I work in the programming department at Stern Pinball. I'm a recent hire, but have lived arcade and pinball since the day I was born. I've been playing since I could reach the flipper buttons, and never lost the attraction to the silver ball.

Pinball has seen a big upswing in the past 3 years, and there are now 2 other major companies looking to put their own machines into the world, and competition is starting to step its game up.

I will answer any questions I can, but I do have an NDA agreement, so I can't spill all of our secrets.

PROOF: http://imgur.com/cCPPEjH

Comments: 267 • Responses: 65  • Date: 

rancegt1 karma

Would Stern ever consider releasing source code for games to the community? This might help resolve a lot of the complaints about "unfinished code."

Edit: I don't own any Stern games and this isn't a knock at Stern. I know that even some of the developers would like more to time to develop the code more fully but the economics prevent it. I'd like to own a CSI someday and I heard that at least one of the original developers had ideas about rounding out that code at one time.

TheSilverBall3 karma

I actually don't know what the company stance is on this so...


And with that... Probably not. Even if we aren't actually liable legally speaking if someone typos something in the code and something burns up, the first thing that happens is that they call us up and say "Hey your stuff broke, you fried my driver board". Anyone who spends any amount of time in the industry at all will know, things will go wrong on coding, and even with watchdogs, code-checking, and more, something will blow up on you, and it is always the $100 IC burned up and the 10ยข fuse is perfectly fine.

flashburn20121 karma

Metallica or Kiss? ;)

TheSilverBall2 karma

AC/DC ;)

toyotaboy1 karma

Is stern ever going to LCD, or some sort of color DMD in the near future?

TheSilverBall4 karma

Answering this would get me fired in an instant. Our future has many cool, new things coming to pinball, I will promise that.

TheSilverBall0 karma

Rumors are rumors, take them as they are, word of mouth without confirmation.

badguylabs1 karma

Hey! I work for a company that has a location in Melrose Park! If I ever get a chance to visit my company site over there, do you think there's a chance you could set up a tour of Stern? I'm a young'n but my parents had a Middle Earth machine in our basement and I've been chasing silver ever since.

TheSilverBall2 karma

Your BEST bet to get a tour would be in October during an event called Pinball Expo. I don't remember the cost for the tour, but one of the many events that goes on is a factory tour. Beyond that, Hit up our Facebook page and send a message. The guy in charge of our Facebook will sometimes offer up a tour of the place.

superrob7501 karma

I can't pass up a machine with out tossing in some money. I grew up with pinball machines. I can't wait to see what's next. White water rafting or tales from the crypt are the favorites right now.

TheSilverBall1 karma

Whitewater is a really good game!

wolfstrike1 karma

As a fellow Pinhead, I just want to say thanks (to you and Stern pinball) for keeping a lifelong joy of mine alive.

TheSilverBall1 karma

Thank you so much!

tellmetheworld0 karma

What was that last A for in AMAA?

TheSilverBall-1 karma

Ask Me Almost Anything, because of NDA, I can't answer all questions.

anilsen0 karma

Just wanted to say thanks, especially if you had anything to do with Rolling Stones. It's my favorite game at my nearest arcade.

TheSilverBall-1 karma

I did not have any involvement in Rolling Stones, but thanks for the support!

flashburn20120 karma

Can you say what's currently on the production line?

TheSilverBall-1 karma

That changes any given day.

BusaFalconeer0 karma

What do you think of Jersey Jack Pinball's new Wizard of Oz machine with the big 32" display? (www.jerseyjackpinball.com) I've played one myself and it's badass!

TheSilverBall-2 karma

I've played it, at the time the ruleset was barely developed. I think it isn't a bad game, but not anything special.

fleshydigits0 karma

What are some of your biggest markets? When I lived in San Francisco, there was a pinball machine (Stern being the best) in MANY bars around the city. I'm in Philly now and there's maybe 4 in town.

TheSilverBall-1 karma

Within the USA I don't actually know. I know we export about half of our games to other countries, mostly in Europe. AC/DC had a bunch of pins going to Australia. Finding pinball machines on location can be severely influenced by local licensing laws.

CoalTreighn0 karma

How did you end up getting a job with Stern? To me it sounds like an absolute dream job as I'm in college right now for Computer Science and I love pinball.

Also, thank you guys for continuing to make pinball machines (My new Tron is awesome! I saved up for so long for it!) I look forward to hopefully going on a tour of the factory this summer!

TheSilverBall-1 karma

So I said earlier I've always lived pinball, so working at Stern seemed natural to me. Well, I've been active in the community for awhile too, and it all came together when I contacted one of the guys working there and had my community reputation to back me up. It was a lucky series of events falling into place.

Glad you enjoy your Tron pinball!!!

flashburn20120 karma

What kind of salary range does a programmer at Stern make? I could use a change of scenery.

TheSilverBall0 karma

You mean you couldn't read through the blacked out part of my paystub? It's isn't a bad paying job, but your not living in a gold house. Everyone here has a passion for pinball, and a lot of this job is enjoying what we do.

sbrbrad0 karma

I have a Simpson's Pinball Party.

I love it.

Thank you Stern for making pinballs still.

TheSilverBall-1 karma

Thanks for your support!

ncdwightnc0 karma

X-Men LE owner here. What can you tell us about the next XM code? When should we expect it and can you give us some sense of the magnitude of the change and what direction it is heading? Love the game in general, but a lot is riding on the next version and info has been scarce.

TheSilverBall1 karma

I can't say much about it. I can however say that everyone at Stern is working really hard on not just new products, but our existing products. Hold out and have faith!

emazur0 karma

How do you get businesses to purchase your pinball machines? And besides typical purchasers such as arcades, bowling alleys, and bars, do you have any ideas on expanding pinball purchasers into less traditional businesses such as dry cleaners, medical offices, restaurants and such?

How many new pinball games does your company produce per year?

Also if you want my take, 50 c / play is the MOST you should be charging, and even then it's kinda pushing it. There's so much competition out there (getting Steam games less than 1 year after release for $5 to $15 for example) that it's personally hard to justify spending several dollars for 10 to 30 minutes of play. One advantage you have though is that virtually no one can get the true pinball experience at home on the cheap.

TheSilverBall1 karma

Here is the thing, the average business doesn't own our machines. The local operator does. The operator buys our machines and puts them in a location such as a bowling alley or a bar, etc. Arcades are about the only place that will own its own equipment, and this stems from the fact that there is some amount of knowledge needed to work on a game if it breaks.

A count of how many machines we actually make, I'm not allowed to disclose. We produced 3 different titles in 2012, AC/DC, X-Men, and Avengers.

Pinball fights against many, many forms of entertainment in todays technological world, but at the end of the day, nothing can equal a real, true pinball machine. The machine is physical, the ball is wild, and you can't emulate the true, real experience at the end of the day.

emazur0 karma

Thanks for the response. So are you saying that places like bars and bowling alleys rent the machines from these "local operators"? Do you know typically how much they have to pay to rent them, if there's a delivery and setup cost, and what the minimum length of contract is? And do you happen to know if renting pinball machines for personal birthday parties is common and/or on the rise?

TheSilverBall0 karma

Most operators will go in, put the machine in, and split the cash box with the location. Usually at no cost for delivery or setup. It's not common to see machines renting for parties, but I do see it sometimes. Contact your local operator and see if they will work a deal with you.

SirMikan0 karma

How did you get your job? I only ask because I worked as an engineer at the engine company across Mannheim from you guys and I always had a dream to cross that street and ask for a job. (just doubled down on automotive and got a new job in Detroit, but I dreamed this dream every time I got pissed at work for the four years I was in Melrose Park)

TheSilverBall-1 karma

I personally contacted one of the designers and discussed the opportunity with him. The average person could either call the factory or probably walk in and fill out an application.