Ask Uncle Willy #1: June 23, 1995

Wow, Uncle Willy's mailbox has been filled with all sorts of questions! He's glad to see so much interest in Williams/Bally pinballs.

Please keep in mind that some of the questions take a bit of research, so that answers to some questions may not show up right away. Be assured that your questions are being kept on file, and those that are answerable will receive Uncle Willy's attention.

Here are the questions for this week:

Question:  Who was on the design team for Riverboat Gambler?
Answer: Riverboat Gambler was a Williams 1990 design. The design credits are: Design: Ward Pemberton Software: Dwight Sullivan Music/Sounds: Dan Forden, Paul Heitsch Art: Pat McMahon Mechanical: Greg Tastad Note that if you find a game without the design credits listed on the playfield, then it's a prototype. Question: On Star Trek: the Next Generation, when does the Neutral Zone "LOCK" light come on? Answer: Warning, very dry, technical rules discussion ahead. Uncle Willy says you may want to skip down to the next question. The standup targets in the Neutral Zone either start one of the Neutral Zone modes, or light "LOCK". Depending upon the current percentage of multiballs on a particular ST:tNG, the "LOCK" is lit on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Neutral Zone sequence. The "LOCK" is then lit every 4th sequence after that. Question: On Elvira, what are the rules for lighting the Skull "LOCK" light, and what are the effects of changing the difficulty setting? Answer: Warning, very dry, technical rules discussion ahead. Again, you may want to skip ahead. The basic rule for the Skull "LOCK" is: - If "LOCK" is lit, lock a ball. - 3rd ball in lock starts multiball. - If "LOCK" is not lit, and multiball is not active, hit J-A-M targets to light "LOCK". The behavior of the "LOCK" light is affected by the "MULTIBALL" adjustment. It has the settings "EX. EASY", "EASY", "MEDIUM", "HARD", and "EX. HARD". There are 4 times during a game when the decision is made to leave/turn the "LOCK" light on. They are: - Start of game. - After a lock, before the 1st multiball. - After a lock, after the 1st multiball. - After multiball ends. Here's a grid to show the effect of the "MULTIBALL" setting on the "LOCK" light: Setting Game Start After Lock After Lock After MB before 1st MB after 1st MB Ex. Easy ON ON ON ON Easy ON ON ON OFF Medium ON ON OFF OFF Hard ON OFF OFF OFF Ex. Hard OFF OFF OFF OFF The factory default is "MEDIUM". Question: Is there a hidden video mode in Star Trek: the Next Generation? If so, how is it accessed? Answer: Uncle Willy is sorry, but he has no idea what this question is talking about. Next question, please. NOTE: This is referring to the "breakout" video mode that is rumored to exist inside the STNG game. According to Williams software designers, indeed it does exist. But to date, no one but the STNG software designer seems to know how to access it. Since Breakout is a copyrighted Atari game, the information on how to access the Breakout video mode is a guarded secret. Williams could be sued by Atari if the Breakout game actually does exist inside the STNG software (though it is all a moot point at this period in time, as Williams is not longer making pinball games). Question: My Twilight Zone playfield seems very prone to stripping out the screw holes; what's the scoop? Answer: Wood is a natural substance, and is subject to many variations. Uncle Willy always carries wooden kitchen matches and wood glue when visiting his games on location to fix the stripped screw problem. Glob some glue in the hole, stick in the match, clip it off, and then re-insert the screw. Uncle Willy has also found that those bamboo hibachi skewers work well in this regard also. They are a bit bigger in diameter, and the wood is a bit tougher and stringier, so it holds the screw better. If you find a place in a playfield where there's a void inside the playfield, or the screw hole is particularly badly stripped, the solution is to drill out the hole to accommodate a short section of wooden dowel. Again, make sure to use wood glue to keep the plug in place. Question: What's the story on "beta" versions of pinball games? I found a game that looks different than most I've seen; is it a "beta"? (It also had some different rules in it.) Answer: In the developing a new pinball game, Williams/Bally will build 15-20 engineering prototype games. These get used for testing of the pinball in various ways, and for programming the software. After that, a sample run of games is produced and shipped to distributors for display at their showrooms. Finally, full production is started on a game. Changes are made throughout the process for many reasons, such as rules changes, fixing of ball hangups, improvements for reliability and manufacturability. Of course, the game software matures during the process, too. It is often hard to strictly define what the crowd calls a "beta" game. Question: Will Brian Eddy, the designer of The Shadow pinball, be doing more pinball designs? If so, when can we expect his next game? Answer: Rest assured that Mr. Eddy is busy working on his next pinball design for Williams/Bally. Expect to see it when he's done. (Sorry, but Uncle Willy can't be any more specific than that.) Question: I have heard that John Popadiuk, designer of World Cup Soccer and Theatre of Magic, worked for Bally years ago before recently joining up to design those two games. Could you tell me what he worked on previously? Answer: Mr. Popadiuk started with Bally pinball in 1980 and worked there on and off for several years. During that time he developed several prototype ideas, but none of his games made it into production, partially due to the Bally Amusement buyout in the late '80s. (Some of games that he worked on were Destroyer - an outer-space game, Jail Break - with cops and robbers, and Ice Castles - a medieval snow fortress.) Luckily for everyone, Mr. Popadiuk never lost his passion for pinball. After rejoining the Williams/Bally team in 1993, he went on to design those games for which he is now known. He is presently busy designing his next pinball creation. Question: Are current Williams/Bally pinball games really programmed in 6809 assembly language? Answer: You betcha. And it's because of this that Uncle Willy gets night sweats about doing a 'pshs b' and a corresponding 'puls d'. (Uncle Willy apologizes for the the very poor attempt at computer geek humor.)

All text and images Copyright © 2005 The Pinball Factory. All games made under license to Williams Electronic Games Inc. 

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