Sunday, August 15, 2010

Attack from Mars

I fixed (I hope) a nagging problem on my pinball machine today - replaced the opto sensor for the saucer trough so that it can detect balls again.  This is good, because previously, the game would pause six seconds and then flail around trying to find the ball every time it goes down there.

I managed to complete several tasks to do this:

  • Figured out where to find non-Williams replacement sensor boards - non-trivial, because the manufacturer has been out of business for some time.
  • Removed the broken sensors without breaking anything else
  • Soldered the replacements ones into place, crossed my fingers, and turned it back on
My soldering skills are shaky at best (I won't be posting glamor shots of my silvery beads, let's say), but the game works again, and I've found that any job I complete successfully that requires soldering is one that I'm inordinately proud of - my burnt fingers are a badge of honor.

From a game design standpoint, this is a really well-designed pinball game.  It's fun for beginners, because there is obvious stuff to hit, lots of forgiving help, including a long ball saver, and a great sense of humor in the graphics and sound. Even people who've never played any pinball before end up having fun, laughing, and scoring hundreds of millions of points (the point scoring is ridiculous - my high is about 34 billion).  It's also really fun for more experienced players, because it's got six big goals (some relatively simple, some really, really hard) to complete to get to the final battle with the Martians, which I only manage to do about once in every 30-40 games or so, making it quite elusive.  Lots to learn there about designing other games, too - depth, theme, humor, and a variety of well-balanced overlapping goals.

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