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.

Episode 100 Shirt/Poster/Event Details!

Hello Listeners!

It is my honor to announce the impending 100th episode from our favorite pinball discussants and tangeteers, Don and Jeff, co-host extraordinaires of THE Pinball Podcast.

This post is gonna be a doozy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way for the second-longest-winded pinball podcast on the interwebs *a-hem*TaylorAndTommy*a-hem* …excuse me. Something in my throat there. Anyhow, here’s what you can expect:

A) Custom Commemorative T-shirt Art
B) Limited-Edition Screen Printed Poster
C) Episode #100 Grand Hootenanny in Las Vegas (!??!)

– — — ———- — — –

A. Custom Commemorative T-shirt Art

All joking aside, I’ve been wanting to create some artwork for Don and Jeff for years now, and I’m excited to release this new design I illustrated in celebration of their 100th episode. The guys and NiftyLED are sparing no expense. The design will be screen-printed (with 4 colors) on a bougey ring-spun cotton (very soft) navy T-shirt from American Apparel.

We are opening a month-long window for pre-orders that will close on Dec. 31st, 2016. Shirts will be $20 each for sizes S-XL and $23 for sizes XXL-XXXL (+ $5 shipping in the U.S. and $15 shipping outside the U.S. Multiple shirts in one order will not increase shipping cost.). During the pre-order window we will also be accepting orders for female fitted shirts…

…also $20 for sizes S-XXL. Shirts will be ready by mid-February (see “Episode #100 Grand Hootenanny in Las Vegas” below). To secure your shirt, place your order through NiftyLED here:

B. Limited-Edition Screen-Printed Poster

Unlike the commemorative T-shirts, which WILL BE PRINTED regardless of how many are ordered, these signed, hand-numbered, limited-edition prints MIGHT BE PRINTED…if we receive at least 20 pre-orders by Dec. 31st, 2016.

These posters will be screen-printed (just like a good ole’-fashioned playfield or backglass) in a limited run of 50 on high-quality 100# French paper with a nice standard size of 18”x24” (easy to find a frame for). Posters will be sold for $25 each (+$15 shipping inside the U.S. and +$25 shipping outside the U.S.). For delivery, the print will be nestled inside craft paper wrap (to ensure a safe delivery) and snuggled inside a big, fat, 3” diameter tube (for minimal warping).

We were not originally going to offer these prints, but I begged and pleaded because I love The Pinball Podcast, and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty taken by this design. So, let’s make this a reality by placing a pre-order at NiftyLED here:

In the unfortunate event that we do not receive 20 pre-orders by Dec. 31st, 2016, pre-order money will be refunded in-full and the posters will not be printed. *sad emoji* #firstWorldProblems

C. 100th Episode Grand Hootenanny in Las Vegas

As if all this artsy stuff wasn’t enough, the guys are recording their celebratory 100th episode LIVE in Las Vegas at Flipperspiel Underground on Saturday, Feb. 18th, 2017. Damnit that sounds cool. Excuse me for a moment…

*sets a Travelocity search notification*

Okay, I’m back. So, this is really a thing. You, too, can be a part of this wonderous occasion in the City of PIN, Las Vegas, NV. …and if you act fast, you can probably even find tickets to the same Ween concert that Don will be attending.

The Flipperspiel Underground
6000 S Eastern Ave. #4D
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Doors open at 1:00 PM, admission to play games is $10.00 – Over 20 Pinball Machines and over 15 Video games, all set to FREEPLAY

Don & Jeff will start recording at 3:00 PM until whenever they finish or pass out.

Grand Hootenany Tournament Registration opens at 6:00 PM, Tournament starts at 7:00 PM $10 entry fee goes to the pot for the winners! This will be an IFPA points event (because Don and Jeff are super-knowledgeable about tournament stuff).

Alright, I think that about does it for the info dump. From Don and Jeff, thanks for the listenership. I know they’re all hopped-up to connect with each of you lucky folks in Vegas. From Daniel at Nifty, he supports your choice to make pinball purple again. From me, thanks for all your support and interest in my work. I can’t believe you’ve made it possible for me to illustrate over a dozen designs and counting for this incredible hobby. You all rock!!!

Vegas or Bust,
Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

Episode 95 – Good Movies and Bad Dogs

This week, Don and Jeff are NOT joined by Steve Frisvold, but still talk about pins we’d like to see turned into films.  We also complain about stuff for a long time so… pretty much same old, same old.

Pinball Ambassdor 2016 Poll is up!

Go vote!  Yes, you need a google account!  Sorry/not sorry.


Pre-order your 100th Episode SHIRT here!

Pre-order your 100th Episode POSTER here!



Support our sponsors!

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved! is offering the code MAUDE for 15% off any Mezel-made items in their store!  Enter code at checkout.desktop-logo us offering the code TPP for free shipping on pinball orders over $30!  Enter code at checkout.

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.

Episode 94 – Belles + Bad Movies

This week, Don and Jeff are joined by Jessica DeNardo of Belles + Chimes Portland to talk good pinball and bad movies!

Pinball Ambassdor 2016 Poll is up!

Go vote!  Yes, you need a google account!  Sorry/not sorry.



Support our sponsors!

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved! is offering the code MAUDE for 15% off any Mezel-made items in their store!  Enter code at checkout.desktop-logo us offering the code TPP for free shipping on pinball orders over $30!  Enter code at checkout.

Houston Arcade Expo Review by Lee Bellehumeur


I traveled to the 2016 Houston Arcade and Pinball Expo Nov. 11th & 12th.  This is one of the smaller shows, but definitely has a lot going on. A multi-day tournament, seminars, vendors and even some Stormtroopers walking around.   There were over 200 games there that were split about evenly between pins, vids and consoles.  They had all the latest Sterns, a MMR, and a hot, fresh, Dominoes from Spooky Pinball.  The arcades were all in very nice shape with multiples of popular titles like Robotron.  The setup was nice and never got too crowded and the tournament had its own room.  Overall, the hotel was nice, less expensive than most and had a pretty good bar/restaurant so you didn’t need to leave the premises if you didn’t want to.


Dominoes was the “WOZ” of the show and is a great looking game with the overall blue/red color scheme.  Although simple looking compared to say Ghostbusters, it’s a pretty fun family friendly game with “some” leftover toys from AMH and some new shots, so it isn’t just a re-theme.  I have no idea where the code is at overall, but it was fun to play and has some brutal outlanes.   Listed at $5299 retail it could be a solid seller for Spooky Pinball given the current market shenanigans.  The Spooky seminar was well attended.


I sat in on a couple of other seminars, Jim Schellberg had a nice presentation of pinball in the media and Gerry from Multimorphic ran down the history of the P3.  Multimorphic had 2 games at the show, Cannon Lagoon and Lexi Lightspeed neither of which I had played before.  I usually would pass them up at shows chalking it up to “virtual pinball”, but stepped up and I have to say they both were A LOT more fun than I expected.  Cannon Lagoon is a simple game, but very addictive and Lexi has as much going on as any standard pinball machine.  I apologized to Gerry for passing up his games so many times and we had a nice conversation.  I hope they do well in the future.


The CONS (or why I probably won’t be back):  As stated over and over in the Houston Pinside thread by a lot of people, the music HAS to go.  Holy hell, nothing like trying to play pinball and have basically concert level sound blasting at you from all 4 corners of the room ALL THE TIME.  I just don’t get it; to most of us the pinballs and the arcades ARE the music.  To make it even worse a lot of the pins were cranked to max volume, SO YOU COULD HEAR THEM.  Didn’t make it better.  It was all very fatiguing.  I realize sound management can be an issue with show, but it CAN be managed.  Nobody seems to care at the Houston show.  Reminded me of a saying, a good DJ plays what the crowd wants, not what they want.  In this case, it’s the organizers personal party and that’s what he wants.

Power issues.  A lot of shows have them, and it takes a lot of money and a serious commitment to upgrade a venue to handle a pinball show.  Breakers were tripping all weekend and I just couldn’t help but think that if there wasn’t a 5000 watt sound system sucking up half the juice this might not have been as much of a problem.  I feel like this just points back to the selfishness of the organizer and what he wants instead of what would make the show better.  When you’ve got 800 million on ball 1 and the game/row just shuts off, well, it sucks.

Other things that were generally overlooked were things like leveling games.  I don’t care if you have a Kingpin, next to a Big Bang Bar, next to a Batman Super LE.  If the games aren’t somewhat leveled, the play is ruined.  A lot of games had major league curve balls going straight over to the outlanes from the middle of the PF and it’s frustrating.  A couple of awesome Pinsiders brought several games each and I sent them PM’s a couple of time during the show about issues.  I was given the go ahead to mess with the leveling myself but is that really the answer?  Volunteers make the show happen, but the organizer should have designated somebody to take care of things like this.


There was a great team of Pinmedics around that did their best to fix games ASAP when they went down.

All in all, it was a decent show, but mostly a locals party.  It’s a casual show, but maybe just a little bit too casual.  I understand the venue might change next year, hopefully for the better.  I met some cool Pinsiders in person like Nicovolta and I did manage to play a lot of great games, spend some money on crap and get Zombie Yeti’s signature on a nice piece of his artwork.  Sadly, there was no Maverick there.

Counting down the day until TPF!


Episode 93 – H.U.O. Positive

This week, Don and Jeff try really, really, ridiculously hard to stay positive. Nailed it (almost)!


Support our sponsors!

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved! is offering the code MAUDE for 15% off any Mezel-made items in their store!  Enter code at checkout.desktop-logo us offering the code TPP for free shipping on pinball orders over $30!  Enter code at checkout.

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.

Episode 92 – We Effed Up. Like…a Bunch.

This week, Don and Jeff share listener corrections…because we have no idea what we’re talking about.


Support our sponsors!

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.Click the banner to check out the new and improved! is offering the code MAUDE for 15% off any Mezel-made items in their store!  Enter code at checkout.desktop-logo us offering the code TPP for free shipping on pinball orders over $30!  Enter code at checkout.

Episode 91.B – Stuck Fern

This week, Don and Jeff are joined by Joe Zenkus with a hands-on Pinball Expo report.  Thanks, Joe!


Good Ol’ Robot Arm