Pinball Construction Set
|Pinball Construction Set|
The box cover for 1983's Pinball Construction Set. The square "album cover" boxes were a popular packaging concept by Electronic Arts, who wanted to portray their developers as "rock stars."
Electronic Arts & Ariolasoft (Europe)
Game creation system
Pinball Construction Set (PCS) is a video game by Bill Budge published by Electronic Arts. It was released for the Apple II and Atari 800 in 1983 and was later ported to other platforms, such as the Commodore 64 and DOS (as a booter).
Pinball Construction Set created a new genre of video games—the "builder" or "construction set" class of games. With PCS, users can construct their own virtual pinball machine, by dropping controls onto a table. Controls included bumpers, flippers, spinners and other standard pinball paraphernalia. Attributes such as gravity and the physics model could also be modified. Users could save their creations and develop custom artwork to go along with them. Tables could be saved on floppy disks and freely traded; Pinball Construction Set was not needed to play the tables.
Bill Budge, the author of the popular Raster Blaster pinball game for the Apple II series, began developing Pinball Construction Set in July 1982. He did not want to write another game ("all the current (arcade) games are either maze games or Pong; I didn't want any part of that"), but began experimenting with game and graphical tools he had written. As part of the development process he purchased and disassembled an old Gottlieb Target Alpha pinball machine, so his new project could accurately depict its components. Budge does not enjoy playing video games, and described having to play pinball for months while developing Pinball Construction Set as "sheer torture".
The project was very ambitious, especially for the Apple's limited memory and graphics capabilities. While Budge did not work on the Apple Lisa project as an Apple employee from 1980 to 1981 he was aware of it and the Graphic User Interface research at Xerox PARC, and gave Pinball Construction Set a Lisa-like user interface. He originally published and distributed the game via his publishing company BudgeCo in late 1982; the box art was a photograph of the parts of the disassembled pinball machine. It did not sell well, however, as BudgeCo did not have the distribution network that other, larger companies did. Budge agreed to have EA to publish his game when Trip Hawkins approached him in 1983. Raster Blaster and other projects had already made Budge a celebrity among Apple II owners, and his name was much larger than the name of the software on EA's Pinball Construction Set box art.
Written for the Apple II, Pinball Construction Set was ported to the numerous home computers of the era, including the Commodore 64 and as a PC booter. It sold over 300,000 copies in all platforms. EA followed with Music Construction Set, Adventure Construction Set, and Racing Destruction Set all from different authors.
Pinball Construction Set 's scope and flexibility on a 48K Apple II was revolutionary. Steve Wozniak called it "the greatest program ever written for an 8-bit machine", and for thousands the software was their first experience with a GUI. Computer Gaming World in 1983 considered the "software toy" revolutionary, and easy to understand because of its representative icons and drag-and-drop method of constructing a table; the magazine stated that "there's something almost magical about the way this product works. You take everything it does for granted after just a few minutes". The nine-page manual was considered "overkill", since Pinball Construction Set required no programming knowledge; an eight-year-old had no problems creating his own tables.
BYTE stated in 1984 "it is hard to find anything wrong with this game ... Creativity is encouraged. [Users] are gently encouraged and aided. This is valuable for children and inexperienced players and computer users". InfoWorld compared the game's importance to that of Scott Adams's Adventureland, and predicted that it "is sure to have lots of children and grandchildren".Ahoy! wrote "you owe it to yourself to pick up Pinball Construction Set. It is among the best home entertainment programs ever written". Compute! listed it in 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", calling the game "a programming work of art ... a classic that never seems to grow old". Orson Scott Card stated in the magazine in 1989 that the program was so flexible that his son used it as a graphics program.
In 1984 Softline readers named the game the ninth most-popular Apple and Atari program of 1983. Pinball Construction Set is an inductee in GameSpy's Hall of Fame. In 2008, Pinball Construction Set was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for "User Generated Content/Game Modification". Bill Budge accepted the award.
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- GDC 2012: The games that influenced our influential game designers from Gamasutra.com
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- GameSpy Hall of Fame from GameSpy
- 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from Kotaku.com