(Topic ID: 35605)

Stern Pinball, and Why Williams Still Outperforms Them

By PDXGeek

6 years ago

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  • 310 posts
  • 94 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 6 years ago by PDXGeek
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    #5 6 years ago

    I disagree... mostly. X-Men how it is currently set up is a slew of everything going on and it is hard to know what to do next, but take most of the Stern games that have been out for a long time, and it is just as clear. Of the past 10 or so games, I would argue that only X-Men (and maybe Avengers, haven't played it yet) are not extremely clear in what to do.

    Now, how you go about doing it to earn big scores is a different matter entirely, but that is no different than certain B/W games of the past.

    My two year old understands how to start multiball on Iron Man.

    #39 6 years ago
    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    B/W Games didnt tell you where to shoot. They too the simple approach and made it obvious by only flashing that one light.

    MM, MB and AFM start with everything lit, and it takes a certain number of shots to accomplish whatever you're trying to start. NBAFB has everything lit too, and it's extremely baffling for a new player. Watch a new player try to understand it or JD and see how completely lost they are.

    And your comment about B/W games working better is just flat wrong. B/W games out of the box needed considerable tweaking. Stern games for the most part do not.

    Look, it's great if *you* like B/W games and want to bash Stern for making X-Men not the way that you want it right now, but if you compare just about any other Stern game to random B/W games, you'll find that your argument completely falls apart.

    A new player wants a few big goals where there are rewards for accomplishing it, but if that is all that a game was, why not take out the modes or the Path of Adventure on IJ? It doesn't lead to the singular goal of just starting modes.

    I wouldn't claim either company as a whole is better or worse at this. Certain games are better for each company than others. Don't believe me, find an NBAFB and watch people try to figure out what they are doing on it. And for the record, I love that game.

    #129 6 years ago
    Quoted from kmoore88:

    Now I own 3 WMS and 3 Sterns and my observations of newbies playing my pins is that they figure out what to do on the WMS pins vs struggling with the Sterns.

    To be fair here, your game list if it is accurate is MM, TOM, and SS on the WMS side, which is two of the three most simple rulesets ever. I don't think that any game gets simpler than TOM.

    On the flip side, you have IM, POTC and LOTR on the other hand, which include two extremely deep playing experiences there.

    Replace POTC and LOTR with something more straightforward, and replace TOM and SS with something with depth and you won't see the same thing.

    #133 6 years ago

    I notice that my point about MM, MB and AFM all having everything flashing wasn't challenged at all.

    The thing about new players is that NO new player, be they a 2 year old, 9 year old or 88 year old, when they walk up to a machine they want to see *something* that they can do. The best earning games of the past - a metric that I think would be much more fair to determine which games are / were approachable then how many shots are flashing - were games like MM that has a giant freaking castle that unless you're totally inept, you're going to hit at least once during the game.

    The games that didn't earn were titles like JD that don't do that much interesting once you fire the ball on it. On top of that, with JD there is the weird question of just how you fire the stupid ball into play (no plunger? no button? Uh...) and the fact that it was very difficult, and you set up players to have a not-so-hot experience.

    The absolute best games have always traditionally been those that give you something unique looking that you want to try to hit with the ball to see what it does, and then add a level of rule complexity after that point which get people to return again and again. MM is a great example of this, as it has the most interesting (in my opinion) bash toy as well as extremely complex rules after that point, which is why it earns what it does.

    Most real world nine year olds do not walk up to pinball machines unless it is to watch, and that is no different than it was in the 90s. If you are truly a new player, most of the time you also don't give a hoot about the score. So what does it matter?

    The best earning route Sterns are games that have this same equation. POTC? Bash and sink the ship. IM? Raise and bash the Monger. Etc. According to current ops, which I know don't factor into this but I do think it's important, the Sterns outearn the older games, even when they get a little older with few exceptions (MM, MB, Pin2K, and DM - oddly - is what I hear still outearns average Sterns).

    Doesn't that mean something? If the new players are walking up to BDK and sticking more money in the machine to try to beat the crane, does it matter if they don't beat seasoned pros on their second game out? And any 9 year old who can score nearly a billion points on IJ just doesn't really seem like a "new" player to me.

    #134 6 years ago
    Quoted from kmoore88:

    Will WOZ be simple with KJ writing the rules? Skit-B seems to be designed as a hard core players game.

    It depends. If you read the post that I just wrote, I think that the "newb approachableness" is not how few shots are lit, but something else...

    But other than that, what TOM/SS rules like pins have been made in the last few years?

    I'd actually argue that TOM and SS, while simple, are not necessarily great new player titles. Using TOM as the example, you get 'stuff' when you shoot anything but the trunk, but that is really your only goal until you light the trunk (discounting multiballs / trap door which are sort of extras). Once you start a mode, it lights one or maybe two lights for whatever you're doing.

    A new player flailing around in MM will probably hit the castle a couple times and maybe get something started with a ramp or whatever. If you can't shoot straight, you are going to have lots of problems starting a mode on TOM (three shots if you don't use the skill shot, and realistically new players don't), and then you're going to have big problems doing anything with that mode.

    On the flip side, TOM does not punish the player in any way for not completing a mode, so it probably doesn't matter to a new player... but using the original poster's claim here, a new player would probably not do a great job hitting just a single shot, and would not be able to beat a seasoned pro at the game, so the issue remains.

    #156 6 years ago
    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    Compare spiderman against the follow up games like Tron, Avatar, Ironman, XMEN, and many others where the games have unusually high left outlane drains, and new players walk away disgusted because they just blew 1$ for 45 seconds of frustration.

    Iron Man supposedly earns spectacularly well for a today pin on route. Doesn't seem like new players are walking away disgusted, but instead putting in another 50 cents to try to bash the monger.

    The argument though is that earnings on route do not equate to a good game for new players, so this is circular and it sucks because it isn't a Bally / Williams.

    I challenge you with no pinball knowledge to walk up to either JD or NBAFB and know what is going on in 5 games. As someone in the recent JD thread just mentioned, they had it for more than a year and didn't realize you could change modes. If you step back, it isn't the manufacturers themselves with the issue, it is certain titles from certain manufacturers.

    #178 6 years ago
    Quoted from pinballslave:

    Did JD have 'em... or DM... TZ, TAF... BSD...?

    DM yes, but I think that is it. JD has it's own fun little things in it, but it is harder with licensed themes.

    Quoted from mechslave:

    Newsflash: Players do not walk away disgusted after playing Tron, IM, etc.

    Actually, from sources that I know, while Tron is a very popular home game, I have been told it does nothing on route. I know of someone who does some routing that had one out, and he said that it was the worst machine that he ever had at the location he put it out at, and it only earned half of what other machines their earned.

    I think that is because it doesn't have a bit obvious, "this is what you shoot at" shot. The disc, while cool, doesn't make a new player think, "OOooooo, I want to find out what that does!" It doesn't look like it does anything.

    Quoted from jar155:

    I love WCS94. I miss mine badly after selling it. But when I owned it, I could finish the thing about 80% of the time I played it, and little was left for me to challenge myself.

    You know, you can set it up harder. I've had WCS94 for about a year now, and I have been to the wizard mode once. Besides that, it was used exactly as it sits in the MGC pinball tournament last year, and the top players didn't get their either. If I set it up too easy, I'm certain I wouldn't care for it though.

    #183 6 years ago
    Quoted from bobbyconover:

    I operate an Iron Man, and this has not been true in my experience. Although it is one of my better-earning pins overall, it is solidly below Lord of the Rings, Batman Dark Knight, and Pirates of the Caribbean in earnings

    The op that was telling me this said that it was outearned by BDK, POTC and BBH, but they have TONS of pins on route, so I felt that was pretty good.

    Quoted from jar155:

    3 balls, steep, and no score-based extra balls. I set most my games up pretty hard.

    Open outlanes? If you set up WCS hard, I can't imagine anyone reaching the wizard mode 80% of the time. Lyman and Zach both didn't sniff it all weekend.

    #193 6 years ago
    Quoted from mechslave:

    Pinside isn't Replay magazine, though, so by and large we are evaluating machines based on how well they are suited to home collections and gamerooms, as opposed to what machine will bring in the most quarters.

    Yes, but this thread was supposedly about how pinball 'newbs' appreciate a game. I just personally don't think that those people who have multiple machines at home can really try to state that based on their experiences, they know what attracts someone that really never plays. On the flip side, you have the coin box, which is a pretty good indicator of if people out there in the wild are willing to drop coin into the coin box.

    Generally, those that own games are pretty picky about the games they play, and the majority of people on here I bet do not play route pinball regularly at all.

    It's totally a different world, but for *this argument* I think it's very relevant

    #195 6 years ago

    Quoting you in reverse order, but it'll make sense, I swear...

    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    Next is AFM. That game is just so easy to understand and has many different methods of playing the game, so everyone has fun. The games that dont get played much are CFTBL, XMEN and TZ. FT seems to be on and off, while CV is loved but its punishing to new players in terms of ball times, so people quit it pretty quickly.

    Which means that in a relatively small sampling, people prefer a few of the B/W titles before they prefer the single Stern game that you have right now. And that makes sense. From what I understand, as it stands XMEN is hard to understand, and it also doesn't have that "it" factor of seeing something cool that makes you go "What does that do?" when you walk up to it.

    TZ, for all of the junk on it, also is missing that. The Power playfield thing is just baffling, the gumdrop machine doesn't really get interacted with directly, and it doesn't give you that, "Wow! Look at that!" sensation. It was a complete and utter route turd. 12 years ago, I turned them down left and right for $1500 *or less*. It wasn't until the game got into a home environment that it started to become loved.

    It proves my point perfectly about how it isn't the manufacturer, it's the machine itself. If people step back and objectively look at Twilight Zone, it's a TON of stuff crammed into a box in what appears to be a rather nonsensical way. Yeah, with some work and paying attention, you can figure out what you're doing and if you like it it's an incredible game, but if you don't... eh.

    There are certain Stern games that are very obvious with what to do when they start, and there are others that aren't. Depends on the game. X-Men might become an obvious game like that, or it also might become a deep and beloved game like TZ, or it might just sort of be good. But don't judge every Stern game on just one.

    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    The biggest failing of this machine is the elephant. No body knows whats happening at first and the balls just drain down the center at first, but the ball save fixes that I suppose.

    Well, and with a giant issue like that, does that really make it a perfectly designed game for a new player? I have no idea why so many people walk up to NBAFB and then don't understand how to fire the ball in, wait for it whenever it wants you to use the backbox or In the Paint shots, and then keep playing it, but they do. I think it's because you have an obvious, look-at-that-center-ramp-into-the-hoop to aim for. The game has a ton of flaws, but new players keep playing it.

    There are some games that are more attractive than others for new players. The name on the backbox has nothing to do with that, and if I was routing games right now, I'd want to start with a whole ton of *certain*, awesomely attractive Stern titles for longevity and earning's sake.

    #204 6 years ago
    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    Sure, it has nothing to do with the name on the box, but when you are the only one, you dont have to go far to figure out who is making it.

    But then can we agree that there are Stern games that make progression really easy / obvious for new players too? Because if it truly has nothing to do with the name on the box, let's talk about how there are some games that are great at this too...

    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    The title I chose for this OP was incorrect, and overly aggressive. The only point I am making, and one that everyone seems to mostly miss, is that we need to see more easy to understand games in the market place. Reason being is if you alienate the entire new gen of pin players, you just lost pinball, and that is something this community of players seems to be missing. Good thing John Popadiuk understands this, but when he is only making craft games, it doesnt help pinball as a whole.

    The thing though is that it can't just be overly simple games. To use another route example, Whirlwind came out and was a total turd at first, but guess what happened? After about a half year, the game started taking off in it's earnings. What happened was that players, who had nothing obvious to shoot for, were initially turned off by it's overly short ball times. But... after a little while, as they started to figure out the depth and complexity of that game, they started going back to it again, and again, and again.

    Whirlwind may not seem like that complex of a game right now, but if you think about it's place in time, it was the first game that really used something resembling "modes" and is often credited for having the first wizard mode. The challenges in it are really tough, and there are little things that you can do (the Tornado Siren or whatever it is called) that give you challenges that are beyond just points. It's proof that sometimes, a complex game is *exactly* what the marketplace wants.

    Now, maybe there aren't the same level of pinball players out there now, but the games that combine the something easy to shoot and the depth are the games that earn really well on route for a long time. Games like MM and POTC - shoot something obvious (Castle, Ship) and then you can figure out other cool stuff beyond that.

    BBH, IM, and TRS all have *really* obvious bash toys that you can tell are going to be fun to hit when you walk up. The rest of the rules... who knows? But if you're a new player, who cares until you've played a couple extra games and start figuring them out? FG and Avengers definitely have the same sort of thing. I'd call the jury out on ACDC (I don't know if the cannon is enough on a pro to make a new player drop coin on it... I'd love to see an earnings report on it though, as it may have "Whirlwind" syndrome with the rules that keep you coming back), X-Men (ditto, is bashing Wolvie interesting for a newb?), and Avatar (you don't actually bash the bash target). There are few games that I think don't start with a really obvious, cool thing to try to do.

    Quoted from PDXGeek:

    BTW: Goatdan has been the only one that I have read that is actually thinking about this question in the right frame of mind. I cant agree that the elephant is a huge failing for IJ (it has a ball save after all so its a noop imho), but I definitely enjoy reading your thoughts.

    Tell a new player that they have three balls. Watch them play ball one and two. Watch ball three drain immediately. Observe if that player stays standing at the game after the third ball drains.

    I forget which designer I was talking to that said that ball save was one of the worst things that happened to pinball, because it allowed designers to design games lazily that allowed random uncontrollable drains straight down the middle. A good design can negate a ball saver.

    I LOVE JP, but when the dinosaur eats the ball, and then it comes up the VUK and the player is still trying to figure out what the heck just happened, that is a design flaw for new players.

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