(Topic ID: 137993)

Could We Chat About Ball Counts?


By SilverBallKid

3 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 25 posts
  • 16 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 years ago by CNKay
  • Topic is favorited by 1 Pinsider

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    #1 3 years ago

    Hey All,

    I would love to hear some thoughts on ball counts. Hopefully everyone who wants to will join in. Let me first tell you where my questions spring from...

    I have been in the hobby for over a year and (of course!) one table has already turned into two. My first table was a Williams Space Odyssey which came to me set on 5 ball play. I left it that way and it has worked out well on 5 ball play. In June I picked up table two, a Stern Flight 2000. I took it home set on 5 ball play but pretty much immediately switched it out to 3 ball play. I can score in multiples of millions frequently with 3 ball play, so I like it at 3. Also, Flight 2000 was the table that once and for all hooked me on pinball growing up and I feel like I remember it being set on 3 ball play at our local arcade in Warren, Michigan - Walker's Pinball Palace. Shout out to Walker's for making me a Pinball Junkie!

    Lately, I have been getting a pretty big push from my casual playing friends who visit to switch F2K back to a 5 ball game. It is mostly down to the multiball being a tough get for casual players at a 3 ball count. I understand this and I am somewhat inclined to make the change, but I would love to hear people's thoughts on the two main questions I have:

    1. Is there an easy and reliable timeframe regarding how games shipped. In other words, can any of you older folks with good knowledge of the biz end say "pins were shipped on 5 ball until around 1980 (or whatever) and then the companies switched over to 3" or is it not that simple? I guess I am curious as to whether Stern shipped out F2K as a 5 or 3 ball game. I feel confident that Williams would have shipped Space Odyssey as a 5 ball game in 1976. Let me know if I am wrong about this. Also, how much of this was in variance back in the day due to operator discretion? This question arises from the more rigid, historical accuracy-loving part of me.

    2. As a pinball fan/owner, what is your personal philosophy regarding ball counts and what dictates how you set up a table when you take possession of it? Do you prefer the toughness and pain of the 3 ball count or do you like setting tables on 5 balls to give people more of a chance to get further into a rule set or whatever? I am a huge fan of the rough nature of 3 ball play and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the "just one more" factor in pinball. I also worry about more modern games being set on 5 ball counts because I feel like ball times and - of course - game times will increase during group play and decrease people's chances of playing more. This question arises from the more philosophical part of me.

    No, I'm not losing sleep. No, I'm not frozen in a state of indecision. I'm just a geek who loves talking about pinball. Hopefully some of you are as well.

    Cheers,

    SilverBallKid in Motown

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    #2 3 years ago

    3 ball for electronic games. For EMs...that can vary.

    I've seen people walk away from games after the 3rd ball since they didn't realize it was set to 5 ball.

    #3 3 years ago

    5 ball only on EMs with short ball times.

    #4 3 years ago

    For many years, the manufacturers stressed 3 balls to operator to increase profit. Even back in the EM days. I remember playing a Space Mission on 3 ball when that was unheard of in the area.

    Being in the industry, it was really stressed to go 3 ball and 50 cents at Firepower. Certainly true for Black Knight to be 50 cents. It was tough to go from 5 balls to 3 when You were an already established location.

    #5 3 years ago

    EM's = 5 ball
    Very early SS (essentially EM games with electronics) like Playboy, 6MDM, Hot Tip, Cleopatra = 5 ball / 3 ball for widebodies
    1980 and all newer SS starting around Firepower, Black Knight = 3 ball

    This is how I remember all the arcades I regularly visited in the late 70's / early 80s. And as CactusJack said, prices were raised to 50c soon after.

    #6 3 years ago

    I prefer everything on 3-ball. I can see why some people put EMs to 5, but I still prefer them at 3.

    #7 3 years ago

    I set up my current ( and probably future) pins as easily as possible. This includes 5 ball play. I do this because I want my friends to have a good pinball expirence. A lot of casual players need the extra two balls to see a lot of features of a game, and this makes it less frustrating for them, making it more likely that they will enjoy playing pinball, and possibly persue the hobby, thus growing pinball.

    #8 3 years ago

    I set everything to 5 including location games, I get more $$$ set to 5 (people like to play more than 2 mins for their dollar)

    #9 3 years ago

    3 ball on everything except EMs.

    Some EMs change the rules making it easier on 3 ball vs 5 ball play. Example: completing A-B-C lanes in 3 ball gives you double bonus but not on 5 ball except the last ball. Some advance bonus targets are always lit on 3 ball but alternate on/off on 5 ball with 10 point switch hit.

    #10 3 years ago

    It is your game, set it up how you like

    But changing your F2k from 3 to 5 is not hard
    If you enjoy it at 3, then leave it at 3
    If you are expecting friends, make the change, then change it back at the end of the night

    #11 3 years ago

    Yup, set it the way you like it. My space shuttle came with all of its original card inserts for the apron. What I learned from that was that the manufacturers not only expected that there would be differences in ball count setup but also in reply score level and what the replay would be (extra ball or credit).

    I sometimes switch my machines to 5 ball when having parties for novice friendly reasons described above. For personal play or playing with a skilled friend I prefer the challenge of 3 ball.

    #12 3 years ago

    Setting games up however you want is great. But if you set your games to 5 balls you're a dirty cheater.

    #13 3 years ago

    I'm a 3 ball guy...I look at it this way....the short time I've been in I've noticed...when trying to turn someone on to pinball....that first few times...it either hooks them or it don't....2 more balls at a game is not gunna make up there minds for them....plus a four player game can go and go if one or 2 are players and the others are not....to solve this too bad you can't set the player slot to 3 or 5....so I can play 3 and my buddy who's brand new can play 5 on player 2....(and so on).....basically be a man and play 3.... ............. ..Joey

    #14 3 years ago

    Loving these comments!

    Yes, I am aware of how easy it is to change a dipswitch setting. I'm also aware that it's my table and I can do what I want. I was just curious how other people felt about this and what was known about the history of 3 ball taking over inside the industry. Keep 'em coming! Especially those of you who were around and in the biz during the transition. I love that stuff.

    Must say I am definitely considering switching F2K out to 5 ball on casual play nights (I host something people now call "Friday Night Lights" on a lot of Fridays) so that the novice players can get more experience on it.

    #15 3 years ago
    Quoted from charliebrown2417:

    I set up my current ( and probably future) pins as easily as possible. This includes 5 ball play. I do this because I want my friends to have a good pinball expirence. A lot of casual players need the extra two balls to see a lot of features of a game, and this makes it less frustrating for them, making it more likely that they will enjoy playing pinball, and possibly persue the hobby, thus growing pinball.

    This one really got me thinking. That F2K multiball is tough to get when you are not a regular player and I think moving it to 5 balls, at least when novice players are over, will help people get there and find out how fun it is to have that ball maze kick out all three balls. Great idea!

    #16 3 years ago

    When I was growing up, EMs were 5 ball
    Same for early SS
    Black knight is fun either 3 balls or 5

    On DMD games, 5 balls just feels wrong

    #17 3 years ago

    I have always felt that the switch from 5 ball to 3 ball was nothing more than a money grab back in the location pinball days. Shorter games = more turnover = more $.

    #18 3 years ago
    Quoted from SilverBallKid:

    This one really got me thinking. That F2K multiball is tough to get when you are not a regular player and I think moving it to 5 balls, at least when novice players are over, will help people get there and find out how fun it is to have that ball maze kick out all three balls. Great idea!

    Great minds think alike.

    #19 3 years ago
    Quoted from SilverBallKid:

    Loving these comments!
    I was just curious how other people felt about this and what was known about the history of 3 ball taking over inside the industry. Keep 'em coming! Especially those of you who were around and in the biz during the transition. I love that stuff.

    For what its worth: I also purchased a Filing cabinet from the Service Manager's office when a Distributor closed down. A number of the Factory Manual Envelopes were stamped: 3 BALL . I believe these were mostly, if not all, Gottleib games. These titles were typically from the mid 70's and on. So, even back then, the factory was pushing 3 ball to the operators.

    #20 3 years ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    For what its worth: I also purchased a Filing cabinet from the Service Manager's office when a Distributor closed down. A number of the Factory Manual Envelopes were stamped: 3 BALL . I believe these were mostly, if not all, Gottleib games. These titles were typically from the mid 70's and on. So, even back then, the factory was pushing 3 ball to the operators.

    By the way, CactusJack, your collection is insane. WOW!

    Interesting. I am 48, so I honestly don't remember playing any pinball in metro Detroit as a kid/teen/20s that were anything other than 3/50c but I was not usually playing an EM in those days. My EM memories are wispy because I would have been a kid and my Mom or Dad was paying fro me to play! Once I was old enough to scrape quarters up and go to an arcade, early SS was everywhere. I cut my teeth on Gorgar, Freefall, Flight 2000, Firepower, 8 Ball Deluxe, Xenon and such. The EMs were all over on the other side of my local arcade and I avoided them. Eventually, their space was eaten away by more and more of the "new" video games as they came out. It's funny because today I would give anything to pay and play my way through a good-sized bank of EMs. Back then I wanted the new frills of SS.

    I can't imagine Space Mission on 3 ball in public. My casual friends can usually get in the 100,000s or 200,000s on my Space Odyssey but their ball times and game are short. I would have felt ripped off as a casual player paying a quarter for 3 balls on that back in the 70s. Yikes!

    Quoted from pinheadpierre:

    I have always felt that the switch from 5 ball to 3 ball was nothing more than a money grab back in the location pinball days. Shorter games = more turnover = more $.

    I'm assuming that the reason they pushed for 3/50c was that if enough operators all moved over to less for more money, the less that players would complain about it.

    #21 3 years ago

    I can clearly remember EM mostly being set to 5 ball. But not always. Some times you would have two credit for .25 cents but 3ball
    While a game at .25 but 5 ball.
    It all came down to $$ for the op. I could remember a store with 8 games all pins but not all equal in pricing. You had to check over each machine to decide which one got your hard earned dime or quarter. As an older beater pin would have special pricing. For the kid on a budget. Lol
    When the new solid state pins hit. And the fancy score displays and awesome sounds hit. Well give em 3balls and get the next quarter in. Yes quarters / token lined up on glass was common. I can also remember some games like HH being .50 and set to three ball. But that was twice as much as say panthera or star gaser, so we played it just not as much. Then a week or so later it was still .50 but set to 5 ball. Then it got more play as you didn't feel so cheated. The owners Operators heard the kids bitching and moaning and like any good business person tried to keep customers happy and would adjust accordingly.

    In arcade hay day I can remember only feeling cheated at the major amusement parks. All the local places were so much fun.
    If you had a ball stuck or a problem and you notified some one they usually saved your ball put in lane and threw you a couple credits just for not being stupid and beating on game if your nudges could not free it.

    Yeah 6 or more large arcades within my local bike ride world. Wow great times. But that was a different world.

    Have I just shown my age.

    #22 3 years ago
    Quoted from SilverBallKid:

    It's funny because today I would give anything to pay and play my way through a good-sized bank of EMs. Back then I wanted the new frills of SS.

    Have you been to the Ann Arbor Michigan Pinball Showcase? Next year being held on May 13-15, 2016. Although not fully confirmed; there are plans for a charity event on Black Friday evening in late November as well. www.vfwpinball.com

    #23 3 years ago
    Quoted from CNKay:

    I can clearly remember EM mostly being set to 5 ball. But not always. Some times you would have two credit for .25 cents but 3ball
    While a game at .25 but 5 ball.
    It all came down to $$ for the op. I could remember a store with 8 games all pins but not all equal in pricing. You had to check over each machine to decide which one got your hard earned dime or quarter. As an older beater pin would have special pricing. For the kid on a budget. Lol
    When the new solid state pins hit. And the fancy score displays and awesome sounds hit. Well give em 3balls and get the next quarter in. Yes quarters / token lined up on glass was common. I can also remember some games like HH being .50 and set to three ball. But that was twice as much as say panthera or star gaser, so we played it just not as much. Then a week or so later it was still .50 but set to 5 ball. Then it got more play as you didn't feel so cheated. The owners Operators heard the kids bitching and moaning and like any good business person tried to keep customers happy and would adjust accordingly.
    In arcade hay day I can remember only feeling cheated at the major amusement parks. All the local places were so much fun.
    If you had a ball stuck or a problem and you notified some one they usually saved your ball put in lane and threw you a couple credits just for not being stupid and beating on game if your nudges could not free it.
    Yeah 6 or more large arcades within my local bike ride world. Wow great times. But that was a different world.
    Have I just shown my age.

    Awesome! So much fun to read.

    I have a friend who has helped me learn how to work on my pins and was a tech for a vending company back in the mid 80s to early 90s. He installs commercial soda systems for Pepsi today. He tells me great stories about what it was like to try to fix pins in dark arcades while kids bugged him about every little thing. He says arcades made sick money around here in his day. One thing he told me was that the first Street Fighter video games in our area in 1988 could easily pull in thousands of dollars each week. One machine, four grand, boom.

    I agree about amusement parks vs local arcades. I had several good arcades to choose from in my general area north of Detroit growing up and they were generally well tended. Trips to Cedar Point or Kings Island would lead to playing terribly beaten games in sketchy condition as often as not.

    One great pinball place I traveled a lot in my teens and early 20s was Las Vegas. My family's best friends had moved there and we would fly out every couple summers to visit, usually for at least a week. I loved those trips when I was underage because in Vegas in the mid/late 80s they got kind of "family friendly" for a bit. Most casinos had great arcades. My kid brother and I prowled them endlessly playing vids and pins while my older sibs and parents gambles in the casinos. I clearly remember that the first time I played High Speed 2: The Getaway was in Vegas at Circus Circus. I definitely remember Vegas being a 3/50c town.

    #24 3 years ago

    I'd say do whatever makes your guests have a good time. Casual playing is for fun, and if they are saying they'd like to have more chances to access more features, there's no harm in giving that to them.

    If they become interested in tournaments, and want to practice at your place, that's when I would tell them that most of the time SS games are 3-ball in tournament and you'd want to switch the mode (might also want to make other tournament tweaks as well, like disabling extra ball and such, if they are wanting that sort of experience). But, I don't feel strongly on this, since if the goal is working on basic skills that's going to be improved regardless of ball count (and if your machines are actually the same titles expected in a tournament, then they'll still learn the rules and what to shoot for regardless of settings).

    I have 3 EMs and one SS currently. All are 5-ball as that's how I received them, except one EM which was designed for 3-ball (my oldest machine, in fact).

    #25 3 years ago

    Yeah my reference to amusement parks was just a bitch on the cost. Usually .50 per play or more.

    My best friend came back from cedar point in early 80's and was telling me how wide the machines were there. He said there were Huge. I always think they must have had the Atari pins, gottlieb BH, HH and genie etc..

    King's department store. When space invaders came out there was a huge long line to play. Single or two players but only one game and leave. The front of store manager had to tend the line for a least a week or two.

    Yes the money flow in those days was Huge.
    But like a pyramid scheme or a sponge. They don't last as funds dry up.

    When you might have gotten a pong or tank system for Christmas and you felt like a king. I used to love the mattle handhelds like football, night driver and the others I guess like getting the newest iPod.

    As far as crappy playing pins. I have only seen that in the last 5-10 years. Like the lone IJ at bar with 1 pretty dead flipper. Or even a lot of junk at the shows that just should not be played. Most of the lone machines in pizza joints or in the wild have been bad too.

    The bar cade. Comeback is cool to see. I wonder how long it will last? The vids I could care less about. But a nice line of pins. Yeah baby!!

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