April 19

News : What You Need To Know About The New ‘Ghostbusters’ Pinball Machine : Forbes / Tech

An lengthy article written by Forbes magazine in its tech section about the new Stern pinball Ghost Busters and its creator John Trudeau.


Faced with the rise of video games and the fall of the arcade, just a few years ago it seemed like the pinball industry seemed on its way out.

Things sure have changed. Today, pinball is undergoing a renaissance as new manufacturing startups enter the scene, competitive leagues spread throughout the country, and game designers begin to experiment with the classic formula. Case in point: The new Ghostbusters pinball machine (yes, it’s based on the original movie and not the reboot), which comes from Stern pinball, the oldest and largest company still making the games. To get a better understanding of the new game, I spoke to designer John Trudeau—an industry veteran who created classic games such as Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Machine: Bride of Pinbot—about what it was like making the game, and where the industry is headed.

So, tell me about the new Ghostbusters game.

Let’s see. What’s not new on this? We really had a great subject to work with. The movie was just full of material that translates really well to a game. Our question on developing the game was more or less what to leave out. We had a good time with it, that’s for sure. The genesis from the movie to the game was fairly smooth, actually. We have a couple of new features that we brought in that were perfect for the ghosts. We have magnetic slingshots that don’t have any physical moving parts. We put a magnet under the play field to pull the ball away from the rubber band instead of having a kicker in there. It looks like the ghosts control everything. We also have an EctoGoggles feature, which actually gives you, the player, an image on the playfield that’s kind of holographic. You see an animated ghost of some style. We’re still  playing on it as far as what we want to put in there, but you can shoot the ball right through the image. It’s pretty nice to see. You’re looking through a two-way mirror, essentially. You’re seeing the reflection of a LCD screen that’s actually above the play field. 

It’s the Pepper’s ghost illusion, right?

I believe that’s what it’s called, yes.

It’s becoming standard to release multiple versions of the game. You’ve got the less expensive pro and then the premium/limited edition versions. Do you start with the basic model and then add on features for the premium ones, or do you start with the dream machine and then see what you need to strip away for the less expensive one? Which direction does it typically go?

Personally, I go with designing the full-boat game. It’s much easier to pull things out than it is to make space for something to go in. I’ll start with full-boat version, and then we’ll pick and choose and fight our wars that way as far as the budget’s concerned.

Games these days are sort of iterative processes, even after their release, with code updates often adding new features. Do you usually know exactly what the code road map’s going to be when you first release it, or do you leave some wiggle room as people play with it, and you figure out what might work?

Pretty much both. We have a vision on top of where we want to go with it. Just X amount of time in order to get an operational game, and the goal is to get an operational game out, and then finish up all the little features that didn’t make it that we wanted to get in there originally, and then the updates come. Sometimes, not very often, if we get feedback and if we find something relevant that maybe would improve the game, it’s very possible that they could get pushed into a revision, too.

Pinball in the past couple of years has suddenly become very popular again. What’s it like to suddenly see this world suddenly become bigger than it’s been in a very long time?

It’s nice. I was around for the ’80s and ’90s when we were really putting out some fantastic games. Then I was also around when I got let go and I wasn’t producing any games for a number of years, and was fortunate enough to come back here at Stern. They picked me up off the street, from the gutter, and said, “How would you like to make pinball machines again?” I said, “Oh, okay.” I jumped at the chance, of course.

Read the rest of the article here:

Thanks to Forbes and Seth Porges for the article and pics :