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Yet another high school computer club experience: we would sit around and create pinball tables on this amazing program, Pinball Construction Set, and then play each others creations!
PCS was, back then, a ground-breaking program. It had an easy, intuitive, and Mac-like interface, and even without a mouse, it was a snap to place various targets, bumpers, and flippers on the table. The flexibility of the program allowed you to create very odd-looking pinball games, and was a great experimental tool. This "game" was definitely a high point in the history of Apple II games. You could "snap together" a cool pinball game in under an hour, and your friends could play your games for longer than it took you to create the game! How rare is that?
I remember creating a pinball game where, instead of launching the ball up the right side (which is standard pinball procedure), I created a table where the ball launched up the MIDDLE of the table, and most of the action took place on either side of the ball-launcher. My computer club compatriots liked the idea so much that they copied the idea in several of their own pinball creations, which irritated me back then ("they ripped off my idea!"), but looking back, I should have been flattered. The point is that the program was THAT flexible; crazy pinball tables could be created and playtested without fear of crashing the program.
Budge's previous claim to fame was "Raster Blaster," a very realistic (for its time) pinball game for the Apple II, and PCS pretty much gave you the tools to recreate "Raster Blaster," and even surpass the previous standalone game! Pretty much anyone with basic computer (or gaming) experience could create a cool pinball table and play it; it was that easy. As a matter of fact, amongst my "pirated' game collection for the Atari 8-bit machines were several pinball games that were clearly created with PCS.
Although clearly surpassed today, the physics of the ball seemed very realistic back then, which amazed the heck out of me. You could set the game up for multi-ball too, which was really cool! It was the realistic physics that really stood out; you really felt like you were playing REAL pinball!
Even today, I can't think of an easier "game-making" tool than PCS. There is a very cool "freeware" Pinball-creation program for the Windows platform called Visual Pinball that is clearly inspired by PCS, but takes the complexity to a much higher level (which is great, don't get me wrong), making creating a table a much less approachable affair.
Here's the link: http://www.randydavis.com/vp/intro.htm
Pinball Construction Set is very dated today, and I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone but the hardcore, but for its time, it was amazing and fun! I definitely would award it "ground-breaking" status, in my opinion. Perhaps a modern update is in order!
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