Do Tight Tilts Make You A Better Player

Continuing the discussion from Best way to Practice Comp pinball?:

@sk8ball comment in this thread reminded me of a topic I wanted to start a handful of weeks back.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as a major location I frequent keeps the tilts incredibly tight. Sneeze-tilt in a lot of cases, and myself and many others feel this is bad on a number of levels.

  1. Casual players that drop coins get turned off / don’t know what’s going on.
  2. Adjusting between play at this location and others is really difficult - to the point where I find it’s actually setting me temporarily backwards

So, I wanted to open it up and see what others thought. Figured there might be some heated discussion on both sides with this one.

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I play at some place with tight tilts. I like it. I’m getting better at turning my touch up and down. That’s a thing.

I certainly learned all the nudging basics on some loose bar machines. You definitely want to get aware of what’s possible. And in a do-or-die situation, you never know what you might get away with.

Just keep them reasonable so you can learn to nudge, but also have it be possible to tilt. If too loose, games are gonna get abused.

I do think that feather tight tilts aren’t doing much to advance your skills. You’re too worried about tilting to concentrate on anything else.


People who are my age, anyone in their early to mid 20s, usually believe that nudging is cheating. I think this is because the first introduction for most millennials was Windows XP pinball, which has about a 1 in 4 RANDOM chance to tilt when you hit the nudge button, and has a buzzer and a giant red X that appears.

Most younger people know about tilting, and are afraid to do it, without haivng ever done it. Why is this?

For me in my 4 years of competitive pinball playing, I still tilt too infrequently… except at 1 location where the operator doesn’t play pinball.

That’s an interesting perspective. Those that come from the EM era would say that nudging is absolutely crucial. To answer the question, no, I don’t think tight tilts make you a better player, they simply punish you more for being inaccurate. Practice makes you a better player.

Echoing my comments from the other thread, I believe that bumping and nudging is a distinct skill and incredibly important for high level play. Being able to give just the right amount of nudge could be the difference between an outlane drain or not, a double bonus saucer collect or not, etc.

<opinion>EM’s and other early games should tilt if you whack them, but allow slight bumps and nudges, enough to influence the ball. Later games like DMDs should allow a good whack at the cost of a double-danger, or tilt outright if too hard.</opinion>


I think when someone starts out playing pinball looser tilts are preferable so that they can learn what’s possible when it comes to nudging. New players often don’t realize how many balls they could save if they were more proactive with nudging the game, and having loose tilts hopefully encourages them to learn to nudge and move the game

I still need to work on using all of my dangers on each ball.

As you get better, I think becoming accustomed to tighter tilts is ideal. Once you’ve learned both that you need to nudge and how to do it, you need to learn how to nudge efficiently. Moving the game as little as possible while still making a save is definitely a skill, and it is a skill that I think is most easily learned once you already have a good sense of how it is possible to save the ball with bigger moves on the machine.


What’s your definition of ‘whack’?

I actually don’t believe this. While I’m a good bit older than @timballs I only started playing pinball a few years ago and nudging didn’t occur to me until someone showed me. Even then, I had to practice with a loose tilt machine a lot before I started moving machines enough to tilt.

Essentially, I don’t think this is an issue at all for casual players (who don’t know what’s going on) unless the tilt is so tight that normal play set’s it off.

Adjusting is a skill like anything else, but having said that, a game with a tilt that is too tight isn’t fun, and that should be something that operators fix since people won’t spend money on a game that isn’t fun.


Tight tilts won’t necessarily make you a better player, but you damb sure have to learn how to play with a tight tilt if you want to compete at a high level. When I brought games to CAX for the tourney, I always left them with the same settings when I got them home, including pitch and tilt. Because high scores were always reset for the weekend, I had fresh high scores to aim for put up by awesome players.

I kept the tilts relatively tight on my location games because I had mostly experienced players as customers. Kept them tight when I got them home. Not CAX tight, but tight.

The right outlane on Star Wars is a huge opportunity to practice nudging technique. Any model. You have two posts with rubbers there. With a decent tilt and factory outlane setting (middle hole), you can wicked shimmy just about every ball out of that right outlane. Left outlane too, but the right one is the easiest. The wicked shimmy is the coolest move in pinball. If you can’t do one, find a SW and start nudging.


(EDIT: oops, I missed you said EMs)

On an EM, any sharp side-jab. A forward jab on the lockdown bar should be OK. Enough to say, knock a ball off the side wood and into an inlane, but not hard enough that you can do a modern slap save.

Tight tilts make you better at nudging. Better at nudging=better player. I keep my games at home set at a very tight tilt for my practice, and any casual players that drop by usually don’t nudge at all so they’re never affected by it.

Of course, I’ve not played competitively for almost 6 years now, but I still find it fun to have the tilts as tight as they are. It turns out I don’t think it’s very fun to walk the games around with the lose tilts.

My first introduction to nudging/tilt was 3D Space Cadet for… Windows 95 I think it was? You could nudge with the arrow pad but as a child I had no idea what the purpose of it was, only that if I hit those buttons on accident too many times my ball would end. I think the case may be similar for many that grew up in the time of simulated pinball.

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That outlane… I’ve come across two machines in the wild that consistently auto-plunge bank off the tie fighter 3-bank, a rubber on the left, and straight out the right outlane. If you use the button to launch, or catch a ball save, you must make a couple well timed nudges to avoid watching the ball sail out the right outlane.

Watching an action-button-plunge, then ball save auto-plunge, then finally an escape auto-plunge all hit that right outlane, within seconds, despite heavy nudging is easily my most frustrating pinball experience to date.

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I definitely believe you should play with generous tilts and then learn to dial it back. But within reason. I learned to play on a machine where the tilt was so generous it would hit the cabinet on the left before the ring. This developed some bad and asymetric habits.

The only counter point is the number amazing balls I have had while playing in the danger zone. Maybe it is a psychology thing about playing a ball I should have already lost. Or maybe like suggested, playing focused knowing you can’t nudge somehow makes you aim better.


I have a WWF:RR at home. I recently jacked up the pitch and tightened the tilt bob a bit. I’ve found myself having more fun with the machine and playing it more as I’m practicing certain skills.

I believe having a tilt set to 7 to 8 out of 10 (hypothetically) is best for learning AND playing on. Tilts that are crazy sensitive imo are unfair and make it infuriating to play.

Both Star Wars games I have played suffered from plunge outlanes to auto-plunge outlanes with such overwhelming frequency that I have zero desire to ever play this game on purpose. Super bummer because the theme is so great. Seems to really be earning well for locations though so they’ve definitely nailed it there.

Speaking of tilts, I’ve noticed that I heavily favor moves using my right hand, which makes sense being right handed but probably also costs me saves since I tend to make bigger moves with the right hand, trying to save balls that might be more efficiently bumped to safety from the left. Does anyone else find their nudging so one sided? Any tips to work on being more neutral?

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If I find a machine on location with a stupidly sensitive tilt, I stop playing and leave a post-it note on the glass just above the lock-down bar: “Avoid. Tilt is stupidly sensitive.”

Nudging is an essential skill. If I can’t nudge, half the game has just been taken away from me. On a modern machine, I should be able to get one good shake, take my two warnings, and move on. If I do one good shake, get two warnings, and a tilt immediately afterwards (or, worse, five seconds afterwards without having done anything else), what needs adjusting is the machine, not my style of play.

When I find myself in a tournament with machines that have stupidly sensitive tilt settings, I go to the TD and (politely) complain. Not because of a bruised ego, but because setting the tilt too tight is the equivalent of putting shackles around the legs of the competitors in an athletics event.

If it’s not longer possible to nudge in a tournament, whoever set up the machine has erred on the wrong side of caution, just as they have erred if the tilt is overly generous.

And, no, I don’t think that practicing on a machine with a very sensitive tilt improves my gameplay. All it does is make me watch in resignation as a saveable ball goes STDM or into the outlane when I know that, with a normal tilt setting, that ball would still be in play.

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The argument I’ve heard here is that overly-sensitive tilts protect the machine from abuse.

In my experience, it also protects them from making money because no one wants to play a machine that tilts when you cough next to it.

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Right. And the post-it note on the machine lets the operator know in no uncertain terms that, if he/she wants to keep making money, he/she had better do something about that tilt bob.