Feb. 22, 2012 at 1:41 PM ET
Pinball no longer rules the gaming landscape, but it still has an intensely loyal legion of followers. These individuals would much rather guide a steel ball down a ramp in real life than a make believe solider on a virtual battlefield, or any of the popular pursuits that most gamers go for these days. But because actual machines are hard to come by, digital facsimiles must be dealt with sometimes. Yet such a dedicated audience demands accuracy and perfection, nothing less, and it’s a challenge that FarSight Studios is up for.
The makers of “Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection” and “Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection” have learned much over the years, creating electronic versions of beloved classics. And their latest release, “The Pinball Arcade.” represents the pinnacle of all their hard work, research, and dedication in the following mini documentary that Kotaku recently highlighted:
As FarSight president Jay Obernolte explains, his studio tried making a pinball simulation back in the day, and while it worked just fine, it also didn't feel like the real thing. This revelation led them down a path to properly translate pinball's very unique qualities accurately, especially as it pertains to each individual game.
On a purely visual level, countless photographs are taken of a pinball machine in its natural state, before being completely dissected, so FarSight artists can take an even closer look at every single ramp and flipper. All the lights and the dot matrix animations are also reproduced painstakingly, thanks to the emulation of the chiptsets that drive them.
An interesting and unexpected part of the process is the time consuming and costly business of dealing with licenses. Much like with DVD releases in the home video market, every single asset that a game contains must be cleared, from the art design of the tables, the music that accompanies the action, and any film or television tie-ins.
At a certain point, the documentary details how complex an animal each pinball machine is, with upkeep being a particularly arduous process. But it simply adds to the overall appreciation and even reverence the studio has for the subject matter, which is clearly exhibited in their final product.
For FarSight, they're not just creating a game but archiving history for future generations. As Mike Field, the studio's art director states at the very end, "We bring everything except the smell of sweat and bubblegum. You can bring that yourself."
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot, and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.