Rules, rules, combos, rules...and more rules.
I've learned I play way better while having a conversation with a friend than when I'm actually focused and trying to play. I typically hate the stress of tournaments, but I love playing, and I love meeting other players. I thought I wanted to compete but really I just wanted to play. Same thing with working on a machine, I'm always analyzing the state of it in case I should tear it open and tweak something rather than just living in the moment.
I think what happens is you're trying to get better is you think through things and waste energy analyzing but really there isn't time for all that while you're playing, you need to just let your reactions take charge for ball save. Eventually, since your conscious mind knows all the tricks of the trade from watching others play, your automatic responses will evolve to use more advanced techniques.
As for actual practice advice, there are a few things I can suggest:
1. Play as more than 1 player, you hit each ball fresh and without the frustration of the previous drain - that was player #2, screw him, I'm #3 now. My best scores seem to result from those games and having 4 scores up at the same time gives you a better understanding of how you're doing. I try to play each player a bit differently - focus on ramp shots, locks, catch and aim, every ball ends in a tilt or I wasn't trying, or I can't let the ball stop rolling. I'm guessing you turn the machine off in frustration after a bad game - it's harder to have 4 bad games at the same time, at least one will be a bit better.
2. Play different games, I bought games specifically because they played completely differently from each other - a Williams 90's feel (Funhouse, a Sterny feel (DE SW), a classic SS feel (Stars from '77), and an 80's Bally feel (Game Show). I'd like a Gottlieb, and a couple EM's too. Going from one machine to another shakes off the frustration and any tunnel vision you might have had and forces you back into automatic reactions again. If the speed between games is big enough you'll start adapting way faster which is very helpful in tournaments.
3. Play game you have on location. You'll be amazed at how different it feels and how much better you do! You can't open it up and you REALLY want that free game. When you're done compare your score to the high on it rather than to your own scores at home. With Funhouse, sometimes 10 Million is an absolutely awesome score. For all you know, your scores at home aren't getting any better because they aren't set up to score really high.
4. Judge yourself more on how well you do at a machine you've never played before.
5. Just keep the ball in play, take the safe shots and let the points add up rather than going for the big points, screw it - hammer the ramp.
1) Fundamentals. Post Pass, Live Catch, Dead Drop Catch, etc.
2) Rules. Learn the rules and where the points are.
3) Play Time. The more you play the more you get timing down.
All of these really come down to experience and time playing. You aren't going to be A-league tourney caliber for a while, but you will be competitive in B divisions fairly quickly if you spend a lot of time on a variety of tables and improve on 1,2,3 above.
Any chance you can post a video of your play? Even a poor video from an I-phone would give decent insight on how you control the ball, shot selection and accuracy.
To work on controlling the ball, don't think about making shots. Instead, focus on stopping the ball in a cradle. If the ball is moving at all, coming slowly down the inlane for an easy shot, don't take the shot. Try a post catch instead. Or simply hold the flipper up. Key thing is to not make a shot until you have the ball at complete rest.
Initially the ball is going to roll straight off the flipper when you do a drop catch a frustrating amount of the time. Live catches will hit the slings for a power outlane drain. My personal favorite is the live catch backhand to the outlane. Eventually, focusing on stopping the ball will teach you what will and will not work when trying to gain control.
Most often I see players afraid to do a dead flipper pass. Seems counterintuitive to not flip at all when the ball hits the flipper, but it is a great way to slow the ball down to get it under control. Play a few games where your goal is to nudge the ball to the other flipper with a dead pass before shooting. Some especially bouncy rubbers can make this easy to do 3 or 4 times without flipping.
Quoted from Switch:
Totally discouraged tonight. I am fairly new to pinball I have only been collecting for about 6 months. I am totally in love with the hobby but I have a goal to someday be good enough to play competitively in a league. I have watched every tutorial i can get my hands on, I have read everything I can get my hands on as far as technique. I practice every night but honestley i don't feel like my scores are getting any better.........It seems lately I walk away from my pins more discouraged and bummed out then when I turned them on which is a big problem. What am I doing wrong? I watch alot of guys and it looks like they barely ever have to nudge the table while myself i find the need to nudge almost constant, am I doing it right? Hell I don't know I guess i just need to vent more than anything. I am about to start facing the fact that I will be in pinball as a hobby of collecting rather than playing them?
I'd have to see how you're playing but I suspect someone who is more experienced can notice some specific things you might be doing that are contributing to your unsatisfying play. The most common thing is people get excited and "anticipate" the ball and tend to flip early. Good pinball is about being patient and letting the ball come to you.
The second aspect IMO of good pinball is knowing how to play competitive. In many cases it's entirely different from casual play. It's important to understand the nature of how pinball is designed as well - you have to look at the pinball playfield as a "battlefield" and some areas are "mined" (dangerous when the ball goes there) and you need to avoid those zones.
I'm in my third year now of competitive play, and I've probably only started to take it somewhat seriously the last year. (I say "somewhat seriously" because I think taking it too seriously can be a pitfall - if you let yourself get too emotionally-invested in the outcome of matches, that can affect your ability to be consistent). Competitive pinball is all about being consistent.
Best tip I can give you... Quit sucking!
We'll have to get some practice in at PBJ's next month when you're down. There's a few local places I've found recently too.
Play with one arm tied behind your back, then you'll get into the dead passes.
My girlfriend and I do the cutesy thing where we each take a flipper. When the ball drains, you know exactly whose fault it is. Really makes you understand why flippers need to be down immediately after a flip.
Quoted from Mar:
Watching the techniques is one thing, but to learn how to do them takes lots of practice. If you have been playing for 6 months I would reckon you are in a phase that I describe as 'you know enough to be dangerous to yourself'.
In other words, you know what you should be doing, you probably do a lot of it, but it just doesn't tie together yet and, for a good while, you will actually play worse than if you were just flipping wildly. Give it time and it will slowly all come together.
This. Keep at it and you will improve. If you push yourself to play controlled and implement techniques you see from the tutorials from the start then when your shot making catches up, you will be far the better for it. Don't go back to flipping at the ball randomly even if your scores are suffering. Practice certain techniques, learn rule sets, implement ball control, and embrace the process. Most of all, and it sounds cheesy, have fun! Don't stress yourself out, it will make you play worse.
You play enough and you will develop muscle memory. You don't get really good until you react to the ball and its vector path on instinct without thinking.
I've been playing for 48 years and I consider myself "almost adequate" as a pinballer!!! The main thing is: I DID NOT GIVE UP! And you should not, either, my friend...
Well here is an update. I haven't given up and my scores are definitely improving but I also have kinda eased up in my mentally. I play because I enjoy playing. All the advice has helped a ton and I do use it. My only problem now is my wife has become totally addicted to pinball and is my biggest competition lol. It's a good problem to have. I will try and post a video in the future of my game play and see if you guys have any other ideas. Thanks for all the help
Quoted from Zampinator:
Don't get discouraged. Pinball is a lot like my favorite hobby, Golf. I'm a single digit handicap, & I practiced a lot to get to that point. In pinball, just like golf, you need course management. You can have great skill, but without proper course management your not going to score well.
Pinball course management is knowing the modes & how to score, not just proper flipper/ball control. Know the rules for each pin & how to score. The PAPA videos are the best! Check em out & fun!
Oh, by the way I'm a below average pinball player as well, but I sure have fun!
Also one thing I discovered is if you play with someone who totally knows the rules of a game, have them 'live coach' you on a machine you don't know. I found out I could score way higher if someone was coaching me and letting me know that "the right orbit is lit for extra ball" or "fuel is lit for 2x scoring so get that before you get your third coffin lock" etc.
Suddenly I realized it was more the strategy than just my skills so it made me excited to learn how to play different pins and that really helped improve my scores (on those machines at least
Variety of machines is helpful. Get a Star Trek or find one on location if you can. Since playing this machine regularly my scores on other machines have increased dramatically. I put this down to its very fast with a good combination of shots to make. Fast flowing ramps for combos, a tricky timing shot on the warp ramp for upper flipper shots, tricky under flipper shots for mode starts, some good skill shots and a mean centre shot which fires the ball back at alarming speeds. It seems to have all the shots you need to master and they transfer well to other machines.
I still suck at Star Trek but when I go to play another machine, I realise that something is improving.
What sillyoldelf just said makes a lot of sense. Think of it as warming up in the on deck circle swinging a weighted bat. When you get to the plate with a lighter bat your swing is going to be a whole lot quicker and smoother...
Quoted from Breadfan:
Try not flipping every time the ball comes down to the flippers. Just let it bounce back up off a flipper & pick your next shot. Slows down the game so you can think before you flip. Just my 2 cents.
I personally suck as well - but this is one thing I have noticed with the 'good' players is that they are able to anticipate the ball movement and as such can 'control' the ball fairly well. It will take time as other have said to learn this. I will admit I think I am getting better than when I first started by paying more attention to the ball movement and trying to be more patient vs just hoping that I can hit the ball. Right now I am trying to focus more on ball capture and placement right now, once I have that figured out better I will move on to nudging and other such techniques.
Maybe one day I will become semi good - if not, hey I will still enjoy playing them and passing the time.
I've been playing for a couple of years and enjoy it. I do however have a couple of machines that are quite commonly called hard. ACDC and Avatar ACDC is fast as balls and Avatar while it isn't fast isn't the easiest. I can tell since owning ACDC my play time on Avatar has increased. My problem is that playing one game and then the other my muscle memory for shots on a particular table does not translate to the other. I noticed since having ACDC that I can't hit certain shots on Avatar quite as well as I used to.
I took a Sport Psychology class is college that talked about breathing techniques to help improve performance. All it really had to do was to get as much oxygen to the brain as possible, lowering your heart rate, and improving focus. Personally, I think deficiencies in skill can, many times, be linked to a lack of confidence and psyching yourself out.
I get like this too. When I get frustrated, I play my Haunted House. It's an older machine and plays differently than modern pins. It's relaxing and slower and just fun to play. After I cool down I jump back over to the newer stuff and get my ass kicked some more.
I still suck but I usually don't use the scoreboard to determine how well I played, though. If I felt like I was in control of the ball and actually hit what I was aiming at I consider that a good game. Usually each night, I'll have at least one game where I felt I did a good job putting everything together.
I sort of wish there was a game timer.. meaning a way you could see how long your LAST game was. I know there are stats that show it generically, but it would be a cool touch. I know I could use my phone or watch, but that is something you have to do every time you start and an automated process would be neat. It can also prove that sometimes quick games done "correctly" can crush a long game where nothing really goes right. Recently I had a game of ACDC I swear that was getting close to my best which is almost 50 million and when I was done it was like 33. Still an ok game for me, but not nearly as good as I was thinking.
I am also a beginner, probably about 6 months too, so pretty similar to your situation. I don't own machines of my own, though, I play on public machines. I look at the high scores and realize that, right now, they're unobtainable, because the people with the high scores have been playing for years. Sometimes they are the owners or employees who have access to the machines every day for free, so of course they have the highest scores. I'm much more interested in learning the rulesets of the tables, techniques, trying to get to the wizard mode, etc., than high scores right now. I figure the high scores will follow eventually if I keep working on my gameplay. So that's my advice to you, is to just keep playing. And as others have said, if you're having fun, that's the most important thing.
I accept that l'll never be a good player.Beer is always present while playing,that's the way I like it.
Some argue that tournament play isn't actually playing the game, it's game exploitation.
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