Competition Mode vs. Tournament Mode

Great topic – lots of interesting thoughts.

This discussion also highlights the subtle importance of terminology.

“Tournament Mode” used to be the go-to setting. But then TOPS changed that, so Competition mode (and Player Competition mode) came out. Knowing what means what on machines made by various manufacturers (and even in various eras) already requires a great deal of experience.

Fortunately, PAPA’s Tournament Director’s Guide helps with both general and game-specific setup recommendations.

Although it would be nice if terminology were standardized, I don’t see that happening due to the recent proliferation of manufacturers: Stern, Jersey Jack, Spooky, Heighway, American, Dutch, Multimorphic, Homepin, Team Pinball, Deeproot and hopefully many more in the future.

Tournament Directors had better sharpen their pencils!

These are great examples of things I wish I could know when stepping up to a machine in competition. There have even been times where I asked the TDs and they didn’t know! So then I’m just going in blind which is an annoying way to approach game strategy.

Notes on the backglass are nice, but beyond that it would be awesome to have something in the status menu that shows any non-factory feature/game adjustments.


Huh. What games is the left flipper option available on? The only thing that I can recall that’s similar is language options. Is this a special ROM?

It would be nice to have some way for players to influence the game rules before starting a match without the keys. Something like rookie mode on GoT which I saw as the default setting on a location machine in Boise. Perhaps if you entered a specific combination of flips before starting the game it could pop up some options on the menu screen.

SAM onwards at least. Looks like this.


yeah well the manuals from DE era through mid-stern were much better than they got to. They must have laid off the tech writer around the same time they laid off most of the staff in '08. The trash they tried to pass off as manuals for stuff like Metallica is criminal. Still not back to what it used to be either…

Neat. What does it do for Spiderman? There’s no lock stealing and no mystery mode to equalize as far as I can recall. That particular title seems pretty much tournament ready out of the box.

Allow Player Competition was added to Whitestar around April 26, 2003, as that is when the TSPP readme says it got added to the code (v3.00). It was based on the Williams games that did it in the 90s starting somewhere around JackBot (I don’t remember exactly when). It’s listed in LOTR’s manual, so it should’ve been standard on games released in 2003 and beyond.

I don’t remember when it got added to SAM, but it was probably a day 1 feature.


Derandomizes which spider mode is lit first.

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Do you remember it being enabled by default when games shipped? Says enabled by default in the FGY manual clip above. Seems like it wasn’t aways enabled on location.

Is it there in Spike? If so, would be nice if Stern left it on by default. More and more leagues these days. Many ops will make small changes like that if you ask (makes the game harder anyway), but some can still be difficult.

I just looked in the WPT manual and it says “Not yet implemented.” Just checked the readme and it says it’s in WPT v14 which is dated 1/29/2008. FG was early 2007 so probably wasn’t in yet. No idea if it ever got released with it, guessing not.

I couldn’t possibly attest to what is or isn’t in Spike games.

Moving this topic into its own thread so it can be easily found and contributed to, rather than buried in my very detailed JJPOTCIFPAWPPRTGP question.


That question wasn’t directed at you. Guess I should’ve made that clear.

Checked SW and GOTG (both Spike 2) at league tonight and both had player competition enabled. Didn’t actually try them in the mode to see what changed, but the startup screen is there. X Men also had it enabled. Don’t think the op enabled them. Likely on by default.

The earliest “umbrella” setting for competition configuration I know of is Elvira and the Party Monsters. Named “Contest game”. The term “contest game” was used through out System 11, except Rollergames, which is “Contest play”. Come WPC with the standard “Tournament play”. Although folklore use the term “Tournament mode”.

Come Data East and they adapt with “Competition mode” with settings “None”, “IFPA”, “PAPA”, “Expo”. Lethal Weapon 3 is the earliest I know of. For game play setting I believe these are alike. But they differ on coinage/free play (maybe extra balls).

The bad bad BAD thing about these is, that they are templates. Clearing EVERYTHING incl high score, coinage and custom settings. Clearly made for shows. And super frustrating for locations where you have multiple purposes with occational competition. And they should be in an install menu. Not the adjustment menu. With the single “yes”/“no” item in the adjustment menu. What a mess.

This carried through most Sega/Stern Whitestar games. And finally, it was changed to a true Competition mode adjustment. You @keefer?

Williams games mid-90’s started to implement the hold flipper buttons for a single game in competition mode. Adapted by Stern at some point.

Personal preference. I like the term “Competition mode” the best. “Tournament” is an event, but “competition” is a thing. Two guys in a basement is hardly having a tournament. But they might compete.


Going to copy this stuff I wrote from the other thread…

A lot of confusion can be caused by the difference between tournament / competition mode adjustment and “INSTALL COMPETITION” install menu.

Tournament mode disables random things about a game, where as competition install changes crucial settings based on what the programmer deems makes it good for high level competition. Examples are, walking dead tournament mode simply makes things like walker progression non random where as competition install makes it so multi kills are way harder and modes can’t be started in multiball.

Iron Maiden tournament makes starting mode same, but competition install disables super skill shots. Etc

I personally dislike competition installs in general because they mess with crucial things that people who play the game on location wont know, and id rather just have everyone play the game everyone knows and is used to.

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Thought the install template was only factory + competition setting + no extra balls. That it fiddles with other settings too is news to me.

Hosting a tournament, it is good practice to document the configurations. Or atleast be super aware of it and able to explain to players. The problem I see here is that “yep, it is in competition mode” is ambiguous.


Agreed. Don’t change the settings if you cannot explain what you changed to the players.

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I’m still confused!

Is tournament mode and competition mode the same thing?

What is TOPs called now? Does TOPS still exist?

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Here is how it is. Williams come up with the concept of Tournament play. Data East want to do the same. Only they cannot name it Tournament play because of Williams’ sue everybody over everything - including your pet dog and the dog’s veterinarian - policy. So they do something else.

Yes, it is the same thing. Put players on equal footing. With rewards per their own merit only.

For tops, I think that’s another install option. Install tournament.

Not the same as turning competition mode on or the competition install function. Haha

I talked about this a bit in the Deadpool thread, but the current mish-mash of tourney settings is very confusing. There are 3 different service menu items with “Competition” in the title. No one knows what “Competition Mode” specifically changes on each game. “Install Competition” doesn’t even change what you want–it leaves EBs on in all the Stern games I’ve tried it on. So nothing works as a one-step tourney option, and you have to fish through settings regardless.

The Stern changelists even get it wrong. The Iron Maiden changelist says

‘SECRET SKILLSHOTS’ - defaults to YES, turn to NO to disable all secret skill shots (defaults to NO in competition mode)

but this is in Competition Install, not Competition Mode. How are users supposed to get this right if the docs are wrong? The past few tourneys I’ve been in with Iron Maiden has had people flailing to figure out if the secret skill shots are on, because how is anyone supposed to know what anything does?

Maybe a little extreme, but: “Competition Mode” shouldn’t even be a setting. Instead, rename this to “Random Features: On/Off”, or more preferably, turn all of the miscellaneous things that Competition Mode changes into individual settings. For example, a specific Mystery Award setting that can be set to Random or Fixed.

Then make “Install Competition” what it should be: the only necessary action for usual tourney settings. Make it turn EBs off and change all of the settings that “Competition Mode” would set. (I agree with @raydaypinball that Competition settings should leave the game as close to normal as possible.)

Yes, Player Competition tends to be on by default on Spike. (Another thing for TDs to worry about: turn this off during tourneys to avoid people accidentally triggering it when reading scores!) This should be renamed to something like “Hold Flippers For Competition Mode: On/Off”.

Add help text that clearly describe which each setting does on screen. Yes, this adds more text to localize. But we have LCD real estate now. No need to have users decode H.A.A.B.P.T.B. A.A.B. AUTOFIRE TIMER (an actual setting from AC/DC!). Maybe this is the only change that’s really needed.

Pipe dream: Allow a way to save a “custom” install, if there are some funny settings that people like to use in tournament.

Of course, all is IMHO, and all said with complete empathy for pinball developers. UI is hard. I know a lot of these settings are historic, but I think you can just look at these threads for evidence that it’s confusing.