Pinball Strategy App!

Hi folks,

I’m a new forum member, so “hi!”. Super excited that there is now a more tournament/player oriented forum. I’m not big on the collecting end of this hobby, so I feel right at home here.

Anyways, I want to share a project I have been working on and get everyone’s opinion. As an up-and-coming tournament player, I’ve often been in the situation where I need to play a game that I simply do not know the rules to. I am left to rely on second hand info, or “do it live.” This is obviously not ideal.

I know several groups of players that have experienced this problem, and started google spreadsheets with listing rules and strategies for each game. The problem here is that loading these sheets and viewing on a phone is often cumbersome, slow, and hard to read. Formatting is nearly non-existant.

As an alternative, I thought it would be a fun project to create a pinball strategy app that would allow users to quickly and efficiently access game rules and strategies. For the last 5 months or so, I have done just that! See screen shots below.

The app is currently being used only by the authors of the content (the venerable Bat City Pinball Club). Eventually, I would like to share it with the larger pinball community, however I have one notable problem…Content! Currently, I own none of the strategies listed and I have been asked by the authors not to share (hopefully @GarrettHays doesn’t mind me sharing the skill shot strategy on Congo ;).

So, I am looking for ideas on how to obtain the necessary content. I am neither willing nor qualified to write strategies for 500+ machines!

I think ultimately the strategies should be short and simple. Not a super in depth review of every nook and cranny of the ruleset, just the basics! Eventually, I think it would be cool to do a more “tutorial style” view, where there are images with arrows, and bullet points and whatnot. Anyways, I am reaching out to the community for feedback and thoughts. I am totally looking for partners, so if you want to contribute to this project, let me know! Writers and programmers wanted!


How dare you sir! Only the keepers of the Pinecronomicon shall be privy to its dark contents!

PS I really don’t care either way :wink:

Heh. As lots of people eventually discovered ( :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: to @unsmith) the FSPA created a Web based application much like this for Pinburgh 2014 (and has been since used on a few other occasions). It has the ability to group games by bank at a particular event, so you could quickly jump to “bank 39” and see the machines you’d be playing (or of course browse games individually). We wound up going with a template of simple, intermediate, and advanced strategies, with each strategy just being a couple/few sentences, as well as “best shot from each flipper”. And of course general comments, links to rulesheets and videos, etc. For us, the real focus was on the Pinburgh format: “crap, I’ve never played LOTR before… I don’t have time to learn an entire rulesheet, I need a 30 second crash course”. It wound up being wildly successful, got accessed several thousand times during Pinburgh.

I’m not quite sure where we’re gonna go with it, as far as being a public or private resource, etc… but I know it’ll be in play at ReplayFX, one way or another. :smiley:


@joe Is that software only accessible by FSPA members? Sounds cool–I like the idea of having multiple strategies with varying degrees of detail. The one thing about a web app though is that you’re at the whims of the internet. Having the database stored as a local copy is much faster and more reliable. Just my opinion though, sounds like it wasn’t a problem for you guys. I have no doubt there are several leagues that have the same idea, with proprietary software, private spread sheets, etc. The app I am creating is also intended for “insider” use at pinburgh.

Even though I am creating this, I have mixed feelings about it overall. Many players holds their strategies as “trade secrets”…I do myself. Rules knowledge can be a huge tournament advantage, so players will rightfully hold onto the knowledge they’ve gained. The idea of opening these ideas to the greater community has some interesting implications. An open resource that anyone can access will surely change tournament dynamics. I’m sure some people have strong opinions against that, but I think it’s inevitable.

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I am one of those players with a Google spreadsheet. I just checked, and I currently have notes of variying degree of detail for 265 machines. As you’d imagine, Pinburgh was the driving force behind the initial creation and continued updating of this spreadsheet. I’ve shared it with dozens of players.

The biggest problem I think I’d have with lending this content to your project is that some of the content is cribbed from rulesheets, and even from apron instruction cards (pared down but otherwise verbatim) for some EMs. Lots of this info, however, came from my experience or assessment after watching a gameplay video or talking to someone with more experience on the given machine.

On the other hand, I don’t have any objections to my “secrets” being shared with the community at large. Especially if you’d take on the task of editing the game notes for consistency and to fit in with your framework.

One other thing I’ll mention is that, while Google sheets even on an Android phone is not a great user experience, I’ve had excellent luck using the free version of Memento Database and linking it to this Google sheet. It syncs in both directions, and keeps the data for viewing offline.

Yes, for the moment it’s a perk specifically for FSPA members. All the content was written by FSPA folks, and I wrote the software, so we’re keeping it in the family, so to speak.

And yeah, I agree about the Internet access aspect of it, but I figured that (at least at the PAPA facility) both house WiFi and cell service would be available. Native apps of course have the problem of needing at least two different versions (iOS/Android) plus we had a few people who had no “smart” mobile device and were therefore accessing the information from a regular laptop. In the end, I don’t believe anyone had any problems with connectivity.


Could you just code a beta version of the app with blank templates for all the various machines and allow users to populate them?


I agree. Your best bet it to do what did and let the users update the content for you. You can assign a handful of admins to keep it things in order.

Either way, great idea. Look me up if you need anything on the programming side.

As a person who spent a not insignificant amount of time writing rulesheets back in the day, given out tons of advice in recent years to anyone who asks, and occasionally received some from others particularly on Sterns which I don’t play other than tournaments (one notable example was Elwin suggesting villain + Wolverine on X-Men would probably be enough to win a group a couple years ago), and watches lots of gameplay video and reads lots of discussion on game rules (to the point I knew enough to manage to beat Lyman on a finals advancement on Mustang (which I had literally never played before other than the 30s warmup)), I’m extraordinarily saddened to read stuff like this.

Guess we’ll all just stick to our little cliques and see how it turns out.


Hey Keefer,

Do you have any thoughts on how you’d feel if some of your rulesheet text ended up in this app? Would attribution matter?



When I originally did them, it looks like my intent was the equivalent of cc-by-nc-sa (since people like Daina Pettit were printing them out and selling them). Today if I were doing them I might consider dropping the nc bit, but it would assuredly be cc-by-sa.

It’s just plain common courtesy to attribute. I find it hard to believe people wouldn’t do that.


I could see the app working two ways. A nearly blank slate with a few hand written, not copied, rule sheets and the rest to be filled out by the app users and edited by users to correct mistakes etc. The same app with all of the information we’ve gathered also to be corrected and edited by users. Personally I like the second option, but I wouldn’t want to make people angry for not citing their work. Either way people are going to plagiarize at some point.

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I’ll throw a big +1 to this. People can do what they want, and to some extent I can understand the quirky stuff FSPA was writing to one another during Pinburgh (“this game has a tight tilt”). General information and strategy about pins should be completely available to anyone, in my opinion. If there’s a 30-second strategy guide to each Pinburgh game available, wouldn’t it be awesome to have this information accessible via the Pinburgh website, equally available to all players?

(Imagine the PAPA video gameplay archive being available only to Pittsburgh Pinball League members. Oof.)


I am immensely embarrassed for how that all went down. Yes, I screwed up and accidentally published that (unregulated, open) URL to a list which contained current AND former FSPA members, and well, it sort of blew up. The resulting fallout caused a lot of grief, hard feelings, and general nose-wrinkling at how it was handled. It was supposed to be a helpful tool for our league members who were either inexperienced at big tournaments in general, or inexperienced on specific machines, to make them feel better about their chances on any given game. I saw a few others with similar home-grown apps and thought that was fine.


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Relevant story: At Pinburgh 2014 I played against Eden Stamm on Flash Gordon. This was my first Pinburgh, first time playing Eden and first time seeing a Flash Gordon. In short: I had no idea what I was doing.

Eden could obviously see that I had no idea what I was doing on the game. After I finished ball 3 he asked me if I had ever played Flash Gordon before and I told him it was my first time.

When we had finished all the games that round Eden took me back to Flash Gordon and gave me a thorough walk-through of the rules and strategies and wished me good luck at Pinburgh (I eventually took 4th in the B division!). He didn’t have to do that. I could be playing his best friends the following rounds. I could even be facing him on Flash Gordon again later in the tournament. But he did it anyway to help a guy who didn’t know what he was doing.

I tell this story often and I try to emulate Eden’s behavior when I’m playing competitively. He probably doesn’t remember what he did, but it had a great impact on me.


I like the idea of crowdsourcing the strategies. It wasn’t in my original model when I started development, so I would need substantial restructuring!

I’d very much like your help! PM’ing you now…

What’s the status of this app? I’d be very interested in using/contributing to it!

Hey jurfjurf. I got busy with work, haven’t had time to work on this.

In a nutshell though, the iphone version is pretty stable and ready to rock. Myself and others have been using it at tournaments, and it works great.

Right now, content is key. I’ve got some ideas about how to proceed, I just don’t have the time to implement. Feel free to PM me if you have skills/knowledge you can contribute!