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


I think Judge Dredd is the classic, worst example ever. Needing to launch from the secondary button is the hardest thing for anyone to figure out (even if written on the apron).


MM - Shoot the castle to make the drawbridge come down. Shoot the gate to open it. Shoot inside the castle to blow it up and get a lot of points.

Iron man is a little more complicated. - Shoot around the ends to spell “MONGER” to bring up the monger. Shoot the monger to get a whole bunch of balls. Then shoot around the ends again once and shoot the monger when all the balls are bouncing around.

Munsters. - Shoot Herman. Shoot Herman again. Get a bunch of balls bouncing around at once. Then shoot the blinking lights.


Agreed on that! What makes it even better is that only one secondary launches, while the other mode cycles…


Well I guess I didn’t explain myself very well above.

I agree that every game doesn’t need to be for everyone. I’m also not against innovation. That wasn’t my point at all. (Flippers themselves are an innovation)

The title of this thread is related to making pinball accessible to novices.

I feel that if we are trying to explain and make pinball accessible to novices, the flippers are easy: use these buttons to activate the flippers to keep the ball in play.

I don’t think the action button decision matrix is as easily explained, especially when it requires the player to remove their fingers off the flipper buttons when trying to keep the ball in play.

I’ll concede, maybe it’s just me. I’m not that coordinated :slight_smile:


You’d think so, but casual players aren’t necessarily committing that stuff to memory. My brother-in-law started smacking the top of the lockdown bar to flip, after he had been to my house and played pinball several times already.


The subject of this thread is making pinball more accessible to novices and suggests Munsters has taken steps to do this. Do you think action buttons make games more accessible to novices?

It’s one more light you can flash during attract mode, but from my experience, they scare more noobs than they attract.


No more than the start button or the flipper buttons does.

The more accessibility is from the rules of the game. Or at least that is their intent. I haven’t played it yet so not sure.

Going tonight and I will try to put my noob goggles on and report back.


This is an interesting thread but I feel like it is very caught up in all the things that can still make the game hard for novice players (obviously, we know there are a lot of things newbies struggle with).

Dwight Sullivan’s interview on Head2Head is great and what I got from him was that he worked to ensure there were exciting things that can happen quickly, like starting Herman with 2 shots - this is what is good for novices. So the intent about making it accessible seems to be adding features to help new players achieve something quickly/easily which can make them want to try again, and hopefully learn a little more each time they play. And of course, that quick achievement is balanced with risk/reward and more complicated stuff to keep the veterans interested. Novices who get hooked by something like a quick and easy multiball will hopefully interact with a friendly member of the pinball community who can expand their knowledge further!

I don’t think it’d be possible to create a pinball machine that wouldn’t create any possible confusion for a new player. There are just some details that need to be learned. We all learned those things at some point - maybe we had help, maybe we didn’t, but we should have faith that if we figured it out, the novices of today can too.

Whenever I see someone struggling in the wild, I offer quick advice. Sometimes it’s really appreciated, sometimes the person has no interest in the info… and that person is not likely to become a pinball player regardless of how easy it is to figure out. As a TD, whenever I’ve got a new player, I talk them through the basic things like how to play a multiplayer game, start the right number of players, etc. They still mess it up at some point but then they learn from the error and get it right the next time.

I look forward to playing Munsters next week and I’m not a novice but I’m still excited to shoot for Herman and hopefully get that quick achievement too!


You don’t have to remove your hands from the flipper buttons while playing to use either of those. They’ve also been a part of pinball for almost 100 years. Action buttons have been around a while, but not on every game.

From what I’ve seen, the flashing button intimidates before a coin is ever dropped. The brighter LED’s and art also play a part, but the button is right there in the middle. Hard to miss.


I don’t think rules are really influential on novices in any case because they’re not understandable as such in any regard. Video games don’t have rules in the way we really about them in pinball, nor do board games. The closest analogy i can think of would be something like combos/moves in games like mortal kombat. If you hit the buttons and move the joystick stuff will happen, but its nothing special and the utility runs out once you get past the basic opponents. To make real progress in the game you need to learn the combos and advanced moves, similar to learning that starting a mode gives you more access to points.


Im so confused now. Are you saying that bright LEDs and colorful art intimidate a novice player with the flashing lockbar button being part of that intimidation?

All I’ve seen is people go up and press the flashing lockbar button, get a free game and rejoice. Haha


Video games don’t have rules in the way we really about them in pinball, nor do board games.

Even a Keith Johnson game has nothing on this board game, for example.


I spend most of my free time at a bar that during the week gets the experienced locals have a good time, or are practicing, or whatever, and then on the weekends it becomes overrun with drunken 20 somethings. The main things I see attract new players is the theme of the machine. The two most played games by noobs are by far Ghostbusters and Star Wars. People like seeing things they can easily reference. For a few weeks we had Gilligan’s Island and those drunk 20 something’s loved it. They knew the theme, and the sounds and call outs feel much more familiar. They have a pre-existing bond with that machines, and that connection got their quarters. Now, the game has to decently fun to keep them playing, but I feel like theme, more than any other single thing attracts new players, and can go a long way in making a machine fun. When I was 16, I played the heck out of the Data East Guns n’ Roses because they were my favorite band. I really had no idea if the game was good or not.

I feel like if we want to make pinball friendlier to new folks, we could go a long way with more relevant themes for younger people. I can’t tell you how many younger folks were shocked to find out that Iron Maiden came out last year. On the other end, I always see younger folks jamming away on a Deadpool. Themes targeting, you know, people under 40 might help. Also, maybe just one hip-hop machine would be cool. People like the hip-hop music. And I’m not saying that their needs to be a drastic shift to all themes are for young folks, or no original themes or anything, I just feel like there could be more effort made. I mean, where’s my Wu-Tang 36 Chambers pin already!


From what I see, yes. As I mentioned above, the location where I see this a lot (barcade) has the the older WMS games separated from the newer games. On one wall, MM, WWind, TZ and Totan. On another wall, TNA, IMDN, LOTR, DP and SW. The noobs invariably walk past the newer games to play the older, dimmer games without action buttons. Now that Munsters and GOTG has been added to the new side (LOTR was pulled), I don’t see that trend changing.

I know the ops there, but not good enough to ask about earnings. Munsters and the NIB GOTG being added suggests to me that earnings are good. Us experienced players are most definitely playing the new games.

It’s great that Dwight is dialing it back to make things easier for novices, but if they’re not dropping coins to begin with, they’re not going to see the easier rules.


LOL, I think I just learned something I didn’t know about Judge Dredd. I don’t think I even knew about the left secondary button. And aside from that, every time I play it I find I’ve forgotten about the right side as the ball launch. Every time.


I designed Cannon Lagoon with exactly that as a primary goal and I think we largely succeeded. It’s also pretty fun. Yes I’m totally biased.


I thought you said targeting people under 40. :wink:


What I’ve found from watching newbies on site, as well as at shows, and speaking to them afterwards about what their favourite games to play where - all of the games have something in common. MM, AFM, Aerosmith, Avengers, ST, and Munsters has this as well, a shot in the centre of the table that does something - often starting a MB.

The vast majority of newbies flip as soon as the ball gets anywhere near the flippers, thus sending the ball up towards the centre of the table, rarely do they have the composure or even the knowledge to aim for something at the sides of the table.

My girlfriend absolutely loves Aerosmith and plays it more than any other machine I’ve had. It’s because she usually manages to start ToyBox MB, purely by flipping early, lighting the lock and the magnet or pops throwing the ball into the lock. I’ve asked her how she got the MB, she has no idea - but more importantly has no desire to know why, or to improve she just enjoys playing. I think there are at least as many people on site like her as there are who are going to be interested enough to try and learn the rules and everything that is going on and learn rules, let alone the skills.


You’re right, the reality is that pinball is a hard thing to learn at first - there’s no getting around that. The conversation should be focused on what features can make the games more accessible, mitigating (or balancing?) the inherent difficulty to hitting a steel ball around.

I’m not into games starting up on coin drop automatically. We have games from all eras at our location, and the sooner that someone realizes that you need to press a button on the cabinet to start a game, the better. The games with flashing green buttons get players ready for the unlabelled, shiny steel buttons on earlier games (I’m looking at you, Gottlieb EMs who have start buttons that look like coin return buttons).

From an operating perspective, someone not knowing how to start a game is the worst thing - having one of your first experiences with pinball begin with feeling like your money was stolen is not a good thing. This is why broken coin switches

And yes, new players love seeing an interesting theme, feature, or multiball; this is much more important to them than their score or the games precise rules, which “casual players” (read: the vast majority of people playing pinball on location) rarely pay attention to.


This is a fair and valid criticism.