Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball From Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all But I ain't seen nothing like him in any amusement hall That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball
Pinball is a type of Video Game* Well... for a certain value of "video"; older ones are completely electromechanical and have no digital components. first that you can find in the arcade. Its name was based on an ancient game that no longer has any relationship to the current game.The game is simple: You have a (usually) metal ball in a playfield and you get to smash it around using (usually) two moving arms, called flippers.Thousands of pinball tables have been created. Most tables have a theme of some kind. Many tables use a license of some kind as the theme. It is not rare for pinball games to have the real actors for the license helping out with voice clips specifically for the game.Many people collect pinball machines as a hobby. Similarly, it is common to simulate them with computer programs. Windows NT 4, 2000, and XP even included such a game. Electronic Arts' Pinball Construction Set was popular in the days of eight-bit home computers.Pinball is a popular casino game in Japan, though it's called "Pachinko" and is played vertically, rather than at a slant. This gives players less control over the ball, making it more akin to roulette.Some notable licensed pinball tables are:
James Bond 007 (1980) by Gottlieb. This game has a time limit rather than a limit on the number of balls, but after many players felt unhappy about this change, this caused most owners to try and return the tables to Gottlieb, who in response, added an upgrade to have it play under the traditional 3 ball rule.
Star Wars (1993) by Data East Pinball; based on the original trilogy.
Star Wars Trilogy (1997) by Sega Pinball; based on the Special Edition release of the original trilogy.
Star Wars: Episode I (1999) a pinball/video game hybrid (based on Williams/Midway's Pinball 2000 platform) by Williams; based on The Phantom Menace. Notable for being Williams' last pinball game before they left the pinball business in October 1999.
Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991) by Williams. One of the first games (but not the first game) to feature a dot-matrix display*
This was the first Williams/Bally game that was designed with a DMD. Gilligan's Island was the first Williams/Bally game released with a DMD, but T2 had a longer production schedule. The first game to use a DMD at all was Data East's Checkpoint; the height of the DMD was half of the usual height.
It was the first pinball to use a video mode. Also, instead of the traditional plunger for launching the ball, you actually "shoot" the ball using a gun trigger, and sometimes it'll even shoot the ball automatically (if you lose the ball early, or whenever you trigger multiball).
Eight Ball: The second-highest selling pinball of all-time; the game's artwork was based on Fonzie and Pinky.
Flash: Steve Ritchie's first game for Williams after leaving Atari, Flash is the third-highest selling pinball game of all time. Notable for introducing the first continuous background sound, as well as the first flash lamps, in a pinball.
Firepower: The first electronic pinball game to feature multi-ball
FunHouse: Featuring Rudy, the talking doll head
Gorgar: The first "talking" pinball machine
Hercules: The largest pinball table ever made. It is so large that it uses billiard cue balls as pinballs.
High Speed: The first game to feature a full song, as well as the first "Jackpot" bonus in a pinball game, that carried over from game-to-game.
Red & Ted's Roadshow: The Spiritual Successor to FunHouse, this game featured country singer Carlene Carter as the voice of Red; also, her song, "Every Little Thing", appears in that game.
Theater of Magic
Of course, there has been a wide collection of simulations as well:
Atari's Video PinballArcade Game was the first pinball simulation. The limitations of mid-1970s graphics limited the video display to moving parts, with the background painted on an overlay. An odd-looking Atari 2600 port was later released.
3D Ultra Pinball, a PC pinball series by Sierra that eschewed realism in favor of creating a unique PC pinball experience.
Epic Games produced Silverball, Epic Pinball, and Extreme Pinball,
Space Cadet, the best known simulation since it was distributed with Microsoft Windows 95 through XP. Also included as part of Full Tilt Pinball! along with two other tables, Dragon's Keep and Skulduggery.
FarSight Studios' Pinball Hall of Fame series (with The Gottlieb Collection and The Williams Collection), and its successor series, The Pinball Arcade (With the Xbox360 Version currently going through Development Hell on Downloadable Content).
Zen Studios' two pinball simulation series, Pinball FX and Zen Pinball, as well as their licensed game/add-on Marvel Pinball. Interestingly, all three of these very similar playing series were released in the same console generation on various platforms. Pinball FX was originally released for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade while Zen Pinball made its initial debut on Apple's iOS before later being released on Sony's PlayStation 3. The games are actually application shells which players could download the full virtual pinball tables for free in time-limited trial form and can be purchased at any time for unlimited play. Pinball FX would later have all its content imported to its sequel, Pinball FX 2, and be delisted from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Marvel Pinball was later released for both the PS3 and Xbox 360, but the former platform got it as a standalone game while the latter received it as downloadable content for Pinball FX 2. Also interestingly, both Zen Pinball and the Pinball FX series would share some of the same tables. Three Pinball FX tables would later be released on Zen Pinball, then later on three Zen Pinball tables would be available for Pinball FX 2, and then both Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball would get a unique table called Epic Quest. Zen Pinball 2, which incorporates tables from the separate Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball games on PS3, would also share a Plants Vs Zombies-themed table with Pinball FX 2.
Two different yet similar freeware computer applications with their own engines and editors, Visual Pinball and Future Pinball. The former works with a pinball ROM emulator to play both recreated and original 3D-rendered pinball tables a la Microsoft Pinball Arcade while the latter uses a fully-modeled, real-time 3D engine.
Williams (left the pinball industry in October 1999)
Bally and Bally/Midway (After their merger with Williams in 1988, Midway continued to produce pinball games under the "Bally" name, until October 1999)
Stern Electronics and their successor companies:
Data East Pinball (formed from former Stern Electronics staff, including president Gary Stern)
Stern Pinball (currently, one of the remaining two pinball companies)
Gottlieb (AKA Mylstar and Premier)
Jersey Jack Pinball (a new company formed by former Williams and Stern staff)
Terminology note: A pinball board is the internal computer board that operates the machine. A pinball table is an individual layout of ramps, targets, and flippers that make up a particular game. Several different tables may all be running the same board.
Perhaps even more genius is the Match feature, which is also pseudo-random and designed to pull in more money for the operator. For example, the match feature has a disproportionately higher chance of giving player a match if two have just played, so the other player will deposit money and they will both play again. See this article.
Fun House was the first to do this. Rudy, a talking ventriloquist head, will frequently compliment players for good shots, tell players about scoring opportunities, and tease players during the course of each game. He even nicknames the individual players.
Capcom's Flipper Football also has an Adult Mode, where the referee uses very colorful language and a number of four-letter words. "Hey! Let's talk about your sister!" It only gets better from there...
Anti-Frustration Features: Much more common in modern tables is called a "ball saver"—an extra chance on that ball if you manage to lose the ball immediately after launching it.
A less common variant is the "Consolation Extra Ball" (a.k.a. "Pity Extra Ball"), where if you lose your first two balls quickly and/or without scoring much, the game simply lights the Extra Ball at the start of your third ball. You usually still have to make the shot to get it, though.
Arc Number: Software revision 1.4 of Star Wars Episode I awards 19992510 points for spelling "Jar Jar"; this represents the day that Williams left the pinball manufacturing industry, October 25, 1999.
Jack*Bot is Pin*Bot with a casino theme. The whole game revolves around this trope, although you are always betting hypothetical points. For instance, you are given a chance to double-up the points you won on a casino game by shooting under the left ramp. The Casino Run wizard mode, which operates very similarly to The Joker's Wild has you spinning a slot machine and each time allowing you to take your "bank" of points (and maybe even extra balls and specials) or risk it. Getting a bomb on the slot machine or running out of time to shoot another hole costs you your bank.
Who Dunnit has slots which give out various awards, as well as a roulette mini-game where you can bet your points. Unlike Jack*Bot, you actually are wagering your already-earned score, making this a rare example of a pinball game where you can lose points.
The Sopranos has the "Executive Game" which is a game of seven-card stud poker where the bet increases dramatically for each card (a few tens of thousands for your first card, and then millions by the last card). You can lose points here.
Bigger Is Better: Hercules, a 1979 Atari pinball is the largest pinball ever made at 39" wide, 93" long, and 83" tall. It uses a billiards cue ball as its pinball. YMMV on the "better" part though, as it is considered a mediocre to horrible game on IPDB.
To a lesser extent, the Bally widebody games such as Paragon, Future Spa, Space Invaders, and Embryon, which had significantly wider playfields than other pins. To an even lesser extent, the SuperPin line of Williams/Bally games such as Twilight Zone, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Indiana Jones, and Demolition Man.
A lot of the post-1995 Williams/Bally games also have a Midnight Madness mode if you start a game at midnight.
Cap: Long before dot-matrix displays became commonplace, many tables had score displays that were limited to a set number of digits.
Even with modern dot-matrix displays, the score displays on some games will usually roll back to 0 if they go over the maximum number of digits that can be displayed. Most dot-matrix games will roll over at 10 billion points; Who Dunnit and Dirty Harry are examples of games where this is not very hard to do. The high score tables usually can display the full scores though.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In modern pinball games, multiball locks are usually colored green, "shoot this shot" arrows are colored yellow, and extra ball lights are colored red.
Combos, which usually involve completing a specific sequence of shots.
Continuing Is Painful: Bonuses, missions, combos, multipliers, and such reset if you lose a ball, unless the table has a "multipliers held" or similar function you can enable to preserve them for your next ball.
However, there are pinball tables in which any increased bonuses and multipliers that are earned stick around until a player's game ends.
Cut Scene: Games with dot-matrix displays will stop the action for a movement to show one.
Difficulty Levels: There are operator-adjustable preset difficulty levels, usually five: Extra easy, easy, medium, hard, and extra hard. These adjust things like the ball saver length (or the number of ball saves; you might get multiple or no ball saves), the number of times a shot needs to be made to start a mode or get an award, whether hit targets have "memory" between balls (a common trait of harder settings is to unlight hit targets when a ball drains), and other things.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: If you want your high scores to save into a machine's memory, particularly on most older solid-state games, you better not get a score that will go over the maximum that can be displayed. A score that's slightly over a million points on a six-digit display probably will not save, though some games are nice enough to save this as the maximum displayable score.
Dynamic Difficulty: The replay value on modern machines is adjusted every so often based on recent scores gotten on the machine so that a certain percentage of scores will get a replay. Obviously, these tend to be much higher on privately-owned machines than public machines.
Some tables will award a pity extra ball if the player did badly on their first (or first and second) ball(s).
Endless Game: Almost every pinball. A few games like Safe Cracker and Flipper Football avert this, where the player has unlimited balls, but the game lasts a finite amount of time.
Every 10,000 Points: Virtually any pinball machine will give you a "replay" (or sometimes an extra ball) for reaching a certain score, known on most games as the "replay value". Older pins usually have several of these.
1986's High Speed was the first game to feature automatic replay adjustment, in which the replay score automatically adjusts based on the players' performances on location.
Excuse Plot: You are smashing a ball around; it's hard to write a story about that.
As Brooke Shields' 1978 film TILT would indicate.
Extra Balls: These are usually rewarded for completing specific goals on any given table. However, some tables reward extra balls after reaching specified scoring plateaus.
Fanservice: Though it depended on the subject matter, many machines featured artwork of scantily clad females for no other reason than to have scantily clad females all over the machine.
Final Boss: In pinball, it's called the "Wizard Mode". Introduced in 1989's Black Knight 2000.
Genius Programming: In an interview, Steve Ritchie called Larry DeMar, the main programmer of Williams' pinball operating systems, "the most powerful programmer in pinball".
Golden Snitch: A prime example is The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot. The single highest shot on this table scores an immediate 1,000,000,000 — yes, one billion — points. The next highest point reward is a mere 50 million, which still is worth about as much as an otherwise well-played game.
On a lot of early solid state games, the key to getting a high score usually is learning how to light the spinner for 1,000 points a spin (instead of 100/spin, or in really mean cases 10/spin), or figuring out how to get a 5x bonus multiplier. Bonuses can often be the majority of your score; they can amount to well over 100,000 or even 200,000 on games that can only display six digits. Even better if you can do both.
Last Chance Hit Point: Who Dunnit has a variation of this; either outlane can be lit to start the slots when the ball drains. Matching two of the reels (but not all three) will give a Second Chance, where a ball is plunged back in and shooting one of the lit shots will match the third reel. Whether you match the third reel or not, it won't count as a drain and you get to keep playing on the same ball. Getting Multiball on the slots will save you from ending the ball too.
Loophole Abuse: Ubiquitous among skilled players on both the mechanical side and the "rules" side. On the mechanical side, players will often try to find low-risk shots or kickouts that can always (or reasonably consistently) be trapped on the flipper. On the "rules" side, sometimes there can be a single shot that is worth far more than anything else.
Luck-Based Mission: Still very much prevalent today, as even a wizard playing their favorite game can really drop the ball every once in a while, though there is quite a skill component on the mechanical side (being able to shoot shots) and knowledge component on knowing the table's rules. However, very old (before 1947) pinball games were almost entirely this as they had no flippers. In fact, pinball was banned in some major cities for about three and a half decades on the basis that it was a game of chance that costed money and therefore constituted gambling. It was not until a 1976 court case where the plaintiff played, announced what he would aim for, and shot it in order to demonstrate pinball was now a game of skill that the ban was lifted.
Macro Game: Progressive jackpots that carried from game to game were popular on alphanumeric and early DMD games. Black Knight 2000 has the R-A-N-S-O-M letters carry from game to game. Most games after about 1993 did away with having any sort of gameplay-effecting macrogame.
Mercy Mode: The "pity" extra balls some games give (see Anti-Frustration Features and Dynamic Difficulty). Some games, like Shrek, will even light a pity multiball on the third ball if the player has done poorly on the first two balls. Bram Stoker's Dracula will light Mist multiball on the third ball for free (on default settings) if you have not played it yet.
Mini-Game: "Video Mode", a basic Video Game controlled with the flipper and plunger buttons. Smaller playfields within the overall playfield (such as The Twilight Zone's "Battle The Power" section) also count, in a sense.
Nintendo Hard: Controlling the ball is easier said than done, and some table layouts are infamous for easily sending the ball toward the outlanes or straight down the center drain. Even then, pulling off some required shots can be tough, especially toward the lower part of the table.
Rareware makes the NES adaptation of PIN*BOT even more difficult than the real table (already a notorious drain monster, and this version is no different) by adding monsters that will eat your ball, missiles that will permanently destroy your flippers after two hits until you lose the ball, and other such nasties! However, these monsters will only appear after starting multiball and earning the game's jackpot.
Rareware also "modified" High Speed by adding obstacles not on the original table, such as a mad mechanic that would attempt to slap the ball down the flippers. Unlike Pin*Bot, the monsters and hazards from High Speed appear within minutes of starting a game.
No Fair Cheating: Overdo the nudges and the game TILTs, which locks off the paddles until you lose your ball and negated any end-of-ball bonuses. Older electro-mechanical pinball machines had no end-of-ball bonuses, so they would outright end the game then and there, regardless of whether or not you have any balls remaining.
Then there's the Slam Tilt to detect people trying to cheat the machine out of money, either by trying to trick the coin mechanism into thinking it accepted a coin when it hasn't, or outright trying to steal the coin box. It triggers a Non-Standard Game Over for all players and voids all credits in the machine.
Slam Tilt also triggers in a literal manner if you are needlessly violent with the machine, such as physically lifting it up and slamming it to the floor. Either way, getting a Slam Tilt in any shape or form is a good way to get ejected from the establishment.
As an early example of score inflation, Gottlieb's Ace High (1957) has a minimum scoring increment of 10,000 points. However, because Ace High has several ways for players to lose balls, this table's highest displayable score is 7,990,000 points.
This is certainly a Cyclic Trope. Until rolling score counters became commonplace in The Fifties, pinball tables gradually increased the minimum scoring unit from 100 to 1,000 to 10,000 and then 100,000. When rolling counters were introduced, 3- and 4-digit scores became commonplace (though some early rolling counter pins would "paint on" some zeroes). This gradually increased to 5 digits and then 6. The transition from electromagnetic to solid-state games in 1977 picked up scoring-wise where the electromagnetic games ended, though in the early 80s score counters expanded to 7 digits and then when the score display was consolidated, to 8 digits. The 1991 game The Machine: Bride of Pinbot went really over the top with the possibility of getting a billion points, though the transition to dot-matrix displays accelerated this trope; most could display up to 10 digits and high scores in the billions became common. A few pins like Jack*Bot, Johnny Mnemonic, and Attack From Mars could display up to 11 digits with the knowledge that scores of 10 billion or more would be reasonably common (Johnny Mnemonic can display 12 digits; it will happily render scores in the hundred billions in either the main game or high score tables). Tales of the Arabian Nights dialed back a good game to being in the tens of millions of points, and most other pins up to the modern day have had scores of roughly the same magnitude.
Pressure Plate: When you aren't hitting stuff, you are rolling over it.
Progressive Jackpot: A few games (High Speed being the first, as mentioned above) have these which carry from game to game, normally as a jackpot, but earlier DMD games will have these as the award for completing the wizard mode.
Party Zone has the Big Bang award.
White Water has a downplayed version of this in the White Water Vacation Jackpot, which does increment, but it starts at 200M and only increments at a rate of 10K per game where it's not collected; even if 1000 games are played without it being collected (pretty unlikely), the jackpot will only have increased to 210M. By comparison, older pins usually have jackpots that can vary by a factor of 3 or more and playing at the right time can be crucial to a high score.
Rank Inflation: Jackpots. When they were first introduced, even a normal Jackpot would usually provide about the same as the replay value. Eventually their significance declined and there were Double Jackpots, Triple Jackpots, and Super Jackpots. As an example, in Multiball Madness in Medieval Madness, even a Double Super Jackpot is worth only 800K to 2M when a replay on that game usually takes about 20-30 million.
The Champion Pub takes this to ridiculous extremes. The normal Jackpot is worth 100K. Then there are double, triple, quadruple... all the way up to Octuple Jackpot, Super Jackpot, Mega Jackpot, Ultra Jackpot, Turbo Jackpot, Maximum Jackpot, Cow of a Jackpot, and Jackpot Deluxe. That's 15 jackpot levels.
Real Song Theme Tune: Usually done with licensed tables, but are occasionally thrown in to non-licensed tables. Noteworthy examples include:
Appropriately enough, music from Tommy is played through the Data East table of the same name.
The Getaway: High Speed II includes ZZ Top's "La Grange" as the main music.
Red & Ted's Roadshow has Carlene Carter (Red's voice) perform her song, "Every Little Thing", for the following: the jackpot tune, the "Super Payday" wizard mode, and during the high score name entry.
WhoDunnit features a remix of the Peter Gunn theme as its main music, as does the Spy Hunter pinball briefly (which should not be too much of a surprise considering the video game also did).
Recycled In Space: Williams has done an inversion of this twice with Attack From Mars. Attack From Mars has a space theme with martians invading Earth. Spiritual SuccessorMedieval Madness, which features a very similar playfield layout and gameplay, has a medieval theme as the title would suggest. Monster Bash, which could be viewed as another Spiritual Successor to AFM has a horror/rock theme. Stern's Spider Man pinball is also very similar in design; it was designed as a homage/tribute to Brian Eddy and Attack From Mars.
Jack*Bot essentially uses the exact same target and obstacle layout that Pin*Bot uses.
Retraux: Capcom's 1996 pinball Break Shot has the appearance of pinball from The Seventies, even simulating electromagnetic score reels on the DMD.
Rule of Three: Almost any pinball from The Eighties and onward gives three balls on default settings (five balls was more common for older pins). Most games also require the player to lock three balls to start multiball, and three is probably the most common number of balls in multiball.
Available in some games in the traditional sense as well for a (usually) limited amount of time. For instance, White Water has a 5X Playfield award which multiplies the value of pretty much anything (though it doesn't stack with double or triple jackpots; this was fixed from the earliest versions of the ROM) by 5x for 25 seconds.
Some games, such as Black Knight and Pin*Bot multiplied playfield values by the number of balls in play.
Bram Stoker's Dracula multiplies the value of all jackpots by 2x if there are two concurrent multiballs, and 3x if all three multiballs are active at once.
Software revision 1.6 of Stern's AC/DC has this feature as well - It also stacks geometrically with the field multiplier which can go up to 3x, meaning that having the field multiplier maxed with all three multiballs going at once can result in 9x Jackpots.
2003's The Lord of the Rings has the highest known jackpot multiplier: 84x jackpot during The Two Towers Multiball. To achieve it, the player must have the 2x Scoring (Gift of the Elves award) and started Gollum Multiball before starting The Two Towers Multiball.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Quite common in tournaments to reduce play times. Turning off extra balls is almost always done, and setting the software to the hardest possible difficulty is very common. Other adjustments include putting extra-wide posts on the entrances of ramps and other shots to make them narrower, using "lightning" flippers (1/8 of an inch shorter than normal flippers) on games that don't normally use them, making the playfield steeper, or putting extra-bouncy rubbers on flippers.
Smart Bomb: Data East games Jurassic Park and Last Action Hero have a Smart Missile feature (activated by a button on the back of the gun-shaped plungers) that has various effects depending on the mode that is currently running, but most of the time they have the effect of collecting all lit shots.
Songs in the Key of Panic: Variant— tables of the late 1970s-early 1980s often had the music rise in pitch and/or tempo the longer the ball was in play in an attempt to distract the player. It rolled back around to the original tune after a while. This 1979 Flash machine is a good (annoying) example.
This Trope is [BLEEP]: From Medieval Madness: One of the King of Payne's subordinates is a New York mobster named Lord Howard Hurtz; one of his intros is, "I'm Lord Howard Hurtz. Who the f**k are you?" Whether or not this gets bleeped is up to the operator.
Timed Mission: A favorite of the genre. Virtually any modern pinball has modes that are timed. A variant of this is the "hurry-up", a shot worth an amount of points that decreases the more time that it takes the player to shoot it. Another variant of that is a hurry-up that when collected lights several other shots for the same value that the hurry-up was collected at; The Addams Family and Star Trek: The Next Generation among others have such modes.
Yet another variant is a hurry-up that will not end with a single shot; the value can repeatedly be collected by making shots until it times out. The Yakuza Strike mode in Johnny Mnemonic is an example of this.
A third variant takes place on the Mean Machines table in 21st Century's Slam Tilt AMIGA pinball package. In this variant, the hurry-up value actually increases as the timer decreases, encouraging the player to trap the ball until just before time expires, in order to collect the maximum point value possible.
Trope 2000: Black Knight 2000 (the sequel to 1980's Black Knight), and Williams' "Pinball 2000" platform.
A 1980 Stern pin is called Flight 2000.
Data East's audio controller used from Batman (1991) to Terminator 3 (2003) is called the BSMT 2000* "BSMT" stands for "Brian Schmidt's Mouse Trap", after its creator, music composer Brian Schmidt.
If you Tilt the Scared Stiff table, the Femme Fatale voice that normally tries to seduce you sometimes says "You just don't listen do you.", usually after saying "Easy tiger!" and "I'm warning you!" as Tilt warnings.
Wide Open Sandbox: You are free to hit anything for points. Of course, there are usually missions.
See also Pinball Gag, for when someone acts like a ball in a pinball machine. Pinball Protagonist is not directly related to this trope. Pinball Zone is what you get when you make a pinball machine the setting instead of the game.