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It's only my opinion . . . but I'm right


PN co-founder
Testing . . . Testing

I have brought this up before, and I’ll probably bring it up in the future, since either the people who need to read and heed my opinion haven’t read any of my comments, or assume I am talking about other folks. My comments never seem to meet with a lot of agreement but that’s fine, most of us geniuses are used to being snubbed a lot. While there are some exceptions, for the most part I don’t play pinball to test, or help troubleshot, someone else’s work. This applies doubly to originals. And again, there are of course exceptions, such as Monkey Island, where everyone was clamoring to play it, finished or not. This tendency seems to focus more on originals than recreations, and surely more with VP than VPM tables. And to be honest, I have downloaded few if any table where the author says the table is incomplete, or doesn’t quite play right. Of course, some authors unfinished or beta tables are hidden gems, but most aren’t.

Now a release that is missing graphics, where the author asks if anyone has advice or suggestions, I’ll bite every time, unless I know from past experience that the author doesn’t really want my opinion, or anyone else’s. There are some authors who will post a WIP SS and ask for input, and again, if I feel I have something worthwhile to offer, I’ll comment. But if an author solicits advice I’m not going to post “Hey cool, look groovy”, because that won’t be of any help to the author, and post count doesn’t mean a thing to me. Now personally I no longer do WIP posts, simply because not many folks are that interested in bagatelle or flipperless, and so why waste my time and effort. I’m not at all bitter, simply being a bit realistic.

Another kind of author I find interesting, and we seem to have a few, is the one who posts a WIP SS, saying he or she wants some suggestions. Seems that they’re carrying on a conversation with themselves. I’m not sure if they ever take advice, since they never seem to respond directly to anyone’s comments. Rather they mention other ideas they have for the table, which is sort of a rejection of the suggestion that had been offered. So I’m now looking at a lot fewer WIP threads than I once did. I don’t need to have my suggestions used, but if they have been requested, it would be nice to have them acknowledged, at least. And if some of my advice, or possibly features from one of my tables becomes part of a new table, a small thanks in the release post would be nice. As far as giving me credit in the script or on the table, that isn’t needed unless I actually am involved in the table.

But I’ve allowed myself to become side tracked from my primary topic, which is the lack of proper testing a lot of tables seem to undergo before releasing. Now there are some exceptions to my rule that “No table shall be released before its time”. Each of our forums offer Help Clinics of some sort for authors, intended for newer developers, but useful and available for any author. I realize that incomplete tables might be required for help to be provided in these situations.

What I’m fussing about are all the unfinished tables which are released, and then promptly ignored, abandoned, or forgotten by the author. Some folks think that the future of VP belongs to Originals, but I have my doubts. First of all, the quality of the average original needs to improve. Some authors have the idea that lots of ramps, bonuses, modes, and a ton of loud music makes a table outstanding. Now all that might be nice if that’s what you want your table to be like. But none of that makes for a first class release, not by a long shot. But a good solid layout and smooth ball flow will go a long way in making a table noteworthy. Two recent example of outstanding original releases are Starman’s Jigglebox and shiva’s Trigon. As unalike as could be, both games are excellent example of well designed and well tested efforts. I was asked to help test them, and Starman and shiva both used suggestions and advice offered them, and ended up with first class tables.

Now shiva took over three years to complete Trigon, and I think Starman took close to a year. Too often, newer authors, in their enthusiasm, will rush a table and release in a few short weeks or even days. Now some authors have a knack of working quickly, Bon comes to mind. Using starter templates and experience, they have developed a system that works for them. Most every seasoned author has created their own templates and shortcuts, and some I know even have testing down to a science. The less experience an author has, the more anxious they are to share their work, which often results in rushing, which often results in mistakes that are overlooked. Since few if any of us are talented in all areas of table design, many of us would benefit from working with one or more partners. VPM authors seem to help one another out more than VP authors, and it shows in the quality of most VPM games.

Some original authors seem to think that layout and gameplay is secondary to music packs and bright flashing lights, but those are all simply glitz. Try removing the graphics and turning off your speakers, so you can concentrate on the game itself. This will show you the quality of your game, and that’s what is the important factor of any table.

Another gauge that tells me there isn’t nearly as much testing going on nowadays as in the past is that before I had to leave the VP scene, I would usually be testing a half dozen or more tables at any given time for other authors. Now I seldom test a table a month. Not that I expect every author to ask me to test their work, but I do have a reputation for testing tables even more intently than their authors do. Just ask Mr Staypuft about the way I tested his table. Now, while I was gone, a lot of new folks found VP, and some of them don’t know me from Adam, so I can’t expect them to send me their work to test. But if you do need a through and dedicated tester, just ask. Now, since I’m mostly involved in flipperless you might think I can’t test any other kinds of tables, but I’ll test most anything sent to me at zifbob@peoplepc.com, although I reserve the right to say no if a table doesn’t interest me. And I have more than enough projects to keep me busy, so I’m just offering to help.

Now, I seldom use testers for the bagatelle and flipperless jobs Patrick and I work on together, since those are usually fairly simple and straight forward. And since Patrick is a coding whiz, I don’t need to bug other folks for scripting help. But when I do need a table tested, I’m not shy about asking. Now it may be true that too many cooks spoil the broth, but I believe that flying solo building tables can cause problems, especially for newer authors. IRPinball releases some of the best EM tables there are, and one reason is that they test each others work, so if it’s good enough for them, it should prove something.

While I’ve focused on originals, recreations need every bit as much testing, and maybe even more. Tables with a pre-defined set of rules often can give an author fits, since everything has to be just so. I can tell you, since I approve many of the tables uploaded to Pinball Nirvana, that attention to detail is just as important with older recreations too. There are a few authors who don’t seem to do enough testing, since they have to release fixes for most every table. I’ve learned which authors usually upload second and third versions of their work, and simply wait a few days before I approve their uploads.

Sure, we’re all hobbyists, so we need to be both supportive and forgiving, but that only goes so far. Just as there are authors whose tables I always download, there are a few that I simply never download. Some of those are because I don’t care for their work, or the era of tables they make. But some of them I don’t download because experience tells me their tables will be buggy as all get out, because they simply don’t take the time to make quality tables, and don’t do enough testing.

Now it stands to reason, the fewer bug fixes an author has to make, the better reputation he or she will have. And while it might not seem important, we all want to be thought of well by our peers. You might be wondering what it matters to me if you are considered a top notch author, or a no talent bum. Actually if wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have such a passion for VP. But we have a precious few authors, and with a lot of them fairly new, I’d like to see them get started the right way. Every time someone who is new to VP downloads a buggy table that simply is a piece of unplayable junk, it reflects poorly on every author.

So in a very real sense, we should all do whatever we can to make each other look good. And there are a few things we can do to help each other shine. Make well thought out suggestions when someone asks for help of advice. But even more important, offer to test table for authors, especially if a WIP looks like it is going to be a winner. Sure, in a way we’re all in competition against each other. But more so, we’re all in the game of making tables, in the hopes of sharing our best efforts with the public every time someone new discovers any of the VP sites.

So why not figure that we have to make the best impression we can with each and every table any of us release. Because when a first time visitor downloads a table, if it’s a buggy piece of junk, what is he going to think? Maybe they’re passionate about pinball and will download another table. But maybe they will be disgusted and frustrated, and assume that every table is junk. I really want every new visitor to one of our sites to think they have found the greatest entertainment anywhere, because that’s how I feel about VP. So why not take your time on the table you are working on now. What’s an extra week or two to test a table matter. You simply have to wait a bit longer to have folks pat you on the back and tell you how neat your new table is. And if that extra week or two helps you fix a bug or two, your table will be just that much better.

Sure, maybe testing your table isn’t your idea of fun. It just so happens that I enjoy testing tables even more than making them, so maybe I’m weird. But if a bit more testing means your tables really shine, isn’t worth the effort? Wouldn’t it feel great to be mentioned with the top authors, such as Pacdude, Destruk, Eala, Scapino, Bendigo, and Starman, just to name a few? Maybe you never will be, but if you put more time and effort into every one of your tables, just possibly people will notice. Think about it.

John :oldman


Pinball Nudger
I couldn't agree more with your comments, John.

I was lucky when I discovered VP, in that the first tables I downloaded were Leon Spalding tables. I thought, wow this is great, I'm going to download more. Likewise, the first VPM tables that I downloaded were Pacdudes. Both authors release quality product. I fell in love with the VP/VPM scene instantly.

Who knows what may have happened if the first tables I downloaded were rubbish, perhaps I would have continued (surfing) on my merry way, never finding out about how great VP/VPM is, also never finding out how great most of the folk are in the VP/VPM community.

A classic example of a lack of testing would be a recently (and much anticipated) released VPM table. In the very first game I played I had a ball stuck at the top of the plunger lane, I had a multi-ball that had to be manually plunged into play. The second game saw a ball fly off a ramp into who knows where, never to be seen again. Obviously there was no testing done on this table, I'd be surprised if the author even played the 'finished' table before releasing it. This table should not have passed go, should not have collected the 200 bucks, in fact it should have been sent straight to jail.

I have plenty of spare time on my hands and I am willing to be a table tester for any author who needs help. I can't offer any advice on how to improve graphics or fix scripting but I can smack that silver ball around for hours, making sure that it doesn't get stuck/lost anywhere and offer advice on gameplay.



PN co-founder
I'll keep you in mind Grand Slam. Actually you're the sort of tester we need more of, an experienced player who can find problems with a layout or the way the ball flows. Up to a point, game play is a lot more important than how a table looks, or the sounds. Sure, you need everything for a top notch game, but I think too many of the tables I see focus more on special effects and music than on making them a all around solid table.



PN co-founder
Right now I'm pretty well covered as far as testing goes, vpin, but I'll surely keep you in mind. So practice you nudging buddy.