Pinball Construction Set
|Pinball Construction Set|
The square "album cover" box.
|Platform(s)||Apple II (original)
Atari 8-bit, C64, Macintosh, IBM PC (booter)
Game creation system
Pinball Construction Set (PCS) is a video game by Bill Budge published by Electronic Arts. It was developed for the Apple II and ported to the Atari 8-bit family and Commodore 64 in 1983. Pinball Construction Set created a new genre of video games—the "builder" or "construction set" class of games. Users can construct their own virtual pinball machine by dropping bumpers, flippers, spinners and other pinball paraphernalia onto a table. Attributes such as gravity and the physics model can be modified. Users can save their creations and develop custom artwork to go along with them. Tables can be saved on floppy disks and freely traded; Pinball Construction Set is not needed to play the tables.
The game was later ported to the IBM PC (as a PC booter) in 1985 and the Macintosh in 1986. A version for the Coleco Adam combined with Hard Hat Mack under the title The Best of Electronic Arts was completed but not released.
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.
Pinball Construction Set's sales had surpassed 250,000 copies by November 1989, and it ultimately 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 impressive. 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. Reviewing the Atari 800 version in their "Arcade Alley" column, Video magazine described Pinball Construction Set as a "remarkably clever and easy-to-use program", and noted that a third party company had already published a suite of pre-made pinball games for use with the construction set.:32
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". The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 gave the "pinball wizard's dream" an overall A+ rating, praising the user interface as "exceptionally human engineered". 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 Pinball Construction Set received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Most Innovative Video Game/Computer Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards.:29 One month later Softline readers named the game the ninth most-popular Apple and Atari program of 1983. Computer Gaming World in 1996 ranked it #1 in the magazine's list of the most innovative computer games. 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.
- "Things to Come: The Pinball Construction Set". Softline. November 1982. p. 8. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
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- "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
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- "The Best and the Rest". St.Game. Mar–Apr 1984. p. 49. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "The 15 Most Innovative Computer Games". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. p. 102. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- GameSpy Hall of Fame from GameSpy
- 2008 Tech Emmy Winners from Kotaku.com
- GDC 2012: The games that influenced our influential game designers from Gamasutra.com
- I just pushed the source for Pinball Construction Set to github (thanks to Scott Cronce at EA) on twitter.com
- Budge, Bill. "billbudge/PCS_Atari800". GitHub. Retrieved February 13, 2013.