Pinball Game Theory

It does? Huh!

I guess not the logged in part but just in general I believe there’s a setting for lock stealing. @chuckwurt would know!

There’s a setting on STH that allows magnet lock stealing. It’s not default

not all multiballs have that and some games like TNA cap drains that can be saved.

not all games have multiball ball save settings.

I’d argue with at least some playfield designs (in particular I’m thinking anything with a cross playfield auto-plunge like Godzilla, Stern Wars, or TSPP) balance the benefit of the ball save out by interfering with shots via the auto-plunge.

I really think that the current meta for multiball rules is overweight on small jackpots that gradually get bigger if you play really well or get multipliers.

I would love to see some more variety, with more nods to big and somewhat “unbalanced” jackots, like in BSD, CFTBL, FT, WW, etc. Make em a bit harder to start, to avoid abuse by the best players.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot about the current multiball designs. Just miss a modern take on the “big jackpot”-category!

Ah yeah I forgot about Gappa Angry, one of my favorite wizard modes!

I feel like something’s fundamentally wrong with the idea of a “Super Jackpot” being something like 5% of the replay score, and a “Jackpot” being about 1% of it. We might as well just call every point-awarding shot in multiball an “award”.

While I don’t necessarily think we need to go back to the extreme of 80s-era progressive jackpots, I’d like to see the term “jackpot” become meaningful again. Let there be multiple steps to earn it. When I do earn it, let me bask in the fanfare for a bit rather than someone saying “Jackpot”. And if I need to step things up for a “Super Jackpot”, I really insist on a good fanfare, and if I hadn’t heard the replay pop yet, I damn well should by now.

A “jackpot” is, by defintion, the award for the money shot. I love MM, but 100k for shooting a ramp in 2-ball multiball madness? Not a jackpot IMO.


What do you think about Electric Chair MB in Metallica? Only the thing most people think of as the super jackpot is actually called “jackpot” via callout and screen text. Is this more of a semantics thing, or is it exactly what you’re talking about?

When everything is a jackpot, then nothing is.

-One or two jackpot shots worth a significant amount of points

I very much prefer this. Twilight Zone does this perfectly, for both regular and Powerball multiballs. The jackpot shots are just the right difficulty, since each of them is a two-stage process, first get the ball to the upper flipper or the Powerfield, and then make the jackpot shot. When you succeed on that, you EARNED it… and that payoff still comes significantly more often than if you had to complete a raft of jackpots before getting some super.

The key is for the layout to have some kind of two-stage process; just a single jackpot shot from a lower flipper is too simple. It could be an upper flipper or secondary playfield, or lock one ball to shoot for jackpot with another, or some other activateable toy like T2’s cannon. But I think most any modern layout could fit some version of this somehow.

The real rush is when you relight and escalate the jackpot a few times and score it repeatedly. I absolutely love this sequence on games that support it - every jackpot is an accomplishment and a rush, instead of the all-or-nothing feel-bads of chasing a super.


I find myself agreeing with you that I like this format of multiballs more, but at the same time I feel it’s worth considering that you need to communicate this stuff towards newcomers more. I think JJP GNR actually does a solid job of making the jackpots worth quite a few points in the Booster Multiballs but being tough to get - I’m particularly fond of Make Some Noise and how each shot just adds to the jackpot value collected behind the flipper.

For as much as I love Multiball in CFTBL I can’t see something like that being done on a modern game meant to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible - I think they’ll end up preferring the more basic types of multiballs over a multi-step sequence.

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Now this I can agree with - for as much as I love Stern Jurassic Park I definitely miss the excellent jackpot hype and callouts from the original DE game.

It’s in line. I do have to give it some bonus points for the 4x “jack fuckin’ pot!” callout.


I’m a fan of multiballs where you’re trying to hit a rotating shot (or a small number of them), like the super jackpot in AFM or Tank Attack in GZ, as MB flipper skills become particularly important in those situations.


Always seems weird to me when I start a multi-ball and get a ridiculously low number of points for it. Especially vexing when it’s a long way from the start button like Cyborg multi-ball in Iron Maiden.

I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I also think that the average player today (read: casual-to-intermediate) has been trained by modern pinball to want lots of Jackpots.

This philosophy has, for many years, also been drilled into players who visit casinos and play slots. (Lots of people!) “DING DING DING! YOU’RE A WINNER! HERE’S 75 CREDITS!” Never mind that a “credit” is 1 penny and the player wagered 300 credits on that spin. But everyone wants to be a winner. Everyone wants to hit a Jackpot. If a game makes a basic Jackpot too difficult to earn, many players will be unable to enjoy that experience and will be left unsatisfied.

Your comment also gets into score balancing. We don’t want multiball Jackpots / Super Jackpots to be the only thing that matters for big points, at the expense of modes and frenzies and whatever other fun features a game offers.

Psychology is a harsh mistress, but unfortunately, I think since we’ve already let the cat out of the bag re: players being able to get relatively easy positive reinforcement of “Jackpots”, it’s very hard to wrangle that cat back… lest a large number of players just say “this damn game never gives me any Jackpots! I’m gonna play [that other game] instead.” And that’s a problem whether the game is on location trying to earn coin drop, or a game at a show trying to earn the Spousal Approval Factor, or whatever.


My point exactly - I think that the vast majority of people who play pinball are drawn into the game by easy-to-access Multiballs and jackpots. While I can respect games that make jackpots really worth going for, I understand that most players aren’t going to view them the same way.

I think this is something I appreciate about current games making their more “easy to learn” Multiballs fairly easily accessible, while also having some more advanced ones for the players who want more of a challenge.

Godzilla and Rush both use this ideology very well. The former has Godzilla MB, but it also has stuff like Tank MB & Saucer MB that are more experimental and require more effort to get the jackpots during. In the latter, you have Far Cry MB that has a ton of different types of jackpots lit everywhere, but you also have Headlong Flight MB & Freewill MB that are tougher to get to and score more on average. Both games also introduce strategy to make Multiballs score higher than they would otherwise - Heat Ray & Anguirus on Godzilla, The Weapon & the time machine upgrades on Rush. It’s a delicate balance but one that I think can leave a positive impact on the games if done well.

TL;DR I completely get why people miss the days of really elusive jackpots in pinball, and I can see why - but I’d argue that they’re still there in some games, just not the main goal of the game like they used to be. And they’re arguably better for it, especially in regards to getting a new audience on board.


Agree with everything everybody said above.
The thrill in multi ball is you get rewarded with more stuff. It gets yer endorphins pumpin’ :).
More balls, more points, more lights and more noise. Overwhelm all your senses :).
Keep Pavlov’s dog happy and barking. Have in a game 50% multi balls easy and 50% multi balls tough.

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Most MBs “feel” less exciting since the 90s heyday, with a few exceptions. I still get so pumped getting a JP on TAF, TZ, AFM, … You’d think that with modern displays and light shows this would be better, but usually it’s way less engaging. It’s some mixture of MB scoring, frequency of JPs, and callouts themselves that diminish the magic from the big JP shots of old. For example, if you get an insane collect on Cyborg MB, it’s just displayed the same as a pitiful collect, simply a blinking score on the screen.

It’s a delicate balance, as GOT certainly drew ire with blinding lightshows. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

As for the rules, recent games like GZ and Rush are super enjoyable. Lots of little twists from the traditional MB rules that mesh well with the theme. Personally, “multiply scoring by # of balls in play” rules are less strategically interesting. It’s more satisfying to hit some specific shot to start 2x, lining it up with the start/during my MB.

Seems like there’s room for a return to difficult CTFBL-like MBs, where you really gotta dig for that reward. I think it was Cayle that posted on here about how bad it’d be if Fish Tales had a spray-n-pray MB.

Are there standard names for these common MB rules? I usually describe them in terms of games I’m familiar with, but maybe there’s some more “official” terminology. It’d also be interesting to know what games were the first to have a particular rule.

  • Extinguish all lit JPs: AFM, Blackwater, …
  • Alternates between any lit JP, then a specific shot: Prison, Orb MB, …
  • Alternates between any lit JP, then the same shot again: Loki, Optimus MB (as autobots) …
  • Switch-based MB: Well Walker, Mummy

This is so well stated I just had to quote it for extra support!