25 December, 2013

Friend's influence and another table

This is not a new table. It is part of the Star Wars series of Zen Studios I wrote about some time ago. However my friend NIck/Doc chimed in suggesting that I give it a try. So here it is: "The return of the Jedi"

It is indeed a very nice table. Graphically superb and with animations that do not manage to spoil the gameplay. However I do not really like the flippers of Zen pinballs: they are only marginally better than the ones of Farsight and at moments the game experience is suffering because of this. Not a bad table overall but not one I will be spending an appreciable amount of time.

23 December, 2013

Linking to a most interesting, must-read, article

My friend Nick/Doc has posted a thorough comparison of Farsight pinballs on Steam vs theones from AppStore. I urge all of you to hop over to Doc's and read that article.

Concerning the difference in quality between Steam and Apple versions

I have observed the same effect between iOS and OSX. My guess is that it has something to do with the graphic card and its driver: I got the washed-out colours only on some of my iMacs. On the iPad (and also on the iPhone) all is OK. 

Concerning the more powerful flippers, I am not surprised. Farsight flippers are lousy and probably the Farsight people themselves ended up by realising it and doing something since they were preparing a new version of physics, specific for Steam.

Ah, if only Littlewing hadn't folded...

Double treat for year's end

If we were wondering how we were going to occupy our free time during the end-of-year vacations Farsight and Zen Studios provided the solution: two new (and interesting) tables are there.

For Farsight it was occasion to launch what they call the Season three family of tables. The first instalment is Fish Tales

a table very nice graphically, designed by Mark Ritchie. It features a boat on the, largely uncluttered, playfield, a fishing reel and a fishing-rod-shaped plunger. The highly coloured theme is making following the "invisible" Farsight ball particularly difficult. (Following the advice of my friend Nick I have started experimenting with different balls. I will report as soon as I have something conclusive).

Zen Studios presented a table with a Dr. Strange theme

I usually dislike the excessive 3D animations of the Zen pinballs. However, in this case, I found that they were rather unobtrusive and did not spoil the gameplay. Am I going to spend much time on the Dr. Strange table? I do not think so. Although the table is nice graphically I was not hooked by the play. Your opinion may vary, though.

17 December, 2013

Progress report on Timeshock

By now you all know that as a Kickstarter supporter I have access to the Pro Pinball VIP forum. Adrian Barritt is posting regularly there and I decided that I would share a short progress report with you. (I hope Ade does not mind).

Over the last month there have been updates concerning high resolution renders, what is called "the first lamp" and finally a main menu mock-up

They all look great. Work is progressing along at reasonable speed. No estimate can be given concerning the alpha/beta test but rest assured that as soon as this becomes available I will share my impressions with you.

27 November, 2013

Farsight, with clockwork regularity,

When I start despairing that I don't have any interesting new entry to the blog, Farsight comes along to help. By now it has become customary to have two new tables every month or so. This time we have two quite different games. Eldorado 

has an incredibly chaotic table, where the ball is practically invisible most of the time. Add to this an excessive speed and the easiness with which the ball drains and you have a most unplayable game.

On the other hand, Cue Ball Wizard

is a very pleasant game. It has some unique features like an oscillating captive ball and a captive cue-ball. The latter can hit two targets which are unreachable otherwise. The flippers can be raised at an angle that suffices to stop even a fast ball and thus greatly facilitates the game. If only Farsight had a more visible ball …

16 November, 2013

Waiting for Timeshock

Since we'll be waiting for quite some time for Timeshock I decided to hunt for other pinballs. My criteria are simple. I focus on freeware: somehow I am reluctant to pay for a pinball that has a non-zero probability to be below par. Also I look for nice graphics: if the developer did not understand that playing pinball must also be a visual pleasure then certainly his game is not worth the effort of trying. Of course graphics alone do not suffice (remember the totally crappy game with the pretentious name of Pinball-HD?) 

Looking around I found a game called iPinballs (another pretentious title). It is presented as if it is going to be a collection of games. For the time being only one does exists: Gangster. 

It is a not bad game: nice graphics, quite acceptable physics and the ball does not drain too easily. The only problem is that it is a one-ball game: if you wish to play longer you must purchase balls. I do not see many people doing this: I, for one, am not going to spend a a single cent.

13 November, 2013

Timeshock will be delayed :-((

Adrian Merritt just sent a mail with some very nice renders of the Timeshock table

but also with some not so good news.

Here's is an excerpt of his mail

… having produced some of the final very high resolution renders (2200 x 2560) it has become clear that we're going to need significantly more time and/or rendering power than we had anticipated to render everything to the highest of standards. 

I'm very sorry to say that this means it is highly unlikely we'll be able to release the game in December as we'd hoped. We've already purchased some additional hardware to speed up the rendering, but we need to do much more, so we're going to be bringing a load of powerful cloud based servers into play too.

I appreciate this must be disappointing news, but hopefully a few more months wait will be tolerable, given that it has been well over a decade since the original game came out.

I guess we'll have to contend ourselves with existing pinballs till then.

05 November, 2013

Trying other pinballs while we wait for Timeshock

It seems like we have to wait a little bit more before the alpha version of Timeshock becomes available. Thus, I decided in the mean time to try some pinballs from the iTunes store. Given the mediocrity of most pinballs available I decided that I was not going to spend any money and so only free pinballs made the cut. I tried a few and in most cases there was nothing to write home about. The only pinball that I found a little bit (but not more than that) to my liking was Tough Nuts. It’s a two table pinball, Fire Reaper

which I hated (only a vicious person would put draining slots on the lateral alleys) and Mafia

which I did like. The graphics of both tables are excellent and the physics simulation not bad. 

What I did not like at all was the fact that after losing a ball you could continue playing by inserting coins. For me this kind of tricks are a clear indication that the developer is there for the money and not because they are pinball fans. (That said, I am perfectly aware that people must make a living and that in-app purchases are a way to recoup the development costs). 

26 October, 2013

Two new tables by Farsight

Farsight continues cranking out, one after the other, classic pinball tables. This time, Halloween oblige, we are treated to Class of 1812

It's a supernatural themed pinball featuring, among others, a severed hand and a beating heart. I did like the gameplay and despite the blinking lights the ball remains visible, well, most of the time.

Victory on the other hand is a somewhat older, automobile racing pinball

I can't say that I liked it. It is too fast, given the almost invisible ball. At times you do not understand how you did manage to let the ball drain.

At this point I must add a note on Farsight flippers. I have been regularly playing Big Shot, a pinball quite simple with an uncluttered table, where, provided you play on a big screen like the one of my 27" iMac, you can follow the ball around. I noticed that time and again I am losing the ball when I try to do something clever with the flippers. When I do the same things with Tristan of Littlewing I almost never lose the ball. Something must be amiss with the Farsight flippers. 

Halloween by Gameprom

Just in time for, well, Halloween, Gameprom has updated Pinball HD with a new table with this theme. The table is superb graphically. 

There are several moving elements but not like the madness of Zen pinballs and in no way do they influence the game. The ball is perfectly visible all the time, but, to be fair, the dark theme does help. 

I did like the game a lot. Also, you can play for a very long time if you are a little bit careful: the ball does not drain too easily, like in other games. However there is a thing I hate: cheats. They should not exist in any respectable pinball. I can understand choosing the number of balls and fixing the slope of the table at the beginning (and in fact I think of those things as being fixed once and for all by each player) but resort to cheats in the middle of a game is something I find shocking.

Did I mention that you do not have to buy the game right away: you can try it for free, with a limited play time, before making up your mind.

24 October, 2013

Time for a small commercial

A good friend of mine, Nick/Doc, (you probably know him, he is a most frequent commenter of this blog) has decided to sell his pinball cd collection. It contains quite a few impossible to find today gems.
If you are interested you can contact him at: Sgdeluxedoc at gmail dot com

Here is what he is saying about the contents of his collection

Firstly, 2 Japanese Playstation pinballs (need japanese video format)

Many Dos pinballs -rather than listing them all, better to say every one ever made is here. For real!..
Includes the Epic pinballs CD, and all the classic ones such as Hyper 3D, 3D VCR, Pinball Mania, Tilt!, Pinball Illusions, Startrek Pinball, Living Ball, Absolute Pinball, Pinball Construction Kit and Pinball Builder, the Amtex 3pack CD with Tristan, Royal Flush, and 8Ball Dlx 2.0,  and so many more dos ones.. all in CD format.

Mac Pinballs..  Some are Classic MacOS pinballs, such as 8 Ball Deluxe CD, Crystal Caliburn and Loony Labyrinth CD,Loony Labyrinth floppies, and some hybrids such as the Sierra ones 3D Ultra pinball collectors pack with #D up 1 Creep night, Lost Continent, and Thrill ride. Sci Fi Pinball hybrid,  for the Disney ones and Hot Shots  - OSX  compatible is Monsters Inc and Jinni Zeala CD.. ,

Dos  floppies -have8 Ball Dlx version 1, and the extremely rare Thomas The Tank Engine dos pinball (i really wanted to try it out but don't have a floppy drive)
Many many very rare pinballs, that's why I was collecting in the first place.. such as 'Perfect Pinball' an early dos attempt at DLC… and another extrtemely rare one , 'Cyberball'.

Many Windows ones too, such as two of the Ultimate Pinballs (UP and UP Extreme), Microsoft Pinball Arcade, Addiction Pinball, the Pro Pinball series, and Platinum pinball (Adventure pinball, The Tomb, Visitors Pinball, and the Windows port of the 3D VCR tables, etc), Slam Tilt, and Slam Tilt Resurrection, The "Full Tilt" 1 and 2 CDroms (Mac/PC hybrids).. also the eGames pinballs with Pharaoh, etc, and the Sierra "take a break" ones with the classic  Sierra themes like "Leisure Suit Larry' pinball, etc. Aladdin pinball, Austin Powers pinball, Avengers Pinball, Megapinball. 

And many more also.. Including some hard to obtain German ones .. such as: Las Vegas Pinball, Ottifanten Ottifriersen Pinbball, Pinball Fussball, Data Becker 'Flipper XXL', Uli Stein Elfmeter, and a really cool one called "Russian Pinball", Fastlane Pinball, Ultimate Pinball challenge, and  a few compilation CDs. 

Also I'll make up a cd of some free promotional pinballs like TDK tape pinball, Volkswagen pinball, Dommelsch Breweries pinball, Rapidmotion pinball, and more.

19 October, 2013

Progress report on Timeshock

Adrian Barritt reports that the table modelling, texturing and animation is all but done and that they plan to start the final renders next week. Alpha tests should not be very far away after that.

In the meantime one can enjoy a quick render of one view that shows a somewhat more detailed Mount Rushmore than the one featured in the Kickstarter campaign.

16 October, 2013

Star Wars 2 by Zen Studio

Three more tables have been added to the Star Wars pinball saga by Zen Studios. They are the Balance of the Force tables, available as in-app purchases: Return of the Jedi, 

Starfighter Assault, 

and Darth Vader 

The graphics and the animation are superb. However to my opinion Zen Studios have crossed the threshold from pinball to flipper-activated game. Let us hope that their upcoming Dr. Strange is a tamer pinball simulation and not a special effects shambles.

13 October, 2013

A new blog of mine

This entry has nothing to do with pinballs. It is a shameless self-advertisement. A few days back I started a new blog on another passion of mine: Athletics. I have always been a Track and Field fan and I have done even some theoretical work on the matter. Since from time to time I have an idea that does not justify a full article I decided, given the success ;-) of the present one to start a blog. It is called Rethinking Athletics

So, if you have a moment to spare, just click on the link and have al look at my other blog. Who knows? You may like it.

02 October, 2013

While we wait for Timeshock, Farsight ...

While we wait for Timeshock, Farsight did publish two new tables. I tried them only on my iPad mini and thus my opinion may be somewhat biased. The first table, Haunted House

is a monster table with no less than 8 flippers and three levels of play. Unfortunately the ball is (again!) invisible on the background and it drains too easily to my taste. Perhaps the game will be more playable on a big iMac screen but I have decided that it's an investment that I am not ready to make.

The second table, Teed Off

is really funnier. The fact that the central part of the table is rather dark improves the ball visibility (although on most occasion the ball is coming down from the left). I did enjoy the game. The theme is reminiscent of the Pat Lawlor masterpiece, No Good Gofers, although somewhat tamer in its setup. 

If you do not know what pinball to play while you wait for Timeshock, these two Farsight pinballs may be a suggestion.

22 September, 2013

ProPinball forum is up and running

Now that Timeshock has passed, with flying colours, the Kickstarter test we can prepare for its resurrection some time soon.
By the way, I cracked and went for alpha/beta test, so expect to have impressions on the very first versions of Timeshock in a near future.

Meanwhile there is a place I recommend that you visit, the ProPinball forum here

It is a place for pinball fans and one expects that in the following months it will become the meeting place of ProPinball aficionados.

It is by visiting the forum that I stumbled upon a post that gave some interesting  links to Hardcore Gaming 101 (I ignored its existence till now). They have some very detailed historical-oriented articles on pinball, like for instance the one on 21st Century Entertainment who produced, among many others, the famous games Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies (which, were never ported to the Mac: I had to wait for the iPhone/iPad in order to play them). A visit to Hardcore Gaming 101 may be interesting in particular for retro-gaming fans.

07 September, 2013

Kickstarter for Timeshock is a success

The 40000 sterling pounds goal for the recreation of the Timeshock ProPinball has been attained. With a week to go, the first stretch goal, which will make possible for the game to be developed for Linux, has also been reached.

I pledged a conservative 35 £ plus 5 £ for the Special Gold Virtual Pinball add-on. I was itching to go for the 90 £ tier and get to be an alpha-beta tester but the amount was a little bit stiff and I do not care for the boxed copy (which would have set me back another 10 £ for shipping). I was planning to upgrade my pledge only if my contribution would have been essential into pushing the total amount towards the goal. 

Well, no alpha/beta test for me and so I'll have to wait for the final version before publishing anything in the blog ... unless there's a last minute surprise from the developers.  

31 August, 2013

Glass-off mode for upcoming Timeshock

I know, I am a little bit optimistic, since the Kickstarter campaign has not yet reached its funding goal. But I am convinced that this time we are going to make it, hence the moniker "upcoming". Today the team of Silverball Studios Barnstorm Games published a video of the much awaited glass-off mode

To tell the truth I could not fathom how it does work but who cares: it's a proof that work goes on and hopefully by the end of the year the first Pro Pinball will be resurrected.

23 August, 2013

Terminator by Farsight

I was despairing that the summer would go by without any new table. Well, I was too pessimistic. Farsight did produce their umpteenth table, a real classic one this time: Terminator 2

I tried to play the game but I could not manage to cool down and accept the fact that I was playing with an invisible ball (and so rely on edge-vision to capture motion and use reflexes instead of calculated flipper kicks). Still, I managed a high score on my second try. The game definitely looks interesting but is unfortunately spoiled by the ball quality.

At times I wonder, isn't there anybody else complaining about the ball? Am I the only one who finds Farsight games almost unplayable because of this? Well, I know that my friend Marco has already emailed them and complained, just as I did, but there has been no reaction. I also wonder whether the Farsight team test the games only on a huge monitor. On my 27" iMac the ball (non)visibility is less of a problem compared to the iPad mini.

22 August, 2013

What did happen to Littlewing?

A year ago Littlewing produced their second pinball for iDevices. It was a remastered revival (to borrow the expression from the ProPinball campaign) version of their classic Crystal Caliburn. It was a masterpiece and was hailed as such in this blog. I remembered that at the time I wrote to the Fujitas at Littlewing, drawing my attention to the post, and got back a nice answer, thanking me for my praise. I found it a little bit curious that no Mac version was planned (contrary to what happened with Tristan) but I thought that it was just a question of time. That was one year ago. 

Since then Littlewing 

went to total radio silence. When I was preparing the entry on the Littlewing ball quality I wrote to Fujita-san telling him that I would like to ask some questions, in particular about his famous "cheats" with the table physics. (Have a close look at the lower meniscus of the Tristan ball when in motion: you'll remark that, while the table is not really reflected on the ball, one does have the illusion of rolling. This is just one example). I was hoping to have something of an interview of the Fujitas on the blog. Alas, no answer came. I wrote again when the article was published, telling them that it was about Littlewing. Again there was no answer.

What is going on? I have only one explanation. I remember reading on their blog that the sales of CC were below expectations (at least those in the US; sales in Japan being apparently OK). Before the AppStore digital pinballs were selling at 30 $. Once iDevices made their appearance the prices dropped precipitously and even a top-quality pinball, like the ones by Littlewing, cannot sell for more than a few dollars. If one does not sell really large quantities the profits are not worth the effort invested. So, perhaps the Fujitas are pursuing other, financially more interesting, paths. On the other hand, if one looks more closely to their rate of production of pinballs, one sees that there is one release roughly every two years; so there is no reason to panic (yet).

If anybody has some info on Littlewing, it would be great to have it appear here. 

08 August, 2013

The blog is one year old

One year ago I decided to embark upon blogging on my favourite subject: pinballs.

My choice of a title was dictated by the desire to make the blog a continuation of the page I was maintaining, since 98, on the Tower of Pin (pcpinball.com) site. Since the Tower had disappeared as a pinball-fan site, I was afraid that my efforts of keeping track of digital pinball evolution on the Mac would be for nothing. In the meantime the explosion of iDevices has revived the development of pinball simulations bringing us some pure gems (and a large quantity of crap). I could not refrain from commenting on the new iOS-specific pinballs (since I was playing many of them and even managed to enjoy some). So the scope of the blog was expanded and, a year later,

here we are. 

I started the blog with roughly 25 entries which are directly taken from the old Mac pinball history. Today the number of entries is reaching 70 and the page gets visitors from all over the world: roughly 3000 page views, one third of which are from Windows (!) machines. My friends Doc/Nick and Marco are the most faithful followers of the blog and I am greatly indebted to them for their suggestions and encouragement. 

Looking back, I think that the choice of a blog was optimal, since it puts some pressure on the blogger. So, I hope that you enjoy my ranting on digital pinball and promise to do my best to keep the blog up to date.

05 August, 2013

Two new Farsight pinballs

Two new Farsight pinballs made their appearance on iDevices. The first, Flight 2000

is considered a classic. Unfortunately it did not manage to get me hooked, despite the fact that I do like oldies.

The second, Goin' Nuts, 

is a very special pinball. It was never actually commercially produced. What is even more uncommon is the fact that the game starts directly in multiball and there is a time cut-off. One needs quite different reflexes in order to play this game in a successful and enjoyable way. I must admit that I have not taken the time to adjust myself to this very unusual style of play but it would be interesting to do it one day. Perhaps I will wait for the bundle to come to the Mac.

Frogger Pinball by Silverball Studios

While perusing the Kickstarter page for the ultra edition of Timeshock (if you haven't been there I urge you to visit the page and pledge whatever you can afford) I found a mention of other pinball games by the same team mainly for Nintendo. However I was convinced to have seen a game by Silverball Studios (the ones working on the revival of ProPinball before been bought by Barnstorm Games) on the iPad. I searched around a bit and there it was: Frogger Pinball. 

It's a three table game, in fact more a game than a simulation. 

I wouldn't have it reviewed here were it not for its relation to the ProPinball team. In each tableau you must kill nasties by hitting them with the ball.

While the game is nice graphically (but still a game and, to my eyes, not a simulation) the physics engine is rather sluggish. I just hope that the new one they build for Timeshock is on par with the ancient ProPinball Physics engine.

Friend's influence, one more time

While exchanging correspondence with my friend Marco it turned out that a favourite pinball of his is "Taxi" from the Farsight collection. Since I haven't presented a detailed review of all the Farsight tables at the time the blog was launched, Taxi did not get any review at all. Moreover I must confess that I had not even played it once. This is now remedied. Taxi

is a very nice table, uncluttered with rather simple objectives and, what is more important, the ball does not drain all the time as it happens with other Farsight pinballs. (This is where a little bit of cheating with the laws of physics, like Fujita-san of Littlewing is doing, would be most welcome, but I have scant hopes for such, game-enhancing, improvements coming from Farsight).

Taxi is a fun pinball and one can spend a most enjoyable time playing it.

01 August, 2013

On the Littlewing ball superb quality

Those who follow my blog know that I use to complain about the quality of the Farsight ball. In fact a simple glance at the comparison of the Littlewing and Farsight balls I presented in my "What is wrong with Farsight?" entry suffices to convince one that something is amiss with the choices of Farsight. However here I am not going to criticise Farsight but rather heap praise upon Littlewing.

The screenshot of the blog entry mentioned above was taken from Tristan. However Littlewing has produced another gem of a pinball based on their classic Crystal Caliburn. I decided thus to have a look at that game and I was amazed to find no less than four balls (but, of course, only one was used in the game). First we have the ball on the home screen

It looks gorgeous with the textured surface. (Some pinball simulations do use such a surface in order to convince the player that the ball does indeed roll. Who cares? I expect the pinball physics to be as accurate as possible but I do not like to be reminded of the details all the time).

The second is the options' ball

Here we remark something typical in Littlewing. There are reflections on the ball but they do not overdo it in realism. In fact if you look closely at the Tristan ball you'll remark that the reflection part is there just to give the illusion of motion and does not reflect the immediate surroundings. I call this way of cheating "pure genius". Fujita-san is one of the rare persons who understood that for a successful pinball simulation one must, from time to time, cheat a little bit with the laws of physics.

The third ball is the one in the scores' page

This is a monstrosity with Farsight-like reflections that would have made it unplayable, but of course it is there only for decorative purposes.

Finally we have the in-game ball

Notice the almost total absence of reflections. There is only a meniscus-like zone at the lower part which changes colour very slightly depending on the position on the table. That and the bright patch make the ball perfectly visible even on a table like Crystal Caliburn which is rather dark and heavily ornamented.

I would have really liked to have Fujita-san comment on his specific techniques, in particular on the subtle cheating. Well, who knows, perhaps I will manage some day to obtain an interview.