Tilt through (kind of) ruling

So had a strikes tournament tonight and the game was Star Trek Pro.

Three player match. Bottom two get strikes. Player 2 ball 3 tilted their ball. Player three steps up and the game immediately says tilt. No warnings. Then it goes to player 3’s flashing score, but no ball shoots to the shooter lane, and the flippers are dead. I couldn’t get anything to activate the flippers.

I ruled it a major malfunction and fired up a new game on that Star Trek, as a reboot seemed to fix things.

Afterwards I thought, should I have given player 3 a consolation ball instead since it was ball three? Players one and two keep their scores?

Or should I have treated that as a tilt through and DQ player two, and give player 3 a consolation ball?

Thanks for the help.

P1 and P2 are in the can, with completed games, and P3 gets a compensation ball. This assumes you can get their scores on the reboot.

The fact that P3 went “tilt” with no warnings says to me that it’s not a tilt-through from P2, so in my opinion they don’t get a DQ (“unless tournament officials grant an exception based on the behavior of the machine in question”). But nobody should get a full restart there, unless you can’t retrieve the scores.


Yep. I’m an idiot and this didn’t come to me until right after I made the call. Nobody was salty about it, but I still felt bad. Oh well. I’ll know for next time. Scores were definitely retrievable.

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What machine was this on?

Star Trek Pro

Weird. Just had this happen on a casual game yesterday on st pro. Been over a year since I had that happen, but it used to be more frequent. I believe it was related to the trough connector but it’s been too long to be sure.

Agreed, no DQ, keep 1 and 2 scores (capture scores before reboot), compensation ball.


I thought it was supposed to be “impossible” to tilt through on machines of that era. What should I know about the technology?

I think classic Stern (Stern Electronics) and some WPC games are the only ones I’ve heard of having tilt through protection. Modern Stern (AKA Stern Pinball) doesn’t have tilt through protection AFAIK.

I’ve noticed that the tilt screen lasts quite awhile on modern sterns. That appears to be an attempt to limit tilt throughs.

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Classic sterns do have tilt through (factory) - but if you have a super-spin going on meteor for instance, tilt, and it’s still scoring for the next person because its still spinning, that next person will get points and then a tilt if the bob is still swinging.

There are tilt through romsets for early bally games to have similar behavior to Sterns, at least up through the 6800 (1976-1984) era, and there is some talk of adding this to classic williams games, too.

Supposedly system 7 games already have tilt through built in, have not tested this yet.

The same exact thing happened in two local tournaments (Mesa, AZ) in September on Star Trek Pro. I was a player in both games. I wonder if this is a bug in the software or maybe a switch problem common to Star Trek games.

First scenario, four player game, P2 tilts ball 3 hard as it drains. Display highlights P3’s score, but flippers are dead and there’s no ball in the shooter lane. Nobody was sure what to do and after a couple minutes someone shook the machine, then it kicked a ball into the shooter lane, but the display moved to P4. I think (but not sure now) it may have displayed a danger when it was shaken before it switched from P3 to P4 and kicked the ball out for P4. I was P4 and played on and P3 got a compensation ball (and of course got 4th because he lost all progress to his multiballs).

Second scenario (if I can remember the details correctly), four player game, I was P3. P2 tilts ball 1 hard as it drains. It seemed like the TILT on the screen turned off for a split second, then said TILT again. Flippers dead, no ball in shooter lane, P3’s score is bold (00). The operator of the game was actually P2, so he opened the coin door (after discussion with the TD) and manually loaded a ball into the shooter lane to see if this would somehow fix the issue, like maybe the game lost track of the balls. The game auto-launched it like it was clearing a ball after a tilt. Flippers were still dead. Once the ball drained, the displayed moved to P4 and the game played as normal. I was given a compensation ball at the end.

So it seems very odd that both of these and the original post scenario happened specifically after a P2 tilt. Could this be a software bug that should be reported to Stern?

Could this ever be considered a “tilt thru”, or are these never supposed to ever happen on modern Sterns? In other words, does the next player’s turn not officially start until the ball is in the shooter lane, so the previous player can’t be blamed for anything that happens until then?

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The next player’s turn starts whenever the score display says that player is up, not when a ball is served.

The second case is a tilt-through, since it’s P3’s turn and the display reads TILT. P2 should be disqualified. It is possible to tilt through on a Stern, I’ve seen it happen before, typically if the tilt is set extremely tight.

The first case is not a tilt-through, since P3’s ball was never tilted (according to the display). I think one could reasonably argue this is a tilt-through, but if the game is the judge, and the display and turn advance worked as you described, it wasn’t.

The moral is that P2 needs to stop shaking the machine so hard.

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I don’t see how the two scenarios are different (or I didn’t explain them correctly). In both cases the game went from displaying TILT to being was stuck with P3’s score highlighted. It wasn’t until shaking in the first case or opening the door and manually ejecting a ball in the second case that the game “woke up” and moved to P4.

I was thinking maybe the hard tilt dislodged the balls from their normal resting position in the trough so the switches weren’t detecting the correct number of balls. But shouldn’t the game do a ball search in this case? And the game shouldn’t advance to the next player until all the balls are accounted for in the trough.

This and two other Star Trek Pros in this thread had the same problem, so it seems like a bug. I’m not sure if it’s fair to DQ a player if it is a bug. I’ll try to reproduce the problem next time I play a Star Trek on free play.

In the first case, you said the display was highlighting P3’s score, but the flippers were dead; you didn’t say there was a TILT display while P3 was active. If that’s the case, then yes, both are tilt-throughs.

I’m not sure what to say if it turns out to be a bug. It’s still true that P2 tilted strongly enough to cause a tilt to appear during P3’s turn, and that without P2’s tilt it would not have happened.

I wonder what others think about it. Thanks for trying to reproduce it!

Let’s clarify some.

On the (clever) Stern Electronics games that allow a tilt through ball to be reserved non-tilted, does the rules allow for the offending player to stay in the match? I mean the game logic allows for the tilted player to continue the game without a consolation ball. But should the offender stay in or have a score of zero.

This actually happened during a match I had at Pinburgh on a Quicksilver. But I don’t remember if a tilt through ruling was used.

Surely they could have. But I think it, again, comes down to a decision to not have games in the wild that invites to more abuse, bad behaviour or “ball times” than necessary. I could imagine some would find it amusing to go tilt->plunge->drain->laugh->tilt->…

But, why not have it when in competition mode? The old horse I keep beating on. Same with one switch ball-in-play, keep the scores on the display for a longer interval at game over, clear playfield troughs etc. etc.

With competition pinball being what it has become now, please make games that work optimally in competion as well as in traditional coin play usage.

A much easier and safer solution is to just have the logic wait longer after a tilt. And even in bonus roundup. Before switching to the next player and serving up the ball. Actually, why not just have a longer fun-with-bonus sequence? When in competition mode.

In the tournaments I’ve played that use PAPA/IFPA rules, a player that tilted through on classic Stern games was not DQ’ed for the tilt-through. That specifically includes a ruling that Bowen made in my group at Pinburgh where the previous player tilted through my ball on Wild Fyre, and his ruling was “play on”.

There’s a valid argument either way: the offending player clearly DID “tilt through”, but there’s a clause saying a DQ is given “unless tournament officials grant an exception based on the behavior of the machine in question”, which is pretty clearly targeted at games like classic Sterns. IMHO, competitions are not improved by having more disqualifications, so if it’s clear that the tilt-through didn’t actually harm the subsequent player, “play on” is the right choice.


I think there should be granular control in some kind of ‘expert’ setting on a machine to let the tournament officials to set up a machine EXACTLY as they like… set # of tilt through’s, set all timing aspects of the tilt (frequency/# of hits) - heck, even a setting that says 'don’t tilt if there has been zero score/no switches made)

It can be very difficult and frustrating for the tilting, DQ’d player on a machine with a ridiculous tight tilt (as a lot are in competitions) to do a large-ish death save and be DQ because the bob is still swinging so much. (Incidentally, one of the reasons I invert the bob as shown in some manuals as it helps the momentum stop quicker… was hoping you would do a tilt update video with the inverted bob tested as well to see the differences… just another way to tune a machine carefully.)

I disagree: a “tilt through,” by definition, means that you have caused the subsequent player to incur the penalty of a tilt (loss of ball, or game) because of your actions at the end of your ball. Because Stern Electronics games compensate for this by removing the penalty of a tilt to the subsequent player, then there’s no tilt through. Having the word “tilt” on the screen or lit up on the back glass isn’t the most important aspect – it’s the ramifications of the Tilt.


It’s somewhere in between. It incurs part of the penalty (coils go dead, switches stop scoring) but afterwards the zero point ball saver takes effect.

Anyway, the PAPA/IFPA mountaintop oracle evidently thinks it’s a tilt through, else that exception clause would be unnecessary.