Stern's "The Munsters" and making pinball accessible to novices


#1

So when I was playing The Munsters at CES a while ago, I noticed a few things that were different from some of Stern’s previous titles…

  • Ball save is OFF by default.
  • Mode instructions are really clear. (ie. the screen at the start of Lily says “Everything scores more!” instead of “All switches score X”)
  • Rules are far more accessible. I noticed Dwight Sullivan talking about “distance from the start button” in his Premium / LE stream and I really like that methodology. It’s especially clear with how Herman Multiball is really easy for newcomers to activate, while Raven Multiball is more of an intermediate task and the level 2 modes are for experienced players.
  • Some of the callouts explain what you just did, ie, Lily will tell you that you increased your multiplier after shooting Kitty or if you scored a Skill Shot. This was something Stern did around 2010 or so with instructional callouts for modes but I feel there was a lot of wasted potential with that; here, it feels a lot better.

What do you think of what they’ve done in this regard? Considering one of the reasons we finally got Munsters was because of how popular the Addams Family machine was, I really like that they’re targeting novice players with this machine while still giving experienced players something to enjoy as well. If the novice appeal is there I could see the machine becoming really popular, even with people who aren’t into pinball. I loved Iron Maiden last year, in fact, it’s one of my favorite machines ever, but it’s a confusing machine for people who don’t know what they’re doing.


#2

I’m a big fan of making games easier to understand and hope the trend continues. There can be depth and complexity in a game, but the bar for entry has been too high and the trend with some manufacturers has been towards complexity over fun.


#3

Here’s the thing… I’m a fan of all pinball machines, whether they’re simple or complex. Jersey Jack’s Pirates of the Caribbean garners some unnecessary hate online because of how complex it is, but there are plenty of people who love it for that exact reason. On location, though, I always see people wonder what they’re doing. Though that’s probably a different issue (JJP focusing more on home ownership over location).


#4

Captain, when you were playing at CES, did you get the feeling that it was too easy? How much harder were the Level 2 objectives to achieve than Level 1? I am a competive tournament player and consider to myself to be somewhat decent. I love the theme, art, and overall look to this machine but the “easy” ruleset has me on the fence on whether or not this would be a good home game.


#5

I do not buy this ball saver as a concept is too confusing. It might confuse some, who are stepping away from the machine and all. But it will spike their interest in pinball. Maybe a little mad at frist - then intrigued. And if it is confusing some, it is far outweighted by the appeal, fairness and value for money it gives for other.

Pinball machines are confusing for the novice. But there is sooooo much stuff to look into and improve before hitting on ball saver.

Now, it seems, Stern has finally learned to write player scores on one line. And apply this as standard. But Star Wars had scores at the NW/NE/SW/SE corners. Which is super confusing EM legacy.

So now then - type and shout which player is up. CLEAR and LOUD. From shooter lane feed till first switch hit. And again on ball saver, mode draining all balls etc.

And BTW. Munsters has the best quality playfield art ever. It is truly stunning! Good work.


#6

I wouldn’t say it was too easy, honestly. It’s a very forgiving machine for sure but there are still some dangerous shots, like Herman and Spot. Plus there’s PLENTY of stuff for experienced players to do - the Super Jackpot stacking rule is one of my favorite features in any pinball machine. Most of the level 2 objectives are actually only accessible after Munster Madness has been played, which is pretty difficult to get to.


#7

From my experience I’ve seen people walk away after a saved ball, even if it’s just their first ball, and say that the machine is rigged. That being said, most players, even novices, know about the ball save on current machines. The low scoring is also really helpful for the average player, ESPECIALLY after how ridiculous some of the scoring on Star Wars and Ghostbusters was. As for letting the player know who’s up, Funhouse does a good job with that with Rudy giving each player a different name, and Deadpool has some witty comments when another player has to step up.

And yeah, I love the art on Munsters! The colors just work really well with each other and I appreciate the hand-drawn, kinda cartoony aesthetic they went with.


#8

I’m not sure I agree. I’ve seen a lot of casual arcade goers really take to Maiden at my location.

It’s interesting to me that a Dwight game coming out is the one that might be doing the best job of this because I think Star Wars is an example of the worst possible job of this.

Hopefully Munsters isn’t a crazy long playing game though, my BDK has been earning well for a couple years due to the ease of starting the Scarecrow multiball (and scoring jackpots thereafter) but the game takes forever on league nights and I always leave it out of tournaments.


#9

I think it’s a great move. I’ve got a mental block with rules so I love any game that tells me what do it. Well maybe not Stargate… Shoot the pyramid!
I’d rather win/lose on my ability to flip the ball accurately and not on my ability to remember to hit the flippers to get some secret points like on… BSD, TNG, demo man, etc… Scoring strategy is getting crazy too… like on BM66 if you don’t know how to use the minor villains you are at a disadvantage or on SW if you don’t understand how the multipliers work that’s huge. It’s a balancing act for sure and I think Stern is doing a good job experimenting with simple and complex rules/scoring.


#10

I’m definitely concerned about it playing too long on tournament nights. I guess we could always keep ball save off and even turn off the lower playfield during tournaments, but still seems like it may be a long player. Hopefully there are some other setting options to make locks, modes, etc. harder that may be more suited toward tournaments.


#11

I do appreciate that Stern has added @kdeangelo’s tutorial videos in the attract mode of newer games. There’s even a nice video showing how to press the start button. I wonder if anyone has seen a new player watching these videos?


#12

We regularly play it in the Stern game room here it is not a long player at all. Raven multiball has no ballsaver but instead a throwback restart feature if you don’t progress far. Munster Madness level 2 I have reached once.


#13

It’s nice to see Stern releasing some less complicated games. Ghostbusters, GoT and Star Wars are difficult to explain to casual players and most newcomers don’t have the luxury of having anything more than the playfield inserts and the display to point them in the right direction. There’s a reason beginners gravitate towards Medieval Madness and AFM, the giant obvious center bash toy practically screams “shoot here” and cool stuff happens when you do.


#14

The ramps are beautiful and really satisfying to shoot, art work great (but it’s no Deadpool which has the best art I’ve ever seen on a game IMO). Sound quality fantastic, sound usage super repetitive to the point of annoyance.

It’s not got a lot to hit in my view and I got to MM level 1 pretty quickly and got raven from the mystery. It happened so quick that I got bored of the game quite quickly (and I was streaming it for hours after!).

On location I think it will do really well (but with the ball save on) and in a decent collection it will be fine,
Forget the LE-Premium as the lower playfield is disappointing in my view and adds to frustration.

In pinball I always believed you want to get to that point “if I had just one more shot” no matter how deep or how simple and I think munsters lacks this component. I was in for an LE and after playing it for 6 hours at EAG I cancelled my order. I think it can be improved in code and I hope that it is and I’ll take another look at it then. Most of the folks here in the UK that played it are of the same opinion.

Of all the Stern games since they went to Spike 2, at the moment this is the one I’d buy last by a long chalk (and I’ve got all the Spike 2 games except Star Wars).
The black and white looks so freaking good but personally I want it to suck me back into the game and it just doesn’t.

It’s very very like Monster Bash IMO.

Cheers,
Neil


#15

I do, actually. When I watch people not familiar with pinball play pinball, they have no concept of a ball saver. If the ball goes down the bottom, as far as they see it, the ball has been lost. That the ball is being returned, free of consequences, seems to be one of the more difficult concepts to understand. Not helping is that a lot of machines will have voice clips that say “Don’t move!” or “Stay where you are!” or some other unhelpful thing. Even when I try to explain it to them, half the time, they’ll walk away after the third time (or, in rare instances, the first time) the ball goes down the drain regardless of how many ball savers they have.

Which reminds me–does pressing the Start button repeatedly still activate multiplayer? I think that’s something that ought to be done away with if it’s being aimed at the beginner. Far too often, I see people mash the Start button when a game begins and/or push the Start button right before each drain. (After that, it seems to be half and half between them playing out all 12 balls or playing up to Player 3’s Ball 1 and leaving.) Pinball is the only sort of electronic game where you push start multiple times to start multiplayer. All other games, if multiplayer is present, has one or more players select it through an in-game menu. As a result, the thought never occurs that they may be doing something they didn’t intend by pushing the Start button repeatedly.


#16

Although in most cases, hitting the Start button again won’t do anything because the player has only inserted enough money for one credit.


#17

Honestly, we get people in our shop who don’t realize there is a start button (putting money in should have automatically started it) or don’t know how to start more than one player. The world has changed and things don’t make sense anymore!


#18

No I agree essentially. Ball saver comes as a surprise to people. But is it unsatisfactory for them as well? That is what I address. To the point where it is bad for selling tickets. I do not think so. Once they realise it as a minimum playing time “gift”, they are right on.

One should be careful not to overexaggerate the importance of the experience of the few. I mean, wouldn’t you rather make the most appealing game for those who play a lot of pinball?

There is a learning curve to everything. The important thing is, if people are enjoying their pinball experience. All matters considered. And want to come back.

That being said, the games could definetly benefit a tightning up in a few areas.

I have been associated a pinball arcade for five years. And an additional one for two years. And seen a fair share of newbies. Oh dear.

The best ones are, say, a group of four, who ask if one can arrange a casual tournament for them. So, you hand them a paper table for scores or finish positions to tally up. That is fine. But then you proceed to explain the concepts for setting up a game for more players. The rotation of player turns. Number of ball per game. Oh dear, oh dear. You quickly realise, how good and how bad the various machines are at guiding players at all this.


#19

I second @chesh from the “I spend too much time in her shop and other places” standpoint. It’s been great to see a bunch of new generally college-aged faces, but there is definitely a communication gap somewhere between basic features and new players. It’s really easy for us to overlook this, especially as we are more focused on mentally downloading game knowledge than start button 101.

Props to Stern for at least taking the first step down this road with the Supreme videos that play during attract mode, and extra props to them integrating it into the Batman66 lore (go watch the mini tutorial next time you see it on location)!

Other thought - maybe we should make some pinball how-to posters on this stuff? Post them in a few locations so people can know how it works?


#20

I grew up in the 80s and didn’t know you could do multiplayer on pinball until I was an adult, because all the other video games had multiple start buttons with 1,2 (or more) player icons next to them