Date: 5th - 7th June, 2015
It's the first weekend in June and we are back in Tacoma, around 30 miles south of Seattle, for the annual Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show.
Once again, the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Centre plays host to the Pacific Northwest's largest pinball and video games show, and Pinball News will be reporting on events across the weekend.
Thursday was set-up day, with a steady flow of machines and boxes of parts from the loading dock into the show hall which is located on the fifth floor of the Convention Center. Because the Center is built on a hill, the fifth floor is actually at ground level at the rear.
There are more than thirty vendors listed on the show plan, with a wide range of products on sale.
From the labels on the boxes it seems Marco Specialties will have a The Walking Dead, a Mustang and a Kiss on their stand.
It's going to be a busy weekend for the tournaments team too, and the first of their machines had arrived by Thursday afternoon.
One of the busiest areas at the NWPAS is the central repair . It is here that all the machine keys are kept and the repair team is based.
One machine which was set up early and being demonstrated by its creator is this Tattoo Mystique from Brian Cox.
Out in the front lobby, the Kid Zone for younger visitors was already taking shape against the backdrop of great views over the Port of Tacoma to the mountains.
The lobby is where visitors can either register or collect their pre-registration packs. Show merchandise is available just inside the hall.
The show opens tomorrow at midday, with the first of the seminars beginning at 2pm. This year all the seminars will be streamed live and for the first time they will be in full high-definition. You can watch them as the happen through the NWPAS website.
Later Thursday evening a Kiss pinball was unboxed and made available to play. We grabbed our smartphone and shot some video of the gameplay. We'll have some better footage later, but here's our first look at the game.
As the show opened on Friday, we had a chance to record some more video of Stern's new Kiss game. This machine was on the Marco Specialties stand.
It was another bright, sunny day in Tacoma on Friday as the show opened to the public at midday.
As with all the other vendor stands, the merchandise booth was now filled with wares for visitors to buy.
There were several prize raffles at the show. A daily raffle offered a different good condition older game each day, while a show-long raffle gave the opportunity to win a brand new Whoa Nellie! game.
Marco Specialties were once again showing the latest Stern machines - Kiss, Mustang and The Walking Dead.
We took the opportunity to get some detailed picture of the Kiss game for our upcoming in-depth review.
Further inside the hall, the tournament area was divided in two - one area for the main tournament, and one for the classic pingolf tournament.
The pingolf was the first to begin.
Meanwhile, registration was taking place for the first round of the main tournament.
There were five qualifying sessions in the main tournament - two on Friday, and three on Saturday. In each, entrants played five games in three or four-player groups, with different machines and different opponents in each match.
Points were awarded for the final positions in each match, with bonus points available if the top player was a long way ahead of the others or if the last player was only just in last place.
The quarter-final, semi-final and final rounds would take place on Sunday morning and afternoon.
In the pingolf tournament
Out on the show floor, there were plenty of visitors on Friday but the aisles were never crowded and there was no difficulty finding a machine to play.
Down in the seminars room on the third floor, Dave Okert and David Shoemaker were holding a series of technical talks throughout Friday covering video games and pinballs.
They began by talking about building a multicade video game, before turning to pinball lighting and the workings of the lamp and switch matrices. They rounded off the day with flash lamps and solenoids, before Dave Okert joined Bill Witzel to examine Williams System 11 electronics mods.
Sadly our involvement in the tournaments prevented us attending any of the repair seminars, but we did pop in to the seminars room just in time to catch the end of a seminar by Aaron Davis and Dave Beecher of Fast Pinball, and Gabe Knuth of Mission Pinball who were talking about their respective hardware and software systems which allow you to build and program your own machine.
On Saturday the show opened to the public at 10am, but before that we took the opportunity to grab a couple of pictures.
While Saturday was certainly busier than Friday, it was still not crowded and always possible to find a game to play without searching too hard.
In total we counted 214 pinball machines at the show. Here's our list:
*The machine was either not working or had been depowered at the time the list was made on Saturday afternoon.
One new arrival on Saturday could be found out in the lobby.
Of course, Pinball News readers had already taken a good look at the Magic Girl prototype, but for others this was their first look at what John Popadiuk has been working on for the past few years.
From the show hall on the fifth floor we move down two floors to the seminars room where Greg Freres and Dennis Nordman were getting ready for the first of their two seminars.
Their first hour-long seminar at 12:30pm concentrated on the games on which they had worked together, including the 'Party' series and the Elvira machines.
Then at 2pm James Loflin of Pinball Inc and the Circus Maximus was interviewed by Gary Flower about the history, development and building of the Python's Pinball Circus machine.
He said he hopes to have a hardware-complete version of the game ready for the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo in two weeks, although the software will still have a long way to go.
The 3:30 seminar featured Paul Faris who spoke about his career creating pinball artwork.
Paul spoke about and showed examples of the many games he worked on over his 27-years in the industry, from Night Rider through to Vacation America.
The Dennis and Greg returned at 5pm for their second seminar of the day. This one concentrated on the creation of the Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons game for their own Whizbang Pinball company, manufactured by Stern Pinball. The game was the grand prize in the show-long raffle which would be drawn on Sunday.
The final seminar began at 8pm and featured the Jersey Jack Pinball team of Jack Guarnieri, David Thiel and Butch Peel.
The focus was on their upcoming game, The Hobbit, and David spoke about the challenges of working with such an epic theme, the assets made available through the licensing deal and the huge number of different tracks used in the game.
Butch then described the many way in which The Hobbit differs from the company's first game, The Wizard of Oz. The lighting system has been completely redesigned, the amount of wiring has been dramatically reduced, and the quality of the video has been improved.
Jack then picked up to talk about the design and manufacturing processes necessary to make a game like The Hobbit, and the difficulties which cause the release of the game to be delayed. But he also spoke about the achievements of the company over the past few years and the impact they have had on the industry.
The Jersey Jack Pinball seminar was the last one for Saturday. There was one additional seminar on Sunday were Jim Schelberg of the Pingame Journal showed a series of pinball-related video clips, including the latest Bare Naked Ladies album, Silverball, which is themed around pinball.
Sadly our duties playing in the quarter- and semi-finals of the main tournament prevented us attending Jim's seminar, but it, along with all the NWPAS seminars were streamed live and are starting to appear on YouTube.
Before we leave Saturday though, there was still the matter of the raffle draw. The prizes for Saturday were led by the Black Knight 2000 machine, but also included an X-Box One console.
Byron Raynz made the announcement of the winning numbers and verified the tickets.
Then the Black Knight 2000 draw took place.
As usual there was a healthy number of vendors at the show, boosted this year by a number of stands related to card, board and console games. Magic: The Gathering had multiple games being played all weekend and a dedicated conference room next to the seminars room for leagues and beginner sessions. A second room was used for Krosmaster tournaments and tournaments for Yu-Gi-Oh!
The board and card game vendors took their own quieter space just away from all the video and pinball machines.
There were 35 separate vendors in the show hall and out in the lobby, not including the show itself which had a raffle and a merchandise stall.
Sunday was a short day at the NWPAS, with just six hours of show time from 9am until 3pm.
The main tournament reached its climax, as the 35 players who had qualified over the past two days took part in the play-offs. The top qualifiers in each of the five sessions received a bye through the quarter-finals and straight into the semi-finals.
The remaining 30 played in four rounds of three-player matches, with points scored in the same way as the qualifying rounds. The 16 players with the most points made it into the semi-finals to meet the 5 players with byes.
The semi-finals used the same format as the quarter-finals, with the top seven progressing and the top scoring player getting a bye into the third game of the final rounds.
The final rounds began with semi-finalists placed 2nd, 5th and 7th playing a match with the lowest scorer dropping out. Meanwhile, the 3rd, 4th and 6th semi-finalists did the same on a different machine. The winner of each match played the second-placed player in the other match, with the winners of these being joined by the top semi-finalists for a three-player match to decide third place, and a two-player match for the top two places.
Unfortunately the tournament was running late and, faced with a hard deadline at the end of the show at 3pm, the decision was made to turn the final rounds into single-game two-ball matches.
Robert Gagno was the highest scorer in the semi-finals and so got through to the final three, but then lost that game to end up in third place. Raymond Davidson and tournament organiser Dave Stewart then played the single-game two-ball final, with Dave coming out on top.
Those who finished the semi-finals in places 8th to 21st could qualify for the B Division finals. Entry was restricted to those with an IFPA ranking of below 250, and the top seven of those played in the same format as the main tournament division, with the same restriction of playing 2-ball games due to lack of time.
Here are the top three:
While the tournament semi-finals were taking place at 1pm, presentations for the best-in-show and the awarding of a scholarship were made at a ceremony in the lobby.
It was here that the draw was held for the grand prize of the Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons machines. The winner of this was Todd MacCulloch who purchased five of the $20 tickets.
We'll have much more from the show very shortly. In the meantime, here's our exclusive video tour of the show floor. We took it slowly and made sure we included everything. The result is our Eighteen Minute Tour.
Finally, next year's Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show is already booked, as it the returns to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center in June 2016.
© Pinball News 2015