Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dutch Pinball Magazine Interview Part 6

This is the last part of the interview
How do you program priorities in voice calls and light animations?
On a high level, lamp effects, sound effects, and display effects for that matter all work similarly. In each game there is a list of effects. Each one has a number assigned to it that is its priority. When the software needs to run a particular effect it “request” that it run. The system looks at what is already running, compares priorities, and decides if the new request can run or not.

So the trick is to give each of the effects a priority that will allow it run when needed but not too high that it will step on other effects.

Do you have to call every lamp in a lamp animation separately, with a time code and so on, or are there easier develop tools to program these?
There are no time-codes. But yes you often have to specify exactly when and which lights you want on and in what order. Making light shows is an art that you have to have some amount of talent to make look great. You can get close with skill.

Often it is not good to develop an all-purpose tool that can do anything. Each time you think you have the tool just right someone else thinks up something new they want the tool to do. Then you have to add to it. Before you know it you have Frankenstein monster piece of unwieldy code. It is better to just think of a solution to the current problem and develop that.

When designing a game you don’t want to be constrained by what a tool can do. You want to say lets make the game rain and then go about figuring out how to do that. If you are limited to what a tool can do you will get games that all look the same.

Is there a reason why the source code to program pinball games is not available to others? E.G. Playstation does not keep the code to program games to themselves. Any reliable software company can get the code and design games for that platform. In pinball it would help if others could remove bugs from games, especially if Stern (or WMS for elder games) is not going to do it.
Not really sure. The main reason is the same for all these types of request. At all times there is a high priority wish list of items from Gary that wasn’t getting done fast enough. Leaving no time for anything like this.

Is there a way for others to work their way back and adapt the code?
There are people that have reversed engineered pinball code and then modified it.

What do you think about a professional user interface in which others can modify rules, sounds, and so on? Basically a program in which coils are programmed but anything else, like rules and so on, can be developed by the owner of the game. If something like that would exist for e.g. IJ4 users could convert the game into a game with 16 different modes, add sounds, and so on. The idea is it would result in various type of games on the same playfield. Someone might program is as if it is an old Bally game from the 80s, someone else might program the deepest rule sheet available.
I think the author of this question really doesn’t know what they are asking. I agree a product like this would be really neat but it is not doable.

Like I stated above; as soon as you make a tool that can do this someone would think up a feature or toy that didn’t fit any of the cookie-cutter molds you had in the tool.

If the tool is too basic then you just have a blank game. That’s what I start with each time anyway so there is no real savings.

If you really wanted to do this you should get the one game that you wanted to do it for. Reverse engineer the code. Create your blank game by removing all the code that didn’t fire coils and turn on lamps etcetera. THEN write all new rules. Good luck with that.

Is there a chance a home-rom for Star Trek TNG will show up somewhere in the future? It appears there are some very nice unused sounds in the roms.
In the future? Not a chance. There already are a number of home ROMs for ST:TNG. I believe all the sounds are being used by at least one of them. You will just have to hunt around and find someone with one and copy it.

Are there any games you worked on you like to see get a software update as you feel the current software is not finished yet, or could be improved?
WHO ? dunnit. I always planed to make a Super Sleuth mode after you finished all the cases. At the time it didn’t happen because management switched our schedule with another game requiring us to be done months ahead of time.

Do you have any closing thoughts on the future of pinball, pinball in general or anything else?
I believe that if pinball went away for a few years, at least five, it would have a better chance to bounce back again and be a major option vying for people’s precious entertainment minutes. You have to let the world forget about them in order for them to be new again. I imagine that after this down time a handful of people with different backgrounds and vocations, whom are also all into pinball, would all meet and reinvent pinball from the ground up. Make it feel like a modern piece of entertainment equipment (whatever that means at the time). Simultaneously they would insure that it retains what is great about pinball.

I am not wishing any ill on Stern Pinball. I just don’t believe that their path will succeed at revitalizing the industry. I feel Pinball has been dead since the late 90’s. Gary Stern was just really good at keeping it on life support. Which I feel is keeping it from a potential rebirth.

Dwight Sullivan


joe-nathan said...

As the interviewer I just want to thank Dwight for answering all these questions in such great way!

Thank you :)


Tor Hershman said...

Ahhhh yes, Dwight, but can you beat moi's pinball score (link on my last blog post)?

ben song said...

Yeah those were some great answers but im just curious to know moi's pinball score because im pretty good player myself said...

i have a site where you can post free used pinball machines for sale ads

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Anonymous said...

Cool pinball story!!!

Mike Padua said...

Some grim thoughts in this post but I can't say I disagree with them. I believe Pinball is a huge cross-section of science, art, and history, and people like the Pacific Pinball Museum are teaching a new generation about this piece of amazing history. I was recently at the 2010 Pacific Pinball Expo, and I took pictures of EVERY machine. If you feel like browsing, check it out here: