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Ball search is off by default in MPF because it might hurt users not expecting it. In a prototype game it might trigger quite frequently and coils can seriously injure humans. To turn it on follow How to configure Ball Search.
MPF contains ball search functionality which is used to try to dislodge a stuck ball if MPF thinks there’s a ball loose on the playfield but it hasn’t hit any playfield switches in awhile and the player is not holding the flipper button in.
Ball searching in MPF has multiple “rounds”, with the early rounds doing a simple search that doesn’t screw anything up (like firing pop bumpers and pulsing eject coils from ball devices that don’t contain any balls), but after a few rounds of that, if it still hasn’t found the ball, it can start to to things like resetting drop targets.
Eventually MPF will give up and mark the ball as lost and kick a new ball into play.
Everything is fully configurable, including the timeouts, the order devices are searched, the number of rounds, etc.
Ball search in MPF is fairly automatic. It’s enabled when MPF thinks that balls are on the playfield, and disabled when no balls are free. (This means that even when a machine tilts, ball search is still active until the balls drain, etc.)