An article that Ars Technica wrote has got us thinking about where we draw the line at censoring content in a pinball machine to appease license holders.

Jared Morgan
Oct 17, 2018 · 4 min read

There’s a point at which you just shake your head and say “nope, that’s too far”. For some, it is when you change even the slightest part of an original item to meet today’s censorship laws. For others, it ranges from “a bit is OK” to “hey, I really couldn’t care less”.

In this episode, we focus on an article in Ars Technica that documents the censorship of Zen Pinball FX3 Williams Pinball.

It will be interesting to hear what you think about the approach taken in the article, so do comment if you have a position on this. We know one thing for sure about this last month: Zen do give due consideration to the community when it comes to what matters to us.

And now… on with the show

Some warm-up banter about weather and stuff, then we get into the show…

Pinball FX3 Williams Pinball Cross-platform Release

Hot Lips on the ramp there is making some folks a bit distracted during multiball
  • 06:00 - Williams Pinball Tables released
  • 06:20 - New To Zen Folks
  • 06:55 - What are Wizard and Super Scores in Zen?
  • 09:20 - Finding your favourite Table View in Zen
  • 11:00 - Animations and enhancements are hitting a sweet-spot with folks
  • 12:30 - Shared animations with the animated skins in the games
  • 13:20 - Medieval Madness dragon animations triggering some folks.
  • 14:20 - Scores popping up show deep ROM integration
  • 15:30 - Custom Tournament glitch with Zen vs Tournament flipper physics.

On-boarding Suggestions

  • 17:15 - Renaming Single Player and Classic Single Player.
  • 18:00 - Don’t front-load all the on-boarding tips.

New Physics are attracting new folks and opening new sales possibilities

  • 19:30 - Insta-buy for new-to-zen folks if they apply Williams physics to all Zen tables.
  • 20:00 - How could the Venom table benefit from Williams Physics.

The Final 10%

  • 23:45 — Williams Pinball gamble paid off: Mel Kirk
  • 25:00 — Beta physics tweaks show how rapidly new physics could be rolled
  • out per table.
  • 25:30 - Why it's important to finish off the job.
  • 26:30 - How the alpha to beta to release 10% worked with Zen.

Ars Technica Article on Censorship in Zen FX3

  • 30:00 - Framing the discussion
  • 32:00 - Why was Fish Tales so heavily censored?
  • 33:30 - Can’t unsee those hardly noticeable Medieval Madness edits.
  • 35:30 - How will re-submission work if they need to reclassify?
  • 36:30 - Protecting Zen Studios’ other license properties.
  • 37:00 - Aside: Censorship on TV vs Video Games.
  • 39:45 - Where should they draw the line with audio call-outs and censorship?
  • 41:00 - Should they really be censoring the "character" out of a pinball
  • theme?
  • 43:00 - What "is" gambling really in the scope of Pinball?
  • 45:00 - Should you even consider doing a table if you have to censor key
  • themes?
  • 45:45 - Could you segregate Williams Pinball packs in a separate app to work around ratings restrictions?
  • 46:45 - Could you make Zen FX3 a launcher for ESRB licensed external content packs.
  • 49:50 - Should you consider altering the original factory game code to fit into classification guidelines?
  • 51:45 - Closing thoughts about censorship, and prior art in this area.

BlahCade Pinball

Podcast devoted to commercial digital pinball that occasionally veers wildly off-topic just because.

Jared Morgan

Written by

Tech Writer with a Product focus | Podcaster | Pinball enthusiast.

BlahCade Pinball

Podcast devoted to commercial digital pinball that occasionally veers wildly off-topic just because.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade