PINBALL EXPO 2014
Date: 11th & 12th October, 2014
This is the 30th annual Pinball Expo, the show which really started it all back in 1985. After many moves of location, we return to the Westin North Shore hotel in Wheeling.
The schedule this year is packed, with some seminars running in parallel in adjacent rooms, which will make reporting them interesting. The events begin at 8pm on Wednesday 15th October with the Bumper Blast welcome party - a free gathering with hot food, soft drinks and entertainment.
But even before arriving at the Westin we had visited a number of pinball locations, starting with a trip to see game designer Dennis Nordman and Paul Reno who are working together on some top secret designs.
Because their work is secret we cannot reveal any details, but Dennis and Paul did graciously allow us to show this shot of a part of one of their games, which shouldn't give too much away.
We have also been to visit John Popadiuk at his studio to catch up on the latest development with his trio of titles - Magic Girl, Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland, and Alice in Wonderland.
Once again we cannot reveal details of the features and mechanisms used on his games, but suffice to say John's reputation for innovation, meticulous attention to detail and jaw-dropping artwork is amply demonstrated in his latest creations.
This year's Stern factory tour is likely to be a little different, not only because it is almost certainly the last time the tour will be at this factory - Stern are moving to a new home in nearby Elk Grove early in 2015 - but also because there will be a ban on taking pictures inside the factory.
However, we have something a little special for you instead. But more on that later.
Registration opened at Midday on Wednesday and the desk remained busy well into the evening.
Around the corner, three machines were set up and available to play.
The show officially commenced at 8pm on Wednesday with the Bumper Blast party. Entry to the show was required to gain entry. Once inside, guests chose where to sit, and then helped themselves to a variety of hot food and cold drinks.
Meanwhile, in the main show hall, work continues to build and set up the vendor stands.
Outside, the tournament machines are being readied for several days of continuous play.
Thursday began, as usual, with the Stern Pinball factory tour. Yellow school buses arrived at the Westin just before 9am, and visitors boarded them for the 30-minute ride to Melrose Park.
When the buses arrived at Stern, everyone disembarked and formed a line to get into the factory.
It was not possible to take pictures inside the factory this year, but that was not the only change. As visitors entered the factory, they were required to wear safety glasses for part of their tour.
So instead of pictures from inside the factory, and to mark this final tour of the Janice Avenue facility, here's a special private full HD video tour hosted by 'Dr Flash' himself, John Trudeau.
At the end of the tour, a merchandise stand sold Stern-branded T-shirts, hoodies, and caps.
Jonathan Joosten was also there selling copies of the book he published, Pinball.
After that, it was a bus ride back to the hotel for the start of the seminars.
The first of the show's numerous seminars began at 12:30pm on Thursday.
After the summer he decided to remain with Data East and worked on a game called Universal Theme Park, which later turned into Hook. After that came what Tim describes as his favourite game, Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends.
Tim described how he designed the game, the character's individual attributes and which features changed during the design process, saying it was originally intended to have many more animals pulled out of the hat in the backbox.
After a period designing game room decor, he got a call to come and work on Stern pinball machines at Ad Posters. His work there for Gary Stern included the games Ali, Seawitch and Freefall.
Bob explained how the backglass was the initial draw but ultimately it was the game which was the star. He also described some of the techniques he used to create shadow effects and the typography. When drawing faces, Bob said the team kept files of photographs of people, and he would use these on which to base his artwork.
Because Jim's seminar is mostly video-based, we have have not included that section, but instead have his introduction and closing comments.
The computer pinball games he created led to the idea of making them into full-sized machines, from which his current projects sprang. John brought with him two prototype cabinets for his upcoming Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland game.
John described his methods and techniques for game design, involving multiple iterations to keep improving them. He also spoke about the new primary challenge of pleasing the customer rather than maximising the coin box takings.
He continued with his rules for pinball design, such as make it very original, rethink everything and the reinvention of old technology without alienating the traditional pinball lover. John said each game has around fifty new features.
Unfortunately, a fault with the sound desk means the recording of Johns seminar contained a lot of static noise. Many thanks to David Thiel for his help in processing the audio and reducing the interference, and we hope it doesn't detract from your enjoyment of John's talk too much.
Roger described the number of pinball locations in New York back in the '70s, how he used to drive 2-3 hours to visit test locations so he could then write about the newest machines, and how he tried to persuade Steve to make the Broadway Arcade a test location for manufacturers.
Steve recounted how becoming test location opened many industry doors and introduced him to company owners, distributors and game designers, eventually allowing him to participate in the design of a machine. He also stressed how, today, lots of kids' parties are held at Modern Pinball, putting pinball into the consciousness of the next generation of players, helping to keep pinball alive.
Kevin said they only received a small booklet of images from which to work, but were free to create their own look. He said they had almost nothing for Flash Gordon other than seeing the movie.
Clause said he really didn't want to do the two-level game, having worked with Steve who he knew was also working on a two-level game - Black Knight. So Claude did it differently and effectively cut the playfield in half, raising the back half rather than creating shots which travelled under the upper playfield.
He described how he built the first whitewood and how the game initially played OK, but wasn't his favourite.
Kevin said he got the job of creating the art, as there was a tight deadline and Kevin was known for being able to create an art package at short notice. And indeed he completed it in just 2-3 weeks.
Claude said although the playfield came in two pieces, it was wired as one. The additional height of the upper playfield meant the main lower playfield had to be mounted lower in the cabinet.
Randy then explained how the ColorDMD system works, what it does to the display data and what it does not.
Chris then explained the work he has done and his approach to colouring a game. To help illustrate this he showed a live demo of their software application called Dots.
Chris then showed how they created the graduated font colours used in their recent Indiana Jones ColorDMD.
They then revealed their next title as The Lord of the Rings, thanking Stern Pinball for their help in making it happen.
As with John's seminar above, there was audio interference from the mixing desk on the recording of Randy and Chris's seminar. We have tried to minimise its impact on the recording below.
Meaning, Brian continued, is often the tricky part, but he thought the challenge - either from the designer or from the player - provides the game's meaning. Artists, he said, were always looking to innovate, but players expect a certain grammar when they approach a machine in order to find it acceptable as a pinball. So radical innovation has to be tempered to meet players' expectations.
Brian showed some of the features and surprises he has built into some of the machines he has created.
At 6pm on Thursday, the vendor hall opened to the public for the first time. It would remain open until midnight, then open again at the same time on Friday, remaining open until 5pm on Saturday. The final session began after the banquet on Saturday night and continued until the end of the show at 4pm on Sunday.
The vendor hall had previously been divided to provide room for the free-play games at the back. This year however, the games had their own rooms, giving more space to the vendors which, as we shall see, was sorely needed.
We'll have a full report from both halls the vendor and game halls shortly, but in the meantime we present two in-depth video tours. How in-depth? Well, the games room video lasts a full nine minutes, while our tour of the vendor hall weighs in at a whopping twenty-eight minutes.
Here's our look at the games rooms. Yes, that's right, 'rooms'. The number of free play games meant the organisers had to expand into an overflow room. We show you all the machines in both rooms.
The larger vendor hall was dominated by the Dutch Pinball stand to promote their new The Big Lebowski game, but there were plenty of other companies out to promote their latest releases.
It truly was exciting to see so many new games from such a variety of new pinball manufacturers. See for yourself.
While the vendor hall opened at 6pm, there were still plenty more seminars to go.
Brendan said the first sound was in a Williams Contact bagatelle where a bell rang when a particular hole was achieved. He said bells and chimes were used as the staple of pinball sounds until the late 1970s, until the French game Rally Girl was the first to use electronic sounds.
Chris then spoke about the pioneering work by Eugene Jarvis creating electronic sounds, often by using random settings and finding the effects they create.
The two then discussed the different sound generating systems, from analogue to the various synthesizers and digital signal processors used in later machines.
They brought a machine along to the seminar, and a rug (obviously). The game drew a lot of attention prior to the seminar.
Barry said the team had been working on the game for a year before they distributed their teaser flyer at last year's Pinball Expo, and were amazed nobody worked out who was producing it before it was revealed at the end of the year.
There are three prototype machines here at Expo which are flipable Production is slated for Q2 of 2015 and Philip said anyone who pre-orders before this weekend will receive a free chrome upgrade to the legs, trim and lock bar.
He also spoke about the support the team received from most of the cast members, the particular difficulty they had from one, and how they went about convincing Universal Studios to let them have the licence.
Note: This seminar recording contains adult language
Greg Freres then related a story of his first day working at Williams illustrating a common theme of Python being missing when a deadline was approaching. He went on to describe Python's creative genius which meant he could create drawings which fully captured someone's personality, and do it at the drop of a hat.
Roger mirrored Greg's comments and spoke about an exhibition of Python's work at a gallery, each piece of which demonstrated his imagination, creativity and attention to detail.
Phoebe closed this section of the seminar by paying tribute to Python.
Then James Loflin & Paul Kiefert joined Phoebe on the stage.
In Python's last days, his spirits were lifted by seeing the progress of the game and getting to hold the many mini-playfields. James and Paul brought their latest version of Python's Pinball Circus with them to Expo. It was covered with a black cloth during the seminar but revealed right at the end.
Jack then showed some of the artwork from The Hobbit and announced pricing, with the Standard at $8,000 while the LE is $8,500. There will also be a special Smaug Gold Special Edition which will only be available from midnight tonight until midnight 31st December, 2014.
The Smaug Gold Edition will feature gold body armour, a gold Smaug character, a gold Smaug attract mode screen, a gold collector plaque, and will be available to existing The Hobbit purchasers. The purchase price will be $9,000.
The covers were then removed from The Hobbit Limited Edition.
Keith Johnson then did an overview of the playfield, describing the features. These included individually controllable drop targets, four L-O-C-K rollovers, at least 28 modes, and a diverter on the left ramp return to feed a lock in the left outlane.
The Smaug toy is actually just the head with a mound of gold coins, which can rotate round 180 and Smaug can also open its mouth.
There have been some changes to the lighting, with a new RGB LED control system, and a new white GI string where the LEDs can have their intensity controlled, but not their colour.
Another announcement saw the option of a cabinet laminate which improves the finish of the cabinet sides and is available for $400 when the game is built. It was demonstrated here on a Smaug cabinet.
Friday's seminars began bright and early at 8:15am with the regular incumbents of this early morning slot.
They stressed the importance of fitting remote battery holders to prevent any battery leakage damaging the PCB's traces.
After relating a few stories of coincidences or synchronicity, Scott listed the ten steps to success and how they can relate to pinball sales and repairs.
Gerry said the biggest innovation of recent years has been the P-ROC board, which has led to hundreds of people building their own game, with a number of those turning into commercial products.
He continued with the challenges facing innovators, such as finding time and money to innovate, unconstructive criticism, and people being content with the status quo. Gerry said pinball is broken in its current state, and listed the areas where pinball has to improve, demonstrating how these are addressed in the P3 game the Multimorphic team had brought along.
Jonathan listed the likely content, with the index alone running to more than ten pages.
He then turned to his most recent publication - the book Pinball by Santiago Ciuffo, which is available from Mike Pacak's stand in the main show hall.
Paul then spoke about his job as a journalist and how that led to his creation of the Pavlov Pinball website. He then described the type of content on the site and his plans for the future.
To demonstrate this, they brought along a customised Big Shot machine running their system, which allows the game to appear as it originally did, or to add modern features such as attract mode, ball save, and game modes. The two styles of operation can be switched with the flick of a switch.
At it's peak, he said, D. Gottlieb as making 1,200 machines a day.
Gil then spoke about the transition from EM to solid-state machines in 1974, recalling how French distributors didn't want the solid-state machines, forcing the company to make both versions for some time.
When the company was sold to Columbia Pictures, the management initially remained the same, but the injection of money made was very welcomed. After two years though, the management had begun to change and the firm was being run like a large corporation, which wasn't too successful.
Columbia Pictures was then sold to Coca Cola, which changed both the personnel and the style of management. Gil said at the time he thought Coca Cola would want to sell the company and offered to buy it if it was ever put up for sale, which it was in the summer of 1984.
Gil went to New York to the Fesjian family and they worked out a deal to buy the company, renaming it to Premier Technologies with Gil running it.
Todd showed a video of his warehouse which is filled from floor to ceiling with pinball and arcade video machines and parts. He said the supplies for CRT-based games are limited and so is the life of the video games which use them.
Todd then showed a video of a number of his games fitted with LEDs, comparing them with games using traditional incandescent LEDs to show how bright and attractive the LED versions look.
Since then, David has worked with Pat Lawlor on Family Guy, Steve Ritchie on Spider-Man, George Gomez on Transformers, and with John Borg on six machines, including Tron and Avatar. The most recent game he did at Stern was Mustang, with John Trudeau.
David then talked about the problems creating speech using the early synthesiser chips with their very limited capabilities and even more limited memory, in particular on the game Q*Bert's Quest.
You can also watch a video of David's presentation below:
Talking about the acquisition of Illinois Pin Ball from Gene Cunningham, Rick described the huge quantity of parts, machines, paperwork and junk they moved from Bloomington, Illinois to California over the summer. Some of that stretched back to the '70s, included the artwork screens for the game Blackout. Matt showed a new backglass they were able to make within just two weeks of receiving the request.
Rick said they have been working hard on producing more Williams merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs, rug and mats with more to come. He then debunked a number of misconceptions, saying they are waiting for UL-certified parts to come and then Medieval Madness will be run on the Stern production line.
In the '90s, Rob said, modes and disappearing balls were introduced to surprise players and add new elements. Games became more complicated with deeper rules, leading to the desire to own the machine rather than keep pumping coins into the slot.
Rob cited parties as a good way to encourage the spread of pinball ownership. If the host has one, guests who play will consider buying one of their own.
Pinball collectors, he said, have found solutions to many problems, and most are motivated not by money but by their passion for pinball. Rob listed his personal 'pinball heroes' who have influenced pinball over the years, from arcade and museum owners to mod makers, to computer pinball makers and show organisers.
But first Pat confirmed he'd been working with Jersey Jack on an original game. When JJP first started, they rented a building from Pat for their Chicago campus. When Jack visited he used to keep asking Pat to come and design an original game for him. Pat thought only a licenced game could be a success, but allowed Jack to convince him otherwise.
Pat said he was burned out after all his pinball design years, and went to work for his wife's printing company for a few years. He later visited a Gameworks arcade for the launch of a new Stern pinball when a young pinball fan sat down next to him and started telling him all about his pinball hero - Steve Ritchie. But despite that, it drove home to Pat how good it is to see someone enjoy your work.
Returning to the main theme of his talk, Pat spoke about how he first met Larry DeMar and told him he had an idea for a pinball with two playfields - one horizontal, one vertical. Larry agreed to work with Pat, and 27 years ago they finished their first whitewood for the game which would later become Banzai Run.
He said they didn't know how far a pinball could be flipper on a vertical playfield, but when they tried and found the could flip it out of the game, they knew they had a game. Their first iteration had the score displays set into the upper playfield, but they later moved into a separate part of the backbox. The theme at that time was Wrecking Ball - a construction/demolition concept.
Pat and Larry took the game to Williams where Ken Fedesna, Steve Ritchie and Neil Nicastro looked at it to decide whether they wanted to buy into it or not. Pat said Larry's good standing with Williams and belief in the project sold the idea to Williams.
Pat showed pictures taken one year later when the now completed Banzai Run game went out on test, and later when multiple machines were built, ready for a trade show where it won the award for the most innovative product.
Pat then answered questions from the audience including one about the differences between the time he was at William and working now for Jersey Jack Pinball. Pat answered that back at Williams he had a budget of one million dollars to design and build a game to the point where it was ready for production. The management there trusted their designers to create something fun and profitable, but with that came the responsibility of not creating a flop or something which wasn't fun to play.
He continued that it's hard to be a game designer now, as they used to sell 80% of their product to street operators - i.e. bars, restaurants and stores. Now the balance has changed and so have the gameplay requirements. It's no longer about a fun 3-minute game, and all about making a long-lasting machine for home use.
Larry spoke about his college days and playing early video games in his apartment. When he left college he had to decide where to go next - either to take the sensible path at Bell Laboratories, or to follow his passion and go to Williams. He initially went to Bell, but soon realised his mistake and headed to Williams, where his first pinball game was Scorpion. He said it wasn't a good game, but it was a stepping stone to being able to work on Steve Ritchie's next game, Black Knight.
Following the battering pinball took at the hands of video games, Neil Nicastro said if they couldn't go to the trade show and secure 2,000 orders, they would pull the plug on pinball. Space Shuttle was the next game and pioneered the use of vacuum-formed plastic ramps. Space Shuttle wasn't a fully licenced game, but it was made with NASA's agreement, as arranged by Joe Kaminkow, and it sold very well.
The next game Larry spoke about was High Speed, where he showed the original whitewood playfield which didn't play at all well. Steve Ritchie completely redesigned it and it became a major hit, especially in Germany where the distributor Nova Aparate took as much as 60% of production.
After returning to Banzai Run, Larry moved on to Funhouse, showing a picture of the game where the clock was a mechanical device, rather than being represented by inserts in the playfield.
Next Larry talked about The Addams Family, and the promotional events the team attended in Hollywood.
After that he spoke about the development of Pinball 2000 and revealed a secret flipper code which should be entered in attract mode on either Revenge from Mars or Star Wars Episode 1 and shows a picture of the development team. The code is:
Larry said it was a constant challenge when designing Twilight Zone to make the game hard enough for the expert player, but not too difficult for the novice. The extra rubber band in the pop bumper area which was fitted and then removed was indicative of that challenge, Larry said.
After talking about the Phantom Haus slot machine made by Williams which was too expensive to sell well, Larry moved on to World Cup Soccer, which he said is the best game you can put in a home game room as everyone loves to play it.
This machine database became the basis of what Pinside would become when it was launched on 18th November, 2002. After five years the site was redesigned to something similar to today's look but it didn't have a forum at this stage. That was added later, and visitor numbers began to climb.
Robin then spoke about the problems with the increased number of visitors and posts, such as moderation and the size of the database.
Pinside's newest moderator, Pete Mathis, then spoke about the role and responsibilities of forum moderators, some of the problems which crop up, and how he deals with those kinds of issues.
Robin returned to talk about the site's top ten features such as machines sales, locations, events and reviews. The team then gave their own favourite aspects of the site.
Robin then gave a list of features he would like to add to the site, including the return of machine prices and a location reporting app to help people find and report pinballs on location.
Finally, he discussed potential ways to monetise the site, either by running advertisements or by charging a percentage of machine sale prices.
Starting at 5:30pm and running concurrently with this and the following two seminars, there was a special dinner held in the hotel. The guest of honour was pinball artist Dave Christensen, famous for his highly detailed and often risqué artwork on games such as Fireball, Nitro Groundshaker, Wizard! and Capt. Fantastic.
Dave spoke about his career, both in pinball and elsewhere, and described the creation of some of his most famous artworks.
Andrew also announced the successful negotiations to move their factory to a new unit which is approximately three times the size of their current building.
He then spoke about the Full Throttle game, highlighting the changes made to it over recent months. He said the game is around 85% software complete and available to play in the main hall. He continued by explaining the game's operator-friendly features to make it more reliable and easier to service.
Brian Dominy and Janos Kiss then took over to talk about the game's software development. Brian has been working on the Pinprog game operating system, while Janos has been looking after the video server.
They spoke about how they worked together despite Brian being based in the US and Janos in the UK.
Romain Fontaine then took up the microphone to talk about the development of the electronic control system. He said they are using their own custom driver board which doesn't need a large wiring harness. There are just two power supplies needed - 12V and 70V - while playfield-mounted controllers handle the switches - either traditional or magnetic - and RGB LEDs.
Andrew then talked about the company's overall development and the time it has taken to get to this point, what that extra time has achieved for them.
He then announced the company's second title - Alien, designed by Dennis Nordman and based on the first and second Alien movies.
Dennis spoke about his design and showed mock-ups some of the key mechanisms.
Games three and four will also be licenced titles which will be revealed later, while details of Alien Pinball are on the Heighway Pinball website.
Andrew then answered questions from the audience about the quick-swap playfield system, the differences between the standard and LE models, and prices of the different versions.
In the adjacent room, another seminar was taking place at 6pm. This one featured a panel of owners and operators from various pinball museums across the US.
Among the topics discussed by the panel were, the number of machines in their collection versus the number set up to play, why be a museum rather than an arcade, and the pros and cons of being a non-profit organisation.
Tim Arnold of the Pinball Hall of Fame sent a video giving his top tips for setting up a museum, such as knowing the zoning laws for the area, understanding the local laws about what constitutes an amusement machine and how many are allowed in one location, and negotiating the lease of a suitable building.
Gary said Stern Pinball will not be making any more AC/DC Premium models, but will continue to make Pro models until the end of the year when their licence expires.
He then talked about using LEDs in games, since Stern have now stopped using incandescent lamps in their current models. That led to the recent Iron Man Vault Edition which updates the original version with full LED lighting and new cabinet decals amongst other changes.
Gary also spoke about making the Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons game from Whizbang Pinball, saying distributors were surprised and have been calling him to find out more about the title.
He then moved on to the growth of barcades in the Chicago area, explaining what they are, how they differ from each other and looking at the explosion in their numbers in the past couple of years.
The move from their current building was Gary's next subject, saying they need to have space for their inventory of hundreds of games which are currently kept off-site but will be brought in-house when they move to their new home in Elk Grove next year. He continued by saying the new home will have 200 parking spaces which was an important criterion in their choice of location.
When Gary's presentation concluded, a launch party for The Walking Dead began at the rear of the room.
At 8:30pm, the first fireside chat of this year's Pinball Expo took place. This one featured famed pinball artist, John Youssi.
John was interviewed by Gary Flower, and began by talking about his early days creating album artwork, his first pinball projects, working with Python Anghelo on games such as Jokerz! and Police Force, and the many games on which his creations can be found.
John said he uses a Wacom Cintiq tablet which is built on top of a screen, allowing him to paint or draw directly onto the image. He said he doesn't necessarily prefer working on original themes and really enjoyed working on Tron, for instance, but sometimes it's difficult to get the assets he needs from the licensor.
He showed a series of snippets from backglass images and asked the audience to guess the title, exploring each one in details. Funhouse, for instance, began its life as Crazy House.
Lloyd answered questions from the audience about his time in the coin-op business and running SS Billiards in Hopkins, Minnesota. Free nachos and cheese from the famed cheese pump were also available to accompany the frosty adult beverages.
Throughout the seminar, Lloyd gave away prizes which had been donated by assorted vendors.
Due to the previous seminar starting late, Lloyd's get together was cut short so it could finish by the 11pm deadline.
Note: This seminar recording contains adult language
Dave then raised the question of using family members in their podcasts which is something many of them do, at least initially, and any problems which can arise from that.
The panel were then joined by Rob Craig who spoke about the origins of the SIlverball podcast he and Steve Rothschild produced.
Charlie from Spooky Pinball spoke about the America's Most Haunted machine they manufacture - one of only three pinball companies to actually ship a game in 2014 - and said there were currently 20 machines manufactured, and there will be a maximum number of 150 made.
Each panel member then described their most difficult interview and the technical problems which occasionally occur with the recording.
The Museum runs a large number of community projects to introduce people from all backgrounds to the magic of pinball, hosting many different type of events such as art exhibits and comedy nights.
Michael spoke about the many volunteers who work at the museum, both behind the scenes preparing and restoring machines, and front-of-house inside the museum.
The pair then told the audience about their plans to move into the Carnegie Library building in downtown Alameda. Members of the Museum's board will go before the city council shortly to confirm the next stage of their exclusive agreement, after which the serious fund-raising to refurbish and refit the building will begin.
Audio for this seminar is included with the recording of the seminar below.
A team was assembled to work on the project, as Michael sourced an original Surf Champ playfield as the starting point. Wade extracted the black line from the artwork so this could be printed on 3/8" PETG for the new game's playfield. The playfield was actually made from three layers in order to protect the artwork.
Since it was made the game has featured at the Pacific Pinball Exposition shows, in the TED talks, at Google IO, and at many blue chip companies. It currently lives at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
Timeshock! is a Pro Pinball game made in 1997 which sold millions of copies and is often considered the best pinball simulation to date. Pieter explained the game's premise and its objectives, along with the many features and modes included in the ruleset.
Turning the simulation into a real game requires 34 coils, 8 flashers, 118 lamps and 2 motors, Pieter said. First though, the team had to get a licence from Adrian Barritt who headed up the team at Pro Pinball who made the original game.
Pieter continued by explaining how the computer version didn't have to worry about anything under the playfield, whereas a real game has coils, lamps, motors, switches, wiring looms and many connectors, none of which existed in Timeshock! So these, and more, had to be designed in Solidworks, and installed so that the playfield fitted into the cabinet.
The team have produced several whitewood playfields, each designed to test different aspects of the game such as printing, inserts, lighting, and mechanism or shot placement.
Pieter concluded his presentation by showing a short video of their latest whitewood being flipped.
He is also working with Multimorphic in the creation of their P3 games.
Scott said building a custom game involves a lot of time and money, and you need to have mechanical, electrical, software and art skills to actually build it. It's very unlikely any one person will have all those skills, so it will most probably need a team of people. You also need to be good at solving problems, Scott said.
For Wrath of Olympus, Scott built the game in Visual Pinball initially, which helped work out the the rules and game features.
Instead of building your own, cabinets are available from a number of sources if you don't wish to build your own, along with cabinet decals for the side art. Scott recommended Xtreme Pinball who can cut and route a playfield from your supplied design, and printed the playfield art on a clear overlay. In all, he said, it cost around $400 for the playfield and the overlay.
He said nearly all the regular parts for a pinball machine are available online. Scott suggested Pinball Life, Marco Specialties, Bay Area Amusements, Digi-Key, Great Plains Electronics, McMaster-Carr and Shapeways.
The control system used in Wrath of Olympus is P-ROC from Multimorphic, which Scott recommended due to the relative ease of programming, and the great backup available from their forum.
Frank then took the microphone to talk about the programming side of the game. After discussing the game's requirements, they settled on the P-ROC and then started on programming the core game logic to make the game eject a ball, flip it around and know when it has drained.
He then spoke about how to create the dot matrix display screens and animations, before moving on to the music and sound effects.
The Wrath of Olympus is going to be produced by Spooky Pinball, with manufacturing starting once they have 100 pre-orders.
In closing Scott said it was important to network so you can learn from the experts who have already taken this path. He said it's an amazing community full of great people.
Note: we will continue to add more audio recordings from the seminars in the days after the show, putting them in this report just as soon as we have processed them.
Straight after the seminars it was the autograph session where game designers, programmers and artists sign various items put in front of them.
This year, we bring you a video of the event.
On Thursday, Lonnie Mihin began his attempt to beat the record for the longest continuous pinball playing as we reported earlier.
Lonnie was set up in the front lobby and hoped to beat the official record of 28 hours on Friday evening, but due to the restrictions imposed by Guinness World Records on who could be a referee, the attempt was to be an unofficial one.
So the countdown timer was set at 50 hours, and it hit zero at 4:34pm on Saturday18th October.
Also in the lobby was an exhibition of entries for the pinball art contest.
The bulk of the free-play games were set up in the room used at previous Expos for the seminars. However, there were too many machines to fit in that room, so a side room was put to use as an overflow games room.
We've got a video of both rooms below.
Items up for auction included backglasses, playfields, T-shirts, rugs, paintings, books, pinball coils, and three complete machines.
Rob Berk was the auctioneer, introducing the items and taking the bids.
The banquet meal was then served, after which Todd Tuckey from TNT Amusements ran a picture quiz involving the evening's special guest - Atari founder, Nolan Bushnell.
Nolan Bushnell then spoke about his career, from his early business ventures repairing TV sets at just 9 years old, making the first arcade video games at Nutting Associates, creating the arcade and then home versions of the game Pong, through to the founding of Atari, the creation of Atari Pinball, forming the Chuck-E-Cheese chain, working with Steve Jobs, and his decision not to buy a third of Apple Computers for $50,000.
After Nolan's speech, it was time to introduce the latest inductees into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame.
The first of these was introduced by Joe Kaminkow, who invited Mike Stroll, Steve Ritchie, Eugene Jarvis and Gary Stern to talk about him.
The second inductee was introduced by Joe and Lyman Sheats.
Greg Kmiec then took to the stage to introduce a new category of award for support and service in the pinball industry.
The first of these went to Foremost Plastic for supplying the industry with inserts, posts and other plastic parts for decades. The second was awarded to Churchhill Cabinets for producing pinball cabinets and backboxes.
The third award went to Shelley Sax of Stern Pinball who has worked alongside Gary at Data East, Sega and Stern over many years.
There were many other awards presented, including three from the Japanese Pinball Organisation to Gary Stern, Rob, Mike, and Brigitt.
Mark Hof presented some oversize trading cards to Walter Day. These special Pinball Expo laminated cards featured a caricature of Walter in his trademark referee shirt.
Then a number of framed trading card posters were presented, including those for Brian Eddy and Rob Berk's son, Jaden.
Further awards were given to Andrew Barney for organising this year's game rooms, Gary Flower, Jody Dankberg and Gary Stern. There then followed a presentation on the life of Donal Murphy, owner of the coil, transformer and hot-stamped plastics company Electrical Windings, who died shortly after last year's Pinball Expo.
The banquet concluded with the screening of a large number of pictures taken from Pinball Expos over the past 29 years.
Our Saturday evening finished at the The Big Lebowski VIP party in a packed suite on the 15th floor of the hotel.
Three The Big Lebowski machines were set up in the room for guests to play. One had a broken flipper, but the other two were in demand throughout the night.
The VIP party continued until around 5am.
Apart from tearing down the exhibit and games rooms, Sunday is also the day for the tournament play-offs and finals.
The first to finish was the Kids Division which was played on The Walking Dead. The winner was Nicholas Weyna who beat Andrew O'Connor in the final best-of-three match 2-1.
The B Division was the next to conclude, with a win for Brian Dye over Gene X Hwang in the final. Dan Garrett was third and Ben Granger was fourth.
Next came the final match of the Women's Division which took place on World Poker Tour and was between Penni Epstein and Alysa Parks.
Alysa was the winner, making Penni second, with Ahna Rosa third and Rebecca S in fourth.
The penultimate tournament is the Classics Division which went down to a final between Fred Richardson and Andrew Rosa. Fred came from the loser bracket, so had to win the first best-of-three match to even the score, which he did. That took the final to a simple best-of-three to determine the winner.
In that match, Andy won the first game on Strikes & Spares, Fred won game two on Harlem Globetrotters, but it was Andy who triumphed in the deciding third game back on Strikes & Spares, leaving Fred second, Cayle George third and Daniele Celestino Acciari fourth.
The main division ran exceptionally long, with the last games of the final taking place after 10pm on Sunday night.
Trent Augenstein remained undefeated to claim his place in the final. Meanwhile, Jorian Engelbrektsson made it through to win the loser bracket and face Trent in the final.
As Trent hadn't lost, he only had to win one best-of-three match to win the final, whereas Jorian had to win two matches. Jorian began well, winning the first match to even things up.
Then it was Jorian's choice of machine and he chose Star Trek which had been his go-to game throughout the play-offs and had done him well.
It proved to be just as good to him in the final, as he racked up a score of 170M by the end of his second ball. Trent could only score 6.7M by the end of his second ball, and to make matters worse for Trent, Jorian took his total score up to 283M by the end of his third and final ball.
It seemed like an impossible hill for Trent to climb, and ultimately it proved too distant a target, as despite putting up a good fight, he ended his game on 68M.
Then it was Trent's choice of Iron Man, which proved tricky for both players. By the end of his second ball, Trent has scored 2.2M. By contrast, Jorian was on 13.8M.
Trent's final ball only increased his score to 6.8M, making Jorian the winner of the match and the A Division final.
And that concludes our special coverage of this 30th Pinball Expo. We hope you have enjoyed it.
This was, without doubt, the most packed Expo schedule ever, with more seminars, more vendors, and more free-play games than ever. It would have been impossible to attend every event and play every game, so we hope you got a flavour of everything going on with our in-depth report, thirty-three audio recordings and nearly an hour of video.
We'll be back in Wheeling next October for the 31st annual Pinball Expo.
© Pinball News 2014