Pinball fans, your day has arrived. Earlier today, Zen Studios confirmed that it has acquired the complete pinball library from Williams and Bally for use in Pinball FX3, with the first pack set to arrive sometime this year. This will bring several classics to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC, including Medieval Madness, Fish Tales and The Getaway: High Speed II.
But how did this deal come about? We managed to sit down with Mel Kirk and lead designer Imre "Emeric" Szigeti to get some insight as to how this deal went down, as well as what this means for the future of Pinball FX3. And, of course, we asked about some favorites…
Let's get into the interview!
Getting the Deal Started
You guys are probably familiar with the work that was done with Williams Bally's tables in the past over on The Pinball Arcade. What ultimately led to them partnering up with you? The additional features of Pinball FX3? Or was it something else?
Mel Kirk: Zen presented a clear and exciting vision for the future of the Williams Bally collection. Combined with our proven quality product and dedication to customer service, I think we seemed like a well positioned partner for the future. Pinball FX3 and The Pinball Arcade are both great games, but I think we have focused on different things over the past few years. Pinball FX3 offers players different options and features, and I think the tables will feel fresh and will certainly be given the top-tier quality treatment they deserve.
The deal gives you access to some of the best pinball tables ever made. How excited are you to introduce them into the Pinball FX fold?
Imre Szigeti: Most of us have played these tables since we were kids, standing in awe before all the captivating machines, with their exquisite cabinets and flashing lights. There were no words that could describe our feelings upon learning that we can work on the very tables still living so vividly in our memories – and, in many cases, in our office in Budapest right now! It was almost a dream come true.
We are confident that these tables will make a perfect addition to our collection, complementing the existing, high-quality lineup with the real deal – the very tables that inspired us every step of the way to building our digital tables.prevnext
Accuracy (and Tournaments) Are Everything
What process will you be following to make the tables as accurate as possible? You've got a lot of work cut out for you instead of just making a digital pinball table from scratch, I'll bet.
Imre Szigeti: It's definitely a lot of work -- but we certainly can't complain about the actual work involved! Who wouldn't want to get paid to spend every day getting to intimately know these machines, even to the point of breaking them down so that we can effectively measure their dimensions and all their accessories as accurately as possible? We even 3D scan their toys, models and textures, with the result of replicating items with unrivaled precision. We're able to get the tables as close to their real-world counterparts as possible.
It's also a lot of "work" to exhaustively play test things, which has resulted in a new physics formula, where the ball will handle as close to the real thing in classic mode as is possible, which should definitely please those craving a true simulation experience.
The tables will feature real-time lighting and shadows, ball reflections, reflective surfaces, a new camera, trivia facts, and a brand new, exquisite room environment for when you zoom out. In other words, every table will feel at home in the environments we're creating for them, as you can see demonstrated in other Pinball FX tables to this point as well. There are numerous other features you'll be able to turn on and off easily, including some visual extras.
There's another cool bit of "extra work" to speak to – but it's just a little too early to do that right now. But do know that if you're looking for a great simulation of actual pinball machines – with physics, difficulty and visuals –you'll find that all of this "work" we're doing has totally paid off.
Will you possibly be lining up tournaments for the Williams Bally tables in Pinball FX3 to bring in pinball enthusiasts? Or something along those lines?
Imre Szigeti: You bet! Without going into details, suffice to say players can expect a very busy time with a bunch of tournaments featuring Williams and Bally tables following their release. Players will also have the option to create their own tournaments on their Williams and Bally tables with their own rule sets, and will be free to invite their friends to participate as usual!prevnext
Where To Begin? And Where To Continue?
Where in the heck will you guys get started with table selection? Williams Bally has such a vast collection.
Mel Kirk: Right?!?! Table selection is one of the most fun things work out, but also one of the hardest. Prioritizing what to focus on when there are so many great games is really difficult, but we had some initial targets in mind from the very beginning. Going forward, you will probably be able to see a common theme in the sets of tables we release, possibly from certain eras, IPs, and so on.
How many tables are you hoping to release in the Williams Bally collection overall? Or do you have an overall goal? I see that you're going with four to start and moving on from there.
Mel Kirk: Our deal gives us access to the entire library of tables. Of course, some of these have very complicated licensing rights associated with them, including multiple rights holders for some games, which is a huge challenge to sort out. Our goal is to release as many games as possible while also prioritizing based on what people want. There are some "holy grail" moments that will hopefully happen. The first release will feature four tables, and various packs will follow, although they may contain different amounts of tables or even single releases.prevnext
What's Next...and a Judge Dredd Shoutout!
Are you hoping to talk with other pinball manufacturers to bring their tables to Pinball FX3 as well? Or is the focus just on Williams Bally for now?
Mel Kirk: The focus for now is on Williams Bally. We know all of the other manufacturers and have open discussion from time to time. The future is certainly exciting, and anything is possible.
Is there a possibility we'll see "long lost" Williams Bally tables as part of the deal? Or will you stick with more popular releases?
Mel Kirk: We want to produce the games that people want, and we always take feedback and suggestions from players very seriously. Tell us what you want! All games are possible, and it is certainly not just about what is traditionally the most popular or highest ranked.0comments
For example, Judge Dredd and Road Show are not the highest-rated tables, but we love them. Cactus Canyon had a run of only 903 units, but we really like that table. Safe Cracker, The Shadow, Congo -- all of these were not the most popular, but there are things unique and special about them that we want to work on. Again, we want to hear from the community and will take our cues from there.prev