Date: 1st April 2015
While some companies are looking to push pinball forward through the use of modern technologies such as large high-resolution LCD displays, bus-based control systems and full RGB LEDs throughout, it's refreshing to see a new company making a game with none of those things.
And 'making' is correct, because today Day One Pinball are announcing their pin game - ScoreGasm Master - as fully designed, with the first units in a planned run of 20 production games already built and available to buy later this month.
If all this sounds too good to be true, it's time for a reality check.
We said 'pin game' because that's exactly what ScoreGasm Master is - a return to the early flipperless bagatelle-style of play which formed the basis for modern pinball today.
Based on the Contact Master game designed by Harry Williams and manufactured by Pacific Amusement Manufacturing Company (PAMCO) in 1934, Day One Pinball's re-imagining adds playfield and cabinet artwork, as well as a music track, sound effects and mains power, with many other mechanical changes taking place under the cover.
For those unfamiliar with pin games like these, the aim is to manually plunge a number of balls up to the top of the playfield so that they roll down towards the player. A large number of pins positioned around the playfield guide the ball towards or away from holes in the playing surface. Each hole is labelled with a value, and if a ball falls into one such hole it scores the indicated number of points. Some holes are much easier to land in than others, and the values awarded reflect that.
When all the balls have been plunged, the player's score is the sum of the values for all those holes in which a ball has landed.
But why produce these games now, and why this model in particular? And who is Day One Pinball anyway?
The whole project stems from the Pinball Life Explosion event held by Pinball Life owner Terry Dezwarte at his premises in Huntley, Illinois last October. One of the machines available to play was a Contact Master brought along by Yancy Blaylock.
After the event, Yancy left the Contact Master with Terry, and Terry became so enamoured with it, he decided to build a modern version.
He sought help from a number of friends, colleagues and even Pinball Life employees:
Day One Pinball is so named because it tells people what product they make - pin games from day one of pinball.
The project has been kept a secret until now, so find out more about the company and their game, Pinball News spoke to the project manager at Day One Pinball, Andrew Barney, who told us why they chose Contact Master to remake over any other pin game.
Andrew told us, "Contact Master was chosen for a few reasons. I have to admit, the marketing slogan drew me in: "Contact is the game that is Really Doing Its Stuff Boys!". It is a fun game for sure, with several progressive scoring shots that are very rewarding to make. Contact Master was the second full game designed by Harry Williams to be put into production. It had a few great innovations, including automatic progressive scoring, or 'electric action' devices, a tilt mechanism (the second game to ever use a tilt). Also, although we modernized our game to use electronic sounds, the original Contact Master was the first game to use a bell. In addition, we had access to the game from our friend Yancy."
So why did they rename it from Contact Master to ScoreGasm Master (SGM), and wasn't that name going to alienate some potential buyers? Andrew told us the name is intentionally risqué and reflects the modern nature of the game.
He said, "Yes, the name is there to grab you. This is of course intentional. Actually, the slang definition of the word 'scoregasm' refers to player and fan reactions during a sporting event when they over react to a point/score/goal being made. The SGM pin game has a classic feel and we made sure to keep some of the elements consistent with the original era Contact Master was released in.
However, we also wanted it to be clear that SGM is a 21st century production. Thus, we added full playfield and cabinet art, electronic sound and music, and changed the name to something that is definitely not from the '30s"
Day One Pinball will build a total of thirty ScoreGasm Master games; ten prototypes and twenty production units. They say thirty is a manageable number given the timeframe, the development space available, and the demands on the team members given that they all had full time jobs as well. It should also give them a good feel for the market for games of this type.
To test their concept, they used the next three months to build their first prototype game.
There is one additional team member not yet mentioned. The original Contact Master relied on the aesthetic appeal of the natural wood to attract players, but Terry and the team knew today's pin game buyer would expect the game to feature artwork to convey the game's theme.
They contacted famed pinball artist John Youssi who agreed to work on the project, providing a playfield design as well as a logo for the cabinet and speaker panel.
The values awarded by each hole are the same as the original Contact Master, as is the arrangement of pins to guide the balls. The pin holes are dimpled on the bare playfields but all the pins have to be inserted by hand.
The game is played using ten balls - nine blue balls which score the points indicated, and one red ball which can be used in a number of ways but would typically award double points for the hole in which it lands.
To prevent undue nudging, there is a visible tilt ball which sits on a pedestal. If the game is shaken too much the metal ball topples off the pedestal and all scores are void. Two different size balls are provided to give different tile sensitivities. Otherwise the scores need to be manually totalled using the values printed on the playfield and the chosen rule for the red ball.
An important difference between the original and the new designs is how there is no access to the inside of the cabinet from the front of the game.
Because the games are not coin-operated there is no need for a coin mech or a means to collect the earnings. Instead, access is provided at the rear of the cabinet, and the glass slides out to the rear too.
Although not intended for operators, Andrew told us they games will not feel any less robust.
He said, "We took special care to make sure this game did not feel like a home game. The cabinet and all the components are of a commercial grade. The original game’s baffle board (the reset playfield) was originally reset using a coin mechanism. Our game uses a reset mechanism with no coin required.
We do have a neat tip of the hat to the original nickel-per-play in the game; the ball lifter mechanism is weighted with a buffalo nickel; the same nickels people playing the game on route back in the '30s would have used."
Another new feature is the addition of sound. The game immediately plays a music track when the game is switched on. This can be one of the six provided with the game or it can cycle through them all, or play no music if that is preferred. There is also a range of 45 sound effects which are played when the progressive scoring hole is made. Instructions are provided to allow owners to import their own sounds and music.
With artwork, sounds and music added, it seems the only thing missing is lighting which wouldn't have been practical on the Contact Master since it was battery-powered. Andrew told us they made the conscious decision not to add lighting.
He said, "The original Contact Master had no lighting. We made the choice to have no lights in SGM except for the addition of a LED light strip in the backbox.
The Day One Pinball philosophy is that we need to crawl before we walk. The word we kept using during the entire 6 months of development and production was 'achievable'.
We did not want to endlessly add to the game as we went along or we knew we would never get it done on schedule. We wanted to build a simple, yet fun machine while keeping to the heritage of pinball, all the while learning about what it takes to produce a machine.
Lastly, the layout of this game is not conducive to adding lights. We opted to keep it close to the original design for these reasons. It would be interesting to play in the dark considering the theme and sound package however!"
The competed games will be available to purchase at the Midwest Gaming Classic held in Brookfield near Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 11th &12th, and at Pinball at the Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 24th & 25th.
The price will be $1995 and it will be able to operate on both 110/120V 60Hz and 220/240V 50Hz via an internal switch.
We asked Andrew who he thought would be likely to buy the game.
He told us, "This is a hard question to answer as this is the first pin game to be manufactured in 77 years. I see it appealing to some pinball machine collectors, but also collectors of other oddities as well. I think it also has sales potential to the home retail customer; someone who is looking for something unique, or maybe a bit of a conversation piece for their game room."
© Pinball News 2015