Hyperball: What was it?
One of the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) here on r.g.p usually goes something like this:
"I remember playing this game that looked like a pinball machine, that used a gun to shoot little pinballs. What *was* that?"
That, my friend, was most likely Hyperball by Williams Electronics. Yes, it could have been Bally's Rapid Fire, but Hyperball was much more prevalent. Thus, this little FAQ file.
This quasi-faq was assembled by me, with invaluable input from:
Plus: the fine folks at pinGame journal
And: a conversation with: Steve Ritchie
Version 3.23 - Changes the description of Steve Ritchie to Esteemed :)
Version 3.22 - Corrects mislabeling of FAQ (Was labeled 3.1, should've been 3.2)
Version 3.2 - Corrects number of players from 4 to 2, adds additional flyer text, plus some notes on Steve Ritchie's past credits.
Version 3.0 - New Format: Corrects release date, adds design team information from Steve Ritchie
Version 2.0 - Adds text of Williams Brochure, courtesy F Croci
Version 1.0 - Incorporated input from Anderson, Burke, & Whittle
Version 0.5 - My original post on Hyperball.
Hyperball was *NOT* a pinball machine. It *was* housed in a standard pinball body/backglass. The best way to describe it is a shooting game in a pinball housing with videogame rules.
Hyperball fired small ball bearings up the playfield. from a gun turret located where the middle drain would be on a pinball machine. The game used 55 balls, .750" diameter (3/4 of an inch). The center of the playfield was open, with lights and artwork. Up each side of the playfield were holes where you could shoot the balls. The holes had letters (a,b,c,) Across the top were a series of hanging targets which could be hit with the balls.
You controlled the game from two hand-grips with triggers, which rotated left to right and back. In between the hand grips was a *Z Bomb* button which would destroy all the attacking lights. You usually had three of those per game.
Hyperball was designed by the esteemed Steve Ritchie, longtime Williams designer. Steve's design credits include many of my personal favorites. In addition to Hyperball, he has given us:
(Thanks to Uncle Willy for the list!)
Hyperball was programmed by Ed Suchocki (pronounced: SUH-HOCKEY). Jerry Hendricks served as the mechanical engineer.
Steve apparently wanted to design a video game, but it was not meant to be. (Steve did design two video games that were never produced, Devastator (a 3-D space game) and Chicken ala King.) If you've played Hyperball, there is a definite Space Invaders feel to parts of it.
Hyperball was released by Williams Electronics originally at the 1982 AMOA show. This initial version was apparently a mechanical nightmare. The game was substantially reworked in time for the 1983 spring ACME show. One of the major problems was with the ball feed/cannon firing system (see section <5>). The initial cannon problems were solved by Mike Stroll, the president of Williams. In addition to being the president, Mike is also a talented engineer. The original four-inch barrel was shortened and flared, which greatly improved the firing. Eventually, after a 14 month development cycle the game was released as Game # 509, with a production run of 4,444.
The object of the game is to shoot targets with the 'Hypercannon' (a centre mounted gun solenoid thing) and avoid losing your 'Energy Centres' (of which you have 3 in the default setting). You also have a 'Z Bomb' (a Defender type smart bomb) button on top of the machine which destroys all of the 'Lightning Bolts' as they "walk" around the playfield.
You also have the option of spelling words as the display indicates and this rewards you with huge amounts of points (if you spell it in the right order).
Each time you complete a wave you move onto a more difficult level which means the lightning bolts attack you faster and move aggressively.
On waves 5, 10, 15 and so on, you have 'Reflex Waves' which involve shooting the lightning bolts in a pre-defined timespan (typically 2-3 seconds) this awards you with a 50,000 bonus if you complete these waves (its hard). If you don't complete these waves a"YOU MISSED" is displayed.
It uses the classic Williams sounds from that era, including many Defender sounds and the walking sounds from Robotron (another favourite of mine).
Note from Scott - Steve Ritchie was a conceptual contributor to Defender, so this is only fitting.
An absolutely awesome game that has huge amounts of "Firepower" (another great Williams game) and takes quite a number of years to master...
Hyperball was a great deal of fun, but it's main problem appears to have been that it was a maintenance nightmare. Bill Anderson has the best read on this.
(Begin description from Bill)
As part of a deal I rebuilt a couple of Hyperballs Rick Schieve owned.
The ball feed mechanism took the greatest amount of time during the restorations due to disassembly and reassembly. They needed bead blasting to be cleaned, and I removed all burrs on the spindle used to lift the balls.
In regards to the post by Robert Cole:
"I actually liked it. Not as a game per se, but for the technical aspects. It used a linear accelerator to fire balls with a theoretical speed of four balls per second with an initial speed a metre and a half a second. Because of the impulse power required to fire the balls, the surge protection on the power lines was a problem and the power supply to the coils was incredible. I would love to get one of these and see if I could build it into a shooting gallery type game."
It's simply a coil whose plunger has a special tip extension. You can fire as fast as the hopper can load the balls through gravity feed, and a fan cools the coil. I wound up using the plunger from an extra playfield as in one machine the plunger was not hitting the center of the ball. This deformed the plunger tip, causing the ball hit the barrel of the gun instead of coming straight out, thus affecting the speed. I'd say that under aligned conditions after the rebuild the ball speed well exceeded 1.5 meters/second.
Thanks to Federico Croci, here is the text from the giveaway instruction book/flyer.
TARGETS SIGNAL ATTACK
FROM LIGHTS TO LIGHTNING BOLTS
BEWARE THE BAITER
PLAY BY THE "LETTERS"
THE LATEST "WORD" IN SCORING
FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY
THE SCORE AND MORE
FLEX YOUR REFLEXES
CLAIM TO FAME
This next section came from another flyer, which was reprinted in pinGame journal, #11, page 14.
1st page - A game encounter of the 3rd kind
Across the 2nd-3rd pages - First pin... Then video Now the next evolution in games hyperball
Hyperball's maintenance is often cited as the main reason it didn't become a smashing success, spawning a slew of similar games. Another reason Hyperball never survived is that it never fit neatly into a category. The vid-kids left it alone, and the pinheads weren't quite sure what to do with it. I enjoyed it, and it does have something of a cult following. We here at r.g.p. have sort of adopted it as a prodigal cousin. (Hey, it looked like a pin, had two players, it used steel balls, it came from Williams) .
There you have it. A brief overview of Hyperball.
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