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The Care And Feeding Of New Authors

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tiltjlp

PN co-founder
I would think that just about everyone in VP will agree we have way too few authors, much less new authors. And many of our new authors announce new projects, often their first tables, and abandon them, never finishing them. There might be a variety of reasons, I’m sure, but I wonder if maybe a major reason isn’t a lack of interest shown by most of us. From statistics provided by lio at VPF just today, there are roughly fifty active members posting regularly at VPF, and much less than that at shivaSite, VPO, and PN.

Now with that small of a regular audience of active members it’s probably not surprising many WIP and release threads are never even replied to. But especially newer authors are in need of both encouragement and positive feedback. But a lot of established authors also seldom have their releases acknowledged. Part of this surely is due to the fact that the majority of members are interested only in VPM tables, but even EM offerings by anyone other than the leading few authors tend to be ignored.

Interestingly, original authors seem to get much more of a response at VPO, so Rockinghorse, Anthias, and Snarkpit are really providing an author-friendly environment. Several new authors who work only on originals have found they are welcomed and nurtured. And while I’m not much of a fan of beta releases, a number of VPO based authors have found a receptive and helpful audience there. Those same authors, when sharing their work at VPF usually find that nobody is the least bit interested.

And when it comes to flipperless authors, the silence can be deafening. While there are several authors who release both flippered and flipperless, Patrick and I are the only authors working exclusively and proficiently in that area. There are a few other authors who work only in flipperless, but their releases are few and far between. Hopefully we will be joined by a second author who will be working mostly in flipperless, which would be a welcome surprise.

Now I realize that there is less interest in flipperless and novelty work than any other variety of tables, and I honestly make my tables, and I’m sure Patrick does too, for ourselves. But still, a little feedback and acknowledgement would be nice. Our novelty tables and games do seem to get a little notice, but for the most part, those flipperless releases of our are ignored. That didn’t surprise me when I was making bagatelle, but now that I’ve begun working on a variety of commercial coin-op flipperless, the response is pretty much the same.

I’m honestly not complaining about that, although it can be disheartening. I’m simply using myself and Patrick as a way to illustrate the overall problem, that most authors other than the few leading authors, are ignored. Patrick and I’ll keep working together on what we love, so that’s no problem at all. But I could name at least a half dozen new authors who have had one release, gotten virtually no encouragement and simply were never heard from again. And there are maybe even more new authors who have started work on a table and posted a WIP, had it totally ignored and simply gave up.

A while back I used the term Glad Handing, meaning those cookie cutter, one sentence responses to WIP posting. What I had said was not friendly or kind. But I’m going to make a 180 degree reversal in my stance on Glad Handing. Every positive comment, no matter how short, should be welcomed. Hell, sometimes I’d be glad to even see a negative comment about my work, at least that would let me know that there is someone who cares enough to notice my work. Although I don’t need compliments to continue working on flipperless and novelty games, we all like to feel appreciated.

Again, this really isn’t an attempt to get recognition for my work. Instead, this is a plea for us as a community, as small as our active membership is, to provide encouragement and recognition to our newer authors, so that they keep on working on projects. Admittedly, many first efforts fall a bit short in overall quality, but with some recognition, a lot of these new authors will learn as they go along, and might just surprise us all with some truly outstanding and glorious work later down the road. I could mention a few authors who have blossomed into first class table designers but I won’t, simply because I don’t want to list everyone, and wouldn’t want to overlook anyone.

Now I’m not suggesting that you start reading every forum at VPF, or at any of the other forums. What I am suggesting, though, is that if you run across either a WIP or release thread that impresses you, that you consider making a short comment. Even if it’s something like “Hey that looks cool” go ahead and post that, so at least the author knows that someone gives a tinker’s damn. While it would be nice if I got more feedback, I really can live without if I have too. But a new author who could some day become our next Eala or Scapino, or heaven forbid, even our next Pacdude, might not keep developing if their first few efforts are met with a deadly silence.

Over the 3 ½ years I’ve been around VP, we’ve probably lost more talented and promising authors than we now have still working. Some left for other reasons, but some probably did leave because no one thanked them for their efforts, and no one offered the least bit of encouragement. Let’s all try to make sure we don’t turn our collective backs an any more new authors. And why not offer some feedback now and again to one of our established authors. A few minutes out of our day might just grow us a few more authors.

John
 
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Rockinghorse

Pinball Player
Too true John,

" Admittedly, many first efforts fall a bit short in overall quality, " I know what that's like. I still feel a bit inferior when you consider the abilities of a number of authors, both Original and Re-creation / VPM. I have to say, however, that even though the general populace of any of the forums haven't been particularly vocal over the years, there are always those you can count on to give you some kind of encouragement. Whether it's a full critique of your work, or a "That's nice", it all helps in one way or another.

I have to admit that I don't post in anywhere near as many threads as I used to at any of the forums. Administration seems to do that to you. I will say, however, that I try to read as many posts as I can. I always click the "new posts" link on each site. I find myself doing most of my work at VPO nowadays but I never fail to visit all the sites EVERY time I log onto the net.

Anyway, I agree that we should be encouraging ALL authors but we should also be encouraging the "Players" as well. Without people to download and play our tables we wouldn't have a very active VP world at all. I like to think that if we can get just one percent of those "Players" at least interested in the idea of making a table of their own we have done well.

So, that's my bit. The rest, as they say, "is up to you". (meaning everybody)

C Ya

RH
 

Rockinghorse

Pinball Player
Another point I have noticed we have at www.vp-originals.com that others don't. You have a symbol at the top right of all your PN threads which looks like a clock. We have the same symbol but it does a completely different function. Here it monitors the thread so that you can be alerted to any new posts in that thread. At VPO, that symbol brings up a list of everyone who has opened the thread, how many times they've looked and also when they last looked. It even takes note of Guest views (anonymous).

Give this a try next time you visit www.vp-originals.com and you'll see just who visits your, and other's, posts.

C Ya

RH
 

gocism

Inserted Coin
Site Supporters
I posted this on VP Forums before the topic went off on a tangent. Ignore of reply if you've read it all ready.

Greetings.

I'm a newbie even though I registered a long time ago. The reason it took me so long to get started is that back when I registered I couldn't get the program to work.

Why do I mention this? Because of the learning curve associated with this program. I know, from the posts I've read, that VP is a lot easier than it was in the past (that's how I got it to work.) However, what's still intimidating is hammering out a machine by looking at the tutorials, the manuals and searching through script to find out how something works and still coming out with a machine that has bugs and looks like poopie compared to the guru's of this genre.

The second problem for me is that I like playing more than creating. That's my fault. I do research for instance into what trends pinball was following in 1984 for a VP of Rush's tenth anniversary (I have put the 2112 table on hold, my first attempt VP) and I end up downloading and playing every VP the pinball database comes up with.

I like giving feedback and have done so on occasion. I even sent something to PacDude about his Firepower (superb rendition) that mentioned it's fantastic recreation. I just realized he sent me a reply (sorry PacDude, I never noticed till now) that helped me figure out how some of the switches work.

Tiltjlp (or Wolf) had sent me a emails with encouragement and links to assist in learning this art and they've been very helpful. I've downloaded and printed up the script for Blazing Trail which brings me to another obstacle, script language.

The experience folks out there know there's more than one way to skin a cat, or to create several sets of drop targets. I first started out using a script example from the handbook, then found a different one from Shivasite. I'm still not sure what I did wrong and I honestly haven't put in enough time to figure it out, but only the last set of drop targets resets when any of the other sets or the last set drop.

So, in a nutshell. The games are great, I have a hard time stopping myself from playing them and working on my own projects. When I work on my own projects the learning curve, for me at least, is daunting. What ever I do create looks like something far inferior to those of the VP sages.

Yes, some cheese would be great with my whine.

Hope this helps. Corrected copy.

__________________
Playing since I was tall enough to look over the playfield.
 

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
I agree that it's not easy getting started making tables, but it's not impossible, or I couldn't do it. I knew nothing about scripting when I started, and still don't know that much. But I have a few suggestions that might help if you'd really like to try again. But then there's nothing wrong with just playing the tables and offering comments now and again.

BJ made his How-To Series, which is five tables each covering one feature. They are basic, and that's how BJ intended them. Also, a lot of templates I've seen are either fairly advanced, or offer little or no explaintion of the script. My Flipperless Starter Kit has nine different tables, and some of them are fully commented, so you'll know what each small piece of script does. And the code works on any table, not just flipperless.

Among the features that you can learn from my tables are collections, a pop-up rules box, kickers, adjustable plunger speed, and tilting. If you're at all like me, I can't learn just by copying code from one table to another, I need to know how and why. But the best way to learn is to practice. Download a few tables you like to play, and take a look at the script. Find the code for the bumpers, or the targets, and see if you can make sense of that.

It sounds like you're more into VPM, but it would probably be a bit easier to look at some late EMs, which don't seem as involved as VPM tables are. But the whole key is to have fun, so if you don't have fun making tables, playing is cool too. Without players, we'd be awful loney around here.

John
 

StevOz

Administrator
Staff member
Site Supporters
Actually VP Table creation is a three pronged the way I see it. Many have a go with the editor and with a bit of application a rather good understanding of the editor can be gained and a nice layout can be modelled, though that is only the table skelton, so as to speak. Then one needs some sort of graphics skills to adorn the skelton with a graphical body. Then comes the clinch without a working script you have no table at all.

I think to create a table one must know and relise all these three, you need to have some understanding of all three to succeed. For myself I have come to know the editor well and have past programming experience in BASIC, so scripting was just another slant on programming in BASIC. I have very basic graphics skills, though get by with my knowledge of how one can use VP to render certain things. My biggest obstacle to table creation is myself being more of a player, then a maker and the sin of sloth of which few can be as guilty of as I.

My only table thus far Blazing Trail, which I saw through to it's end and tried to give back as an example and document as best I could. Still my scripting maybe somewhat advanced given my programming experience and the extensive use of collections. If you are to make sense of my script you need to look into the collection manager to know how it all works together.

I've only just started to get my next table together now and here's me thinking it would be easier second time round. Still the new creation is coming along, I feel I have created the best animated pop bumpers yet, though perhaps the most annoyingly difficult table also, they just kinda evolve and tring to tame them is another task.

Anyhows I welcome feedback and try to give it when I can, heck I've even been responsible for a few bug fixes, even helped Leo out once, though he never acknowledged it, PacDude did, I'm in his table info in Roadshow, oh and on Scapinos Strike n Spares, for a mere suggestion, that man is the Gent! :)

Still I feel most if not all get there feet wet, few learn to swim and I'm not so sure it's the commentary in any WIP that has anything much to do with it. Then again I know I need every comment I can get to keep me interested in the task at hand, the more comments the more likely I will complete my next project sooner rather then later, either way it will still happen, though perhaps that's just me.
 

gocism

Inserted Coin
Site Supporters
Thanks Tiltjlp

The "sin of sloth" as SteveOz so aptly put it, is my biggest weakness next to playing the pins. I'd like to comment on more of the games and I will. It's the least I can do for a new hobby that's made my Xbox jelous and the cleaning (and replacing lights, flipper assemblies, bumper rebuilding) of the Highspeed in the garage a distant second in hobby priorities. I can't think of anything that's been more fun to me than playing game after game of EM's early SS's and the later DM's. I like some of the flipperless ones to. Their challenges are different, but still enjoyable. The Playboy sim on the Xbox is a very fun game. The one that I will work eventually on is from a blueprint I drew 25 years ago.

I do have a question that may help others. When is it considered the best time to show others how far you are on a pin you're working on? I can post what I've got so far on the 2112 machine, bugs, bad scripting and all, but I feel like I'm handing in grade school work to college professors. If no one cares then it won't bother me either.

I have to thank SteveOz for a very well scripted Blazing Trail. I know the answer to my drop target problems lies in there somewhere and I will ask if I can't figure it out.
 

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
There really no hard and fast rule on that. What I'd suggest is that if you want suggestions on the layout or the graphics, you should post something fairly early, and the best place is at shivaSite's Developer's forum, unless it's flipperless, than the best place is right here. If you simply want to show what you're working on, you can wait until the table is complete, except for the coding. To be honest, I don't think you'll get much response at VPF for wahtever reason, but you should get some response here, at shivas, and at VPO, especially if you're working on an original.

So I guess the answer is to post a wip whenever you feel it's the right time. And if you need help along the way, just ask and there should be someone who can help you. Now if it's a scripting question, don't expect to hear from me, since that's my weakest area. And while not everyone seems so all the time, most of us are nice enough folks.

John
 

Greywolf

Perfectionist Bastard
I can't help but zero in one thing here regarding "Gladhanding".

While positive words of encouragement are helpful, they still require substance to back them if they are to make a difference. Someone who says "Great table, thanks!" and gives me nothing else to go on is providing me as useful a criticism as "Your table sucks.", period, end of sentence and
no more.

When I put tables out there to play, yes, I'm rising to a challenge: The one I put forth to myself and anyone else who would accept it.

-> Recreate faithfully. <-

I'm going tangential here for a moment. When I heard that Defender was coming out for the Atari 5200 and/or the Atari 400 computer, I was jazzed and very excited. It was something to look forward to.

Then I tried it.

Where were the '500' icons floating around when I caught a man? And what was with the sounds?

Joust yielded something of the same disappointment, although the physics and gameplay were much more spot on.

I avoided recreations like the plague after that because most people didn't take them sufficiently to heart. I was overjoyed when MAME came out as a full-fledged emulator - i discovered it AFTER I had obtained the Windows 95 Arcade Classics from Williams.

Once I got my hands on VP, I started looking for tables, and I found very few faithful recreations of old tables. As mentioned in my docs for emCORE, if the recreations in VP were to be taken as examples, they would have you believe that all machines sounded like Gottliebs from 1971, that bonus got counted in one lump sum, that 500 points made a single 'ding' sound, that even if double bonus was on, it sounded like it only got counted once, and the like.

And need I mention attract modes? Come on.

So naturally, I gravitated toward the VPM tables a bit at first. Then Cutter granted me Firepower and I ran with it, and for what I was capable of at the time, I think I put a pretty decent version out, followed by more improvements through 1.8 where I had really done the best I could.

Looking at it now, there's a lot that needs fixing. It will never be the reel-based version that is PacDude's just because of my own personal preference, but that's just me, and i repeat myself.

Then I set out on a quest to acquire all the VP machines I thought I would want to play, starting with the EMs Between 1970 and 1979 alone is a pretty tall list -- there's 143 Gottliebs (94 desirable/unique), 64 Ballys and probably 23 Williams.

Somewhere between Firepower and collecting, I wrote a set of routines by which I could make Bally machines sound like Ballys. The first import into my set was Aladdin's Castle, because I started with 'A', not because it meant anything special -- in fact, I'd never played the machine before. Imagine my surprise when I asked the original author if I could do a script and partial graphics update, and he decided to coach me on its workings as well as providing me with some decent source material.

Well, back to now. I ran with it and eventually came up with what is out there now.

The only thing I ask in return for a download is a comment. The more meaningful, the better, because it means that I can potentially improve the table in question. So, the upshot is that while I'm glad that people enjoy what they get, if anyone has any problems or criticisms, I invite them. If I can address them, I do; if I can't, I point out why I'm not inclined or able to fix them. After all, I can't please everybody.

I have, for example, concluded that the configuration system of old -- OK/Cancel from rules after game over after getting a black eye from being run over by a herd of elephants and a baby zebra on Tuesday 4 July between 3:55 and 4:00 in the afternoon -- was a bit cumbersome, so I revised it. People have asked for this as well, and while I cannot make it as nice as the VPMDips, it is functional and, if you're brave, adjustable. I can't do the framing/buttons/checkboxes because it depends on the presence of something which provides such a framework. VP does not. VPM does, but I'm not going to force people to load VPM just so they can have nice little checkboxes for configurations.

But it's still better than it was.

You get the idea...
 

PacDude

Pinball Wizard
I'm not sure I'd call my Firepower table "reel based". The only reels in Firepower are for the scoring displays, the backbox lights and the credit apron light. The playfield and playfield lights are walls, drop walls and decals. Ah, I think I've got reels for the rollover triggers now, but they're not terribly important. I'll probably put a reel-based plunger in there sooner or later, but it's just eye candy.
 

bob

Add-a-ball specialist
Site Supporters
Greywolf said:
I can't help but zero in one thing here regarding "Gladhanding".

While positive words of encouragement are helpful, they still require substance to back them if they are to make a difference. Someone who says "Great table, thanks!" and gives me nothing else to go on is providing me as useful a criticism as "Your table sucks.", period, end of sentence and
no more.

I totally disagree with this... If someone downloads a table and plays and enjoys it, they OWE it to the author to thank him or give him a thumbs up. Most members can't give helpful tips and most authors DON'T download other tables just so they can give opinions, most only comment on the screenshot and in my opinion that is a waste of everyone's time. I personally think we need MORE normal players comments and LESS of the useless comments from authors who many times are just pushing one of their tables while pretending to comment on the table release thread.

On the other hand... If I were a moderator, I would [EDIT] a "Your table sucks!" post

I personally spend over 100 hours on every table I make and I feel like I'm wasting my time releasing them to the community. I know in advance who is going to comment in my release threads, except for maybe 1 or 2 replies. It's nice to hear "Glad Handing" once in awhile from a new person.

I know I don't make recreations, but there's a reason for that... I'm not wasting over 100 hours of my time just so PD or Scapino can make my version useless. I think this is one of the biggest reasons you don't see many new or old authors making recreations.

Plus, I really like making my original tables, I make them exactly the way I want them. I can't help it if most people suck at playing VP and I also think very few people use the nudge keys. Flipper skill and nudging are very important for someone to actually enjoy some of my tables. :)

So if any newbies or other nonauthors are reading this... COMMENT on the tables you like and you'll see more of them. We're just a bunch of big kids and everyone knows you have to reward good behavior (or tables in this case)

Happy commenting :D
 
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