Around the Playfield with Josh Kugler

Around the Playfield with Josh Kugler
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Around the Playfield with Josh Kugler
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Around the Playfield with Josh Kugler
Published on
July 21, 2018
Updated on
July 21, 2018
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Josh Kugler is Director of Software Engineering for American Pinball, and is the software and rules designer for Houdini.

Around the Playfield with Josh Kugler

The Start Button: How did you first get into pinball?

When I was 9 or 10 on vacation with my family, it rained the whole time, but the main lodge had a pinball machine, and while my dad was not the type to give us money to ‘waste on pinball’ given the situation he gave us a couple of bucks to play. But then my brother and I found a $20 bill in the mud and well, we played a lot, and my dad could not understand how we could play so long on the few bucks he gave us. Then a year or two later I made a friend in elementary school whose dad sold pinball via a retail store, and he always had a couple of games in his basement, including a brand new Fireball when it first came out. On occasion his dad would take us to his store so we could play the dozen or so games he had there. I’ve been playing pinball ever since.

The Plunge: What was the first pinball machine you bought?

BK2K, it was a couple of hour drive to get it, found it on ebay, since back then had no real clue how to find machines locally, since this was before I had found RGP. It still makes me smile when I think about that drive back home, with the game in the back of the SUV and hearing the ‘tick’ of the tilt bob as it swayed.

The Skill Shot: What is your best pinball achievement or favorite pinball moment?

There are are two, as a player it was winning the championship in the Chicago Pinball Mafia, in my second year being in a league. There were a few very good players in that league. But the bigger one is the unveiling of Houdini at TPF, after working our asses off to go from nothing to a fully functioning machine in under four months, there was a tremendous amount of satisfaction watching people line up to play, enjoy playing it and often after finishing a game getting right back in the long line. The overall reception to Houdini has been phenomenal.

Good Shots, Bad Bounces: What is your favorite and least favorite pinball machine?

Favorite, thats easy, Centaur, besides having sentimental value since it was the machine I played daily back in college, it is one of the most fun and fast drop target games out there, has some nice strategy around it, and not a lot of games with a 5 ball multiball and drops.

Not too many games I don’t like, but, I’ll re-phrase as my least favorite Balcer game, since I know Joe won’t be insulted, since he has heard me say this many times before, and that is South Park. I find the voice calls to be way, way, way, way too repetitive and the playfield is so open with huge wide open shots (can you say Kenny, I knew you could), that I get bored playing it. One of the few games where I have walked away from it in the middle of the game. While I am not a huge fan of the show, that is a theme that deserves a second shot.

The Wizard Mode: What is your dream theme you’d like to see made into a pinball machine?

The Kugler Family Pinball — oh wait, that has been done. Won’t talk about any of my dream themes, since I hope American Pinball will make them some day.

The Tilt: What is the dumbest mistake you’ve made in pinball (mishap moving a machine, messing up trying to fix a machine, etc.)?

Had a blow fuse on Twilight Zone, like an idiot I did not power down before changing it or have high power turned off. I was using small screw driver to pop out the fuse and the screw diver slipped out of my hand and somehow shorted the high power to the data bus and fried three boards. Took me a couple of months to repair all the damage. Was slowed down by a mistake in Clay’s guide relative to the error beeps on the sound board.

The High Score: Describe the pinball hobby in one word.


Match – Next Game: Where do you see the pinball hobby in 5-10 years?

I think we will see continued growth and interest in pinball. The ability of operators to be able to sell games to collectors makes its easier for them to get a return on their investment and more willing to buy new games to put on location. However, at some point there is a limit on how many machines can find a place in collectors homes, not that there is not the interest, but at some point the limitation on how much room collectors have for machines. Not everyone can build a second building on their property to house their collection or are willing and able to put machines in their bedroom, kitchen, etc.. The positive in this, is it will drive manufacturers to put out a quality machines that collectors want, since at some point operators are no longer going to want machines that are great themes with mediocre play and features, but will be hard to sell at a good price to the secondary market and without that market, the ability to get a return on the investment won’t be there.