The goal of this guide is to help directors run successful pinball tournaments and leagues that will result in repeat attendance, positive word of mouth, and help the game of pinball prosper. Setting up games for competition requires far more thought than just making them play as difficult as possible, otherwise the PAPA World Championships would include games without flippers and force players to wear blindfolds.
When setting up your games, avoid arbitrary, sweeping decisions and focus on the specific needs of your event!
This guide is intended to be a community resource that grows and becomes more refined over time. To this end, PAPA welcomes feedback and suggestions. If you feel that you could contribute to this guide in a meaningful way, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Basic Game Setup:
The setup for a particular game in Division A at PAPA is not appropriate for the same game in Division C or the Juniors division. The correct setup for a particular game at Pinburgh with its match-play qualifying is not necessarily the correct setup for the same game at the Louisville Arcade Expo and its best game qualifying. Directors need to first understand the challenges and requirements of their own individual event and tailor the games to best fit their needs. Setting a game so easy that players can slide it across the floor and have their way with it is never correct. By the same token, making games play as difficult as possible with little thought given to why is also rarely the correct solution.
As a tournament director, you must weigh the difficulty of your games against the number of games available and the time you have allotted. The ideal situation is the middleground where games are considered “fair” and the tournament still runs on schedule. This middleground can prove elusive at first, but the more experience you acquire running events and the more you prepare, the more likely you are to recognize when a game is set up correctly for the situation.
Every game should be level in a tournament setting with no exceptions. It is also important to remember the playfield of all games should be leveled, not the glass! Playfields do not always sit flat inside of their cabinets, and in some instances twisted cabinets will cause the bottom and top of a playfield to lean in different directions entirely. In these rare circumstances, if a decision must be made, give a higher priority to the area surrounding the flippers.
For all games without twisted cabinets (the vast majority), the best way to level a game is to remove the glass and place a leveling tool directly on the playfield. Use your judgement to determine which inserts or sections of art are perpendicular to the playfield, and use those as your reference points. Always level the machine in multiple places to double-check your decisions.
Never consider a game level based solely on one piece of art or a single line of inserts. Trusting a single reference point will lead to problems!
Once you have finished with your leveling tool, take a ball out of the trough and roll it up and down the playfield to give the game an “eyeball check”. Bouncing the ball off of both stationary flippers, as well as rolling the ball into the slingshots, are two useful methods to check consistency. When performing this type of leveling technique, you are looking for atypical variations in how fast the ball rolls or whether it curves more in one direction than the other.
If you are using a digital level or iPhone app, don’t forget to calibrate it before leveling your game!
The Pitch, or “steepness”, of a game varies between manufacturers, eras, and even between different desired setups for the same game. While all games should be level from left to right, a game’s pitch can be correct at multiple settings within a range of common-sense guidelines. The best starting point is always the manufacturer’s default recommendations as stated in their manuals.
- Williams WPC = 6.5 degrees
- Stern = 6.5 degrees
- Gottlieb = 6.5 degrees
So what happens when adjusting a competitive game away from the manufacturer’s recommended setting? Many players assume steeper is always harder, but the truth is it depends on the design of the game in question. When a game with a difficult center feed is made steeper, such as Avatar, ACDC, or Terminator 2, the reduced lateral motion of the ball can cause an increased amount of center drains. For games with wide outlanes or side posts removed, a shallower game can induce more side-to-side movement which leads to more outlane drains. Combine a shallow game with tight slingshots and you often have a far more lethal combination for players than merely steepening the pitch.
The main problem with reducing a game’s pitch, or making a game feel floaty, is it can dramatically inhibit competitors’ ball control skills, and that setup decision is rarely in the best interest of an event. The key to pitch is deciding which direction each game should be set based on its design and to set the game subtly in that direction. More often than not, the manufacturer’s recommendation will work well in any competition setting.
Some game mechanisms only function correctly within a certain range. For example, the ball launch on Star Trek: Next Generation will frequently not make it to the drop target after a few hours of competition if the game’s pitch is set too steep.
Flippers are the players’ primary interaction with a pinball machine. If there is a problem with any of them, it will be the first thing he or she notices, and if it remains unfixed, it will be the last thing he or she remembers about your event.
No one wants to play a game with weak or broken flippers!
All flippers should be fully capable of making every corresponding shot in the game. If the flippers are not crisp and strong, rebuild them prior to the event. Keep in mind that as flippers are used throughout the day, the coils will heat up and they will become weaker. If your flippers are barely making a ramp prior to tournament time, that same ramp will be impossible to make after several hours of competition. As time passes, heat will cause flippers to weaken. Be proactive when it comes to testing and fixing flipper issues prior to any event!
Several of the finer flipper skills also require fresh opto-interruptors on the cabinet switches. As the interruptors get old, they lose tension and don’t respond to subtle flicks of the flipper button. If your interruptors haven’t been replaced recently, chances are they are not responsive enough for high levels of tournament play. This type of pre-tournament maintenance is inexpensive and can make a large difference in both perception of your event, and how a game plays when it matters most to a competitor.
Tournament directors have to make decisions that balance two opposing forces:
1. Every game should be accessible enough from a difficulty perspective that players have an opportunity to fully showcase their talents.
2. Games must be set hard enough to keep the flow of lines moving at a reasonable pace.
These decisions are extremely important as they relate to the long-term success of an event. A tournament including over sixty games is far more likely to be remembered for a handful of egregious errors made in game preparation rather than the multitude of correct decisions made alongside those few mistakes.
As a director, you have the freedom to make games more or less difficult, but every change should be made with caution and purpose. If you don’t have a definitive reason why you are changing something, trust the game’s original designer and leave it as it was shipped from the factory.
The first step toward making a game more difficult, and the most effective way to do so without angering players, is to increase the sensitivity of the slingshots. Increasing lateral motion in this area of a pinball playfield will lead to faster drains.
The primary method for adjusting slingshots is by widening or tightening the switch gap.
The decision to remove an outlane-post is far more noticeable to players and more likely to be considered unfair, even though it may have less impact on the difficulty of a game than increasing slingshot sensitivity. The difference between the two options is removing posts is permanent, while the switch gap on a slingshot may change slightly during an event due to use. As a director, do your best to prepare slingshots prior to the tournament and leave them alone, even if they shift slightly, unless the sensitivity has dramatically changed and become a technical problem.
Certain posts can be pulled with little effect while removing other posts may cause massive, unintended consequences. Before you remove anything, consider its impact on the game. In the case of outlanes, players will generally be far more accepting of outlanes pushed to their widest setting rather than removed, and the difference in ball times is often negligible between the two options. Removing the rubber from a center or outlane post will also have a similar impact to removing the post entirely.
Stern Spiderman is a game that typically runs long in competitive events. The majority of the shots are safe feeds back to the flippers, and the centrally located Sandman targets can be completed safely during multiball. Removing this game’s center post can reduce game times without affecting player strategy.
The center post on Terminator 2 is placed in the game to account for ricochets off of the skull drop target. Since this drop target is the primary strategy, removing this center post causes the game to be far more randomized than intended. Tournament directors should reconsider any changes they make to a game that increases the risk of a particular shot significantly above a player’s expectation.
To clarify the point another way, if a director feels the need to increase the difficulty of a game, he or she should find a way to do so without altering the game’s primary strategies.
A tournament director has the abillity to increase software difficulty in many modern games. It is typically best for a director to choose one or the other between making games play harder physically, as in wider outlanes or sensitive slingshots, or increasing software difficulty, but not both. Most tournament directors prefer to increase their game’s difficulty on the physical side so players aren’t caught off guard strategy-wise by an unexpected rule change. Physical changes are always apparent to players prior to starting the game, while software alterations require a note placed on the backglass by the tournament director.
A tournament director should avoid making extreme software changes to a game that dramatically alters a player’s expected strategy. For example, making the multiball start on Attack from Mars six shots instead of four is within reason, but making the joker lock on Stern’s Batman ten shots instead of two is ill-advised no matter how easy the game is playing from a physical standpoint.
Any settings that change how a game will act during a critical juncture should also be posted on the backglass, such as virtual locks of X-Men, or single ball Destroy the Ring on Lord of the Rings.
A tournament director should feel free to answer specific questions regarding rules or game setup, but he or she should never explain competitive strategy. In the first instance, a director is giving a competitor information so he or she can develop their own plan of attack. In the second instance, a director is giving strategy advice and upsetting the natural competitive balance of the event. Giving information regarding settings is fine. Giving advice regarding rulesets or strategy is not.
Preparing Games for Finals:
If you run a multi-day event, allowing players a bit more leeway with the tilt, outlane posts, or game settings during the finals can lead to exciting finishes. Since qualifying lines are no longer a concern and the prize pool is finalized, dialing back the difficulty in order to let the players showcase their talents can be a good thing for both players and spectators alike. The obvious downside to this thought process is the best players will compete in the final rounds, making the danger of the event taking longer than expected very real. If games are made to play easier for finals, make only minor adjustments as opposed to wholesale changes.
When the ball transitions from the inlane guide onto the flipper, it will occasionally bounce a small amount. This tiny hop can be the difference in timing between a successful ramp shot and a horrible drain. The problem with flipper hop is that it is rarely consistent, so players can’t adjust their timing no matter the length of the event.
Flipper hop adds a randomizing element into a game where one is never desired. Tournament directors should attempt to shift the lane guides, if at all possible, to reduce flipper hop. Some directors have even gone so far as to create custom guides out of plastic to lay overtop of the metal guide to attain a smoother transition for the player.
Anything that can be done to eliminate flipper hop is a positive step for the event.
If a player hits a shot successfully, he or she should be rewarded appropriately. When the ball bounces out of Doc-Ock on Spiderman, the rear saucer on Batman, or the Tommy start-mode scoop, it is bad for both director and player. If the Attack from Mars or Monster Bash scoop is returning the ball down the middle as opposed to a flipper, it should be fixed, even if it means stopping the game and adjusting the trouble mechanism during the tournament. Scoops and controlled feeds should always work as intended!
Some directors use impact foam behind Dock-Ock to reduce bounce-outs. The scoop on the tournament Tommy machine at the PAPA facility has been increased in size by a quarter inch to reduce the same issue.
As a director, be proactive when it comes to correcting known design problems. Telling a player, “tough luck” after he or she loses a game with numerous rejected, successfully aimed shots will not encourage return attendance.
The use of ball saves can be controversial. Some directors feel there is no difference in fairness whether a ball drains two seconds after it is plunged versus ten minutes. In both cases, the player had an equal opportunity to play the game even if one of them turned out poorly. If a player with a two-second ball receives a second chance, why shouldn’t a player with the ten-minute ball receive one as well?
A second point of view is that players should receive ball saves when they are not in control of the game’s initial plunge. For instance, the plunge in Bram Stoker’s Dracula feeds the ball directly into a dangerous set of pop bumpers, a completely random situation, where Indianapolis 500 by contrast is a controlled feed to the flipper. Giving players an extra opportunity to control the random, Dracula feed, with a ball saver helps ensure the competition is decided more by the talent of the players involved rather than the randomness of the machine’s design.
The counter argument to this logic is that pinball is an inherently random game by design and better players learn to maximize the opportunities they do receive. Having the ability to recover, concentrate, and succeed after a house ball is a skill in itself.
One final opinion is that allowing ball saves in games such as Attack from Mars, with two possible plunges, can be a strategic decision by the tournament director to give players a free opportunity to learn critical information about the game. A ball saver on Attack from Mars offers players an opportunity to check the feasibility of the loop pass, a dangerous maneuver, and to lower the saucer if they choose, allowing for more strategic options later in the game. These types of benefits provided by a ball saver often translate into players reach deeper into a game, and thereby offering more potential excitement for any audience.
PAPA’s recommendation is for directors to use ball saves sparingly in larger events and to consider the talent level of any players participating in smaller events prior to making a decision. If your event consists of novice players, give them more opportunity and encouragement. If your event consists of higher level players, treat them with the respect they deserve and the situation warrants.
Please note that some games do not have the option to disable ball saves, and on other games, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, setting the ball saver to zero in the menu also may have the unintended consequences of eliminating any ball save during multiball, which most players agree is an appropriate award earned through skillful play.
Players generally agree one strong nudge should receive a warning, while a second strong nudge should tilt a pinball machine. If a game is sliding on the floor, it should tilt. If a game is giving warnings from gentle shaking or the action of a moving part on the playfield, the tilt mechanism is likely set too tight.
If a game is set so the tilt mechanism is too tight, the setup favors players with better aim. If the tilt is set too loose, the setup favors players with recovery or nudging skills. In a best case scenario, every game should be set so players are required to use a variety of skills in order to succeed against the competition.
When pinball is played at its highest level, all skillsets are important. It is the tournament director’s primary function to help discover who is the best overall pinball player, not who has the best aim while delicately stroking the flipper buttons with a handful of feathers. Nudging has always been a part of pinball and should be respected as a critical skill.
Phantom tilts are one of a tournament director’s worst enemies. Players feel cheated, and the spirit of competition suffers because players were not given the appropriate opportunity to succeed. Phantom tilts can be caused by many things, including, but not limited to, improper tilt setup, wiring issues, or debris shifting inside the cabinet. The most common cause of phantom tilts is a plumb bob installed off center inside the ring, leading to an elliptical orbit that causes the plumb bob to strike the ring far later than a player would expect after a strong nudge.
Plumb bobs continue to move far longer than most players choose to wait (usually a number of minutes). This can lead to situations where a small nudge will elicit a tilt after a larger, previous nudge did not. There is nothing a tournament director can (or should) do about this situation other than be prepared to open the coin door, if the situation warrants it, to show the offending player the still-moving plumb bob. Pinball is a game of subtle nudges, and it is not uncommon for a player to continually move a machine with slaps, shakes, or gentle pressure without realizing what he or she has done.
Some directors choose to install plumb bobs above the tilt mechanism’s ring rather than below it. This type of installation causes the plumb bob to become stationary sooner than when the bob is installed below the ring, giving the tournament director even more control over how a game is playing. A second benefit to this setup is less carry-over between players with regard to the moving plumb bob.
It is important to note some games produced by Williams in the early 1990’s have software issues that make it difficult to tilt a machine with only one nudge. It has become accepted practice in competitive circles to use both tilt warnings when shaking the mist ball free in Bram Stoker’s Dracula without actually hitting it. Players also will attempt to nudge games like Avatar hard enough for the captive ball to shift and cause a multiball restart. These types of maneuvers are considered legal by most events and are only governed by the tilt mechanism itself. It is up to the tournament director to decide if these options, and similar, are desirable or not at his or her event by setting the plumb bob appropriately beforehand.
Cleaning the plumb bob and the inside of the tilt ring to make it more sensitive should always be the first maintenance option, rather than raising or lowering the plumb bob inside the ring. Be sure your tilt mechanism is clean!
Basic Tournament Information:
The Professional & Amateur Pinball Association staff run the two largest pinball tournaments in the world as well as several other events ranking in the top ten. Each year we travel to multiple cities, set up games, software, broadcast equipment, and line up chairs until our backs ache. At some events we help other tournament directors who do the brunt of the work, while at other events all of the decision making and labor falls on us. Over the years, PAPA has run enough events, ranging from one-day single-elimination brackets in bars to the largest competitions in the world, to have a good idea of what works and what does not.
Running a pinball tournament can be a rewarding experience. If done successfully, you will bring entertainment and competition to a variety of people. If your event is multiple days, you will meet new friends and have a great time, all while being forced to endure challenges and make difficult decisions. The key to balancing these two sides of the token and creating a smooth-running event is hard work and pre-planning.
Veteran and novice tournament directors alike are encouraged to read below, adapt any information they feel helpful to their own situations, and build better pinball events!
Being a Director:
The most important attributes for a successful tournament director are the desire for his or her tournament to succeed and the willingness to put in the long, difficult hours to make that happen. Do not take the decision to run an event lightly. Everyone involved in the pinball industry benefits from a competition receiving positive reviews, and similarly, the competitive scene as a whole suffers when an event is run poorly. Do whatever you can to make your event a success, and recognize that a large community of organizers remain involved and are frequently willing to help should you require assistance. And no matter what event you manage or attend as a guest, remember that as we each succeed independently, we all succeed together.
Another important attribute for a tournament director is the ability to communicate clearly to the players. As the tournament director, you make all final decisions, and neither your decisions nor the rules are up for negotiation. With that in mind, do not be afraid to consult other staff or the rulebook if necessary! It is most important to have asked others and made the correct decision in the end than anything else, even if it means players must wait a moment longer for your decision.
Also, you must make the same rulings and expect the same conduct from players whether you are speaking with your brother or a complete stranger. If you do not keep the same high standards for everyone involved, including yourself, your event will suffer, and so will competitive pinball as a whole.
As a tournament director, it is also important you make an effort to speak to players in a casual capacity who have traveled to compete. Get to know your crowd. Make new friends, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself. The more amenable you are to all players, the more it helps put them at ease. The more comfortable players feel at your event, the better they will play, and the higher the competitive bar will be raised.
If you discover a player is new to competitive pinball, make an effort to ensure he or she knows what is happening and ask whether or not he or she is having a good time. Welcome them into the fold and do so sincerely, because it is the new players that will ultimately raise the level of success competitive pinball enjoys in the long term.
Finally, it is extremely important all tournament directors recognize communication goes both ways. Listen to as much feedback as you can regarding your event, and take it seriously. Not all of it will be easy to hear, some of it will be short-sighted, and some of it will be downright bizarre, but among the chatter will also be important insights and trends into how to most effectively improve your event for future years. Don’t view feedback as insults, view it as concern for the well-being of your event. The worst thing a tournament director could hear after putting on an event is silence.
With the popularity of competitive pinball growing, it is not uncommon for competitors to travel long distances to attend events. As a tournament director, it is your responsibility to help ensure these players can find what they need. Before running the event, compile a list of restaurants, nearby attractions, bars, grocery stores, hotels, taxi services, mechanics, hospitals, post offices, and other similar businesses with appropriate phone numbers and addresses for a GPS device or old-fashioned paper directions. When players ask for something, recognize what they went through to attend your event and be prepared to help them if at all possible.
If your event is large, consider having food brought in and sold so the players are not forced to leave. Masseuses will also frequently be willing to set up stations as a pay-per service for the players or show attendees. Masseuses may seem like a silly idea, but if you are running a larger, multi-day event or pinball show, players who have hunched over a pinball machine for hours at a time may be more willing and thankful than you think to pay a small fee and have the knots in their shoulders tended to by a professional.
Above all else, remember that when you put on an event, in addition to running a competition, you are becoming a part of the service industry. Act appropriately and treat your customers well.
All prize money for an event, minus basic tournament expenses, should be paid back to the tournament players. As a basic rule, if the tournament requires it in order to exist or run properly, it can be paid for with prize money. Appropriate examples of expenses would be trophies, a reasonable fee for game transportation, parts needed to fix games, a fee for the space rental and possibly a charge for the electric used. All expenses should be related to the pinball tournament only, and tournament directors should use their judgement as to whether an expense is so large an alternative option needs to be found.
Directors should always be willing to discuss associated fees with those who ask and how they relate to the prize pool.
If the pinball tournament is attached to a larger show, it is critical the money from the tournament does not subsidize the show portion of the event in any meaningful way. The expenses for the pinball tournament’s usage of space and electric should be apportioned relative to the actual space and number of outlets used. If the show is having trouble with its door fees, then the show portion of the event needs to make changes to reflect that. The answer is NEVER to steal money from the wallets of its competitive players, which is exactly what is happening when money is skimmed from the tournament prize pool, especially if those players have already paid an entrance fee to gain admittance into the show area solely to play in the tournament in the first place.
Nothing will give a tournament a negative stigma faster than stealing money from the players. And nothing will hurt competitive pinball, a driving force in the overall hobby, faster than new players feeling cheated by an event.
For smaller events (under 40) paying money to the top four or eight players is considered average. For larger events, a prize should be paid to anyone who qualifies for the final rounds. Allocation of the prize money depends on the style of tournament and size of the prize pool, but it is always reasonable to round away from odd percentages. Instead of paying $97.38, round the prize up and pay $100.
The most important thing to remember regarding prize money is to be as transparent as possible with your players as to where the money is coming from and where it is going.
While prize money is important to deciding whether or not players will travel a distance to attend an event, the trophy is what is seen most often afterward. Visitors to a champion’s game room don’t ask to see a brick of cash, but a trophy on the shelf or desk can be brought out at a later date and enjoyed. In the past, pinball trophies have ranged from standard stone-based, figurine-topped trophies to six foot, several hundred pound cast-iron works of modern art. When designing a trophy for an event, the main issues are cost, wow-factor, and transportability.
The cost of trophies is typically deducted from the prize pool. Tournament directors do enough for pinball and are not asked to afford the expense of trophies out of their own pockets. Since the cost is deducted from the overall prize pool, it should remain in balance with that prize pool. Expect to give a plaque or trophy to the top four winners in each division and spend 5% to 10% of the total prize money depending on the size of your event. Larger events should spend closer to the 5% threshold while smaller events can be expected to spend a slightly higher percentage.
The wow-factor of a trophy relates to its rarity. Everyone has seen a basic plaque, and while plaques can be very nice, they are rarely specific to an event other than the engraving. If possible, create a trophy that is unique or design the plaque in a way that shows it is pinball-related. On the other hand, while oversized, cast iron sculptures can be interesting, random art by itself does not serve the same purpose as an award. For example, each flag on the Commissioner’s Trophy in Major League Baseball represents a team in the league. The Lombardi Trophy is of a football, and Lord Stanley’s Cup contains engravings of all previous NHL champions, meticulously detailing the history of the league. Trophies should reflect the game or talent for which they are being awarded if at all possible.
The final consideration in awarding a trophy is transportability. The larger pinball events are world-wide affairs. Players travel long distances to compete, and when they win, the tournament should either present them with a trophy that is able to be transported or be prepared to help arrange shipping of the award. To simply tell a player, “sorry, you’re on your own” is a poor way to treat a champion who has already travelled a long way, sometimes thousands of miles, to attend your event.
In all line systems, players will prefer to have the line or lines appropriately marked and to have chairs offered. Standing in line all day can be very tiresome, and it is especially frustrating for a player to discover he or she has been waiting in the wrong line because it snakes in an unusual direction. Keep in mind what may seem like a common-sense layout for you may not seem that way to someone new to the venue.
The best method for queueing players is to have one line of chairs for each game. If space is a concern, consider using a single chair behind each game to designate which competitor will be playing the machine next, or if possible, consider using software with a built in queue system should the event spacing require it.
General tips on Tournament Management:
- Rules: Have a clearly defined set of rules available to both the players and the officials. When issues arise, always act according to those rules. During a tournament is not the correct time to decide a rule needs changed. Also, anytime something occurs that falls into a “gray area”, which can happen if the rules chosen are not clear enough, the first precedent for handling that specific situation should be carried on throughout the tournament. Make certain all officials are on the same page with all such rulings, so one official is not ruling a specific circumstance one way while another official is ruling the same circumstance another. Clarity and consistency with regard to rules are key to running a successful competitive pinball event!
- Keys: If using games that were donated by players, choose a dedicated location to keep all of the different keys for the duration of the tournament. Be sure all pertinent officials know where these keys are and can access them quickly when a need arises. Just as importantly, make sure all officials return the keys to the appropriate location after using them.
- Score Entry: If using software that requires continually entering scores, have a second person sitting beside whoever is entering those scores to help answer questions or sell entries. This way whoever is performing the data entry can focus solely on that task as opposed to having to stop and restart for questions or other issues. Data entry at a pinball tournament is not fun, and repeatedly stopping and starting to answer questions or perform other tasks can lead to mistakes. Don’t make it harder on this critical volunteer than it has to be!
- Cross-Over Machines: Using cross-over machines in two separate tournament banks at the same time should be avoided if at all possible (such as using the game Taxi in both a main bank and classics bank while qualifying is occurring on both simultaneously). If a problem occurs on a cross-over machine, or if one of them is rendered unusable halfway through the tournament, it causes downtime and affects the standings on both tournament banks as opposed to only one. If space is such a concern that tournament director’s feel cross-over machines absolutely must be used, the highest priority when choosing these games should be placed on their reliability.
- Signage: If at a public location or an Expo setting, consider adding Tournament Play Only signs to the machines to keep non-tournament players from interfering. Also, be sure to label any noteworthy changes that have been made to competition games by placing signs for players on the backglass.
Tips on Event Timing:
- Complicated Formats: Do not over-complicate your event! While it may sound exciting to have fifteen different divisions piled on top of twenty additional side tournaments, the confusion and stress that inevitably results from this type of over-complication will overshadow the positive aspects of your event. Unless you have the necessary games, space, volunteers, software, additional time, and are mentally prepared to handle the stress of running additional divisions and / or side tournaments, you will be better off focusing on your main event and making it as successful as possible. Only when you are capable of running a successful main tournament should you consider branching out to include additional side tournaments.
- Deadlines: Set a deadline for the end of qualifying and stick to it! There will always appear to be an endless number of reasons why you should allow people to continue attempting to qualify, especially coming from those players who are still attempting to qualify, but every time you extend the deadline, you are cheating the player who could potentially be knocked out. Do not ever give special treatment to any player for any reason. Choose a deadline, post it publicly, and stick to it! If players have tickets or attempts left over, either refund them in some fashion, or state at the beginning of the tournament that no one will be refunded and post this information publicly for the duration of the event.
- Starting Finals on Time: Be very clear about when finals will begin. Research how much time your finals format will take and plan accordingly. No one wants to finish at 5am EVER! Players do not want to hear that you are sorry for choosing a long-playing game or choosing a format that took 12 hours to finish when you only had time allotted for 5 hours. Make good decisions, and err on the side of finishing earlier, rather than later. If you are running a double-elimination finals bracket and are worried about time, consider making the loser’s side of the bracket 1-game each instead of best 2 of 3.
- Staggering Division Finals: If you are running multiple divisions or side events, be sure to stagger the finals correctly so the same players are not required to compete in two or more events simultaneously.
Tournament Qualifying Formats:
Multiple pinball tournament formats exist. Each format has its own benefits and weaknesses, and often the formats are tailored to suit the venue in which the tournaments are held. While other formats not included in this document exist, those presented herein are the most vetted by tournament directors.
PAPA World Championships Qualifying:
When a player is ready to play a qualifying entry, he or she approaches the bank of machines designated for the division corresponding to the entry. The player must select the appropriate subset of those machines to be played for the qualifying entry. The exact counts of machines in each bank and machines to be selected per entry may vary from division to division and from tournament to tournament. A typical example might be a bank of ten machines, from which five are selected for each entry.
No machine may be selected more than once on a single entry. These selections must be indicated on the player’s scorecard before he or she begins play. The player then provides the scorecard to the scorekeeper for the division. The scorekeeper will indicate which machine is to be played next by the player, or will indicate that the player must wait. At no time may the player begin play on any machine without being instructed to do so by the scorekeeper.
Players may select a different set of machines for each qualifying entry. Players may not change their selections once they have been accepted by the scorekeeper, except in case of malfunction, or with the express permission of tournament officials.
The player will play his or her selected machines at the time and in the order designated by the scorekeeper. At the end of each game, the player will request that the scorekeeper record his or her score before leaving the machine. It is the player’s responsibility to ensure that the scorekeeper takes down the score, and to doublecheck the recorded score for correctness.
When all games for the entry have been completed, the player must sign his or her entry for the scorekeeper, who will regularly submit completed entries for scoring. Players may not take their completed entry from the scorekeeper.
At any point during play or immediately after play has been completed, the player may elect to abandon his or her entry by notifying the scorekeeper. This will void all scores recorded so far for the entry, and the entry will not be entered into the scoring system except as a “void”, which does not affect scoring in any way. No money will be refunded, but the player has no further obligation to complete his or her entry, and is free to purchase another if he or she wishes. Once all games have been completed and the entry turned in for scoring by the scorekeeper, the void option is no longer available for that entry. A completed entry may be submitted for scoring at any time, so if a void is desired, the scorekeeper must be notified immediately upon completion of the entry.
Once the player has begun to play their entry, he or she may not take the scorecard from the scorekeeper, whether it is complete, incomplete, or void. Players who begin an entry should remain present to complete the entry, except in cases of logistical challenges or emergency conditions. Any entry left unattended for 2 hours or longer may be suspended and turned in to be held by tournament officials. These entries will automatically be voided if left uncompleted.
Each player’s score on each machine is ranked against all other scores on the same machine during the qualifying portion of the tournament. The #1 overall score on each game is awarded 100 qualifying points, making a qualifying score of 500 the highest possible qualifying score in the tournament. The second highest score on each machine is awarded 90 points. The third highest score is awarded 85 points, and then the points decrease by one with each lower score until they reach zero.
Example: At PAPA 15 in 2012, Keith Elwin was the #1 Qualifier. The games available in Division A were:
- 1. AC/DC
- 2. Tales from the Crypt
- 3. Congo
- 4. Jackbot
- 5. Goldeneye
- 6. Flash Gordon
- 7. Godzilla
- 8. Radical!
- 9. Scared Stiff
- 10. Taxi
For Keith’s qualifying entry, he chose to play:
- 1. Jackbot
- 2. Taxi
- 3. Godzilla
- 4. Congo
- 5. Tales from the Crypt
- Keith’s score on Jackbot was the best of anyone during the tournament, so it scored him 100 qualifying points.
- Keith’s score on Taxi was also first overall, scoring him an additional 100 qualifying points (200 through two games).
- Keith’s score on Godzilla was was 22nd overall for 66 additional points (266 through three games).
- Keith’s fourth game was Congo, 11th best, for 77 additional qualifying points (343 through 4 games).
- Keith’s final game, Taxi, was the worst game of his five game entry, finishing as the 85th best overall Taxi score of the tournament for only 3 additional qualifying points.
Keith’s final qualifying score of 346 points through five games was good enough to qualify first overall. At PAPA 15, the top 16 qualifying scores advanced to the finals, with the qualifying cut-off that particular year at 237 points. It is important to note the total number of points needed to qualify will change from year to year depending on how players perform on the games and rank against one another.
PAPA Qualifying Points System: All scores posted on a particular machine, including multiple entries from individual players, are maintained in a ranking. Point values are assigned to each position in this ranking. The overall score of a particular entry is the total of the point values assigned to its ranked scores on the selected machines for that entry. Because the rankings will change as new scores are posted on each machine, the overall score of each entry may change as the qualifying rounds progress.
It is important to note that each entry is scored separately from other entries, based on the sum of the point values for the ranking of its scores on the selected machines. Each entry a player completes has its own score, and there is no consistent way to compile a score based on “best of” results, nor is this the intent of the tournament system. The intent is to reward consistently good play within a single entry. Players should be aware that on each entry, they are also competing with their own previous entries on the selected machines. Remember that a player may void an entry at any time during its play, but once turned in by the scorekeeper, no entry may be voided by the player for any reason.
In the event of two or more scores on a machine being exactly tied, the highest point value of the tied positions will be awarded for each such score.
There are no scoring normalizers or other adjustments. Scores cannot be compared across divisions. As the qualifying rounds progress, players may wish to adjust their choice of qualifying machines according to the scores already posted, as well as their personal skills and preferences.
The rank of the player’s result on each machine contributes the following points to the score for that entry.
- 1st = 100 points
- 2nd = 90
- 3rd = 85
- 4th down to 87th
- 84 down to 1
Important issues regarding the PAPA Qualifying format:
- Scores are NOT interchangeable between entries, and players can have only one entry with a scorekeeper at a given time. Once a player begins a five-game entry, all scores must remain on that specific entry until it is either turned in to be recorded or voided by the player.
- Because scores are not interchangeable between entries, players must compete against all qualifying scores that have been previously recorded, including their own.
- Players are permitted to choose a different set of five games with each entry if they desire.
Benefits of the PAPA Qualifying Format: In the PAPA Qualifying system, a player is forced into stringing several high-quality games together at once, as opposed to repeating the same game again and again until the desired score is reached. By forcing players to play five different games on a single entry, the PAPA Qualifying system rewards consistently good play across multiple styles of machines, and it is virtually impossible for a less-skilled player to “buy” their way into the final rounds by playing significantly more entries than anyone else.
Drawbacks of the PAPA Qualifying Format: The benefit of this qualifying format can also be viewed as its weakness. The PAPA qualifying format is very difficult and can be discouraging to less-skilled players, often leading to a smaller prize pool than other formats where players can repeat games until they achieve the score they desire.
Also, competitors are not forced to play all of the games in a qualifying bank, potentially causing some competitors to avoid more difficult, faster playing games and create queue problems on what are perceived as easier playing games early in the tournament. As the tournament progresses, however, the “value” on the more difficult playing games tends to encourage players to return to them toward the end of the qualifying period.
Best Game Qualifying:
Best Game Qualifying, also known among some tournament directors as the “Herb” format, is one of the most common qualifying formats in competitive pinball. The tournament begins with a preselected number of games designated as the tournament bank. The players are encouraged to purchase tickets, where each ticket represents a single game that can be played on any of the tournament machines. A competitor may play each game one after the other or repeat the same game until he or she achieves the desired score.
At the end of the qualifying period, only a player’s highest score on each pinball machine is counted toward his or her qualifying ranking. For instance, if a player has played the same game twenty five times, only the highest single score of those twenty five games is recorded and the other twenty four are forgotten.
It is important to note that some tournaments may have more games available in the tournament bank than count toward a player’s qualifying ranking. In these instances, players are not forced to play all of the games if they do not wish to do so.
All scores between players are ranked in the same fashion as PAPA Qualifying: 100 points for the best overall score on a game, 90 points for the second highest score on a game, 85 points for the third highest score, and then decreasing by one point per position down to zero. Competitors are not forced to play every game in the qualifying bank, but if they realistically expect to qualify for the final rounds, they must at least play the maximum number of games counted toward their qualifying score.
Example: At the 2011 Northwest Pinball Championships, Cayle George qualified fourth overall. The games available in qualifying were:
- Space Invaders
- World Cup Soccer
- The Shadow
- World Poker Tour
- Rolling Stones
Cayle played every game at least once. Any scores lower than those listed below did not count toward Cayle’s final qualifying ranking.
- Cayle’s highest score on Supersonic was third overall, scoring him 85 qualifying points.
- Cayle’s highest score on Space Invaders was 18th, scoring him 70 points (155 total through two games).
- Cayle’s highest score on World Cup Soccer was 15th, earning him 73 points (228 through three games).
- Cayle’s highest score on The Shadow was the 1st, earning him 100 points (328 through four games).
- Cayle’s highest score on Jackbot was 5th, earning him 83 additional qualifying points (411 through five games).
- Cayle’s highest score on World Poker Tour was 6th, earning him 82 qualifying points (493 through six games).
- And finally, Cayle’s highest score on Rolling Stones was 22nd, earning him 66 additional qualifying points.
- Cayle’s total score of 559 qualifying points was fourth best among all players.
In the above example, the Northwest Pinball Championships allowed 16 players into the final round with the cutoff at 509 points. It is important to note the total number of points needed to qualify will change from year to year depending on how players perform on the games and rank against one another. In this example, the highest possible qualifying score would be first place on all seven games, or 700 points, but the actual number one qualifier was Keith Elwin with 605.
Benefits of the Best Game Qualifying Format: Competitors are permitted to play the same game repeatedly if desired, leading to a comfort level on each machine that tends to bring out high scores. Also, since each game played stands alone as a separate entry, players are less likely to be discouraged by a poor performance and frequently repeat a difficult playing games again and again until they achieve their desired score, building the prize pool higher than many other formats where consistent play is rewarded more than single high scores. Players are forced to play every game in the qualifying bank.
Drawbacks of the Best Game Qualifying Format: Because each game played stands alone as its own entry and only the highest single score counts for each player, the Best Game Qualifying Format gives players who are less-skilled, or inconsistent, an opportunity to qualify over better or more consistent players by playing a significantly higher number of entries. At popular tournaments, this drawback is reduced because the length of the lines will inherently limit the number of times any one competitor can enter.
Bracket tournaments are one of the most common methods of organizing competition. All players are either seeded randomly or by some predetermined criteria and entered into their appropriate locations on a corresponding bracket. Players compete head-to-head and either advance in the bracket or are eliminated. Bracket tournaments are also a common finals format after qualifying has finished.
When running a bracket tournament, directors are encouraged to use the iPad app Brackelope, created by Isaac Ruiz.
Pin-Golf has been adapted in a variety of ways, but the basic format is always the same. A set number of games are chosen, typically 9 or 18, where each game represents a hole on a golf course. Players advance through each game and are asked to achieve a target score representing par for the hole. The players’ scores are represented by the number of balls (turns) it took them to achieve par. Just like in golf, the player with the lowest combined score at the end of the round wins.
As an example, a typical Pin-Golf setup for Attack from Mars would be 1 billion points. If Player one scored 1 billion points on ball two, his score for the hole would be two. If player two subsequently took three turns to achieve 1 billion points, his or her score for the hole would be three. Once the target score is achieved by all players in the group, everyone advances to the next hole together. Two important things to remember regarding pin-golf:
1: Games are nearly always set to allow more than three balls per player in the event players need more than three turns to achieve the target score. On most modern games, this adjustment is available in the software settings.
2: Many tournaments set a maximum number of turns allowed for players on each hole in the event the target score is too high. Pin-golf is a great way to bring new players into pinball, and directors should set a maximum score for each hole so no novice competitors are forced to play 10+ turns while others in their group have finished in 1.
Single-Attempt tournaments are a common way to give multiple players a competitive experience in a short amount of time. In this format, each player is given one game on the selected machine(s). When each player has finished his or her game(s), the tournament either advances to the final rounds or the tournament ends.
Basic League Information:
Competitive pinball leagues exist in a variety of formats. Some require meeting every week, while others are monthly. Some require players to all meet at the same location at the same time, while other leagues provide different locations on different days to help split the crowd. No matter how a league is set up, the primary goal is always to help spread enthusiasm for pinball. It doesn’t matter whether your league is primarily competitive or social, you should always remember to have a good time.
Becoming better at pinball is rarely a solitary experience. All competitive players learn from one another, whether it involves openly discussing strategy or watching how some else handles certain situations while playing in multiplayer games. Make a point to answer questions from new players, and encourage them to take advantage of the growing number of resources available. If your league consists primarily of experienced players, encourage them to compete at tournaments and travel to play against the best in the world and strive to improve.
Many leagues are viewed as a reason to get out of the house for novice players, and there is nothing wrong with this viewpoint. These types of social players could always be doing something else, and pinball should be grateful for anyone who drops a quarter or cares enough to flip the flippers. Some of these players may one day develop into highly-skilled competitors, but even if they don’t, there is never a reason to discourage interest in the game. Be supportive when necessary, and always be thankful.
So you want to run a pinball league or tournament? The first thing you need to do is make some decisions and have a clear goal. If you’re going to run a tournament, decide where and with what games. Are you after a primarily social crowd, or are you after the hardcore players? Do you want to run a multi-day event, or is everything going to happen in a few hours? Are you going to provide food? Do the players have a place to relax? Are the restrooms capable of handling the crowd? Do you have the electricity necessary to power all of the games without an issue? Do you have a technician in case something goes wrong? Once you have the answers to these types of questions, it’s time to read up on differing tournament formats and decide which one best suits your situation and establishment.
If you’re planning on starting a league, the same types of questions apply. Are you after a primarily competitive league, a social one, or a little of both? Do you have a primary location, or will the league nights move from place to place? Will you allow private game collections? Will you allow public game locations? If the location is public, have you spoken with the owner, bartender, or operator about using their games and potentially bringing them more business? Can you use the possibility of regular league meetings to your advantage when speaking with the owner? Have you recruited other people to help you run the league?
The best advertising is word-of-mouth. Be vocal. Tell people about your league and use your own enthusiasm to attract others. Often times, all it takes to draw in new players is showing them how to play a game and exhibiting genuine excitement. The universal truth we all have working in our favor is that pinball is fun. It’s damn fun. Show this to others and tell them about your league or event.
More traditional methods of advertising can also be very successful. No one is suggesting you take out a radio ad or pay for a billboard, but a few properly placed flyers can be extremely effective. Go to local arcades, bars, bowling alleys, and any nearby locations with games and ask if they would mind if you put flyers on or near the games. Be sure to check with the operator or owner if possible, and explain to them you want to start a league that will bring them business. If no locations near you have a pinball machine, pick a likely candidate and explain that you want to start a league and see if they will ask their operator to bring them one. Many bars are familiar with dart or billiards leagues and will be excited at the prospect of regular meetings at their establishment. If you get turned down, stay positive and move on to the next location.
Once a location has been chosen, one of the best ways for advertising a pinball league is to start with a pinball tournament. Make a post on RGP, Pinside, or online newsgroups. Get in touch with the IFPA to help promote your event by including it in the World Pinball Player Rankings, and run a simple tournament. Use starter-tournament as a learning experience on how to make rulings and meet new people.
Does your league need a website? PAPA is currently designing a series of web templates based on different pinball league formats to help you get started. All of our league websites will be customizable and free for you to operate. Stay tuned for more information.
A large number of different pinball league formats are in use around the world. PAPA offers the following examples, as provided by the respective league organizers, for new leagues to use as templates. If you run an established, successful pinball league and would like to include a description of your format on this page for the benefit of new leagues, please contact us.
Free State Pinball Association:
This section of the Director’s Guide was created and submitted by Kevin Stone.
FSPA provides the rules, code and web-site for non-FSPA leagues that want to play FSPA style leagues. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can create your own league using this system. More information can also be found at the FSPA web-site at www.fspazone.org.
Overview: The Free State Pinball Association (FSPA) is designed to allow players to compete directly against peers of similar skill level. This is accomplished through a system similar to a ladder or bubble system. As players win their groups, they move up to the next higher group, and if they lose they move down to the next lower group. Over the course of a league season, players naturally pair with players of similar skill level.
How the league works: Each league season is comprised of 10 meets, which are generally held once per week. During each meet, each group contains 3 or 4 players. Each group is assigned 4 games. Players within a group play each game together and scores are recorded on the official score sheet for that group. Points are awarded for each game based on how players score compared to other players in their group. Bonus points are also awarded based on the total points each player accumulated for all four games.
Groupings: After each meet, players change groups for the next meet based on how they performed. In 3 player groups, the winner moves up, the loser moves down, and the remaining player stays in the group. In 4 player groups, the top two players move up and the bottom two players move down. There are slight changes to this for the first and last groups, i.e. in the first group only the loser(s) moves down, and in the last group only the winner(s) move up.
Point System: Players earn 0 to 4 points per game. Players are initially assigned points based on their finish, i.e. first, second, third or fourth. Then bonus points are awarded based on the score between players. For instance, in a 2 player group, if the winner has more than tripled the loser’s score, the winner gets the bonus point, otherwise the loser gets the point. The same system is used to determine bonus points after all four games have been completed. The maximum points a player can receive during a meet is 20.
|Two Player Scoring|
|Place||Base Points||Is #1 pts > 3 times #2 pts?|
|Three Player Scoring|
|Place||Base Points||Is #1 pts > #2 pts + #3 pts?|
|Four Player Scoring|
|Place||Base Points||Is #1 pts > #2 pts + #3 pts?||Is #2 pts > #3 pts + #4 pts?|
Divisions: Players are assigned divisions by week 4, which are based on average ladder position. If a player has been at the top of group 1 all season, they have an average rank of 1. These averages continue to change week to week until meet 8 is completed, at which time the divisions are locked.
Playoffs: Players in the the top half of each division qualify for the playoffs. Players competing in the playoffs compete within their own divisions. With 4 or fewer players, two games are played with all players. In addition, each player plays a head-to-head match against each other player. With 5 or more players, there is an initial round where each player plays a head-to-head match against each other player. The top 4 players move on to the finals, which is played the same as the 4 or fewer players finals. Standard point system applies to each round. The player with the most points wins, and there are tie-breakers in place.
Prizes: Prizes are bought using league dues and awarded to all players that qualified and played in the finals. At the end of the playoffs, each winner for each division plays one ball on a selected game. This determines the order of prize selection between divisions. For instance, if the order is determined to be Divison B, then A, then C the order of prizes would be: 1st B, 1st A, 1st C, 2nd B, 2nd A, 2nd C, etc. This gives every player regardless of skill the chance to compete for the best prizes.
Game selection: Winning players from the previous week have the option to pick the first game for each meet. In 3 player groups, the last player in the group is the winner from the previous meet. In 4 player groups, the 3rd player is the winner from the previous meet.
Pre-Plays: Pre-plays allow players to pre-play the games in the league for a specific meet they know they will not be able to attend. Then those scores will be pre-populated in the official score sheet before the meet begins. Players may also submit undated pre-plays which will be used in the event of unplanned absence or tardiness. These are limited to 12 total pre-plays per season.
Extra Balls: Players may use one extra ball during each game. Additional extra balls must be plunged. Players can attempt a skill shot but must not flip or nudge the game after plunging the ball.
Start A League
PAPA-Style Final Format:
All finalists will be divided into groups of four players based on standard seeding procedures. Each group will play three separate four-player games, each on a different machine from among those designated for that division. Each four-player game will be scored as follows:
- 1st = 4points
- 2nd = 2points
- 3rd = 1point
- 4th = 0points
Three-player games will be scored as if a nonexistent fourth player received the 4th place finish (i.e., 1st earns 4 points, 2nd earns 2, and last earns 1).
The highest-seeded player within each group may choose either the machine to be played, or the order of play. If the highest-seeded player chooses order of play, the remaining players may choose their order, in descending order of seeding, and choice of machine then goes to the next highest-seeded player in the group. Conversely, if the highest-seeded player chooses the machine to be played, then the next highest-seeded player chooses the order of play, with the remaining players choosing order of play in decreasing order of seeding.
Note that the original seeding of players when entering the final rounds from qualifying is used in every round. At no time does a player’s seeding change from round to round; therefore the advantage of qualifying in first place can be significant.
No group may select a machine which has already been selected by a group in the same round, nor may they choose a machine on which they have already played in that round (unless machine malfunctions have made this unavoidable; tournament officials may choose to provide additional or substitute machines, however). If the machine selected is currently being played by another group in a previous round of play, the group may wait for that round of play to be completed. For example, if one group is playing a given machine as their first machine, a different group may choose to wait for it as their second machine.
When all three games have been completed by a group, each player will have a point total for that rounds in their division. Two players will advance from each group to the following round.
Pinburgh-Style Final Format:
Players are broken up into groups of four based on their qualifying scores. Each group of four players compete on a predetermined set of four games, with each game ideally representing a different style of machine. On the first game in the four game set, the highest seed in the group chooses whether to play first, second, third, or fourth overall. On each subsequent game, the loser from the previous game chooses whether to play first, second, third, or fourth. The same choice is then given to other players in reverse order of finish from the previous game.
At the end of the four game set, the players’ win-loss records against one another are compared to determine which two players from each group advances to the following round.
Single & Double Elimination Final Format:
Single Elimination: Players compete head-to-head in a standard bracket. The winner of each match, typically either a single game or best two out of three, advances in the bracket while the loser is eliminated from the tournament. For any tournaments that include a separate qualifying procedure, Directors are encouraged to make all single-elimination rounds best two games out of three at a minimum. For smaller tournaments where time is critical, or those consisting solely of a small, local group of players, a true single-elimination bracket is acceptable. (insert example bracket)
Double Elimination: Player’s compete head-to-head, typically in either single-game rounds or best two-out-of-three. The winner advances in the “winner’s bracket”, while the loser falls to the “loser’s bracket”. When any player loses his or her match in the “loser’s bracket”, they are eliminated from the tournament. The final will ultimately be played against one player who is undefeated and one player who has one loss. The player with one loss must beat the “winner’s bracket” champion twice, while the “winner’s bracket” champion must only defeat the “loser’s bracket” representative once. (insert example bracket)
How Long Will It Take?
An important part to running a successful event is managing your time successfully. If your event only has a five hour window for finals, choose a finals format that fits your time slot. Here are some real-life examples of the finals formats used and the amount of time it took to crown a champion.
|Louisville Arcade Expo Classics||2013||Double Elimination|
Qualifiers 1-4 received a Double Bye
Qualifiers 5-8 received a Single Bye
Qualifiers 9-16 played in the first round
Best 2 games out of 3 in both winner’s and loser’s bracket.
Nitro Ground Shaker
|No games experienced technical issues.
Star Light played extremely long compared to the other games and was chosen in every round by at least one player.
|Pinball Expo||2013||Double Elimination|
Qualifiers 1-12 received a Double Bye
Qualifiers 13-16 received a Single Bye
Qualifiers 17-24 played in the first round
Best 2 games out of 3 in both winner’s and loser’s bracket.
|24||11h||Stern Star Trek|
Lord of the Rings
Stern Star Trek
|No games experienced technical issues. The tournament experienced 20-30 minutes worth of delays while waiting for players in later rounds to finish competing in a concurrent classics tournament. Star Trek played extremely long and led to numerous delays.|
|Louisville Arcade Expo||2013||PAPA Style||16||6h 15m||World Cup Soccer|
Pirates of the Caribbean
Batman Dark Knight
|No games experienced significant technical problems. Division B Finals were run concurrently on the same bank of games.|
|PAPA 16 World Championships||2013||PAPA Style||16||7h||Medieval Madness|
Batman Dark Knight
|All outlanes were in the games but set to the widest setting. Center posts had been removed. Godzilla experienced a 25min technical delay.|
|Louisville Arcade Expo Classics||Double Elimination|
Qualifiers 1-4 received a Double Bye
Qualifiers 5-8 received a Single Bye
Qualifiers 9-16 played in the first round
Best 2 games out of 3 in both winner’s and loser’s bracket.
Nitro Ground Shaker
|Pinball Expo||Double Elimination|
Qualifiers 1-12 received a Double Bye
Qualifiers 13-16 received a Single Bye
Qualifiers 17-24 played in the first round
Best 2 games out of 3 in both winner’s and loser’s bracket.
|24||11h||Stern Star Trek
Lord of the Rings
Stern Star Trek
|Louisville Arcade Expo||PAPA Style||16||6h 15m||World Cup Soccer
Pirates of the Caribbean
Batman Dark Knight
|PAPA 16 World Championships||PAPA Style||16||7h||Medieval Madness
Batman Dark Knight
This section of the Director’s Guide was created and submitted by Kevin Stone.
Purpose of Seeding The concept of seeding is to provide an advantage to the best players, as well as to balance out tournaments to avoid the two best players from meeting head-to-head early in a tournament. Everyone prefers to see the best players duking it out at the end of a long tournament. People also love the cinderella story of the low seed making it to the finals by knocking off higher seeds. All professional sports use seeding in playoffs and finals. Great examples of this are the NCAA basketball tournament, where there are actually four number 1 seeds, and the NFL with top seeds going to division winners.What is seeding Seeding is a format used to rate players. The top seed is 1, second seed is 2 and so on until the last player is assigned a seed. Thus if a tournament or playoffs has n number of players, the last seed will be seed n.
When to use seeding Seeding players is normally reserved for playoffs, including both tournament and league playoffs. However, there may be instances where qualifying rounds (such as Pinburgh) or leagues use seeding as well. This could just be limited to who gets to pick a game or what order players play, but it is still seeding that determines who does what.
How to determine seeding There are many ways to assign a seed to individual players. This will be affected by the tournament or league format. Common types:
- Results of qualifying
- World Pinball Player Rankings (WPPR)
- Previous tournament results
- Previous qualifying round results
- Winner/Losers of previous game in a best of n match
- Various league rules defining who gets to pick game or order
Why use seeding Seeding allows a tournament director to balance out the playoffs to avoid top players eliminating each other early in the tournament. It also provides a benefit to players that perform well during qualification rounds. Without a benefit provided during qualifying, what is the purpose of qualifying other than to make the playoff field.
Seeding is also used to properly assign byes when an odd number of players remain in a tournament. Byes should always be given to the highest seeds. There may be exceptions to this depending on the tournament format, but the rule of thumb remains that highest seed gets the first bye. Second highest seed gets the second bye, etc.
Seeding can also be used to determine who gets to pick a game or what order they play in.
Proper seeding vs Improper seeding Proper seeding depends on the format being used. The most common example will be single or double elimination brackets. It is imperative to properly seed the bracket or else the seeding becomes moot. For instance, an example of improper seeding in an 8 player bracket, would be to seed the bracket in order (1 to 8). This means the first matches would be seed 1 playing 2, seed 3 playing 4, seed 5 playing 6, and seed 7 playing 8. This improper seeding is effectively worse than not using seeding at all. It penalizes the top seeds, and thus the best performers in qualifying.
The proper way to seed a tournament is to always ensure that the top seed is playing the lowest seed. But it doesn’t stop there. The next round must be taken into account to ensure that if all top seeds win their first match, that the top seed is still playing the lowest seed in round 2. If a lower seed beats a higher seed, then all bets are off, but the initial setup of the bracket will stay the same.
Fortunately, there are many public web-sites that you can download single and double elimination brackets that already have the seeding set up for you. However, some are also incorrect. The easiest way to verify the bracket is correct is to use the following formula to verify the seedings are correct.
N = Number of players in the bracket
X = Known Seed (or top seed in the match)
Y = Competitor Seed (or bottom seed in the match)
Y = N + 1 – X
For example, seed 3 of an 8 player match plays seed 6:
6Y = 8N + 1 – 3X.
Can you figure out what seed 27 would play in a 128 player match? (see answer at end of this section)
Static vs Dynamic seeding Static seeding is used in brackets that are defined before playoffs begin, and do not change once they begin. An example is single or double elimination brackets. The seeding is set up initially and winners advance in the bracket. If lower seeded players win against higher seeded players, the potential exists that two lower level seeds could play each other in the semi-finals, where the other two players could be two higher seeds playing each other. This is static because the players follow the bracket. Seeding is effectively moot after the initial seeding in a static scenario.
Dynamic seeding is used in playoffs or qualifying when subsequent rounds are not predetermined at the start. For instance, if qualifying is using groups of 4 players each, and based on the results the groups are re-organized, the seeding of each player changes, either for the entire tournament or within each individual group. For instance at Pinburgh, after each round every player is reseeded. The next round’s groups are predetermined based on seed, but the players change because their seeding changes after each round is played. A better example is Pinburgh playoffs. The playoffs are not a standard single elimination bracket, but rather a dynamic bracket. Players keep their initial playoff seed the entire playoffs. What differs is that the top seed will always be playing the lowest seed, and thus the groups are dynamically determined based on player’s seeds, rather than following the flow of a pre-determined bracket.
Create your own bracket Using this simple guide, you can easily create your own bracket with proper seeding.
The trick is starting with 2 players, then expanding by a factor of 2 each step of the way. So you would start with 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32, and so on. Sounds hard but it’s really not. Start with 2, so you have seed 1 playing seed 2. The next step, you just take each seed and create a new 2 player match from that one seed. So now you have seed 1 playing ?, and seed 2 playing ?.
Now fill in the seeds using these formulas ?Y = 4N + 1 – 1X and ?Y = 4N + 1 – 2X
1 plays seed 4, and seed 2 plays seed 3.
Repeat this again and again and the bracket will be created. So the next iteration would create 4 new matches with seed 1 playing ?, seed 2 playing ?, and so on. After using the formula we now have seed 1 playing seed 8, seed 2 playing seed 7, etc. It is important to expand the bracket equally so seed 1 and 2 will never play each other until the finals. See the diagram for a simple example. Now that is a good bracket.
So who does seed 27 play in a 128 player match? Let’s see:
Y = 128N + 1 – 27X
Y = 102
Another way to think of it is this: The total of the seeds in an initial match always equals the number of players in the bracket + 1
The Game Notes section is intended as a community-sourced area for opinions, advice, and general notes regarding specific games in a competitive setting. The opinions and advice expressed below are not intended to be a one-size-fits-all guide for preparing games.
Different competitive events have different needs, and simply because a game was declared reasonable in one instance does not make it reasonable in all instances. Tournament and League directors are encouraged to use this information on a case-by-case basis and make the final decision whether it is helpful when considering the caliber of players and needs of their specific events.
|Name||Manu.||Year||Tech Notes||Tournament Concerns||Lock|
|2001||Gottlieb||1971||Ensure flippers are strong enough to get the ball all the way to the saucers at the top of the machine, and the side kickers are strong enough to push the ball back into the drops and bumpers. Tilt should generally be loose, since 2001 is a “tilt ends game” machine.||The ball count is only visible to the player in a small window in the lower left. Be careful that the ball-advance stepper is working 100%, or players may exploit and play a longer game than is allowed. There is no way to earn an extra ball in 2001.||No||All Levels|
|AC/DC||Stern||2012||Manage difficulty through outlane posts and slingshot sensitivity. The flipper rubbers on the lower playfield have a tendency to come off or wear out with extended play. Be sure to label the wires or make a mental note as to which wire plugs onto which connector since they appear very similar when reassembling the unit.||AC/DC tends to be a longer playing game in a competitive environment.||No||All Levels|
|Addams Family||Bally||1992||The difficulty of Addams Family is primarily determined by the consistency of the chair and swamp kickouts, the style of posts guarding the electric chair, and whether or not the right ramp is makeable from either flipper. Players should be capable of dead-bouncing the electric chair kickout from the left flipper to the right, and the swamp kickout from the right flipper to the left. While both of these feeds should always be physically possible, whether or not these feeds are actually controllable in this manner is up to the tournament director to decide.|
Be sure to check ALL of the switches in front of the bookcase in switch test.
|Thing Flips will need to be dialed in after any moving or leveling of the game. The locking mechanism can prevent players from earning skillshots in multiplayer games, which can create a competitive imbalance between the players involved. Players frequently “time out” the Power magnets in competitive play, causing severe slowdowns; consider disabling these magnets while informing the players of the change.||No||All Levels|
|Air Aces||Bally||1974||Leave extra balls on, they are difficult to achieve and skill-based. Disabling the extra ball requires disabling a specific relay in the machine.||No||All Levels|
|Ali||Stern||1980||Ali is typically a fast-playing game without any major adjustments necessary. If the multipliers reset at the beginning of each ball, the game becomes fairly one dimensional. If the multipliers are set to carry over between balls, the players are generally forced to play more of the playfield and make more strategic decisions later in the game.||No||All Levels|
|Alien Poker||Williams||1980||Alien Poker will be a short to average playing game timewise. PAPA recommends removing the metal bar between the lower right flippers unless it is a casual event. Adjusting outlanes and slingshot sensitivity is enough for the vast majority of events.||No||All Levels|
|Amazing Spider-Man||Gottlieb||1980||Consider installing one-way switches on the inlanes to help prevent players from repeatedly shooting the inlanes.||Maxing the bonus by repeatedly shooting the inlane can be dull to watch.||No||All Levels|
|Apollo 13||Sega||1995||Not a reasonable competition game due to carry-over of thirteen ball countdown feature.||Yes||Casual Only|
|Attack From Mars||Bally||1995||Rom revision 1.13b offers a variety of awards for competitive play at the scoop as opposed to only 50m points.||Be certain the left flipper can successfully complete the right ramp from a cradle and the right flipper can successfully complete the lock ramp from a cradle. If the flippers are not readily strong enough, they will need to be rebuilt. Also be sure players are capable or loop-passing when shooting the orbits. If the flipper rubbers have become worn, or deadened, to the point this technique isn’t possible, they will need to be replaced prior to competition.||No||All Levels|
|Austin Powers||Stern||2001||Flippers from this era of pinball machines can become weak with extended play. Ensure the flipper mechanisms are moving freely, and upgrade the coils if possible.||It's Shag-a-delic!||No||All Levels|
|Avatar||Stern||2010||Aside from standard slingshot and outlane adjustments, the only adjustment typically made is to add fatter posts to the link entrance, making the shot more difficult.||By using this tournament, you will be forced to remember how big of a disappointment this movie was.||No||All Levels|
|Avengers||Stern||2012||When played at a higher skill level, Avengers degenerates into a one-shot game. Players will typically shoot the left orbit, LOKI, ad nauseam. Balls will frequently become stuck during multiball in a variety of places, most commonly around the Hulk figurine. In addition to the left orbit / ramp imbalance, a number of software issues also cause Avengers to be a poor competition choice for higher-skilled divisions.||Care should be taken to avoid bounceouts from the lock that put a second ball into play when it shouldn’t be there.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Back to the Future||Data East||1990||Skill shot awards include “Double Your Score” and “Steal His Score”. If played, ideally this game should be single-player only.||No||Recommended Single Player Only|
|Bad Cats||Williams||1989||Features easily repeatable strategies that can be exploited by higher caliber players.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Banzai Run||Williams||1988||Be sure all of the flippers are in solid, working order prior to the competition. In addition to checking all switches, take special care to ensure all captive balls and standups, including within the backbox, register correctly.||Consider reducing the timer on the upper playfield post.||No||All Levels|
|Barb Wire||Gottlieb||1996||Are you really about to do this?||Does anyone really care?||Seriously?|
|Batman||Stern||2008||Batman will be a long playing game in a competitive environment. The Batman toy will occasionally block the center ramp with its fist or cape if not installed correctly. The rear saucer is prone to rejecting strong shots from the left orbit if the game’s pitch is too shallow. Strong shots to the Joker lock will sometimes bounce back into the playfield if the wire gate is not aligned correctly. If the game is leaning left, or the right orbit shot is easily caught on the left flipper, the batmobile hurry-up mode in the game can be exploited and create a scoring imbalance. All directors are encouraged to update their code to 2.94. This software revision is a worthwhile and significant upgrade over the code that was shipped on many games from the factory. The Joker drop target and blue nub on the left side of the center ramp (Part # 626-5085-00) are not common parts. Directors are encouraged to have spares on hand.||Setting the Lucius insert (gadget upper playfield) to easy or extra easy could potentially encourage players in some situations to reach the wizard mode with little downside to the adjustment. Due to the potential of a hurry-up scoring exploit, it is critical Batman is level from left to right. If the Joker lock lane is too clean, and the pitch is too shallow, a strong shot will occasionally move the entire way through the virtual lock and not register. One solution to this problem is to not clean that specific area. The dirtier, slower lane will help to keep strong shots from passing through the virtual lock without registering.||No||All Levels|
|Batman Forever||Sega||1995||Ensure the flippers are strong enough to make all ramps easily prior to the start of the event.||No||All Levels|
|Baywatch||Sega||1995||Ensure the right flipper is strong enough to make the left ramp easily prior to the start of the event.||The timing of the sideramp skillshot on Baywatch is sensitive to the game’s pitch. If the ball rattles at all on its way to the lower right kicker, the game will not return the ball to the upper left flipper for an attempt to complete the skillshot. The higher above the recommended pitch the game sits, the more likely it is the ball will rattle against the gate above the pop bumpers and not reach the kicker in time. Directors are encouraged to set Baywatch at or near the recommended pitch of 6.5 degrees. Squid pops are delicious if cooked correctly.||No||All Levels|
|Big Bang Bar||PMI||2007||Lopsided scoring and tends to be a long playing game in a competitive environment.||No||Casual Only|
|Big Buck Hunter||Stern||2009||Set random award to tournaments. Consider setting Buck to EASY.||The Buck mechanism will be very difficult to keep dialed in throughout a multi-day tournament.||No||All Levels|
|Big Guns||Williams||1987||Lock stealing is a severe issue in this game. PAPA recommends playing it as single-player only if it must be used.||Yes||Recommended Single Player Only|
|Big Hurt||Gottlieb||1995||The crowd will become upset being forced to listen to the game scream about Frank Thomas for several days. Also there are several noteworthy scoring exploits that prohibit the game from being used in high-level competition.||No||Casual Divisions and hardcore Frank Thomas fans only.|
|Black Hole||Gottlieb||1981||Black Hole has lock stealing on the lower playfield.||Yes||All Levels|
|Black Knight||Williams||1980||Black Knight can potentially be a long playing game in a tournament environment with high-caliber players.||No||All Levels|
|Black Knight 2000||Williams||1989||Carryover ransom feature and lock stealing diminish this game’s use in any division. The game also suffers from highly repetitive playing strategies, often causing it to take a long time to finish under tournament conditions.||Yes||Mid to Casual|
|Black Pyramid||Bally||1984||Dipswitch 24 should be set so the rollover switch at the top of the right orbit scores BLACK and PYRAMID one time and then repeats 50k points.||No||All Levels|
|Black Rose||Bally||1992||Highly repetitive scoring strategies lessen this game’s appeal for Expert Divisions.||No||All Levels|
|Breakshot||Capcom||1996||Breakshot can be an extremely slow playing game.||Yes||Mid to Casual|
|Bram Stoker's Dracula||Williams||1993||Dracula is a game where rhythm is very important. Flipper hop on this game can be devastating to players, and it should be fixed or avoided at all cost. Turning off the ball-saver on Dracula will also turn off the ball saver during multiball. Considering the short ball times on this game at factory settings, and the fact the plunge and subsequent randomized pop bumper action are out of the players’ control, Directors are encouraged to leave the players a ball saver.|
If available, directors are encouraged to use the custom 500k mystery award rom.
|The mystery award is random and is significant enough in many situations to cause a competitive imbalance. Directors are encouraged to install modified roms that limit the mystery to 500k. Another potential fix is to lower the mystery timer to one second.||No||All Levels|
|Buck Rogers||Gottlieb||1980||Be certain the flippers are capable of completing the captive ball.||No||All Levels|
|Cactus Canyon||Bally||1998||Expert players will exploit the infinite showdown multiball possibility.||No||All Levels, be especially wary of Expert divisions|
|Captain Fantastic||Bally||1975||Game may cause players to exhibit better taste in clothing.||No||All Levels|
|Centaur||Bally||1981||In general, Centaur is not a long-playing game, and the ball is out of control frequently by design, so there is little drawback to allowing players to nudge. Keeping the tilt reasonably loose will only encourage more strategizing within the game. If the rubber is still on the post guarding the gate in the outlane, and players are easily capable of putting a ball back into play, however, the game can, and will, play too long. Balance the tightness of the tilt with relation to this outlane post, erring on the side of allowing the players to nudge rather than tilt the game.|
Dipswitch 6 set to ON causes bonus X to carryover between balls Dipswitch 7 set to ON causes 20, 40, and 60 super bonus lights to carryover between balls
Dipswitches 6 & 7 allow the player drastically different strategic opportunities depending on whether they are set to ON or OFF. Neither setting is considered “correct”, but if the game is used in a format where players are only permitted to play the game once, or with limited knowledge of how the game was playing for other players, Directors are encouraged to place a sign on the backglass explaining the settings.
Dipswitch 30 controls the attract mode, puts unnecessary stress on the game, and should be set to OFF
|Champion Pub||Bally||1998||If the tilt and boxer mechanism are both too loose, players can shake the machine to score hits on the boxer and win bouts. If the flippers are aligned correctly, the jab ramps should both be makeable depending upon which side of the up-post the ball is resting.||Early in the game, the video mode is worth an exorbitant amount of points compared to the boxing rounds, causing the winners of quick games to be determined not by who is a better “pinball” player but by who catches the most spit in their buckets during this mode. Later in the game after becoming “Pub Champion”, players are permitted to wager significant amounts of points in cash fights, leading to highly unusual and imbalanced situations in a competitive environment. Both of these issues means Champion Pub is a poor choice for competition.|
The locking mechanism can prevent players from earning skillshots in multiplayer games, which can create a critical competitive imbalance between the players involved.
|No||Mid to Casual|
|Checkpoint||Data East||1991||Be sure the left flipper is strong enough to make the ramp from a cradle.||Checkpoint is generally a one-shot game. There is nothing outright wrong with using Checkpoint in a tournament, but many players may prefer to play a game with more varied scoring options. Weigh this consideration as a director with whatever other options you may have.||No||All Levels|
|Cirqus Voltaire||Bally||1997||Install virtual locks. Removing outlane posts on this game is ill-advised. Use Rom Version 2.0H||At higher skill levels, the ringmaster battle can last for an extended period of time. This issue is deep into the game, though, so is only a concern if the game is being used in a repetitive qualifying scenario where players can become very familiar with the shots and rebounds. The Ringmaster battle difficulty can also be set to 100k per hit as opposed to a million, lessening the impact of an extended battle and further balancing with other goals in the game.||No||All Levels|
|Comet||Williams||1985||Be certain both flippers are strong enough to make cycle jump and the corkscrew ramp prior to the tournament beginning.||No||All Levels|
|Congo||Williams||1995||Congo suffers from the 3-switch, valid playfield software situation, but a true scoring exploit has not surfaced yet in any major competition. For the time being, Congo is considered fine for tournament play.||No||All Levels|
|Corvette||Bally||1994||Be sure the flippers are strong enough to make all ramps easily prior to the tournament starting.||No||All Levels|
|Creature from the Black Lagoon||Bally||1992||This game should be set up without rubbers on the outlanes, which is how it shipped from the factory. The tilt should be set loose enough to allow for nudging, but it shouldn’t be so loose that players can overwork the whirlpool and receive endless letters. Four letters for each trip to the whirlpool is reasonable, with some falling short at three and some attaining five.||Creature is a relatively poor game for competition because the random awards can occasionally cause severe imbalances between players. While one player may receive Left Ramp Millions from the snackbar, a very lucrative mode, another play may receive “Hot Pretzel”, which is essentially a big middle finger from the programmer Jeff Johnson to anyone who desperately needs points to save their tournament life. This same imbalance also exists during the multiball sequence when players are required to find the girl in one of three areas. For some players the girl may be in the first cavern they search, while for others she will remain hidden until the third. Unfortunately, there is nothing in currently available software revisions that can be done to fix these and other issues.||No||All Levels|
|CSI||Stern||2008||CSI contains a “valid playfield” exploit which allows a player to repeatedly grow bonus multipliers on the inlanes without risking a drain. This problem is amplified in CSI, because bonus multipliers are a large scoring opportunity.||No||All Levels, be especially wary of Expert divisions|
|Cue Ball Wizard||Gottlieb||1992||No||All Levels|
|Deadly Weapon||Gottlieb||1990||The mystery award is random even in novelty setting which can lead to wild discrepancies in the value of the awards between players in multiplayer games.||No||Casual Only|
|Demolition Man||Williams||1994||Demolition Man is prone to having clean ramps shots spin or “moonwalk” backward out of the inlane into the outlane, ending the player’s ball. This type of behavior can be avoided by laying thin strips of mylar on the ramp (or inlane if necessary) to alter the spin of the ball. A properly setup Demolition Man should never have balls moonwalk out of the inlane no matter how clean the playfield is.||On standard settings, tournament players tend to repeatedly play multiball, choosing Lock Freeze. Disabling the claw via software forces players to vary their play and has met with success in multiple events. This is not a requirement, but a recommendation.||No||All Levels|
|Devil's Dare||Gottlieb||1982||No||All Levels|
|Dirty Harry||Williams||1995||No||All Levels|
|Dr. Dude||Bally||1990||Adjustment 32 sets the jackpot to maximum for all players during competition.||No||All Levels|
|Doctor Who||Bally||1992||The video mode can potentially be a safe way to earn lots of points in Doctor Who, meaning players who employ this strategy will take a very long time and generally not play much physical pinball to go along with the video modes. Unfortunately, there is no way to speed up or avoid the potentially repetitive video mode process.|
Advanced players may be capable of looping the side ramp with such ease that the game will play extremely long.
Doctor Who is an acceptable choice for juniors or less-skilled divisions, but it is not an ideal choice for events where higher caliber players will receive repeated opportunities on the game.
|No||Mid to Casual|
|Dragon||Interflip||1977||The scoring on Dragon is unusual, though it is consistent between all players. Lit pop bumpers are extremely valuable, making the game even more random than most others of this era.||No||All Levels|
|Earthshaker||Williams||1989||To reduce game times, tournament directors can introduce flipper hop by placing a small wad of tape underneath the left flipper rubber. This type of fix is far from ideal, but if Earthshaker must be used and the length of the games to be played is a genuine concern for the format or location, the flipper hop will usually help reduce ball time. Why are you about to use Earthshaker? Do you really want to watch someone shoot a ramp 300 straight times?||Long playing game due to the center-ramp-all-day strategy. The center ramp feeds the left flipper for an easily repeatable shot. The main problem is the center ramp also awards “miles”. After a player reaches the End of the Road mode at 99 miles, the center ramp is then worth 250k points per shot, making it extremely lucrative and reasonably easy to attain for better players. Directors are encouraged to avoid using Earthshaker in any competition that requires extended qualifying.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Eight Ball Champ||Bally Midway||1985||Remove the rubber on the metal post at the top, center of the playfield. The ball will sometimes eject out of the upper right saucer, bounce off of this rubber, and fall back into the saucer. Some games have been known to repeat this process several times, leading to a tremendous scoring advantage.||No||All Levels|
|Eight Ball Deluxe||Bally||1980||Drop Targets should reset with 56k/112k light spotted when completing the DELUXE Stand Ups.|
Switch 23 = off
8-ball Saucer should collect bonus with lit multiplier.
Switch 16 = on
|Elvira & the Party Monsters||Bally||1989||Director’s are encouraged the keep the pitch of this game at or near factory recommendations. In addition to standard tournament settings, the following adjustments should be made to all Elvira machines prior to any competitive event. |
#36 – Jackpot = 4,000,000
#40 – Elvira Letter Memory = Player
#44 – Save Locks = No
#48 – Contest Mode = Yes
|Locks can be stolen between players in a multiplayer match. Also, the flippers will noticeably weaken over time with extended play, meaning if the left ramp is not easily makeable at the start of a lengthy event, it will not be makeable at all by the end. Directors are encouraged to rebuild the flipper mechs and set the pitch of this game correctly prior to an event.||Yes||All Levels|
|Escape from the Lost World||Bally||1987||Be sure the upper right flipper can easily complete the upper play field.||Multiball can be easy to achieve if the saucer on the right side of the playfield is easily accessible, potentially leading to long game times.||No||Mid to Casual|
|F-14 Tomcat||Williams||1987||The kickback should be lit on F-14 at the start of every ball. |
If extra balls are disabled (normal for tournaments), then flight
insurance doesn't function. So if extra balls are disabled, flight
insurance must be as well, or it will tell you are insured when you
Increasing the slope and waxing the game is a good way to add
challenge. Setting multiball to hard is the only other software
setting that is normally in need of changing. If the game is brutal,
there is no need to make it any harder. Tightening up the tilt to a
degree will also increase challenge.
|F-14 will be a fast-playing game in a competitive environment. Players will play for multiball and attempt to spot as many letters as possible on the right orbit.||No||All Levels|
|Fast Draw||Gottlieb||1975||Fast Draw falls in line with many of the other Gottlieb EM’s from the same era and is a solid tournament game.||No||All Levels|
|Fire!||Williams||1987||Ensure the flippers are strong enough to easily make all ramp shots, including the center ramp, prior to the tournament beginning.||Fire! contains lock stealing between players.||Yes||All Levels|
|Firepower||Williams||1980||For tournament play, directors are encouraged to set adjustment 31 to 03 so that targets 1-6 maintain memory and the locks are lit after one completion of the targets. Also, ensure the flippers are strong enough to make the upper lock from a cradle.||Game suffers from lock stealing in multiplayer games.||Yes||All Levels|
|Fish Tales||Williams||1992||Directors are encouraged to widen the outlanes and make the slingshots sensitive. Be certain the plunge goes all the way around the orbit to the left flipper.||Fish Tales is a decent competitive game with multiple strategies, but if it’s set up too easily, the Super Jackpot scoring can ruin the balance of the game. Fish Tales is more acceptable in a tournament’s final rounds, or in an event where players receive few attempts on the game, as opposed to being used in qualifying for an event where players can play repeatedly and learn the angles and rebounds. As players’ familiarity with the specific Fish Tales machine grows, the scoring imbalance with the Super Jackpots becomes more of a potential problem.||No||All Levels|
|Flash Gordon||Bally||1980||Flipper hop on Flash Gordon should be fixed. Dip Switch #16 governs memory on bonus multipliers. Directors are encouraged to leave all posts in and make the tilt somewhat liberal. Players must be able to backhand the single drop target on the upper playfield with the lower right flipper, and ideally players should be able to shoot the plunger lane behind the drop target with either flipper, though the shot is typically much easier with the lower left flipper.||Flash Gordon is difficult, but it’s a solid competition game. Prepare to receive complaints, and when you receive them, tell the players that Flash Gordon is awesome and they don’t know what they’re talking about, and if they complain anymore emperor Ming will crush their souls.||No||All Levels|
|Flintstones||Williams||1994||If the pitch of the game is set incorrectly, the ball has the potential to fall off of the apron ramp below the flippers.||No||All Levels|
|Frankenstein||Sega||1995||In formats where competitors will be allowed to play the game repeatedly, such as the Best-Game or PAPA Qualifying format, Adjustment 53, Ramp Memory, Should be set to HARD. In formats where competitors will only be allowed to play the game once (or a limited, low number of times), this Adjustment should be set to MODERATE. Finally, directors should put a sign on the backglass reminding players they have a choice of music, and while Edgar Winter is certainly awesome in many ways -most especially his flowing white mullet- choosing the orchestral movie music option at the beginning of the game every once in a while will keep scorekeepers from going batshit crazy after listening to Winter’s supersweet guitar riff for 10 straight hours.||Frankenstein is a bit of a one-shot wonder provided the left flipper is strong enough to reach the ramp, though the game is serviceable for competition overall.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Freddy: A Nightmare on Elm Street||Gottlieb||1994||If the interlock switch on the coin door is not disabled, opening this era of Gottlieb games to retrieve a stuck ball will cause them to reset.||If the interlock is not disabled, the game will reset when the coin door is opened during play.||No||All Levels|
|Frontier||Bally||1980||Frontier is typically a fast-playing game without any major adjustments necessary. Chirp! Chirp!||No||All Levels|
|Funhouse||Williams||1990||Be certain the STEPS plunger is aligned correctly and does not rattle the ball off of the inlane opening. Check that the trap door does not cause a clean shot to airball over the switch.||The gears in Rudy’s head are very difficult to replace quickly, and one of them is difficult to find for sale anywhere. If using Funhouse, Directors should have a back-up plan in place or be prepared to deal with this issue should it arise. The difficulty of Funhouse is determined largely by the consistency of the scoop kickout to the right flipper. Because of the relatively short length of games on Funhouse at standard difficulty, Directors are encouraged to ensure the kickout can be either controlled by holding up the left flipper or dead-bounced from the right flipper to the left. If the kickout is inconsistent, the mechanism should be rebuilt. (show video of good and bad funhouse kickouts)||No||All Levels|
|Genesis||Gottlieb||1986||Be sure the vari-target is functioning properly. A clean shot from a cradled right flipper should be able to register the target at its maximum.||No||All Levels|
|Godzilla||Sega||1998||The flippers will grow weaker with extended play during long qualifying sessions. Ensure the right ramp is easily makeable from a cradle on the lower-left flipper prior to the event starting. If the flipper struggles to make this ramp in any way while fresh, it will not be strong enough several hours into qualifying.||Godzilla can be a long-playing game if set too conservatively in a high-caliber event. The option to install lightning flippers is available, but only do so if your tournament involves extended qualifying with top-level players.||No||All Levels|
|Goldeneye||Sega||1996||Goldeneye will be a long-playing game in a competitive environment. The shootout stand-up on the lower-left portion of the playfield can be used to stack kickbacks. Since the “kickback” on this game is a magnet that catches the ball from both outlanes and down the middle, each one represents an extra ball. Players will build these kickbacks until they can play the more dangerous modes in the game with relative immunity. There is no software setting to disable the shootouts, so the shootout target must be disabled beneath the playfield. Also, be sure the setting “Right ramp feeds pops” is set to NO, otherwise the tank coil will take a beating. One alternative to disabling the shootout target is to disable the ball saver magnet instead, though this option has not yet been tested and software compensation may override its usefulness. By disabling the magnet instead of the target, the wizard mode is still theoretically possible to the player, though if you can manage to actually finish the pen mode, you are a better player than the rest of us. Actually, if you can finish the pen mode, make a video of it any send it to Ripley’s Believe it or Not. They will likely put you in their wax museum, which would be a fantastic way to promote pinball to the masses. Also, for the record, PAPA is hereby officially sanctioning the Ripley’s wax museum.||No||All Levels|
|Guns and Roses||Data East||1994||The ball will occasionally be hang on the habitrail above the vertical upkicker if the game’s pitch is too steep. Difficulty can be adjusted by using yellow posts to guard the Add Band Member saucer on the right and by making other standard adjustments.||No||All Levels|
|Harlem Globetrotters||Bally||1978||Players will need to tap-pass from both right to left and left to right. If using Harlem Globetrotters, Directors are encouraged to check the flippers and make ensure they are capable of tap-passing in both directions.||No||All Levels|
|High Speed||Williams||1986||Be sure the upper right flipper is strong enough to make the ramp consistently.||High Speed has a progressive jackpot that builds from player to player. Directors are encouraged to install modified roms that standardize the jackpot among all players during competition.||No||All Levels|
|Independence Day||Sega||1996||Do not set multiball difficulty to harder than factory. This will further encourage players to use the left lane strategy.||Top players’ strategy is to shoot the left lane repeatedly for an award that builds to a large F-14 Hurry Up, resulting in very long play time. A gate in the top right allows balls shot along the top inner loop to come around repeatedly make sure this gate is working, or players will unfairly be able to get larger bonuses for shooting the top lanes and bumpers.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Indianapolis 500||Bally||1995||Indy 500 has a software bug that sometimes surfaces when the turbo isn’t loading balls correctly. When this software bug surfaces, it is possible to begin two multiballs at once, and it will also rarely give one additional ball saver to the affected player, which is deemed a beneficial malfunction. When this bug surfaces at PAPA, officials have allowed the current game to play out, though the game should be reset before another game is started.||No||All Levels|
|Iron Man||Stern||2010||Keep the tilt reasonably loose. The game’s design encourages dangerous shots and nudging, so ball times are generally on the short side as long as the outlane posts are not set at their minimum. There is little reason to make this game “tilty” or more difficult than it already is.||No||All Levels|
|Jack*Bot||Williams||1995||Set casino run specials to award 500m. Ensure the kickout from the mode saucer is consistent and saveable.||Expert players will attempt to use the valid playfield switch exploit during this game, but aside from lengthening the average game time, this exploit hasn’t been shown to cause any major, repeatable imbalance or competitive problem.||No||All Levels|
|Johnny Mnemonic||Williams||1995||Factory default settings generally should be fine, since the game plays quickly.||Players tend to shoot for the “Spinner Millions” feature above anything else, since it dominates the scoring. Consider making it more difficult to spin the spinner by using a weight, or (at an extreme) replacing the spinner with a switch that only registers once.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Joker Poker||Gottlieb||1978||Changing specials to award extra balls is an option. If you do this, though, replays will also award extra balls, extending play at specific scores. Therefore, you may not want to set specials to award extra balls.||The extra ball target must be physically disabled to remove this feature. Based on Joker Poker’s difficulty and its skill-based extra ball, consider leaving extra balls on for competition play.||No||All Levels|
|Jokerz||Williams||1988||The ramp shots are critical during the “double your score” mode. Be sure the flippers are strong enough to make both easily.||Inducing a ball search while cradling a ball on the flippers will cause the center ramp to cycle and become accessible, giving players the opportunity to safely repeat multiball without having to shoot the standup targets. Current PAPA rules state inducing a ball search in order to gain any type of benefit is illegal.||Yes||All Levels|
|Judge Dredd||Bally||1993||Some expert players will abuse the scoring features of the left ramp, causing the game to become very one-dimensional.||No||Show caution when using in Expert Divisions|
|Jungle Queen||Gottlieb||1977||Players may become frustrated and scream loudly at this game. Otherwise, there are no major competitive issues.||No||All Levels|
|Kings of Steel||Bally Midway||1984||If Kings of Right Target must be used, disconnect the standup on the far right side of the playfield and put a note on the backglass explaining the change to players.||Kings of Steel will play extremely long and is not recommended for a competitive environment. The standup target on the right side of this playfield is worth far too many points. Players will do nothing but shoot this target repeatedly, and the better players will manage to roll the score display, some more than once.||No||Casual|
|Last Action Hero||Data East||1993||Adjustment 41 set to OFF disables the shaker motor.||Disable the smart missile in competitive play.||No||All Levels|
|Lord of the Rings||Stern||2003||Many Lord of the Rings machines have trouble with the up-post in the rear of the machine diverting orbit shots into the Orthanc tower. This issue can be a problem in War of the Ents and other modes where right orbit shots are critical. The mechanism can be made more effective by adding a washer where it screws onto the bottom of the playfield and angling the post forward. If aligned correctly, this adjustment will push the post farther into the orbit and give it a greater opportunity to divert the pinball. Directors are encouraged to set the KEEP letters to turn on and off with each rollover (Adjustment #4 , Extra Hard), and to set the Cave Trolls sequence to OFF (Adjustment #33 , Off). The Destroy the Ring mode should also be set for one-ball as opposed to the standard two. The inlane posts should not have any rubbers on them. The fuse controlling the Ring magnet is frequently blown on this game. Directors are encouraged to check F20 to make sure it is working correctly (250v 4amp Slow Blow).||Lord of the Rings will be a long playing game in a competitive environment unless it is set up correctly. If long gametime’s are a concern, focus on making the slingshots extremely sensitive and consider lowering the pitch to induce more lateral motion and making the ball more difficult to cradle.||No||All Levels|
|The Machine: Bride of Pinbot||Williams||1991||Software settings can be used to lower the percentages of the billion point award as well as the jackpot on the small wheel. A second tactic would be to raise the billion point shot to its highest frequency.||Bride of Pinbot will be a long playing game in a competitive environment. Whether Bride of Pinbot is a usable competition game is determined by the software settings. If set to factory, players will shoot the left ramp repeatedly in hopes of achieving the billion-point award. The billion point award in this game is random and extremely unbalanced, and therefore very unfair in a competitive setting.||No||Casual|
|Medieval Madness||Williams||1997||The difficulty of Medieval Madness is determined by the sensitivity of the slingshots, the size of the post guarding the castle-lock and the consistency of the castle kickout to the left orbit. If all three of these are set generously, the game will play for a long time. The good news is that increasing the difficulty of any of these three, or all three in subtle degrees, will make Medieval Madness a good competition game. If changing the post guarding the castle-lock, the maximum difficulty used should be the standard yellow post. The larger-style tapered post is too difficult and will cause players to avoid the castle multiball entirely, which changes the strategy of the game in an undesirable way. (show picture of different posts installed on medieval) The castle kickout can be altered by adjusting the angle of the mechanism beneath the playfield. The more consistently the castle kickout rebounds off of the metal guide, the easier the setup. Because the castle sequence includes an uncontrollable shot to the lowered castle gate, and players will voluntarily put themselves in peril by shooting at it, directors are encouraged make the castle kickout as reasonable as possible and increase the game’s difficulty in other ways.Installing thicker posts to guard the ramps will do little to lower the gametime in relation to the other issues previously discussed. It will, however, be an obvious bastardization and potentially upset players for little gain.As with altering the difficulty of all pinball machines, the slingshots will make more of a difference than any other adjustment. Begin by adjusting them prior to making any other changes.||The catapult coil will become weak during extended play (12+ hours) and will cause the ball to return to the player via the left ramp, a significantly more dangerous feed than the standard catapult sequence. Any tournament with a steady qualifying line that lasts all day should upgrade this coil prior to the event or be prepared to address it at the players’ request.||No||All Levels|
|Metallica||Stern||2013||Valid playfield must be enabled as a tournament setting.||If the orbit post in the back of the game is not perfectly level with the playfield, balls have a tendency to stick in this location when rolling slowly through the orbit. This issue frequently arises during multiball. One potential fix is to disable the post in the menu settings, hoping it allows balls to pass through the orbit at a higher speed more frequently.||No||All Levels|
|Monopoly||Stern||2001||If you ever find a Monopoly pinball on location, walk up to it in attract mode (the machine is just sitting there without a game started) and press the flippers in the following order. Both - 1x, left - 7x, right - 1x, left - 4x, right - 1x, left - 4x, right - 2x. Merry Christmas. ~Courtesy of Greg Dunlap||No||All Levels|
|Monster Bash||Williams||1998||Be sure the scoop kickout is aligned properly.||Flipper codes can potentially break Lyman’s Lament in a multiplayer game, but flipper codes should be against the rules in all competition anyway.||No||All Levels|
|Mousin Around||Bally||1989||Mousin Around suffers from one-dimensional scoring strategies related to the center ramp. If the game is not modified in some way to eliminate or bypass this switch, it should not be used in expert divisions.||No||All Levels, pending center ramp adjustments|
|NBA||Stern||2009||The magnet on the backboard can be adjusted forward or back to make shots more likely to stick. Each game is different and needs to be adjusted appropriately so players receive as high a percentage of shots as possible.||Aside from frequent stuck balls, there is no major reason why NBA shouldn’t be used in a tournament.||No||All Levels|
|NBA Fastbreak||Bally||1997||Official PAPA rules declare championship rings are worth an additional 100 points to a player’s score. If your event does not award these extra points, ensure the final mode requalifies everything and the number of jets for hoop-awards are fixed at a low number.||No||All Levels|
|Nitro Ground Shaker||Bally||1978||No||All Levels|
|No Good Gofers||Williams||1997||A full plunge from the shooter lane should send the ball up the side ramp.||No Good Gofers has several bugs that make the game a poor competitive choice. Examples include but are not limited to: Free lock award can cause problems during subsequent multiballs after a player has scored a super jackpot. Bud will sometimes block the ramp during ripoff. Quick Jackpot award from the wheel does not always score correctly. Cart Attack scoring can become unbalanced and score 50m.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Paragon||Bally||1978||Tap-passing on this era of Bally is crucial and Paragon is no exception. The tap pass should work well in both directions, but especially from the lower left flipper to the lower right. Some Paragon’s have a plastic piece guarding the extra ball saucer at the end of the upper left orbit. If this plastic causes rejections from the saucer, Directors should consider removing it entirely.||No||All Levels|
|Pin*bot||Williams||1986||Ensure the saucer kickout is consistent and saveable.||No||All Levels|
|Pirates of the Caribbean||Stern||2006||Difficulty on Pirates of the Caribbean is determined, in addition to standard adjustments, by the Port Royal software setting (Feature Adjustment #3) and the return feed from the center ship. Disabling the post guarding the return feed from the ship will cause the ball to return in a far more dangerous, random manner. Directors are encouraged to utilize these two unusual adjustments as a last resort and rarely together.||No||All Levels|
|Radical!||Bally||1990||This game contains lock stealing between players. Due to the unusually difficult ball-lock procedure, we recommend this game is only used in single-player scenarios. Outside of using custom roms, if they are available, no major modifications need to be made to Radical in a competitive environment.||Many of the awards, including the Mega Millions Jackpot, are random. The scoring discrepancy in the Mega Millions jackpot between players is a major concern for competitive play. Directors are encouraged to install modified roms that lock the jackpot value at 5million. Directors are also encouraged to skateboard more and scream Radical when anyone manages to shoot the lane at the top center of the playfield.||Yes||All Levels, Recommended Single Player Only|
|Ripley’s Believe it or Not||Stern||2003||BOZO letters should reset between players. Make short plunging as difficult as possible by using a harder spring, or by tightening the slingshots.||The valid playfield switch exploit can be used to award certain scoop awards that unbalance the scoring. In addition to unbalancing the scoring, this technique can also cause the game to take an extremely long time to complete. The worst offender of the the valid playfield scoop exploit is the North America mode, which is known to offer jackpots as high as 64 million per shot. Utilizing the exploit to this extreme level in a competition scenario is highly unlikely, though if the feed out of the scoop is consistent, 2 or 4 million per shot is not unreasonable for above-average players to achieve. Nevertheless, even while the exploit in question exists, it is difficult enough to achieve that Ripley’s Believe it or Not is still a fine tournament game for the vast majority of competitive pinball situations.||No||All Levels|
|Scared Stiff||Bally||1996||Adjustments 08, 09, 10, and 11 govern the game’s ball savers. Adjustments 16 and 17 govern the difficulty of the multiballs. Directors should make decisions that are correct for their own style of event. Before making any adjustments, however, consider that the Coffin multiball is a controlled shot whereas the Crate multiball is not. Consider the ball save at the beginning of the game is not the same as the ball save at the beginning of a multiballthe former is given, the latter is an award that is earned as part of a multiball. Standard tournament setup for this game would be a default Crate multiball setup with a difficult Coffin multiball setup. Both multiballs would have short ball savers, but the initial plunge would not.||Scared Stiff has no obvious tournament issues, though it can potentially be a long playing game depending on setup decisions.||No||All Levels|
|Shadow||Bally||1994||Directors are encouraged to leave the posts guarding the right ramp and start mode saucer at factory difficulty. Long game times on the Shadow are rarely a concern regardless of setup. Ensure all switches on the battlefield are working correctly.||2-way combo scoring from the left orbit to upper loop can create a scoring imbalance if easily repeatable. Most players are generally not capable of exploiting the imbalance, however, and many Shadows make this strategy difficult due to their inherent setup, slope, and speed, so the Shadow, regardless of 2-way combo scoring, remains a good game for all levels of competition.||No||All Levels|
|Skateball||Bally||1980||The inlane switch on the right side should be cut or modified to stop players from rolling a ball over it safely from a cradle position. Also, the extra ball should be set on easy, with no extra balls awarded, to keep players from repeatedly collecting the 100k saucer.||No||All Levels|
|Solar Fire||Williams||1981||As with most games from this era containing two playfields, Solar Fire can potentially be a long-playing game in a competitive environment.||Yes||All Levels|
|Sopranos||Stern||2005||Consider adding a red plunger spring to potentially reduce the valid switch exploit. Increase slingshot sensitivity to reduce long ball times.||Like many Sterns, Sopranos suffers from the valid-playfield switch exploit. The effect on gameplay is minimal for all but the most skilled players.||No||All Levels|
|Sorcerer||Williams||1985||Directors are encouraged to install a yellow post on the lock-ramp and remove the outlane rubbers.||Sorcerer can be an extremely long-playing game in any event that includes qualifying or repetitive play. Director’s are encouraged to guard the lock-ramp with a yellow post at a minimum and to avoid using Sorcerer if possible in any event that will give top-level players extended opportunities to play. If set difficult, using Sorcerer in finals or normal bracket tournaments is acceptable, but it still runs the risk of being a long-playing game. This game also contains lock stealing between players in a multiplayer game.||Yes||Mid to Casual|
|Spectrum||Bally||1981||Remove legs, bolts, fold down the head, and wheel it back to the truck.||Spectrum suffers from a highly unusual competitive layout, causing games to last an exorbitant amount of time in a competitive environment when compared to other games from the same era. In addition to the playfield layout leading to exorbitant game times from average to expert players, potentially causing backups in tournament queueing systems or scheduling, Spectrum’s scoring strategies are obscure to new players, making it a poor choice for novice divisions as well. When all factors are considered, tournaments are encouraged to find a better option.||No||Casual|
|Spy Hunter||Bally||1984||Spy Hunter is a terrible game for competition. Players will cradle the ball on the lower right flipper and backhand the saucer repeatedly. Directors are encouraged to avoid this game entirely in any competitive format.||No||Casual|
|Star Trek Next Generation||Williams||1993||The pitch must be at or near factory recommendations, or the ball launch will struggle to reach the rear drop target after extended play.||Star Trek Next Generation has a lot of positives, but some of the competitive strategies for the game can be repetitive and dull. The value of reaching the Final Frontier is so high, players may choose to time out modes, leading to lots of waiting. A second strategy is to shoot the Beta ramp repeatedly and play holodecks, a video mode which has a memorizable sequence and is worth a significant number of points when completed correctly.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Star Light||Williams||1984||Star Light is an abnormally long playing game in a competitive environment. If Star Light must be used, directors are encouraged to remove the rubbers on the outlane posts, and at events with high caliber players, consider removing the outlane posts entirely. The sensitivity of the slingshots should also be increased.||No||All Levels|
|Stars||Stern||1978||Stars will be a fast-playing game timewise in competition (as is any game with a primarily open playfield that induces lateral movement). A quote from Brian Bannon comes to mind after he played Stars with no outlane or center posts during PAPA 14 Classics. “I love Stars. But that’s not Stars.” Brian could not have been more correct. Directors are encouraged to leave all posts in this game, and if anything, set them to make the game easier. Stars will never be a time concern under any circumstances. When cradling a ball, some players will pass the ball off of the center post by letting it roll off of the lowered flipper and nudging when the ball contacts the center post. This pass can be very convenient along the way to gathering stars and, if set properly by the director, will make Stars far more playable and raise scores. (show video of center post pass)||No||All Levels|
|Star Wars||Data East||1992||If Star Wars must be used, align the right flipper so that repeating the ramp on the fly is not possible. Make sure a ball exiting the scoop on the left does not bounce off of the left flipper when held upright back into the scoop.||Star Wars is an extremely long playing game in a competitive environment. The center ramp is easily repeatable, awards large amounts of points, and spots Force awards which are also worth significant points. For these reasons, Star Wars is a poor competitive choice when using factory code. New code has been written that addresses some of these issues, but it is currently untested in competition. Greedo deserved it.||No||Casual|
|Strange Science||Bally Midway||1986||The only way to make this game competition-friendly is by keeping the pitch low, installing stronger flipper coils or upgraded flipper mechs, and ensuring players can easily knock a ball back through the Atom Smasher to start a two ball multiball. This helps to reduce the lock carry-over issue since it becomes far more likely players will attempt to start 2-ball or 3-ball multiballs as opposed to having everyone playing for the same shared 5-ball scoring-fest. Stronger flippers also help to ensure more feeds from the anti-gravity ramp make it the whole way around the volt-meter to feed the upper flipper. The more consistent this feed is to the upper flipper the better the game plays. Also, the monkey on this backglass is clearly the more sane of the two shown.||The upper flipper is frequently incapable of loading the Atom Smasher. The lower right flipper is also frequently incapable of knocking a locked ball free of the atom smasher. Locked balls carry over both between players AND between games. If a player does manage to start multiball, he or she will likely win due to the extremely unbalanced nature of multiball scoring.||Yes||Casual|
|Super Orbit||Gottlieb||1983||No||All Levels|
|Surf 'n Safari||Gottlieb||1991||Surf 'n Safari is the most fun, challenging game ever created that features a crocodile with a Jamaican accent. To make SnS suitable for high-level competition, the following changes are recommended:|
* Add grommets to the coil stops or bend the back end of the flipper bracket inward slightly to shorten the flipper throw and prevent the dreaded System 3 "Catch All" flipper effect.
* Plug the Plunge hole. Use a plastic plug or duct tape or anything that works and doesn't introduce ball hanges. The Plunge awards are unbalanced and can give one player "absolutely nothing" and another player instant multiball, a completed column, or millions of points. Notes: 1) With the Plunge hole removed, its VUK wireform can also optionally be removed with no effect on gameply; 2) If you are unable or unwilling to plug your Plunge hole, the Catch Up can and should be disabled in the menu.
* Set DOUBLE to start at DO on each ball. DOUBLE works like MUSTANG letters in Mustang and RANSOM letters in Black Knight 2000, but note that there's no option for it to start at the same place per player per game -- just per ball.
* Remove the outlane switches. The Exit award (lit via one shot in each of the slides or at the start of the game depending on settings) is another source of widely unbalanced awards. Note that the outlane ball save will also be disabled when the outlane switches are removed. In conjunction with the Plunge award being disabled and no plunge feeding directly to a flipper, the elimination of the outlane ball save will significantly reduce average ball times.
* Remove the Exit Award bulbs to make it more clear to players that no ball save or Exit Award.
* Optionally, turn on Novelty mode so normal extra balls and specials are worth points.
|Tales from the Crypt||Data East||1993||Be sure the spinners are working well. The flipper coils on this game will become weaker with extended use due to heat. Be sure the cabinet has proper ventilation.||Tales from the Crypt will be an average to longer playing game in a competitive environment. CPU code 3.03 fixes an issue where the video mode is worth excessive points. All directors are encouraged to update their software. The tombstone target is often a problem. The mechanism will fluctuate between being too sensitive and not registering clean hits because of flex in the target design.||No||All Levels|
|Tales of the Arabian Nights||Williams||1996||Making significant modifications is never ideal, but if Tales of the Arabian Nights must be used in an event with top-level players, Directors are encouraged to disable or deaden the lower pop bumper and make the following adjustments: #06|
Free Ride Timer , Off #07
Shooting Star Difficulty , Hard #08
Shooting Star Memory , No
|Skillful players will be capable of battling the genie for a significant amount of time. If the feed out of the pop bumpers is consistent and controllable, players will repeatedly shoot the left orbit and build Harem multiball to high levels, exposing a scoring imbalance and making the game extremely long playing and monotonous. Tales of the Arabian Nights is a good game in competition for Juniors banks or less skilled players, but it will be abused as the talent level increases and should not be used in any tournament where top-level players will have the opportunity to play it unless significant modifications are made.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Target Pool||Gottlieb||1969||Target Pool is typically a fast-playing game without any major adjustments necessary. Be sure to test all of the stand-up switches prior to the event. Be sure the flippers are strong enough to easily send the ball back to the upper portion of the playfield.||No||All Levels|
|Taxi||Williams||1988||The difficulty of a Taxi is closely related to how difficult the left ramp is to shoot successfully. If a clean shot from a cradle on the right flipper only barely makes it around the ramp, the flippers will not be strong enough for any tournament that requires qualifying on the machine. Directors are encouraged to be proactive and doublecheck and/or rebuild the flipper mechs on this game prior to the tournament to ensure the left ramp can be completed consistently.||Taxi suffers from lock-stealing issues in multiplayer games, though on this particular game the concern for this problem is minimal. The flipper coils on this game will weaken with extended play due to heat.||Yes||All Levels|
|Terminator 2||Williams||1991||Directors are encouraged to leave the center post in Terminator 2. Difficulty should be adjusted by widening outlanes and adjusting sling sensitivity.||Terminator 2 software contains bugs that can potentially be devastating to a competitive game. Known bugs include: 255 drop target hits to multiball, and a multiball bug that may occur when a ball is locked with zero seconds left on the timer causing a string of odd behavior from the game.||No||Casual, Software Bugs|
|Terminator 3||Stern||2003||There is little room for a director to adjust the difficulty of the ramp shots. Difficulty is determined by sling sensitivity and outlane posts.||Terminator 3 tends to play too long if left at factory difficulty.||No||All Levels|
|Theatre of Magic||Bally||1995||Basement award should be set to 15 million with no mystery award.||Expert players have been known to abuse the left orbit / ramp to the point of causing problems time-wise for tournaments. For this reason, Theatre of Magic is an acceptable choice for juniors or less-skilled divisions, but it is not an ideal choice for events where higher caliber players will receive repeated opportunities on the game.||No||All Levels|
|Title Fight||Gottlieb||1990||Title Fight is a ball-buster. The loop on the upper right portion of this game is worth too many points when repeated and makes Title Fight a poor competitive choice.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Transformers||Stern||2011||The Optimus Prime target has a tendency to not work correctly. Ensure it is working well prior to competition. Also, make sure autoplunged balls end up in the jets and not in the super-skillshot lane. If the autoplunge does not feed the pop bumpers at the start of multiball, the player cannot light jackpots until all balls have been kicked out.||Transformers has a tendency to play too long in a tournament setting if left at or near factory difficulty.||No||All Levels|
|Tron||Stern||2011||No unusual adjustments are necessary. Manage difficulty through outlanes and slingshot sensitivity.||If the game leans to the right and is set with no ball saver, players may complain when balls that are short-plunged drain down the right outlane. This is a very minor concern, however, since players retain multiple options off of the plunge and are in full control of how their ball begins. A very short ball saver can be added at the Director’s discretion.||No||All Levels|
|TX-Sector||Gottlieb||1988||There isn’t much on TX-Sector that is adjustable, and that is fine. Directors are encouraged to leave the game somewhat close to factory settings. Even the best players in the world will not be able to abuse this game on a consistent basis.||Tournament Directors should be aware the right outlane has an opening that can feed a ball back to the shooter lane during multiball. If a ball does become stuck in the shooter lane during multiball, rules state the player must treat it as a stuck ball and plunge it immediately so as not to gain an advantage. The large drop target guarding the left ramp is unique and directors are encouraged to have this spare part on hand. (insert picture of shooter lane opening and drop target)||No||All Levels|
|Twilight Zone||Bally||1993||To reduce the randomness of the powerball, one normal pinball should be removed from the game, and the number of balls in the gumball should be reduced from 3 to 2. A second option is to remove the powerball entirely and set Adjustment #26 (No Powerball) to YES. The argument for removing the powerball entirely is that it eliminates randomness, the argument against removing it is that it changes a major feature of the game too drastically and that leaving it but lowering the number of balls in the gumball machine is fair enough. The difficulty of Twilight Zone is determined primarily by the consistency of the slot machine kickout and the left outlane. Consistent kickouts are preferred in all instances. Directors are encouraged to leave the outlane post on the left in the game unless removing it is absolutely necessary.||The game’s allocation of the powerball is somewhat random.||No||All Levels|
|Vegas||Gottlieb||1990||Playfield multipliers (white drop targets) in the upper right portion of the playfield count toward the untimed left orbit million shot. A multiplied, maxed left orbit shot can be repeated easily and is wildly out of balance with other scoring in the game, making Vegas a poor competitive choice.||No||Mid to Casual|
|Whirlwind||Williams||1990||Full plunges from the shooter lane should go smoothly around the upper loop to feed the upper flipper.||Some players may attempt to “ramp out” similar to how the ramp is abused in Earthshaker, though the shot in Whirlwind is slightly more difficult and less lucrative, meaning the strategy is less of a concern. The common objective in Whirlwind is multiball jackpots. Multiball is achieved by shooting stand-up targets placed around the playfield. On any game where the main strategy forces a player into an uncontrollable shot, such as these stand-up targets, there should be less emphasis on widening outlanes or making the game more difficult. Players are already putting themselves in peril every time they attempt to advance toward multiball. With extra balls turned on, Whirlwind can be a long-playing game, but in a tournament setup where only three balls are played, Directors are encouraged to leave the game reasonable with respect to outlanes and sling sensitivity. Even long-playing, three-ball games of Whirlwind in a competitive environment are typically shorter than many other DMD games. Directors should also consider rebuilding the upper right flipper mechanism (or even upgrading it to a 6209 coil) to ensure the jackpot ramp is consistently makeable. Increasing the effectiveness of the upper flipper will do little to increase game times, but it will certainly increase the potential for high scores and added excitement.||No||All Levels|
|Whitewater||Williams||1993||Repetitive use of the central vertical up-kicker during multi-day events could potentially lead to issues. Directors are encouraged to double-check this mechanism to ensure it is working properly. The lost-mine kickout on the left side of the game does a great deal to determine the game’s difficulty. If this kickout is easily controllable, individual gametime could increase significantly. Notes on Roms: The LH-6 home ROM is not recommended, despite the small bugs it fixes, because the mode timer does not count down during animations, making the 5X playfield + multiball (or Bigfoot Hotfoot) even more lopsided than normal. The LH-5 ROM does not award bonus hold correctly.||No||All Levels|
|Wizard of Oz||Jersey Jack||2013||Ramp lock will occasionally release two balls instead of one, giving the player an unfair advantage of two balls on the playfield during single ball play.||No||All Levels|
|World Cup Soccer||Bally||1994||World Cup Soccer requires only standard adjustments for competitive play. The kickback should be strong enough to send a ball hard off of the soccer ball. The left flipper should be strong enough to make the right ramp from a cradle.||Some Directors have argued the extra ball button lighting a jackpot should be disabled, but standard practice is to leave it functional. Directors should post a note on the backglass if the feature has been disabled.||No||All Levels|
|X-men||Stern||2012||Enable virtual lock. Turn off Iceman ramp on LE version of the game.||No||All Levels|