NW Pinball - Malfunction...?


I completely agree. And section 1.6 says:

Any beneficial malfunction which results in a player being able to continue play of a ball that normally should have ended is normally allowed once per game. Examples of this would include an unexpected software ball save […]

To me, that very clearly says “play on”.


This is not a situation where the ball should have ended. The text you quoted does not apply.


When two balls pop out into the shooter lane at the start of a ball you don’t go ahead and allow the player to play both balls ‘once per game’.

YMMV as a TD with respect to judging the materiality of the beneficial malfunction but for me this is insanely material.


Please continue to read further. It is significant. Therefore.

Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and tournament officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage.

The elimination of the advantage is to drain one of the balls. QED.


I do agree with you, but only partially. The same section also says:

Examples of beneficial malfunctions would include a jackpot switch that registers when a different target is hit, a valuable switch that scores once without the ball contacting it. See also “Stuck Balls”, below.

This strongly suggests that what Robert experienced is not a beneficial malfunction. Absolutely nothing misbehaved. At every moment, the game worked exactly as intended, no software bugs, no mechanical failure, no switch malfunction, nothing of the kind whatsoever.

What happened here is not a beneficial malfunction. What happened is a lazarus at just the right moment. No more, no less. And we have a rule that says that a lazarus is normal gameplay, and another rule that says that one beneficial malfunction is acceptable per game. Now, I can argue that the beneficial malfunction rule doesn’t apply because everything worked as intended. But, in that case, the only possibly applicable rule remaining is the lazarus one, which clearly says “play on”.

Please forgive me for sounding argumentative. I am not disputing that Robert should have dropped the extra ball “in the spirit of competition”. I do agree: it’s right and proper in the spirit of competition that he should drop the extra ball. But, so far, I still have not seen anything in the rules that actually makes this clear.

So, I’m arguing about the clarity of the rules, not about what the rules should state. (I actually don’t care what they state because, ultimately, it’s arbitrary.) But I do care if the rules don’t state clearly what should happen in this situation because, in the end, all a TD has to go by are the rules.

And I still maintain that, given the rules as they stand, Robert should have been allowed to keep his ball.

What all this suggests is that the rules need fixing because they don’t deal with this particular situation adequately. Just re-watch the video. The spontaneous exclamation was “That’s a play on. Oh, actually, I’m not sure.”

It’s not good to have rules that are open to (mis)interpretation. If the commentators, who are experts, are not sure, how is the average Joe Bloe TD to know?


This is utterly irrelevant, as far as I can see. When a machine ejects two balls at once, something clearly isn’t working normally. The machine is doing something totally unintended, so that’s a malfunction.

In Robert’s case, absolutely everything worked exactly as intended. He had a lazarus. The rules say that a lazarus is OK, and quite explicitly so. There was no malfunction anywhere in sight. What do you base your judgement on to say that he should drop the extra balls?

Please don’t tell me “common sense”, or the “spirit of competition”, or “unfair advantage”. Because, when I end up being a TD in Brisbane, I almost certainly cannot call Josh Sharpe at 3:00 am US time to ask for clarification as to what the Pinball Gods have decided to pass down to the unwashed masses Down Under.

If you write rules, please make them clear. If the rules aren’t clear, please fix them. Please do not tell me to consider the materiality of a beneficial malfunction in the middle of a competition. My line to the Pinball Gods is not as direct as yours, so all I have to go by are the rules. Which, currently, are broken with respect to this particular scenario.


Declaring something “significant” or not is a judgement call to be made by a TD and is open to discretion.

A ball saver by rule is the replacement of one ball exiting the playfield with another new ball that is served up to replace it.

The Robert situation isn’t a lazarus ball extending play. It’s a “lazarus with benefits” situation that is different. The lazarus helped to induce the beneficial malfunction because of the way the game software is designed.

I will look into adding clearly that anytime a player has multiple balls on the playfield when that shouldn’t be a normal part of gameplay, this will be deemed a SIGNIFICANT beneficial malfunction.


That would be awesome, thanks! I don’t care which way the decision goes. As I said, it’s arbitrary.

What I’m asking for is clarity in the rules, not any particular ruling. The most pressing question on a TD’s mind when something like this happens is “what the hell do I need to do now?” If the rules make it clear what to do, that’s good, regardless of what they actually require to be done.


There should be a clause “When in doubt, call Josh unless there is a major television show simultaneously broadcasting the season finale and it is known that Josh and family watch said show”. LOL…


Josh, can you please forward me your cell phone number? I’d like to have it on hand in case we have a pressing question that needs an answer here in Brisbane at 11:00 am on a Monday morning… :wink:


I understand what you are saying, but a catch-all works better than anything else here, because I think nobody would have foreseen what happened and we want to be able to tell the player to drop the second ball here, for fairness.

A catch-all is a rule that reads, in effect, if something unforeseen occurs that requires a ruling, the TD shall make a ruling in the spirit of the competition and that ruling shall be binding.

A very specific set of events occurred here, The ball had to drain out the outlane, on a game that saves upon touching that switch, with enough speed to Lazarus itself during the grace period of the initial ballsave. A rule shouldn’t have been written to cover this, because I doubt anyone thought of this. Therefore, it falls under the catch-all and the TD can say ‘drain that 2nd ball,’ and everyone should be okay with it.


I totally agree. What happened to Robert is something we’ll see probably once every five or ten years. It’s rare, and no-one can be expected to foresee something like this. But, looking through the rules, I cannot find a rule that would provide the catch-all that would justify a TD saying “you must drop the extra ball.”

Adding a “spirit of the competition” rule is really problematic. Most people will agree with the “spirit of the competition” part. (Most people genuinely want fair competition.) But one person’s judgement of “spirit of the competition” may well be different from another person’s. The whole point of rules is to eliminate judgement, so players can have a reasonable expectation to be treated equally, no matter what tournament they enter.

The rules will always be a few steps behind reality (and the creative hardware and software bugs of recently released machines—see GB skill shot). But, when we come across a corner case such as as the one in Robert’s game, I think the right thing to do is to update the rules to deal with similar future incidences. That way, over time, the rules will get better.


As a TD, I had to make this exact same ruling 9 days prior to the one in question.

The machine? Stern Star Wars
The player? Robert Gagno

So, at the very least, Robert was ready when this ruling was (finally) delivered.


Wow. That is truly amazing!

I guess that Robert must be turning into a stoic by now… :slight_smile:


There is nothing problematic about a spirit of the competition rule, because it only applies when nothing else does. Therefore, it only exists to allow a TD to make a ruling in the ultra rare event that something comes up before the rules can be adjusted. Obviously, a TD needs to make a ruling one way or the other (even in this instance, a ruling was required and “play on” is a ruling BTW) and after the fact the rules can be tweaked so the event would now fall under them (Josh is talking about adding language to cover this very situation). Yes, a TD could decide that it wasn’t covered and issue a play-on while another could say 2 balls = unfair advantage = drain one. Either way, they rule and move on, and if necessary IFPAPA makes alteration to the language. Or they say, ‘this was covered, look at section X’ and the TD knows for next time. Making a wrong ruling isn’t the end of the world either.


“being able to continue play of a ball” In this context, imo, means continue the player’s turn. As in, continue play of ball 1, ball 2, ball 3…


I find myself sort of agreeing, and sort of not agreeing.

Yes, a “spirit of the competition rule” could be added as a “catch-all”. But what would that actually achieve? Most likely, inconsistent rulings from different people for the same or similar situations.

In other words, I doubt that such a rule would improve things.

Besides, I don’t think such a rule is needed anyway because, as is, a TD can choose to ignore any or all rules of the IFPA at his/her whim, even in an IFPA-registered tournament. (In that sense, IFPA “rules” really are only guidelines, anyway.)

Note that “play on” versus “drop the extra ball” are equally acceptable to me. I really don’t care. But I do care if player X in tournaments Y is asked to drop his extra ball, and player A in tournament B is allowed to play two balls.

And, just maybe, these things are less “ultra rare” than I thought. @stevevt’s post suggests that something I thought was ultra-rare actually may not be…


Huh? I really don’t follow. “[…] continue to play of a ball that normally should have ended”. To me, that means the current ball, not some future ball after two or three other players have had their turn.

Am I misunderstanding something here?


“End of ball” is widely understood to mean ball X ends, bonus counts (if applicable), and ball Y is ready to begin.

In this situation, we do not have a ball that normally should have ended. Full stop.


This makes not a blind bit of difference, there are competitions were extra balls are allowed, there are competitions were extra balls are not allowed.

The ONLY thing that matters, in my opinion, is that the TD enforces the same ruling for every identical occurrence in THAT Tournament. That way the integrity of the tournament is kept.

Reviewing your decision after the tournament and deciding to give a different judgement next time it happens is what becoming an experienced and respected TD is about.
I have made rulings in the past which I now wouldn’t make, but at the time I did make them, they were followed through for the rest of the tournament even though I was beginning to have doubts about my original ruling.