Electronic Tilt for Pinball Machines - Part 3

We have no human referee who decides about tilt or not. It’s done by the machine / tech, programmed by a human. You intentionally program the machine to make mistakes. Here an example: 2 players execute the same amount of nudges and with the exact same force, just at slightly different times. What happens is that player A nudges at times when the pendulum is swinging one specific direction and by his nudges he luckily slows down the movement. Player B is unlucky and by nudging 5/100s of a sec later, this leads to an acceleration of the pendulum and a tilt. This is the unfairness of a tilt pendulum.
Only novices don’t care about random punishments. Serious players reject such unfairness.

The player can underestimate the exact tilting point by nudging too hard. That’s a real player mistake and therefore he deserves warning(s) or a full tilt - a fair punishment.

“I don’t wait 60 seconds unless the previous player did a rage tilt, otherwise I’ll play immediately.”
Yes, bc you play for nothing and that’s why you don’t really care. But when you watch final rounds of tournaments where money is at stake then you see almost all players waiting for a very long time even though rage tilts are extremely rare. That’s bc nearly every turn ends with a rescuing attempt whether it’s about an inlane-outlane nudge or a slap save. So the pendulum is swinging strongly almost every time.

This is of course very situational. Some games have extensive bonus (e.g. all mode points are awarded as “bonus”)… on these games, the better the ball, the less likely an experienced player will end their ball with a strong “rescuing attempt”, lest they lose a huge bonus. Other games have negligible bonus even after lengthy balls; on these games, experienced players will be far more likely to tilt, since there’s not much to lose, and maybe you save the ball.

1 Like

All true what you say. The point though where we’re at is if an electronic tilt should mimic a (after-)swinging pendulum (which can be accelerated or decelerated by nudging and thereby lead to much earlier warnings / tilts) or if it should treat each nudge / slap-save as a separate event (by measuring the acceleration in just this moment) with no simulation of after-swinging at all.

I’m aware as a player that knowing about an after-swinging pendulum with a possible escalation, acting accordingly by nudging less hard is kind of a skill. However the downsides are so huge that overall such a simulation makes no sense.
The downside can be felt when a series of bad rolls occurs and the player is continuously forced to nudge hard to keep the ball in play and so he is deprived of the option to let the tilt pendulum calm down. Another thing is the annoying 60 sec tilt calm time which many players fully use. This would be eliminated.

So my personal experience across many tournaments and leagues, large and small, is that after a previous player tilts or even just dangers to conclude their turn, there is no real impediment to waiting a minute or two before beginning the next player’s turn. Even when a “60 second max” rule is in force to begin play, it’s pretty rare that a player is warned or penalized while waiting for the tilt bob to settle if they are present… the start-of-play enforcement is usually only considered for players who are absent for non-play-related reasons (smoke break, bathroom break, getting a drink, etc). Even if one encounters an over-enthusiastic TD, stepping up to the machine and doing some practice flips is generally enough to avoid any penalties while allowing the tilt bob to settle.

So I guess my point as a player is that I’ll wait as long as I reasonably can after a previous player makes an aggressive move, even if there’s a “tilt device” that doesn’t require such a delay… because why not? I don’t want to be restricted to nudging “less hard” because that limits my skill. Even though I appreciate the intent of this device, I wouldn’t want to rely on it to speed up competitive play by some negligible amount.

What do you mean? You aren’t. The opposite is true.

The rest of your comment is basically saying that you can live without such a thing.
Well, we had to as there was no other option. But when I insert my coin at a new location and the dumb machine tilts even though I barely touched it, I don’t like it. I’d rather have read on the screen in the backglass that this machine’s tilt was set to 1 (on a scale from 1 to 10), meaning it has an ultra sensitive tilt. Maybe then I would’ve chosen to play on another machine in the first place with a tilt on 5 (medium) or at least I would’ve been warned to only push the buttons and not nudge at all. For an event a TD could instruct the volunteers to set the tilt to 4 on all machines. Then we wouldn’t see tons of people complaining about ridiculously set tilt bobs at Pinburgh every year.

100% Wrong … I program the machine to follow the rules of physics and gravity. The only reaction it makes is due to the input of the player. It’s useless to debate whether it is fair to novice/experienced players as it treats each player equally. If you don’t like Classic mode then use Simple mode and you don’t need to worry about any pendulous movement. Debating whether one is better/preferred should be moved to another thread since the device does both

In tournaments, I’ve never seen a placard on any machine which states the sensitivity of the tilt before you play. If you feel this would be an improvement to the device then I can put it on the “to do” list of future enhancements. I take player input seriously and have incorporated many features based on user input from the forums.

And I agree wholeheartedly with this. The player will choose to wait however long they wish because that is their prerogative. The option to remotely zero the tilt is just that … an option. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it. I suspect most players would wait 60 seconds after a tilt just because that is what they are used to. Half the battle is just educating people on the possibilities of what the device is capable of doing.

Mercedes could offer the option to start the motor in classic fashion by a hand crank. But they think first if this makes sense or not and bc it doesn’t they don’t offer this option. No matter if 100 people in the world would like to start the motor with a hand crank.

Likewise Stern could program LEDs to burn through like it often happened with the old light bulbs. This would also treat everybody equal. But as it not makes sense Stern doesn’t offer this option.

Ofc the sensitivity of a tilt has never been stated on any pinball machine. Why is this so? Obviously bc until now it would’ve been much too elaborate and costly.

Some things make sense in general, others don’t. But the ones making sense in general come at a price and only when the price is is acceptable they make really sense. The price tag being too high for something better was the only reason we had to live with the shitty tilt bob since 1935.

This is true, although I’d suggest there’s more to it than just education. Does every machine in this tournament have this device installed? Is every game going to have a dedicated TD who will always remember to hit the “neutralize tilt” button when a player’s turn ends, or perhaps was the TD distracted answering a question from someone else? And even if all the conditions are ideal in your event, that may not be true at the next event I attend, so as a regular tournament player, I would want to retain the habit of “previous player tilt --> wait for it to settle”.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the ingenuity of what is described here; I just don’t think it’s quite a panacea.

BSSH, you’re removing an exciting part of the game IMHO. A player who double dangers while making a save but fails to get control is now playing on eggshells until they do get control. Not only do they have no more warnings, they have a swinging bob to deal with as well. Can they get control without finishing the tilt?

Your ideas are interesting and might speed up play a bit, but would remove a bit of drama and excitement from the game.


Actually, I do. It means that you have been playing fast and hard with the machine and your built up momentum has cost you by tilting. I don’t think that you should be able to build up momentum and be rewarded with a close to instantly settling tilt, at all.

It’s not nice when the NEXT player gets the tilt, though, through no fault of their own. For single qualifying play eh, you were responsible for building up the tilt swing so its’ your risk.

also @scochar
Sorry but YHO is one-sided and very wrong. While a weaker player might consider a weird swinging tilt which can cause fatality by lottery as beneficial and as an exciting thing, a stronger player doesn’t like to be erased for no reason bc in the sense of competitive sport that’s an unfair bs.

It is true that a perfect player wouldn’t mind a swinging and by nudging potentially escalating tilt pendulum as he would hit every ramp etc. and therefore always has a feed back to the flippers at no risk while the tilt is settling. But as not even Keith Elwin is perfect, we all come into situations beyond control. When these out of control situations unfold it often happens that the ball “wants” to drain and nudging or slap-saving is required. Let’s say the ball is saved but the bad rolls continue while the pendulum is swinging heavily. Sometimes a good player is able to read the ball’s path and by clever nudging or refraining to nudge he’s able to force the ball back to safety. But many times god-like skill is required and the ball remains out of control. The slings fire the ball in direction outlane and the ball is only savable by a powerful nudge which is appropriate for a calm pendulum but not for one in motion. To be exact, it’s only inappropriate bc the pendulum is swinging from behind to front while the player nudges from the front and therefore pushes the whole machine including the tilt ring backwards and as a result the tilt pendulum and the ring collide, sometimes 3X in a row what means sudden death. Note that if the tilt pendulum had swung in the opposite direction the player would’ve gotten away with the exact same nudge. Therefore the tilt pendulum represents an element of luck. As anyone with a brain wants the better player to win, removing luck as much as possible is the only right way to go.

By it’s nature pinball is a already a game / sport where luck plays a big role. Keith Elwin, Raymond Davidson and Daniele Acciari are each probably not more favorite than 70:30 in a single 3-ball game against IFPA rank 300. In 3 3-ball games their probability might rise to 75:25. Now compare that to tennis. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are probably 99%+ favorite when they play the No. 300 in a 3-set match!

For pinball it’s imperative to reduce luck.
Pls get that in your head or I’m running wild :slight_smile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2IyX5LXGyg

That’s not the only reason. Replay %, match % and EB % could easily be shown on the display today for virtually no cost. They’re not because those are settings given to the operator to help with earnings. Same goes for tilt settings. The player only gets the replay score.

A boutique builder could absolutely make this happen, but the boutique builders are making games mostly for the collector community. A option to show tilt settings would likely be turned off by default. Only hard core players would want to see this. Could be turned on with tournament settings, but I don’t ever see location games showing it.

Imperative to you perhaps, but for most, it’s part of the charm.

And Elwin is likely a 99%+ favorite in an 18 game final—which is the number of games Federer will play at a minimum—against a 300 seed, so you should probably try and come up with something else to fit your narrative.


Anyone with a brain wants a good competition. If the better player won every time, what is the point? That is one reason tournaments still use EMs. Not to mention there is skill in knowing when and how much to nudge a game in order to minimize the bob movement.


Ok, granted. Especially for the latter 3 parameters. The old style tilt bob sensitivity level would’ve been hard to measure though.

And yes, the collector / home user doesn’t need a tilt display as he usually has set all of his machines to a reasonable tilt level and also his invited friends know that.

Still the time for an innovation looks promising:
The e-tilt is a tech jump.
It’s cheap and maybe even cheaper than a standard tilt bob.
Probably not maintenance prone.
Improves justice like the eagle eye in tennis.
The pinball industry is on the rise.
Some more competitors show up.

When Keith Elwin comes up with putting a mosquito model into the plunger knob of Jurassic Park, I appreciate his nice idea as lady pinball should look as attractive as possible. But now, before the coin door comes in Antara leather I think it’s time that we true players demand the e-tilt.

There’s no 18 games final in a pinball tournament. The races are short and that makes a huge difference in expectancy. Even in an 18 games final lasting for 3h+ I’m sure Keith could never reach 99%+. Maybe Bowen Kerins has needed data at hand and could present the math in a vivid way.

Imperative to pinball as a sport. The real charm lies in winning by strong play and not by your opponent’s tilt accident.

@metallik There’ll remain a lot of luck in pinball even with a perfect e-tilt. Hard to tell in percent. Maybe 25% improvement?

As I see it EMs are used to make the history of pinball’s development known, especially to young players but also to the part of the youtube audience who has no clue whatsoever. Older players often remember where they played the specific model maybe decades ago and that can trigger a funny and happy feeling. I don’t think they’re chosen to intentionally increase luck. Some are played with 5 balls which evens out luck at least partially. For my taste they shouldn’t be used in final rounds, especially the ones with small flippers.

You can’t really know how much you can nudge with a swinging tilt bc an element of randomness is involved = reduced skill.
Knowing with how much you can get away at tilt level X will not be easy at all. But as e-tilt levels are exact thresholds a wizard might be able to remember them. Less full tilts = less disappointments - also for the audience.

I don’t like it.


The beauty of the device is that you will never know if there is a mechanical or electronic tilt installed unless you’ve been told … just as you never know the tilt settings of any machine you walk up to for the first time.

A TD can be used to zero the tilt movement. This was my initial idea which I’ve been trying to simplify. One option is to tie into the existing machine to reset it (ie kicker). Another is to use Near Field Communications (NFC) on your phone and just tap the side of the machine. Lots of possibilities to choose from.

The first 17 seconds caught my eye … only because I used to be a helicopter based aerial cinematographer years ago. The camera moves way too much, this guy was an amateur shooter.

@ SAFBrian
Obviously you haven’t read what I was saying. I’m in full support of an e-tilt which measures the force of a nudge very precisely, eliminates time for players waiting for a tilt bob to settle (in play while cradled or at the beginning of one’s turn), eliminates ghost tilts by an escalated pendulum (even though each nudge was within allowed force given a settled pendulum), can even prevent false referee decisions concerning bang backs if the outlane switch sets tilt sensitivity to low for a few secs (unless you’re in multiball) and can serve as a tilt scale which is the same in London, Paris, NY, so that the master TD at Pinburgh could say 'for qualifying set all tilts to 4" (example: 1 is very tilt sensitive, 5 is the middle and 9 would be the very loose max). All oft hat would be be the greatest improvements!

What he wants to add by programming to the accelerometer is a virtual tilt bob which is swinging like the old, mechanical one. Thereby he simulates all of the negative accompanying characteristics. On top of that he wants tournament players to call a TD to make the tilt pendulum settle by remote control when desired.

To me that makes zero sense like tits on a bull. But maybe you can explain that to me.

I love the fact that prior little nudges give you less leeway when you need to make your big move, and that after the big one you need to take it easy for a while. Taking this away sounds like a silly idea and I’m sure most players agree. I’m all for an electronic tilt mech that accurately emulates the swinging bob and automatically resets between players though.