Tonight my son goes into my Pinball room and turns on all the machines and wants to play doubles on something. First he chooses XMEN LE. We play a round and I easily destroy him with the latest FW. I ask him (he is 9 years old btw) what he likes about XMEN and his response is "I like how the characters look." Next he chooses Indiana Jones. Here, he destroys me in a game with a score of 817 million to 315 million. Watching him play I noticed something that Stern just completly lacks.
In your standard Stern game, all the lights are flashing, and there is no clear direction as to what you should be doing. On a Williams game, there are generally obvious mode start shots, and clear direction on how to lock a ball for multiball. The Williams games are so easy that even a 9 year old boy can figure out what he has to do.
My son starts by locking all of the balls and starting a multi-ball scenario. Then he locks an additional ball and hears the words "The Jackpot is Double" and he looks at me and says "See Dad, if you lock another ball the jackpot is worth more!" He then shoots the Jackpot shot that is obvious due to its flasher.
Then he starts a couple of modes, but then jumps back to multi-ball and proceeds to collect two more jackpots. Each time he tries to lock a ball to double the score and celebrates when he makes shots. Something I have never seen him do on a Stern machine. This is when I realized something special about Williams games.
Stern may go ahead and try to make these complex rule sets, that take forever to complete, while adding a ton of jackpot shots in that aren't really worth anything, to make you feel like you have accomplished something. But, too a 9 year old kid, the simplicity of the rules on an Indiana Jones machine, along with the obviousness of where to shoot next, and the perfect voice overs that tell you whats going on, there is just no comparison.
Watching my son play tonight made me realize that Williams knew how to manage pro and beginning players perfectly. Stern seems to be stuck in this "Complex Rules" syndrom where every spot you shoot in a multi-ball is a Jackpot. Well guess what, if every shot I make is a jackpot, who cares?! I will take a placed jackpot shot with an obvious combination that a 9 year old can figure out over "every shot counts" any day of the week.
I have yet to see a Stern game provide the level of opportunity that a near 20 year old machine from Williams can provide. Not only did Williams ship machines that worked out of the box, they also insured that players of all skill levels could have a good time, and made it obvious as to what the next shot should be. This simplicity in design, while offering challenging gameplay to those that are experienced in the trade, is why Williams is the standard in all Pinball comparisons. I really wish Stern would wake up and see that complexity does not equal fun, and that shipping a complete, and working game, is actually worthwhile.
The future of pinball does not exist in the hearts of the old school players, but in the interest of our young and beginning players. Every machine that Stern releases that ignores this group, is only adding another nail into the coffin of the future of pinball. I thank Williams for still continuing to provide accessability along with fun even 20 years later. I only wish that everyone else was enjoying this hobby as much as my 9 year old son does.