The Pinball Arcade Has Run Out Of Tilts
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
Once upon a time on the PC platform, FarSight Studios developed a virtual pinball simulator that took players back to a simpler time when arcades ruled the roost. By some miracle on a wing and a prayer, they were able to secure licensing rights to timeless pinball machines from Williams, Gottlieb, Bally, and Stern, and make the execution as lifelike as possible.
Of that sacrifice, The Pinball Arcade was born.
As a newfound entry into the pinball genre, The Pinball Arcade became the go-to title for all that wanted to return to their homegrown flipper roots. Control options were plentiful; whether you used a keyboard, a mouse, or a controller, all were supported. Tables began to be divided into seasons, and as the arcade grew, multiplayer even came to be supported.
So far, so good, but no player could breathe easy yet.
While the control schematic was engaging and intuitive for novice and expert alike, all suffered under the challenges implemented to set the title apart from its lessers. In fact, a talking point amongst fans revolved around very few being able to measure up to the high requirement of points that The Pinball Arcade required to earn for the simplest of tasks.
This included, but was not limited to, earning extra balls, continues, or single player achievements. Nonetheless, The Pinball Arcade maintained its fun factor as those with the will and a backup controller, attempting to make their way to hall of fame greatness.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. Players dove head first into table flashbacks of their choice and set about hours and hours of self-accomplishment, while completely ignoring the ever present problems of glitches (which could severely affect the functionality of flippers), table crashes, and blue screens of death, for all were ecstatic to have such a top shelf pinball game at their disposal.
All was well until The Pinball Arcade got older and grew in popularity. True fans and casual players alike hid their disdain of being taken advantage of on forum sites, as updates required new tables to be purchased by players, and not merely added. That was just the beginning of the adamant frustrations that plagued the fun factor.
Individual tables gave way to a canonical “seasons” based system, which increased the price point for purchase for the entire table collection. Multiplayer and subsequent leaderboards became the emphasis point on the title’s website, versus single player initiatives and personal trophy accolades.
Like all things that mature out of its original control, the title grew too quickly and expanded too fast. Suddenly, FarSight Studios focused their attention on mobile platforms, and eventually current generation consoles, while neglecting their attention away from Windows. And that would have been fine, had the PC platform not been left saddled with bugs and neglected of crucial updates available for rival systems.
The modding community took their love of the entry into their own hands, and started tinkering with self-made options across all platforms, beginning with the PC platform first. The end result exploited the bugs players had been left with and created mods such as infinite balls, unlimited points, and even continues. Suddenly, the ability to conquer the arcade was at our fingertips.
Trainers were not needed; all mods could be used via the infamous Cheat Engine. Fans cheered in unison at the ability to have a throwback moment equivalent to using a Game Genie.
Such a great accomplishment did not come without a price; FarSight Studios took high offense at all the mods occurring throughout the platforms and chose the Windows platform to punish the hardest for such insolence. The long sought out updates were rolled out ad-nausea; these were mandatory to continue playing and not optional.
Sadly, the updates patched all modifications made to the game and destroyed all the progress made by the modding community to enhance The Pinball Arcade fun factor. Ironically, the mobile platforms got carte blanche; at the time of this writing all modifications for the mobile platform are alive and well and have not been permanently patched. In fact, mods continue per update regardless of the updated patches.
As The Pinball Arcade spread to other devices, consoles, and the like, the PC Platform was left behind, standing in line hoping for even a morsel in new tables or updates. By that point, other competitors had arrived on the scene with new engines and branded property tables that attracted the long forgotten fan base that could easily let The Pinball Arcade hold their own against them.
Gladly, the core fan base moved on to more suitable alternatives, leaving The Pinball Arcade behind in the dust bin. But it’s not like anybody at FarSight Studios cared or even noticed as their attention lain elsewhere outside of the PC platform. And that is fine. No one likes being punished for mods when mobile platforms flaunt it in the scorned faces of the PC platform. No one likes being pushed and shoved aside in the name of profit margin progress, nor sent into perpetual promise isolation like fans waiting on Half-Life 3.
Time waits for no flipper, and The Pinball Arcade learned that the hard way that once the tilt hits, its game over.