Date: March 28th - 30th, 2014
Saturday at the Texas Pinball Festival is the busiest day of all, with the show opening at 10am and continuing into the small hours of the morning.
But the action began two hours before that when the traditional swap meet - organised by the DFW Pinball & Arcade Club - was held in the parking lot outside the hotel.
The swap meet is a chance to grab a bargain or haggle over the price of anything from a leg bolt to a complete machine. In previous years we've had snow and rain to dampen buyers' spirits, but this Saturday morning was bright and sunny, albeit rather cold out of that sunshine.
Having wandered around the swap meet eyeing up potential bargains, we continue our report in the seminar room, where six hour-long talks by pinball industry leaders would see us through the main part of the day from 11am until 6pm.
First onto the stage was Roger Sharpe.
In response to a question from Steve Ritchie who was in the audience, Roger spoke about his long-term friendship with Steve Epstein, how they met at Steve's Broadway Arcade in New York City and devised a player ranking system to allow accurate comparisons between players' performances.
Roger continued, with stories about his career in licensing, working with James Cameron in 1994 on the Terminator 2 licence, and the hearing in New York which ultimately led to the legalisation of pinball in the city. He also talked about his pinball book and addressed questions about publishing an updated version, saying it was no high on his list of priorities.
The second seminar was presented by Gerry Stellenberg from Multimorphic.
Gerry introduced the company and talked about the products they make, including the P-ROC and the P3-ROC pinball controllers. But the main focus of his seminar was showing the advances made in the company's P3 pinball platform.
He was joined by Les Pitt who demonstrated how easy it is to removed various part of the game for cleaning or servicing, and how to replace the upper playfield module. They then invited members of the audience to come up and play the game Lexy Lightspeed - Galaxy Girl for themselves.
Following Gerry, it was the turn of Stern Pinball president, Gary Stern to talk.
Gary first described how he, his father Sam Stern, and Harry Williams got into the games business, before turning to the latest product from the company - Mustang.
Gary said the car manufacturing business was very much like the pinball building one. He said they make cars because they love cars, and Stern Pinball makes pinballs because they love pinball. He compared the enthusiast markets and the add-ons available for both, as well as number and variety of collector shows and competitions.
He said the car model included in the Mustang Pro models will vary, but are interchangeable with any of the 1:24 scale models available from the two major model car manufacturers.
Following Gary, Jim Schelberg of the Pingame Journal presented a series of video clips in his Pinball in the Media series.
Jim collects all references to pinball in TV shows, commercials, and movies, and publishes a number of Media Clips DVDs. He welcomes submissions of new sightings he can include in future discs and seminars.
Because his presentation almost entirely consisted of screening video clips which make little sense without the accompanying visuals, we do not have the audio for Jim's seminar.
One of the most interesting games at the Texas Pinball Festival was the Medieval Madness remake, and Rick Bartlett from Planetary Pinball spoke about its creation in the next seminar.
We'll be adding more audio from the seminars shortly.
Before getting onto Medieval Madness however, Rick began by detailing some of the new products Planetary Pinball Supply were producing or licensing in the next few months.
Much of this centred on licensed clothing, promotional merchandise, and cabinet decals and translites, but there was also a suggestion of more remakes of machines after Medieval Madness, and the creation of new '2.0' versions of game code to add new features or better support existing modifications. Rick sighted the Tiger Saw in Theatre of Magic as an example where the game code could be rewritten to include support for this mod. As part of this, Rick announced a tie-up with FAST Pinball (formerly known as Skillshot Pinball) to provide replacement WPC controllers which will allow more development of WPC games through a wider range of programing languages.
Rick also revealed a deal had been agreed with Dutch Pinball to allow them to market their Bride of Pinbot 2.0 conversion kit, and along the same lines suggested dot matrix versions of games from the same era, such as Funhouse. Rick also .said he had contacted John Popaduik about further developing one of his earlier games, such as Cirqus Voltaire
Rick was then joined by Doug Duba from Chicago Gaming who are making the Medieval Madness remake, and Dave Orman who is the design engineer on the project.
They invited the seminar audience to come up and inspect on of the two Medieval Madness remake machines they brought to the show, and explained how the system worked.
Rick spoke about the gold-coloured finish available as an option on the Limited Edition models. He said the glossy brass finish many were expecting was not durable enough and would soon wear out, so the matt gold finish on display was the solution they will be offering in addition to brushed steel and a new black powder coat finish.
At 4pm it was time for artist Paul Faris to hold a seminar on his career creating artwork for pinball machines.
Paul spoke about how he was a high school coach and teacher who created fine art pieces in his spare time when, at the age of 26, he was contacted by Bally and asked if he would like to join their new in-house art department.
Despite twice turning down the offer, he eventually agreed and joined Dave Christensen who was working on art for the games Fireball and Wizard!
Paul showed a number of pictures of his work, and revealed how some of the characters in his backglasses were based on members of his immediate family.
Paul described how he pioneered the use of the four-colour printing process which allowed artists to be far more creative in their use of colour and shading, as you can see above.
The final seminar of the day and the show featured Jack Guarnieri of Jersey Jack Pinball.
Jack began his seminar by taking about how the company was founded and the issues he has encountered along the way, before turning his attention to the second JJP game - The Hobbit.
After showing a brief trailer, Jack said he had been to the JJP mid-west location to play one of the two whitewoods for The Hobbit, which he said is a very different game to The Wizard of Oz. He described how it uses the same driver board as The Wizard of Oz, but where in that game there are seventeen unused drivers, these are all used in The Hobbit.
Although the details have not been revealed yet, Jack said Smaug - the dragon - will be positioned on a mountain on the upper left side of the playfield and would interact with the ball in a couple of ways. He also described it as a strategy game with more than two controls on each side which the player can use to control what happens on the playfield.
Turning to The Wizard of Oz, Jack said with the recently-released version 3.0 of software, the game is essentially complete except for bug fixes or minor feature additions, allowing both Keith Johnson and Ted Estes to work on The Hobbit.
Jack also spoke about a recent visit he made to see Pat Lawlor who is designing JJP's third game. Despite having previously stated that Pat's game would not be a widebody design, Jack said he's now not sure whether it is a widebody or a standard size.
Jack then handed over to Butch Peel who talked about the service menu structure within The Wizard of Oz and the company's future games.
Butch explained the hierarchy of the menu system, how the various settings can affect the game's operation, and how the game is updated. He also described how to - and how not to - adjust the game's various switches.
Following the Jersey Jack Pinball seminar, the room became the venue for an auction of pinball machines by Fun! Auction Company.
The actual machines were not in the room, but were shown on the screen and available in the adjacent hall for inspection.
Meanwhile back in the main hall before the seminars began, all the free play machines had arrived, the vendors were totally set up, and the show was fully underway. We compiled the list of all the games late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and recorded 333 pinballs set up and available to play.
Here's the full list.
A regular feature of the Texas Pinball Festival is the row of classic Stern Electronics pinball machines, and it was back again this year with two Stargazers, Quicksilver, Meteor, Dragonfist, Nine Ball, Iron Maiden, Ali, Stingray, two Flight 2000s, two Gamatrons and a Magic.
A special display of Star Trek games ranging from the Bally original to the latest Stern Pinball model drew a lot of attention.
Most interesting was the first of these which was a custom Mirror Universe game which used the original Bally-designed playfield but flipped everything so the shooter lane was on the left.
It also featured custom artwork and paint finish, and nixie tubes for the score displays. It deservedly won the Best-in-Show award for John Zitterkopf .
Most pinball shows also have a certain number of video games, and the Texas Pinball Festival is no exception. This year, that certain number was 56.
In addition, there were seven other amusement machines:
To show you all these machines, we toured the show hall on Saturday morning to bring you our exclusive Pinball News Ten Minute Tour.
We'll be back with more coverage of the Texas Pinball Festival 2014's final day shortly, including a look at all the show vendors, who won the main raffle prize, and the results of the tournaments.
© Pinball News 2014