BlahCade 205: Same sh*t, different day

Jared Morgan Jared Morgan Follow Sep 20, 2020 · 5 mins read
BlahCade 205: Same sh*t, different day
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The wait for new digital pinball content is starting to wear many pinball fans out and this is leading to conspiracy theories.

It certainly must feel frustrating when you are starving for content and no one is dishing it out to you. This is how many Zen Pinball fans are feeling about 2020 because Zen has not released any tables since early this year.

Fear not! This does not mean that Zen Studios are in trouble. Nor does it mean that they are losing the Williams license.

Listen in as we unpack the year to date and help you understand why releasing pinball tables has not been the focus of the studio.

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Show notes

05:30 — Is Zen in trouble?

So many folks think that because Zen Studios are not releasing many tables this year that they are in financial trouble. 👀 Remember, Zen had a 10-year plan in place that they have been working from up until late 2019.

This year, Zen has been doing the back-of-house planning for the next decade and that takes time. You can also bet they are preparing everything for the new console releases coming up this year.

Departmental poaching

This just doesn’t happen at Zen. Each department has a pre-determined headcount that doesn’t really change. Zen doesn’t need to poach resources from teams. Mel himself confirmed this in a past interview.

Asian markets

Mel has suggested that new Asian markets are a huge focus for the studio and there are some exciting prospects from a licensing perspective in this area.

Alpha-numeric emulation

Running emulated tables on modern gaming hardware is a challenge to get right. CPU clock speeds of old pinball hardware were in the megahertz (Mhz) so slowing down emulation software to this level, then orchestrating this across sound and display animations is no mean feat.

It caused Farsight Studios no end of trouble getting this right, and even today it’s still not quite right. Zen being Zen, they don’t release stuff that isn’t their best, so getting this framework correct now for future tables is very important. Because these older tables also stream the audio from the MIDI Yamaha FM chip, making the sounds accurate is also much more difficult than you might think.

All the Bally Williams tables that use the Digital Compression System (DCS) essentially recorded studio audio and compressed it down to about 64 Mhz, then played it like an MP3. That’s different from rendering the audio on the fly using MIDI. That is not easy to emulate.

Arcade 1UP

Zen and Arcade 1UP are still getting ready to release these tables into the market. Nothing has changed.

26:00 — How long will Williams Pinball be developed?

Williams Pinball Volume 6 key art

You can expect that at some point Williams tables will stop being made by Zen. Could we expect that Stern pinball could be the follow-up act in the next 10 years?

29:00 — Digital pinball cabinet poker

Every company that has announced a physical cabinet is sitting on the information like poker players. My feeling is that all these companies will announce everything from October onwards to align with the Christmas purchasing.

The other factor is that all the new consoles (A$750 approx) are due to come out for Christmas 2020.

33:00 — Sport or skill

Steve Mason from 710ESPN runs a podcast called Culture Pop. The radio show Steve Mason has been running for years now is what inspired the format for our show.

With this in mind, let’s interrupt our regularly scheduled pinball with a bit of a quiz.

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Jared Morgan
Written by Jared Morgan Follow
Technical writer, product person, VR junkie.