"All hands, prepare for MULTIBALL."
December 30, 2012 8:01 PM   Subscribe

What is perhaps the best license ever applied to a pinball machine? Probably Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is surprisingly like playing an episode. Williams also released a special ROM of funny quotes from cast members that people can install into their machines.

Star Trek: The Next Generation came along at a unique time in the history of pinball. Williams was still riding high after the release of Pat Lawlor's incredibly popular Addams Family and gigantic Twilight Zone machines, and it seemed like no license was out of reach. Master designer Steve Ritchie (designer of Firepower, Black Knight, High Speed, Black Knight 2000, Terminator II and The Getaway: High Speed II, among many others) set to work rivalling Twilight Zone and making one of the most complex pinball machines ever made.

The overall object of the game is to complete seven missions, then reach the last mission FINAL FRONTIER, the machine's wizard mode, a six-ball multiball where every major shot on the table is worth a number of points determined by the number of "artifacts" the player has collected up to that point. Artifacts are mostly awarded for doing well on the other missions. Most missions give you up to around 100-150M points if you do well at them, but if you get four artifacts, you begin Final Frontier with a total award of 1.4 billion points, and then every shot is worth 100M more.

Final Frontier isn't even particularly difficult to reach, in terms of game length. Twilight Zone's infamous Lost In The Zone needs 15 door panels to achieve, but ST:TNG only needs eight missions, and as an option you can choose to start a mission at the beginning of each ball, getting three out of the way.

The difficulty of the machine is that ST:TNG's outlanes are murderous. For those who don't know, outlanes are lanes at the sides near the bottom of most tables, which take a ball that chooses to go down them out of play, instead of to the flippers (which is the job of the inlanes, the routes beside the outlanes).
 o i                       i o
 u n                       n u
|t|l|\                   /|l|t|
|l|a| \    slingshots   / |a|l|
|a|n|  \ <---     ---> /  |n|a|
|n\e\   \             /   /e/n|
\e \ \___\           /___/ / e/
 \  \______ flippers______/  /
  \        \       /        /
            \     /
Not only does this machine give outlanes a lot of space for balls to use when they decide which lane to go down, there is no rubber post at the top of the outlane/inlane divider, so balls are unlikely to bounce out of the area even with a timely nudge. Most shots that go towards the flippers on a modern table can be saved with timely nudges and flips, but outlanes are a much harder problem to overcome. The best thing you can do is make your shots, and thus keep the ball from bouncing around randomly. This makes ST:TNG a highly technical table.

While there are only eight missions to start to get to Final Frontier, the player has to be very careful not to miss many shots, as each time a ball ends up at the edge of the table there is a strong change it'll end the ball (assuming black arts like bangbacks aren't used, of course). Once a mission starts, a good tactic is actually to try to trap the ball and wait out its clock, since you can't start a new mission until the old one expires, although you won't get many artifacts this way so Final Frontier will be pretty anemic.

There are plenty of other ways to earn points, however. There's the primary multiball mode on the machine, Borg Multiball, a good run on which can be worth many hundreds of millions of points. There are Warp Factors, awarded for making the left orbit and left ramp shots, which award a variety of things culminating in a lit extra ball and the nerve wracking "Warp 9 mode," where you have to keep making warp shots every ten seconds to gain high score awards. (Geordi "helpfully" counts down constantly during this mode.) There's "Exploding Millions," where if you keep making ramp shots in a row they're worth more and more points at any time, up to 50M each. There is also Super Spinner, in which each spin is worth 10M on a timer, but so long as you keep hitting it, the timer keeps getting reset.

On the funny quotes from the second link: Williams made available a "special sound ROM" as an option to people who own the game, that they could burn to chips and install in their table to have cast members say funny things at times. (the funny stuff is at the beginning).
The ROM itself can still be downloaded from the Internet Pinball Database's page on the game. The link is named "Special Sound ROMs LX-7" Here's more details and a listing of added quotes.

Gameplay 1 (reprise of before-the-fold link, best view of table and sound quality, he reaches Final Frontier, but buys two extra balls, and the video ends before the game does)
Gameplay 2 (a pretty long game, reaches Final Frontier)
Gameplay 3 (demonstrates waiting out missions, gets to Warp 9 mode [but doesn't finish it], reaches Final Frontier on ball 2, but no extra balls on this game)
Gameplay 4 (has a good multiball, and then a GREAT multiball with three super jackpots, earning him a special Picard "Captain's Log Supplemental" quote after the game)
Williams promo tape (Previously featured here)

Some quotes from the game (you might hear some of these in the gameplay videos):
Data: "Captain, the probe has discovered big points?!"
Discord Q (drain quote): "Oh, and you were doing SO well...."
Q (drain quote): "Someday you'll learn to play pinball."
Worf (high score entry): "You are an honorable player."
Picard (Player 1 joins): "Welcome to the Enterprise."
Crusher (Player 2 joins): "Welcome aboard."
Riker (Player 3 joins): "Reporting for duty."
Q (Player 4 joins): "I want to play!"
Data (upon failing a mode): "If you had propelled the ball upon the proper trajectory, you would have been rewarded." (Press both flipper buttons before this gets halfway finished to have Picard interrupt him with "THANK YOU Mr. Data." Worth 10 million points!)
Troi: "Captain, I'm sensing an extra ball."

Tilt quotes:
Worf: "You have no honor."
Borg: "Pinball is irrelevant."

If this sounds awesome to you, you can get a computer recreation of this game for $5 as part of Farsight Studio's "Pinball Arcade," for many platforms. (They also have Twilight Zone available for a similar price!)

(This didn't go into the TNG outtakes thread because I had been considering a pinball FPP for a long while, and decided to go the full distance. This might not be the last one, either....)
posted by JHarris (62 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Great. I just downloaded the free version of Pinball Arcade for iPad for a taste.
posted by birdherder at 8:16 PM on December 30, 2012

Good luck with those outlanes, because they didn't tone them down at all.
posted by JHarris at 8:17 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

The laundromat around the coner from my apartment just post-college had both the Terminator 2 pinball machine AND ST:TNG. Many a heated discussion about the relative merits of each were had with my flat mates over pizza and Natural Light at the Gaslight. This is a great post, thanks for the memories!
posted by brand-gnu at 8:28 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the curious in NYC, Pacific Standard in Brooklyn still has this machine (though, not being a pinball wizard, I've never played it myself).
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 8:34 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The link-to-awesomeness ratio of this post is quite high.
posted by dry white toast at 8:40 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cool post. Person in the video seems really good at the game (to me, at least).

What's with the scoring inflation over the years? It makes Zimbabwe look tame.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:45 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

STTNG is the table that convinced me to spend an unreasonable amount of money making a Visual Pinball cabinet (not my cab). I still haven't managed to play the real thing, though. My only real complaint with it is that it's pretty much the prime example of ridiculously inflated scoring.

The outlanes aren't that bad, at least on the digital version, so long as you learn how to bump the table properly. It's not really a game you can play without being able to move the table, though. Strategy is also important, but bumping is pretty much required to get very far at all. The final frontier is definitely helped if you can amass artifacts. Easiest way? Memorize the necessary path for the shuttle minigame and you'll get an artifact (and mad points) every time you light the holodeck.

Lastly, if you don't get at least a billion on borg multiball, you're doing it wrong, at least on the digital version where the phaser shots are relatively easy to hit. It's nice hearing Worf say "jackpot..double jackpot..SUPER jackpot" all in a row and then just hammering the center shot over and over and over again with trapped balls.

Clearly I need a real machine so I can be confounded by broken toys and worn out flippers.
posted by wierdo at 8:48 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

My experience with fan recreations of tables, weirdo, is that they tend to be substantially easier than real tables. I played a TON of Attack From Mars in college and only ever made Rule The Universe once, but on Visual PinMAME I've been there several times, including twice in one game.

Attack From Mars is also what I point to when people talk about score inflation in pinball, because as near as I can tell that was as bad as it ever got, where the replay value defaults to 4B.

BTW, ST: TNG is very odd when it comes to super-high scores, I hear, because it both supports them and doesn't. If you make it to 10 billion you'll find the score counter doesn't support them, and only the least-significant 10 digits will be displayed. But it still tracks the score internally. There is a special scoreboard for 10B+ scores, the "Q Continuum.". Because of this, if there's multiple great players visiting your machine, it's possible to get a 10B+ score that's too high for the Honor Roll or Officer's Club tables, which are only for scores less than 10B, but isn't high enough to get onto the Q table.
posted by JHarris at 8:57 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also: it's not that necessary to memorize the shuttle minigame to get the artifact, which is always in the last cavern regardless of where you go. It's easy to dodge mines, and the tunnel branches are always two, one on either side, so as long as you aren't in the middle when they come you're fine. Once you're used to it you tend to kill yourself more than the game does, since the 10M awards are always in the middle -- so is the artifact, though.

A problem with the shuttle sim strategy on Pinball Arcade has to do one of my pet peeves with video pinball, that it's not simulated to the same timing fidelity as real pinball (which is admittedly impossible to do exactly). 60 frames a second sounds like a lot, but when you're making shots with a rapidly moving ball you'd be surprised how many times you get EXACTLY the same bounces off of a certain shot. Unfortunately, if you flip at a ball that's coming out of the machine through the left inlane, the timing is such that the shot one frame before the Shuttle/Beta Quadrant ramp ALWAYS bounces back directly into the left outlane! It's a case where my learned pinball muscle behavior is off precisely from the game physics in the wrong ay, so I can hit THAT pretty consistently, to my mounting frustration. I hate it.
posted by JHarris at 9:06 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I loved this pinball machine. In high school, I used to ride my bike to the arcade in the local mall multiple times a week just to play it. It got to a point where I was earning so many extra balls and replays, I could play for much of the night having to pay only once or twice.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Great Big Mulp, that tends to be possible mostly when there aren't a lot of other good players in the area. Most pinball machines have awards that "reflex," raising or lowering over time in an attempt to make it so that a given percentage of games on that table earn replays. If a lot of bad players play, they will lower the replay value by their low scores, and thus effectively subsidize your games.

That happened to me on almost every table back when GSU had a game room. I've had streaks at Addams Family where I'd get seven or either credits in a row. Sometimes I'd have to walk away with credits still on the machine to get to class on time.
posted by JHarris at 9:10 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

God, I love pinball threads. I don't play that much pinball and I don't know what the hell people are talking about half the time, but I still read everything.

Carry on.
posted by brennen at 9:15 PM on December 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

JHarris, I have found that to be true when using the keyboard on a plain 'ol computer, but much less so on the cabinet versions with analog input enabled. I had games last for literally hours when playing on my laptop, but I've never had that experience on the cabinet.

Also, VP is unusual in that its physics engine is not linked to the display's refresh rate. A benefit of being older than dirt, I guess. And with the analog bumping, the ball always bounces in weird ways because it's quite sensitive to being touched. My cab has relays that fire on flipper presses and they're enough for the accelerometer to detect. Since the exact timing is indeterminate, it ends up simulating the randomness better than you'd expect. I still doubt it's like the real table, but it's definitely a vastly different feel than playing with the keyboard on a regular computer.
posted by wierdo at 9:20 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

dry white toast: “The link-to-awesomeness ratio of this post is quite high.”

It, uh, actually seems really low to me. By which I mean, I really like this post. If that makes sense.
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 PM on December 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

JHarris the link to the video Gameplay 4 seems to be pointing to the promo video
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:23 PM on December 30, 2012

Ah Prince_of_Cups, you are correct. The link should go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0SnS4PmzbU.

Also, if any administrators are around willing to hope, the text after the link should end "quote after the game)", not time.
posted by JHarris at 9:29 PM on December 30, 2012

Wow - after watching all of those videos, I realized that's the most I've watched someone else play pinball without a beer in my hand for the last 18 years combined.

If this sounds awesome to you, you can...

And if this doesn't sound awesome to you, I never want to hear that MetaFilter doesn't tolerate a diversity of opinions ever again.

What I'm saying is, if someone knows if this game is in Chicago, please let me know.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:34 PM on December 30, 2012

Mod note: Fixed!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:41 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man oh man. . . Kenyon College game room above Gund Cafeteria, 1994-1995 or so.

Goddamn I played the fuck out of this one. Absolutely loved it, and I wasn't really a TNG guy like some of my friends were.

I don't remember the outlanes being all that bad, but the thrill of Picard saying "Engage the Borg!" is still with me.

Yeah, dropped some serious quarters into this one. Good times.
posted by bardic at 9:50 PM on December 30, 2012

TNG is such a great table, easily my favorite. The one at my college was such a godsend for when I wanted to drop a few quarters and be alone just focusing my brain when the crazy social anxiety became too much to bear. I was pretty close to writing a letter to Williams just thanking them for its existence. Thanks so much for the post.
posted by churl at 9:56 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by IjonTichy at 10:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Yes, I know that's the title, but I was already shouting it out loud so I couldn't help it)
posted by IjonTichy at 10:07 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Related Completed Kickstarter
posted by radwolf76 at 10:25 PM on December 30, 2012

posted by Spatch at 10:51 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My father had a Twilight Zone machine in the late 90s/early 2000s. My stepfather restored an Addams Family. Playing Twilight Zone with the glass off is one of life's supreme joys.
posted by Earthtopus at 11:03 PM on December 30, 2012

This thread must have wandered in from an alternate universe where people still play pinball.
posted by notmtwain at 1:46 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

LOVE this table. I am eagerly awaiting this table on the Xbox 360 version of Pinball Arcade because I cannot seem to get the hang of the nudge on the iPad.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:50 AM on December 31, 2012

I just spent about a half hour playing this on Pinball Arcade on my Nexus 7. The left outlane is an evil invention that no nudge seemed to cure.

Also, the Pinball Arcade folks have really done something: made me feel just as frustrated as when I play pinball in real life. Now if they'd only add my favorite table of all time: Williams' Diner.
posted by disillusioned at 3:36 AM on December 31, 2012

Earthtopus: Why does having the glass off make it better?
posted by webmutant at 3:41 AM on December 31, 2012

Troi: "Captain, I'm sensing an extra ball."

Hey! No fair - - that's plagiarized from my dreams.
posted by fairmettle at 4:41 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just guessing as to the benefits of glass-free Twilight Zone: it's a very "toy heavy" machine (lots of little physical gimmicks like robots and clocks and such) but its also a very dark machine, meaning that if it's bright enough to see the gameplay and toys, there's gonna be too much glare on the glass, or drown out the deep colors of the lights.

Without the glass, you'd presumably have a much less obstructed view, enabling you to see both the toys and the moody lighting. (although I can imagine the game segment with the magnetic bumpers being extremely hazardous)
posted by ShutterBun at 5:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

TNG does get the occasional airball from what I gather, so I wouldn't recommend playing it without the glass. (In fact, if such a ball lands in one of the guns, the game will immediately award you a Probe shot with a randomized award.)
posted by JHarris at 5:55 AM on December 31, 2012

As a pinball player from way back, I personally found those later-generation tables like this to be, in the end, a lot less interesting or even boring to play. I mean...Just look at that vast, heavily-sloped, emptiness in the center of the table! Not a single popup-bumper in sight. Just a mass of doo-dads crammed at the top and those guns down by the flippers.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:04 AM on December 31, 2012

Terrific game. It is, frankly, too deep for me as an idle player - I feel my limited time and money is better spent on a machine that I can wrap my head all the way around* - but I do play it occasionally and always have fun. Great mix of gameplay and TNG stuff.

I haven't downloaded the Pinball Arcade update with it yet, because I have a crack in the glass on my iPad and I'm trying to make it last as long as I can before I replace it and pinball puts a huge stress on the glass. For me, anyway. I've tried playing on that thing while being very gentle and it's just impossible.

Incidentally, as I feel like I say in every pinball thread: Pinballz, here in Austin, is amazing. They have, for instance, every table that is available in Pinball Arcade (except, I think, Big Shot). And then 100 more.

* Grand Lizard is my jam.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:27 AM on December 31, 2012

JHarris - the timing is such that the shot one frame before the Shuttle/Beta Quadrant ramp ALWAYS bounces back directly into the left outlane!

I've been slowly learning the table on my iPhone and it's this ONE THING that makes me want to throw it across the room. I'm constantly hitting this "missed" shot and throwing it right back into the left outlane. I wonder if the eventual PS3 version will play differently - I've noticed that the Pinball Arcade PS3 tables have a slightly wider 'allowance' for shot variance on PS3. And they look better too. Who knows when that will be approved through Sony though (usually takes months), so for now, I'm trying never to shoot for the Shuttle/Beta Quadrant ramp unless I have to.

Oh, these are trying times we live in, playing imperfect pinball simulations on our magical pocket computers.

Awesome post.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:50 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I found one at a rest area in upstate New York some years ago. Unfortunately, I didn't remember which exact rest area and I haven't been able to find it in subsequent trips. As a supercasual fan, this post makes me feel like I'm watching a unicorn in its natural habitat. And download the demo for Pinball Arcade on Xbox.
posted by zix at 7:09 AM on December 31, 2012

As a pinball player from way back, I personally found those later-generation tables like this to be, in the end, a lot less interesting or even boring to play. I mean...Just look at that vast, heavily-sloped, emptiness in the center of the table! Not a single popup-bumper in sight. Just a mass of doo-dads crammed at the top and those guns down by the flippers.

I don't know, I think the older EM machines I'm slowly coming around to appreciate more, but the wide-open table is a strength of this game, not a flaw, I think, it gives you room to make shots and if you miss they don't bounce too quickly to react to. (I do notice that on Pinball Arcade, my reactions are slightly slower than on a real table, probably having to do with frame rate issues and the lack of tactile feedback from physical buttons.)
posted by JHarris at 7:46 AM on December 31, 2012

So because of this thread I got Pinball Arcade so I could play TNG, but I got sidetracked by playing Bride of Pin-Bot instead. I think I like late 80s-early 90s tables best. Enough electronic doodads and distractions for me but not too many. There's too much going on on more modern tables for my taste. Also, I love 16-segment displays!
posted by zsazsa at 8:16 AM on December 31, 2012

A good table to look into zsazsa is Creature From The Black Lagoon, which doesn't really have a wizard mode, but its multiball is terrific. (Also: "MOVE YOUR CAAAAR!")
posted by JHarris at 8:25 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

(I have purchased every Pinball Arcade table BTW. If anyone wants advice or information on a game just ask.)
posted by JHarris at 8:26 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I can't help myself, I buy every table as soon as it comes out. I really hope they get around to High Speed at some point.

Damn, I've dropped to #10 in the Theatre of Magic standings in the current tournament...
posted by malocchio at 8:32 AM on December 31, 2012

This thread must have wandered in from an alternate universe where people still play pinball.

That must be Portland, because we have wonderful, fully functioning machines EVERYWHERE!
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 8:53 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heh, JHarris and I have an ongoing MeMail dialogue about every table released in TPA as soon as it comes out. Can't believe I missed this thread (and would have continued to miss it had he not tipped me off!)

bardic: I don't think I knew you went to Kenyon or that they used to have a game room in Gund. Jealous! It was gone by the time I got there in '01.

Mike: To the best of my knowledge, there's no STTNG anywhere in the Chicago area (which is something of a surprise, and pretty much every other machine can be found somewhere.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:00 AM on December 31, 2012

This thread must have wandered in from an alternate universe where people still play pinball.

Yes, a universe named AWESOME, and I am a proud citizen!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:16 AM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I can't help myself, I buy every table as soon as it comes out. I really hope they get around to High Speed at some point.

My own hope is for White Water. (Grizzled prospector voice: "WHITE WAAAATEEEEERRR!!!") This is where I get to brag that I GOT THE VACATION JACKPOT on Visual PinMAME a few weeks back. It really goes nuts when you do that.
posted by JHarris at 9:43 AM on December 31, 2012

(The Vacation Jackpot. Awesome when it happens in a dark room because it shuts off all the light on the machine for a few seconds.)
posted by JHarris at 9:59 AM on December 31, 2012

Played this at CP pinball a few months ago...great game.
posted by schyler523 at 2:25 PM on December 31, 2012

The just-closed Sandringham Hotel in Sydney had a TNG machine, and I loved launching balls out of those shot things. But I thought Adams Family and Twilight Zone were considered better machines, and I tend to agree.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:24 PM on December 31, 2012

As far as a machine truly going nuts, (as well as MASSIVE score inflation) look no further than Apollo 13, which features, you guessed it, a 13-ball multiball segment and scores in the hundreds of billions.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:37 PM on December 31, 2012

Having the glass off allows you to place the ball wherever you want with your hands. That little ceramic ball (unaffected by the playboard's magnets) really handled quite differently.
posted by Earthtopus at 8:25 PM on December 31, 2012

Apollo 13 I'm not too familiar with, but reading its rulesheet it doesn't seem to have scores in that range?
posted by JHarris at 8:32 PM on December 31, 2012

I suppose "hundreds of billions" is a bit of an exaggeration, but with a couple of super jackpots, rolling over the 10 digit counter a few times is definitely doable.

The 13 ball multiball is truly epic, though.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:00 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Step 1: light that kickback, or just give up right now...
posted by Theta States at 1:06 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have purchased every Pinball Arcade table BTW

I purchased them all too as well, but am now kicking myself a bit for not just waiting for the PC version to come out.
I do not think purchases are transferable between platforms.... ah well, back to Ripleys Believe It Or Not.

I'm waiting for them to produce Whitewater and Fish Tales. Those shouldn't be too hard since there isn't a proprietary license.
posted by Theta States at 7:00 PM on January 2, 2013

Also, having the glass off makes everything LOUDER, so more awesome.
posted by Theta States at 7:02 PM on January 2, 2013

They've been promising Attack From Mars from the very beginning. WHERE ARE MY MARTIANS, FARSIGHT? They gave us its spiritual sequel Medieval Madness but not the original. (We'll probably never get its actual sequel, it being a Pinball 2000 release.)

I've been meaning, for a while, to do a good general pinball post. This wasn't it, and it'll probably be awhile before I can put it together. It'll cover all kinds of weird knowledge I've put together from playing the games and obsessive rulesheet reading over a decade. Alas, I've got way too much on my mind right now to build megaposts.
posted by JHarris at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I purchased them all too as well, but am now kicking myself a bit for not just waiting for the PC version to come out.

If you don't mind doing a bit of tinkering and instruction following, the Visual Pinball versions of these tables (and just about any other table you can think of) are freely available, if you're so inclined.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:45 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Attack From Mars is part of this month's upcoming pack, by the way, paired with Genie.
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2013

If you don't mind doing a bit of tinkering and instruction following, the Visual Pinball versions of these tables (and just about any other table you can think of) are freely available, if you're so inclined.

It kept crashing on me on like 50% of the tables, so I gave up. I figured I'd try again if I ever got a new computer.
posted by Theta States at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2013

If anyone's still reading this, here are some table tips:

I just discovered that by far the best time to go for Warp 9.9 is during Ferengi Multiball. The timer that ordinarily stops you from adding balls to the multiball after 10 seconds is disabled during Warp 9 mode, so you can try shots up the left orbit and left ramp relatively risk-free, since another Neutral Zone hit will add a new ball to the playfield. So long as you make one of those two shots every ten seconds you can keep going until you're down to one ball or Warp 9 mode ends. It's nice for completing the Warp 9.9 requirement on Pinball Arcade's wizard table goals (it was the last one I had to go).

My high score so far: 9,373,950,980, for a game in which I got two Final Frontiers. Not quite high enough to get on the Q Continuum board, but close. My last game got up to eight artifacts, would would have been worth 2.8B if I had made it back to Final Frontier that game (alas I was one mission short).

The most consistent way to earn extra balls I've found is getting the multiplier up to 8X. It only takes three rollover lane completions, and unlike all the other sources you can keep doing it once each ball, throughout the game. Note, when doing this, the Warp Factors are not your friend, since one of those is Hold Multiplier, which prevents you from earning another extra ball from advancing multipliers. This makes the right orbit the shot to go for if you don't need to go for anything else.

Other ways to earn extra balls: at 450M points (on Pinball Arcade, which is set to award extra ball for the replay award), for making 12 Shuttles (right ramp shots, each shot can be potentially worth up to 4), the first time to Warp 8 (later times earn an artifact instead), sometimes as a sixth target in Battle Simulation (it's usually when you've made every shot up to that point in the mode), and once in a while as an EB collectable during Shuttle Simulation, although you have to survive quite far into it. If you luck out and get a Probe Special (only for a Probe shot really, and then it's really random and going for Probe off of the plunge is usually a bad idea anyway) that's worth an extra ball too. A Special is also awarded at 50 Shuttles.

To prolong ball times:
There are two notable death shots on Pinball Arcade's recreation of the table. The first, as explained above, is hitting the right ramp shot a frame or so early after the ball is served out of the left hole to the left flipper. If you always hit that shot a frame early, it always goes right into the left outlane. Because of this, it's always important to err in making that shot on the side of hitting it late (which at least has the side effect of sometimes sending the ball up the right orbit, probably to the rollover lanes and jet bumbers).

The second, unfortunately, is when the ball comes out of the jets from the middle-of-table opening instead of back down the right orbit. When this happens, roughly half the time the ball will be heading out at such an angle and speed so as to go directly through the left outline. At least in this case you have enough time to nudge the table to try to deflect the ball's route, but it doesn't help that nudge detection on Pinball Arcade is really wonky.

The primary strategy is to go for Final Frontier, which is usually worth the most points. So long as you do okay on the modes it's not super hard to get four artifacts before Mission 8. Time Warp, Asteroid Threat and Rescue tend to be easy artifacts so long as you keep making shots, so you only need one more after that. Once you get the artifact on a mode, take no chances! Get the ball under control as best you can, trap it on a flipper, and wait out the timer. The only exceptions are if you're approaching 8X and the ball is on the left flipper, or you're in Q's Challenge and about to start Multiball (Q's Challenge is the only mission mode that continues into Multiball, you sometimes end up with an obscenely high Q score from all the shots you make).

Secondary strategy is to go for Multiball, which isn't really hard to start. I wouldn't go for Lock Ball on the plunge locks, it's too important to use those for Start Mission and progress towards Final Frontier. Note, if you're focusing on building multipliers, the ball will naturally be in the jet bumpers a lot, which will build your multiball jackpot up very high. The Pinball Arcade table is weird in that, frequently, the 3X Jackpot left ramp shot off the upper flipper is easier than the normal Jackpot shot! The only problem is feeding the upper flipper in a controlled way so as to get good ramp shot setups; sending the ball into the jets, just as if you were building multipliers or locks, is also the best way to do that. Note, if Multiball lasts for a while eventually the Enterprise's shields will fail, and Jackpot will unlight; send the ball through the left orbit and the spinner to raise them again. This doesn't unlight the left ramp Jackpot though.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 AM on January 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

Broke 12B today!
posted by JHarris at 7:37 PM on January 10, 2013

One thing I've noticed about Final Frontier, BTW, is that the ball saver at the beginning of the mode varies in length depending on how many artifacts you have. If you have one or two it'll stay on for like 10-15 seconds; if you have ten, it'll go off very quickly. You usually begin Final Frontier by losing one or two balls almost immediately due to the sudden influx of balls around the flippers, so if you have a lot of artifacts it might be a good idea to let one or two drain immediately and get them back over time through the autoplunge rather than try to save them, then lose them again in short order after the ball saver ends.
posted by JHarris at 12:01 PM on January 11, 2013

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