|Some of the Shots available in Stern's Star Trek|
Wow! Well after throwing that question out there (What Makes a Pinball Shot Feel Good), I was blown away by the response. Answers poured in from aficionados all over the pinball community. Tournament players, novices, collectors, operators, techs, designers, even the VP of Design at Stern Pinball chimed in!!!
Here are some of their responses:
"The best shots are the ones that can be dialed in by the player to be made with regularity and therefore be satisfying."
-- Marcel Gonzalez (Showrunner - Florida Arcade Pinball Expo)
"Feedback- its all and only about feedback- the choreography of the event , the things you see, hear, the emotion evoked by the realization that you have: advanced, achieved a goal, completed something, incremented score, heard or discovered a piece of the story, evoked an emotion from an opponent whether real (your buddy) or virtual( the animated 3d Hulk toy you just hit). The smooth transition of the ball is a visually and aurally perceived event. Feedback- like all games is the magic."
-- George Gomez (Designer, Stern Pinball VP of Game Design)
"It's about satisfaction. It's such a relief when you achieve it, like a weight is lifted off your shoulders and you're on top of the world. (Especially those difficult, timed shots worth a ton of points)."
"It feels similar to scoring that winning goal/basket/TD/Home run/KO punch and getting a rise from the audience.
Same with golf, pool or bowling. When that ball rolls a strike, or falls in the intended hole/pocket, it evokes the same visceral reaction as scoring a super jackpot."
-- Joel Cohen (Tournament Player)
"Pinball does an amazing job of letting you know that YOU are the one in control...but it also does a great job of letting you know that YOU screwed it up...love a great shot, but I also like the feeling of great ball control. To me there's greater satisfaction from a solid live catch/drop catch/cradle separation followed by a tough shot."
-- Carlos Porta (Tournament Player)
"The best shots are not too easy, not too hard, and have good feedback so you know you did something cool, or that you pushed forward in the rules of the game."
-- FLECOM (Operator/Tech/Collector)
"Not an easy question, I think a pinball design is not about one shot... its how all the shots, flow (up & down), rebounds, bounce, rest, jumps, timing, and many more factors. I guess ultimately for me a "shot" is part of a larger composition...and it is all related in some fashion."
-- John Popadiuk (Pinbal Designer)
"What makes a good shot for me is that it puts me into a Peak Experience. A peak experience is that sweet spot my mind gets into when it faces a desirable challenge, a challenge that is difficult enough to not be boring but not too difficult where it puts me off. It’s at a specific level where I have to focus at the peak of my ability. When I get into a good flow of making shots and keeping the ball alive who I am and what I think about diminish and only the pinball and the field exist. Sometimes I get so lost in that flow that the boundaries between my fingertips and the flippers disappear. When I keep shooting the shots I need to hit faster and smoother than I can think normally is what makes pinball extremely enjoyable for me."
-- Joshua Fay (Pinball Enthusiast)
Wow, so from most of these responses, it would appear that the key is not so much in a particular shot, but the many things that the player experiences in tandem during a good game. Factors like challenge, rebounds, flow, feedback, sound, choreography, all play a part in making pinball feel good.
So going back to the original question, I guess that the reason why a shot might feel good even if the ball leaves your direct control lies not in a single shot alone, but in the overall design and its impact on the player and how it makes him or her feel. The beauty lies not in the single tree, but in the forest it calls home.
To sum it up, here's an amazing video that I feel encapsulates all of the factors mentioned. It's called "The Last Empire" by Adrian Seifert. Check it out!