About this project
Update: If we raise double our goal ($110,000 total) we will also digitize the incredible Star Trek: The Next Generation table! Please read Update #5 (in the Updates tab) for more details.
Update: We're worked it out with Microsoft so that all of the Rewards will also apply to the Xbox 360 version of the table!
Here at FarSight Studios we’ve been developing console videogames for over 20 years. 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, Nintendo 3DS, 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
“Simply one of the best pinball games I’ve ever played” –Touch Arcade
“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 on mobile” –Gamezebo
“presentation of these tables is immaculate” –App Spy
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 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. Chances are very good that our children will never get the opportunity to appreciate these great tables in person- but by digitally preserving them they can!
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 perhaps, or 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 the Twilight Zone. This table was released by Midway under the Bally label and is unquestionably one of the greatest pinball tables of all time (in fact it’s currently #1 in user rankings on the Internet Pinball Database!) It was designed by the legendary Pat Lawlor (who also designed Whirldwind, The Addams Family, Safecracker, and No Good Gofers). After the commercial and critical success of The Addams Family table, Midway gave Pat complete create freedom with the Twilight Zone, and what resulted was a showpiece of innovative pinball design. The Twilight Zone is considered by many pinball experts to be the most complex pinball machine ever created. It’s a masterpiece!
We’ve finally succeeded in negotiating all of the licenses we’d need to digitize the Twilight Zone table and bring it to the Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately 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 Twilight Zone is just not commercially viable.
Here’s where you come in! The licenses will cost a daunting $55,000 (and that’s just for the licenses- we’ll cover all of the development expenses ourselves). If we can raise enough money through Kickstarter to cover the cost of the licenses, we’ll be able to digitize the Twilight Zone 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 (like Star Trek: The Next Generation!) 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!
Yes it will! It was also be available as a Reward (we recently worked this out with Microsoft). Please ignore the warnings in the Reward text about the 360 version- these can't be changed after a project goes live or we'd update them. You will need to already own the Pinball Arcade on the Xbox 360 to have access to the Twilight Zone table on the 360 (but any self-respecting pinball fan owns it already, right? :)
We are adding support for online pinball tournaments to the Pinball Arcade. We plan to host a special online Pinball Arcade Supporters Tournament featuring the Twilight Zone table for our backers, complete with prizes and goodies for the winners!
Yes, there will be a PC version of the Twilight Zone. We are currently evaluating different options for distributing the PC version of the game, but that should definitely be resolved by the time the Twilight Zone is finished.
Yes, definitely! The Vita is one of our favorite platforms, and it's a great way to play pinball.
We would love to do the Star Trek: The Next Generation table! We know we can get the licenses because they are both CBS properties.The cost of the licenses would be similar to the Twilight Zone (so an additional $55,000).
Licensors (especially big companies like CBS) demand a large payment up front to make it worth their while to assign the army of lawyers who negotiate the license terms and draft the license agreement. They get a percentage of the sales as a license royalty as well!
We will make sure that anyone who previously pledged $50 or more will get the $50 reward automatically, so don't worry if you're not listed as a backer at this level.
It will be part of the Pinball Arcade. That way we can use it in virtual tournaments and continue to update and improve it as we add new features.
Most real-life pinball tables have an Operator's Menu that lets the operator change table settings (like the number of balls) and get diagnostic information about the table. Since the Pinball Arcade uses ROM-emulation to run the same code as the original table, our Operator's Menu will be identical to the one in real life. We'll have to enforce a rule that scores played on anything other than the default operator settings won't count for leaderboards, though! We have not decided if this feature will be available to purchase later. It seemed like a really cool way to reward our backers.
Yes! The Twilight Zone table will be available anywhere the Pinball Arcade application is. Right now that means the entire world for the iOS, Mac, and Android versions, and all of North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand for the console versions. We are looking into expanding the console release to South America and Asia, and that might be a reality by the time the Twilight Zone table is released.
We've tried to stay away from promising physical goods as rewards to backers. The problem is that we're a videogame developer, not a retailer- we're just not currently set up to stock, pack and ship thousands of shirts, engraved balls, etc. out to supporters. In addition that would take personnel away from creating new pinball tables for you (and we know how upset our users get when the new tables are delayed!) If this campaign succeeds and we do others in the future we'll try to have a solution in place that lets us offer more physical goods as rewards.
We will make sure that anyone who previously pledged $25 or more will get the $25 reward automatically, so don't worry if you're not listed as a backer at this level.
We love the Addams Family table, and we would be very excited to digitize and preserve it! However this table is an even bigger licensing challenge than the Twilight Zone or Star Trek: The Next Generation. We are working on identifying all the required licenses. We won't ask for money for it until we're sure we can secure all of the licenses we'd need to do it..
What happens if the project raises less than the $110,000 required to license Star Trek: The Next Generation?
In that case we'll take the difference between the amount raised and the $55,000 required for the Twilight Zone and apply it towards a new Kickstarter project for Star Trek: the Next Generation. So the excess raised would reduce the amount we need to raise in the future. Our current backers would not get the Star Trek: The Next Generation rewards in that case, however; you'd have to back the new project to get those rewards. So let's raise enough to fund the Star Trek table now so we don't have to do it again!
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