Here at FarSight Studios, we have over 25 years of experience developing video games on consoles, phones and tablets. We are also pinball fanatics. For the last ten years, we’ve been developing modern videogame recreations of classic pinball tables. We have licenses from the original manufacturers of the tables (Bally®, Gottlieb®, Stern® and Williams®) to do this. The Pinball Arcade is currently available on a wide variety of platforms: the iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Ouya, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Play Station 4, PS Vita and Steam for PC and Mac, with the Nintendo Wii U version being released very soon.
Here’s what the gaming press has to say about the Pinball Arcade:
"Rolling thunder." 9.0 -IGN
“Mobile Game of the Year.” -G4TV
“Top 100 product of 2012.” -PCWorld
“FarSight Studios has been making digital pinball for nearly a decade, and Pinball Arcade is the culmination of that effort and experience… a must-own” -IGN
“An impressive title, and one that is bound to please pinball fans” -148 Apps
“As close to the pinball experience as you will ever get in the palm of your hand” –Pocket Gamer
“This game is superb along with great presentation” –Inentertainment
“Authenticity is the name of the game here, and Farsight has absolutely nailed it” –GameLive.TV
“Pinball doesn’t get any more real or fun” –Gamezebo
“Simply one of the best pinball games I’ve ever played” –Touch Arcade
“Superb: A hallmark of excellence.” –Destructoid.com
“The most fun I had all weekend: Pinball Arcade” –CNET
“The Pinball Arcade provides a safe virtual home for your pinball worship, complete with accurate re-creations of real tables and appropriately realistic physics.” –Giant Bomb
“It's a carefully curated selection, designed to showcase some of the best-loved tables from the heyday of the pinball industry” –Euro Gamer
“Passion is contagious. When you do things with passion, enthusiasm, and drive, it shows.” –1985FM
“FarSight's steel balls have something special that sets their title apart – realism… you can trade in your heavy pocket of change for a pocketful of some of the best classic pinball tables ever created.” –Push Square
Pinball Digitization process
The process of digitizing these tables is very complex. We first acquire the actual physical pinball table we want to digitize. We want our videogame version to play exactly the same as the table played when it was new. We strip the table down to the bare wood playfield and take high-resolution digital photographs of every part. We use these to create three-dimensional computer models of each of the components on the playfield. When the modeling is complete we export the data into our graphics engine, which displays the table on each of our target platforms.
Next, we implement the table logic and sound. We do this by emulating the electronics from the original pinball tables. Most complex tables were controlled by what are by modern standards primitive computers. We’ve created ROM-emulation technology that allows the same program that controlled the original table to run on our target devices. This means that every rule, sound effect and light sequence is exactly correct in our digital version. The idea that you can run the original code that controlled a huge cabinet-based pinball machine on your iPhone is pretty cool!
The last step in digitizing a table involves tuning the pinball physics. We’ve continuously improved our pinball physics engine for the last eight years and we’re very proud of it. We can individually control reflection angles and physics parameters for every section of any component on the playfield. We use the original table as reference when doing this to ensure accuracy. Finally, the table goes through a review process where it’s critiqued by pinball experts and approved by the table manufacturer.
The end result of this painstaking process is an exact digital recreation of the pinball table you can play on your handheld device or in your living room!
What we’re most proud of is that we’re preserving these tables for future generations to enjoy. We can remember when these tables were in every arcade, pizza parlor and bowling alley, but they are becoming increasingly rare. If you find one, chances are it’s not been well-treated and many features are burned out or broken. If you’re a pinball fanatic like us you can buy one and restore it, but they are expensive, maintenance-intensive, and there are fewer of them every year. In fact some of these tables can cost more than $15,000! We want everyone to be able to appreciate these tables, not only people who can afford to spend as much money on a pinball table as a car. Chances are very good that our children will never get the opportunity to appreciate the great pinball table we did- unless these tables are digitally preserved.
Some of the greatest pinball tables were based on licensed properties. Often when a manufacturer created a special new table they’d base it on a popular cultural feature of the times: a movie, a band or television show. Their original license to use these properties have long since expired, so when we want to create digital versions of these tables we must research who now owns the rights and negotiate with them. Sometimes the discussions are easy and sometimes they are very difficult. In addition if the table features actors on the backglass or playfield we must secure licenses to use their likenesses (sometimes from their estates if they are deceased). Some table also featured popular music of the times that we must secure composition and performance licenses for.
In the case of some licensed tables, we are sometimes told it will be next to impossible!
This brings us to the Doctor Who® pinball table! This table was released by Williams/Bally in 1992. It is one of the best designed licensed tables in pinball history!
The game is fast with a lot of great shots, it has a deep rule set, and the three level Time Expander mini play field is a feature that’s fun for players of all ability levels.
The Time Expander mini-playfield rises and lowers during gameplay and it is fantastic. Each level performs a different function as the game progresses. At level one two kick-out holes are available, level two features five standup targets, and level three exposes a series of flyaway targets.
Doctor Who was co-designed by famed designer Barry Oursler (who designed classics like Gorgar, Space Shuttle, PinBot, Cyclone, etc) and Bill Pfutzenreuter, a well accomplished software engineer at Williams and huge Doctor Who fan.
This design team did an amazing job of integrating elements of the show that fans love and pinball players can appreciate.
Doctor Who's greatest unique feature is that the player has the ability to select one of the first seven Doctors of the show at the beginning of each ball. The Doctor you pick changes the rules of the table. This adds a terrific layer of gameplay and deeper strategy.
In addition to all seven Doctors and the Time Expander, the design also includes the awesome Doctor Who theme song, the iconic TARDIS, the Master, Davros, several of the companions, and the Daleks yelling “Exterminate" in their hope to intimidate you to lose a ball during multi-ball!
Doctor Who is a great classic table that belongs in the Pinball Arcade!
Thankfully, the BBC has been working with us and we’ve succeeded in negotiating all of the licenses we’d need to digitize The Doctor Who table and bring it to the Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately there are several licenses involved: in addition to the Williams license, we need a license for Doctor Who, the actor likenesses of all seven doctors appearing on the backglass and play field, and the right to use the actor voiceovers during gameplay. When we add up the costs of each required license and calculate what we’d have to charge for the table, we’ve concluded that Doctor Who is just not commercially viable. The more we charge for the table the fewer people will be able to buy it- and our goal is to expose as many people as possible to this great table, not just a select few.
We Need Your Help
Here’s where you come in! The licenses we've secured for Doctor Who will cost $72,000 (and that’s just for the licenses- we’ll cover all of the development expenses ourselves). Thanks to the amazing generosity of pinball fans throughout the world, our previous Kickstarter project for the The Addams Family® pinball table raised $17,636 more than we needed for the Addams Family licenses and we're applying this towards the license costs of Doctor Who. If we can raise the remaining $54,364 we’ll be able to digitize the Doctor Who and preserve one of the most iconic pinball tables of all time. If we don't reach our goal no credit cards will be charged, but if we raise more then the goal we’ll be able to digitize other licensed tables as well.
We’ve put together a tempting list of rewards to say “thank you” for helping out. Please join us in preserving this amazing piece of pinball history!
With all of the help from supporters like you, we have been able to digitize some of the greatest and most popular pinball tables in history. Our past four Kickstarters for The Addams Family®, Twilight Zone®, Star Trek: The Next Generation® and Terminator 2: Judgement Day® were successful and are currently available in our game. If you are new to the Pinball Arcade, we recommend you download the game and check it out! Choose from the list of platforms below.
Steam (Windows /Mac): http://store.steampowered.com/app/238260/
Kindle (Amazon App Store): http://www.amazon.com/FarSight-Studios-Pinball-Arcade/dp/B0084HDG8Y
Risks and challenges
We've digitized over 60 historical pinball tables, and we are very confident in our ability to deliver a digital version of the Doctor Who table that our fans will enjoy. However, the process of creating these tables is very complex and delays sometimes occur. We're targeting a release date of September 2016 for the PC and mobile version, but it's possible this date might slip if we encounter unforeseen problems in development. Also, the lead time for deployment on some platforms (particularly the consoles) is longer, so it is likely the table will release later on these platforms.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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