27 August, 2012

On tables and balls

The success of a physical pinball depends essentially on the table design and the gameplay scenario. There are limits on how complex the latter can be, some limits having simply to do with the laws of physics.  

Digital pinball on the other hand presents an additional difficulty, that of simulating accurately the real world. This should be the first worry of all digital pinballs designers but, unfortunately, quite often they get sidetracked and forget this crucial point.

Take for instance the pinballs of ASK Homework (already mentioned in the present blog when we talked about iOS pinballs). They started with some unnecessarily complicated tables, one example of which is Vampire

and evolved towards much simpler ones like the already mentioned Mummy and the more recent Aliens.

While this is commendable it does not suffice to make the ASK pinballs satisfactory. The first reason is the ball simulation. One has the impression that the ball has zero weight. The fact that balls of various materials and qualities are offered does not improve the situation in the least. On the contrary. To make thing worse, the designer offers a collection of flippers. Some of them are silly and none has good mechanics. So, while ASK did make a move in the right direction it is my opinion that much more work is necessary before they graduate to the high quality pinball class.

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