Date: 8th June 2015

When Stern Pinball introduced their Spike controller board into their machines earlier this year, one of the key improvements over the previous SAM system was the support for driving LCD screens.

But while others have incorporated LCD panels of various sizes into their game designs, Stern have been reluctant to make the transition away from dot matrix displays to show scores, gameplay instructions, visual effects and diagnostic menus.

It wasn't until Whoa Nellie - Big Juicy Melons that Stern first added an LCD, and even then it was only a tiny monochrome panel showing basic score and diagnostic displays.

As those who have gone the LCD route have found, producing the high-quality animations expected by gamers these days means expending a significant amount of graphics resources - both in terms of time, personnel and money.

Two new appointments at Stern Pinball demonstrate exactly that increased focus on creating new graphical content for their impending move to using LCDs, and also suggest an increased separation in the company between their game design and game manufacturing operations.

Chuck Ernst and Zac Stark have both joined Stern's Game Design Studio - the part of the business tasked with creating designs for the manufacturing section to then build.

Chuck joins as the new Computer Graphics Art Director.

Chuck Ernst
Chuck Ernst

Before joining Stern, Chuck was working as Technical Character Design Lead on the Mortal Kombat X game, and he has been involved in more than 45 titles for companies such as Atari, Sega and Midway. He also designs and prototypes toys, which must have struck a chord with Stern's Executive Vice President of Game Design, George Gomez who has a similar history in toy design.

Also joining Stern's Game Design Studio is Zac Stark.

Zac Stark
Zac Stark

Zac had been teaching computer game production and creating online content for online universities before joining Stern. Before that he worked with toy companies Ty and Mattel to create digital animations and web-based games featuring their portfolio of characters.

George Gomez said about the two new appointments, "We are delighted to have these two talented artists join our studio. They will help us continue to advance pinball both technologically and through game play enhancements.”

Here's Stern's full press release:

Stern Pinball Hires New Video Artists

Chuck Ernst and Zac Stark Join the Game Design Studio

Elk Grove Village, IL – June 4, 2015 – Stern Pinball, Inc., the world’s leading maker of real pinball games, today announced the hiring of two new team members who will join the company’s rapidly growing game design team.

Chuck Ernst joins the Stern Pinball Game Design Studio as the Computer Graphics Art Director. Chuck brings 28 years of video game production experience. He has worked on programming and art creation for more than 45 titles for Atari, Sega, THQ, Konami, Midway and WB Games. Prior to joining Stern Pinball, Chuck was Technical Character Design Lead on “Mortal Kombat X” at Nether Realm Studios in Chicago. In his spare time Chuck enjoys sculpting, freelance toy prototyping and design.

The Stern Pinball Game Design Studio also welcomes veteran computer graphics artist Zac Stark. After receiving his Master of Arts degree in 3D Animation from DePaul University, Zac created digital animations for numerous Mattel handheld toys. Most recently, Zac’s work focused on creating virtual versions of Ty Toys and MGA Toys for use in web-based games. In his spare time Zac also teaches 3D Modeling and Animation as a part time instructor at Sanford-Brown College.

“We are delighted to have these two talented artists join our studio,” said George Gomez, EVP of Game Development. “They will help us continue to advance pinball both technologically and through game play enhancements.”

About Stern Pinball, Inc.

Stern Pinball, Inc., headquartered just outside Chicago, Illinois, is the oldest and largest producer of arcade-quality pinball games in the world. Stern Pinball’s highly talented creative and technical teams design, engineer and manufacture a full line of popular pinball games, merchandise and accessories. Recent Stern Pinball titles include KISS, WWE WrestleMania, The Walking Dead, Ford Mustang, Star Trek, Metallica, The Avengers, X-Men, AC/DC, Tron, Transformers, Avatar, Iron Man, Batman, and Spiderman. A broad range of players enjoy Stern Pinball’s games from professional pinball players who compete in high-stakes international competitions around the globe to novice players who are discovering the allure of the silver ball for the first time.

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