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Thoughts on table making and testing, even for originals


PN co-founder
A number of folks have voiced the opinion that the future of VP lies in the hands of authors of original tables. While I’m not sure I completely agree, originals are and will continue to be an important area of VP development. But it seems like a fewer number of authors of any kinds of tables are still on the scene. One reason I think originals authors lose interest, or burn out, is that they basically remake the same table, time and again. I have seen many of our new authors, new meaning the six months to a year after the being working on tables, release several tables which all have exactly the same features, the exact same kind of sounds and music, the only thing that changes may be the layout, and of course the graphics.

A lot of criticism has been aimed at Wrenchien since his first release, and for a while, my voice was as loud as anyone’s. But I enjoyed reading his entertaining table release stories, and I finally tried one of his tables. As unusual as his artwork is, I eventually decided that his tables, which I now equate to those dime store toy pins I used to buy as a boy, are a fun way to let go of tension and stress. And the main reason I do enjoy Wrench tables is because none of them are the same, ever those serial table sets add enough gadgets and feature to be unique. No, I’m not saying he is one of our best designers, but he must have fun making his toys, and that is reflected in his tables. They might be gaudy and even a bit goofy, compared to the “VP Standard†but so what. If you never have, read one of his release stories, and tell me it isn’t entertaining. So why wouldn’t his tables be the same way? And since all authors, I sure did, make their tables first and foremost for themselves, I think jumping on any one person isn’t kosher.

I’ll use my 8 or 9 tables as an example, simply because I know them, to illustrate some points. Except for my two versions of Bronco Buster, all my tables are different from one another. I can tell you that although the Bronco Busters look alike, they don’t play alike, and there are a lot of differences below the surface. While PooshFinal and Reactions are both bagatelles, I dare say Reactions is like any other bagatelle. And with Poosh Final, Nissananimal and I decided to make it kid friendly, and enhanced it with unique sounds and images, and the ball was a large marble. One reason my tables are so unalike is that I was lucky enough to work with a number of partners. So if you are feeling burnt out, try something different, and maybe consider working with a partner for a table or two. Since I’m the world’s lousiest scripter, I need partners who can code. I focused on pin and object placement and refinement, and so much testing I drove my partners crazy.

Which brings up another problem area, IMNSHO, testing. There simply isn’t nearly enough testing done. Being Druadic’s one and only tester, I always drove him up the walls, because he never released a table until I gave the OK, and where he wanted a two or three day test, I insisted on two or three weeks, at the very least. Unless you play a test table hundreds, thousands of times you can’t know it well enough to catch any glitches, or know how you can make it an ever better release. As hard as it may be to believe, I tested Reactions Bagatelle for nearly a year after it was completed, playing well over 5,000 games. And without coding help from both Druadic and BJ, it never would have seen light of day. Thanks again fellows.

So if you do a public beta test, or do your testing with fellow authors on a private basis, test until the cows come home, you will have fewer Fixed re-releases, and you’ll build a much better reputation. I’ll know the folks at IRPinball do tons of testing, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that all of the leading authors over-test rather than under-test. With them, they’ve been at it so long they have it all down to a science, and reuse elements whenever they can, which cuts down on foul-ups. And as I’ve said before, I’ll test any flipperless table I’m asked to. And as for flippered tables, you can still ask, but I reserve the right to say No Thank You. Now, I won’t be upset if I’m not overwhelmed with requests to test tables, it simply an offer. But no matter who does the testing, test the stuffing’s out of you tables.

Now I’m not trying to act like a Know It All, but I know from various experiences that you always need to test your work, no matter what kind it is. I’m a professional editor, have been for over 30 years. But I’ve also been a professional writer for 50 years. While I’m semi-retired from editing, my client list over the years would indicate that I know editing. But guess what, I still have someone, a fellow writer and editor, do a final edit on everything I write for publication. You simply can not be the best judge of the quality of your own work. So don’t be too shy about asking other authors, or even other members who have said they like your work, to do a little testing for you.

If you read this with an open mind, and not take the attitude that you are better than all this, in the long run, we’ll end up with higher quality original tables, and maybe we’ll have fewer authors going into retirement, or simply burning out. And while I prefer tables with both fewer ramps and flippers, I can and do play and enjoy well designed and well tested tables. Now, what I see as a distraction to many Originals Authors is too much of a focus on music. Sounds and even music can add to a table, but only if the table is already well designed, well laid out, and very well tested. No amount of music will make a poorly made table play well, or be more popular. That’s my take on table making in general, and originals in particular.



Pinball Wizard
Even Wrenchien hasn't released as many tables lately. It's been slower lately in VP world, not so many good news. If the XP bug could be fixed somehow it could give a new spark to this community. At this point I couldn't care less if someone hacked VP and fixed it.

I personally think Wrenchien is a loon, but definitely a good loon. I mean, all his stories and table ideas aren't creatures of someone "normal". I have always pictured him as some kind of "mad pinball scientist". If he was making art he might as well be a millionaire. Great guy, great VP character. He says he doesn't smoke anything but I find that hard to believe. :)


PN co-founder
Anything that makes it harder to work with the VP Editor will surely put a damper on things. My fix for the XP SP2 problem, and one that an earlier update caused was to use System restore to put my computer back the way it was on August 6th. Maybe it's not the best fix in the long run, but for now it's better than having a handful of program not work properly.

And just when fewer tables are being made, and in spite of saying I was retired, Nissananimal and I are back slowly working on our Bagatelle, Buddy Bowling. It's a WIP, but a very slow evolving WIP, since we've been fooling with it now for about 2 1/2 years. Take a look below. As for a release date, whenever. We have to finish it, and then I have to test it for a L O N G time. Maybe the same week Will returns.

And if any of you think you've seen this before, you have a good memory indeed.



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Add-a-ball specialist
Site Supporters
Testing tables is overrated... IF you do everything yourself, because then you are constantly testing, at least my way of doing it anyway :) I do a little layout and then add a little graphics and then a little code and then my bumper works. I keep it simple, I don't make some complex layout with ridiculous modes and then try to make it all work out when I'm done with a limited programming ability.

But what I really wanted to say here is... Authors make last minute changes and then upload a table that has new errors or bugs created by these last minute changes. I NEVER upload a table until I haven't made any changes on it for 24 hrs after the latest changes. If I move 1 pixel, then that's another 24 hrs I wait to upload.

Now about authors whose tables are similar... I actually don't mind this if there is something new or different on the tables. My tables have slowly been progressing into a halfway decent table that combines everything I've learned along the way. I made DareDevil in about 10 days :) Even Wrench who started a table with the same layout was impressed and replied something like "damn Bob, you're faster than me :) I try a few new things along the way, but I'm getting really good at cutting and pasting stuff from my earlier tables.

I don't know how anyone can work on a table for months and months... I get bored with the table and I get pissed with the editor. I guess if I actually worked on more than 1 table at a time it might be different, but I like finishing a table and then I'm ready to push buttons, either flipper buttons or some poor VPF member whose button seems to need pushing :)


PN co-founder
Some good points Bob. Since I can't code my way out of a paper bag, I always work with someone as a partner. And in the past, I usually had at least a dozen tables in the works. I also used to test a ton of tables for other folks, so at least for me, that's why releases involving me were so far and in between.

And I think with true bagatelle recareations, it is a rough job to get the pins placed exactly right, and then to get the ball to react correctly as they impact the pins. Of course, the fact that I'm a tinkerer at heart adds to the testing, which for me is my favorite part of making tables.

Everyone has to work in whatever way they think is best. But since so many authors seem burnt out, I was trying to suggest ways of avoiding Table Lag, which is related to my third cousin once removed, Jet Lag.



Pinball Player
Hi Tiltjlp,

I have to admit to over agonising on my tables of late.

I found that my "Quake 2" table was delayed and finally released in a play-wise excellent but not 100% "happy with the results" condition because my previous table "Strife 2.5" was such a massive high bar for me after Hakyoku Seiken did his graphical and sonic enhancements. Even though the layout for "Strife 2.5" was unchanged and that I added "Quik Multiball" and extra text panels after Haky finished it was VERY daunting to release another table which might not measure up to "Strife 2.5".

I even released "Donkey Kong Handheld" (a toy re-make) in between Strife 2.5 and Q2. DKH was a lot of fun to make and I think the resulting table is IMNSHO Excellent. DKH is a flipperless table with a "Traditional Mode" and a "Mod Mode" depending on your choice. I was happier with the results of DKH than Q2 in some respects but I think that as far as Game Play they are both great.

That brings me to my point in psoting, finally. Play Play PLay Play Play Play Play. No matter how many times I played these tables I enjoyed the experience. Even with NO graphics or even sound I enjoy playing a well laid out table. If a table plays well then you can get the most out of the experience.

And YES, you can get burnt out but if this happens I just take a step back for a day or so, play some tables (my faves are a mixture of originals and re-creations, both fliperred and flipperless). The fun of playing a few tables usually sparks the creative juices again.

It may take me a bit longer to create a table now than compared to a couple of years ago (about ten times longer) but I find myself testing the layout over and over again before I start to code. I then code one piece at a time and then I test that piece over and over again until I'm happy with it. I then code the next piece. and so on. I might perform fifteen or twenty different test sequences before I even start to think about a release.

Personally, I think that a playable release is always better than a pretty one but that's just my opinion. I'm getting better at graphics but I have to admit to being a long way behind some authors. That just gives me a target to aim at.

Sorry for going on a bit but I think that ALL authors are imortant because, apart from content, the more tables there are being made the more VP will continue to grow. It doesn't matter what style, genre or format the tables take, with tables being made we can be assured that VP will thrive.

So now it's "Shameless Plug Time". If you have a few hours free, come and spend some time with us at www.vp-originals.com and we'll make you feel as at home there as I feel in coming here. ALL authors and players alike are welcome.




PN co-founder
Time well spent, RH

While I of course like your flipperless best of all, and your dual mode DK Hand Held is a gem, I like most all of your work. And one of the reasons I do, which you mentioned, is the playability factor. And yes, I think the tables I prefer the most are from authors, yes, again like you, who take whatever time is needed to get it right the first time.

Usually, if I DL a table, and it just doesn't play right, or there are loads of bugs, I'll zap it, rather than wait for a bug fix. With 56K, I don't have the time or patience to DL tables twice. And we all work at our own pace, aI just happen to naturally be slow natured.

IMNSHO, the dual mode on DK was a much better idea than trying to make it glitzier than the real game was. Sometimes simplicity in itself can be a work of art. And yes, I visit your site regularly, and always enjoy the experience.



Pinball Player
Thanks tiltjlp,

I'll let you in on a secret, I am working on a new Flipperles table based on the TV show "Cheers". It will have a real old fasioned feel because I am using the old photo images from the opening credits for the graphics and it will be available in about a month or two (depending on when I get to start it)

On another note, Would you be kind enough to put DK Handheld up at Flipperless for me. I had trouble uploading the file (twice) and it would be a pity not to include it in the DL's.




Pinball Player

I love Bowling and Your table looks very interesting. How will the cups act. The layout looks like it will be a bit of a mixture between a bagatelle and a cup and ball game. I downloaded a bowling game from Yahoo which is very good and the backdrop reminds me of the background in that game. IE, an alley of lanes. The ball could be like one of those "Columbia 300" bowling balls. (marble finish) or even plain BLACK.

Thanks for all your efforts and your positive comments above.




PN co-founder
DK Handheld

I'll dig out my FTP instructions JPH sent me, and if I get lucky, sure, I'll put it up. Keep in mind that I'm a TechnoIdiot, so it might have to wait until Jon has his new Internet connect hooked up.

And the ball I designed for Buddy Bowling does look like a bowling ball. I can't figure out why it won't show up that way. like I say, I'll totally clueless about all of those things.

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