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3D Pinball was one of the most popular games on any Windows XP computer. Have you ever wondered why Microsoft decided to remove it from later versions of Windows? Most speculated that the reason was legal, but it was not.
The 3D pinball was originally written for Windows 95 and had a rendering loop that painted the frames as fast as possible. However, when porting to Windows XP, Pinball’s frame rate on modern hardware (at the time) was over a million frames per second. Microsoft later added a limiter in Windows XP that limits the frame rate to 120 frames per second. This was sufficient to reduce CPU usage from 100% to 1%.
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When porting several million lines of 32-bit code to 64-bit, Windows was a program that had problems, Pinball.
The 64-bit version of Pinball had a nasty bug where the ball passed through other objects like a ghost. Especially if you started the game, the ball would be delivered to the rocket launcher, and then it would slowly fall onto the screen, through the piston, and from the bottom of the table. The games were generally very short. Two of us tried to debug the program to find out what was going on, but since this code was written a few years earlier by an outside company and nobody at Microsoft ever understood how the code worked (let alone understood it well), and most of the code was not commented on at all, we just couldn’t understand why the collision detector didn’t work. We couldn’t even find the collision detector. We still had several million lines of code to port, so we couldn’t afford to spend days studying the code to find out which obscure floating point rounding error caused the collision detection failure. We just made the decision to drop Pinball’s product, says a blog post on MSDN.
You can always add Pinball to later versions of Windows, but it was not recommended.
Windows 8 users can now try Pinball FX2 and let us know how you think it will compare to the original game. There are also other pinball game applications for Windows 10.
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