Here at FarSight Studios we have over 20 years of experience developing video games on consoles, phones, and tablets. We are also pinball fanatics. For the last seven 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. Our latest project is called the Pinball Arcade and is currently available on a wide variety of platforms: the iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tables, the Kindle Fire, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, and Macintosh, with versions coming soon for the PC, and Nintendo Wii U. Check us out at www.pinballarcade.com.
Here’s what the gaming press has to say about the Pinball Arcade:
“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
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, so we start with a thorough restoration of the table. We then 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 in the original pinball table. Most complex tables were controlled by what are by modern standards primitive computers. We’ve created ROM-emulation technology that allows the same program which 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 seven 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 that 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 we were astonished to discover that the price for just one of the tables we were interested in is over $11,000! 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 to. It can be a daunting task!
One of the licensed tables that we’ve always wanted to digitize is Star Trek: The Next Generation. This table was released by Williams in 1993 and is unquestionably one of the greatest pinball tables of all time (in fact it’s currently #3 in user rankings on the Internet Pinball Database!) It was designed by the lengendary Steve Ritchie (who also designed Firepower, Black Knight, High Speed, and Terminator 2). Steve was a lifelong Star Trek fan and he was instrumental in convincing Williams to license the Star Trek property for a new pinball table. Consequently this table features an incredibly deep integration with the Star Trek license. It also has a number of unique play field features, including two aim-able ball-firing cannons and an system of warping balls from one place to another that was so ingenious Williams patented it. It's one of our favorite tables ever!
We’ve succeeded in negotiating all of the licenses we’d need to digitize Star Trek: The Next Generation and bring it to the Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately there are several licenses involved: in addition to the Williams license, we need a license for the Star Trek property and the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, clearances for the actor likenesses on the back glass 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 realized that the Star Trek: The Next Generation 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.
Here’s where you come in! The licenses for Star Trek: The Next Generation will cost $60,000 (and that’s just for the licenses- we’ll cover all of the development expenses ourselves). Our previous Kickstarter project for the Twilight Zone pinball table raised just under $70,000 thanks to the amazing generosity of pinball fans throughout the world. That was $15,000 more than we needed for the Twilight Zone licenses, and we're applying this towards the license costs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. If we can raise the remaining $45,000 we’ll be able to digitize Star Trek: The Next Generation and preserve one of the greatest 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. Plus the top five contributors will get their initials featured as the default high scores for the table, immortalizing them as true pinball fanatics! Please join us!
- (30 days)