DPO EXPO 2015
Date: 7th & 8th November, 2015
We've reported from the Dutch Pinball Open (DPO) for many years, but last year was the first time it had transformed into the DPO Expo. The name change coincided with its expansion from being mainly about the tournament through the addition of a guest speaker and the showing of several new pinball titles from manufacturers in the US and the Netherlands.
This year the 'Expo' element of the name returned for 2015, as did the show to the De Voorste Venne, the former automobile museum in Drunen, southeast of Rotterdam.
The DPO Expo can be roughly divided into three distinct areas. On the left as you enter the building is the main games hall where free-play games and vendors were situated. On the right is the theatre where seminars and the final rounds of the main tournament took place. Finally, a separate building on the right as you enter the courtyard above housed the games for the main tournament's qualifying round, and the women's and junior tournaments.
Let's take a look around.
As you entered the main hall, the registration desk awaited you.
Entry into the main DPO tournament and access to the rest of the show cost €42.50 ($45.50/£30.10) per person. Reduced prices applied to youngsters as well as those not taking part in the tournament. No pre-registration for the DPO was needed, although doing so got you a printed badge rather than a hand-written one.
The DPO Expo is organised by members of the Dutch Pinball Association (Nederlandse Flippervereniging or NFV), and the Association was selling pinball T-shirts, books, magazines, flyers, manuals and more on the adjacent tables.
The next area featured the six machines used for the Classic Tournament.
We'll come to the tournaments a little later in this report, but right next to the Classic Tournament area was the bar and kitchen area. The DPO Expo is one of those shows where it is quite acceptable to take your drink into the free-play area.
Due to licensing restrictions, purchases needed to be made using €2 tokens.
Tea and coffee were also available at a separate counter.
Then we come to the main hall which contained the free-play and vendor area.
On the far left was a lane with pinballs left and right. There was no discernible theme or design to how the free-play machines were arranged in the hall, so you're quite likely find a late seventies solid-state machine side-by-side with recent Stern titles.
Backing onto these were more machines and the first vendor display.
Alongside the Heighway Pinball stand was the large selection of the latest Stern and Jersey Jack machines from Ministry of Pinball.
Backing on to these were four more machines and Ministry of Pinball's merchandise stand.
Next we have Medieval Castle - a game based on Medieval Madness software but with a new multi-level playfield design and art package created by Wil Angenent.
Returning to the centre of the hall, Dutch Pinball had a display of five pre-production The Big Lebowski games - complete with rugs, naturally - and a Bride of Pinbot 2.0.
The five The Big Lebowskis were 'pre-production samples', which means they were built by the factory which will be making the production machines, but still have a few adjustments needed to fine-tune them before they are production-ready.
Another row of free-play machines backed on the Dutch Pinball line-up.
Three more vendors had stands running along the back wall of the hall, starting with Mirco Stefan's High Class Pinballs.
Mirco makes the playfields for Jersey Jack Pinball as well as a range of reproduction Williams/Bally playfields, and visitors could buy new playfields for all these titles.
LED4Pin had a colourful stand showcasing their LED lighting products, as well as selling plastic protectors and replacement playfield parts.
Taking centre-stage on the LED4Pins stand was a chrome and brushed stainless steel Terminator 2 game, with full LED lighting.
Squeezed in at the end of the row was a booth promoting the new pinball documentary Same Player Shoots Again.
The DVD of the documentary is about to be released and will cost €15.00 plus shipping through the pinball-dvd.com site.
The rows of free-play machines continued to a seating area where food purchased from the kitchen could be consumed. Trays of potato fries, frikandel hot dogs, and krokets in bread rolls were amongst the offerings available for one €2 token each. The traditional accompaniments of curry sauce and mayonnaise were available, but optional.
The theatre took up the right side of the building, but to get there from the main hall you needed to pass down one of two corridors, both lined with more free-play pinballs.
At the back of the building were six older solid-state games including Wizard!, Bally Star Trek and Black Pyramid, most of which were sadly not playable due to having no credits or not being unfolded.
The corridor at the front also had a couple of unplayable titles amongst the ten machines, but overall provided an enjoyable distraction for those people travelling to and from the theatre.
In total we counted 111 free-play machines at the DPO Expo. Here they are:
Here's our Nine Minute Tour of DPO Expo 2015.
The seminar began at 11am on Saturday with Wil Angenent talking about his Medieval Castle project, as seen earlier in the main hall.
He had it on stage with him as he described why and how he took the code, rules, sounds and display animations for Medieval Madness and created an entirely new playfield layout and artwork package.
The seminars were recorded by the NFV and are available as a playlist on YouTube, or you can watch them individually here.
We are so used to hearing seminars spoken in English, it was slightly odd to hear Wil's talk in Dutch, although obviously quite reasonable given our location and the audience. However, the five seminars which followed were all in English, starting at 12:30am with Jean-Paul de Win talking about pinball art in the digital age.
Jean-Paul has worked on, or is currently working on, three separate pinball projects from three different manufacturers - The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit for Jersey Jack Pinball, The Big Lebowski for Dutch Pinball and Timeshock! for Silver Castle Pinball.
In his seminar, he spoke about the work he has done for all these games, as well as showing how it developed and the kinds of assets he gets (or doesn't get) from movie studios when dealing with licensed themes.
Then at 1:10pm pinball artist Greg Freres held his talk about his career working in the pinball industry.
Greg also talked about the origins and development process for Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons which he and Dennis Nordman created, along with the work he's doing at Stern Pinball.
Greg was one of the two special guests at the DPO Expo, and machines for which he created the artwork were featured in the Classic Tournament.
The next seminar was at 2:15pm and starred Jaap Nauta from Dutch Pinball to talk about their The Big Lebowski game.
Jaap explained about the pre-production machines out on the show floor, and how much work remained before they would be able to start production.
Dutch Pinball hope to start production of the first The Big Lebowski machines before Christmas, with the majority coming off the line early in the new year.
At 3:05pm the second special guest took to the stage to talk about his life in pinball.
Roger has been in the licensing and marketing business for decades, not only for pinball but for video games and slot machines too but his knowledge covers the whole pinball business since the seventies.
In this seminar Roger took questions from moderator Jim Jansen as well as the audience.
The final seminar began later than its scheduled 4:10pm start time due to Roger's seminar overrunning. It featured Andrew Heighway of Heighway Pinball who was there with two members of his team - Ingvar and Harrie.
Andrew began by talking about the new display options available for Full Throttle and future Heighway Pinball titles, including small and large backbox displays.
He then moved on to the company's second title - Alien - and how development of that game is progressing, showing the latest artwork and playfield layouts.
While the seminars were taking place, qualifying for the main tournament, the Dutch Pinball Open, was under way in a separate building across the courtyard. Inside, twenty pinballs were set up, ranging from the 1982 Warlock to 2008's Batman.
Players selected six of the twenty machines on which to play a single four-ball game.
All the scores on each machine were ranked, with the top score earning 100 ranking points. A player's total score was the total of their ranking points on all six machines. A 'soft' joker was also available which allowed a player to replay one of their six machines to try to improve their score. If the score on the joker game was higher, then it replaced the original score. Otherwise the joker game score was discarded.
A queueing system was employed where players put their badges on a peg board so they could wait for their turn.
When it was their turn, they took the machine number card, slotted it into their badge holder and handed it to an official who kept it until the game was over and the score recorded. This prevented anyone walking away mid-game without recording their score.
Android tablets were used to record the scores, with the scoring system running on a laptop which drove three external displays - two monitors for machine scores, and a projector for overall standings.
Here are the twenty machines available for qualifying:
Qualifying ran throughout Saturday, from 10am until 9pm. The top 48 players then qualified for Sunday's play-off rounds, with the next six in reserve places in case of no-shows. The qualification results were published on the DPO website for those who didn't want to wait around.
Here's the list of the 48 qualifiers:
When Sunday rolled around, action in the DPO had moved from the separate building into the theatre for the play-off rounds.
The format for the play-offs began with eight rounds of 'Swiss system' play. All the matches were single 4-ball games with players paired up, and only who won and who lost recorded. For the first round, the top qualifier played the 48th-placed qualifier, the 2nd-placed played the 47th-placed, and so on. For rounds 2-8 players were paired up so that they faced someone with the same or similar number of match wins. That meant the matches potentially got harder if you kept winning, and easier if you kept losing.
There was some controversy at the start of the play-offs when a road accident prevented several players getting to the venue in time for the 9:30am cut-off. Some arrived late to find they had lost their place, with reserve players who were present on-stage given their place instead.
With 48 players in head-to-head matches, 24 machines were needed. They were:
Although you may think it wouldn't take too long to play eight two-player games, in reality each round had to wait for all the results from the preceding round to be completed before the pairings could be worked out. As a result, one long game slowed everything down and it took until around 2:40pm for all eight rounds to complete.
Once all eight rounds had been completed, the four players with the most wins went through to the final. While Cayle George was the clear leader with seven wins out of eight there was, not unsurprisingly, a tie for the remaining places in the final with seven players on six wins. That meant a seven-way shoot-out on a machine chosen at random - Monopoly.
The result saw Taco Wouters, Roy Wils and Michel Rorive go through to the final to join Cayle.
And so we reached the culmination of the competitive weekend, the DPO final. The top three (Cayle, Roy and Taco) each chose a machine to play. The choices were Getaway, Jurassic Park and Scared Stiff.
The winner of each game would earn 4 points, second place would get 2 points, third would receive 1 point, with no points for fourth.
With all the equipment adjusted it was time to begin the final, starting with game one; Jurassic Park.
Going into each player's third and final ball the scores were very close, with Michel on 38M, Roy on 44M, Cayle on 62M and Taco on 30M. However Roy in the player two position had a good multiball and broke away from the pack with his 243M total.
It proved to be enough to win the game, with Taco moving into second place with 97M, Cayle was third on 78M and Michel fourth on 41M. Then it was on to game two; Scared Stiff.
Once again Michel began, but he, like all the finalists, didn't get off to a good start. In fact the highest score from all four on their first ball was Taco's 1M.
There was a brief discussion on ball two of Cayle's game when the lock unexpectedly kicked out a ball which immediately drained, but it was ruled to be just a part of gameplay and the final continued.
Despite that mishap, Cayle had a good multiball with Double Trouble running followed by Monster Multiball, and won the game with his 32M total. Roy was second with 12M from his multiball modes. Taco was third with 5M and Michel was unable to make his mark and ended on 3M.
With the last game to play, the scores were:
So Roy, Cayle and Taco could still win if the other players' positions worked out right.
Cayle began on Getaway.
Things didn't go so well though, as Cayle ended ball one on 6M. Michel was second to play.
His first ball was only slightly better, racking up 10M points.
Then came Roy.
He made a more respectable 71M on ball one, leaving Taco to see what he could do.
His 19M ball one score put him into second place, but it was still wide open for someone to storm ahead.
Cayle got into his game a little more on his second ball to end on 44M, as did Michel who crept ahead of Roy with his 80M. But it was Roy who really got things going with his second ball total of 270M. Taco responded and came remarkably close to Roy, ending his second ball with 261M.
Cayle needed a great last ball to be in contention for the win, but it didn't happen for him and his 53M condemned him to fourth place in the game. Michel had a similar fate, only adding 4M to his 80M score.
At this point Roy had mathematically won, with a guaranteed 8 points and a possible 10 if he won. Taco only had 3 points, but if he won he would ease past Cayle's 6 points to take second overall.
Roy only added 11M to his score on his final ball, ending on 281M. Could Taco add another 20M to take second?
So Taco won game three, Roy was second, Michel got his first point in third, and Cayle ended up in fourth. That made the overall scores and position as follows:
Soon after, the presentations were made by Roger and Greg.
But the DPO was certainly not the only tournament taking place at the DPO Expo.
The Classic Tournament was held in the main hall on six machines featuring artwork by Greg Freres. They were:
Players could buy unlimited entries at €3 a time, with each entry giving one game on three of the six machines. Scores were then ranked and the combined ranking points across all three game the player their overall score and position. Only a player's highest scoring entry counted.
The Classic Tournament ran from the opening of the event on Saturday morning until around 4pm on Sunday. There was no play-off, so whoever had the highest position when the event ended was the winner.
With scores of 737,620 on Harlem Globetrotters, 1,748,210 on Fathom and 2,424,050 on Vector in a single entry, the winner was Franck Bona. In second place was DPO finalist Cayle George, while in third was fellow finalist Roy Wils.
They received their awards from Roger and Greg.
The results we have are a little confused, with many names repeated and a number of different spellings of the same person's name. So we've done our best to produce a cleaner list until the official results have been declared.
To thank them for being the special guests at the DPO Expo, Roger and Greg were given special presents by the organisers.
There were also three divisions of tournaments for younger players. These tournaments were free to enter.
By the time the presentations were made many of the award winner had already left, but here are the results with pictures of those who remained to collect their trophies.
A Women's Tournament was held in the DPO qualifying room on Sunday afternoon while the DPO play-offs were taking place in the theatre. Entry to this cost €7.50 with prizes awarded to the top three. Sixteen players took part in this tournament.
The winner was Helen de Haan-Verbeek, with Jasmijn de Jong in second place and Nanny Speetjens in third.
The final competitive event was the Team Tournament which was held on Saturday night from 6pm onwards.
Twelve teams registered, paid their €25 entry fee, and were were split into three groups of four. The teams were:
Each team played a match against the other three teams in their group, where a match consists of four games of split-flipper play and one head-to-head game where each player plays on ball of a 4-ball game for their team. Points were awarded for winning the split-flipper and the 4-ball game.
When all the matches were played, the two teams with the most points in each group continued to the semi-finals to play against one other team from a different group. The three winners of those semi-finals moved on to the final which was played with the same format.
The eventual winners were Team Belgium, with Saarland in second and Pinball Squad in third.
The final presentations went to the key organisers and helpers at the DPO Expo. They received bouquets of flowers, while Andrew Heighway presented a signed Full Throttle backglass to NFV secretary, Rens Hooijmaijers.
All of which brings us to the end of this DPO Expo 2015 report.
The DPO Expo continues to be one of Europe's main pinball events, and the emergence of pinball manufacturers in the Netherlands only continues to strengthen that position.
As with several of the larger shows held in 2015, there was a certain sense that the DPO Expo was very similar to last year. To a great extent this is because many of those companies who announced new games or showed them in prototype form in 2014 are yet to put their games into production and can only show a very similar prototype and talk about their plans for 2016.
Apart from the different special guests this year, the main area of change was in the tournament from which the DPO Expo derives its name.
It's difficult to get a system which appeals to everyone, but for us the qualifying round took up just enough of our day to allow us to attend all the seminars and play lots of machines - old and brand new - in the free-play area. For the pure tournament players though who have no interest in seminars, buying parts from vendors, or trying out the latest titles, only playing six machines (plus a joker) might be seen as a deterrent to attending.
The play-offs changed from the familiar double-elimination format to use the Swiss system instead. This was a double-edged sword. The big advantage was that everyone got to play a full eight rounds of play-offs, with the downside being those who lost a number of games early on then had no possibility of making it to the final four and were purely playing for the lower positions.
On the whole though we liked the tournament format it as it included a decent number of games to play but didn't consume our entire weekend.
Competition to attract pinball fans to your event is getting tougher, not because of the lack of enthusiasts and players, but because more events are appearing in the diary and larger numbers of people are travelling to longer distances to attend them.
The DPO Expo continues to draw the crowds, with the organisers telling Pinball News that they had even more visitors this year than last. We're certainly looking forward to returning in 2016 for another attempt to win one of those trophies.
© Pinball News 2015