is such a game-changer for me that when I go to the arcade I now only want to play the machines which have it.

6 days ago

Great post, thank you. I play the same way and really don't enjoy games like the Godfather. Just way too much for me like I need a D&D rulebook to play it. I wouldn't discount all new games. I love my Godzilla. Sure there are some ways to maximize scoring, etc but it doesn't matter. Its fun shooter.

6 days ago

For me, games like Getaway HSII has the right mix of easy and money shots. A cool toy (supercharger) and nice soundtrack good call outs. I love Steve Richey games. Pat Lawler got the mix perfect for fun, difficulty to make really fun games.

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