With the Christmas and new year holiday break looming, we decided it was high time to head west and pay Heighway Pinball a visit, to see how development of their games and their factory was going.
There have been many changes since our previous visit back in May, not least the move of the company from their original unit on the Cyfarthfa Industrial Estate in Merthyr Tydfil to a larger pair of units a short distance away.
The move took place while Andrew and other team members were in Chicago for Pinball Expo, with equipment and parts transferred to the left-most unit of the pair. This is where everything was situated during our visit, but it is just a temporary location while the right-most unit is cleaned and made ready for the production line.
This second unit had just been power-washed and was being left to dry out over the festive break before the line equipment is transferred in early January.
The amount of space inside the pair of units is huge, and they both provide numerous office, meeting and storage rooms, loading bays, as well as a fully fitted catering-grade kitchen.
While time has been spent on the move of premises, there have also been developments on the company's first game, Full Throttle.
The team has created a new cabinet and backbox design for this and future titles. Their original cabinet was built using medium-density fibreboard (MDF) which, although strong and resilient, is much heavier than the traditional cabinet material, plywood.
The new design uses a plywood carcass, but attaches foil-coated MDF panels to provide the coloured finish and create a frame into which the side-art panels can sit.
Although the side and front panels shown here have cutouts to accommodate the ball shooter and flipper assemblies, these have been covered by the foil wrap in these samples. This excess foil will, of course, be removed and the corresponding assemblies fitted in the production version.
With cutouts around their mounts, the game's legs are recessed and appear more integrated into the cabinet's design.
Because the outer panels can be removed, they can also be replaced should they become damaged. The cabinet side art will be printed on acrylic panels which slide into slots between the outer panels and the inner shell. The playfield glass is held in a metal 'magazine' frame which sits on top of the cabinet, locking the artwork in place.
These four machines will then be taken to the EAG International trade show at London's ExCel where Heighway Pinball will have a 8.5m x 2m stand.
Straight after EAG, the company will be hosting a launch event for the game for trade and press, followed by a launch party at The Pipeline pub in central London, where the band who provided the main theme, Redline, will be playing.
Tickets are available to the public for the evening party through the Heighway Pinball website, and naturally Pinball News will be there.
Apart from Full Throttle, we can also bring you news of the company's second title, Alien Pinball.
On the day of our visit, the first whitewood playfield for the game had just arrived, so shots can be tried and playfield elements adjusted for optimum positioning.
As you can see, Alien Pinball is a four-flippered widebody game, with both upper flippers moved in from the playfield's edges. This playfield doesn't have the cutout for the LCD monitor as it is not needed to fine-tune the shots, however we can reveal that Alien Pinball will feature a new 16:10 widescreen monitor in the playfield, replacing the 4:3 monitor seen in Full Throttle.
While the playfield is built and tweaked, development of the rules, lighting effects, sounds, and effects for that LCD panel takes place up in the offices on a computer simulation of the game.
The team working on this and future Heighway Pinball games has just been boosted by the appointment of legendary game designer, Barry Oursler, who will not only provide advice and guidance to the team on current and future titles, but will also design his own game.
Barry's game is currently scheduled to be the fourth title produced, and will feature a licensed theme, just like games two and three.
To give you more insight on all these developments, we invited Heighway Pinball CEO, Andrew Heighway, to record an interview with us inside the new factory building.
You can watch all seventeen minutes of it by clicking on the video below.
That's all for this update from the Heighway Pinball factory.
In our next update we hope to bring you full details of the 251 promotional games made for Bacardi earlier in 2014, including pictures of the finished product and shots from the factory during development and manufacture.
© Pinball News 2014