How very pinteresting
January 31, 2012 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Marcin Wichary, a designer for Google, recently visited Chicago's Stern Pinball, the only remaining pinball factory in the world. He posted some amazing photos of his trip.

Stern Pinball previously on Metafilter.
posted by Lieber Frau (13 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Theta States at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2012

posted by etc. at 1:11 PM on January 31, 2012

What I find amazing is how ordinary the shop looks. I imagined the machines being assembled by futuristic droids, not some guy named larry with a paunch and a soiled flannel. Unless of course Larry IS a futuristic droid?!?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

As stated in your previously, the 'only remaining pinball factory in the world' moniker is not exactly true, as there is that group of cats in New Jersey who are working on a pretty high profile game - the Wizard of Oz. It looks nutty - two mini playfields, a full-color video LCD scoreboard/backglass/beg screen, a spinning house, etc. They are really throwing everything they can into it. It seems almost like fan fiction pinball game, instead of the glossy, polished, poppy stuff that Stern puts out. I think the Wizard of Oz machine will be either spectacular, or spectacularly crappy. I am hoping for the former.

And, yeah: AC/DC looks great!
posted by dirtdirt at 1:34 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's like peering into Santa's Workshop, filled not with elves, but Larry, and eye protection required.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2012

Stern usually gives a public tour once a year in conjunction with Pinball Expo, which takes place in the fall. You might not get as personal a tour, but you can see how the sausage is still made.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:49 PM on January 31, 2012

Move your car!
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:21 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stern's okay I guess, but their tables all lack a certain something compared to Williams' best. It's damn near impossible to achieve the wizard modes on many of their tables for an intermediate-level player like myself. I could achieve Tour The Mansion and Lost In The Zone a fair proportion of times, but getting to Valinor in LOTR pinball? Forget it.
posted by JHarris at 11:57 PM on January 31, 2012

Love their games or not, I'm glad Stern's still in business. (Isn't Jersey Jack a former Stern employee?). Had they not hung in, pinball as we know it would be even harder to find in the wild. I haven't done the Pinball Expo tour yet, but hope to in future. Got to meet Gary Stern at an event last year; I was happy for the chance to thank him for sticking with it.

I could wish that the Jersey boys had done a different first theme (I just CAN'T have WoO music playing in my house ad nauseum), and I could wish that the AC/DC machine didn't have the Giant Floating Head, but I really can't complain because I'm just so thankful that new pinball still exists. Otherwise I'd be spending all my time in a futile attempt to scratch build a new machine in the garage.

JHarris: I've never made it to Valinor either, but I LOVE Lord of the Rings! It's a beautiful game to look at, I love the soundtrack, and I enjoy the depth of play. The tough wizard mode gives me something to which I can aspire. Mr. theplotchickens makes it to Valinor sometimes. If it were easier, he'd be bored with it. For our family, it's a great balance of ease vs. difficulty. I can go play a casual game while the laundry's running, or the hubster can spend an evening at it. World Poker Tour, on the other hand... I never even flipped the "on" switch during its brief time in our house.
posted by theplotchickens at 4:23 AM on February 1, 2012

I've seen some play videos of games like LOTR and Iron Man and such, and I think it's kind of cool that they have modes that even the top players still have trouble reaching.
posted by Theta States at 6:44 AM on February 1, 2012

Getting to Valinor "sometimes" is unimaginable to me. You must have very leinent tilt settings at the very least, and Mr. theplotchickens must be a whiz at black arts like bangbacks and deathsaves, because those requirements are surreal. I've managed to reach Attack From Mars' "Rule The Universe" once on a real table -- that strikes me as a proper level of difficulty, you can imagine yourself making it someday, and then finally it all comes together and you earn it, and it's just as awesome as you imagined it. Whereas Valinor is so obscure they don't even tell you directly that it exists -- there is no Valinor light on the table, it's not on the rulecard, and Instant Info is mum about it.

(Awesome username, BTW!)
posted by JHarris at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2012

More on Valinor, and why I love Stern for including a stealth secret wizard mode:
I think it fits with the theme... we shouldn't know too much about Valinor, should we? Just like most of the peoples of Middle Earth, we hear of this destination as a rumor. Most of us will never complete the journey. And yet, beyond the horizon, attainable for those of heroic dedication.... okay, I'm taking this way too far. I'm just a huge LOTR fan who loves hearing Bilbo saying, "Welcome, welcome!" :-)

I wouldn't want all the games to be as challenging as LOTR, (I spend plenty of time on Scared Stiff), but it does add to the replay value.

Our tilt settings are notoriously tight. Not always tourney tight, but enough to make apparently calm people rage. I'm notably not strong enough to move a machine easily, so it doesn't matter much to me. It protects the machines from getting the crap beaten out of them by people who apparently consider throwing a game around to be a useful skill set. But the rooster in the house is pretty dang good these things.

For me, I love Keith Elwin's Pinball 101. I'm still a crappy player, but I'm not as awful as I used to be thanks to Keith. And I strongly recommend and Hank's Pinball Repair.
posted by theplotchickens at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2012

I've learned oh so much about pinball thanks to all of the PAPA tutorials. So well done. It's great to have an expert player do their thing and explain every step along the way.
posted by Theta States at 5:50 AM on February 2, 2012

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