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, Kindle Fire, Ouya, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita and Mac, with versions coming soon for the PC, Nintendo Wii U, and PlayStation 4. Check us out at www.pinballarcade.com.
Here’s what the gaming press has to say about the Pinball Arcade:
“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 Squar
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 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 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 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 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. It can be a daunting task!
One of the licensed tables that we’ve always wanted to digitize is Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This table was released by Williams in 1991 and is unquestionably one of the greatest pinball tables of all time. It was designed by the legendary Steve Ritchie (who also designed Firepower, Black Knight, High Speed, and Star Trek: The Next Generation). T2 was the first game by Williams to use a dot-matrix display. The table was also the first game to feature a video mode and a swing out cannon that can be fired by the player. It's one of our favorite tables ever!
We’ve succeeded in negotiating all of the licenses we’d need to digitize Terminator 2: Judgment Day 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 Terminator 2 property, the actor likeness of the Terminator (Arnold Schwartzenegger) 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 realized that the Terminator 2: Judgment Day 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 Terminator 2: Judgment Day will cost $66,000 (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 Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball table raised $7,000 more than we needed for the Star Trek: licenses and we're applying this towards the license costs of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. If we can raise the remaining $59,000 we’ll be able to digitize Terminator 2: Judgment Day 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, including the next table we'd really like to pursue- Bally's incredible classic The Addams Family!
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!
Risks and challenges
We've digitized over 20 of these tables, and we are very confident in our ability to deliver a digital version of the Terminator 2 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 August 2013, 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.
In addition, we have had problems in the past with deployment on some platforms. In particular, our publisher for the Xbox 360 version of the Pinball Arcade filed for bankruptcy last year, and we have been unable to ship new tables for the 360 since then as we fight in court for the return of the publishing rights. We are highly confident that we will be able to deliver the Terminator 2 table on the Xbox 360, but we can't say with certainty when that will be.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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