Pinball - Machine Layout - Playfield - Common Features

Common Features

There are other idiosyncratic features on many pinball playfields. Pinball games have become increasingly complex and multiple play modes, multi-level playfields, and even progression through a rudimentary "plot" have become common features on recent games. Pinball scoring objectives can be quite complex and require a series of targets to be hit in a particular order. Recent pinball games are distinguished by increasingly complex rule sets that require a measure of strategy and planning by the player for maximum scoring. Players seeking highest scores would be well-advised to study the placard (usually found in the lower-left corner of the playfield) to learn each game's specific patterns required for these advanced features and scoring.

Common features in modern pinball games include the following:

  • Ball lock: Each time a ball goes into a specific hole or target, it is "locked" and a new ball appears at the plunger. When the player has locked the required number of balls (usually three or howsoever many), a multiball starts. On some games, the balls are physically locked in place by solenoid-actuated gates, but many newer machines use "virtual" ball locks instead, in which the game merely keeps count of the number of locked balls and then auto-launches them from the main ball trough when it is time for them to be released.
  • Multiball: This occurs when there is more than one ball in play at a time, and usually includes some kind of "jackpot" scoring. Multiball ends when all but one ball is lost down the bottom of the playfield, when regular play resumes.
  • Jackpot: Some targets on the playfield increase the scoring value of something else, which could be as simple as hitting a ramp, or a complicated sequence of targets. Upon their inception, the Jackpot was the main goal of most pinball machines in the 1980s. Jackpots would often range from 1-4 million (back when it was a significant addition to the score), and their value would accrue between games until it was scored. Scoring it was usually a complicated task. Modern games often dilute the meaning of a jackpot. Modern games give off several "Jackpots" in each multiball mode, which is usually quite easy to attain, and the value of today's "Jackpots" is far less significant.
  • End-of-ball bonus: After each ball is played, the player scores bonus points depending on how many times certain features have been activated, or the amounts of items that the player may obtain. Some games award a seemingly arbitrary amount of points that depend on the number of times any switch has been hit. Virtually all games have the ability to assign a multiplier to the bonus. Most games cap the bonus multiplier at 5x or 10x, although more modern games apparently have no limit.
  • Extra ball: If a player has earned this, when they lose a ball, they get another one to play immediately afterward, and the machine does not count the lost ball towards the limit of balls for that game. For example, if the player were on Ball 2, and they have an extra ball, the next ball (the extra one) will also be Ball 2 (it will not be Ball 3). When a machine says "SHOOT AGAIN" on the scoreboard, it signifies that an extra ball will shoot. In a multiplayer game, the player who just lost the ball is the same one to shoot again.
  • Various timed rounds (modes): For example, if the player hit a specific target three times within the next 20 seconds, they might score several tens of millions of points for it. There are many and various time-related features in pinball. Progression through each mode is frequently accompanied by DMD animations and sound.
  • Stackability: To "stack" means that the player can run one play mode while another mode is in progress. This strategy usually yields higher scores. A noted example of this is Williams' Bram Stoker's Dracula, with its Multi-Multiball feature.
  • Wizard Mode: This is a special scoring mode, which is reached after meeting certain prerequisites to access this mode (e.g., finishing all modes). This is the pinball equivalent of the final boss fight in video games. Classic examples of this include Williams' Black Knight 2000 (The King's Ransom) and Midway's Twilight Zone (Lost in the Zone). Named after The Who's song Pinball Wizard. Wizard modes come in two varieties: goal-oriented types where the player receives a huge amount of points after completing a specific task, or multiball modes with 4-6 balls in play, and virtually every feature active. Some games offer both and award the latter as a condition for completing the former.
  • Ball Index: Many modern games include a feature that prevents a player from being disappointed if a ball sent into play quickly drains before substantial points have been added. This player will immediately be given another (free) ball to compensate. Electromechanical games made during the 1970s had a similar Ball Index switch system that returned a drained ball if no points were made.
  • Slam Tilt: There are special tilt switches placed on the underside of the playfield, on the coin door, and (on electromechanical games) in the lower cabinet and upper cabinet, designed to prevent cheating. If a player lifts and drops, pounds, or kicks the machine and activates any slam tilt, the entire game ends immediately for all players and may go into a reset/reboot mode. These are also used on video games. A similar Incline Tilt prevents a player from lifting the front of the cabinet to tip the ball back up the playfield by ending his turn.

Read more about this topic:  Pinball, Machine Layout, Playfield

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