Having spent a bunch of time trying to accurately short plunge on ghostbusters, which we jokingly call the “longest short plunge ever”, I have a question on why something didn’t catch on from recent pinball history and if a change would be a possibility.
I enjoy and respect short plunging to the extent it allows skillful play and to give players extra opportunities to pull off neat tricks. Giving a small tap to the plunger on LoTR to lock in the right skill shot or on Stern Star Trek to lock in the right mission feels like a smart play. However, I abhor being the player who takes ten attempts to get the short plunge on multiple games “right” when there’s no penalty to being “short” on a short plunge. Goodness forbid live pinball gets on ESPN8 so everyone can watch nervous skilled players attempt multiple short plunges.
Capcom’s Pinball Magic had that really neat design on the skill shot into the hat of, if you missed it short, it started a ~3-5 second clock before it auto plunged the ball into play. It still allowed for a skill shot, but seemed to do a good job of (a) not allowing for repeated attempts, thus moving the game along and (b) rewarding skillful plunges.
So here’s the question - I can’t think of another game that has the use it or get auto plunged skill shot. Is there a reason why it didn’t catch on? Is there some bug related to pinball magic’s skill shot that made future manufacturers / designers / programmers not want to replicate that type of skill shot? Are there other reasons why that type of skill shot isn’t in more games?
I ask because I think iron man, WoF, Stern Star Trek, and especially ghostbusters would really benefit from a timed skill shot. If Josh argues for no ball save because why would you be rewarded for draining the ball early, why would I be rewarded by not getting the skill shot right on the first attempt only?
The main reason is that for many reasons the shooter lane MUST be the least-trusted switch on the game. The abuse that it takes makes it dangerous to rely on it 100% of the time. It is easily the most-broken switch in all pinball games combined.
That being said, I do agree with your general premise, that taking too many shots at a skill shot is obviously reduced skill. The biggest, earliest example of this is probably TAF (if you go slightly too long, trivial to let it drain and do-over). TBH, Hobbit is a really bad one too.
It’s one of the main reasons that in TSPP, almost every single switch in the game forces valid playfield. I didn’t want to do it, but the open area was so bad, there was no other way to end the skill shot and make sure players weren’t exploiting the situation. It is also the very reason that Elvis has a switch up near the shooter lane exit that forces valid playfield and causes a drain/ball save. I pretty much insisted on it to avoid forever opportunities at skill shots.
PM is not the only game to “penalize” for missed plunges. SNS will also let you know “you plunge too softly.”
For me, the possibilities of the game messing up and looking stupid to the player outweigh any advantage to imposing a penalty on the player (“yes, let me have the chance to look stupid to the player so that I may be a dick to them at all costs”).
That being said, I probably will experiment with some kind of skill shot tweak on Hobbit.
X’s and O’s for everyone!
Seriously though, this isn’t an X’s and O’s situation, because it’s your first release of the ball from the shooter lane.
The most likely reason I can think for not doing this is reliability of the shooter lane: the ball can easily bounce off that shooter lane switch then back on again, and then the player is forced into action before they want to be. And, this could just be circumstance, but I feel like shooter lane switches often break and are not generally repaired when broken.
I think it’s a good idea. Perhaps we just need play timers, that would get rid of this concern altogether. Want to short plunge for 5 minutes? Okay, but it’ll cost you…
I fully respect the playing-it-safe from game designers. Having a product that does not upset the customers is important. That being players not feeling ripped for their ball in play (or worse). And operators feeling they have a stabil product with lesser service needs.
However, I would like to see them a little gut’tier. Meaning, if the game is set for competition play, expect every switch to work and start the ball saver (go valid if you will) on first switch seen out of the shooter lane. Including the trough.*
That being said, I do not believe one should go that far, as to start the ball saver and goto auto-plunge reling only on the main shooter lane switch (to prevent forever short plunge attempts). Under any circumstance. That is just too dangerous. With the risk of the game starting to auto plunge in competition before the player has stepped up to the game.
If a no-forever-short-plunge-attempts rule has to be applied, there is not way around two shooter lane switches the way I see it. With one near the short plunge exit.
Edit. Forgot to state, that this reasoning is based on the logic of a trough that is not filled up. So you can rule out balls entering from the shooter lane exit.
I’d be okay with this if it was only in tourney mode (with a note on the apron). On location, if no one is waiting to play (almost always), I want all the launches I need.
GB has made me think about soft plunging lately. It can take me a few tries to get the ball safely on a flipper, although one or two tries is the normal. I’ve gotten way too many tilt warnings before validating the playfield lately. That’s embarrassing. Good thing nobody is waiting in line behind me.
This is a big reason why I dislike GB. The short plunge is so important, but no one has fun plunging 5+ times, and no one has fun watching someone plunge 5+ times. And it slows down tournaments.
I think everyone likes the strategy behind the short plunge, but it’s the grind that sucks. Ideally, a game is designed to keep the strategy but avoid the grind. Either:
a) A plunge should be one-and-done, with only one attempt possible. The ball is redirected into play if you plunge too short, and/or the playfield insta-validates based on some shooter lane switch as mentioned above. This actually increases the skill, because you have to be accurate enough to make the plunge on your first attempt.
b) The short plunge is easy enough that it only takes an attempt or two. For example, on GB, if the area before the top rollovers was 20% bigger, the short plunge would be way less monotonous. You ditch the grind, but still maintain the strategy of choosing between the top rollovers and the short plunge.
Metallica super skill shot is also on a timer after leaving the shooter lane switch. It’s a nice nuance.
I wholeheartedly agree that games should be designed that the optimal plunge isn’t the minimum that clears the first gate. TAF was called out as a game that had valid playfield issues, but at least if you plunge too short you have to quit it. Whitewater, pin/jackbot, and some of the more recent sterns come to mind as infinite-retry games that get super tedious.
It’s not an easy problem to fix once playfield design is finalized, though. A switch below the shooter lane on GB would mostly fix the problem (you’d just full plunge instead), for instance. I don’t see any easy way for it to be fixed in Software, which is annoying.
True, but you can still manually short plunge (quickly) and not lose the super skill shot and it is only if you are asleep at the wheel (see what I did there) the game will autoplunge.
I see the ability to short plunge as a feature, not a bug. The vast majority of players won’t do it. It’s easier to teach someone to post pass than it is to convince them that most newer Stern’s are best short plunged.
With the skill shots that remain lit long after the ball saver has expired on GB, I think it’s awesome. Nice work by Dwight finding yet another spin on the age old skill shot. Don’t change a thing. (other than maybe in tourney mode)
Another cool thing about GB is that if you miss the short plunge a few times, you can still change the skill shot. Not locked in once it leaves the shooter lane switch.
@phishrace: Your post contains a non sequitur. Everything after the first paragraph has nothing to do with the software design of the flipper skill shot on GB, which I agree is excellent.
If the plunger lane/switches were designed so that the best plunge to the flippers was the (pretty clean) feed around the back to the left flipper instead of the current short-plunge, is the game better or worse? In my opinion, it’s better: the player has to catch a faster-moving ball, and we all don’t have to try the plunge half-a-dozen times. It also rewards players who can get the same feed every time without resorting to a full plunge, which is skillful.
I’m not saying that plunging until you get the nice short-plunge feed is a bad play, or that the option to do something more clever isn’t a good thing for good players to know. It’s just that this particular clever thing isn’t good game design: it’s not hard, and it’s not interesting. Most players won’t do it because it’s not fun.
My all time bugbear on this front is Whitewater. The obvious thing to do is a disaster, and the correct thing to do seems to be awfully tedious. I wish a too-short plunge was penalized: if I were putting on in a tournament I’d be tempted to Belsito the shooter rails in some way.
Whitewater was the first game that crossed my mind on the short-plunge offenders list. Doesn’t stop me from patiently doing it though, even with the game yelling at me to get going.
One possible software fix to the infinite too-short, short plunge attempts would be to put the flipper skill shots on a timer, similar to how Metallica’s Super Skill shot works: on MET, if you choose super skill shot, your timer to execute it begins immediately after the ball leaves the shooter lane switch the first time. So if you plunge too short even once, you likely won’t have time to execute. Yet valid playfield is still in effect (on Pro due to no spinner) – you can exhaust your Super Skill timer, yet not have validated your playfield and get the ball back, but Super Skill shot is no longer an option.
Same could be done for GB: as soon as you plunge, the timer starts on Start Scene skill shots. After timer expires, then only skill shots still available are the upper lanes.
It’s an important part of the GB skill shots that they aren’t timed at all–you have until you hit one of the (six choosable) shots. You can thus faff about hitting other stuff during ball save and then hit your skill shot, or just cradle up and think about it. Some people strongly like this behaviour…
I guess that’s my point: yes, currently there is no timer, and encourages plunge faffing until you just clear the shooter lane. Put in a timer after ball leaves the shooter lane switch (just like MET), and it would require a more measured skill shot from the first plunge attempt.
I like the no timer on GB skillshot. We don’t need to make GB any more difficult!
GB skill shot might be the most powerful skill shot in all of modern pinball (other than maybe Mustang). The reason being that you are saving potentially tons of shots up the middle depending on your progress, plus have an option of insane amount of points. Mustang is the same way. Compare this to Star Trek (nothing) or ACDC (a little something, but not too much). I believe that not only should you be made to work for it, but it should be hard! Take away the short plunge option all together on Mustang and GB. Run a short timer. At least make it an option to do these things.