Overly brutal set-ups on tournament games


Hard playing games are a necessity of tournaments. Players with high skill and a wide variety of techniques need the added difficulty to present a challenge to them and differentiate the field. I also maintain that playing on tournament difficulty machines is a separate skill that has to be practiced like any other.

That said, I think brutal machines can “condense” the field for less experienced players, who have fewer skills available to deal with the randomness of the hard setups. Since they are more at the mercy of the machine, they perform less consistently and are much more likely to lose randomly (i.e. approaching 50/50). This can be extremely frustrating as it makes these matches more of a crap shoot than the players are expecting. I don’t have any data to back this up, just my own personal observation.

I think there is a balance between machine difficulty and player skill that a TD is managing. You don’t want your local beer league playing on PAPA A difficulty machines, and you don’t want a top 10 player to come play your local Medieval Sadness where there’s no tilt and the draw bridge doesn’t go up anymore. In short, if you go to a tournament that attracts the best the world, you have to accept some of that randomness that comes with playing on that difficulty of machines without the practiced skills needed to deal with it.

tl;dr: Honestly, it sucks and I hate playing on tournament machines, but it’s needed to differentiate the field as you get into the top 100, top 50, etc.


On the subject of lightening flippers. They actually feel more like a mental challenge to em than an actual challenge on a machine. I know it makes the gap larger but not a whole lot and it in turn makes some shots easier (like back handing ramps). What really gets me thrown off though is droopy flipper bats. They completely throw off my aim (more so than lightening flippers) but also make getting balls under control much more difficult for me.


Adding this to the wall of brutal setups. No outlane posts, no lane rubbers, whisper tight tilt, spike 2 tournament debounce settings. I baby-nudged an outlane save to have this happen.

Pinfest is amazing. Tournament is great. Iron Maiden isnt. (edit - seriously, no severe sleight meant. Just noting an example and capturing my bird for eternity :smile:)


not true, you are speaking on games more than 5 years ago buddy when the guarantee payouts were 3k or more at pinwars in a pump and dump setting,. your damn right lines need keep moving to build the pots or im paying all payouts from my pocket!
the mi scs games and patz games and even bills house games are setup harder than any of our current tournies the past few years. i don’t hear you complaining on those…lol
we never run tight tilts either. I want people to actually use nudging skills when they play.
all my sterns have factory outlanes to.
i know you want extra balls kept on and remove the tilt bob but that just wont work pal;)


Bowen seemed to do alright. :smiley:


Was their a stream of the tournament at Pinfest? Would love to watch it.

edit Never mind, I think I found it.


I won’t fault Bowen for doing alright, but that doesn’t get past the point where the game was set up with everything intended to screw the player. I shouldn’t have an ~85th percentile score (top scores only. 90-95th, given the amount of plays overall) in a circuit event with 85 million.


Hey Lewis, thanks for coming out this weekend and the nice words about the tournament and apologies for the set-up on Iron Maiden. We try our best to get it right during set-up and looks like we may have missed the mark with how brutal this particular machine was. And of course, as others have noted, there’s no way we can change settings after qualifying starts (we had a game or two with extra balls left on, ugh) that had to be played “as it lies”.

I’m seeing if I’m able to set some data extracts on average game time/game attempts for the event, and if I’m able to produce anything of interest I’ll share it on the forums here as a reference point for other TDs.

I am wondering if there’s a good resource (or if we should start one?) for “tournament-appropriate changes” to be made on specific machines. For example, a list of dip-switch settings on old Bally machines that adjust the software to be more challenging, or a quick-list of Standard and Game adjustments on specific games. Additionally, recommendations that make games challenging but fair-ish. Of course, there are going to have debates about what should and shouldn’t get done (pull posts? ball save? switch to lightning flippers, etc.). I don’t have a solution but I’m happy to contribute what I’ve been doing at our events to a collective pool of information.

I know that there’s a PAPA guide for games which I’ve used before as a starting reference: https://papa.org/learning-center/directors-guide/

Direct link for anyone interested: https://twitch.tv/ragetiltpinball



Here is a decent one Kevin Stone made.



Nah, no apologies needed - IM has a particularly evil tournament debounce and it blind-sided almost every launch party! It’s your tournament and I need to step up to the settings.

I hope TDs see this as a cautionary tale with Spike 2 games in general. Stock tournament settings tighten the tilt via debounce, so the physical bob needs less play perhaps.

The outlanes were AMAZING by the way. Just no wiggle room to do anything cool with it!


would be tough for every game… but a reasonable goal would be to document it for every major platform. That way you don’t waste time hunting or wondering “can you change the # of tilt warnings in a gottlieb sys1” etc. And anything really specific about the platform would be easy to add… then add notable things about games with histories of important settings.

Probably easy enough to do as a wiki post here to start?? Then once stabilized, convert to a more ‘handy’ checksheet.


From what I saw from the stream, I thought your setup on Iron Maiden was fine – except for the tilt setting, which looked to be a bit tight. There was a similar setup at Cactus Jacks re: outlane posts removed, and sling drains were brutal. But as players, we have to adapt to the risk/reward choices and their consequences, and adjust strategies and shot-making accordingly.

Did you have time to adjust the EB and tilt settings prior to finals that were deemed inappropriate from qualifying?


For my Iron Maiden launch party, I turned off extra balls, removed the outlane post rubbers, turned the ball save down to 3 seconds, and switched the first mode to be single ball play. Still had six minute average game times.

Gotta make that thing hard for good players.


I have been wanting to do something like this. Never got around to it.

I did configuration of the games at the classics-only IFPA warm-up tournament last year. And did thorough research into game settings (and PAPA recommendations) and the best set for tournament setup. Advertised adjustments on games etc. For instance, I chose to remove carry bonus and bonus-x from Centaur. Had a hugh spreadsheet.

One of the challanges is, that there is not factory setup base documented for the old Ballys. To work from. It is really really unfortunate.

But yeah, a guideline would be nice. With comments. Do EB/Special give points. Are EBs still on, because they cannot be disabled.


Was it your decision to remove the Beast’s Lair one way gate? That was rough!


Yeah, right, that gate definitely needs to go. Because the game is way too easy with it… :frowning:


Come to think of it, let’s not mess around with gates an such. Let’s just remove the flippers. Guaranteed short ball times that way…


That was the IFPA tourney, right (blame the Sharpies). I was tech on the classics gig the weekend prior. And we had the gate in on Paragon. But missing from Skateball (not removed by choice).


Ah that’s right, it was Skateball!


You know its funny but a long time ago on my Paragon I decided to just plunge and let the game score as it may. For a 3 ball game I managed a high score of about 225,000. That’s with no flips and a lot of lucky caroms into the golden cliffs, over and over.

Kind of ridiculous considering the struggle to do that with flippers…

One way gate removal is tough but you can probably deal with it. It’s not like you want the ball on the left flipper with a catch anyway, the money shots are all from the right. Unless you want to shoot the 3 bank or the center standup!