(Topic ID: 188982)

Why were 80s/90s Gottlieb/Premier Games so Cheesy?


By pezpunk

2 years ago



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  • 37 posts
  • 27 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 years ago by barakandl
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    #1 2 years ago

    I suppose my dream for this thread would be to hear from some insiders, or at least some people who were around back then, or maybe knew some of the folks involved.

    The thing is, when I look at the 80s and 90s, there seems to be not a tremendous amount of difference in overall quality of theme and art between most of the manufacturers ... they all had some great stuff, and some questionable stuff. But somehow Gottlieb seemed to put out a consistent stream of almost unimaginably corny themes with extremely cringeworthy art.

    i mean while other manufacturers were releasing games like Pinbot, Taxi, Funhouse, Twilight Zone, Monster Bash, and so on, Gottlieb was giving us:

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    i guess my question is ... how did this ridiculous tripe even make it to market against stuff like Black Knight or CFTBL or TAF? Did they really think some teenager would look at Terminator 2, and then look at "Lights! Camera! Action!", and be like "oh man i wanna put my quarters in that!"

    What was going on over at Gottlieb? were they really just a bunch of dorks with no idea how unappealing their designs looked? was there some kind of monster in charge at the very top making horrendous decisions, or was the lack of aesthetic taste universal? there had to be SOMEONE cool employed there at some level of the hierarchy who was just perpetually facepalming at their concepts and translites, right?

    was it their goal to make every game look like a bad softcore porn parody of some show or movie that was already campy to begin with?

    i don't mean to sound cruel. i just honestly don't get it.

    #2 2 years ago

    CFTBL likely didn't have shit on a real photographed cleavage on a machine (perhaps sans-Hardbody...) at the time

    Nowadays it's all about animation and gameplay but I imagine there was a decently low standard back then especially compared to the strictness of collectors today I imagine Pam Anderson had a decent amount to do with quarters put into Barb Wire

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    #3 2 years ago

    Hardbody is Bally.

    #4 2 years ago

    Everybody had their rough moments

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    #5 2 years ago

    you have to go fairly far down the Pinside top 100 to find Gottlieb games. It's an interesting observation that the themes may have been as or even more appealing than B/W to arcade visitors when the pins were coming out. Based on the games in Pinball Arcade I have the impression Gottlieb continued to bring out innovative unusual designs that unfortunately maybe didn't play so well whereas B/W continued to perfect the fan style layouts which are pretty much the standard today.

    #6 2 years ago

    Their translites remind me of AMH. Sorry Spooky!

    #7 2 years ago

    I guess they wanted to try something new (and maybe save a buck or two), personally i dont find them that hideous, and you can always get a mod that replace them nowadays.

    If anything i find the Williams 60-70's "stick figures" way more hideous then Gottlieb 90's...

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    #8 2 years ago

    Because the 80's were cheesy

    #9 2 years ago

    Actually if you look at a lot of vids at the time they were cheesy as well. Lethal Enforcers, Mad Dog McCree, TMNT.

    I guess arcade companies were proud of the fact you could actually print photographic art at that time.

    I like a lot of their spoof themes like Deadly Weapon and Bone Busters.

    #10 2 years ago

    Barb Wire's art isn't that bad. No worse than LAH or DM. It's just the theme is kind of tacky.

    #11 2 years ago

    I'm lucky to play majority of the 80B platform when they were released. One of the Aladdin's Castle 'cades I used to frequent... that's all they had for pins. I recall: GoldWings, Spring Break, Arena, Victory, Genesis, Hollywood Heat et. al.

    It's no riddle they were circumventing licensing fees (changes in the System 3 era.) and going for the facsimiles of the zeitgeist at that time frame.

    Whether you like the art or not... they are no doubt a time stamp of that period.

    #12 2 years ago

    Oh they made some badass games too.

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    #13 2 years ago
    Quoted from TKDalumni:

    Because the 80's were cheesy

    Lived it. Have to agree. Still better than the 70's.

    #14 2 years ago

    At that point, Gottlieb has been sold to Paramount, then again to some other group to become Mylstar then Premier. By that point the owners weren't really pinball people and didn't want to pay for licenses or give them enough time or money to really polish the games - often themes would be applied after the game was designed.

    There's a few interviews with Premiere people who explain what it was like working there.

    #15 2 years ago

    Lot of cheesiness in that era: cheesy movies, cheesy TV, cheesy bands, cheesy cars, cheesy fashion. Pins were just a part of the whole. At the time, we didn't really know that it was cheesy, but 30 years later, it's laughable.

    Just as an example, take a noteworthy movie from that era, "Top Gun". Huge at the time, and still iconic today, but man....cheesy music, cheesy dialogue, a good dose of cheesy acting. At the time style was valued more over substance. Not always, of course, but just as for every "Hunt for Red October" you had a "Batman and Robin", for every "Pinbot" you had a "Raven".

    #16 2 years ago
    Quoted from jwilson:

    There's a few interviews with Premiere people who explain what it was like working there.

    I know Jon Norris's blog has a couple posts with some really great information; would you happen to know where we could find other interviews?

    #17 2 years ago
    Quoted from jwilson:

    At that point, Gottlieb has been sold to Paramount, then again to some other group to become Mylstar then Premier. By that point the owners weren't really pinball people and didn't want to pay for licenses or give them enough time or money to really polish the games - often themes would be applied after the game was designed.
    There's a few interviews with Premiere people who explain what it was like working there.

    Columbia Pictures, no?

    Quoted from mbaumle:

    I know Jon Norris's blog has a couple posts with some really great information; would you happen to know where we could find other interviews?

    There's a great Jon Trudeau interview on one of Clay's TOP podcasts talking through his tenure at Gottlieb.

    #18 2 years ago
    Quoted from Schusler:

    Columbia Pictures, no?

    Yes, when I started in 1980 in the video game division Gottlieb was owned by Columbia Pictures. About 14 months into my tenure Coca-Cola bought Columbia Pictures. Mylstar came into being when the Gottlieb family complained about the name being used for video games. When Coca-Cola pulled the plug in 1994 Mylstar ceased to be and the pinball assets were sold off to a group that created Premier.

    #19 2 years ago

    They had terrible management, bad designers (when Treadau is your #1 guy you know you are in trouble) and decided to hire Connie Mitchell, the worst artist in pinball. It was a bad mix.

    The seeds were planted in the late 1970s when - despite all evidence to the contrary - they just kept pumping out EMs because they thought digital was a fad. They never caught up.

    Now, years later in retrospect, we can all find decent gems in the 1980s gottlieb stuff (1990s is way tougher.)

    But at the time, the choice between stuff like Hollywood heat and High Speed or silver slugger and whirlwind was an easy one for operators and players to make.

    #20 2 years ago

    And a really great game, with notes of BK2K and Fathom (in a skeezy sweaty gym)

    #21 2 years ago
    Quoted from jibmums:

    Lot of cheesiness in that era: cheesy movies, cheesy TV, cheesy bands, cheesy cars, cheesy fashion. Pins were just a part of the whole. At the time, we didn't really know that it was cheesy, but 30 years later, it's laughable.
    Just as an example, take a noteworthy movie from that era, "Top Gun". Huge at the time, and still iconic today, but man....cheesy music, cheesy dialogue, a good dose of cheesy acting. At the time style was valued more over substance. Not always, of course, but just as for every "Hunt for Red October" you had a "Batman and Robin", for every "Pinbot" you had a "Raven".

    This really isn't true.

    When I was 11 or 12 I saw a hollywood heat at a bowling alley while playing hooky from Sunday school.

    I thought "wow this is cheesy" and put my quarters into the space shuttle next to it. I stand by my choice, and history has proven to be on my side!

    #22 2 years ago

    Gottlieb found their trashy niche in the 80s (that was a good era for sweaty sleaze) and filled it, and then the 90s came along and they found their bowtie-spinning "novelty mug" niche. I'm sure somebody finds Cactus Jack's funny, I'd like to meet them and possibly take them to the doctor. They're actually really interesting cultural markers for a solidly dead (I hope) comedic current.

    3 months later
    #23 2 years ago

    I'm pretty new to pinball, but played a lot in the mid 70s to early 80s. Frankly I see a lot of the 70s stuff by Gottlieb as absolutely gorgeous, I suppose due to Gordon Morrison's designs and art.

    But wow. The eighties stuff. Just scary.

    I actually don't like licensed themes much (IMO a great game can be ruined by a bad licensed theme) but what's even worse are imitations of already cheesey themes.

    Just my opinion. I've noticed before that what's cool seems to change the more distance we are from it. Maybe in 10 years well all think Raven is a super cool design with great imagery.

    #24 2 years ago

    i was really focusing on the themes with this thread. i actually think a lot of those games are pretty fun to play. my league this season had a Stargate and i really enjoyed it. ("shoot the pyramid!")

    #25 2 years ago

    Ya know, a lot of the themes from Bally and Williams (I think) were pretty cheesey too, so it's probably not too fair to Gottlieb to pick on just Gottlieb.
    The 80s seems like a real mixed bag to me.

    #26 2 years ago
    Quoted from quinntopia:

    a lot of the themes from Bally and Williams (I think) were pretty cheesey too, so it's probably not too fair to Gottlieb to pick on just Gottlieb.

    I guess it depends on how you'd define "cheese." But I agree. Look at a game like Earthshaker, Whirlwind, or Taxi. Total cheese-fests. But it's a different kind of cheese. A palatable cheese that has aged well.

    Gottlieb's cheese aged about as well as Hammer Pants have.

    #27 2 years ago

    I think Gottlieb 80s/90sxgames are best captured by that iconic quote "There's such a fine line between clever and stupid". Iconic design is rarely seen as such at the time it's brought into existence. Similarly, bad design will often follow trends and masquerade as innovative and new, only later to be seen as cheesy and dumb. I doubt any of these designers thought at the time they were creating complete crap.

    Look I used to watch Miami Vice religiously on Friday nights at college. Go watch an episode now on reruns. "Cool" did not age well. In contrast something like 2001 A Space Odyssey gets critically panned on release as a plodding boring movie only later to be seen as a masterpiece. Gottlieb probably thought at the time they were in the cutting edge only to later find out they ended up on the cutting room floor.

    #28 2 years ago

    My operator friend put it this way, Pinball was hurting back then due to video games and Gottlieb also was hurting for various reasons cited above. He claims Gottlieb made a decision to undercut the competition by selling cheaper games so Ops would buy their games instead. Apparently a photograph was cheaper than an artists work. Translites were definitely cheaper than a screened backglass. As for the cheesiness factor, well, some weren't too bad when compared to the time period but others were just horrid (Genesis).

    Gold Wings was pretty popular around my area when I was a kid. I played two different machines. Not sure if they were owned by the same Op though.

    #29 2 years ago

    "Street level" games were an experiment by Gottlieb towards designing a simplier, single level (no ramps), slightly smaller and cheaper game. They did not sell very well, and only six models (Premier's 1990 'Silver Slugger', Premier's 1990 'Vegas', Premier's 1990 'Deadly Weapon', Premier's 1990 'Title Fight', Premier's 1991 'Car Hop' and Premier's 1991 'Hoops') were made

    #30 2 years ago
    Quoted from quinntopia:

    Just my opinion. I've noticed before that what's cool seems to change the more distance we are from it. Maybe in 10 years well all think Raven is a super cool design with great imagery.

    Sort of like U.S. Presidents

    #31 2 years ago
    Quoted from SealClubber:

    Apparently a photograph was cheaper than an artists work. Translites were definitely cheaper than a screened backglass. As for the cheesiness factor, well, some weren't too bad when compared to the time period but others were just horrid (Genesis).
    Gold Wings was pretty popular around my area when I was a kid. I played two different machines. Not sure if they were owned by the same Op though.

    I think you nailed it. It's not just the themes. There are some "cheesey" eighties themes from all the other companies. In fact, most pinball themes are pretty cheesey when you get down to it.

    That's not the problem for me.

    Gottlieb seems to have skimped here in a way that isn't explicitly obvious.
    The models and photography are almost amatuerish, and this could be part of the cost cutting.

    Combined with faded translite, it just doesn't look as good as machine from others that had other themes that were in tune with that era.

    So I wonder: I think the "Raven" theme could be cool. And when you describe it, it seems like it could work. A female Rambo? Sure!

    But the mediocre photography and execution hurt it.

    I think that's the issue for me.
    Now, imagine if Gordon Morrison had a chance to do Hollywood Heat? Hot Shots? Raven?
    I think that would be awesome!

    On the other hand, imagine what Joker Poker would look like if it was done in the late 80's or early 90's? Probably Bad Girls with funny hats?

    #32 2 years ago
    Quoted from SealClubber:

    but others were just horrid (Genesis).

    It's a shame that Genesis's backglass is so bad... I quite like the game otherwise.

    #33 2 years ago
    Quoted from mbaumle:

    It's a shame that Genesis's backglass is so bad... I quite like the game otherwise.

    Lol... I googled it because I wasn't quite sure "how bad" it can be.

    The first backglass I found looked like the female robot from Metropolis. That seemed okay.

    Then I kept scrolling. Oh my. I see what you mean.

    #34 2 years ago
    Quoted from mbaumle:

    It's a shame that Genesis's backglass is so bad... I quite like the game otherwise.

    Shame on you all!!! Genesis is a work of beauty.

    Actually I kind of like the original. I like it way better than the metropolis alternate translite anyway

    1 month later
    #35 2 years ago

    I like the late 80's/early 90's Gottlieb gameplay. Lights camera action is on top of my wanted list and it look good in my opinion.
    How they could have thought that real pictures as a translite was the way to go is beyond my knowledge. Someone at the factory should have stoped the designers and say "wtf?!! Dont do that!".
    Some Stern games have awful translites too.

    #36 2 years ago

    Easy answer, because video games were kicking their butts and costs had to come down to compete with them. Even Bally/Midway games of the era were lame. Market share went to Williams and the advent of WPC games made them tops again.

    Can't beat an early Bally SS game though........ they are still the best bang for the buck!!

    #37 2 years ago

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