Date: 10th - 12th June, 2016 Location: Denver Marriott South at Park Meadows, 10345 Park Meadows Dr., Lone Tree, CO 80124, USA Our latest travels take us to the south side of Denver, Colorado, for the annual Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown & Gameroom Expo which is being held, as last year, at the Marriott Denver South. The Marriott Denver South THURSDAY The show opened to the public on Friday morning at 11am, so the set-up of the show had been taking place all day Thursday. When we arrived around 6pm on Thursday everything was looking good, with the first indication of a pinball show found in the hotel’s lobby. Indiana Jones will be here for hotel guests to play and raise money for charity The show is accessed via a corridor adjacent to the main lifts. This corridor takes visitors to the registration desk and then to the main show hall, as well as a number of smaller side rooms where the tournaments, the seminars and the console gaming areas can be found. This way to the fun Information cards and feedback forms The registration desk Some of the show T-shirts available Show entry prices Outside the main hall is an area for VIP guests to sign some of their work or have their picture taken. The VIP area Inside the main hall, the set up of the games was almost complete. Inside the main hall Trophies for the tournament winners and best-in-show machine owners In the background of the picture above you can see two of the newest games at the show – The Hobbit and Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International. But there are other new titles here too, including the Premium edition of Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters Premium Magnetic slingshots on Ghostbusters Ghostbusters was part of an impressive selection from Game Exchange Two Full Throttle games are here as well Lots more to play elsewhere in the hall There are at least two America’s Most Haunted games here A few more games were yet to arrive Looks like there’s going to be a Kong-off this weekend There is a side room to the main hall where more pinballs and videos were being set up. This DDR machine is nearly ready to play In another of the other side rooms, pinballs for the tournaments were being prepared. Some of the tournament pinballs Some of the solid state and EM tournament games In yet another room we will find the seminars (or Pin Chats). These run across all three days of the show. The seminars room The final side room is for console gaming FRIDAY At 11am the first paying guests were welcomed to the show by organisers Dan and Holly. Dan and Holly welcome visitors to the show It didn’t take long before all those previously-vacant pinball machines had someone standing in front of them, or in some case, a queue of people. Just a few minutes after the doors opened There were queues for the newest titles Two The Hobbits were on the Jersey Jack Pinball stand, with another one elsewhere in the hall Next door was Spooky Pinball’s Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International The largest collection of games came from Game Exchange in Denver who brought dozens of pinballs and video games. Some of Game Exchange’s machines They even had some new-in-box pinballs to buy and take away immediately Universal Pinball were set up at the back of the hall and also had an attractive selection of pinball, both new and classics. Part of the Universal Pinball stand More Universal Pinball games There were quite a few other vendors in the main hall, selling machines, parts, clothing and game-related accessories. Multimorphic were showing their latest P3 pinball platform games Pinball Bulbs had their replacement LED lamps along with other game mods Tilt Pinball were promoting their arcade and game room in Louisville Heighway Pinball were selling Full Throttles and promoting their upcoming Alien title This stand sold Japanese figures and featured Japanese video games For Amusement Only had plenty of pinball spares and pinball books Games Ahoy were selling gamer-wear and plush toys as well as game cartridges Duke City Pinball brought game along for visitors to enjoy Sadly Mezel Mods couldn’t attend due to a family emergency Tilt Hammer were certainly there with clothing and patches Double Danger had lots of inspirational shirts and T-shirts Hyperspace Arcade had a bunch of interesting video games Jersey Jack Pinball had two new The Hobbit machines Spooky Pinball’s Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International was played constantly Here’s the full list of the 131 machines at the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown & Gameroom Expo 2016 which were set on free play. Free Play Machines AC/DC Premium Addams Family, The Addams Family, The Af-tor Alien Poker America’s Most Haunted America’s Most Haunted Atlantis Avatar Avatar Barracora Barracora Baseball Big Buck Hunter Pro Black Knight Black Knight Black Pyramid Breakshot Capt. Fantastic Captain Hook Central Park Cirqus Voltaire Coney Island CSI Demolition Man Devil’s Dare Dr. Dude Drop-A-Card Earthshaker! Eight Ball Elvira & the Party Monsters Elvira & the Party Monsters Evel Knievel F-14 Tomcat Fire! Firepower Fish Tales Flash* Frontier Full Throttle Full Throttle Funhouse Game of Thrones Premium Game of Thrones Pro Ghostbusters Premium Ghostbusters Pro Gorgar* Guns N’ Roses High Roller Casino* High Speed 2: The Getaway High Speed 2: The Getaway Hobbit, The Hobbit, The Hobbit, The Hollywood Heat Hook Jacks to Open Johnny Mnemonic Johnny Mnemonic Jokerz! Joust Kiss LE Kiss LE Kiss Pro Lexy Lightspeed: Escape from Earth Lord of the Rings, The Medieval Madness Medieval Madness Remake Medusa Metropolis Mousin’ Around Mustang Mystery Castle Mystery Castle NASCAR Old Chicago Operation Thunder Pharaoh Pinball Magic Pirates of the Caribbean Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International Robocop* Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends* Rollergames Shaq Attaq Shrek Solar Ride Sorcerer Space Shuttle Space Station Spectrum Spider-Man Spider-Man Spider-Man Vault Edition Spider-Man, The Amazing* Star Explorer Star Trek Premium Star Trek Pro Star Trek: The Next Generation Star Wars Episode 1 Street Fighter II Street Fighter II Supersonic Surf Champ Sweet Hearts Tales of the Arabian Nights Terminator 2 Terminator 2 Terminator 3 Time Machine Tommy, The Who’s TX-Sector Viking Viper Walking Dead Pro, The Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune Whirlwind Whitewater Whitewater Whoopee* Wizard of Oz 75th, The Wizard of Oz ECLE, The Wizard of Oz, The World Cup Soccer World Poker Tour World Poker Tour WWE Wrestlemania LE WWE Wrestlemania LE WWE Wrestlemania Pro WWE Wrestlemania Pro *denotes machine was not working at the time of the survey If playing all these games left you in need of refreshment, snacks and drinks were available in the corner of the hall. The food and drinks station The menu and prices In the tournament area things got off to a slow start with just a few players choosing to put up their scores on Friday morning. The Open Tournament on Friday morning More Open Tournament machines There were eight Open Tournament machines and a $50 entry buys 20 plays across any of them. Only the 5 highest-ranking scores counted towards a qualifying position. The machines used are: Open Tournament Machines AC/DC Premium Congo Creature from the Black Lagoon Game of Thrones Pro Indianapolis 500 Iron Man Kiss Pro World Poker Tour At the end of the row were the six machines used for the Solid State Tournament and the Electromechanical Tournament. Solid-State Tournament Machines Barracora Black Knight PinBot Solid State Tournament machines Electromechanical Tournament Machines Ice Review Super-Flite Surf Champ Electromechanical Tournament machines We’ll come back to the tournaments a little later. There was a full schedule of seminars across all three days of the show, and these began at 2pm on Friday. Not all were about pinball, so we’ll only cover those which were. In addition we have audio recordings of these seminars available here to stream or download. 2pm: Ryan Wanger – How to Play Pinball Ryan Wanger Ryan explained how he used to prefer playing video games to pinball, because video games were not random and if you lost a life it was because you had made a mistake. It was only later that he discovered the same is generally true for pinball. He said he improved his play by watching better players at tournaments or on internet streams and learning their skills, with the biggest improvement coming when he mastered the bounce-pass technique where a ball is allowed to bounce from one flipper to another. To demonstrate some of these skills he used a Stern Star Trek game with a camera mounted above it so the audience could watch on the projector screen. Ryan demonstrates his pinball skills https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/ryanwanger.mp3 3pm: Andrew Heighway – Heighway Pinball Andrew Heighway Andrew started by showing a sequence of videos about Heighway Pinball and some of the recent events there. He continued by speaking about the origins of the company at his home and the development of the first game design – Circe’s Animal House, which was later to be redesigned as Full Throttle – on the table at his house. He showed pictures of the first factory they moved into in Merthyr Tydfil, their second larger factory a short distance away, and revealed how they had recently completed a move to a newer, more efficient building in Ebbw Vale, also in South Wales. The pictures continued, with a slideshow from around the factory showing how the Full Throttle games are built before turning to the company’s second title, Alien. After showing a video of an early whitewood, he concluded by played their most recent promotional video of gameplay on a prototype Alien playfield and giving away some Alien and Full Throttle posters. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/andrewheighway.mp3 6pm: Mark Gibson – Fun with Pinball Mark Gibson Mark explained how he first got into reusing pinball and arcade game parts by converting a Cue-T pinball backbox into an atomic clock which used the score reels to show the time. From there he joined the growing Maker Faire community which is all about finding ingenious ways to make new products. He said he gained inspiration from old mechanical models used to teach students how various mechanisms work. So Mark made a pop bumper explainer model to show how the ball’s interaction with the bumper skirt activates a solenoid to deflect the ball. A flipper demonstrator was followed by others showing how relays and then solenoids work. Mark had brought a number of these explainer pieces along with him, together with others showing how mechanical horse racing and baseball games work. A horse racing game explainer At the end of the seminar members of the audience were invited to come up and try them. Members of the audience play with a baseball game explainer https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/markgibson.mp3 8pm: John Trudeau – Fireside Chat John Trudeau John told the audience how he first got into pinball when he got a job at Game Plan to do art for their game Global Warfare. It was there that he started learning how to design under the tutelage of Ed Cebula. His move to Gottlieb led to his first game design – Rocky. John described how Gottlieb was eventually sold to Coca-Cola and rebranded as Mylstar in an attempt to integrate video game themes and characters into their games. However this wasn’t a success, so they ultimately decided to close down the pinball division. The company was saved when it was bought by the owners of Gottlieb/Mylstar’s large French distributor, Mondial. Mylstar became Premier and John stayed with the company until it closed, before moving over to Bally/Williams until their demise in 1999. After designing redemption games and even mortuary tables, he returned to pinball with a playfield design used in a Fox Sports baseball promo. It was several years later that Stern were looking to expand their design teams and George Gomez offered John a job there, which is where he has been for the past three years creating Mustang, WWE Wrestlemania and now Ghostbusters. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/johntrudeau1.mp3 SATURDAY The Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown & Gameroom Expo officially opened to visitors at 10am, but before that there was an hour of access to the games for VIPs and those working at the show. The seminars continued, starting at 11am with Ryan Wanger reprising his opening seminar from Friday. 11am: Ryan Wanger – How to Play Pinball Ryan Wanger explains pinball techniques Then at midday, John Trudeau returned. 12pm: John Trudeau John Trudeau and Martin Ayub (picture: Jim Schelberg, Pingame Journal) He was joined on-stage by Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub, as John talked about every one of his game designs – both production games and prototype concepts which were never manufactured. They began with the playfield artwork he created for Game Plan’s cocktail game Kings of the Road and the backglass art for Global Warfare before coming to John’s first production games, Rocky and Spirit. After covering the scores of production games and concepts he created for Gottlieb/Mylstar/Premier, they came to his Williams/Bally days, before looking at the three games he has created for Stern so far – Mustang, WWE Wrestlemania and Ghostbusters. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/johntrudeau2.mp3 At 1pm, video game legends Billy Mitchell, Walter Day and Joel West held their seminar, but not before they made a special presentation of trading cards and posters to Holly and Dan Nikolich and John Trudeau. They were joined at the stage by Ben Heck – who would present the subsequent seminar – and two Stormtroopers from Star Wars. Ben Heck, Holly Nikolich, Billy Mitchell, Dan Nikolich, Walter Day & John Trudeau 2pm: Benjamin Heckendorn – The Ben Heck Show Ben Heck Ben spoke about how he first decided to make a pinball machine and wanted the goofiest theme possible, choosing Bill Paxton as the subject. To make it he built almost all the individual components by hand, from the cabinet to the playfield, the display and the control boards, using his best guess at how it was meant to work. He started working on it in 2006 but really made a concerted effort to complete in in 2009, finally finishing in 2010. He teamed up with others to make his second game – Lost – which he said played horribly and was dismantled for parts. However, it was the game on which he began using 3D printed parts, something which continued with his next game. Ben designed America’s Most Haunted, and built the pinHeck control system for it which is also used in Spooky Pinball’s Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International game. He described the lessons he learned along the way, including not wasting time on game concepts you can’t sell, make multiple whitewoods before printing in colour, how the way a game shoots is all-important, testing all in-game toys extensively, and how it’s good to get a ‘bad’ game out of your system. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/benheck.mp3 3pm: Gerry Stellenberg – Multimorphic Gerry Stellenberg Gerry described how the creation of a multi-game platform stemmed from his ownership of numerous individual pinballs and the resulting space issues. Gerry has a background in hardware development, and he said in order to make a system capable of supporting multiple games, he needed to design and build a pinball controller. When doing this, he said, it made sense to make it capable of driving all kinds of established game systems such as WPC and Whitestar so that it could be tested with a wide range of different hardware. This is how the P-ROC pinball controller was born. This was further developed with the P3-ROC which is the system used in the P3 pinball platform. He said, for their first full game – Lexy Lightspeed: Escape from Earth – he wanted a fairly traditional style of gameplay which wouldn’t alienate traditional pinball players. Looking at the products from the current pinball manufacturers, he said none of them were significantly different from game made in the 1990s as far as gameplay or interactivity are concerned. He claimed the P3 system moved pinball forward, with its dynamic artwork, virtual targets, ball tracking, and its modular system. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/gerrystellenberg.mp3 4pm: The Pinball Podcast Live! – Don and Jeff The Pinball Podcast This special edition of The Pinball Podcast took the form of a pinball quiz, as Don and Jeff asked member of the audience questions about various aspects of pinball and the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown. Four categories of five questions made up the quiz, and these were followed by several ‘name the game’ audio clues with instant prizes for those who recognised the music or sound samples. Then the results of the quiz were then announced, although modesty prevents us revealing exactly who won the top prize. You can play along with their Pinball Quiz in our recording below. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/pinballpodcast.mp3 6pm: A Hobbit’s Tale – Butch Peel Butch Peel Butch described how pinball has been so therapeutic to him and how he can’t wait to retire from his full-time job to spend more time working at Jersey Jack Pinball. He says the company is financially stable with new investors and The Hobbits rolling off the production line to be shipped to customers. Butch showed pictures of happy buyers receiving their games from Jack. Butch then talked more about the game, playing a selection of audio samples recovered from the movie by sound designer David Thiel and use in the game, before launching into a detailed description of the rules, from the multiple skill shots available at the start of each ball through how to qualify the main multiball mode and a look at all 31 of the in-game modes. Butch explains The Hobbit’s 31 modes https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/butchpeel.mp3 7pm: Hiding Your Gun while Drunk and Barenaked – Jim Schelberg Jim Schelberg This latest edition of Jim’s ‘Pinball in the Media’ series featured the Pingame Journal editor showing a series of video clips, all of which include pinball or references to pinball in various guises. The title references an episode of X-Men, the Drunk History series, and Barenaked Ladies Silverball album and single, all of which were included in Jim’s presentation. Because this seminar was a video presentation, our audio recording only consists of Jim’s introduction. https://www.pinballnews.com/site/wp-content/uploads/shows/rmps-2016/jimschelberg.mp3 Saturday evening was the time for the finals of the main Open tournament at the show. Unfortunately, after a full day of seminars, it was also our only chance to get something to eat. So while we were admiring the scene (if not the food) at the ViewHouse sports bar, the qualifiers in the Open tournament were hard at it back at the Marriott. The Open this year used a new format where, for a $50 entry fee, competitors could play 20 games on any or all of the 8 qualifying machines. Their scores on each machine were ranked, with the top 16 players qualifying for the play-offs. Qualifying ran from 11am until 10pm on Friday, and from 10am until 6pm on Saturday. With each player only allowed a limited number of games queues were not bad, and when coupled with the Drains Tournament Manager system, it appeared to be a much more relaxed qualifying session. Sadly, lack of time meant we were not able to compete in the Open ourselves. So the top 16 who qualified for the play-offs were: Open Tournament Qualifiers 1 Donovan Stepp 2 Escher Lefkoff 3 Adam Lefkoff 4 Nathan Haas 5 Brian Pedersen 6 Ryan Sharp 7 Kevin McCarthy 8 Mateo Lebya 9 Kevin Ryan 10 Joe Kennedy 10 Russell Linsky 12 Dan Gutchess 12 Ryan Wanger 14 Zach McCarthy 15 Snow Galvin 16 Casey Intlekofer The play-offs in the Open Tournament The 16 qualifiers played on four groups of four, with each group playing three games on three different machines using a 4-2-1-0 scoring system. The top two from each group then moved on to the semi-finals. The same system was used in the semi-finals, to produce the final four who were, Donovan Stepp, Brian Pedersen, Escher Lefkoff and Kevin McCarthy. The final was played on Kiss, Indianapolis 500 and AC/DC. Escher won on Kiss, Kevin won on Indy 500 and Donovan won on AC/DC. But it was Donovan with 7 points who won overall, ahead of Escher on 6 points, Kevin on 5 points and Brian on 4 points. The top four in the Open Tournament (L-R): Kevin McCarthy (3rd), Donovan Stepp (1st), Escher Lefkoff (2nd) & Brian Pedersen (4th) Picture: Holly Nikolich SUNDAY There were four more seminars on Sunday. Three of these related to video game development and play techniques, while the fourth was a reprise of Andrew Heighway’s seminar from Friday. More tournaments concluded on Sunday as well. There were competition held on the three solid-state machines and the three electromechanical games. The Classic Electromechanical Tournament Qualifying for these took place all day Friday and Saturday, with an extra qualifying session on the solid-state machines from 10am until noon on Sunday. Entry for either cost $20 and provided 8 games which could be played on any of the three machines used in each tournament. The best two ranking scores counted towards a player’s qualifying position. The top 8 players in each tournament qualified to play in PAPA-style groups of four, and they were: Solid State Tournament Qualifiers 1 Donovan Stepp 2 Sean Stasica 3 Escher Lefkoff 3 Jason Thomas 3 Ryan Wanger 6 Martin Ayub 6 Adam Lefkoff 6 Kevin Ryan Electromechanical Tournament Qualifiers 1 Ryan Wanger 2 Sean Stasica 3 Jason Thomas 4 Adam Lefkoff 4 Mike Brogan 6 Escher Lefkoff 6 Donovan Stepp 8 Karli Pigford In the Solid-State Tournament the final four were, Escher Lefkoff, Kevin Ryan, Adam Lefkoff and Martin Ayub. Next door on the electromechanicals the finalists were, Adam Lefkoff, Mike Brogan, Escher Lefkoff and Donovan Stepp. After playing all three machines, the Solid-State Tournament final resulted in a 3-way tie at the top between Adam Lefkoff, Kevin Ryan and Martin Ayub. They played a deciding game on the randomly-drawn Pinbot. Martin won that to take first place, ahead of Kevin in second and Adam in third. The top four in the Solid-State Tournament (L-R): Kevin Ryan (2nd), Escher Lefkoff (4th), Adam Lefkoff (3rd) & Martin Ayub (1st) The Electromechanical Tournament also ended in a tie, although in this case it was for second place since Escher Lefkoff already had an emphatic win. The tie resulted in Donovan Stepp taking second, with Mike Brogan in third and Adam Lefkoff fourth. The top four in the Electromechanical Tournament (L-R): Mike Brogan (3rd), Escher Lefkoff (1st), Adam Lefkoff (4th) & Donovan Stepp (2nd) In addition to the more formal tournaments held in the separate tournaments room, several casual tournaments for kids, parents/kids, pairs or rookies took place in the main hall. These all cost $5 to enter, except for the Kids Tournament which was free. The Parent/Kid Tournament The show closed around 5pm, but not before a number of awards were presented for the best games in a number of categories. The awards were presented by show organiser Dan Nikolich. Crowd Pleaser 1st Ghostbusters Premium 2nd Black Knight (#30) 3rd Black Knight (#36) Game Exchange win the Crowd Pleaser category Winner of the Crowd Pleaser award, Ghostbusters Premium from Game Exchange Most Unique 1st Joust 2nd Black Knight (#30) 3rd Spectrum Kevin McCarthy wins first and second in Most Unique Most Unique game, Joust Best Electromechanical 1st Capt. Fantastic 2nd Baseball 3rd Drop-a-Card Best Electromechanical, Capt. Fantastic from Universal Sales Best 1980s Pinball 1st Black Knight (#30) 2nd Atlantis 3rd Elvira & the Party Monsters Ryan Grant wins Best 1980s Pinball Best 1980s pinball, Black Knight Best Modern Pinball 1st Cirqus Voltaire 2nd Rob Zombie’s Spookshow Intl 3rd Guns N’ Roses Winner of Best Modern Pinball, Tim Dunbar Best Modern pinball, Cirqus Voltaire with an LED ColorDMD display Best of Show – Arcade 1st Black Widow 2nd Donkey Kong (#100) 3rd Arkanoid Hyperspace Arcade win the Best of Show – Arcade Best of Show arcade game, Black Widow from Hyperspace Arcade Best of Show – Pinball 1st Black Knight (#30) 2nd Ghostbusters Premium 3rd Guns N’ Roses Ryan Grant wins Best of Show – Pinball Best of Show pinball, Black Knight And that concludes out coverage of the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown & Gameroom Expo for 2016. We hope you enjoyed it and it has made you eager to attend next year’s show in person. Many than Dan, Holly and the show team for their hospitality, and we leave you with our exclusive Fifteen Minute Tour video walk around the show, taking in all the games, the vendors, the side rooms and the tournaments area.