Damnit Jim I’m a Doctor not a pinball wizard!

I haven’t had a chance to play one yet, but the new Star Trek pinball looks like a deep game with lots of different shots and a great light show. Bowen Kerins did a live tutorial on it which can be accessed through the papa.org site.  As usual, he does a very good job of explaining the rules, the shots and his thoughts regarding strategy.

As the youtube video above shows, Karl Urban, who played Bones McCoy in the two JJ Abrams Star Trek films, has agreed to do custom speech for the new Star Trek pinball.  If you have played STTNG, you know that there is lots of custom speech in the game that sounds like it was done by the original actors and is well integrated into the game.  It is a significant improvement when Stern can integrate the real actors voices into the game. The voice actors in the Avengers sound like someone in a SNL skit making fun of the Avengers.  It is distracting and detracts from the feeling that you are experiencing the Avengers while playing the game.  I have read that voice actors were used in The Hobbit because one of the movie actors wanted $100,000 to record custom lines for the machine.

The great thing about Urban is that he is a pinball collector and, according to Steve Ritchie, is a good player.  It sounds like this had lead him to be personally interested in recording custom speech for the Star Trek machine.  Ritchie has said that they have lots of lines ready for him and expect that he will ad lib a few too.  Did you notice he looks like he is wearing a loaded holster in the video?

Yesterday, I listened to the Spooky Pinball podcast for December which features interviews of Stern employees at the Stern factory.  Steve Ritchie, the designer of STTNG and Star Trek, had some interesting insights into licenses and designing pinball machines. He admitted that he has been forced to do some licenses that we was not excited about doing.  He didn’t mention it in the interview, but I have read that he did not want to do the Elvis pinball.  I think most people agree that it is not a great machine and this is probably due in part to the designer not being excited about the license.  Ritchie stated that he now has an understanding with Stern that he has to agree to work on the licenses that are presented to him.

Ritchie revealed that he is a life long trekie and said that he watched the original episodes with his friends instead of watching the westerns that were shown on Saturday night.  He also said that Star Trek was a hard license to work on because they were not given much information.  There was a fight over the colors to be used on the machine (which Stern won) and Stern was initially given very little information to work with in designing the machine.  Ritchie said that Stern has now changed its approach and will have face to face meetings early on with a representative of the license to make sure that they get the cooperation they need in order to make the best pinball machine for the license.

This is a good policy change by Stern as they have missed some license requirements in the past due.  The targets on Iron Man were designed to read Iron on one set and Man on the other.  When Stern showed the machine to the license holder (Marvel?), they pointed out that the license requires that the words Iron and Man not be displayed separately.  As a result, the factory targets have small outlines of Iron Man instead of the letters.  My machine and many others have the aftermarket Iron Man letter stickers installed to reflect the intended design for the machine.

After some bad results with failure to follow up on code and quality control issues, Stern seems to be doing well with Star Trek, Metallica and AC/DC.  We will have to wait and see whether the code will be fully implemented in the three machines (Metallica has the most shallow code of the three), but from a design and quality control stand point, it looks like Stern has made real improvement.