PINBALL EXPO 2013
Date: 16th & 20th October, 2013
Welcome to our coverage of Pinball Expo. We've been covering Pinball Expo here at Pinball News since 1999, and despite several changes of venue over the years, the format of the show has remained largely unchanged.
Expo is now held at the Westin Chicago North Shore hotel in Wheeling, about 25 miles northwest of Chicago.
In the parking area in front of the hotel are a number of retail units. One reliable restaurant is Cooper's Hawk who specialise in quality wines but also have a full food service.
On the opposite side of the car park used to be a sports bar called Claim Jumpers. That closed down a few years ago and but has now re-opened in the guise of Twin Peaks - another sports bar, but more styled around the Hooters style of service.
Across the street are a number of dining and drinking options. Ram is a microbrewery and sports bar, Bucca di Beppo is a large Italian restaurant, while more choices are available as you travel north or south on N. Milwaukee Avenue.
But let's return to the Westin and Pinball Expo.
Set-up of the show begins on Wednesday afternoon. By lunchtime the first machines had arrived in the games room and were being set up.
Meanwhile, the main hall next door was still being cleared from the previous event and wasn't quite ready yet for exhibitors and vendors to access.
Outside the main hall, preparations were underway in the tournaments area.
On Wednesday night, the official start of the show is marked with the Bumper Blast welcome party.
The quality of the food provided at this event has increased markedly over the years, from the potato chips/crisps, occasional pizzas and assorted bottles of non-branded soda, to the impressive all-you-can-eat three-course meal provided these days.
Expo co-organiser Rob Berk welcomed guests to the party and the show, and introduced vocal artist Fred Young who will be around all weekend.
In the past two years, musical accompaniment has been provided by Derek Fugate, and Derek was back again this year to sing and play guitar.
By the time the party was over, there were far more machines set up in the games room.
The first of the vendors had set up too, as Rob Anthony opened the door to his room.
Wednesday's events drew to a close when the machines in the games room were switched off at 11pm, although there was still plenty of socialising taking place into the early hours in and around the hotel's lobby.
Thursday at Expo began when the yellow school buses turned up outside the hotel and attendees tried to squeeze into the cramped seats for the trip to Melrose Park and the Stern Pinball factory tour.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse and heavy rain greeted visitors to the factory as they waited outside in the parking lot.
Guests entered the factory in groups of ten. Each group had a tour guide to explain how the various departments work and answer any questions.
Star Trek (Bill) Pro models were on the production line this year, as we'll see as we move into the playfield preparation department.
All the playfields were numbered with small white stickers on the front edge. The Star Trek ones were from a batch of 850.
Not all the playfields here were Star Trek. There were some Metallica LE playfields in the racks too, which could suggest not all 875 LEs were sold yet.
In the playfield preparation area, a metal template is placed over the playfield, and various size holes are drilled where screws will eventually hold assorted mechanisms.
On the adjacent work bench, playfields had their T-nuts and lane guides hammered in. The playfields being worked on were for the The Pin version of The Avengers.
Next to the playfield preparation area is the start of the cabinet line, where the decals are applied to a blank black cabinet.
Then the playfield begins its journey down the line, getting more populated as it stops at each station.
While the playfields move down their line, the cabinets do the same on a parallel line.
Meanwhile, over on the playfield line...
Further down the line, the backboxes and speaker panels are populated.
On the adjacent line, the playfields are now fully populated and are tested to make sure there are no obvious wiring errors.
The playfields are now complete and are mated with the similarly-complete cabinets to produce a finished game.
Once the game passes the testing phase, it has the backglass, playfield flyers and playfield glass added.
None of these game could be built without having all the necessary component parts available, so the next part of the tour takes us into the parts department.
Just before the end of the tour, visitors got to see - but not touch - a Limited Edition version of Star Trek which was not yet in production.
Here's a short video of the game in the factory.
Finally, visitors received a Stern Pinball sticker, a pin badge, and had to opportunity to buy Stern merchandise such as T-shirts and hoodies.
After the return trip, the seminars begin at 1pm on Thursday with John Trudeau speaking.
John began by paying tribute to Alvin Gottlieb who died earlier this week.
John said he didn't personally have a great deal of experience designing pinball in the 21st centaury (the title of his talk). He spoke about how he began working at Gameplan and then moved over to D. Gottlieb when Gameplan ceased their pinball manufacturing.
John then talked about how Gottlieb changed to Mylstar and then Premier, and his roles there, followed by the designs he has created over the past few year, ending up working at Stern Pinball. He said it was a "pretty amazing trip", and the 21st centaury looks much brighter for the pinball industry. "This is fun", he said.
Asked about the possibility of remaking his earlier Creature of the Black Lagoon, he said Stern are interested in popular licenses now, so he didn't think that was likely.
Continuing with the current game he is designing for Stern, he said it is coming out right after Star Trek, and the Pro playfield design will be the same as the Premium and LE.
1.45pm: Roger Sharpe
Roger spoke in an impromptu session, describing how he first became involved in pinball while working as an Editor at Gentleman's Quarterly (GQ Magazine).
Roger brought the audience up-to-date on Steve Epstein's Modern Pinball arcade in New York City, with an expected opening in the next few weeks, probably November 15th, and followed that by describing the part he played in legalising pinball in New York.
2pm: Jim Schelberg - Pinball In The Media: SUPERSIZED!
Jim began his seminar by talking about how, for many years, advertisers have used pinball to promote a wide variety of different products. In particular, the idea of a supersized pinball has been a recurring theme.
Jim then showed a series of pinball-related clips, both supersized games and more regular ones, and a feature showing how the voices were created for the Xenon game - the subject of a later seminar.
Because much of Jim's seminar was video-based, we have audio of his introduction together with any other speech segments from the session.
3pm: Randy Perlow - ColorDMD: Multicolor Displays and Beyond
Randy started his seminar by introducing the new ColorDMD logo and by thanking those who brought games fitted with ColorDMD displays for attendees to play.
Randy then recounted the history of the ColorDMD project, the goals when it all began in January 2012, the steps by which the project became a marketable product, and where the company is now.
ColorDMD Displays LLC purchases the panels and components, manages the contract manufacturing of some components, and assembles, packs, ships and maintains the product.
Titles so far supported are: Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, The Addams Family, Star Trek - The Next Generation, Whitewater, Scared Stiff, Monster Bash and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Creature was the first title not created in-house and this is an avenue Randy says they want to develop further.
Randy also announced the first stage of support for Stern/Sega/Data East's Whitestar and SAM systems, with the Sigma single colour process now working on those games. Full colouring capabilities are not fully developed yet, but are being worked on with a hope they will be ready mid-2014. In addition, there is a new version of the Sigma system's upscaling (version 2.2) which now provides better smoothing of the enlarged dots.
4pm: Andrew Heighway - Heighway Pinball, Full Throttle & Future Plans
Andrew started by introducing four members of the Heighway Pinball team - Janos Kiss, Brian Dominy, Oleg Korepanov, and Dennis Nordman who will be creating a design for the company.
Andrew outlined his production plans and expected manufacturing schedule, before moving on to examine innovations the company are introducing to help operators perform quick and easy repairs through the use of removable, modular playfield components. Similarly, the driver boards use edge connectors to plug in or to remove them should they ever need replacing.
The subject of the art package for Full Throttle came next as Andrew showed the original and the re-designed artwork, taking soundings from the audience as to which they prefer, with a clear preference for the new look.
Brian Dominy then spoke about the progress with the game's rules which he thought were around 95% complete. Dennis then described how Andrew approached him to design a game, and the fortuitous timing meant Dennis was available to join the team.
Andrew spoke about some of the more advanced features which they plan to introduce, and revealed his plans to assemble games in the US for the North and South American markets.
5pm: Brendan Bailey - Designing Your Own Pinball Table on the Computer
Brendan has been interested in pinball ever since his early childhood, when he used to visit arcades and was bought a Stern Lectronamo machine.
His seminar was to show the audience how to create a computer pinball game, with the focus on Brendan's preferred platform - Future Pinball. He showed the gameplay from a game he created called Junkyard Cats, a sequel or tribute to Williams' Bad Cats.
Brendan described the various roles involved in creating a game - Designer, Artist, Sound and Music Composer, Programmer, Mechanical Engineer, as well as Display Artists and Voice-Over Artists. He said with that many different roles, any budding game creator needs to decide whether they can take on them all, or collaborate with others.
After discussing suitable original or licensed themes, and the era of game design you choose (EM, solid-state, dot matrix, video display or something not yet built), Brendan described and showed ways to create a game's layout, starting with a blank slate and ending with a finished playfield.
5.30pm: Dinner with Chris Granner
While the seminars continued in the Lake Michigan Ballroom, a special dinner with guest Chris Granner began at 5:30pm in the nearby Birch Room.
Guests who applied to join Chris had the added attraction of getting to meet Suzanne Ciani - fellow musician and the voice of Xenon.
Dinner guests enjoyed a free pizza dinner provided by Pinball Expo co-organiser Rob Berk.
6.30pm: David Fix - Pinball & Repair 101
Since the last Expo, David has taken a position with a large arcade company and also started as a home game repairer.
In today's seminar David covered more than just pinball, looking at assorted arcade amusement machines, jukeboxes and bowling machines. He began by examining the contents of his toolbox, making recommendations and explaining how certain tools make his job easier.
These included crochet hooks to attach springs, spring-loaded tweezers, a regular maglite with a real lamp to test opto receivers. His primary tool, he said, is his multimeter, without which he feels handicapped.
Moving on to his second level of tools, he cited thermal circuit breakers as indispensable to save blowing fuses repeatedly, while a head-mounted LED torch avoids the need for a third arm.
Finally, David invited Joe Scaletta of JCS Pinball who is producing the new Superbands replacement pinball rubbers to talk about his new product.
A number of Superbands products were then given away in a prize pinball quiz.
8pm: Fireside Chat - Jersey Jack Pinball - An Unexpected Journey
Lloyd Olson introduced Jack and all the team members at the fireside chat - Eric Meunier, Keith Johnson, JP de Win, Butch Peel, Matt Riesterer and Joe Balcer.
Jack updated the audience on Jersey Jack Pinball's progress, describing the team's achievements so far.
The title of the evening refers to the company's upcoming game, The Hobbit, so Joe and Matt told everyone what little they could about the game, bearing in mind the licensing restrictions and not wanting to give away too much just yet. Joe said ultimately, the success of the game depends on it being fun to play. If the game is fun to shoot without any rules or light shows, then you know it will be a success.
Butch brought everyone up to speed with the progress on the manual for The Wizard of Oz - both the online and the printed versions - with more than 60 new pages covering interconnections between the boards.
Eric told the audience about his history in the amusement industry and how that experience has led to make the JJP system more reliable and introducing new technology.
JP described his background creating graphic sequences for TV and how much he enjoyed working on his first pinball at JJP.
Jack then spoke about the problems acquiring assets from the movies to use in the game. He said they have material from the first two movies (the second one of which has not been released at this time), some of which they can use. But Jack said the artwork shown on the cabinet so far is not the final artwork which will most likely include assets from all three movies. He also stressed how important it is to get the game release to coincide with the third movie's release.
Returning to The Wizard of Oz, Jack said they are still adding new animations to the game. After attending the 75th anniversary screening in Hollywood, Jack said he came up with more ideas for clips which could be played when the ball drains, and the latest code includes these.
Eric Keshin from Dynamics Inc - the e-Plate reward card system maker we reported about earlier was also at the fireside chat. JJP have strengthened their association with the company with the release of a pinball theme for the card.
One of the questions from the audience asked why the scoring was so low. Keith said most players don't understand the scores when they are such massive numbers, and achieving a low score really doesn't matter.
Jack said it's a 1939 movie, so it made sense to have scores appropriate to that era. He went on to answer a question about the two ruby red games created for the 75th anniversary party. He said there were some differences, including some 3D clips, but he couldn't say at this point whether or not they would ever make a run of them.
Asked about the difficulty settings in the game, Keith said each feature would have four different difficulty settings, although that hasn't been fully implemented in the current software. He also said any improvements made in The Hobbit would be rolled back into The Wizard of Oz as well.
In response to a question about the financial viability of the company and whether they were making a profit yet, Jack said they are not profitable yet, but he was happy with where they were right now.
Replying to other questions, Keith described how he, Ted and JP create light patterns, saying it's an art rather than a science, Joe revealed The Hobbit has an underground tunnel which splits into two, Lloyd said he thought The Wizard of Oz had fewer problems out-of-the-box than Williams games, which he said usually required several days of adjustments to get it to play right, and Lloyd said the production system could support making 20 games a day, but getting the parts delivered in a timely way to increase production is a serious problem.
The seminars picked up again on Friday morning with the traditional early morning start featuring 'Dr Scott' Sheridan and Ron Coon Jr.
8.15am: 'Dr. Scott' Sheridan & Ron Coon, Jr. - Fun With Synchronicity & More Pinball Repair Tips
The theme of Scott and Ron's seminar this year is the synchronicity of seemingly-unrelated events which manage to coincide with positive effects. Scott related several tales where leisure trips have fortuitously coincided with pinball-related opportunities.
Ron then took over and ran through a list of pinball repair tips, such as using a camera phone to check optos, the use of conductive paint to repair dot matrix displays with lines out, downloading the free Electrodroid app to help with resistor colour codes and more, and more basic tips such as always taking balls out of the game before raising the playfield.
Ron explained how they tackle game reboots, first by replacing the capacitors, then the bridge rectifiers, and sometimes by modifying the watchdog circuit so it only reboots the game when the voltage drops to a much lower level.
8.45am: David Fix - Ready?? ACTION!!! Working on Pinball for a Movie
David spoke about a rethemed game created for a movie called The American Side. Someone else had already modified a Williams Aztec machine for the movie and called it Niagara Daredevil so there was no Williams branding.
David was called in to fix the game when it didn't work correctly and ended up re-engineering it so the score reels could be controlled on-cue. David also demonstrated some of his pinball playing skills which were filmed for the movie.
David concluded his seminar by continuing his repair tips from yesterday's seminar, saying it's often useful to check the bottom of the game's cabinet for evidence when diagnosing what went wrong with it.
9.15am: Gerry Stellenberg - P3: Pinball for Today’s Consumers
Gerry said all the machines being produced today are essentially the same, albeit with different themes. He wanted to find a way to move pinball forward and introduce new ideas.
He spoke about the P-ROC system, and how that allows existing games to be given new features and rules. That led to the creation of new driver boards which allowed game designers to build their machines from scratch.
Gerry then listed the P-ROC-based games on show in the exhibition hall, explaining the great games they had created. However, he said they are all essentially based on the same basic machine design from 20+ years ago.
He said the P3 solves the main problems facing home game buyers - the price per game, the ever-increasing need for floor space, and the lack of innovation in pinball.
Almost every feature, Gerry said, is modular or dynamic, making them easily swapped or replaced. The cabinet artwork is magnetic and easily replaced when the game title is changed or if it should be damaged. The flipper buttons are part of the button box which can be changed to provide different controls for different titles.
Gerry spoke about how the playfield LCD panel is used to create both traditional-looking playfield artwork as well as much more dynamic display effects. Lexy Lightspeed - Galaxy Girl and Cosmic Cart Racing demonstrate the two approaches.
Les Pitt demonstrated how quickly the upper playfield module can be swapped. He removed the upper playfield in just 14 seconds and reinserted it in the same time.
Les then removed the flippers and slingshots in a similar amount of time, and finally removed the whole playfield surface by simply sliding it out in a matter of seconds.
Gerry stressed his desire for game designers to create games for the P3 using the ready-made hardware and control system, offering to work with designers to realise their vision on the P3.
10.15am: Scott Danesi, Koen Heltzel & Barry Driessen - The Making of Bride of Pinbot 2.0
The team first introduced themselves and then showed many of the display and sound effects seen and heard in their game. They revealed they had found the original voice artist for the game, Stephanie Rogers, and she provided the voice of the Bride for this game too.
All the wheel awards have their own modes which either need to be completed to score the award, or a frenzy mode where the points are scored for each switch hit. One mode which was especially popular with the Expo audience was a 'Move Your Car' mode called 'Move Your Shuttle'.
Barry showed how the Move Your Shuttle display animations are created in the 3D modeling program and then taken into After Effects to add text and final visual adjustments before rendering as a PNG sequence.
Koen said they have been working on Bride of Pinbot 2.0 for three years and they are now ready to sell a full conversion kit, with pre-orders available now through the Dutch Pinball website with expected delivery in Q1 2014.
10.55am: Dennis van de Pas & Gerard van de Sanden - The Matrix Pinball: From 320GB to 25,000 Volts of BTU in 365 days
Dennis and Gerard brought their The Matrix pinball machine to Pinball Expo. They said it took 1600 hours of Dennis's time to complete the conversion from the Johnny Mnemonic base machine, and overall a total of more than 3,000 hours.
They demonstrated the game's features, how they tie into the associated movie elements, and the various settings available.
Gerard then played the game's wizard mode through to it's conclusion. The Matrix is unusual in that it is a closed-ended game, so once the wizard mode has been completed the game ends.
11.35am: Rick Bartlett & Matt Christiano - What’s Happening at Planetary Pinball?
Rick and Matt began by showing a new hologram from Creature from the Black Lagoon which they will be selling within the next few weeks for $315.
Next, Rick showed some clear flipper bats with multi-colour LEDs inside. He then moved on to talk about ways game code can be enhanced or fixed for certain applications such as tournaments, or in cases where the software was never fully finished. This latter case is, he said, still under discussion with Williams.
Rick's next announcement is a multi-year deal to licence Williams and Bally artwork for merchandise items such as T-shirts, caps, mugs and 3D translites.
The big announcement, though, was that Planetary Pinball will be making a limited edition re-make of Medieval Madness.
There will be a run of 1,000 machines, manufactured by Chicago Gaming Company, with the playfield produced by Churchill Cabinet Company. Doug Duba from Chicago Gaming came to the stage to talk about his company's history in coin-op.
The game will cost $7,995 with a $1,000 deposit, the remaining balance being due 1 week before the game ships. Approval for the remake from Williams should be completed in 2 weeks. Existing PPS distributors will handle orders around the world. Warranty is 180 days on electronics and 90 days on playfield parts. Specific game numbers will be available for a fee and delivery is anticipated Q2 2014.
The only visible difference between these remakes and the original game is the remake will not feature Williams branding. Internally there are several differences. A new CPU board has been made with the drivers part of a large board set under the playfield. The game will have LEDs throughout and a shaker motor pre-installed. The game will have artwork decals on the cabinet.
Those who ordered the remake of Medieval Madness through Wayne Gillard should contact him to discuss options of converting their pre-orders of his remake to the new Planetary Pinball remake.
1.10pm: Josh Kugler - Build A Game from Scratch with P-ROC
John made his own P-ROC custom game - The Kugler Family Pinball - and in his seminar he recounted his experiences making a game from scratch.
He advised game builders to consider whether to use pre-existing parts such as ramps, inserts and wireforms, or whether you are capable of making your own. In Josh's case he used the guide rails from a Judge Dredd, got some parts and the cabinet from friends, and from Pinball Life.
Josh said he went with the Pinball Controllers control system as it dramatically reduced the amount of under-playfield wiring and cost him about $750 in total. He created a test switch board to make it easier to make sure the rules worked correctly.
The first whitewood was made from MDF which Josh advises against, saying it is very unforgiving and makes it difficult to undo any mistakes or make changes.
He also advised not to focus so much on the top of the playfield, and not to forget about the underside and the layout of all the mechanisms, making sure you have space to fit everything.
Rather than using dozens of different colour combinations for the cables used in the game, Josh bought a small number of light-coloured wires and used a number of Sharpies to create a coloured stripe.
Josh said the P-ROC's development software provides a good range of basic functions, making it easier to create the base game and code the rules without needing to be connected to the game's hardware. Turning to the game music, Josh recommended cheap karaoke CDs which provide the music but without the vocals.
1.45pm: Josh Kugler, Kevin Kulek, Eric Priepke & Scott Gullicks - P-ROC Panel Discussion and Q & A
This panel consisted of four game designers who have all created custom games of one kind or another. Josh made The Kugler Family Pinball, Kevin is half of the Skit-B team, Eric created the Cactus Canyon continued ruleset, while Scott created his Wrath of Olympus and is working at Multimorphic on P3 games.
They all explained their experience in coding and their preference for operating system, all agreeing Linux is the only choice.
They discussed how they go about creating specific features and code them. There were different approaches used, especially around multiball rules.
Discussion then turned to connecting together the hardware and wiring the game's components. Scott described the learning experiences he had building his game, the occasions where things went wrong and some magic smoke escaped.
1.10pm: Bobby King and FarSight Developers - The Making of the Pinball Arcade Game
Bobby recounted the history of Farsight, starting by making baseball games before creating the Mojo puzzle game. But the publisher wanted a pinball game, so their first title pinball was Pinball Hall of Fame.
To make this they consulted Tim Arnold to see how they could licence existing games and which titles they should go after.
Tim said it would be easier to get a Gottlieb licence, so Pinball Hall of Fame - The Gottlieb Collection was born, followed soon after by The Williams Collection for which they rewrote the physics engine.
As part of their game development, the company buys each of the tables they emulate, and Bobby said they'd really noticed how much the price of machines has increased recently.
Norman Stepansky then showed us the company offices and the games room both of which are packed full of pinballs. Norman believed they had spent more than $10,000 on shipping in machines alone.
He described some of the problems pulling machines apart to find out how to build the 3D model, and the fun trying to rebuild them afterwards. They also had to capture all the sounds, either by direct recording using a microphone or line-out, or by finding the sounds in the game ROMs.
Jason is the Art Director who then spoke about recreating the 3D toys in the game when it has to run on a variety of of devices, all with differing capabilities, and how they need to make sure all the parts fit together in the game.
He then described the in-game lighting, saying a game like Scared Stiff will have something like 150-200 individual lamps in the model.
Finally, Jason showed how the collision system works, with a 3D object which controls where and how the ball moves when it hits an object on the playfield.
3pm: John Popadiuk - The Magic of Magic Girl
John began by explaining his history both in pinball and in toys and brand design. His pinball career started at Bally in Bensonville where Norm Clark hired him.
After his well-documented career at Williams, John covered his time designing Zizzle games and then moved on to his Zidware software company which started with the Pinball Wizard iPhone game which achieved more than one million downloads.
John said one of the characteristics of a pinball designer is that they are always designing pinballs, even if they're not employed and have no way to realise them yet.
John then showed a video of a conversion of his iPhone Pinball Wizard game onto a larger LCD video pinball game. He then mounted physical pinball elements such as posts and bumpers on the LCD surface, and programmed the video element to create collisions with the real elements.
Eventually though, he needed to create a viable product, and that's when Magic Girl was created. John said everyone wants new ball tricks - not just a couple of ramps - so he had had to come up with new ideas, while the theme and concept is created from scratch with no ready-made assets available.
John has set up a 900 sq ft studio in his home to work on the game, which has a new, patented cabinet design.
John then showed a series of conceptual ideas for cabinet and backglass artwork based around a female magician chained inside a submerged box. If Theatre of Magic was set around the late 1800s to 1900, he said, Magic Girl is set 300 years before that.
The next design leap came when the dot matrix display was replaced by an LCD which formed the playfield's back panel.
John showed pictures from the development of the game. Right now he is building prototypes to iron out the last few bugs before production begins.
4.15pm: Spooky Pinball Presents: Hot Haunted Coeds!
This year the Spooky Pinball cast brought along a panel of unsuspecting victims - Joe Newhart, Bryan Kelly, Dennis Nordman and Steve Ritchie. It started with the co-eds of the title being chased by a ghost, who was later revealed to be Greg Freres.
After Charlie introduced them all in his inimitable way and a few T-shirts were either thrown or fired from the T-shirt cannon into the audience, three of the recipients of the shirts were called to the stage to be contestants in an online game of Jeopardy, with Bryan, Dennis and Steve representing them. Bryan, Dennis and Steve were then joined by Sean Connery as played by Ben Heckendorn who interjected with his humorous insults.
Categories and prize levels were chosen by audience members with panel members buzzing in to answer.
After the final round, the winner was Dennis with the audience member winning a Stern shaker motor kit. In second place was Steve with the audience member he was representing winning a Flipper Fidelity speaker kit of his choice, while Bryan Kelly's representative won an America's Most Haunter backglass.
5.30pm: Greg Kmiec, Paul Faris, Tom Nieman, Allan Reizman, Suzanne Ciani - The Development Team Behind Xenon
This seminar reunited the key members of the team behind the game Xenon - gamer designer Greg Kmiec, artist Paul Faris, musician and the voice of Xenon Suzanne Ciani, and vice-president of marketing Tom Nieman and Bally engineer Allan Reizman.
Gary Flower introduced the team as they came up onto the podium.
Tom Nieman spoke first about some of the projects they were trying at Bally at the time, testing out new promotional ideas. Along with licensed themes, one of those ideas was to bring in someone creating movie soundtracks to produce the sound on a pinball machine, which was how he got in touch with Suzanne.
He recalled Paul Faris coming up with the idea of the game's name. He convinced Tom of the potential of the name and the futuristic concept.
Greg then talked about his idea of using a clear acrylic tube to raise the ball above the playfield and how he was able to incorporate it in the game which was still called Saber Dance at that stage as Paul hadn't pitched the Xenon idea yet.
Paul said he wanted the main character to be an 8ft-tall blue woman. He thought women had played largely subservient roles in pinball so far, and he wanted the Xenon character to be clearly not subservient.
Allan then described how he had been trying to re-introduce multiball play into games he worked on, and when he tried it in Xenon he found the game played better that way.
Suzanne said she felt very apprehensive about becoming involved in the very masculine world of pinball design and manufacturing. She worked with the sound programmer on the game to work out what exactly was needed when creating the sound for a pinball machine.
She said the most important thing was that she was allowed the creative freedom to bring forth her ideas just as she was back home in New York, and could incorporate them in the game.
Suzanne said she used a Synclavier to replicate the sounds the Bally sound system was able to create, and had studied computer music with Max Mathews, so she had a good understanding of how computers generated sounds and played music.
She then played a selection of sounds Xenon from her archive, some of which were used in the game and some which never made it. She said she didn't ever get to try her effects in the game. She was told the kind of sound needed and the amount of time available for the effect.
Paul said he created the original backglass artwork using acrylic airbrush, and was going to bring it along this evening, but it was damaged during a flood at the Bally factory and needs careful handling until it can be suitably protected.
Greg said Xenon was probably one of the first real 'team effort' games, thanks to the work of Tom Nieman and Paul Faris.
Note: The recording of this seminar begins with the audio from a documentary on the making of the sounds for the game, narrated by Peter Ustinov.
7:10pm: Kevin Kulek - From the Basement to the End of the Earth with Skit-B-Pinball
Skit-B's Kevin Kulek was speaking to update the audience about their progress with their Predator game. Kevin began by thanking the many contributors to the project and said they'd had huge advancements in both hardware and software since the last show one year ago.
The game they were showing in the hall is, as Kevin described it, their release candidate, built the way they always envisioned it. They think it will take a minimum of 6-12 weeks before production can begin.
Kevin thought the code is about 99.8% finished and is their third major release, although he said internally they were on about their 76th revision.
Longer term, Kevin said they are working on future pinball products involving some major licences and plan to keep making new titles. He was hesitant to suggest they would be able to produce a title a year, but that was something they were shooting at.
Kevin the spoke about the ease of cleaning the game. All the playfield plastics can be removed easily without the need to remove other components first. As an operator himself, Kevin said he got endlessly annoyed by games where you couldn't access areas to clean them without partially disassembling the playfield.
He also confirmed they won't be making more than the advertised 250 Predator machines, despite numerous requests to make more.
7:35pm: Barry Shilmover and Aaron Davis - Skill Shot Pinball - Turning Your Pinball Design Into Reality
Skillshot Pinball featured in our Northwest Pinball Show report since they hail from the Seattle area and have created a pinball control system. Their Master Controller board sits at the heart of the system and talks to multiple individual device driver boards and switch input boards.
Their Light Controller board can drive up to 180 RGB LEDs with six independent channels and a number of built-in transition and cycling effects.
The Switch Controller connects to up to 24 switches and features built-in voltage protection and support for different types of switches.
Finally, their Driver Controller board also drives 24 devices and includes protection against locked-on coils and notification of any problems. The Driver Controller doesn't directly drive any high voltages. Instead it connects to smaller Device Driver boards which actually do the switching.
Boards are connected in a ring using ethernet cables, and each board identifies its capabilities and connected devices to the Master Controller.
The software currently runs on a standalone PC running windows. This also deals with all audio requirements, although there are plans to create an Audio Controller board to add to the line-up.
The Skillshot pinball control system also has a software library which is currently in beta testing and handles the basic functions to drive lamps, solenoids, read switches and act accordingly.
This year there was an Evening with Stern Pinball on Friday night beginning at 8pm, which featured their new Star Trek game, a high score competition, Steve Ritchie, Greg Freres and Dirty Donny signing flyers, translites and other pinball paraphernalia, and free beer.
The winners of the high score competitions were:
John took the first seminar of Saturday morning, and began by explaining the different types of files needed to print a backglass, and how double printing colours produces much richer and deeper tones.
John also announced he is now selling his backglasses through both Marco Specialties and Planetary Pinball Supply. He currently makes backglasses for Gottlieb and Stern, and will soon be making Williams and Bally glasses too. The first will be Lucky Strike.
He then described the process of taking a blank piece of glass, cleaning it prior to printing, then the wrapping, packing and the methods of protection he uses to avoid glass breakage during shipping.
To make it worthwhile for his printer to print using metallic ink (which creates a mirrored effect), John said he would need to have a run of 100+ glasses which isn't likely to happen at the moment.
John also offers a custom backglass printing service for $200 which, he said, can be supplied on tempered glass in any size and thickness.
Asked about his clearcoat process, John said he used to use vehicle bodyshops to clearcoat his playfields but now both he and Classic Playfield Reproductions use the same clearcoater. They apply a quick mist of clearcoat first which is allowed to dry before the main thinker layer is applied.
John announced he will be making three different conversion kits for Dolly Parton which will cost around $1,300 and will come with new playfields, backglasses, plastic sets and cabinet art. He said custom conversion kits are also a definite possibility.
The plywood he uses for his playfields is, he said, the same wood everyone uses for their playfields which is called Baltic Birch but actually comes from Russia.
11am: Python Anghelo - The Future of Pinball Mechanisms & Playfield Design
Python said while many people were at Expo to celebrate pinball's past, he wanted to look to the future. He said in the past, pinball had employed military technology and that was where it should be looking to radically change how pinball operates.
He showed a new ball trough design he had been working on and called on everyone to bring in young design talent to create radical new techniques and ideas.
Pinball has become stuck in a rut, he said, and needs completely re-thinking.
Why does the ball have to be solid and rigid? Why not a colour-changing flexible ball?
Python spoke about his time working at other companies and they way they were able to remove the need for switches by using cameras, which can also be used in many other ways including diagnosing faults.
Turning to the cabinet (or 'coffin' as python described it), he said he has a completely new attractive design with a much smaller footprint. He also called for new display technology to be used, so the games don't look like something from 50 years ago.
He said if we do all these things, we will discover how much young players enjoy pinball.
After a break to set up for his next session, Python continued his seminar at 11am.
When Python joined Williams, he said, it was usually the programmer and mechanical engineer who actually put the game together. When he started designing there, he moved playfield items around much to the chagrin of the mechanical engineers there.
Python revealed three games he plans to build:
He said his small team can't build these games on their own - they will need many others to come on board. Python said he will try to do the art for the games, although there will be several others capable of providing art too if his team comes together, which he hopes to be complete in two months.
Python says he thinks he could have sold 1,000 units of Pinball Circus by now, but he believes taking pre-orders would be dishonest without him having a completed game. He said he has to build 12 prototype games and put them in 12 locations for 12 weeks to see if he has a game yet. Only then will he start take orders.
He said he wants to leave this world having made three great games.
Asked what he thought was the future of pinball on location, he said his operator friends tell him apart from pool and darts, nobody plays games on location anymore. Python said luck comes to those who know what they're doing, and he knows how to make a game with the mojo necessary to be a success.
He said he knows he has a game, he's going to do it, but do it the right way.
Next Python illustrated a sit-down pinball game where the playfield is at eye-level and the player's head is in a glass dome with surround sound. He said it began as an idea for a wheelchair user to be able to play
Python called for anyone with crazy ideas for pinball to get in touch with him through his pythonanghelo.com and either he or a member of his team will get back to them.
In the afternoon, the regular Pinball Expo autograph session saw pinball game designers, artists, authors and others involved in the industry gather together to sign pinball flyers, posters, translites or just about anything pinball-related.
There ware still two more seminars to be held Saturday. The first of these took place at 3pm as Gary Stern arrived at Expo.
3pm: Gary Stern - Up Close With Gary Stern
Gary had been in Italy for the Enada trade show and returned just in time for his seminar in which he spoke about the current market for pinball and the growth of 'barcades' - combined bars and arcades. Stern Pinball had been working with a couple of these in Chicago, as Gary said it brought pinball to a younger 20s & 30s crowd, widening the player base and getting them playing pinball on location.
Gary also spoke about his family's history in pinball, telling stories about some of the big names in the industry during the '60s and '70s, about the start of Stern Electronics, some of the games they created, and the competition they faced at that time from Williams.
He also contrasted the operator and collector markets in the US with those in other countries, in particular European countries. But in all these he said there was the need to make the game easily understandable to the casual player, as well as having the depth demanded by the collectors.
Note: Due to the batteries in the audio recorder running out, the very end of Gary's seminar was not recorded.
The final seminar took place late on Saturday evening after the banquet.
11:30pm: Lloyd Olson - The LTG :-) Show
Lloyd usually has the Friday night slot at Expo, but this year he took over the banquet room once the awards dinner was over and hosted his regular mix of industry stories, personal opinions and free prize give-aways.
Lloyd recalled stories about the biggest fire he's ever had at his SS Billiards arcade in Hopkins, MN, before moving on to talk about his new job as technical support for Jersey Jack Pinball and some of the support calls he had received.
He then invited several speakers onto the stage to talk about what they are doing in the pinball world. Mark Czarnowski told everyone about the Pinball Donut Girl and Wade Krause - Pinball Artist double DVD pack now available, Andrew Heighway described his company's progress with their first game Full Throttle as well as future titles, Gerry Stellenberg explained the philosophy behind the P3 pinball platform and the display of P-ROC games in the exhibit hall, Rick Bartlett spoke about his Medieval Madness remakes, Jonathan Joosten talked about his second edition of Pinball Magazine, Fred Young performed some pinball voices and Martin Ayub said a few words about Pinball News.
Throughout the seminar, further draws took place for free prizes donated by members of the pinball community. These included posters, mugs, ash trays, pinball mod controllers, multimeters, speaker kits and copies of Pinball Magazine, with the grand prize being a signed The Wizard of Oz backglass.
The final draw was for a pinball machine - either AC/DC or The Wizard of Oz - as part of a Pinside raffle where 100 people bought tickets for $125 each to help support a drive-in movie theatre.
The winning number was drawn by Jonathan, and it belonged to Wayne Gillard (a.k.a. Mr Pinball Australia).
The main exhibit hall opened at 6pm on Thursday until 11pm, although the adjoining games room is open more or less continuously from opening on Thursday to tear-down on Sunday. The exhibit hall opened again at 6pm on Friday, closing at 11pm again, reopening at 9am on Saturday. The hall the closes at 5pm on Saturday in preparation for the banquet, and reopens once the dinner is over.
Let's take a tour of the hall.
Entry to the hall was controlled by the use of coloured wristbands. Only those who paid for either that day, or the whole show, or had a stand in the hall were allowed in.
A one day pass to the hall cost $25, while access over all five days was $90. If you only wanted to see the seminars, that cost $50. The Stern Pinball factory tour was an additional $50, and the banquet on Saturday night added $85 to the total.
Show packages including the factory tour, five days of access to the seminars and the exhibit hall and two entries in the tournament started at $175 for advance registration without the banquet, rising to $210 if you took the banquet but didn't pre-register.
On the right as you enter was Expo co-organiser Mike Pacak's large stand, selling manuals, schematics, translites, glass, books and flyers.
Following a knee operation, Mike was speeding around the show on his mobility scooter.
As usual, he brought a selection of rare and unique machines for visitors to play.
Mike also had an Aaron Spelling machine - a modified Lethal Weapon 3 - and a Flip Out '91 custom game.
Opposite Mike were Chicago Pin Services selling parts and machines, the team from the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and Gameroom Expo promoting their event in Denver next April, and Great Lakes Modular with their replacement and enhanced boards.
On the end of the row was the stand for the Pinball Lifter Guys, Bruce Sr. and Jr., were back with their inexpensive way to move machines around.
On the left side of the hall as you walked through the main doors was a display of machines from Rob Berk's collection.
Next to these was a stand from Andrew Barney's APB Enterprises, selling his wide range of coils and other assorted parts.
Opposite Andrew was a small stand from Logan Hardware - a record store in Chicago which just happens to have a back room containing ten pinballs. We reviewed Logan Hardware in our Sites section, and they were at Expo to promote their store and sell a few records.
Next to Logan Hardware was a new exhibitor to Expo but a company we featured in our NW Pinball Show report, Skillshot Pinball. They brought their pinball controller boards along and had an unusual fold-up game which was certainly an attention grabber.
Next to them, Keller Pinball had a stand with games and tools.
Opposite Keller were the CoinTaker team, selling their extensive range of LED products.
Moving along the row, we pass a selection of machines on free play and come to the Pingame Journal stand, selling subscriptions to their magazine.
At the end of this row you could find a range of pinball-related T-shirt and sign designs from Pinball Shirts.
The next row began was Jersey Jack Pinball-themed and began with three The Wizard of Oz standard edition machines. These were running version 1.22 of the software which hadn't been released at this stage. It seemed to hold up well and added a large number of new features.
Right next to The Wizard of Oz machines was a stand from Dynamics Inc. who were promoting their ePlate credit card, which ties up with Jersey Jack Pinball to offer rewards and discounts.
Next came Jesse Trueblood's Pincades stand. Pincades' Indiana store sells both new JJP games and older machines, a selection of which he brought to the show.
At the end of the row was Matt Riesterer's Back Alley Creations stand.
Matt was showing a range of custom creations and mods, including some great-looking speaker panels.
On the opposite side of the row was Brett Davis's X-Pin stand. Returning to the show circuit after a short break, Brett had his full range of pinball displays and replacement boards.
On the left side of the X-Pin booth was the first of this years slew of custom games. America's Most Haunted comes from Ben Heckendorn and features a completely custom playfield, rules, sounds, display animations and artwork package.
The game uses a green LED DMD, has bright, bold playfield graphics, and multi-colour LED playfield illumination.
Right next door to America's Most Haunted was the team from Spooky Pinball who were greeting visitors to their stand and selling Spooky Pinball Podcast branded merchandise, along with T-shirts and translites for their upcoming game Pinball Zombies from Beyond the Grave.
To the left of the Spooky Pinball team was the first half of the Multimorphic display of custom and modified P-ROC-based machines.
The first title in that display was Predator from the Skit-B team of Kevin Kulek & Aaron Klumpp. At the time we visited the laptop was out to demonstrate how the software worked.
Later we got a better look so we could see the new toys added to the playfield and the clear plastic ramps.
To the left of Predator was another Skit-B game. This one with a rather more family-friendly theme.
The game didn't have many rules and was made from spare parts from Predator, but it flowed very nicely and was fun to shoot.
The third P-ROC-based game wasn't a custom theme and didn't even make any changes to the playfield, but instead takes an existing game to a whole new level.
Cactus Canyon Continued is by Eric Priepke who rewrote the existing Cactus Canyon code for the P-ROC, enhanced some of the existing modes and added a new bunch to make the game feel complete.
At Expo he also demonstrated a colour LCD display. This doesn't use a ColorDMD device, although it is the same type of LCD panel. Instead Eric used the alpha data for each pixel to specify colour data, modifying the P-ROC's software to implement it.
Next door was the fourth P-ROC game, and this zombie-themed game from Matthew Bonnema was still very much a work-in-progress.
Matthew said he hoped to have the game completed by the end of this year.
The final machine in this row of machines was another modified classic, although this game could clearly be seen to be different even with the power off.
Barry Driessen & Koen Heltzel's Bride of Pinbot 2.0 replaces the alpha-numeric display with a DMD, completely rewrites the rules, and adds new modes, completely custom sound & music, and 3D rendered DMD animations.
Pre-orders for Bride of Pinbot 2.0 are now being taken through the Dutch Pinball site.
The end of the row was occupied by John P Dayhuff who had an extensive range of new and pre-owned parts.
Opposite this row was Pinball Inc's usual huge display of reproduction ramps.
Given the announcement about the re-run of Medieval Madness machines, this maybe wasn't entirely unexpected:
Further down the row we come to the second half of the Multimorphic exhibit of custom machines, starting with Multimorphic's own model, the P3.
This is unique amongst the custom machines in a number of ways, not least the fact that it does not run on the P-ROC, but instead on the new P3-ROC controller. You can read more about the P3 in our most recent article.
Sitting alongside the P3 was the Wrath of Olympus machine from Scott Gullick who is also doing artwork for the games included with the P3.
The third machine in the Multimorphic row was from Josh Kugler and was most definitely a family-friendly theme.
Started in July 2012, the game is an ongoing one-off project with the focus so far on developing a challenging ruleset.
The penultimate machine in the line-up was the first custom game by Dennis van de Pass, and like Cactus Canyon Continued, Demolition Man on Steroids takes an existing game's hardware and rewrites the rules.
Unlike CCC though, Dennis didn't start with the original rules and build on them. Instead, he created his own ruleset to give added depth and more challenges.
The translite image is one of the many rejected versions artist Doug Watson made, before the final version was accepted by Wesley Snipes.
The final game in the Multimorphic exhibit also comes from Dennis van de Pass, this time working with Gerard van de Sanden to create The Matrix pinball.
The Matrix uses the playfield design from Johnny Mnemonic, but completely re-themes it, with new artwork, plastics and lighting. Then there is the custom cabinet and backbox art, the new translite and the completely new rules, sounds and display effects.
Two The Matrix machines were built in the Netherlands, and the one brought over for Expo was subsequently bought by a collector in California.
At the end of the row was a stand from Pinball Armor, promoting and demonstrating their pinball machine protective covers as well as their covers designed to carry and protect a machine's legs.
Across the walkway from Pinball Armor, Pinball Wizzard were offering lamps, parts, boards, speakers and replacement board.
To their right was the stand from VirtuaPin.
Apart from their computer pinball machine, VirtuaPin also make cabinets as used in several of the custom games seen at the show.
A little further along, computer games maker FarSight Studios were showing their latest The Pinball Arcade releases.
To the left of Pinball Wizard we find the team from Pinball Spare Parts Australia who had a range of predominantly plastic parts at attractive prices.
Facing them was a stand featuring cabinet side mirrors from the company Pinball Side Mirrors.
They brought along a selection of machines to illustrate how their mirrors inside the cabinet enhance the look of the game, and two The Lord of the Rings backboxes to demonstrate their anti-reflective glass.
The final back-to-back row was dominated by Marco Specialties large display of Star Trek and Metallica machines. On one side were four Metallica games - a mix of Pro and Premiums.
Back-to-back with those were four Star Trek Pro machines.
Marco Specialties were also selling a small selection of parts and taking orders which would be dispatched after the show with free shipping in the US.
Sharing the parts section was Joe Scaletta's JCS Pinball with the Super-Bands pinball rings.
At the other end of the Marco stand was an interesting machine - a Stern Galaxy made for the 1980 Winter Olympics when they were held in Lake Placid. These games were put in hospitality tents, but had to be modified to work at such cold temperatures.
On the other side of the walkway was an unnamed stand selling assorted plastic pinball parts such as flipper buttons, flasher domes and bumper caps.
On the right of this, artist and designer Python Anghelo had his stand selling a number of his art pieces.
At the back of the room was a further selection of vendor stands. In the corner next to Python was Starship Fantasy with their display of reproduction playfields, backglasses and plastic from Classic Playfield Renovations.
Next door to Starship Fantasy was pinball show stalwart Rottendog Amusements with their range of replacement pinball boards.
The entrance to the games room separated Rottendog and Great American Pinball, who brought a selection of impressive-looking machines together with assorted translites, playfields, posters and magazines.
Reaching the corner we come to the penultimate vendor stand - Midwest Pinball. Rich Huff's pinball restoration company brought examples of their work on games old and new.
Across from Midwest was the final vendor stand in the exhibit hall. John Greatwich's Great Pinball had several of their reproduction backglasses on display and available to order.
These particular backglasses would later go into the charity auction which was held as part of the Saturday evening banquet.
Here's a list of all the 69 machines set up in the exhibit hall:
In addition there were two machines set up in the corridor outside the exhibit hall - Hercules and ICE's The Flintstones.
The adjacent room held the majority of the free play machines.
Here's a full list of the 74 machines in the game room:
There were also five non-pinballs set up either in the game room or the exhibit hall - two VirtuaPin video pinballs, a TAB Virtual Pinball video pinball, a Slugfest pitch and bat game, and a Fire Escape skill game from ICE.
Outside the game room, qualifying for the various tournaments ran across Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The main open tournament was joined by a women's division, a junior division and a classics tournament.
Competitors could enter as often as they wanted, and with a constant line to play.
All the main tournament machines were fitted with dual cameras - one for an overhead view of the playfield and one pointing at the display. These were used to provide live feeds of some matches through PAPA's papa.tv live streaming service.
We'll return to the tournaments for the final rounds on Sunday morning.
Events at Pinball Expo culminate in the Saturday evening banquet, where awards are given, the keynote speaker makes their presentation, and money is raised for the Make-a-Wish charity through an auction of pinball products.
But before any of that, Alvin Gottlieb's son Michael took to the stage to say a few words about his father who passed away earlier in the week.
The auction then began as Rob took the microphone to introduce the lots and take bids.
In all, the auction raised more than $16,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation, which is a new record for Pinball Expo.
Once the buffet-style dinner had been served and consumed, it was time for the banquet speech.
This year was unusual as there were two speakers - Steve Ritchie and Eugene Jarvis. Steve and Eugene worked together designing games first at Atari and then at Williams, where they created such classics as Firepower, High Speed and F-14 Tomcat.
The made a chronological journey through their time working together, recalling humorous incidents and the struggles they face both from management at the companies and from each other.
Steve then called his brother to the stage and righted an omission from the 2011.
Two years ago Mark was inducted into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame, but couldn't be present to collect his award, so this year he was re-presented with it in front of the banquet audience.
This year's inductees were then announced. The first was also introduced by Steve Ritchie and it was his speaking partner and head of Raw Thrills, Eugene Jarvis.
The second inductee of the evening was introduced by Joe Kaminkow and Gary Stern.
Joe and Gary had worked with this years second inductee from the very start of Data East Pinball, right up to the latest title at Stern - covering a total of more than seventy machines where he programmed games from Laser War to Star Trek.
The second inductee was Lonnie Ropp.
The third and final inductee this year was introduced by Tom Nieman.
He said this inductee had only worked on one pinball game, but it changed the way sound was produced from combinations of phonetic sounds used in games such as Gorgar, to the sampled speech she recorded for use in Xenon.
The third inductee was Suzane Ciani.
Suzane then performed a musical piece, using some of the equipment she used for Xenon to pitch-change her voice to a male character, Steve.
The next award was given for the best exhibit in the main hall and was a joint winner between the Marco Specialties/Stern Pinball stand, and Multimorphic's custom machine display.
Gerry Stellenberg accepted the award.
Gerry then spoke about the custom machines exhibit and what it represented for pinball.
He then asked the designers of four of the games to come forward and receive their awards as part of the winning exhibit.
Walter Day of Twin Galaxies then spoke to say he had decided to award trading cards to all previous inductees of the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame.
This evening he presented a selection of them with their trading card awards.
Finally, the evening ended as it began with thoughts of Alvin Gottlieb. Roger Sharpe took to the stage to recall some of his memories of Alvin and how Alvin had helped shape the pinball business during his many years working in it.
The banquet then ended, the exhibit hall reopened, and preparations began for the final seminar - The LTG :-) Show which would continue until nearly 3am.
Sunday is a wind-down day at Pinball Expo. Quite a few of the games have already been packed away by then, and several of the vendors have either left or are preparing to.
Once, Sunday used to be the day to get knock-down deals on stock vendors didn't want to haul home, but these days anyone wanting to make any last minute purchases shouldn't rely on the vendor still being there or having specific items available on the Sunday.
In fact the main business of Sunday is really just the conclusion of the tournaments in the hotel's front lobby area, but they weren't the only competitive events held at Pinball Expo.
ExpoBrawl is the traditional two-member team tournament held on Friday. Registration and warm-up begins at 7am, with the first 'seeding' round starting at 8am. The early start is designed to minimise the impact on non-tournament players who are unable to play any of the games while ExpoBrawl is running.
Teams played head-to-head, with each team choosing a machine to play. All four players then played a single game on each machine. Points were awarded for finishing position and overall score, and the team with the most points at the end of the games won the match.
Once the seeding rounds were over, the 48 teams who entered were split into six divisions of eight teams. Each division remained separate and, once each team had played all the others in the division, crowned their own winner.
ExpoBrawl continued throughout the afternoon until all the divisions produced their winners.
Sunday brought the finals of the FlipOut tournament which consisted of five divisions - A, B, Classics, Women's & Kids'.
In all divisions, players could buy as many entries as they wanted during the qualifying period which ran from 1pm until midnight on Thursday, 1pm until 2am on Friday and 9am until 11pm on Saturday - a total of 38 hours of qualifying.
The top 24 players in the A division qualified for the playoffs. The first 12 received byes through the first 2 rounds, while those ranked 13th - 16th earned a bye through the first round only.
Players who missed out on the A division and were ranked 25th to 32nd qualified for the B division instead.
The Classics, Women's and Kids' were all separate competitions. The top 4 qualified for the play-offs in the Women's and Kids', while the top 16 in the Classics made the play-offs.
All the machines in the A, B and Women's divisions were fitted with dual cameras - one for the score display and another for an overhead view of the playfield, while a third camera showed the playing area. These were combined for the PAPA.tv feed which was also shown on monitors for the audience to watch.
The nine machines used in this area were: 2 x Star Trek (Pro), The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, 2 x AC/DC (Premium), X-Men (Magneto LE), Metallica (Pro) and The Avengers (Pro). The adjacent area contained the four Classics machines: Frontier, Playboy (Bally), Alien Star and Prospector.
The B division was the first to finish, with a win for Jeff Hooper who defeated Brian Dols in the final. Dan Garrett was third and Todd Seaver fourth. Jeff won $500 plus a trophy, Brian earned himself $250, Dan received $100 and Todd took home $75.
The four semi-finalists in the Women's division were Jennifer Peavler, Alysa Parks, Penni Epstein and Masha Hass. Jennifer and Penni won their respective semi-finals to go into the final, while Alysa won the third place play-off.
In that final, it was last year's losing finalist Penni who took this year's top spot, leaving Jennifer in second.
Penni also won $100 to go with her trophy, Jennifer received $75, Alysa $50 and Masha $25.
In the Kids' division played on Star Trek, it was a repeat win for Escher Lefkoff who followed up last year's title with a second trophy this year.
Escher beat Andrew Rosa II in the final, while Zachary Parks won the third place play-off against fourth placed Dante Oliva.
The penultimate competition to reach its conclusion was the Classics division. The 16 qualifiers played double-elimination, best-of-three matches on machines of their choice from the four available.
The final came down to a battle on Prospector between Bob Matthews from the US and Jack Tadman from Canada.
The final score on Prospector produced a win for Jack. Bob was second, while Zach Sharpe was third and Cayle George fourth.
All of which left just the A division to complete.
Although play began at 8am, the sheer number of best-of-three matches, the loser bracket, and the Classic tournament also occupying some of the players meant the winner wasn't decided until nearly 7pm.
Eleventh-placed qualifier Zach Sharpe remained undefeated all the way through to the final. His opponent there was eighth-placed qualifier Keith Elwin, who had lost to Steve Bowden in his first match, but had then won the next six, defeating Josh Henderson in the final of the loser bracket.
That meant Keith had to beat Zach in a best-of-three match twice to win the final.
He got off to a good start too, winning the first best-of-three match to even the scores and take the final in the deciding best-of-three.
Zach fight back began with a win on AC/DC. Keith had put up a total score of 34M and Zach started his last ball on just 5.7M, yet Zach managed to surpass Keith's score and stopped playing to end on 39M.
The next game was Star Trek, and Zach's good form continued. After ball 2, Keith was trailing with 4M to Zach's 44M.
Sadly Keith couldn't reach Zach's score and so Zach Sharpe won the match, the final and the Pinball Expo FlipOut tournament for 2013.
Josh Henderson was third, and Zach's brother Josh was fourth.
While the tournaments were being decided, the exhibit and game halls were being torn down as Pinball Expo came to an end.
Which brings the show and our report to a close. We hope you enjoyed our bumper coverage of Pinball Expo 2013, the factory tour, the main hall, all 27 seminars, the banquet, the tournaments, and all the other fun.
Next year is the 30th Pinball Expo's, and there are already plans for a bigger and better show. It will be held at the Westin once again, while the dates and all the details are in the Diary section.
Naturally, we'll be there to bring you our unrivalled coverage, but there's nothing like being there for yourself. The hotel sold out very early this year meaning some visitors had to stay 3 miles away and rely on a shuttle bus.
So make your plans and book early.
© Pinball News 2013