Why do I have such a hard time learning Spooky tables' rules?

One of my favorite public places to go around Los Angeles is AYCE Gogi, and part of that is because they have a (currently) complete collection of machines from Spooky Pinball: America’s Most Haunted, Rob Zombie, and now they even have a Domino’s. They also have a Batman '66, and my most recent visit made me realize something: I can pick up the rules reasonably quickly with tables from Stern and Jersey Jack, but I am often at a total brick wall when I’m at a Spooky machine. I realized this when I was picking up how to play Batman '66 to where I knew what to shoot for most of the time, and this was only my second time at the machine (the first being at INDISC).

And yet, I’ve been visiting AYCE every now and then playing on their America’s Most Haunted and Rob Zombie, and now that another one’s popped up at Pasadena’s Club 1609, I’ve been playing those a bunch to try to learn them, but I know more about how to play Batman '66 after maybe 5 or 6 games total than I have after 30 or 40 games each of those first two Spooky machines.

For Batman '66, I learned how the skill shot works, how to start a villain mode, and what to do in all four of them to complete them. I learned how to start a multiball and what to shoot for in that multiball, what the “GADGET” targets do, and starting episodes. This is after two sessions.

For America’s Most Haunted, I learned the skill shot, how to start the doctor ghost mode, how to start the bar ghost mode, how to lock a ball in the Hellevator, and how to get the random award, but nothing else. For Rob Zombie, I learned the skill shot (but I’ve never done the complete one), how to start a mode (but not what to do in any of them), and where to lock a ball (but not how to get the locks lit). For Domino’s, I learned the skill shot and how to light the lock, and how to lock a ball (but I have no clue what that “+3 career” thing means when I shoot the scoop).

So that leads me to my question: How can I learn the rules for other manufacturers reasonably well, but it’s so slow for me for Spooky? Does this happen with other people? (And are there any rule guides to any of Spooky’s machines anywhere I can read?)

Not sure the reasoning for why, but if you look at AMH there are a bunch of 1, 2, 3s that once you hit three times will be solid and then the boss Ghost “mode” will be lit/start at that shot. A couple exceptions are if it doesn’t say “____ Ghost” or “Prison Lock” then you will have to start it at a different spot - the mystery scoop. You’ll also see up the middle shot that goes into the pops it says Advance Bar and Advance Fort - at the scoop the “Bar Ghost” or “Army Ghost” will light once you hit enough pops. Only one of those two modes/ghosts will be lit at the start so you have to start that one first.

They probably should have had things match like instead of Advance Fort and Army Ghost, just called it Fort Ghost or Advance Army but the colors do match.

Hope that helps!


I don’t know how to play any Spooky games myself, but the simple answer is that Spooky isn’t using the same gameplay conventions that other manufacturers are using.


The bigger manufacturers can afford to hire experienced pinball programmers. Spooky was soliciting input on rules from pinside. That’s a pretty big step down. Someone needs to send those folks a link to this forum.

There are other considerations. BM66 is on early software, so not much there (from what I’ve heard). Also, Lyman’s rules tend to be more straightforward than most other designers. Easier to learn and understand. Not necessarily simple or easy, just easier to understand.


I think the proper term for that is “well designed” :slight_smile:


Why doesn’t Spooky get a designer? I know I would love to design pinballs and there’s probably a bunch of us out there that would love it as well.

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I haven’t put in enough time on any Spooky machines to have an opinion on this, but the following holds true anyway. Stern sells thousands of each machine. Spooky sells a few hundred. The number of machines sold has no bearing on the complexity/effort of the code - it still needs to get done regardless. Stern is bringing in 10x-50x the revenue per game that Spooky is, so they can afford to spend way more time, effort, and money on the code…while still spending a whole lot less on it in terms of a percentage of revenue.


So I happen to own a RZ and I tend to think the rules are pretty straight forward BUT I’ve put a bunch of games in.

Generally, the DMD will tell you what to shoot once in a mode. Left orbit gives you the mode select screen. No stacking modes. I think the DMD does a pretty good job of telling you what to shoot, but only if you get the chance to look at the DMD while playing. Completing many of the modes gives you a MB.

Locks, knock down the drop target lights your lock. Hitting the shot behind the drop target locks a ball. Do that 3 times. Multiball.

There are a few modes that you start incidentally and don’t require the orbit shot. Living Dead Girl is the most prevalent since you generally hit the stand up targets when you miss the drop target. This is a 2 ball multiball that let’s you add-a-ball by hitting those same targets.

Since this isn’t a rules wiki I’m gonna stop.

Code: Fawzma is the programmer and is active on Pinside. He is super responsive to ideas and bug fixes. It has been stated several times that there are a ton of callouts (over 400?) that have been recorded but not implemented yet, so that should probably help with telling you what to shoot at.

Thus far, I like the game but I feel like it’s still too soon to know where it will end up. While there is plenty to do now there are a lot of additions that have been mentioned (mini wizard mode, infection mode) that haven’t been completed.

Hey guys, my ears were burning so I thought I’d stop by after heads up I got.

A few quick notes. (turned out longer than I thought)

RZ was designed to not flow like anything else. It’s different. The main mode rules were already determined before I got involved. Although I made some tweaks/additions here and there, the spirit of the game is as intended from the beginning.

Rules are easy enough to understand, just hit anything with a pulsing/flashing light :wink: Seriously though this is a risk/reward game. When you start a main mode from the VUK in the back (left orbit) each mode has objectives. Some have negative consequences.

Dragula, shoot center ramp 7 times before timer runs out. Then shoot left orbit for video mode or right to get an extra ball.

Dead City, hit the 1,2,3 targets in order… going out of order resets the mode. Reset the mode 3 times and the mode ends

What! clear upper playfield lanes 3 times, shoot gate 3 times to get a MB. Once beat, shoot right orbit to get another ball for completing RHPL. Left orbit, then through gate to get a super jackpot. Exiting the ramp before beating the mode, reset it.

American Witch… let orbit, center ramp 3 times, right orbit… time it all perfect and it works without a hitch. screw up, by hitting slings and pops and you end up losing the mode. Hit the LDG targets to save yourself.

Demonoid, hit all the switches in the time given

While outside of a main mode, is 1000 corpse, LDG and Killer Cards

1000 corpse, shoot drop target and inner loop 3 times, to start 7 ball MB. Ht 1000 switches, using the top right targets to increase the switch multiplier.

LDG… shoot coffin targets 3 times each to add a ball… continuing till you get 5 balls, then the mode is won.

Killer Cars… shoot center target to spell a killer, then right inner orbit to collect.

There are other things going on in the modes that you’ll have to discover.

DOMINOES - game design/rules by dominoes. Originally the rules were like RZ where you have o do a bunch of different things to qualify/beat the modes. I wrote the code, hated the results, rewrote the rules and got permission for new rules which is what you have today. pretty simple really.

Shoot any of the orbits/lanes/targets x amount of times to qualify the mode, then shoot the left or right scoop to start multiball depending on what modes you qualified. When in MB, complete those same objectives again.

Left modes are qualified by hitting the pops (a lot) The +3 objective is a way to help get you through that left side because hitting the pops alone will never get you through the game fast enough.

Right side modes are everything else, noid loop, outer orbit, center ramp. right side targets.

Pizza ramp locks a ball after you complete the lower lanes. Do that twice to start Handle The Rush

Shoot noid bank a bunch of times then the noid to beat him… there are 4 or 5 waves.

JETSONS - design/rules were done by The Pinball Company. Rules are pretty basic and follow the basic rules of hit x things so many times to qualify a mode.

Next Spooky game - I’ll have full control over the rules. Can’t say any more.


I definitely had trouble picking up RZ too. Haven’t played the others but took us some good time on the game to figure out what was really going on in most modes/multiballs. Mainly what types of values we were getting from making shots. I don’t remember seeing many DMD animations for scores you were getting for mode shots and jackpots.


I plan on addressing scoring/dmd issues. Right now most of the updates have been centered around stability.


Thanks for the update and insight into the design process! Definitely didn’t know who or how Spooky was doing their design work, and I look forward to seeing what you’ve got in store for the game after Jetsons.

Apologies if I came off a bit harsh earlier. :sweat_smile:

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No problem, I’ve heard worse.

BTW, RZ V019 is going to be released here shortly. In case people don’t visit the other pinball forum, here’s the latest.

RZ UPDATE V019 - 8/FEB/2017
Update - Increased max coins inserted to 20
Update - Antistack updated to aloow the game to play through when the load coil is forced off.
Update - 1000 corpse force save timer reducd to 20 seconds.
Update - Flippers will hold the low power (5 seconds) on initial flip, then convert to a pulse. This gives enough time for an outside orbit to come back around, hit the flipper and prevent the kickback
Added - Operator feature added to menu system. Bonus credits can now be set.
Added - Load coil half step power setting.
Added - Coins inserted count on display.
Fixed - Tilt now clears multiball count
Fixed - Phanton tilt and flippers corrected (for good!)
Fixed - Overlapping text for freeplay/credits has been resolved.


Wow! Thanks for the clarification and explanations from everyone. (As for the explanations for the rules in the various Spooky games, I’m going to copy-and-paste that so I can consult it later.)

Giving it some more thought, the main issue I have with learning the rules for Spooky tables are as such:

  1. I am usually not very clear on when a mode begins–I instinctively look up at the display when the music changes, for instance, or if there is a loud voice clip telling me something has been started. However, it doesn’t seem to be as clear on the Spooky tables as the other manufacturers’: For America’s Most Haunted, I think it’s because the music is kind of ambient, continuous, and similar to each other so I don’t detect the music has changed. For Rob Zombie, I’m sure it’s because the background music drowns out the voice clips. If I recall correctly, the music does not reduce in volume when a voice clip plays, and both are at pretty similar volumes. While I can make out what’s being said, sometimes it doesn’t register to me as new instructions. I can tell when a main mode begins for Rob Zombie though, considering the ball is in a scoop and the game asks me to pick something. But when a mode starts when the ball is moving around, it’s hard for me to know.
  2. This is a problem that affects Heighway Pinball too, or at least Full Throttle: The insert lights blinking to indicate for you to bring the ball up somewhere continue to blink in the same way after the ball has been sent up there. According to the description of the rules on Domino’s, the idea is to shoot the same thing multiple times to start something, which I didn’t know. Having no knowledge of the game, I thought the shot didn’t mean anything and that I was doing something wrong, as the playfield itself did not react after making the shot. I’d like to make a suggestion for Domino’s too, that the light should not blink until the shot is one away from starting a mode or have a loud sound effect or sound clip to alert the player that the shot actually meant something.
  3. I think a major stumbling block for me is that you typically have to do a lot of things to start modes, and in turn the modes have pretty complex instructions on top of that. Since I’m not very good at pinball and I don’t really have any immediate goal to aim for, I think I just wind up draining all my balls before many modes start (but I seem to be able to start the doctor ghost mode in America’s Most Haunted a lot, and I start Living Dead Girl in Rob Zombie a lot). I don’t think anything needs to be changed for this one though. It’s just me and I know it.

I think the other thing is that I don’t like trial-and-error gameplay. That is, I’m not too interested in discovering the rules as I am interested in knowing and understanding them (though seems to be a central part of Spooky design). I think I’m in the minority in pinball circles with this though. It’s why I asked at the start if anyone has compiled the rules, or at least a good amount of them: I like to look these up in advance, as I don’t feel comfortable playing a game (any game) if I don’t know what’s going on.

All in all though, these are simply my experiences, and they don’t necessarily reflect anyone else’s. It’s also great to hear from the person who makes these rules. I always enjoy hearing about a creator’s thoughts and reasons.

One last thought: I put in some coins during the match sequence for Domino’s, but they didn’t count until the match sequence ended. I was too scared to try it again to see if it’s consistent or a fluke, however. (I usually put in more credits during a match sequence if I want to play again but no one else is around, regardless of if I actually get the match game.)

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I’ve been trying to do more of this. Something else I’m trying to do is, don’t show a light on the PF till the shot has already been made. I’m thinking that will reduce some confusion, instead of blinking everything, since everything it ready to shoot for.

I started doing this in Dominoes when you qualify a mode, the main music lower, qualify sfx plays then swap fades with the main music.

The game after Jetsons I have more insets, i’ll be expressing my desire to have those inserts mean something.

I’ll look into it, in fact, the next update will have the same updates I just did to RZ related to coin drops. I think Dominos is missing a command that updates the AV that a coin/credit happened. I’m also adding SFX to the coin drop.


Well, the credits didn’t happen at all. My coins were eaten, and the start button didn’t do anything. It’s not just an error in the display, but an error in whatever counts up the credits too. I heard the sound from putting a coin in there–it just didn’t count.

With all this aside, I have a question: I apologize if this has already been answered, but why do Spooky’s machines use a monitor meant to simulate a dot-matrix display, only in full color, rather than a higher-resolution image? While I am kind of used to it having played a lot of pinball, it looks strange to someone not familiar with pinball games and their DMDs.

Rob Zombie owner here…I picked up the rules by reading Fawzma’s posts on his site: http://www.fawzma.com/

There is still some of the “deeper” rules in the modes I need to discover. However, after reading the posts on the mode descriptions, the game about 1000x more fun. I’m not a good enough player to look at the dmd much, but I noticed many of the rules are there, and in the call-outs.

I am looking forward to Spooky’s next game as I can imagine Fawzma is already thinking about all sorts of new ideas…


Two other things to add to those mentioned.

  1. Spooky games have next to no papa coverage or use in high-profile, streamed tournaments. I learned most of what I know about rules from Bowen’s tutorials and watching the same fifteen or so games be played (with helpful commentary) over and over in the top tournaments.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe spooky games have instant info. When I’m playing a game I don’t know, I rarely have time to look up at the dmd to find out what I’m supposed to do. I only play in public places (including ayce gogi) where it’s too noisy to make out most audio callouts except those with which I’m familiar. When I get the ball to a cradle is the time I can actually assess where things stand and determine what to do next. On a game I don’t know, instant info can be very helpful by telling me I’m three shots away from starting this or that. Without this on spooky games, I can only look at the rule card or inserts, with which how much software changes these days after a game has been designed and ships, is of limited helpfulness.


Interesting. If you (or someone else) has written a complete, or near-complete, description of the rules, I’d like to read that too.

They don’t have instant info? I never gave much thought to that–though with machines from other manufacturers, I usually don’t really use use instant info until I’ve gotten the hang of its rules and I can understand what some of the screens say. (I mean, I can understand what it means if it tells me universal stuff like what ball I’m on or what my end-of-ball bonus will be, but game-specific stuff will be incomprehensible until I know the rules enough to know what they mean.)

If there is instant info, I don’t know how to access it.