Game Creation Log – A Fiery Pinball

TANK holding a fiery pinballWhile I’m waiting for Apple to approve “Project: Salvage”, I figured that I should stay productive. It’s been tough to decide what’s the best project for me to work on. I decided to create a pinball game. Some might think that this is a waste of time, as it’s been done before or it’s not the hot thing on the App Store. Yet, I disagree. Pinball games are fun and I was having trouble finding one that I liked — either for Mac or iOS. So, I decided to make my own.

Yeah, maybe my motives for this project are not quite aligned with reality. I want to build a pinball game that I like, something that I would want to play. Shouldn’t greed be the real motivation here? Shouldn’t I be building something that will sell like hot cakes? Well, that’s the theory here. I’m aiming to build a pinball game that’s so much fun, people will want to buy it. There’s some things that I’ve learned from building BOT and I’m applying it to this project. Additionally, there are some things that I’d like to see in a pinball game.

  • Keep It Simple — The controls have to be easy. Today’s gamers are not as patient or forgiving. That’s why I picked pinball. A Fiery Pinball is going to be simply to control… touch the left side of the screen to move the left flippers, touch the right side of the screen to move the right flippers.
  • Make It Easy — Pinball is a notoriously difficult game in the Arcades, but this isn’t the arcades. If the player is overwhelmed with difficulty, then they won’t want to play. Since I’m not trying to get players to feed quarters into the game, I can let them play longer. It shouldn’t be too easy, but the difficulty should gradually increase. I’ve designed the table to have multiple places where the pinball could fall, but most of these spots will be closed initially. I’m also considering adding a kickback and making the flippers fairly large.
  • Explosions — The game should be flashy. Since this is a video game, I’m going to try doing things that can’t be done with a real pinball game. The most obvious is a flaming pinball, but I’m also thinking of adding lots of explosions. I don’t want to get too crazy, but this game is called “A Fiery Pinball”. The game should live up to its name. Collecting points should be flashy too. The game should be very encouraging when a difficult shot is achieved.
  • Let There Be Light – I think this was a problem with my previous pinball games. There wasn’t any clear objective. That’s why I think there should be lots of lights. I’m going to give players targets to hit. That also means instructional lights, highlighting which targets to hit next.

I haven’t decided where I should put the multiball activator, but I think the game needs multiball. With the “Secret Admirer” pinball game, I liked the system. I noticed that when I play virtual pinball games, I tend to reset the game after one ball. The reason for this has to do with the score. If I feel I didn’t have a strong enough start, I’m wasting my time trying to beat previous high scores. Since this game will have Game Center Leaderboards, I don’t want the players to feel bad if they lost the ball. Instead, there should always be the possibility that this game could be the one that breaks records — at least while the ball is still in play.

The way to get extra balls is by activating multiball. This will be unlimited. Players won’t have to save their extra balls for some point in the future. The action should happen now!

There are some other features that I’m considering… nudging/tilt, ball levels (bigger flame), animated enemies and voice overs. It depends how ambitious I get with the project and how comfortable the feature feels. When I play virtual pinball games, the voice acting gets annoying after a while. As for nudging, it usually leads to the game shutting down and displaying the word “tilt” on the screen. So, I don’t usually use it.

Adding features that players won’t use or won’t like is a waste of time. Some might say that about this whole project, but I think otherwise. I think the trick is to push the medium. While staying true to the game of pinball, I can add uncommon features — stuff that’s popular in video games, but not normally associated with virtual pinball.

It was a tough start, but now I’m starting to enjoy the project. I think that’s how I know I’m going in the right direction. :)