| tiltjlps 1st PinGame Journal Article!|
tiltjlp's 1st PinGame Journal Article!
An Addictive Little Game
Author's Note: This article appears due to the kind permission of Jim Schelberg,
publisher of PinGame Journal, where it originally appeared in Issue # 93, September
2002. The PinGame Journal is the only remaining English language Pinball publication.
I will be an ocassional contributer to PGJ, but that shouldn't keep you from
being a regular reader. Subscription and back issue information is available
Here Please note
that this article was written for an audience not familiar with Visual
Pinball or the VP community.
© Copyright 2002 By John L Patton, tiltjlp
In the summer of 1951, at the tender age of four-and-a-half years, I played
my first game of pinball, standing on top of an upturned wooded beer case. I
was hooked, to say the least. The game was Hayburners,
and I really enjoyed that game. I played it on a regular basis for two years,
until a Struggle
Buggies was placed along side. After my first game of Struggle Buggies,
I seldom played Hayburners again.
To this day, Struggle Buggies remains my favorite among all the pinball games
I've played. If I could afford one, I'd own a Struggle Buggies, if I had room
for it. That is how much I love that game. But there are many I like nearly
as well; in fact, I have never met a pinball machine I didn't enjoy playing.
When you're hooked, is there such a thing as a lousy machine, or simply favorites?
My absolute favorites are the flipperless gambling devices that predated pinball,
and those marvelous bingos from the early days of pinball. Sadly, few of these
exist, or simply aren't available to most of us. This is why, when I discovered
Visual Pinball, I felt I had found a fountain of youth. Now, many of the pinballs
I knew from my growing up years are available to me again, to be played on my
home computer. It isn't and never will be just the same as standing in front
of a flesh and blood pinball machine. Not by a long shot. While they look like
those old beauties I enjoyed in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s, looks can be
deceiving. But if the choice is to never play these old and noble games again,
or to play a simulation on my home computer, I'll settle for the simulation.
Of course, you'll have to decide for yourself.
In order to play Visual Pinball, which was created by Randy Davis, you will
need to download and install on your system the Visual Pinball engine. The current
version is Tech Beta 6 (build 0.6.2806), and can be found HERE.
You'll need to unzip the downloaded file, and then you run Setup.exe. If you
have an earlier version, first select uninstall, and then select install again
to install this newer version.
It is highly recommended that you install Visual Pinball to c:pinball. Once
installation is complete, you'll need to restart your computer. Now you are
ready to download the files which are used to simulate these games, or tables.
There are many that you can choose from, recreations and even some originals.
The games, or table files, which have a .vpt extension, can also be downloaded
from Flipperless.com, IRPinball,
Pinball Original's and AJ's
VPinMame Table Downloads. Select the files you want to download, which are
in .zip format, and save them to the tables subdirectory under the directory
created when you installed Visual Pinball. Most often, you will need to unzip
these files, although if you have a program similar to Zip Magic, you might
be able to run the zipped VPT files. But even if you can run zipped files, you
should check for font and music files. The music files need to be placed in
the music subdirectory under the directory which holds Visual Pinball. The
fonts need to be installed, and you'll need to refer to your Operating System's
Help menu to find out the proper method for installing them.
Also, some of the original or recreated tables will use an external .vbs (Visual
Basic Script) file, separate from the .vpt (Visual Pinball Table) file. If the
zip file contains a .vbs file, it needs to be placed in the tables directory
under the directory which holds the Visual Pinball Program.
Then all you'll need to do is to start Visual Pinball, and choose which .vpt
file you wish to run. Once your chosen file loads, you'll see a computerized
table on your screen. If there are no instructions on how to begin your game,
pressing 5 inserts a coin in the slot, and 1 begins a game, although sometimes
pressing S will begin the game.
If you're only interested in playing either originals or recreations up to the
'80s, that's all you'll need. If, on he other hand, you would like to be able
play more modern recreations which use the actual ROMS to simulate play, you
will need Visual
PinMAME, the VBS
Scripts, and possibly a few other files. If you are computer savvy, or are
good at following involved and detailed installation instructions, feel free
to grab these files also. If, on the other hand, you are in any way a Tech No
Go as I am, you'd do well to stick with Visual Pinball.
Sometime in the future, if there is enough interest from the PinGame Journal
family for more information VpinMAME, I will seek out several friends who are
knowledgeable, and provide detailed and hopefully understandable information
about Visual PinMAME.
The men and women who have recreated these pinball machines for the computer
use Visual Basic Scripting Language, which is a relatively easy programming
language to learn. If you would care to try your hand at recreating a classic
table yourself, or maybe design an original, I will provide you with information
on downloading the files required for this in a future column, if there is enough
For now, I'll provide you with examples of some my favorite tables, and information
on how to insert your coin and fire up the simulated machine of your choice.
If you should have any problems, most of the zipped files in the tables folder
contain rulesheets and other information.
The first recreated pin I would like to present is Contact,
a 1939 flipperless, which was the first machine to have both an animated back
glass, and pop-out kickers. All these years later. The game is still interesting
and challenging. While the animation was merely sequential moving lighting behind
the back glass, it was quite an advance for its day. Contact is recreated for
Visual Pinball by skilled William Degelmann, who has a deep fondness for flipperless
games and classical bingos, in addition to pre-pin gaming and gambling devices.
Will is driven to recreate these past relics as faithfully as Visual Pinball
will allow, often spending months working on the most minor of details. He will
not release a table if he isn't satisfied that it is the best that he is able
to create. And he frequently updates released work, as his Visual Basic scripting
Will's dedication to his work is even more obvious when you study Contact onscreen,
before playing your first game. Not a single detail is overlooked, as he seeks
out owners of each table he hopes to recreate. He requests both the best graphics
and rules information available, explaining his reverence for a dieing breed
from the past. I think most anyone can easily see the care Will brings to recreating
each of these lovely treasures. Here is how this piece of history plays.
Press S to begin a new game, and then L to feed a new ball to the plunger. Pull
back the plunger and you'll hear the roll of the ball as it heads toward the
playfield. You'll hear the dull thud as the ball hits and rebounds off tenite
bumpers. And when the ball is trapped in a kicker hole, you will need to hit
those tenite bumpers a set number of times to release the ball. It can get noisy,
but pinball noise is music to my ears.
The kicker holes in the middle of the playfield range from 500 to 3000 points,
and require increasing numbers of hits to the tenite bumpers to eject the balls
and collect those points. 500 point holes need four bumps to be ejected, 1000
point holes need 9 bumps, 1,500 point holes, 14 bumps, and the 3,000 point hole
requires a whopping 28 bumps. So, if you have a good head for numbers, and a
good memory, you'll be able to nudge the table to your advantage, and roll up
some impressive point totals.
Each thump to a tenite bumper is worth 100 points, and they are shown among
the clouds on the back glass, and are reset once another 1000 points is scored.
While playing, each hit to one of the tenite bumpers will light one of planes
that grace the back glass, giving the illusion on flying planes circling about
the sky above the aircraft carriers.
Another interesting innovation of Contact was the Wonder Star bumpers, which
were the first lights of any kind to be used on any pinball machine. Exhibit
made three different tables before retiring this line. Hitting the Wonder Star
bumper four times lights the troughs, and if the ball goes through the trough
lane, you'll collect the 1000 points. As those points are collected, the Wonder
Star light is reset, and will require another four hits to light the 1000-point
If a ball is trapped in the 1500-point kick out hole, and a ball goes through
the trough, that ball is rejected to make way for the new ball. The first ball
will then usually fall into the 3000-point kick out hole. If both kick out holes
are holding balls, both balls will kick out when another ball goes through the
trough lane. The ball that had been in the 3000-point hole will then fall into
the Trap hole.
The Trap Hole is a nifty but odd little feature that might give you an extra
ball, if your nudges are just so. Once a ball is trapped, it is locked until
another ball passes into the center trough. When that occurs, the Trap Hole
releases its ball and returns it to the holding area for an additional play,
and a lot more scoring possibilities.
There are a pair of kicker holes on both sides of Contact's playfield, which
automatically eject the ball downward into either the next side kicker hole,
or into the lower portion of the Contact playfield. So if you can manipulate
the ball into the top side kicker hole, your score will be enriched by 2,500
If you happen to download Visual Pinball and the Contact file, I hope you'll
realize that while the simulation is extremely good, it isn't quite the same
as playing the real pin. But I don't think many of you have a 1939 Exhibit Contact
handy to play, so this PC simulation offers you a little piece of pinball history.
The next recreation I'd like to introduce you to is Bally's Balls
A Poppin', from 1956, and the first multiball machine as well as the first
with two-player option. Douglas Silfen and Steve Robinshaw, who specialize in
recreating the older EM pins, appreciates the historical value of the old Bingos
and early EMs. A History professor, Douglas feels a deep obligation to bringing
the pins from the '50s and '60s back to life on computers, since many older
adults often don't understand code scripting.
Doug says that his simulation is faithful to the actual pin with only two exceptions.
The rubber bands are a bit overly springy, due to the limitations of Visual
Pinball, and the flippers are angled a small bit further upward than on the
real machines. Balls a Poppin' was one of only a few Bally pins of the entire
1950s. I think you'll agree that if they built just a handful in the fifties,
they made a great choice in this fun and challenging game.
Balls A Poppin' is a low scoring game compared to pins from more recent years,
but it is no less entertaining and great fun to play. The yellow, blue, and
red bumpers only score a mere one to ten points, but certain bumpers trigger
scoring for the slingshots. Your score will creep slowly higher and the game
will seem a bit drab until the wildballs begin to spew forth from the left side
wildball lane. Another glitch makes the wildball lane only partially visible
in this PC version, opposed to the real, live machine.
There are a pair of silver buttons, one's to the right, the other to the left
of the top slingshots. As the ball passes over these, they light either the
red pop bumpers, or the four slingshots, setting their values to ten points.
Also thumping the top yellow and blue bumpers respectively can also light these.
All of this is fine and dandy, and makes for a nice little game, but the icing
on the cake is the wildball feature. I was startled the first time the wildballs
began popping up from every which angle. While all those balls were bounding
about, all I could do is react, almost as if I were under attack. Only after
a few of the balls have drained, and the action slowed some, was I able to chuckle
at the madness of the game. Anywhere from one to six of those wildballs will
erupt, all according to how many times you have advanced the counter.
The wildball indicator, which is displayed upon the back glass, is advanced
either by rolling over the four silver buttons at the center of the playfield,
or by hitting either black target at the top of the playfield, near the pop
bumpers. Once at least one wildball is released to confound you, the counter
is reset to zero.
The key to releasing wildballs, and building up your score is the center Wildball
hole. Every time you land a ball in that hole, more devilish wildballs will
be set loose upon you, unless the counter hasn't been advanced beyond zero.
And don't worry, you'll never run out of wildballs, though you may find yourself
wishing for a break in the action.
And while free game credits are meaningless on a computer simulation, they are
still awarded as in the real machine. One free game credit is given at a score
of 2,000 points, and again at 2,000-point intervals, up to a score total of
14,000 points. With the awarding of each game credit there will be three knocks.
Once you have met the challenge of Balls A Poppin', you'll wonder why it was
the only Bally pin made during the fifties.
Our third pin to take a gander at is another Bally, Power
Play from 1977. This table was recreated by Kinsey Hines, who is one of
a very small number of women who give life to these recreations. Power Play
is themed on pro hockey, and features the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Chicago
Black Hawks, and at times the ball seems to travel as quickly as a hockey puck.
In addition to choosing 3 or 5 ball play, you're able to choose from either
Liberal or Conservative game modes. The Liberal mode usually results in a much
higher scoring game. Conservative mode sets point values lower, and alternates
the lighting of bumpers and other bonus features. I prefer five balls per game,
but I also prefer Conservative mode, since the lower scores are more in tune
with the pins I grew up playing. There are also three very different replay
modes to choose from.
Special Mode, which is actually the standard, normal mode, awards credits when
you light the Specials, and gives you an Extra Ball when that light is lit.
Extra Ball Mode will score Specials and Replays, and awards you an extra Ball
instead of a free game. The Novelty Mode, offers Specials which score 50.000
points, but replays do not apply.
At the start of play, and with each new ball, bonuses reset to 1,000 points,
the kick-out hole is rest to 3,000 points, both banks of drop targets are returned
to the up position, and the ball-saver post below the flippers is in the down
position. Conservative play sets the value of the rollovers in the upper right
and left lanes at 100 points, instead of the more Liberal 1,000 points.
When lit for specials, the right and left out-lanes score a free replay. In
liberal play, both lanes will be lit, while in Conservative, they alternate.
Likewise, the two sets of drop targets, which are valued at 300 points each,
are both reset in Conservative mode, once an entire bank of targets has been
hit. In Liberal mode, only the completed bank of targets will be reset. The
pop bumpers all score 100 points unlit and 1,000 points once lit. They are constantly
lit in the Liberal mode, and alternately lit in Conservative mode.
The drop targets are where you can rack up some impressive points, since each
bank is worth 3,000 points. But they are worth so much more. Each bank of targets
dropped gives you three bonus advances, plus increasing the Multiplier. The
third bank of targets you complete advances the Multiplier by 5, and gives you
an extra ball in Liberal mode. The fourth set of targets you complete awards
an extra ball, and all other completions light the specials.
The Kick-Out Hole can also have a healthy effect upon your score, beginning
with 3,000 points and three bonus advances the first time you sink your silver
orb there. Point values increase by 3,000 points, up to a maximum of 15,000
points, plus the three bonus advances each time. Making your second Kick-Out
Hole lights the left lane rollover to score bonus advances. The 12,000 Kick-Out
Hole lights up the right lane rollover, and the 15,000 Kick-Out Hole lights
the Out-Lanes for collecting the Specials.
Interestingly, there is a maximum of 29,000 bonus points that can be collected
on any given ball, which is awarded when the ball in play drains. Only one extra
ball can be earned per ball, and is awarded when "Same Player Shoots Again"
is lit. And finally, beating the current high score awards three replays.
But the feature I like best, and which can help build your point total to record
highs, is the second pair of flippers built into the side of the rails about
midpoint on the play field. Unlike most additional sets of flippers, these won't
influence the game when not in use. But timed just so, they can propel the ball
either toward the banks of drop targets or send it to the top of the playfield.
With practice, you will learn how to use these hidden side flippers to gain
a bit of fame with higher scores, if no fortune.
So there you have it, PinGame Journal readers, our look at three pins from different
eras, and each special in its own right. Since Power Play is only twenty-five
years old, some may still be found, and enjoyed. But Balls A Poppin' will prove
much harder to find, outside of private collections. And few folks other than
collectors or pinball enthusiasts will have even heard of Contact.
And while I readily agree, there is and will never be a PC version of these
glorious games that does them justice, I still think having the opportunity
to play these and other beloved gems from the past is a plus. Struggle Buggies
on a computer can never match the thrill I knew when I played it as a youngster.
But the memories that I relive every time I do play the Visual Pinball version
are sweeter than even my sack of penny candy once was.
I do hope you'll keep an open mind, and try Visual Pinball by Randy Davis. With
an assist from super programmer Chris Leathley, Visual Pinball is constantly
being improved with new features and capabilities. With each update, more ways
to mimic flesh and blood pinball machines are added. I wholeheartedly endorse
Visual Pinball, for no other reason than to stroll down the familiar and dusty
back roads of your forgotten memories. Comments are always welcome, you can
drop me a note at 2432 Kennon Ave, Norfolk, VA, 23513.
My gratitude and appreciation go to Jim Schelberg, the publisher of PinGame
Journal, for the opportunity to write for America's only Pinball Magazine. And
especially for allowing this article to be reprinted for the VP community. PinGame
Journal is available by subscription at www.PinGameJournal.com, and offers an
excellent mix of interesting articles by some of the most knowledgeable and
respected Pinball writers anywhere.
Updated Jul 06, 2004 Written by tiltjlp 549 reads