OHIO PINBALL &
Date: 1st & 2nd April, 2011
This is our first visit and our first report from the Ohio Pinball & Gameroom Festival which took place less than one week after our previous stop at the Texas Pinball Festival.
The venue was the Emidio Expo Center in Cuyahoga Fall, just south of Cleveland in Ohio.
Before we got to the show though, we paid a visit to one of the Festival's organisers - Mike Pacak.
Mike has an astonishing collection of games, parts, documentation and just about anything related to pinball in his home and at this warehouse, including many rare and unusual items.
When we visited, he was just finishing loading the last truck full of games for the show. Such is the size of his collection, it was hard to tell any games had actually been removed.
This was followed by a tour of Mike's home, when you realise this warehouse is just the tip of the iceberg. The chances are, if you need any pinball-related part, Mike will have at least one of them and probably a dozen or more.
If you looked closely at the first picture in this report, you may have noticed some traces of snow on the ground around the Emidio Center. That was from the snow we had during our visit to Mike two days before the show opened.
Fortunately, by the time the show opened at 1pm on Friday, the snow had all but disappeared and everyone was able to get the the venue without any problems.
Entry cost $15 per day for adults and $5 for kids aged six to twelve. Those youngsters aged five and under got in for free with a paying adult.
At the opening time, there were still several games not yet set up, while others were still arriving at the loading doors. In fact, some of these games were not destined to be set up for the whole weekend and were brought to sell as-is.
There were still plenty of games for visitors to play, although this is not a big show on the scale of the Texas, Midwest, Michigan or Seattle events.
The Emidio Expo Centre is easily large enough to allow twice the number of machines, so there was plenty of space between rows of games.
When all the machines had been set up (and hopefully not too many sold and removed), we counted 59 games to play. Here they are:
In addition, there were a few video and novelty games to enjoy.
But the Ohio Pinball and Gameroom Festival is about more than just games. Placed around the edges of the hall were the vendors, starting with Mike's stand next to the entrance.
Next to Mike were Aaron Mills and Kevin Ketchum with their respective Mr Soda Pop and K&K Amusements stands.
At the end of the wall, John P Dayhuff had various assorted parts both new and used.
Next to John was James Loflin of Pinball Inc with his pinball ramps and other molded parts.
Continuing round the hall, we come to another two stalwarts of pinball shows - CoinTaker...
...and Gene Cunningham's Illinois Pinball.
Next to Illinois Pinball, more games and backglasses were on sale along with assorted manuals and documentation.
The Pinball Lifter makers Nighthawk Games were demonstrating the products they had for sale at the show.
Rec Room Specialties were selling slot machines from their stand...
...while next door to them were Rottendog Amusements with their CPU/driver boards and displays.
If more general gameroom items or brewing memorabilia was your thing, the next stand had plenty of items at competitive prices.
The fourth wall was occupied by three more vendors, starting with Kevin Steele who was selling off the remains of his stock of books, magazines and T-shirts from his GameRoom Magazine operation which closed at the end of 2010.
Kevin said everything had to go, so the prices tumbled as the show wore on, with some T-shirts being given away by the end.
Apart from running the tournaments, Trent Augenstein was also selling a small selection of pinball and video game-related items.
Our final vendor around the outer edge of the hall was to be found back at the entrance, and was artist Greg Freres. Greg had a number of Whiz-Bang Pinball T-shirts, framed Whoa Nellie! backglasses and a Whoa Nellie! game for visitors to play.
There were more parts for sale in the central area, including this table of mixed score reels, circuit boards, legs, manuals and backglasses.
The third element of the Ohio Pinball & Gameroom Festival belongs to the tournaments which were held on the right side of the hall as you entered.
Six Creature from the Black Lagoon machines with varying levels of modification were used for the main tournaments. These were run by Trent Augenstein and Karen Culp.
We'll have more on the tournament results at the end of this report, but the final major element of the show relates to the two seminars held - one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
Greg began by explaining the title of his talk - his years in the pinball business and the more recent years when he was outside it.
He spoke about this work with Steve Ritchie at Williams working on the game Star Trek - The Next Generation which he said took 18 months to develop but produced a 'total package' of a game, with sales to match.
Another 'total package' game was Scared Stiff, said Greg, who described working with Elvira as 'like having a licence, but not really". He spoke about the highs and lows in creating the game, the latter of which included having to sell a second Elvira game to a skeptical management and the lay-offs in 1996 - just as the game was nearing completion - which resulted in designer Dennis Nordman leaving the company.
Looking back to the earlier Elvira game, Greg said it was the first licensed game for Williams and won the award for best new equipment at the 1989 AMOA show - the first time in many years it wasn't won by a video game.
Moving on to his "Honorable Mentions" section, Greg talked about working with fellow artist John Youssi and the word "Youssified" he coined to describe the process by which Greg produces the outline sketch and John takes it to completion. More honourable mentions went to the game Dr Dude - which Greg said was chosen over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles licence; Fathom - a "sleeper hit but a collector favourite"; and Revenge from Mars - which brought Greg and John Youssi back together, and gave Greg the chance to art direct 3D animators.
On his "Not So Much" list, Greg had the games Hardbody and Black Belt. On the latter of these he said he had only one month to create an entire art package and it was his first project with game designer Dan Langlois who created eleven games for Bally/Midway.
Greg then told the audience how he first got into pinball in the spring of 1978 thanks to Kevin O'Connor getting him an interview with Paul Faris, who was setting up an in-house art department at Bally. Greg was given one week to come up with "something pinball". He came back with a design called Summer Time, elements of which made it into his design for Skateball.
Going through games such as Star Trek, Escape from the Lost World, Medieval Madness, Dr Dude and Scared Stiff, Greg described how various elements were created and some interesting facts about them, such as how the leaping frogs on Scared Stiff were originally going to be spiders.
Then Greg got to his list of games which never made it into production. The three he highlighted were; Mysterion - for which he did the cabinet artwork; Harley Davidson designed by Steve Ritchie - who did the No Fear licence instead; and Slot Shot - a slot machine pinball featuring semi-naked women.
After a look at some of his favourite pinball folk, Greg held a picture quiz showing some of the people who posed and were photographed as the basis for some of his artwork. The audience then had to guess the game for which they were posing.
Revenge from Mars proved to be Greg's last pinball game until his recent return, working with Dennis Nordman on Whoa Nellie for WhizBang Pinball, and also for Jersey Jack Pinball on The Wizard of Oz and future games.
Before Jack began his seminar he arranged for numerous of boxes of pizza to be delivered so everyone could enjoy some before his talk started.
Jack began his seminar by introducing himself as the head of Jersey Jack Pinball, saying he doesn't know how to build a pinball machine, but he's assembled a great team of people who do.
He then took questions from the audience, the first of which asked what he was doing about design of the flippers for The Wizard of Oz?
Jack replied by explaining the previous week's announcement about the tie-up with Planetary Pinball Supply and the way that deal allows him to use Bally/Williams parts for the pop bumpers and flippers, amongst other devices.
The next question was about the one thousand Emerald City limited edition games. Jack said that didn't mean he was only going to build a thousand The Wizard of Oz games, but that's the version he's selling right now. He continued by saying his original expectation was to sell five hundred games, but right now around four hundred people had signed up and only eighteen people had backed out due to changes in their circumstances.
Jack said he expected to have cabinet and playfield graphics approved by Warner by the summer, and cabinets ready shortly after. He said if the game isn't really great, he won't be able to show his face around any more.
Jack had already announced there would be a 26" LCD in the backbox which will allow attract modes and the ability to extend the surrounding backglass artwork onto the screen. He would also be able to show all the players' scores, which he said would be lower in value to match the scores of games from the movie's era.
Asked why he chose The Wizard of Oz as the theme for his first game, Jack said the movie means something different to everyone and when he saw it on the list of licences available from Warner, he wanted it immediately.
He said he thought the artwork would focus on the darker side of the theme, but ultimately it's up to the artists - Jerry Vandersteldt and Greg Freres.
In response to a question about whether the game would have a coin door, Jack replied that it would, and announced that any operator who put the game on location for a month would receive a free bill acceptor.
Other announcements included:
- The game will be built in New Jersey, but the design team will be based in Chicago.
- Jack has signed a contract to rent a 42,000 sq. ft. building in New Jersey to be the manufacturing facility.
- Jack said opening a pinball factory in Chicago would be no big deal, but opening one in New Jersey will generate a lot of media attention, publicity and business interest.
- Jack plans to start manufacturing full games in December although couldn't make any promises about any specific games being ready for Christmas.
- Cabinets will feature printed decals and won't be screen printed.
- The operating system for the game is being developed in-house and will be owned by JJP, contrasting with Stern's which he said isn't even owned by them.
- Keith Johnson is involved in the design of the OS and the board system. Jack said he already has people in the company (ElautUSA) who have experience designing and building control boards and systems.
- The circuit boards will continue to be in the backbox, not in the base of the cabinet.
Jack also described a tournament system which will be built into the game. When asked about people cheating by taking the glass off, he said they had sound and pressure systems in mind to ensure the glass is fitted when any tournament scores are achieved. He also spoke about a tie-in with the on-line company Fat Wallet which would reward players with coupon awards downloadable through their on-line account.
Jack also spoke about his negotiations with artist Jerry Vandersteldt who is creating seven pieces of artwork for the game - left and right cabinet, left and right backbox, front cabinet, backglass surround and monitor image - saying originally Jerry didn't want a game as part of his remuneration but has since been impressed enough to change his mind. Jerry has also negotiated his own licence with Warner so he can sell the game artwork as limited edition prints.
Greg Freres then came up and spoke about working with Jack, saying he's happy to be part of the breath of fresh air that Jack has brought to pinball.
Jack continued, saying if you want to know what's on the playfield, watch the movie because it's all there.
Jack then talked about the licence for The Wizard of Oz itself, saying it's a very difficult licence. Warner, he said, has two full-time employees working on that one licence alone. Roger Sharpe acquired the licence for WMS Gaming for use in the slot machine and told Jack not only is he starting a new pinball company, he also starting out with one of the most difficult licences around.
Jack closed by saying a few words about the game after The Wizard of Oz. He said he'd promised it to Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres and the theme would be like a license, but not actually a license.
Before all that though, Jack said he's taking things one step at a time.
His seminar concluded with Jack giving out Jersey Jack T-shirts to everyone in the audience.
If visitors wanted more souvenirs, regular door prize draws were held throughout the two days of the show. Tickets could be purchased from the cash desk at the front of the hall and announcements with the winning numbers were made over the hall's PA system.
Sunday brought the final qualifying rounds of the tournaments which were played on the same six Creature from the Black Lagoon machines.
There were three categories - The Wizard of Ohio was for the serious players, the Open Division was for everyone else while the Juniors Division was for those aged fifteen and under.
The Wizard of Ohio cost $5 per entry, which gave the player two games to record a high score. Scores were kept on a whiteboard and qualifying ran until 3:30pm on Sunday. At that time the top twelve players qualified for the play-offs with the top four getting a bye through the first round.
The Wizard of Ohio qualifiers were:
In the Open and Juniors Division, the qualifiers were:
In the B Division it was a good day for the Ortscheid family with Justin taking first place and show co-organiser Marvin taking fourth. Mark Henderson was the runner-up and Larry Smith took third place.
Justin made it a double by winning the Juniors Division as well, where another Henderson - Joshua - took second place, followed by Andrew Rosa Jr and Colson Franse in third and fourth respectively.
In the Wizard of Ohio Division, the final came down to a battle between Andy Rosa and Trent Augenstein.
The play-offs were a double-elimination format, and Trent was coming back from winning the loser bracket, meaning he had to beat Andy twice in the final to win. He managed to win the first time but Andy took the second match and so won the final.
As expected, the Wizard of Ohio Division took the longest to complete and the rest of the show was being dismantled while the final was under way, so that by the time the winner was decided there wasn't much of the show left.
The Ohio Pinball and Gameroom Festival is rather different from most of the shows we cover here at Pinball News. With about fifty games in the general play area, it meant it was difficult to find any games to play during the busier periods on Saturday afternoon., although that is something which affects the larger shows too.
The lack of free play machines was in contrast to the large number of vendors who provided an extensive range of parts, paperwork, DVDs and complete or project machines along with neons, jukes, slots and gameroom signs.
The two guest speakers - Greg and Jack - proved to be very entertaining and informative, despite the vagaries of the PA system they had to overcome.
So thanks to Mike, Marvin and the whole team for this year's show, and to Trent and Karen for running the tournaments. Check out the Diary section to see when next year's show dates are announced.
© Pinball News 2011