(Topic ID: 180857)

Stern open-source code


By spinal

3 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 18 posts
  • 8 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 years ago by bhwolf
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders

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    #1 3 years ago

    So much grief in the pinball world regarding code updates yet so many pinheads are technically inclined. Millions of dollars of machines waiting for better code yet most will never see code improvements. Even if they do receive some updates, many will never reach their full potential.

    So I had a thought...

    What if Stern, at a certain point, just released the code for the world to improve?

    + Surely this is possible and would save Stern a lot of hassle and $$$ as the pressure would be off to keep improving code.
    + There would always be the official last Stern version which everyone could use as a baseline (say for competition).
    + Pinheads would be happy as they could choose the version that they like and improvements could continue indefinitely.
    + The community could choose a standard for competition since surely the best would rise to the top.
    + Over years of refinement, it's possible that many games would reach new heights of pinball magic that would normally be impossible.

    - But operators could abuse this.
    - Software can affect wear and hardware failure so bad code could end up costing Stern (this could be worked out though - limited warranty etc)

    Your thoughts?

    #2 3 years ago

    Since all of Stern games are licensed I can't see this happening.

    Plus warranty work...

    #3 3 years ago

    Been discussed here before.
    I don't think it has a snowballs chance in hell of occurring because - well Stern has no desire to support this model of software development.

    I do agree they should do it - but they just wont.

    #4 3 years ago

    Agree, licensing does pose a big obstacle.

    If it saved Stern big $$$ though, you never know...

    #5 3 years ago

    I like the idea, but how involved is coding a pinball machine? From what I've read in the past, improper coding can lead to hardware malfunctions/damage--which I'm certain Stern has enough trouble with as it is... Don't get me wrong, i love the idea of pinheads coding their games, but I'm just not sure how realistic it is (yet, at least)...

    #6 3 years ago

    Just have two layers of software, one which handles direct control of hardware features and limits functionality so as not to cause damage/wear etc. This is similar to drivers/libraries on your PC operating system. This way, basically no matter what code you write you don't break the hardware.

    The higher layer of code where the features/scoring/display/lights/sensors are accessible is what would be open-sourced. To answer your question, coding can get a bit involved (as everything can) but no more so than the limits of what many are doing with hardware. In fact, anyone can learn to code just like anyone can build a pin from scratch with enough effort.

    The point is not that every owner would start coding. The magic of the open-source software model is that if only one person chooses to do so, everyone else in the world can benefit (think CCC).

    #7 3 years ago

    That sounds awesome! Guess it's hard to say how soon something like that may be available. There's some very talented folks in this hobby, so maybe it'll be sooner than later if we're lucky. I like the idea very much!

    #9 3 years ago

    Wow!!!! Guess that answers my question! Can't wait to see what people manage to do with that!

    #10 3 years ago

    To me this is thread should be the most important thread on Pinside. Imagine what the community could do with ST or GB. I don't understand why this should even be an issue with the manufacturers. Open source could to lead to higher sales over the competition. I'm confident this will happen one day soon. Maybe not by Stern but it will happen.

    #11 3 years ago

    Let's say Stern wrote a programmatic interface for a game along with the base open-source code that utilized it (as I described above).

    Anyone ordering this game would be secure that the code would continue to be improved indefinitely by the community and sales would increase because it would alleviate the first of the two largest gripes with new releases: that of code and hardware issues. Look anywhere on pinside and you will find this insatiable hunger for more and better code and it's not possible for Stern to ever satisfy this hunger. This would take a huge amount of pressure off of Stern with regard to code and would save them money in the end. Release version 1.0 of the code and pass it off to the community and be done with it.

    Another point is that, just like in the computer software world, it is possible that the main Stern programmers could oversee and direct the efforts of the community without having to write all the code themselves. If the community finds over time that there is a scoring imbalance, they can tune it and then submit code for approval.

    In the end, Stern is a business and their primary concern is to be profitable and not to indefinitely work to perfect code. Because of this, the final code for any new pin today is code that is good enough to reduce the griping of owners below some acceptable level and no more. They sold their machines and they want to move on yet to many pinheads it will be a labor of love to tweak and add features forever.

    Think what this would do for their reputation as well, as over the years, every game they release will get better and better with time.

    Stern should seriously consider this because it just makes business sense.

    #12 3 years ago

    Let me play a what-if game for a second.

    What if
    -Stern embraced open source code
    -tech saavy person modifies code and creates a bug where it can in certain situations lock a coil on and burn up the coil or coils in the machine or worse damage to a board or something
    -It doesnt happen very often so he/she doesnt notice until after sharing code with the internet
    -lets say over the couse of 6 months 10 people have this problem and have damaged their machines.

    Who is responsible?
    -should stern provide replacement parts?
    -how could stern prove you had factory code or not?
    -Is the person that modified the code responsible?

    I cant see stern releasing code until long after the machine is out of warrantee. I know they really only have 3 mo warantee, but ive read many times when stern is supporting old games and helping diagnose games etc. but they are not going to allow the risk of open source creating issues they have to support.

    #13 3 years ago

    Love The "What If Guys". Are you sure it's not copyrighted,? Is PPS ok with that? So a code is released by Pinsider X and locks up a coil and blows a fuse...so what. Coils lock up everyday..fuses blow everyday. People have been getting shocked messing with the coils and flashers for 30 years. You install an unoffocial code by your own volition and it blows your board do you really think the pinball manufacturer is going to be on the hook for that?

    #14 3 years ago
    Quoted from kvan99:

    Love The "What If Guys". Are you sure it's not copyrighted,? Is PPS ok with that? So a code is released by Pinsider X and locks up a coil and blows a fuse...so what. Coils lock up everyday..fuses blow everyday. People have been getting shocked messing with the coils and flashers for 30 years. You install an unoffocial code by your own volition and it blows your board do you really think the pinball manufacturer is going to be on the hook for that?

    Nope, not for a second. You modify the game you void everything.

    But, then the person installs the official code and claims it happened with Stern code and should be covered.

    Too many people are slime for Stern to risk the hassle. Why would they bother. Maybe after a game has passed any support life. But even then what do they release? The development tools and compilers? Once again "why"? What benefit. Be responsible for the computers they are installed on? New EULA for no money?

    Games on the second hand market add nothing to Stern's bottom line. They would rather older games get destroyed so people would buy new replacements. They don't want them to last forever. Old days of pinball used chain saw and dumpsters. Ops did not want someone else using a game to take their quarters and manufacturers wanted then to get new games. While collector markets are big right now there is a saturation point that increasing games lifespans hurts the manufacturer.

    #15 3 years ago

    You make some good points there. IMO, if one pinball manufacturer does this, the others will eventually have to follow suite. Look at the Android phone mods..a huge industry on it's own. So many different skins and roms that mix and match the best features of the Google official release and bundle it for the end users.

    #16 3 years ago

    While I would love to see it, I don't think we will. Regarding the licensing, they could always abstract assets from code (it kind of already is) but make it so updates to the machine could be done separately. This is pretty common in video games -- thinking back to the original modding of engines started with Doom and look what it did. Heck, I'd be more inclined to buy a 'scratch' machine to tinker with if I could code it.

    But I suspect a big reason is the perceived or possible actual devaluation of their IP. I say perceived because I don't think Stern is doing anything so magical it hasn't been done by others. But, they've trademarked Reel Pops, which is all software. I realize we're talking older games that don't have Reel Pops, but there are likely other things here and there and once it's out -- purposefully -- well, it doesn't help Stern. Sales on the secondary market don't help them. And, while I think Reel Pops are pretty innovative, it's the idea that is innovative, not the software to do it. That said, it could be there are under the covers coding that handles very complex situations, state, scoring, etc., they'd prefer not to release.

    #17 3 years ago

    IP is a whole other issue. They release a game with approved clips for image and sound. Then if not support but actually "encourage" people to hack and use clips that are pirate.

    So you don't like the voice actor we used for Jack Sparrow? We will "Make Available" a tool for you to insert ripped movie clips.

    Never.

    #18 3 years ago
    Quoted from Taxman:

    IP is a whole other issue. They release a game with approved clips for image and sound. Then if not support but actually "encourage" people to hack and use clips that are pirate.
    So you don't like the voice actor we used for Jack Sparrow? We will "Make Available" a tool for you to insert ripped movie clips.
    Never.

    True, but it's easy to change today (well, relatively, using pinball browser). Funny how many complications these issues cause... like the ColorDMD folks and how they actually color the dots without copying the data.

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