Using games with lock stealing in multiplayer games

So I had this come up during a tournament this past weekend and I was just trying to get some different perspectives on how people feel about using games that allow stealing locks in multiplayer games.

Do TDs typically do single player games, or do you feel that lock stealing is just part of the game?

It seems the trend is to just play them as “that’s how they were made”, even though it can horribly skew results.

Personally I feel that they should be played single player or not at all, but it seems to be the minority. Many of these are just not suitable for competition.

There has been a good amount of discussion about lock stealing on here.

Check some opinions on this thread. SPOILERS - TNA Spoiler discussion Including the wacky concept that TAF needs to be single-player due to skill shot opportunities :rofl:

Basically, in almost all situations I think it’s fine to play them multiplayer.

Ask your audience. At IFPA12 in Sweden the vote was 64-0 to play these as single player games (much to my surprise).


Part of the game. But if you disagree, and do not have a lot of games to choose from, I can understand you deciding to use it as a one player game. But if you you have the luxury, I’d rather the game not be used if you don’t want it to be played multiplayer.

Aha! Thanks! Apparently googling “tilt forums lock stealing” isn’t gonna cut it.

Even within the lock-stealing subgenre, there are games that are worse than others.

Fire is one of the absolute worst because the state is basically the same across all players, including work needed to do to relock balls after someone steals your multiball.

Other games multiball is so trivial (SOF), it’s hard to argue it’s that much of a handicap.

Most WPC games where this is an issue (manual-plunger-only games) handle it correctly by either zeroing your locks on ball start regardless of progress (FH, TOTAN), or giving the opportunity for easy reloads (TAF).


I’ll go against what seems to be the grain here and say that yes, just use it as it’s designed. Lock stealing for better or worse will figure into your strategies, and it becomes a risk/reward thing. Yes, you can get those balls locked, but make sure you collect your multiball. Some games like Doctor Who you can mess up your opponents by sticking the balls in the locks and NOT getting the multiball, making them survive a risky virtual lock//loss of easy feed to the right flipper.

Some games like F14 it doesn’t matter if someone steals your locks because you will reload them next ball (and get some extra [underserved] amount of points to do so).

The people that voted 64-0 against multiplayer games, well, of course you would, that way you CAN’T lose your locks. Unless it leaves them in there at the end of the game like flight 2000 does (and can be set to give credit for the locks to the next player…)

I guess my train of thought kind of goes along with @pinwizj thoughts on having zero ball saves during competition; it’s standardized for everyone. Why should a player get what’s effectively another ball and rewarded for inaccuracy? To that end, why should player 2 (or 3/4) be able walk up to a game on ball 1 with multiball ready to go without having touched the game yet? It just feels like a huge advantage and to me doesn’t represent a players complete game.

And sure, the era/types of games have to be taken into consideration.

It’s great when it works in your favor and kind of stinks when it goes against you but overall it changes your strategy to use lock stealing in multiplayer games and I don’t mind them.

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Because pinball isn’t fair by design. If we pick apart every aspect of bad breaks and unfairness, there won’t be a game left to play.


But it’s an advantage that was provided via the decisions of another player. That other player took the risk, and failed. #playbetter

I do agree that 4-player lock-stealing games provide more of an unjust imbalance than head-to-head games, because if your P1, and P2 and P3 continually set up P4 (and P4 takes advantage of the locks).

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Well, yeah. But getting housed 3 times in a row and being given the opportunity to get into multiball 3 times are two completely different things.

Remember… this is MATCH play. Your game isn’t just player vs machine… it’s player verse your direct opponent. I think it gets messy when you start comparing scores across matches… but for match play directly the the idea of ‘my choices may influence the game of other players’ is entirely in step with both pinball and match competition.

Player choices and success/failure having an impact on their competitors is all fair game to me. (and is seen all over in pinball)

To me… a player failing and leaving an opportunity for another player is not any different from failing to complete a scoring objective, thus influencing how the other person plays.


I keep hearing Fire! Is one of the worst lock stealing games because it’s a slog to get the locks again. Don’t forget it only takes two shots to lock a ball. Advance bonus X via the lit horseshoe, shoot ladder ramp.

On the assumption that it’s Match Play, then I think that it’s part of the game dynamic of risk/reward as other people have pointed out. It also influences where you want to position yourself in terms of player position (i.e. “John Q. usually can lock ball 1 but I’ve seen him drain after that, so I’ll make sure to go directly after him.”

I feel the trade-off with going to single-player games is you lose the in-game dynamic of knowing how you’re doing after each person’s ball and how that might affect your strategy (i.e. I’m really behind after ball 2 so I’m going to play riskier, or I’m really ahead so I’m going to start chipping away at safe shots). If it’s single-player you then have a lot more emphasis on position choice (much like an 1-Player EM game).


Is this a setting?

Three other things about Fire! lock stealing:

  • You get not-insignificant points for locking a ball that you are deprived of if you step up to the game and there are locked balls.
  • Along the same lines, you are also deprived of a potential skill shot if you inherit a lock.
  • Getting the jackpot in multiball is not an easy task, at least for anything other than the highest level of competition.

Pretty sure it’s default. The timer that the ladder stays raised when you do this is definitely a setting. Mines set to the lowest time possible. I think it’s 3 secs.

Agreed on the other points. Yeah you can steal those locks, but unless you get a jackpot, not going to pay off for you. Better to do the work yourself.

The first two of those sound just like TAF :slight_smile:

I will say it depends on the game. Lock stealing is not an absolute no-go for competition. It can add flavour to matches. And a nice variaty of games and strategies. Some are horrible, Radical and Fire. While others are just fine, Taxi.

I use the terms hard lock-stealing and soft lock-stealing. Where hard is when opponents benefit from your progress. And soft is where (your) balls are mearly removed from a playfield lock. Forcing you to re-lock. Or re-lock by design requirement, as Funhouse. Clearly, hard lock-stealing is the worse for competition.

I will say, that the cross-games/cross-players shared jackpot is generally a far worse bias than shared lock. Or even shared multi-ball progress. This was clearly a trend at the time, with a coin play revenue in mind. Which I understand and respect. I would like to say. Pool Sharks starts at 1M and maxes at 9M. That is quite a leap.

And, keep in mind. Shared jackpot games are not evened out by playing as single player games. Nor by a power cycle.