If it’s pinball you like, it’s Zen Studios who are able to get you excited. After running various Pinball FX games over the years – Pinball FX2 and Pinball FX3 – it’s the newly rebooted free-to-play Pinball FX on Xbox, PlayStation and PC that has come to the fore.
A totally overhauled pinball title that promises to deliver the most realistic lane-hitting yet, the base game of Pinball FX is free to download, with tables then sitting behind paywalls or the subscription-based Pinball Pass.
We wanted to find out more about how the Pinball Pass subscription service came into play, as well as discovering the process behind the creation of Pinball FX as a whole. Zen Studios were more than happy to chat things over, putting up their Pinball FX lead producer Ákos Szabó for some question time.
Hi, please could you introduce yourself. What is your role at Zen Studios and on Pinball FX in particular?
Hello! My name is Ákos Szabó and I am the lead producer of Pinball FX. I’ve been leading projects at zen for 5 years now, and I had the pleasure to lead the teams behind Operencia the Stolen Sun and Star Wars Pinball VR.
The newly rebooted Pinball FX launched recently on multiple platforms, can you give us a brief description of what it is for those who might be unfamiliar?
Pinball FX is the leading digital pinball platform that offers an immersive and highly realistic pinball experience on various gaming platforms. The rebooted and updated version features improved physics, graphics, and a plethora of new and classic tables, designed to appeal to both casual players and pinball enthusiasts alike.
So, Pinball FX is like a free-to-play hub for all your pinball needs. Are there fresh ways to play in terms of pinball game modes?
In this new version of Pinball FX, we have re-introduced a variety of game modes from our previous games to keep the gameplay fresh and engaging. There are classic single-player modes together with different Arcade challenges, offering a diverse range of playstyles.
I see that there’s a Pinball Pass this time, how does that work and what was the idea behind it?
The Pinball Pass is a subscription service that grants players access to most of our tables. The idea behind it is to provide an affordable way for players to experience a wide variety of tables without having to purchase each one individually. We also have big plans for this model, which we hope to share soon in the future.
There are a lot of tables, but do you have any recommendations for beginners?
For beginners, I would definitely recommend starting with the Dreamworks table pack, especially My Little Pony Pinball and Trolls Pinball. If you feel like you’re already into it, the next level should be the Back to the Future pinball and Star Wars Pinball: The Force Awakens tables, as these two offer the most forgiving game modes.
Veteran players will be getting stuck in to earn all of the table-related rewards immediately to show off in the Pin Hall. What kinds of items can you decorate your Pin Hall with, and do you have a favourite?
In the Pin Hall, players can display their collectibles, trophies from tournament victories and decorate the space with various decorative elements such as carpets and sculptures. Since I love the Star Wars universe, my favorite decorations are the big statues from the franchise, like Luke and Darth Vader, and of course Indy from the Indiana Jones pinball table.
Zen Studios are no strangers to acquiring licences for table themes, with Marvel, Universal, Williams and Star Wars among them. Which new IPs did you get to design tables for ahead of release and were there difficulties in adapting them?
The biggest new IP releases of the Pinball FX release were the Gearbox Collection and the Garfield Table. Working with new IP is always a challenge because we have to find the right balance between creative design and adapting the core features of the IP. But I think in the end we always manage to create unique and enjoyable experiences for each theme.
Every table available for Pinball FX has been given the Pro Physics treatment. How does this differ from what was in place for previous titles in the series like Pinball FX2 and Pinball FX 3?
We have tinkered with our physics a lot since Williams Pinball Volume 1 released into FX3. Peter ‘Deep’ Grafl, our lead Pinball Designer spearheaded this effort and now it has resulted in great ball weight, reactive and weighted flippers. We actually simulate the rubbers on them now, which takes us as close to their real movement as possible. In FX3, we couldn’t implement this new way of play easily outside of Williams tables, but now that we’ve built up every table in Unreal we had the opportunity to expand this physics. It was a hard, long but ultimately very rewarding process. We talked a lot to our players and they offered very good insights on how a table should behave. These guys are serious about this stuff, their knowledge and experience are unparalleled so we learned a lot ourselves from the Pinball Wizards in the community.
Many long-time players were a little disappointed at being unable to import tables already owned from Pinball FX 3. Why wasn’t this possible?
For the new Pinball FX, every single table in our library has been remastered, updated, and optimized in Unreal Engine to deliver the best pinball experience going forward. This process required considerable effort that, had that effort not taken place, would have left all classic tables already released behind forever. They would not have been able to make the jump to Pinball FX at all due to using an entirely different, more advanced engine.
The table-specific Xbox achievements are gone in Pinball FX, so what kind of feats do players need to perform to unlock them now?
We’ve moved these in-game, calling them Table Awards. Many of them on legacy tables can be old friends (especially the ones where you need to reach the Wizard mode, or the Safe Cracker coin collecting one) but the new tables got new challenges players can face.
What’s next for Pinball FX? Will we be seeing more IPs arriving in the near future? Or even extra game modes maybe?
Absolutely. Our release schedule is packed for 2023 and 2024 and we will have some awesome new partners whose IP-s will be joining the Pinball FX library. We are always working on new features as well, we’ve got some cool ideas so keep in touch with our news!
And finally, what’s your best score on any Pinball FX table?
Well, I’m certainly not in league with our best players! I did manage to get a good score on Star Wars™ Pinball: Might of the First Order (100 million+!), but that might be cheating a bit – as when I started at Zen I was a QA tester, and that was a table I was working on. So I know the ins and outs pretty well.
Huge thanks go from us to Ákos for providing some of their time post-launch of Pinball FX.
Since our interview took place, Zen have also confirmed that 5 new tables will soon be hitting Pinball FX, including the Crypt of the NecroDancer, Williams Twilight Zone, and the Godzilla vs Kong Pinball 3-pack which features Godzilla Pinball, Kong Pinball and Godzilla vs Kong Pinball.
You can find Pinball FX on Xbox, PlayStation and PC, with the Xbox Store providing the free download you need in order to get the base game running on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.