dated 21st November, 2002.
heard numerous tales of new companies producing pinball games, but
this time it looks like they're serious. But why would a company which
produces cabinets for Stern Pinball go head-to-head with one of their
customers, or are there some important differences to their game?
of the PinGame Journal,
Jim Schelberg brings us this special report:
A new pinball
A new pinball company!
Wow. The game is the child of Churchill Cabinets
Doug Duba. Churchill has supplied cabinets for a number of pinball
manufacturers though out its history and currently makes all the cabinets
and finished playfields for Stern Pinball. But, how can this
be? The answer is that this game is aimed in a different direction.
This pinball is meant for the home market only. There
is no coin slot in the door. Its not meant for commercial
in fact, if you somehow add a coin slot to the door it
will void the warrantee!
Doug Duba was kind enough to speak to us to get the scoop on this
very interesting product.
Churchill Cabinet Company has been in business since 1904,
Doug explained. My father, Roger Duba, acquired it close to
30 years ago and started building cabinetry for the coin-op industry.
Over a period of time we integrated and started doing cabinet assembly
and then construction and game assembly. Close to 30 years later were
still doing the same thing. Weve grown a bit and now have a
quarter million square feet of space between two factories one of
which is called Churchill Cabinet Company and the other is called
We currently are contract manufacturers for the coin-op industry
which accounts for about 50% of our business. The other half is proprietary
consumer products like foosball, air hockey and bumper pool. The home
pinball machine is really a marriage of the two sides of the business.
We took the expertise we developed in contract manufacturing and coupled
that with our presence in the consumer industry."
We saw a strong demand for used pinball machines. A number of
customers have tried selling used reconditioned pinball machines and
have had poor luck in that most pinball machines, by the time they
hit the consumer market, are spent. So our customer base was really
asking for an affordable, coin-op calibre, pinball machine.
project began, Doug told me, with their consumer customers talking
about the feasibility of making a new pingame to sell instead of trying
to fix older games. They knew Churchill made cabinets for Stern and
wanted to explore the possibility of them going all the way to create
a less expensive new game for the home market. The challenge was to
make a game to sell for substantially less than a commercial machine,
but to make it able to hold its own against those same coin-op games
when it came to quality and player appeal.
For years we have been building playfields and cabinets so we
had a lot of experience in that area. We then took a close look at
what has historically done in pinball and discovered that the components
could be sourced more affordably in higher volume off shore. But that
was not enough to take a significant amount of money out of the product.
So we looked further and discovered that a huge percentage of the
total cost of a pinball machine is labour. We eliminated a lot of
labour by eliminating a good percentage of the wire harness used in
replaced it by utilising printed circuit boards. There is quite
a lot of wire in modern pinball machines but in our game we
have it down to where its almost purely ribbon cable plugs
into printed circuit boards."
The earlier prototypes we built with full wire harnesses
were taking us close to 40-50 hours to put together. Weve
cut that down to about 10 hours with our patient pending printed
circuit board assembly.
you look at the underside of our playfield youll find
three large printed circuit boards. On those boards the rollover
switches are mounted, lights are mounted, and there are a series
of connectors that connect other components like jet bumpers
and sling shots.
components which are made overseas, each have a cable that plugs
into the circuit board.
Doug explained that the company has
spent much of its time and energy creating a system to enable the
average homeowner to fix their game, including the replacement of
a faulty component with a new one. Extensive diagnostic software was
created to identify the location of a problem. Once that component
is identified (with the help of tech support by telephone if needed)
it, or any other component in the game, can be replaced by removing
not more than four screws and one plug. This process was tested by
Dougs wife. When she successfully read the manual, opened the
machine and replaced a faulty pop bumper, he knew the system worked.
This type of circuit board construction is only unusual in the
pinball industry. If you open up your TV you wont find very
everyone has gone to the printed circuit board but
pinball has stayed away from that. This product is an example of a
common electronic construction method applied to pinball.
For the design areas of the game the company went to known and experienced
pinball people to create the actual game and the visual package that
surrounds it. The design process was begun about 18 months ago by
game designer, John Trudeau. John is credited with designing over
30 games at Gottlieb and then Williams from 1982 through 1996. As
the playfield developed, John was offered a job in Iowa and decided
to relocate. This left Chicago Gaming without a designer until the
ever-present pinball legend, Steve Kordek agreed to help out. Steve
actually finished the design process
John had started. Steve fleshed out the rules, refined shots and followed
the game through the tweaking process right into the pre-production
stage it is in now. Doug remembers how amazed he was at the knowledge
and design skill Steve showed.
Steve is amazing. He made a number of little adjustments to
the game that made major differences. It really made me appreciate
the design process. He would come in, play the whitewood and say,
This is off 0.15 inches. Wed build up another playfield
that incorporated his changes and find that he was right on! The guy
would just know. It was incredible.
As the name implies, the game takes the player on a cross-country
trip presenting obstacles to overcome before arriving at each city.
When you reach the West Coast, its time to come back. Although
completing the entire trip is difficult, the game was aimed at the
average, casual player. Art work is a very important part of making
a game attractive to consumers as well as players. CG chose the classic
Bally/Data East/Sega pinball artist Paul Faris to create the visual
personality of Vacation America.
for the creation of this game are rounded out by a mixture of pinball
non-pinball people. Former Alvin G. pinballs Harold Washington
designed the processor and PC boards, Capcom pinballs Jeff Powell
supplied the sounds and music and Motorolas Ken Krone contributed
his programming talents to the project.
The game is slated to be sold through commercial, public outlets.
Chicago Gaming plans to allow their standing customers to sell the
first batch along with their foosball and air hockey tables.
It was shown at the Billiards Congress of America (BCA) which is a
recreation room product show and it was very well received. Many of
Chicago Gamings customers attend that show and company wanted
to give them the first view and chance to buy the new game. However,
talks are in progress as we speak with well known retail outlets.
The game is estimated to retail in stores for approximately
one half the price of a current commercial pin.
In addition, Doug says the company is about six months away from starting
on another model. This could get interesting!.
and pictures courtesy Jim Schelberg at the PinGame