Episode 107 – Kickstart My Pinball Heart

Episode 107 is here after Jessica’s trip to Tacoma and Jeff’s trip to Denver. The two argue about who had the better show experience, which is unresolved, but it’s pretty obvious who had the better Uber/Lyft ride. Oh, we talk some pinball, such as Karl DeAngelo’s Do or Die Multiball achievement on Iron Man (here: https://youtu.be/TimzFtvAwFA), Houdini, and much more.

Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

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Episode 106 – It’s Always Sunny in Denver

Episode 106 is admittedly a little sleepy as it’s been a long, long couple of weeks for both hosts. Still, Jessica’s Evel Knieval has managed to kick of its journey and Jeff picked up a new game this past week. As Jess and Jeff look forward to upcoming shows, a little bit of news has dropped, including the sort of reveal for Star Wars and Andrew Heighway being ousted from Heighway Pinball.

Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

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Episode 105 – A Classy Amount of Nipple

In episode 105 we are joined by a special guest, Michael Lee as he discusses his recent pinball pickup, Joust! Michael gives us some insight into how to play the game, some strategy, and how the game differs when you’re playing by yourself or in the head to head setting.

We also discuss Dialed In #0001 coming off the line, Total Nuclear Annihilation, Dutch Pinball “updates,” and what we’ve been up to for the past couple of weeks.

Homepin (Thunderbirds) thread on Pinside: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/homepin-official-thread-pinball-parts-machine-progress

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Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

Jeff’s Twilight Zone and Addams Family machines before and after the Nifty LED kits.

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Episode 104 – Not Once, Not Twice, But Thrice

This episode took a month and three attempts to get out. The reasons aren’t important…it’s finally here. This show is a bit of a setup for our next episode where we’ll be featuring Joust, so get your questions and comments in if there’s anything you’d like to discuss. Sorry for the audio quality from Jeff’s side (popping Ps and breathing), his mic was not working and a cheap headset was used instead.

Big thanks for the continued support from NiftyLED and everybody else who promotes and shares our show.

Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

Jeff’s Twilight Zone and Addams Family machines before and after the Nifty LED kits.

 

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Episode 103 – Pinbutt

Jeff is joined by Jessica DeNardo as they talk about all the new stuff at Texas Pinball Festival, including that Bride of Pinbot 25th Anniversary machine…emotions might run hot there. We also dig into the WPPR changes announced for 2018.

Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

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The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved NiftyLED.com!

rxEuUlPyIX5qTIutCqKsIA-MEZELmodsMezelMods.com is offering the code MAUDE for 15% off any Mezel-made items in their store!  Enter code at checkout.desktop-logo

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Episode 102 – Scrabble was called Scrabble

Jeff is joined by Jessica DeNardo and Bowen Kerins and it immediately gets awesomely weird. Listen in as the three of us go over game theory, what Taco Bell would look like as a pinball theme, new games coming out, competitive pinball format talk, and much, much more.

Check out Bowen’s Patreon at www.patreon.com/pinball to see more about the pinball tutorial videos he’s creating.

Belles and Chimes PDX on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bellespinballpdx

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The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved NiftyLED.com!

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Episode 101 – Pinball Therapy

With the first episode after Don’s flight into hiding, Jeff is joined by listener favorite, Jessica to discuss pinball machines that always seem to do them dirty in competition. Come for the therapy session and let it all out with us.

Next show we’ll be joined by Bowen Kerins, who will lend his words of pinball wisdom. Submit any questions or topics that you’d like us to discuss while Bowen is on the show to pinballpodcast@gmail.com.

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ULEKstore.com us offering the code TPP for free shipping on pinball orders over $30!  Enter code at checkout.

This Flippin X The Pinball Podcast – Bonus Holiday Episode

We did a thing where we had the guys from This Flippin’ Podcast, Joe Zenkus, and Evan Bingham and ourselves all teamed up for a couple of hours of questionable content. It was fun for us, we hope you enjoy the show. Our regular episode schedule will continue.

Review – Ghostbusters Premium/LE Code 1.11 (and 1.10)

When Ghostbusters released, it released with fairly complete code and provided a pretty strong initial experience. Early feedback was mostly positive, but there were a few concerns about the game’s difficulty, the somewhat unneven score balancing, and some pretty basic usage of the game’s major features. With a fairly long gap in time between the 1.05 launch code and 1.10’s release (and the follow up 1.11), there were high expectations that the game would take a major leap forward. After putting significant time in on both 1.10 and 1.11, here’s how I feel the game has changed from launch.

To simplify talking about these two releases, I’m going to treat 1.11 as a single release. Stern has the actual readme files avilable to see exactly what 1.11 added over 1.10, but the main focus of the release was to address bugs. A couple of small things were added over 1.10 in addition to the bug fixes, such as adding light 2X scoring into the skill shots, but the two releases are essentially one major update. I’ll refer to the updates as the 1.11 update for the rest of the review.

With 1.11, it’s obvious that the main objective was to make the game more forgiving and more accessible to entry-level players. Whether this was a reaction to chirping on Pinside or a direct response to gathered data from exported audits from operators and owners, Stern felt that the game needed to be a bit easier to progress through. This was accomplished by adding the options (which are enbabled as factory default), to allow the player to time out active modes as well as to continue modes after a drain. It’s a seemingly small tweak, but it completely changes how Ghostbusters is played.

In 1.05, draining during an active mode was a huge setback to progressing through the game. If you drained out without finishing the mode, you would either need to use your skill shot to continue or start a new scene, or you had to spell G-H-O-S-T and hit Slimer three times to get your modes lit once more. The former method was safer, but it removed your ability to shoot for the rollover skill shots. Going through Slimer was riskier, but definitely higher on the risk/reward scale. In 1.11, you can now go right back into the mode on the plunge, allowing you to shoot for any of the skill shots you wish without harming your ability to progress in the game.

The biggest impact of this change is that you can fairly easily progress through a ladder to reach a mini wizard mode. If you want to get to We Came, We Saw… (WCWS), you can generally get there by ball one or two by just focusing solely on that left ramp ladder and leveraging the ability to continue or time out modes. Given the points available in WCWS and the relative ease of getting there, it’s a strong and safe way to get into big points rather than swapping ladders and trying to get through the first level modes. In addition, you’re going to be progressing through locks to start Storage Facility Multiball on the left ramp. This approach is so far and above any other, that really there’s no real other way to play the game if you’re shooting for a high score.

Nothing is stopping you from playing other ladders in the game, but nothing offers as easy of a path to surefire high scores than playing the “We Got One” ladder. If making the game easier was meant to open options up, the opposite has actually happened here.

The modes themselves haven’t been changed, but a new video mode has been added to the game. Don’t Cross the Streams is lit and collected the same way as Negative Reinforcement on ESP Ability. When collecting the lit video mode, you have the choice of which mode to play. Don’t Cross the Streams is much more interesting, but it would have been nice to have integrated it differently into the overall experience. Throwing it in as an option is kind of odd, especially as the playfield art only indicates the original video mode. As far as strategy goes, Don’t Cross the Streams is a more reliable source of points, but you can get a bigger payout on Negative Reinforcement if you’re lucky. All in all, it’s a pretty minor addition to the overall experience.

Unfortunately, 1.10 ushered in quite a few bugs into the game; some which were squashed by 1.11. At 1.11, it’s far more common to see power drops on the flippers, some issues where bonus isn’t awarded after a ball, awards (Tobin’s Spirit Guide, video mode) being lit but not able to be collected, some scoring oddities, and a few other things that are being identified by players fairly often. While it’s impossible to test code to the point of being absolutely certain that bugs don’t exist, these releases seem to have been very lightly tested. I ran into issues from the very first game I played and only found more as I went on. With some testing it would be impossible to miss some of these bugs, because they are consistent in their triggers and don’t involve rare behaviors. Hopefully the next code release not only cleans up current bugs, but it’s much better about introducing new issues into the mix.

Bugs aside, the code has some additional problems. It didn’t do much to address the uneven aspect of the scoring, and it’s still a rush to get to the mini wizard modes and multiballs. It would have been nice to see some combo scoring, new paths to score multipliers, incentives to swap to different ladders within the same game, and create better opportunities to get scoring going other than just going to the next mode (to help provide a more even ramp up in score). Some additional differentiation for the premium/LE would also be much appreciated, especially with how the Ecto Goggles and the right ramp being loopable could be more deeply explored.

I don’t think that 1.11 makes the game worse, but it doesn’t move it forward very much either. 1.11 is more of a lateral step that introduces a few things of nominal value to the overall package. I appreciate that the mode continues and mode timeouts are optional and that it will give more casual players an opportunity to see the wizard modes, but that’s the vast majority of what constitutes this update. If “easy mode” isn’t what you were looking for, there’s probably more bugs in this update than features for you. We also lost the ability to change the pulse power on the magna slings, which is a big bummer for the home user that is obsessive about dialing in his or her machine.

All that said, I do recommend updating to the newest code release, whether you’re on a pro or a premium/LE model. The issues aren’t showstopping, and the better use of the multipliers in skill shots, the new video mode, and some of the better use of RGB lighting makes it worth upgrading. I do think it’s fair to expect a much more impactful update from Stern in the future, especially if the game continues to sell as well as it has. Ghostbusters is a very good game right now, but a bit more of a push through code evolution could elevate the game into one of the all-time greatest games ever. I hope that Trudeau’s design eventually reaches its full potential.

Code updates are available directly from Stern’s official website.

A better approach to pro, premium, and LE models in pinball

Many pinball manufacturers split their offerings into a base and varying numbers of upgraded models. The base is usually the machine more aimed at operators or budget-minded buyers and the collector’s edition, premium, or LE model is more for the discerning home buyer. At times the differences between versions is minor, while at other times it’s pretty large. Stern Pinball has settled on a three model approach (pro, premium, LE) that looks to address buyer needs (choice) as well as the manufacturer’s needs (maximum margin and larger market share). Jersey Jack Pinball also offers different models in their games, but they typically offer two levels; standard and limited. The big difference between how Jersey Jack and Stern handle their model differences is that Stern offers differences in gameplay between models while JJP keeps differences to be purely cosmetic or in presentation. I feel like in a perfect world everybody would just make one game, but that’s probably never going to happen again in pinball. If we’re going to live with split offerings, I wish the three model approach could be tweaked in ways that are better for both the buyer and the seller; and I do believe that’s possible.

The three model per game approach wouldn’t be problematic if there wasn’t a difference in gameplay and code, but there is. It’s problematic for the buyer, and it’s a problem for the manufacturer as well. The differences should be in trim, non-interactive toys, art, and quantity limitations. Here’s only a handful of reasons why:

By having a difference in gameplay, it splits the code base. This is bad for everyone involved. On Stern’s end, it makes more work for each code update, because they have to account for differences in features between model. Those differences might also affect scoring balance (can’t do too much with the right ramp shot on GB, for example, because it returns to the left flipper on the LE/premium and would be abused; so you’re left keeping it lower value which harms the pro). Code also takes longer to develop, because you aren’t just making one set of code, you’re making two. But the worst effect is that less attention is put towards unique features, simply because it’s an element that affects only a portion of the overall owner base. If every GB had Ecto Goggles, I’m sure more creativity would have been put into using those, but it automatically falls to a lower priority due to the split base. This harms the premium/LE.

By having differences in gameplay, it forces the designer to make concessions to their design in some way. They’re either pulling out something they originally designed for a game, or they’re adding something in just for the sake of doing so. Whatever direction it goes, it’s not the original vision for the game. Game of Thrones is worse on the premium/LE level for that crammed in upper playfield while AC/DC loses a lot dropping to pro. We would simply get a designer’s best design if they weren’t forced to add or subtract for sake of a salesman’s bullet point.

On top of code and design, it affects manufacturing negatively. Rather than a single playfield, you get two variations. This slows down production at the playfield manufacturer and during assembly as they’re essentially treated as different games on the production line. Each version must be tested differently. Each version needs to be engineered differently. Playfields have to be created in waves rather than all at once. You end up with multiple cutting templates at the manufacturer, different wiring harnesses, different press template…it’s just not efficient overall as it could be.

Multiple playfield variations slows down order fulfillment. Pros and premiums/LEs have to be scheduled in different runs due to the physical differences. While there was a big backlog in orders on Game of Thrones Pro this year, premiums were on the line and people were left waiting. If the playfields were the same, it would be simple to alter the final steps in assembly to ship pros to satisfy outstanding demand rather than a powering through a possibly missed forecast.

I think having three versions is fine, but we’re simply not doing it in the best way right now. I would actually prefer having two (standard and collector’s edition), but even with identical playfields there is probably still enough that can be differentiated in add-on features to justify pro/premium/LE splits. Here’s a reasonable starting point, I feel:

Pro – No shaker, standard side rails, standard sound package, basic playfield toys, playfield pegs, basic plastics/molds

Premium – Shaker added, slide rails, armor added, alternate translite (plus the pro), upgraded toys (moving Recognizer in Tron), upgraded sound, headphone jack, upgraded playfield plastics/molds (library and containment unit on GB)

LE – Shaker, limited quantities, exclusive armor color, alternate translite (plus the other two), upgraded toys, premium sound, signed playfields, topper, exclusive LE art package (different cab, different plastics), slide rails, upgraded apron, headphone jack

Stern could easily reduce production cost, keep their margins (and probably improve them), and still give buyers a choice without forcing disparity between home and location play. Currently, everything being done with the three different versions is ignoring the increased benefits of higher levels of standardization. Hopefully we can see a day return to pinball when each game has one version of gameplay.