22 October, 2003

Devotees of the Rec.Games.Pinball newsgroup will already be familiar with Lloyd Olson - a regular poster and a friendly, knowledgeable source of information and advice.

Anyone fortunate enough to live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area will probably also know him as owner and operator of SS Billiards for over 30 years. Located in Hopkins on the outskirts of Minneapolis, SS Billiards mixes pool/billiards tables with a healthy number of pinball games.

Tonight was a special party night - invitation only - so paying visitors had to wait until the following day to get their fix. These parties had been regular events but following some uninformed negative comments their future was in doubt. Pinball News listed the previous events (as you can see in our Diary archives) and for a while this evening's party was cancelled while Lloyd decided whether to continue with them. In the end he decided to go ahead with this one but only for invited guests.

Lloyd has been having parties since March 2001. The first came about when a group of players stopped by to practice en route to a competition in St. Paul. They were joined by the locals and around 300 people created the Launch Those Geese party. Tonight was the eleventh and could potentially have been the last.

There is usually a good number of games at Lloyd's arcade, but tonight there were many more with several friends bringing along their games. They were shoehorned in amongst the billiards tables.

The first bank of games hits you as soon as you walked into the place.

Famous games such as Tales From The Crypt and Dracula alongside Tommy and Twilight Zone invite you to get started playing straight away but you have to stop by Lloyd's booth which is right behind where this picture was taken.

There were 28 games this night:

Lloyd's regular line up of Banzai Run, The Addams Family Gold, Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness, Indy 500, Pinball Magic, South Park, Eight Ball Deluxe Limited Edition, Safe Cracker, Breakshot, Road Show, Demolition Man (with the dirty ROMs), No Good Gofers, Monster Bash, Funhouse, Tales From The Crypt, Bram Stoker Dracula, Tommy and Twilight Zone were supplemented by Lloyd's Big Bang Bar and Kingpin, plus games brought in; Stern Dracula, Black Pyramid, Scared Stiff, Dirty Harry,
Junk Yard, Jurassic Park and Strikes & Spares.

But the games which grabbed my attention were not from Williams, Bally or Data East, but were from Capcom. They were special because they never went into production and so few examples of Big Bang Bar and Kingpin were ever made.

I'd played Big Bang Bar at Expo before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Tonight it was every bit as good as I remembered it. Players living close to Lloyd's are fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to play this game.

Kingpin is probably even rarer. When Capcom announced the closure of their pinball production in December 1996, Big Bang Bar was to be their next game with Kingpin to follow, but sadly neither game was to make it to full production.

Kingpin was a Mark Ritchie design and - like Fish Tales - features a centre pair of crossover ramps. It is not exactly a time-based game, but works in the same way requiring you to keep a strength meter topped up so you can keep playing. Capcom's use of electronic flipper control means it can implement this in an interesting way. If you strength meter drops too low, your flippers start to weaken, making the required shots harder and harder.

Of course there were plenty of other interesting games too.

At 8pm there was a tournament with random pairings playing random games. My participation ended in the first round (I blame the jet lag) but after about an hour a winner had been found in the shape of Nick Foss and prizes were liberally distributed by Lloyd to him and high score winners on various machines.

Every now and then a few of us would go out to the front of the building and catch some fresh air, while Lloyd would regale us with stories of his experiences running SS Billiards, how he started working with his father and where the business is now going.

Worryingly, when I ask him how pinball is doing, his answer is one word; "Dead!" Despite having a large number of great games, pinball isn't making him any money and after our talks I'm concerned about the future of the establishment. But then we go back inside and see all these people having a great time and it's hard to imagine a world without this place. Happily, a few days after the party Lloyd e-mails me with the dates for two more parties in 2004, so hopefully he's not going anywhere just yet.

Bearing in mind how we had taken over his business for the day and contributed nothing to the takings, it was very generous of Lloyd to hold this event. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to play the games and meet other visitors who had come from all over the country to take part. If you live anywhere near, you should appreciate just how lucky you are.

The party went so smoothly thanks to the assistance provided by Greg Algaard, Jim Hallock, Todd Anderson, Steve Loverich, Steve Tsubota, and Mike Schudel who gave up their games, parts and effort to ensure we all had a great time, so many thanks to them too.

You can see details of this and other parties at Lloyd's web site.

Finally, this report would not be complete without an extraordinary thank you to Todd (Pinted) and Mieko Andersen for their unparalleled hospitality and friendship during my lengthy 18 hours in Minneapolis Pinball fans in the twin cities area should check out the Twin Cities Flipper Pinball Association's web site for details of the local league


Back to the Expo 2003 page

Back to the Shows page

Back to the front page

© Pinball News 2003