What technology can be used to improve the pinball viewing experience for the casual observer?


Yes the “lose the ball” syndrome was happening to me too. During strobing lighting and flashes, it becomes a guessing games at times and the ball seems to disappear and re-appear sometimes in places that could have been prevented if you could have seen its complete path. It’s like a quantum leap or worm hole almost, and the disappearance of this ball in those key moments could really can change the outcome of not just that ball, but the game or even tournament results overall as a whole collectively.

This happens even in stock incadescent games but then add LED’s to the mix then here is what I see:

The inlays are brighter as a result of the LED and it then makes the spots where they aren’t, even a darker contrast ratio. Same goes for GI lighting, some spots it makes brighter (maybe a few inches surrounding the bulb), but where it doesn’t reach it makes what I call a black hole for the players and it can even be really difficult for the camera too.


Same here: Be sure to “enjoy” the Super Lanes (aka Super Flasher) mode in the Aerosmith. Each time the ball goes over an inlane switch, you get some nice points, but in exchange, you’ve got to deal with some serious strobing/flasher distraction. I’m sure it’s a cool effect, but no so cool when you’re trying to aim your next flip. ha


Yes Snailman, I know exactly what you mean. I have an Aerosmith LE and I put the Pin Stadium kit in my own machine and now when it hits that mode its a non-issue since the lights in the kits stay on when Super Flashers hits. Here is a video I took a few days ago showing them turning “Off” and “On” (it’s me controlling it with the app just so you can see the difference), but it will show you the constant bright ambient light that helps with that mode by dramatically reducing that contrast that was giving you and I troubles.


Pinball Corner is intended to be a between match way to provide informative filler for the new player. We could also work on a series of “streaming standards,” rules on how to cast and how to engage new pinball players who might not know everything. Shout outs to @KCB for reminding me that we aren’t being accessible; we should live up to and surpass the MOBA standard in accessibility because they have so many nuances they can’t cover that we do not have to worry about.

Preach the good word of Pokemon! Seriously, it’s like the ultimate mental game with how hard you have to predict your opponents and figure out each outcome. I have played in a few single format draft leagues in Gen 6 and even then there’s a ton of decision making with 1/4th of the problem space.


People line up to watch the marathon, or the Tour de France, or darts, or plenty of things that are not intellectually. People also tune in to the price is right and love plinko.

They can get hundreds of people to rock up and watch darts live. Thousands to turn up and watch LoL live.

I think pinball’s somewhere in the domain with corners at ‘darts/running’,‘plinko’, and ‘LoL’


One of the things I’ve found that makes it hard is you don’t just learn “pinball”, you learn 800 individual games with their own rules and qualities. This variety is AMAZING to us, but man it is tough to translate to other people. And new games come out every single year! Even DOTA or chess or something more complex, once you learn it, you know and can move on. The strategy comes later but you at least understand what you’re looking at. Pool - “Get all your balls in, then the 8 ball before the other person.” Marathon, Tour De France… “Go fast, first one across the line wins” Pinball will never have that unless we change the way competitions work (for instance going back to old Expo-style single-machine or whatever, and even that would only work within the context of one event.)

A second thing is that pinball is not directly competitive in the way that a multi-player video game is, or a race, or whatever. You watch one person play a loooong time, then another person a looooonng time. There is no simultaneity to it, or a timer that speeds it up to make it very fast-paced (like chess.) It removes a lot of the immediate drama for people. I’ve heard discussion of things like “Speed runs” where two people play the same title side by side on a timer and race for the highest score. That starts to get us more towards something that could be more compelling. Of course it isn’t actually pinball as we know it today, but I think it could pull out some really interesting skill sets nonetheless.

Even without the simultaneity I mean… jesus shit takes forever. @KCB and @hisokajp played a two hour best of three match on LOTR yesterday. Pinball is one of the only competitive activities that takes longer the better you are. Everything else, the better you are the faster you kill it. Its such a huge problem, and game choice only does so much to alleviate it.

I continue to believe that streaming live pinball will always be a niche thing. Unless we want to drastically change the types of competitions we run, the only hope is post-tournament editing down to highlights the way WSOP does.


IMO this is 100% spot on. The speed run concept I think is the best foot forward to a casual person digesting pinball. I wouldn’t even make it a timer for the highest score, because that puts ‘all the rules’ of a game on the table to be discussed and commented on, which is overwhelming.

I think you go with the PDQ style, both players trying to achieve ‘ONE GOAL’ as quickly as they can. So for GOT it could be start Wall MB. Explaining that particular rule is very easy and digestible for a viewer. The action of the players then simultaneously chasing that goal would be exciting and tension filled.

Different challenges are designed to show off particular skills - so Wall MB focuses on how players handle the feed off the right orbit return. Do you live catch? Do you dead flip over to the left side to a trap? Again, bite size nuggets for people to digest.

You can then use GOT again and have a race to Blackwater MB. It presents a different challenge on the same course so to speak, but breaks things down into a palatable experience for the viewer.

I could see tournaments offering a set of 5-10 challenges for any individual table, and suddenly matches become choice of machine or CHALLENGE. My opponent doesn’t know how to live catch well, maybe I choose to go for the Wall MB challenge versus going for the first Winter is Coming collect, etc.

The one thing we learned from BBH was the league scene changed entirely when we shipped BBH PRO with TWO guns. Suddenly play didn’t necessarily have to be serially. We created Showdown mode and both players had a chance to attack the screen at the same time. Changed the dynamic of the game completely. A ton of players didn’t like that style of play, but it advanced the game forward.

adding more stream of thought . . . but the idea of coming up with these bite size challenges as a TD sounds exciting.

Addams Family - Start Fester’s Tunnel Hunt . .andddddd GO!
Do you shoot jet bumpers? Do you just try to ramp/chair until you get there?

These strategic decisions are all happening while some guy is literally starting at the same time as you, right next to you. To me it sounds exciting, and I’m a pinball person! Plus it breaks things down into a small enough nugget for a viewer to actually be able to digest it. Commentary involves talking about how to start/relight modes, and how to change them on the playing field, and nothing else with respect to the game rules.


Now that has a ton of merit. Easy to do and fast paced action to boot. Something a tv network could televise easily.


And then someone gets a stuck ball.


Yep, I used that as an example of how pinball commentator might sound like to an outsider provided they describe everything. Bear in mind that in the mainstream, what we call the drain they more commonly call the “gutter,” and thanks to that famous gag used in cartoons like Looney Tunes and continues to stay in use up to the present day, they call nudging “tilting” (or they have no clue what it means).

Really, I’m not sure how to deal with the barrage of terminology,but I think pinball has a leg up on fighting games and MOBAs in how direct and straightforward pinball terminology is. Most of the time, at least. A “drop target” is a target that drops when you hit it. A “plunger” plunges to ball. A “rollover” is a switch activated when the ball rolls over it.

Compare that to fighting game jargon like “No Johns” (meaning “If you lose, accept it and move on,” named after a Smash Bros. player whose first name is John who would frequently blame outside circumstances for his losses), “Happy Birthday” (KOing multiple opposing characters at the same time, coined from how the most notable incident happened on the unlucky player’s birthday), or “Footsies” (a defensive style of play in which you use a character’s longest-range melee attacks at the tip of their range to inflict damage while avoiding getting hit, named so because low kicks are the most preferred attack used for this purpose).

I mean you got pinball terms like “bricking,” “Schatzing,” and “orbit,” which are equally obscure and non-intuitive to someone who might want to derive meanings just from looking.

Honestly, golf is not that fun to watch either unless you know the rules. Golf also lasts a long time and is full of subtle movements that drastically affects the outcome non-fans can’t really notice. Golf terminology is one of the most obtuse among all sports. And yet golf broadcasts are popular enough that the sport has its own channel in the United States.

I think the difference here is that your average person on the street, even if they don’t understand golf, will at least understand that it’s a game of skill and strategy more so than luck. It creates a positive feedback cycle to where they see the top golfers get these consistently amazing scores whenever they play, and non-fans might tune in to watch to try to understand it, or they might want to start playing golf themselves to understand it. Pinball does not have this reputation. For decades, it was seen as a gambling game, and it developed a popular image in which you just try not to lose. They don’t see skill or strategy, maybe except for when they see someone trap a ball on a flipper during multiball.

For that reason, I prefer playing in the daytime in buildings with very good lighting, or in buildings with bright lighting. I think I’m weird like that, but when it’s dark, it’s too hard for me to see, and yeah, Game of Thrones is the worst in that regard, as the strobing startles me and I can’t see the ball.

[quote=“ScoutPilgrim, post:165, topic:982, full:true”]Preach the good word of Pokemon! Seriously, it’s like the ultimate mental game with how hard you have to predict your opponents and figure out each outcome. I have played in a few single format draft leagues in Gen 6 and even then there’s a ton of decision making with 1/4th of the problem space.

Interestingly, Pokémon is also a game often maligned by the general public when they see competitions in that they think there’s no strategy: They think it’s all up to luck, or they think it all comes down to memorizing your type match-ups and picking the optimum type all the time (not realizing your opponents will do so too).

But the truth is that it’s a game about prediction, anticipation, and betting on your opponent’s actions. Whoever does the better job at figuring out what the other person will do will be the winner, nine times out of ten.

I would rather not use the same example twice in a row, but Pokémon video games are actually a case of matches trending longer the more skilled the players are. This is because the better you are at prediction and anticipation, the better you’ll be at weathering whatever the opponent throws at you. The F.E.A.R. strategy is a good example, able to wipe out an entire team with ease, all by itself, against an unprepared player. But once you learn its counters and integrate them into your team, you can outright ignore it and spend the next few turns doing non-damage stat boosts.

It is also an example of a type of competitive play that gets new stuff added all the time. It used to be that each new generation added in a bunch of new Pokémon, new mechanics, new battling environments, new moves, new Abilities, new hold items, and other new stuff, but as of late, they’ve been introducing things mid-generation as well. The result is that Pokémon is a contender, if not the record-holder, for the most complex turn-based game ever made.

I think the key difference here is that in a competition, you’re playing on a bunch of different pinball machines, which would be the equivalent of a fighting game tournament where people are required to play Street Fighter EX: Third Strike, Skullgirls, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Under Night in Birth, the first Super Smash Bros., Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 1, and Injustice 2.

When I just got started and was still learning about how pinball machines have rules and such, I actually thought this was already standard in competitions and was surprised to not see it.


Other player has to trap up as if they also had a stuck ball.

Both players wait until the official starts them off again.

Those 60-120 seconds of dealing with the stuck ball gives the commentators a chance to take a deeper look on where the action is at that moment (almost like a time out in a normal sports event) before heading back into the frantic exciting action.


You should learn the rules of American Football, Kevin


I agree with Greg but it will sound like I’m disagreeing probably.

What hasn’t changed since 2011 is that it’s still impossible for someone to market and professionally produce a pinball tournament show on anything less than a tv show’s budget. What has changed is that it’s now possible for an individual to produce something that lets us watch live pinball from the comfort of our homes for the first time ever. That’s cool but we’ve been living that reality for a while now and it’s clear (I think from this thread) that pinball people want this to move forward somehow.

Twitch as a platform cares about viewer minutes primarily. This is the focus of their site. They care about growing the number of average viewers they have on their site and growing the length of time those viewers stay on the site. They do this much more easily by tearing down the bariers for an individual to stream than they do by building or promoting an infrequent pinball tournament channel, unfortunately. This means that a 9-5 every day professional gamer is much much much more important to them than an infrequent pinball channel. And this I think screams “TV” for the destination for pinball much more than twitch, youtube, or chatroulette.

POKER PROductions, led by Mori Eskandani, a former poker player turned television executive, has produced the World Series of Poker Europe since 2008 and World Series of Poker since 2011

This seems like the right answer with the usual big problems: money, time, risks, experience. Pinball people working with tv people to produce high quality, consumable pinball broadcasts. Contracts with interested networks. A marketing budget. Editors. Multiple Cameras. Instant (pre-recorded) replay. Wrapped up into a package that works. Screened for focus groups or something. I dunno what they do before WSOP airs but I know it lets me sink into the couch and watch incredible hand after incredible hand play out.


The most fun I had when doing the PDQ stuff this year with Joe & crew was figuring out the optimal path to various speedrun goals. Did you know that any medal animation in Star Trek code v1.61 pauses the game timer for approximately 2.5 seconds? I didn’t until I played 16 hours of Star Trek. I also found it impossible to explain to the pinball people who were around me that my goal was to backhand the corner of the post/spinner area over and over again to go as fast as possible (finding a repeatable shot that doesn’t kill you, hit a pop bumper, or hit a mode shot is almost impossible!)

Also, you can achieve Hand of the King on Game of Thrones in exactly 22 shots, but it’s faster if you do it in 23. This is because the moment you hit the switch at the top of the center ramp to “enter” Hand of the King, the game prevents you from skipping ALL animations in the game because it wants to force you to read the awards you got by starting Hand of the King. The problem is that you also have to watch 2 more animations play: the martell animation on the DMD followed by the point total and combo value for collecting Martell. You can skip both of these by shooting the right ramp to end the mode, double flipping twice to cancel while the ball travels around the ramp, and then shooting the middle ramp. This saves you 2-3 seconds for when the “Hand of the King” animation appears on the DMD.

My point is… you can try to make pinball as simple as possible but it will ALWAYS become incredibly dorky and technical.


Love this idea…it’s like a yellow flag in NASCAR


No doubt the speed run format would appeal to casual viewers. But would experienced players want to watch? That sounds like a side tourney to me. I want to see the main event. I might watch speed runs for a few minutes, but not like a ‘real’ tourney. I want to see how each player approaches a game and I’d rather that all take a different path to getting the most points. Speed runs make everybody play the same.

I suppose I knew that a lot of the push to get pinball streaming came from the video side. The article linked below really drove it home. My views haven’t changed from what I posted earlier in this thread.



OMG how will the world survive without the 200-400 dedicated people currently watching pinball streaming as it exists today! :slight_smile:


Having it be head to head would make it more interesting, since it would create more urgency, stakes, and storyline. I’ve generally found pinball speed runs much less interesting than most other pinball coverage. Trying the same general sequence (sometimes a fairly long sequence) over and over, almost never hitting the target time, frequently resetting mid-attempt because there was no chance of succeeding, etc. is objectively repetitive and subjectively uninteresting. I feel similarly (though not to the same degree) about watching pingolf: getting 30 mil on Metallica (and stopping) isn’t particularity exciting, but getting 300 mil would be. Hell, I’m disappointed when the top-level players lock up a win before playing ball 3 because I want to see if they can really blow up the game.


Let me watch whatever game I want, knowing which people (or person, if qualifying) are on which machine. Instead of commentary (although its fine if one game is commented at a time), mic up the game with a directional mic so we can hear it.

To improve casual viewing, focus on:

  • Storylines, PAPA did this well focusing on tiebreakers and “Bubble” players late during qualifying
  • Minimize downtime, perhaps as you wait for next game to be played, go over the rules, terms, show a clip of a sweet save from earlier, etc
  • Show the casters/players! Nobody likes to be on camera, but human faces keep other humans interested. Its human nature.
  • Bigger game variety during broadcast.


I second that. I always find it disappointing when I watch a Papa or IFPA stream and can’t hear the game.