(Topic ID: 121911)

Q&A session - First episode: the Stern Star Trek Team

By Martijn

6 years ago

Topic Heartbeat

Topic Stats

  • 50 posts
  • 40 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 6 years ago by Martijn
  • Topic is favorited by 17 Pinsiders


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#1 6 years ago

Pinside Q&A sessions, Episode 1: The Star Trek (2013) design team.

What better way to kick off this new initiative than with the oldest and biggest Pinball manufacturer still in business: Stern Pinball. For this occasion, we decided to not invite a single guest, but rather invite a whole design team. So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the great design team that brought you Star Trek:

Game Design: Steve Ritchie
Software: Lonnie D. Ropp, Tanio Klyce, Waison Cheng and Dwight Sullivan
Sound & Music: David Thiel

Don’t be shy, step right up to the microphone and ask your best question for these distinguished gentlemen and let’s find out what answers they got in store for us.

The rules

Please consider the following guide lines before posting your question:

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  • The Q&A will be open for questions for exactly a week after which a selection will be made and forwarded to our guest(s). This selection will be made public.
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  • The closing time for submissions for this Q&A will be the 28th of March at 11:00 AM CET (= 05:00 AM CDT).

We hope you will all enjoy this new section to the site! We hope to see some original and good questions!

#2 6 years ago

How do you deal with getting all the necessary sound call-outs recorded with a guest like Karl Urban when the rules are still in flux during the design process?

#3 6 years ago

I'd love to see answers from Dwight Sullivan too, since he did the last big update to the code.

My question is this:

When in the design process did the programming really start for this game?

Did you start putting together ideas in the pure CAD stage? Did you play a flipping whitewood first? Or did the coding really begin in ernest when a more finished game appeared, with artwork on the playfield etc?

#4 6 years ago

Software team,
Some of us in the pinball community are software developers with experience with QA and testing. How can we as a community become more involved with the diagnosing and reporting of software problems in not only games like Star Trek, but other games as well?

#5 6 years ago

Software/Design team,
What type of software engineering methodology & documents/artifacts do you use and produce?
For example:
1.) Waterfall
Functional Requirements
UI (DMD visual mock-ups)
Audio Lists
Technical Design Documents
Test Scripts (manual &/or automated)
Defect Identification List & Repair tracking

2.) Agile

3.) Other?

Cheers & thanks much for what you do.

#6 6 years ago

Why doesnt stern issue software updates quarterly with whatever has been updated in that quarter instead of waiting for as long as 18 months to issue a software update?

This would keep the home base happy, keep the interest high for all games knowing an update is coming and show that your customers are important and you want to keep them happy.Is this going to change? I hope so.

#7 6 years ago

Dear Stern Team,

As a huge OST fan (Original Soundtrack), I greatly admire the fantastic musical work done by Michael Giacchino for the new Star Trek movies' score.

Was the reason to not use the OST in the game driven by a creative decision, or by other reasons, such as licensing?

Eric V.

#8 6 years ago

Steve Ritchie: When developing the layout for ST what was the most difficult design element for you to get right?

#9 6 years ago

Software team> First time caller, long time listener.

I really love the flow and layout of STpro! Honestly one of my favorite games to play, but for a long time the code was incomplete compared to the design and hence it has kept me from purchasing the game for my home. What do you think can be done to improve the timeliness and proactive communication concerning code getting updated and polished to a complete state along with communicating these changes to the home buyer?

I will take my answer off the air.


#10 6 years ago

Who came up with the concept of having 3-tiers for the modes and when did that come up?

#11 6 years ago

with what you have learned in producing ST, what are you most looking forward to utilizing in the SPIKE platform?

#12 6 years ago


Did you know right away you wanted to borrow elements from STTNG (ramps) or did you ever consider something completely different?


#13 6 years ago

Who is the best player on the game amongst Team 1? (LE, Premium, and / or Pro)

Thanks for doing this!

#14 6 years ago

Team: Great job on a fantastic pin!

There is a lot of humor in some of the call outs. Who came up with the jokes? And, in general, who writes the text for the call outs that are not part of the movies?

#15 6 years ago

Software team:

Who decided upon the idea of adding shot multipliers? I know that they were used in several Sterns before this one but they suddenly decided to pop up again here. Was there any reason you wanted to put them in this game?

#16 6 years ago

Mr Ritchie,

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in the designing of Star Trek.

Thank You to the entire Stern Star Trek Team for an incredible pin.


#17 6 years ago

Star Trek is a fantastic pin - thank you to the whole Stern team for such a great game!

Steve - Are you going to go see AC/DC this upcoming tour?

#18 6 years ago

What was the ACTUAL intent of the original design of the 2-way kicker on the Premium/LE, and why was it so problematic that it had to be removed, while other features that rely on high power parts seem to be just fine in most situations? Tying into this, was it not the intent for the mission start hole replacement on Prem/LE to both kick to the wireform and out to the slingshot area, or for it to just be a "webslinger" and always go to the ramp?

#19 6 years ago

What were the most interesting design elements considered for inclusion in Star Trek that were not included into any production model?

#20 6 years ago

Has pinball reached an insurmountable feature plateau or is there still room for new common design elements that will impact all future game designs? (Like flippers, ramps, spinners, etc.)

#21 6 years ago

Programming team.
What are the rules for medal awards? Bronze, Silver, Gold, as they seem to be awarded sometimes randomly without logic. But since they are programmed that is obviously not the case.

And any chance of the Pro owners getting a few seconds of ball save time put in the menu for when the ball ejects out of the left scoop only to hit the top of the sling and jet off into the outlane?
On the LE and Premium it is a safe shot. On the pro you are taking a huge risk.

#22 6 years ago

Software team.

My question has to do with mode starts. Was there ever any discussion about having each level one mode continue to the second tier, then third tier such as it was telling a scene on the movie. Without having to hit the mode select shot and without having to scroll backwards to get back to the mode you were just on level 1? It always moves the mode select to a different mode and you have to manually scroll back if you want to continue the mode you were playing which is a linear scene in the movie if you play it three in a row.

I understand you can manually choose the next level of the mode and so on. But it does interrupt any flow when I have to stop catch the ball hopefully and make one of the two mode start shots. Often I'd miss that shot and I'm in limbo just trying to make a mode start shot over and over and not really much else to do.

If it were an option (like we have with many titles like X-Men stacking on/off) there could be an option where you can just continue on with the current mode to conclusion and only need to hit the mode select shot if you desired to change to a different mode.

With a menu option, default is as the game is now and the option is if you want to allow the modes to continue level 1,2,3 without having to hit the mode select shot each time to continue with the mode/scene.

This might be easier for non-hard-core player to advance or be able to see more modes during the game and would also eliminate much of the fumbleing around trying to catch the ball and make the mode shot which IMO stops the flow of the game also it would tell the scene a linear manner, three deep without have to select that with the mode shot each time. It may make each mode more intense and get more of the story into each mode wihtout any break in the action.

#23 6 years ago

I guess this question is for Steve. Was there a feature or toy that was cut from your original design(the one in your head)? This does not necessarily mean that the bean counters crushed the idea, maybe there were technical limitations or time constraints that made it impossible.

#24 6 years ago

Steve Ritchie designed an insanely good game.......but Who programmed the lights on ST, and why do they kick so much ass.

#25 6 years ago

Who came up with the star field laser show and was it designed to do something else such as project onto the ceiling?

#26 6 years ago

Are there plans to offer official mods like what was done for The Walking Dead?

#27 6 years ago

On the VUK in the LE there is a metal piece that swings out of the way when the ball is shot up onto the ramp. What was the purpose of having this move? Was it originally supposed to offer two different paths for play and dropped?

Thanks to the whole team, ST is an amazing game!

#30 6 years ago

Why does my ball keep draining down the right outlane? Are you laughing at me from Chicago?

#31 6 years ago

Cabinet Design

The cabinet on the Enterprise LE really took it to the next level. Would you please share the ideas and evolution of this to a finished product? It seemed to be a first on Stern Games. How does that figure in when compromising production costs of a game?

#32 6 years ago

Are there any plans for the other actors from the movie to do custom call outs?

#33 6 years ago

How about this one:

Regarding actors from the various properties (Star Trek included of course) -- Is an effort generally made to see if the actors would be amenable to doing some recording for the game? Or is that generally not even tried? If not is it for budgetary reasons? I know Karl Urban ended up doing some recording for ST, but I get the impression that he's a huge pinball fan and that's the only reason that one worked out. I'm just curious if other actors are asked and refused, or weren't even asked.

#34 6 years ago

For anyone on the team: With the early code on both ST and AD/DC, there were exploits that some top-tier players used to rack up high scores by repeating shots or timing modes out, exploits that were eventually fixed.

Which leads me to my question: At the outset, when you design a game and its code, are you focused primarily on the interests of the casual location player (who wants pretty lights), the collector (who wants a game that is fun), or the competitor (who just wants to score big, even if it means chopping wood)?

#35 6 years ago

Are there any "Easter Eggs" in the game code? E.g. DOHO, cows, moo, custom call outs, nods to industry appropriate people etc..?

#37 6 years ago

How much did you try to incorporate elements (physical or rules) from prior Star Trek games? What made it into the shipping game? What got cut? What got modified and is still there in some fashion?

For example: to me, the warp ramp influence from Williams' Next Generation is obvious, but were the home and away team shots and torpedo standups inspired by the Bally 78 version?

#38 6 years ago

Bumping this since there are less than 2 days left to get your questions submitted.

#39 6 years ago

I know that Steve Richie sent a message to Keith Elwin on FB asking if he'd help beta test new software because he really wanted Star Trek to be a good tournament game. Is that a new focus at Stern in general, or Just S.R.? By which I mean making sure game rules are written in a way to make them attractive for tournaments to raise exposure. Does the surge in live streaming of pinball events have any influence on that?

#40 6 years ago

2 part Question for programmers:
What do you enjoy more; writing initial release code or follow up 'polish' code? and what are your biggest challenges when writing release or polish code?

#41 6 years ago
Quoted from Eskaybee:

2 part Question for programmers:
What do you enjoy more; writing initial release code or follow up 'polish' code? and what are your biggest challenges when writing release or polish code?

To go with that - do you get time in a regular work week to update old games? Or is that only done off hours for the love of pinball?

#43 6 years ago

Why hasn't any Stern game utilized the sheer number of RGB LEDs since Star Trek? Was the BOM too high, or was it strictly a design choice that Steve wanted?

#44 6 years ago

Great game! Are you done with the code? Do you consider the game complete or will it be further polished off? If yes, do you have a timetable for total completion?

#45 6 years ago

Question for Steve Ritchie: your previous releases have been credited for having great speed and flow.
Do you avoid taking on certain themes that might not lend themselves well to this style?

#46 6 years ago

This is a question for Steve Ritchie.

Will you come over for some food, drink, and conversation the next time you are in Phoenix? You can show me how my STLE is supposed to be played.....LOL. Great job and thanks for giving us all a reason to go to work....so we can dream about coming home to play pinball...your pinball!!!

Thank you sir, may I have another?

#47 6 years ago

Steve, if you had unlimited budget, would you add anything to the game?

#48 6 years ago

I have yet to see on the newest software, but with the LE/premium left lane kickback. If the ball fails to be saved (ie. it misses the kicker) could/should there be a save function in the software where the miss is detected and the ball is returned from the shooter lane?

#50 6 years ago

Topic closed for questioning. You can still vote on the questions for some days to come. Somewhere next week we will select the questions to present to the Stern Star Trek team. Note that your votes will count towards the selection procedure. Thanks for all Pinsiders that took the time to come up with a question or to vote for their favorite questions!

This topic is closed.

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