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(Topic ID: 252720)

When did cost-cutting become noticeable in quality & design during 90s


By Pinasco

1 year ago



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  • 32 posts
  • 18 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by dc2010
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    #1 1 year ago

    I have heard alot of people describe a decline in quality and design (time and creativity) that got noticeable at Bally/WMS during the 90's when the pinball
    industry in general started to lose ground in the entertainment industry.

    Do you guys agree and at what time did this become apparent ? What Bally/WMS titles do you think are victims of cost cutting and limited development time ?

    #2 1 year ago

    Late 80's early 90's with the introduction of the combined B/W generic side art and crappy fiberboard cabs mainly the 6803 era?

    #3 1 year ago

    The ones at the end of B/W, CC in particular has shallow code. Possibly IJ undersized servo for the POA.

    #4 1 year ago

    News to me.

    EDIT: Pin2k switching to 1 sided pawls? Great idea +BTW

    #5 1 year ago

    I have heard quite a few collectors talk about it in general terms.
    Youtuber Chris Bucci mentions Scared Stiff as an example in one of his videos.

    #6 1 year ago

    Idk, I think there are moments where certain things get better and others get worse. Like I don't think cabinets were nearly as solid and well built as some of the ones from the 70s but the 90s cabs are definitely better than the cabinets Bally made in the mid 80s. Williams flipper mechs got better over time. Bally got worse. I thought Bally had a great idea with how build pop bumpers to make them easier to service in the early 80s, but Williams stuck with their original design in the 90s.

    #7 1 year ago

    One-piece apron+shooter gauge.
    DCS sound board. Some of us do not, in fact, think it was superior. Audio designers included.
    Plastic GI insert panel behind translite.
    Dropping the display panels with game-specific artwork in favor of generic molded plastic panel.
    IMHO the old ball trough (with two coils, mechanical switches, and typically 3 balls max) had less reliability issues.
    Launch button instead of manual plunger.

    #8 1 year ago
    Quoted from Gornkleschnitzer:

    Launch button instead of manual plunger.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who appreciate the old style plunger (pistolgrips excluded of course . Thats a good point.

    #9 1 year ago

    I always considered the end of the 'superpin' lineup to be when they started doing a lot of cost cutting. Which means basically anything from 1995 and beyond. I know Steve Ritchie went on a long rant on here one time (or was it RGP?) that he considered Popeye to be the beginning of the cost-cutting.

    Scared Stiff is probably one of the games that had the most removed due to cost. The Bony Beast parts had all the paintwork removed, the 'dead-heads' LED piece was removed, and there were a lot of animations that were removed / not finished due to the memory prices at the time.

    #10 1 year ago
    Quoted from Gornkleschnitzer:

    Dropping the display panels with game-specific artwork in favor of generic molded plastic panel.

    Oh yes how did I forget that!

    11
    #11 1 year ago

    Found it, it was on RGP. Steve is obviously not a fan of the game, but I'll leave that debate to other threads. But he does make the point it was a financial loss for Williams, and affected future sales to distributors, enough that cost-cutting had to be implemented.

    The below is the entirety of Steve's post on RGP. It's actually a fun read.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some Popeye Facts and My Opinions and Recollections:

    Barry Oursler designed the game, but it was Python's theme, including
    the weird euphorics-influenced eco-connection.
    Python was not, and never will be a game designer. He will SAY
    anything, truthful or not. This is not to say that he didn't come up
    with many good ideas for the games he worked on, but he never drew
    anything more than sketches except when doing the artwork for the
    playfield, back glass and plastics. A pinball designer makes a full
    scale drawing of his games with all components shown. He does the
    fitting of components and at least some of the mechanical
    engineering. A pinball designer chases down and looks after every
    component and mechanism on his game. He deals with a BOM, management,
    and other members on the team. Barry was the designer of Popeye.

    The game designer was not always the team leader of the pinball teams
    at W/B/M. If another member of a team was more suited to carrying the
    vision and dealing with other members, then he would take the reins
    with the designer's permission. Barry liked to let others on his team
    lead things. Steve Kordek, Chris Granner and Python were probably
    the most influential on Barry's teams to my recollection.

    Popeye was the game that followed ST:TNG. Popeye didn't make money on
    the street. The theme was stinky and the geometry was funky, chunky
    and clunky. No real players liked the hidden shots and generally poor
    visibility that allowed function to follow form. Its hard-to-play
    upper playfield didn't win it any friends. Graphics and art were just
    nasty, and speech, sounds, script and music were less than stellar.
    Popeye was expensive to build and carried hefty tooling and mold costs
    that were never amortized. Williams lost money on Popeye, something
    that hadn't happened for many many years prior.

    The real reason that Popeye is/was universally despised was that all
    of the Williams/Bally/Midway distributors were signed up to take
    minimum amounts of every run of machines we manufactured. They were
    not upset when they had to buy minimum quantities of ST:TNGs and other
    titles, but they were very angry that they had to take a minimum # of
    Popeye machines. To make matters worse, Willy raised the price of
    Popeye! The theme was ridiculous. Who cares about Popeye? Popeye
    was nothing in Europe (our second through fourth ranked markets) even
    when it was fresh. Not one distributor cared for the license. We who
    were in charge should have stopped the game, because we all knew that
    it was a steaming pile well before it was released. There were
    politics involved, and I seem to recall that we couldn't get anything
    on the line quickly enough if we did not release Popeye to production.

    The distributors were screaming and making threats of lawsuits and
    dumping Willy as a represented manufacturer. Eventually Williams
    canceled the minimums clause in their contracts with distribs. Popeye
    had a very bad stigma attached to it for a long time which, of course,
    was played up by our competitors. Some people say Popeye was "the
    beginning of the end" of pinball at Williams. It was hard to sell
    large runs of games after Popeye. The failure of pinball cannot be
    blamed on Popeye, but it sure didn't help our business.

    I do not agree that less people like wide bodies than regular width
    games. They were harder to design because of the slightly larger
    spans of time required for the ball to get to the targets. The worst
    wide body width was Stellar Wars/Superman/Pokerino. Until I/we moved
    the flippers and slings into the same familiar location as a narrow
    body, they were really horrible in my mind. Some designers went crazy
    with more flippers and more drain space between them! The outer orbit
    shots were actually miserable to make because the ball was so far down
    the flipper end in order to hit them. The ball doesn't carrying much
    speed or power at that angle. The widest games are the ones that I
    never want to make again. The Superpin width was/is much better. I
    can design in at least one more shot in a Superpin width, and more and
    larger toys can be utilized.

    I do have to admit that my favorite playfield size to play and create
    within is the standard 20-1/4" X 46" I would like to make a longer
    (48") game someday, but it is not a high priority.

    I don't enjoy dumping on others games, but don't try to tell me that
    Popeye was a good game. If you enjoy playing it, that's certainly
    your prerogative. Most Williams engineering/management folks don't
    want to think about Popeye. It was an awful time in Williams
    history.

    Regards,

    Steve

    #12 1 year ago

    When they removed the drop target from Dirty Harry.

    #13 1 year ago

    The metal rail on the apron disappeared during the WPC 95 era.Only Congo and AFM had it.
    I thought it was a nice cosmetic touch.

    #14 1 year ago

    I agree 1995 was the pinnacle.

    After that they stopped making great games like No Fear.

    #15 1 year ago
    Quoted from chalkup8:

    The metal rail on the apron disappeared during the WPC 95 era.

    I assume it got more convenient to design it this way (along with taller apron) when they started making the playfield 1" deeper. Which probably wasn't a cost cutting move, per se, but honestly I don't think the extra depth is truly necessary.

    #16 1 year ago

    Not sure why it was done but the later NBAFB playfields have a hole for electrical harnessing to fit through to power the scoreboard area. The earlier playfields do not. Cost or better design, maybe George Gomez can tell us....I am swapping out my original early NBAFB playfield with a later NOS playfield and will have to deal with the playfield difference I mentioned.BTW I first learned of this on a Todd Tuckey you tube video.

    #17 1 year ago
    Quoted from KozMckPinball:

    Not sure why it was done but the later NBAFB playfields have a hole for electrical harnessing to fit through to power the scoreboard area. The earlier playfields do not. Cost or better design, maybe George Gomez can tell us....I am swapping out my original early NBAFB playfield with a later NOS playfield and will have to deal with the playfield difference I mentioned.BTW I first learned of this on a Todd Tuckey you tube video.

    IPDB has some info on this and a link to a relevant TNT video

    #18 1 year ago

    What a great popeye story. I keep thinking about the bugs in No Good Gophers. If that game is released bug free in 1991 it’s a revered classic IMO.

    #19 1 year ago
    Quoted from TreyBo69:

    IPDB has some info on this and a link to a relevant TNT video

    Thanks. The source just explains that the difference exists. Still not sure why the playfield changed. Was it for cost? I'd say probably not for cost as there are 2 holes and one is unused, that seems more costly, having an unused hole. Wish George Gomez would chime in.

    #20 1 year ago

    I think its all crap. I remember in the late 80's early 90's in my arcade days pinball always being either off due to malfunction or something not working right etc. This whole cost cutting and all that jive just doesn't seem like a big deal to me. We are getting the best games that I've ever played currently and are they perfect? nope. will they ever be? nope. Is there cost cutting to maximize profits? Yep and welcome to Planet Earth. Good day sirs, I said said good day.

    #21 1 year ago

    I thought the noticeable turning point was AFM. Labor on the assembly line changed. Solder on micro mini switches under the playfield weren't the same. Flux often leaked into the switch. Over time this switch would work slow. Pass in test but fail in game play.

    LTG : )

    #22 1 year ago

    I'm going to go back to T-2.

    Where your playfield toys were a thin cheap plastic skull, and a hunter ship that bent or broke just by looking at it.

    But when a game was great, those details hardly mattered.

    #23 1 year ago

    Well, williams is one thing but i think you need to look at the industry as a whole. Cost cutting was a means od surviving but the industry was dying through the whole 90s

    Zacaria 90
    Inder 93
    Alvin g 93/9
    Data east 94
    Spinball 96
    Capcom 96
    Gottlieb/premier 96
    Sega 99

    #24 1 year ago
    Quoted from Gornkleschnitzer:

    Dropping the display panels with game-specific artwork in favor of generic molded plastic panel.

    This was exactly what i was thinking

    #25 1 year ago
    Quoted from dung:

    Well, williams is one thing but i think you need to look at the industry as a whole. Cost cutting was a means od surviving but the industry was dying through the whole 90s
    Zacaria 90
    Inder 93
    Alvin g 93/9
    Data east 94
    Spinball 96
    Capcom 96
    Gottlieb/premier 96
    Sega 99

    Stern->Data East->Sega->Stern= one company never actually died, they were like cockroaches lol

    Gottlieb kinda committed suicide they funneled the profits into a gambling venture that didn't get approved until it was too late

    Williams saw the writing on the wall and actually made it into that gambling niche that gottlieb opened the door for(ironic)

    #26 1 year ago

    I would say fluorescent tube in place of insert with gi lamps and flashers etc.
    Look at motordome and city slicker. They put a circiline lamp in their.

    Ive worked on whitestar games where the fluorescent lamp has degraded the plastic connectors.
    Thinner gauge steel on endrails in later williams games.

    #27 1 year ago
    Quoted from pinballplusMN:

    I would say fluorescent tube in place of insert with gi lamps and flashers etc.
    Look at motordome and city slicker. They put a circiline lamp in their.
    Ive worked on whitestar games where the fluorescent lamp has degraded the plastic connectors.
    Thinner gauge steel on endrails in later williams games.

    Like on Williams Eager Beaver?

    image-19 (resized).jpg
    #28 1 year ago

    I once knew a girl with a eager beaver

    #29 1 year ago
    Quoted from jorro:

    I once knew a girl with a eager beaver

    Alot of those out in the wild lol

    #30 1 year ago
    Quoted from dc2010:

    Stern->Data East->Sega->Stern= one company never actually died,...

    Not quite right! Stern Electronics actually died; Data East Pinball was a fresh startup. But today's Stern Pinball is the same corporation as Data East Pinball and Sega Pinball.
    .................David Marston

    #31 1 year ago
    Quoted from dmarston:

    Not quite right! Stern Electronics actually died; Data East Pinball was a fresh startup. But today's Stern Pinball is the same corporation as Data East Pinball and Sega Pinball.
    .................David Marston

    Not the same ownership. You also see changes in direction with each change of hands. BF was in development when sega first took over and the cost cutitng is apparent. This went further with apollo 13.

    When stern first took over from sega they rehashed sega's stuff as that is what was on hand. Dreding things up like golden cue to make into sharkey's shootout. Then they went into a time period where they went with a high bom which is not something would have ever done.

    #32 1 year ago

    I guess we will have to disagree

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