Do Tight Tilts Make You A Better Player


Obviously being able to play games with tight tilts is something players should be able to handle and adapt to. But playing on only games with hairtrigger tilts can really hurt your game - after a few months in a league at a location with notoriously tight tilts, I became a total tilt puss and this hurt me badly in a couple big tournaments. While instinctively I thought playing in this league would make me a better nudger the exact opposite happened, so that’s something to watch out for.

I spent a week smacking my own games around when I realized what had happened.


I’m fairly certain that’s the argument for the location in question, however - I find the opposite to be true. I find myself rage tilting after I’ve already tilted due to the hairtrigger nature.


The first tournament I ever entered was the 2013 Ohio show which was a bank of 8 shadows all with tight tilts. Up until that point I never realized how much I rely on nudging, so I was tilting almost every ball, definitely every game. It definitely helped me improve in a sense of getting used to finding a tilt, and seeing what I could get away with under those circumstances…but equally as important it helped me get better at slap saves and knowing when NOT to nudge but trust the flippers.


I remember at a tournament when the guy who set the games up for Pump and Dump said “we want to really piss off the players” stating that it was his goal.

I don’t think a single player played a Multiball on Elvis all weekend.


That location often def makes me want to stick my foot where the SUN don’t SHINE.

You know, if pinball machines had a butt.


Normally I would never question tilt settings at a tourney. I can think of one big exception I’ve seen at least once before though. Tilt is reasonable during some amount of qualifying, then starts getting tighter and tighter. You ask the TD if the tilt has been adjusted and TD says no. You then ask the TD if he/ she would kindly do a quick visual inspection of the tilt mech between games. TD looks and finds that the manual has slid over and is now resting against the tilt bob, making it off center and the game much easier to tilt.

If it’s tight all weekend, not much you can do. If it starts getting tighter as the tourney goes on, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask the TD to have a look.

Bears repeating that EM’s which end game with a tilt should ALWAYS have a looser tilt in competition (or at home). Many newer TD’s miss this. They have a nicely working EM they want to use, but they set the tilt the same as the SS games. Not fun.


I’m going to jump in on this discussion. First, if you are a league player, then you should set your tilts on your own games to be the same as the general league games, so you can practice effectively. (assuming that you have a few games at home).

If you play on a game that has a tight tilt setting, then you can only practice your subtle nudging skills for that setting, so if the league games are set tight, then practicing with tight tilts will allow you to play better for that setting IMHO.

With that said,

I hate playing pinball machines with tight tilt settings and won’t pay to play them. I come from the EM era and those games required a lot of nudging skills (that I’m fairly good at), but they had no tilt warnings, so a tilt was the end of ball or end of game. So, for the EM era, most games were set to a loose tilt setting compared with typical modern tilt settings.

In other words, I find that part of my enjoyment from playing is from effective nudging. I have my games set to medium to loose. This means that standard shaking will not give me a warning and a hard nudge will give me one or two warnings, I have the tilt set so that the cone hits the ring near the top of the cone.


Someone needs to come up with an easy mod for those ‘tilt ends game’ EMs to become ‘tilt ends ball’ instead.

Looks like a lot of people’s definition of tilt is spot on to what I think it should be as well - normal shaking (to get a lane you want, or a small correction on an inlane/outlane situation) shouldn’t produce any warnings, but larger slap saves or moves should produce a warning or two but only go through to a tilt if the move was egregiously large. As a general rule as well, the older the game, the looser the tilt (because of the warnings vs. no warning), and the need to nudge for lanes or to keep a ball in the pops, etc.

Some have said my tilts are too tight, but if they’re fair and you can do that normal shaking without moving the machine’s legs, that’s just a play better situation. I have had players over that tilted every single ball, every game. But that was one player out of 70. I also had a Galaxy set ridiculously hard, because, well, Galaxy, and good players spent the entire night trying to beat what looked like a very low HSTD, and they couldn’t. Even that was still ‘fair’ regarding the tilt, although it is probably the tightest tilt on any of the games. I kind of did it for a lark, because I was planning on selling that game - but the ridiculous challenge of it caused me to like it a lot more. Games are usually <2 minutes on it vs. marathon turn-over sessions on stock Galaxies.


One of the really interesting things about the tilt bob is that you don’t see it and have very limited feedback. You can watch them, and so many behave differently based on what parts are in them. Do they have a dominant axis? Is it centered? Is the ring level? Can it hit anything? How quickly does it settle? Is it working?

I would love to better learn how to deduce more about the setup, in a pump and dump and in a 30 second warm-up. Also remember to never be behind Fred in the warm-up line.

I also wish it was easier to prove something is wrong. I have a reasonably good track record to IDing malfunctioning tilts, but a less good track record of convincing TDs it is the case.

Some memorable examples.

  • BPSO classics last year future spa. Many of us through the something was wrong. Always ruled are you “flipped too hard” or “it’s been doing that”. Bruce confirmed later is was 4x drop target down + left spinner always tilted.
  • League night, TWD. Seeming unpredictable dangers. Felt like shaker was dangering. Turns out the the bob would hit the shaker motor case, and so if you happened to time it perfectly, it would throw it into the ring.
  • CNEPC tilt ends game EM, would seemingly randomly tilt. Turned out it was one of the expected closed slam tilts that was dirty.

I wish there was a way for TDs to audit that the tilt was real and not a malfunction. Unfortunately, such an important part of the machine, is the hardest to understand.


There should just be a clear hole where u can see it.


I don’t think that’s a handedness thing, because I’m a lefty, and I still find myself being able to make better, more consistent moves from right to left, to the point where I’ve started making it a conscious focus on doing it more with my left when trying to make a center save that could conceivably be done either way.


Honestly, I think that would be really bad for competitive play. I forget which tournament had this (CA Extreme?) but there was a tilt-bob camera installed and up on a screen behind the competitors, ostensibly so others could see it for more oohing and aahing while watching play. As I recall the story though, competitors were trapping up and turning around to watch the screen, which slowed down play immensely as people would just wait for the bob to settle completely before continuing.

Having a viewport or similar would have the same effect. If I’m in the finals of PAPA or something with $10K on the line, I’m waiting for that thing to be stock-still every time I trap up :slight_smile:


There are loose tilts and tight tilts and crap tilts. Distinguish the latter ones.

I do not mind tight tilts. But I do mind games that do not allow you to feel out the threshold. Because they skip over warnings and red card you right away. It is just pure frustration at tourneys. And unnecessary.

Some games might have crappy software that leaves little to adjust for. But adjusting mechanics including the legs can go a long way.

In the end it is all about having games that are fair for competition. With a proper luck/skill balance in regards to the skill level of the player base.

A tilt ends game EM might be seen as too much luck of the draw. But, the point is to leave it off with a loose tilt. Players are reluctant to nudge it anyway.

As for games in the wild, well, if they are no fun to play, having crap tilts, they are likely no fun in the coinbox.


Good point. What’s the collective advice on trying to stabilize the back leg levelers that are extended all the way for maximum pitch? I use the leg leveler nut to tighten it to the base of the leg, but some pins – particularly older ones – seem to have a lot of wobble to them with their rear leg levelers at max height. Any tricks or tips people can share?


I my experience the “wobble” is worn leg mount plates. New plates, new bolts, counterfasten nuts on the levelers and rubber feet. Go.

Actually. There might be more to gain from magic cabinet protecters and washers. However, not my field of experience. Yet.


I think the best solution for tournament tilts is the ear plug or masking tape “blunt” that you inject into the top of the tilt bob. I did this to my Dirty Harry and while it still has a “tight” tilt, it isn’t crap anymore, as you can actually get one or two warnings


Yes, this. Mostly what this thread was about. I was also thinking last night about how extremely tight tilt (read: red card immediately, hardly time for dangers to read before tilt) settings affect debounce on modern Sterns.

It’s like a what - 2.5s? - debounce time? Less? If the tilt is set so tightly that it rattles against the ring for longer than the debounce time, instant tilt.


All this makes me wonder whether any of the manufacturers have experimented with using an accelerometer. They are cheap as chips these days and have the advantage that they are very accurate. No more issues with rings going out of line with the tilt bob, screws loosening, corrosion interfering with making contact, etc.

Setting the tilt sensitivity would be done via settings, of course. There could also be options to change the length and/or decay for “debounce”, that is, how soon I can get away with another shake after the first one.

This might be a solution in search of a problem, or it could turn out to be really valuable. I guess there is no way to know unless someone tries it.


I have been talking with a friend of mine about trying to develop an accelerometer setup for streaming. I think it would really add a lot of insight to be able to visualise the effect of the nudging and the amount of nudging being done in real-time. Have not made it far yet, but I think it would be cool, and could POC this idea.


Interesting thought. This could be a neat tournament gadget. Just stick an accelerometer onto the side of the cabinet. You could attach it with tape or blue tack. Even if it isn’t connected to anything in the machine, it could show a graph of the movement (similar to what you get from a seismometer, but using a polar diagram for left/right and front/back directions).

Then, when someone tilts, you could check against the graph to see how violently the machine was actually moved. When someone (surprisingly) doesn’t tilt, the graph might give some insights into why, and as to whether that was “fair”.

Whether to let the competitor see this info is a separate matter. But it sure would be interesting for comparison purposes, and to check whether players rightly or wrongly complain about a tight tilt. This could also be useful for TDs to objectively set tilt sensitivity on a machine instead of having to “eyeball” it.