PEDAL TO THE METAL
Date: 24th December, 2012
Since the theme and title of Full Throttle was first publicly unveiled at Pinball Expo in October, there's been plenty to keep the Heighway Pinball team busy as they prepare for their next public appearance. Pinball News has been following their progress and we spoke with company head Andrew Heighway to find out the very latest news.
It was a little after 5:30pm on Thursday 18th October when Heighway Pinball's Andrew Heighway stood before the audience at the Westin North Shore in Chicago to announce that his company's first game would be the motorcycle-themed Full Throttle, and not the previously-announced Circe's Animal House.
The personal appearance helped turn what could have been a damaging blow to the company's first offering into a largely positive announcement, as the audience appreciated how - desirable as a totally original theme was - a non-licensed motor-racing title would be a much easier sell to operators around the world than one based on Greek mythology.
Looking back at that weekend, Andrew told us how his Pinball Expo weekend went and what he got out of it. "Expo went very well. It was our way of introducing ourselves to the U.S. market and to talk about our plans for building pinball machines. I must say that it was an amazing experience and there was incredibly positive feedback to what we are doing."
He continued, "I spoke in detail about the change of game from Circe's Animal House to Full Throttle and the reasoning behind such a move - to make our first game much more appealing to a wider audience and a theme that could be universally understood both in English-speaking and foreign-language markets. Full Throttle was very well received and there is a lot of positivity about our first game. It was amazing to get such positive feedback from Chicago - the home of pinball."
Not that there wasn't plenty of interest in the original theme which, as Andrew explained, was still in their plans. "I was surprised by just how many people had been looking forward to 'Circe' - but I assured everyone that we still had plans in the future to build a pinball game around Circe."
So with Full Throttle announced, the hard work of building the game in time for the scheduled start of production in Spring 2013 began, although much of the initial design work had started many months earlier.
Andrew explained what's been happening as the year progressed. "It has been non-stop for us since Expo - as in fact it has been all year. As well as all the basic re-design work needed for our first game, the sketch artwork for the playfield has been prepared for our artist, and he is approximately 2 weeks away from finishing that. The backglass art is finished and the sideart is also being prepared. We have been busy re-designing all of our key playfield mechanisms, and all of these should be built and installed in our two pre-production models in mid-January. In fact, new parts are being delivered to us on a daily basis. Our software has been fine-tuned, and the ruleset for Full Throttle is at an advanced stage. We have also signed up the band that is providing us with the music score for Full Throttle - but more about that later."
And, amazingly, work is already taking place on Heighway Pinball's second and subsequent games. "We are at an advanced stage with the design of game #2, which is scheduled for a Summer 2013 release and work is already underway for some of our future games too", Andrew told us.
With all this development taking place, several new members have joined the team. John Trudeau's involvement was announced at Pinball Expo and he will be designing one of the upcoming titles referred to above. A number of others have also joined and will be announced shortly, while the company will be recruiting for additional staff as the start of production nears.
Andrew talked above about the playfield, backglass and cabinet artwork, but until now the creator hadn't been publicly announced. Pinball News can reveal that Ian Richardson, a well-known artist who has undertaken commissions for Marvel comics will be providing the full art package for Full Throttle and future Heighway Pinball titles too.
Now would be a good time to take a look at some of that artwork. We'll be bringing you the backglass artwork and the final playfield design in our next update, but this time we can reveal the playfield artwork sketch which form the basis of the final imagery. This will be fully coloured before production and will be combined with the artwork on the plastic to give the total playfield package.
Heighway Pinball have previously announced their intention to produce two models of their titles - the Standard version with the LCD in the playfield as shown above, and a Deluxe version with the LCD integrated into the playfield glass. Andrew said they haven't changed their desire to produce both versions, although the Deluxe model may not appear until their second title.
He told us, "We are fully committed to producing the Deluxe model, but at this stage we are making sure that we get our Standard model right first. If the Deluxe model is not ready in time for our first release then it will almost certainly be available for our second release in the summer. In any case, our Standard hardware units have been designed to be upgradeable to Deluxe units in the future, so purchasers of our Standard system don't need to lose out by investing in the Standard system initially."
Other than the embedded LCD, both version will feature the same set of playfield features which include some unusual mechanisms.
In the centre - forming the wheels of the two bikes - are four pop-up spinning bumpers which, like the Boom Balloon in Cirqus Voltaire, can be raised to introduce more randomness to the ball's movement and block some of the shots.
The lamp boards in the renders above suggests the use of incandescent lamps, but in fact Full Throttle will use LEDs throughout for feature lamps, playfield illumination and flashers. Not only that, there will be no differentiation between controlled lamps, general illumination or flashers - they will all be driven the same way from the same circuit.
At the rear of the playfield is probably the game's main - and certainly the largest - toy; the chain drive. This uses two more spinning bumpers to grab the ball and fling it round the chain drive repeatedly. There will be more on the design of this mechanism in an upcoming Pinball News article.
The next public event for the Heighway Pinball team will be the EAG-Expo show at the ExCel London Exhibition Centre this coming January. It will be a very special show, with at least three pinball manufacturing companies in attendance - Heighway Pinball, Stern Pinball and Jersey Jack Pinball - something not seen for many years.
Andrew told us what visitors can expect to see on Stand 362. "We are working flat out to have two pre-production models of Full Throttle ready to show at EAG on 22nd - 24th January, 2013. I will be on hand, along with several team members, to demonstrate our new game, along with some of the key aspects of our system. We will be announcing our pricing structure either at EAG of just before the show, and our order book officially opens at EAG."
However, if production is to begin in spring of 2013, Heighway Pinball will need larger premises both to make the game and for the company's offices.
Pinball News can also exclusively reveal that Heighway Pinball is preparing to move into a factory building in South Wales. Andrew told us, "We have agreed terms on our production facility, which is located in Merthyr Tydfil, and we are due to move into the building at the beginning of February 2013. The unit is 14,000 square feet of space, including 3,000 square feet of office space. This facility is perfect for our needs and should allow us to meet the global demand for our games."
Finally, Heighway Pinball will soon launch their new website which will contain regular updates and offers. This will supplement their existing Facebook presence and provide a newsletter containing all the latest information. You can sign up for the newsletter now and be notified when the new site launches by going to the current Heighway Pinball site.
We'll be back soon with more exclusive news, including backglass and final playfield artwork, and further game details, in our next Full Throttle report right here at Pinball News.
© Pinball News 2012