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.

Kickstarter campaign for Timeshock just launched

On the very last day of July (when I was starting to feel nervous) the long-awaited kickstarter campaign for the Timeshock ProPinball was launched. From what I can tell the initial response was great. So, if I may give an advice, if you love digital pinball just head over to ProPinball kickstarter page and pledge what you can afford.

I already wrote to Adrian, who responded immediately,  inquiring about the somewhat awkward period (they did not wish to delay further), the fact that there is no mention of Pat Lawlor any more (that project is still on, once all four ProPinballs are published) and the question of DRMs (DRM-free versions will be available but this will depend on the particular platform).

Now I will be counting the days till December.