P3 UPDATE: TEAM ADDS NEW GAME DESIGNER


Date: 5th December, 2012

When we last caught up with the team from Multimorphic who created the innovative P3 pinball platform, they were poised to take their second prototype machine to two of the world's largest pinball shows - the Pacific Pinball Exposition (PPE) in San Rafael, California and Pinball Expo in Chicago.

Gerry Stellenberg held seminars at both these shows explaining the concepts behind the P3 platform design while the team were on the floor of both shows with their new prototype machine for visitors to play. The team received plenty of feedback from players including their initial reaction to the machine, how it felt to play, and the type of features they would like to see included in the mini-games and upper playfield modules.

Les, Gerry and Brandon at the Multimorphic stand at the Pacific Pinball Exposition
Les, Gerry and Brandon on the Multimorphic stand at the Pacific Pinball Exposition

This prototype differed from the initial version by having a larger LCD screen, the new transparent 'floating' flipper design and a new design of illuminated side targets.

The second protoype
The second prototype
(picture: Multimorphic)

The two shows have very different feels, and the type of visitors attending them differs too. Gerry told us, "PPE and Expo were both very successful for us but in different ways. PPE was great for getting consumer feedback, while Expo gave us a chance to get feedback from industry insiders."

The P3 prototype at Pinball Expo
The P3 prototype at Pinball Expo
(picture: Multimorphic)

That feedback proved to be overwhelmingly positive with an appreciation of the team's efforts to retain the traditional pinball feel while bringing new features and techniques to the game.

Gerry said the team were especially interested in how those inside the industry would react. "Their reactions completely justified all the work we've put into this so far and provided even more encouragement for us to continue towards our final vision. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they saw the potential of the platform.... Pinball industry veterans like Roger Sharpe, Michael Gottlieb, Dennis Nordman, and others seemed genuinely excited about the P3, and all had valuable advice on how best to proceed."

Indeed, Roger Sharpe was suitably impressed, and described it as, "Great technology that offers some unlimited potential to effect a paradigm shift for the future of pinball."

Roger Sharpe playing the P3
Roger Sharpe playing the P3
(picture: Multimorphic)

With plenty of attention on the P3, and the prototype being played almost continuously during show hours, the reliability and durability of the machine was put to the test. Gerry said that despite a few issues occurring during the two shows - mainly with the hand-built 'floating' flippers - he was confident in the long-term solidity of the platform. "Once we tweak the designs and move from hand-built assemblies to professionally fabricated ones, the reliability of our flippers will exceed that of traditional mechanisms, and we'll have test jigs and documented results to verify that's the case."

Pinball Expo also provided the Multimorphic team with the opportunity to bring on-board an experienced pinball game designer, and Pinball News can now reveal that Dennis Nordman has joined the team to create an upper playfield module and help design the accompanying game theme and rules. And by popular request, that game will have an un-licensed, original theme.

P3 game designer - Dennis Nordman
P3 game designer - Dennis Nordman

We asked Dennis about when he first saw the P3, and what his first impressions of the system were. He told us, "I was aware of it, but this year's Expo was the first time I saw it and played it. I was immediately struck by the unique potential offered by this platform. I see beyond what is there and it's an exciting vision."

Creating an new upper playfield module and game concept to work with a pre-designed lower playfield is a unique challenge, but Dennis says he's looking forward to it and has plenty of ideas already. "I will admit, that at first, the lower playfield seemed very limiting.  But after thinking about it and after further discussions with Gerry, I'm seeing ways around that.  I'm very excited about the creative challenges presented by this fresh, innovative platform that Gerry has designed.  We're heading into uncharted waters and that's always more exciting than going where you've already been before.  I'm looking forward to finding out where this journey takes us."

Dennis talks with Gerry at Pinball Expo
Dennis talks with Gerry at Pinball Expo
(picture: Multimorphic)

So while it's still early days, we asked Dennis if he has any themes or playfield features in mind yet. He replied, "As I begin to understand the capabilities of Gerry's platform, I'm thinking of new ways to use it.  One thing it will not be is another video pin.  This is going to be a unique, exciting experience for pinball players.  I will make sure that it has plenty of pinball action enhanced by the interactive LCD screen.  I love stretching my brain around new ways to do things and discovering all the new ideas and challenges that await on this journey.  I've already thought of some new things to do with the game that Gerry is excited about.  Stay tuned because this is gonna' be a fun ride!"

Gerry and the team believe joining forces with Dennis is the ideal way to ensure the traditional pinball aspect of the P3 platform is both maintained and expanded. Gerry explained how Dennis was the ideal choice. "Since our philosophy is centered around introducing new technology without losing the physical interactions and traditional layouts that define pinball, we thought it was important to add an accomplished industry veteran to the team.  Dennis is an absolutely perfect fit!  He's well-known for his creativity, his willingness to take risks, and for design variety.  Giving him the freedom to implement new games for the P3 will hopefully challenge him to continue thinking outside-the-box and result in games that blow everybody away.  I can't express how excited we are to have Dennis on the team."

After Pinball Expo, Gerry, Brandon and Les visited two more events with the P3 prototype. The first was the Game On Austin video game developer get-together which showcased local Austin programming and design talent. The P3 attracted a lot of interest there too.

P3 at the Game On Austin event
P3 at the Game On Austin event
(picture: Multimorphic)

Eight days later, the Multimorphic team were in Houston for the Houston Area Arcade Group's Arcade Expo show. Gerry described the team's experiences at the two events. "Houston was much smaller than PPE and Expo, but we still enjoyed the chance to introduce the machine to more people and get their reactions.  The Game On Austin event was a different beast altogether.  In fact, the vendors were mostly video game developers, and the attendees were mostly video game players.  This was our first chance to see if a new, innovative pinball machine with some video elements could interest general gamers, and the answer was a resounding YES!  We had a never-ending line of people waiting to play, and quite a few of them expressed their appreciation for and interest in a modern pinball machine."

Visitors travelled from far, far away to play at Arcade Expo
Visitors travelled from far, far away to play at Arcade Expo
(picture: Multimorphic)

Our last report on the P3 also reported the opening of pre-orders for a Special Edition model. There were a number of incentives such as a price reduction and discount vouchers for those who committed to buy and pre-pay by certain deadlines.

Now a new $500 discount has been introduced for those pre-ordering and paying in full by 1st February, 2013, and a revised staged-payment scheme has been introduced with installments due every three months. The final payment would then be due just before the machine is shipped.

The additional benefits of the Special Edition have received a boost too, and it will now ship with two upper playfield modules to go with the two included game apps.

The P3's upper playfield area
The P3's upper playfield area
(picture: Multimorphic)

Additionally, although not technically necessary, many players prefer the aesthetics of having a backbox of some kind. So the Special Edition model will now include one of those too.

Gerry is keen to stress how pre-order payments will only be used to produce the P3s themselves, and not to provide funding for the company and their development work. He told us, "We sincerely appreciate the support we're getting from our customers and the community, and we will not put their money at risk.  Rather, it will be used only for production.  The purpose of the pre-order plan is two-fold.  It gives customers discounts or payment plans for committing early, and it shows investors that we have interested customers already willing to commit, thereby reducing investor risk."

With purchasers' money not being used to support the company's activities, Multimorphic are still looking for investors to provide funding for development and testing. Pinball News asked Gerry which ideas the company are looking at to raise that money. He said, "There are many fundraising avenues available to us, and as excitement grows surrounding the project, more continue to present themselves. We're actively looking for angel investors, specifically those interested in gaming and new technology, and those who see the value of a company innovating over keeping with the status quo. We're also evaluating various crowdsourcing options and researching the best way of partnering with larger numbers of minority investors."

He continued, "For pinball to grow, it has to evolve. It needs new innovations and outside-the-box thinking, and that's one of our strengths. Anybody interested in joining us on this journey should email investments@multimorphic.com or call me directly at 77-gerry-pin."

When the pre-orders were first opened, the anticipated schedule had production starting in the fourth quarter of 2013, with financial penalties if that was pushed back. With all the current developments on the P3, we asked Gerry if that was still an achievable timescale. He was optimistic they were still on-track, saying a two year development period is not unreasonable for start-up pinball makers with the first year concentrating on building the software infrastructure, developing the control system, and working out the basic design elements.

He said, "While our activities haven't been public for very long, all of the first year activities are more or less complete. Our control system (P-ROC & PDBs) is mature, commercially available, and already being used by other manufacturers and hobbyists. Our software framework is similarly mature and available. In fact, it's open source; so others can see exactly where it stands and judge it for themselves. We also have multiple working, playable prototypes. Sure, there are a lot of improvements to make, but the foundation is in place, and the concepts are all proven. Lastly, we've been developing relationships with contract manufacturers to help build our assemblies as well as complete machines. So now it's just a matter of executing the second year activities."

"Given that December 2013 is a full year away, yes, I think our production timescale is still realistic."

You can see the progress so far in this promotional video created by the Stephen Silver.

The P3 will be making its first appearance of 2013 at the SXSW Gaming Expo, followed a week later by the Texas Pinball Festival where the Multimorphic team plan to have two machines set up to allow multi-player networked games where players compete head-to-head against each other.

Naturally, Pinball News will be there to report on all the latest developments, but in the meantime you can read more about the P3 on the multimorphic website.


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