Ruling: Player-Selectable Whole-Game Modes

With the introduction of Escape Nublar in Jurassic Park, the question again comes up: Should players in tournament be allowed to start a feature that changes the game rules for all players? If so, under what circumstances?

It’s been discussed before, but always only for a specific game. We should have a generic rule instead.

Here are some examples…

  1. Pool Sharks: 8-ball vs. 9-ball (selected at the start of P1B1)
  2. Many modern Sterns: Player Competition mode (selected before pressing start)
  3. Who Dunnit (and others): Novice Mode (selected before pressing start)
  4. Judge Dredd: Super Game (selected before pressing start)
  5. Jurassic Park (Stern): Escape Nublar (selected before pressing start)
  6. Monster Bash: Lyman’s Lament (selected before pressing start)
  7. Choosing Spanish language settings on Family Guy or Stern POTC
  8. Other relevant examples?

Note: This discussion only relates to modes which affect all four players. It does not relate to modes which only affect one player, such as…

  1. Transformers: Autobot or Decepticon
  2. Game of Thrones: Choose your House
  3. Star Wars (Stern): Choose your Hero
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean (Jersey Jack): Choose your Character
  5. Lots of others

In asking this question, I’m NOT just asking about major tournaments, but also about small tournaments, leagues, etc., where TDs do not have access to the keys of the game.

I think the answer to the question should be…

  • When possible, TD’s should use software settings to control what options are available to the player
  • If not possible, the TD should dictate the mode to be played
  • Unless the TD specifically allows otherwise, players should never activate any special features before starting a game
  • In cases where a choice is mandatory (eg, Pool Sharks) and the TD didn’t dictate the choice, player 1 is free to choose

Agree / Disagree?

In answering, please try to create a generic rule we can use for all games (including future games that may have similar features), not just your opinion on a particular game listed above.

References to previous discussions…

Pool Sharks

Judge Dredd

Also, how about selecting Spanish audio on games like FG and POTC by holding down a flipper when starting a game? Someone in BAPA league used to do that to us. It threw me off

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This is what I’d personally do. I just got a pool sharks and I let P1 do their thing. I’ve seen other require one or the other for the whole tournament but I like letting P1 decide and just remind players of that feature before the event.

This would fall under unless the TD states otherwise you can start any special features before starting a game.

I always try to go first on Family Guy so I can pick Spanish mode.


My rule would be:

If all players in the match agree, they may choose to play a mode other than the default.

That seems to fall afoul of the general concept of not letting players decide things for themselves. Potential for railroading a third/fourth group participant who might not really agree but is bullied into it, etc.


That wasn’t me! Intentionally anyway. I hate it too. I think the Spanish thing happens mostly by accident. If you soft plunge on POTC and raise the right flipper too fast, boom, everyone’s playing in Spanish.

Escape Nublar is different than all the others as it has to be enabled. The vast majority of operators won’t enable it (although they’d probably make more money if they did). Generally not going to be a problem on location without keys. For larger events, someone will have keys and make sure it’s disabled.

All the others (including playing in a foreign language) fall under the first unwritten rule of competitive pinball: Don’t be a jerk. Start whatever is ‘normal’ on that game.

Installing Completion will disable the Game Mode Selection option.

Judge Dredd
One place with coin drop in an tournament had an card on it saying play super game.

Not really it locks that Character out for others. That game can use an no Character mode or tournament mode = can reuse them.

Lots of games from 90’s + up have that player Competition mode

I say that falls under useing cheat codes
(jack bot EB does not count as cheating)

P3 Pinball Platform should be on the list when multi games are installed

If I’m not mistaken, I thought you could only select other games upon boot-up, and not simply between games. Granted, in most casual league/tourney situations, TDs won’t be able to control whether game gets rebooted… so your point is valid. Besides selecting completely different games, there’s also the mini-game of Agent Multiball Challenge (after boot-up).

Also, Safecracker’s Assault the Vault, if someone has earned a magic token.

On games where it is possible I like the idea of switching the game to competition mode. I would like this to become more common. On games where the variability can drastically change the outcome (like Stern Stat Wars) I’ve sometimes suggested to an opponent that we switch the game to competition settings. No one has ever taken me up on the offer. So in a casual, no keys tournament I’ve never actually done it.

I have at least once accidentally switched a game to Spanish.

Missed it on the first pass but technically that mode is Player Competition, not Competition Mode. Both are standard adjustments. Player Comp is enabled by default, Comp Mode is not.

I was never convinced Player Competition actually did anything on a lot of Stern’s. It was there and turned on by default on most every game, but was it always programmed? Competition Mode does work on all Stern’s afaik (although Comp install is usually best). If you want to use Player Comp, make sure it works first please. Seems like at least mystery awards should be unrandomized.

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Nublar doesn’t need to be enabled. Hold both flippers before starting a game and you are given the choice.

This feature was immediately available on my machine after installing the new code.

@ANM – Good point regarding Spanish language selection on Family Guy and Stern Pirates of the Caribbean.
And yes, that would be covered by the rule “players should never activate any special features before starting a game”.


My rule would be:
If all players in the match agree, they may choose to play a mode other than the default.

Careful here. It’s possible that assertive, experienced players could promote the option because they know how to play it and the inexperienced players would just go along with it. “Railroading” as @Unsmith called it. You want to avoid this sort of situation. I’ve seen it happen a lot.

Also, you’re right, Nublar doesn’t have to specifically be enabled.

@phishrace – Yes, it’s an unwritten rule. Until now. Hopefully we can write something generic and sensible.


Installing Completion will disable the Game Mode Selection option.

Look again – not for all the examples. And even if it did, the point was that this rule should apply to casual tournaments / leagues where keys aren’t available. We’re not just talking about big circuit events here.

Good point about the JJPOTC characters – you’re locking out the other players by picking a character. I think it’s still a different thing from changing the game rules for all players, though. But I see your point.

Re: Cheat codes – there’s nothing written against using cheat codes.

Nope, most of them you can choose before starting a game. You don’t need to do it on boot-up.
And yes, Assault on the Vault in Safecracker is an interesting example. Not sure what would happen in a multiplayer match, though.

@Phishrace – You’re right, Player Competition is the right term. I’ve edited my original post. Thanks for pointing that out.

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My mistake. I misread the readme file. Don’t be a jerk rule still applies.

Saw on Pinside that supposedly a flipper code used on Wonka during attract mode will reverse the flippers for the next game. Maybe I’ll try that at league next week. See if anybody minds.