How come I don't see much data-mining for pinball?


This has been bothering me more and more. Star Wars, and the use of the smart button for multipliers really felt like the tipping point for those who know vs. those who don’t.


For me the tipping point was the decision to release incomplete games that require 12 code updates to be “finished.” If you don’t know what version of a game you’re playing, you can be really disadvantaged until you figure it out because sometimes scoring drastically changes as things are balanced. Then there’s the extra mental gymnastics required to process and adjust to every code release. It makes my head hurt - I just want to play pinball, make shots, and be rewarded.

One hopes that in a tournament setting machines will be latest-and-greatest, but that’s not always the case.


Pinball came from the realm where manufacturers wanted people to keep playing to not just get better… but to explore the game and pay to discover. It was a game made to keep making money. The games were largely not in the hands of those willing to explore.

The same people in that business 25 years ago still lead the business today. And the idea is accepted by the bulk of the player base that grew up with that.

Pc gaming and consoles are nothing like that. Pc gaming didnt have the motivation to keep charging for discovery. Instead they chased total hours by expanding the content and giving objectives around treasure hunts, completition, etc

The markets cane from different places and with different needs.


Good point. The more you interact directly with your opponents, the more you will need to know what your opponent is planning on doing so you can counter accordingly. (Still, I would guess that having as complete a knowledge of the machine’s rules as possible can’t hurt.)

For the record, your terminology is accurate regarding Smash Bros. While I don’t play in a lot of competitions, I do watch a good deal of them (the Splatoon 2 World Championships are going on right now, actually), so I know a lot of terminology regarding them, though that also comes from reading up on mechanics and fan jargon for games I don’t play as well.

Apologies for being unclear. What I mean is as follows:

They tend to be evasive when asked about the rules directly: I get a lot of “I want the players to discover them for themselves” when I ask, which is the exact opposite of what I want: Ideally, I’d like to have all of a machine’s rules memorized by the time I step up to play one for the first time. It’s the same mindset I have going into playing a video game with the aim to play competitively. I do not like to learn a game’s rules through trial and error, so I’m glad people do make efforts to dissect a game and its rules, though I feel the process can be streamlined through data-mining. (Trial-and-error gameplay, incidentally, is considered a cardinal sin in modern video gaming, especially cases in which errors will cause you to lose.)

They tend to be upfront about design decisions and other behind-the-scenes stuff, such as dummied-out content and details within balance patches. This is rarely ever encountered in video games beyond the indie level. Communication with the developers is usually difficult (and is most often done through journalists), so when said balance patches come out and the developers are completely silent about what’s changed besides “for a better gaming experience,” the game is typically data-mined to see what has changed.

I hadn’t realized I had inadvertently contradicted myself. They were two thoughts about two different things.

When you say “backstage pass,” do you mean the card on the apron? Because that comes nowhere close to listing all of the rules, and there’s no way they could list everything without requiring a microscope to read. Or do you mean something else?

[quote=“G_Money, post:79, topic:2227, full:true”]
A lot of the responses are - there’s no point, it’s pinball. But I don’t think this addresses the question asked. Sure, we aren’t going to play perfectly, but I think with 2 people of similar skill level, a person with complete rules knowledge will win more often than a person playing with little or none. And generally speaking, rules knowledge is sought and shared on forums like this for just that reason. So why hasn’t anyone hacked the code or data mined (whichever term you’d rather use)? All it would do is inform your shot selection accurately. And maybe it would confirm what we already do, but maybe not.

Maybe it is that we’re so used to getting our knowledge by trial and error? I don’t know. Maybe we don’t like the idea of one optimal strategy? There are plenty of games where everyone already only does one or two things, because they are the only ‘legit’ tourney strategies. And maybe a data mine would eventually do this to every game? And ruin pinball.[/quote]

Heh, thanks for expressing what I’ve been wondering about at its core: Assuming people of equal or near equal skill, the one with superior knowledge of the game’s rules should have an advantage. Once you get used to it all, of course, I would guess it wouldn’t be too hard to memorize.

By the way, regarding the “one optimal strategy”: Though pinball machines of the past would need massive overhauls to prevent that, and Stern, Jersey Jack, and the other ones in existence right now could release balance patches to address them, video games go through great lengths in their design processes to balance out the available options. Of special note is Sirlin, who will spend literally over a year on balancing alone (but he gets the job done better than nearly anyone else out there–I don’t think he will ever want to try balancing a pinball machine though, as he has a dislike for elements of chance in a game).

Aren’t the version numbers listed on the DMD/monitor during their attract modes? I mean, that will, in turn, require you memorize what’s in the base game and what had changed through each update, but still, it’d be a huge disservice to not notify the players of what version it is.

I know I would look at the version number for every Stern game from Star Trek and onwards, as that was roughly where it started to really matter which version the rules were at. About half of all Star Trek machines I’ve played in public are at their base code, when the machine was first released, and that was when it came to my attention to see how updated each particular machine I step up to has been.

Very true, and in turn, the people playing these games demanded different things, and they evolved over time to suit the desires of their players.

Data-mining in video games (including PC games) didn’t become widespread until the 5th generation (for consoles, that’d be the PlayStation 1, the Nintendo 64, and the Sega Saturn), and by that point, pinball fans had become so distanced, culturally, that the data-mining, I’m guessing, never spread to pinball.

I think another major thing is the presence of online play. The moment people get wiped by a faceless, anonymous someone who knows exactly where to position their characters to remain out of range, follow up their basic attacks with devastating combos, and perhaps make use of glitches to create the edge they need, that’s going to motivate those people on the losing side to look up this information to avoid letting it happen to them in the future. In turn, that has created a prestige for people who can find this information out first, as well as wikis on every game with a robust online scene with information on every last gameplay detail.


No. Iron Maiden has a fairly comprehensive backstage pass (a.k.a. rules document) at


I don’t think that’s universally true. One could probably get the code version from just about everything by power-cycling though, but that’s likely to get frowned upon in a tournament setting. It also doesn’t solve the growing list of games using the awesome custom ROMs that exist to fix bugs and whatnot.

It’s long been my position that TD’s should publish current ROM versions for anything modern where frequent code updates are the norm, or at the very least publish anything with a deviation from standard and well-known versions. That idea hasn’t gotten much traction.


Or feel no interest in a game that can so dominated by such gimmicks and demand you to play that way. They walk away and find something else.

Its completely different to know strategies like where the best weapons are… knowing the maps… or knowing things like spawn patterns… verse the type of garbage you outlined.

Frankly i find this culture you outline repulsive and xompletely unintereting to me. Learning things like rocket jumping in quake came from creative PLAYING and then still took practice and skill to execute well. Not distorting the game play or discovery.


Oh, that’s awesome. Though it doesn’t tell you the point vaues or the formulae to calculate them, but I suppose that might be a ittle bit too much (though not for me). But still, that’s awesome, and had I known it existed, I would’ve read and memorized as much of that as I could and not have to try it for the first time completely blind.

I would definitely say that if the machines are to be used in a tournament, they should have whatever is the most recent version (though there will likely be exceptions, in which case there should also be notification of that, which I usually see, and that includes usage of custom ROMs, which I don’t see quite as much).

Not exactly sure what you mean by that, as besides glitches, which ARE frowned upon in many circles (though it depends on the game–glitches are fully encouraged for Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments but are grounds for disqualification in League of Legends tournaments) and, in modern gaming, are soon patched out if they prove to be too game-breaking, the other two core mechanics common to multiplayer gaming, ranging/footsies (depending on the genre) and combos, are things you are expected to know at high-level play. Modern games are designed with this sort of player behavior in mind, so they’re no longer gimmicks, and they haven’t been since the early 00’s or earlier.

But nevertheless, different strokes for different folks. Looks like I come from the opposite direction from you, so this is the culture that I grew up in. I’m not satisfied when playing the game until I’ve learned all of the little intricacies of how it’s designed, including the stuff you cannot figure out simply by playing and observing (or would take much too long to figure out through observation, such as which moves can bypass Substitute). One person’s trash is someone else’s treasure.


Hat, meet ring.

I think there’s a few things to be noted about pinball from a competitive-cultural standpoint that might explain why things are the way they are.

There are thousands of pinball machines out there, even eclipsing the number of Pokemon if you count Mega and Alolan forms! That means that no matter what, somebody somewhere is going to not know the rules to a game, providing an equal player that does a significant advantage. Looking at this weekend, Team One was a great example of that. On the surface it’s a re-hashed Abra Ca Dabra, but the “bonus” being worth 50,000 allows for a significant rules shift towards rushing down 1-6 and then focusing on targets. Also for as popular as its been in recent circuit memory, Wild Fyre isn’t a common game either (with one PinballVideos-archived game from Pinburgh 2015).

Does the player with that significant advantage want to forfeit that to everyone via rulesheet submissions? A subset of their opponents (friends) by word of mouth/printed rulesheet? Or, do they want to use their advantage to the best of their ability and not further pinball knowledge as a whole? We aren’t at the cultural point where enough people have the motivation to make information as public as possible due to the fact that knowledge is a form of power in pinball (I would call it one of the 3 keys next to Shotmaking and Nudging).

On top of that, @SunsetShimmer can correct me if I’m wrong about the current meta, but the Pokemon meta in the past has been known to go stale due to certain Pokemon being statically superior to others with coverages, utility, movesets, etc. With that, you don’t need to know details about Pachirisu (VGC), Goodra (singles), or other off-meta Pokemon because most likely you’re never going to see them. In pinball, the competition bank metagame is much deeper, and having competency on games from different eras, manufacturers, and so on is critical. There will be “staples” still (Iron Maiden!), but you have to account for the oddballs as well (Shaq Attaq!).

In a similar vein of the Pachirisu Incident (where said Pokemon threw a wrench in the 2016 World Championships due to being off meta and relatively unknown leading to that trainer winning), I can name off the top of my head multiple instances and involved parties of top 100 players admitting they don’t know the rules to a game in competition, so this advantage trickles up to the top of the ladder. Even within the realm of game knowledge, exploits and secret strategies may not be shared due to the fact that they may need to be used some day to win a circuit event or even a major.

Before even getting to the time investment, it’s a personal struggle for me to decide on if I should go Mew2King on a machine (that being “write all the damn rules down and give technical information,” like M2K has done in Melee) because I know that by doing so, I could chance losing out on something down the road. I’ve sided towards the side of good on many occasions, but I know other rules folks may not see it the same way.

Culture aside, I’d love to see ways that pinball machines could be datamined for information. Currently it takes FOREVER to go through enough gameplay, competitive footage, and swapping notes with others to create a competent rulesheet. By making the deeper details more accessible, more people will have the ability to step up to the helm and decide for themselves if they want to help us all as a community.

Once we have enough people willing to step up, then we might see the proverbial doors get blown off of pinball knowledge.


So, I admit I am not following much of what you say, although the Pachirisu Incident sounds funny and genius, so I might look it up. Anyhow - what I do understand makes wonder. Are you suggesting that people have data mined on their own and haven’t shared? Just to be clear - data mining will only inform how a game is actually programmed, not what we’ve learned through playing.

For instance, Family guy, LOIS shot. We all know there are points available with the upper flipper after hitting a LOIS shot, but a lot of players will just hold the left flipper up to control where the ball goes, because those points aren’t worth risking loss of ball. But we might not know if there is something insanely rare like LOIS, Evil Monkey, left inlane, Crazy Chris within 4 seconds. That would be something likely only learned through a data mine. And if that was worth 10m, maybe someone would go for it. (POTC has been out how long and I only just became aware of the Super Duper Skill shot).


My conclusion is that there are people who do research the hard way (observant play, glass off, watching footage) that may hold onto their findings in order to leverage a competitive advantage. If datamining tools became available and the values were dumped to a common location (as they usually are), we would see an increase in the interest of rules curation and with a more diverse group in control of the data, potentially more people willing to release their findings.

With secret skill shots like in PotC, IMaid, TNA, etc for example, you’ve either got to try it in play or with the glass off and flail around until you think you’ve tried anything. With secret features like Champ Pub’s Bobfly or any of the trigger features in Demoman, you have to stumble on one and then try it everywhere.

If data mining was a thing, we’d have more explorers with more time on their hands. More explorers leads to a more diverse set of interests and therefore potentially more curated data released.

Oh, and Pachirisu in 2016 was hilarious. Maybe it was earlier, but either way a Pokemon delegated in the lowest tiers ended up having an exact skillset to run against the competitive meta. Also, it’s a tiny adorable knockoff Pikachu.


Way earlier than early 00s… I’d say this all started in the early 90s with the Street Fighter II games. Folks figured out basic things pretty quickly, like which characters/ moves countered other moves and where the hitboxes and hurtboxes were on the sprites. Then things got more nuanced… how many pixels away can you move Zanghief and still pull the opponent into the piledriver, how to exactly time button presses for the 3-piece dragon punch, etc. Everything since SF2 has been an evolution.

I guess an argument could me made that this all started back with Karate Champ, but I don’t think that one had the depth that SF2 and later games did…


Well in POTC’s case, the super duper is insane and largely luck.

Personally, I’m not going to go through the effort to program something in unless I think people will have an actual chance to get it. Funnily enough, in Family Guy, there’s the Triple Super Secret Jackpot that most people have forgotten about by now because TDs tend to take away Stewie Pinball.

It’s hard and unusual to do randomly, but not out of the question. It probably didn’t take more than 2 weeks until I got my first question about it.


Do you know of any players making it to the Keefer Invitational on a 3 ball tournament game? I could maybe see it with EBs and comfort on a home machine with many attempts, but realistically I’ll never get there.


Eh, a bit of a stretch. Pinball rule sheets have been publish since the dawn of the internet. And now much much more resources.

I remember loosing to a guy who played AFM shooting the visor/ship only. With no trapping.

And if, one the other hand, I have lost to someone who knew rules better than me. I certainly do not feel it was because the information was covert to me. And even knowing, would I have executed better?

I fail to see, where having exact game logic documentation from peeping the code would give you a significant upper hand. There is some, I am sure. But most it is likely discovered from playing and known to great extend in the community.

In pinball, there may be 6-8 pillars of skill. Deep rules knowledge is just one of them.


I played in a PotC four-player tournament game where three of us got the super duper skill shot. It was nuts.


No, but most people don’t play the game the right way to get there, especially in a tournament. IIRC, @Smack847 got to it the very first industry show it was at.


Agreed on all fronts. Having written one for GoT, the amount of random crap you have to find now is astronomical. That’s why there’s only a few “keepers of the rules” for moderns left - you have to have a ton of random/useful knowledge to know how a machine ticks.

A good example of this is Bat66. Why is there no documentation for “Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill,” “Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!” “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin,” and “Ring Around the Riddler”? We (very debatably and with all due respect) saw that sway the storylines in a circuit event over the weekend. If there was a bit easier of a method to find rules other than the old-school methods, we could have documentation to the point where the viability between all 8 major villain progressions could be weighed against each other. Heck, we could bring up the awareness that there are 8 major villain progressions with documentation other than names!

There are many games that are not “known to great extent in the community” yet, whether its an accessibility issue (low production runs) or complexity issue (moderns). Some companies’ EMs technically already have this done for them, as circuit diagrams are available (and something I use when verifying Keys to the Game). I’d like to see this accessibility expand beyond there to solid-state/modern games.


Heh, good to see someone else have that detailed of knowledge of Pokémon competitions. There are two things though: The first is that if someone is sufficiently into something, they will NEVER grow bored of it. But the second is that I can never really know how it feels to see the Pokémon metagame get stale because I am a Johnny type player, meaning I am drawn toward the lower-tier options, the ones that the other competitive players have dismissed.

This is why I value having the information advantage so much: My approach is that I not only need to know the mechanics inside and out to make my teams, but I also play on my opponents getting an information disadvantage whenever they face me in a competition.

It was definitely earlier. 2016 was the year with the infamous “CHALK” team-building in which most of the top 10 picked from the same pool of 10 Pokémon or so, with one or two variations–the name is an acronym of 5 Pokémon found on nearly all of their teams: Cresselia, Heatran, Amoonguss, Landorus (always Therian form), and Kangaskhan. (It was also the year in which the cops caught someone intending to shoot up the competition because he was bitter he lost, but that’s another can of worms.)

I definitely found it very amusing when I saw tier lists for AC/DC and Game of Thrones. It’ll be even more so if Batman '66 got them too.


Close, but no cigar for me there. I think I only had one requirement left, failed and then rage-reviewed every other game at that show for Playmeter.