Date: 11th October - 15th October, 2017
Location: Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 N Milwaukee Ave, Wheeling, IL 60090, USA

The third day at Pinball Expo began bright and early for us back in the Seminars Hall, setting up the audio/video system in preparation for the first talk of the day.

The Seminars Hall
The Seminars Hall

8:30am: The Story of How the Fargo Pinball Club was Started
Bill, Jim & Emily Brooks

Jim, Emily and Bill Brooks
Jim, Emily and Bill Brooks

Fargo Pinball is a private members club in Fargo, North Dakota.  Bill explained how the club is set up, with an initial $45 membership and an annual $20 renewal.  The club is open to members seven days a week from 6am to 1am.

Bill then talked about how the club began with Bill and Jim both having their own collections.  They set up a Kickstarter project to pre-sell membership to the club before they actually opened.

Bill then gave a checklist of the things you need to consider when setting up a club as a business and the things you absolutely must do, including hiring an attorney, setting up a limited liability company, developing your clubs application process and rules, insuring your equipment and how to make a profit.

Emily then spoke about how they market the club and treat their customers. She said they like to surprise their clients through decor featuring local touches such a old pictures of the area, and engage with the local community through charitable events to raise funds for local causes.

Download the audio of this seminar here

9:15am: Pinball Tech from the Technician Point of View
Ron Coon

Ron Coon
Ron Coon

Ron works for Dr Scott’s Pinball Store  repairing and restoring games and shared the stage with David Fix from ICE to merge their seminars and talk about their experiences dealing with problematic games and equally problematic customers.

10:15am: A Review of Manuals and Schematics – The Road Map to Pinball Repair
David Fix

David Fix
David Fix

They began by talking about surface mount technology, the problems in repairing boards using SMT and local network bus connections, and the benefits it brings in terms of greater functionality, simpler connectors and lower voltages/currents.

Ron said when he starts on a repair for a customer he has to determine how much they are willing to spend and how that compares to the time needed to undertake the work.

David said the number one problem he experiences is with general illumination in games where the pins and sockets are burned from extended use and underrated interconnects.  He said higher-rated connectors are available, while using LEDs cuts down the current requirements which lead to the  pins or sockets burning up.  Regarding the use of LEDs, as an operator David said he wants the games to look attractive but not too garish.

Ron talked about a repair he made the previous evening where the game was behaving strangely.  The problem was traced to a connecting plug being misaligned and plugged-in one pin out.

They then invited the audience to tell them about problems with their games so that they could try diagnosing them.

David then extolled the virtues of using a game’s manual to fix issues, saying you should always check to see if you have all the applicable service bulletins to update the manual with changes made after the game was released and solutions to common problems discovered in the field.  Ron said he prefers to use PDF versions of the manual on his tablet, while David would always choose a paper manual over an electronic copy.

Download the audio of this seminar here

11:00am: New and Interesting Game Restoration at the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum & Show
Clay Harrell

Clay Harrell
Clay Harrell

Clay began by describing his visit to Pinball Expo co-organiser Mike Pacak’s home to buy a number of Bally electromechanical games and parts from his extensive collection.  Clay explained the poor condition of many of them and the restoration work needed to bring them up to a condition suitable for the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum he runs.

He then talked about a Chief Bank-a-Flip Galactic Poker Dice game Duncan Brown created and built which Duncan ‘donated’ to the Museum.  Duncan described how he designed it, built it and programmed it, along with a Williams Typhoon which Duncan built from a long-lost Harry Williams design and showed at Pinball Expo last year.

Duncan Brown
Duncan Brown

Duncan said he is now working on another Williams’ design called Firefly which will be shown at the Museum.

Clay then turned to some badly-distressed games he acquired which the Museum managed to turn into presentable games, showing before and after pictures.  They included a Bell Games World Defender which they reprogrammed to turn it into a multiball game.

He said people donate machines to the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum because they do actually do something with the games they receive and do their best to bring everything back to life.  He said they only very rarely sell games and only then if they have duplicates.

We start the audio of Clay’s seminar with him describing his visit to Mike Pacak’s house.

Download the audio of this seminar here

1:00pm: Two Upcoming Pinball Magazine Publications
Jonathan Joosten

Jonathan Joosten
Jonathan Joosten

Jonathan was speaking about his two upcoming publications.  The first is issue 5 of Pinball Magazine which features the life and works of game designer Wayne Neyens who recently celebrated his 99th birthday.

In collecting pictures of Wayne’s games, he travelled across California visiting pinball collections.  He was accompanied by Santiago Ciuffo whose pinball photo book he previously published.  During the trip they came up with the idea of documenting their journey in photographic form and making a second book from it.

So Jonathan will be publishing Santiago’s photographs in an upcoming book called Pinball Road Trip.  The book will be funded through a Kickstarter campaign which will launch shortly.  When it goes live at the start of November it will appear at this link, with prices ranging from €35 for the softcover book to €65 for a bundle with Santiago’s first book and a special print (prices plus shipping).

Jonathan said all the photographs have already been taken, the layout is complete, and although some text is yet to be written he thinks the book could be published within a matter of weeks once the Kickstarter campaign is fully funded.

Download the audio of this seminar here

2:00pm: The Unique, Rare and Unusual – The Gottlieb/Mylstar Years
Derek Fugate

Derek Fugate
Derek Fugate

Derek related how he first got into pinball as a video game player.  He said he could learn the patterns in the videos and enjoy a long gameplay for his quarter, whereas pinball could be all over in a minute or two.

He later got into pinball collecting, specialising in rare and unusual Gottlieb titles which didn’t used to get much love from mainstream collectors.  He started with a sample Alien Star and researched it’s history and how it fitted into the history of the company.

He subsequently acquired an Eldorado: City of Gold which was a Mylstar game (Mylstar being the name Gottlieb took before becoming Premier).  Most Eldorados are branded Premier but 170 were made under the Mylstar brand, and these have very different game rules.  Touchdown was the only other game which was produced under both brands.

Derek then spoke about his five first visits to Pinball Expo, starting in 1990 at the Ramada in Rosemont when The Simpsons was the tournament qualifying game and they had twenty brand new machines set up.  The play-offs took place on the new Checkpoint game, followed by the final on King Kong.  Derek said there were so many manufacturers back then, with Bally being the featured company the next year, with Alvin G following.  He recalled the regular game auction at Expo and the amazingly cheap prices (by today’s standards) the games sold for.

Expo co-organiser Rob Berk then told some stories from the show’s early days, including how it all began and some of the highlights from that very first event.

Download the audio of this seminar here

3:00pm: Making Perfect Parts for Imperfect Machines
Bruce Westfall & Greg Freres

Bruce Westfall
Bruce Westfall

Bruce, from Outside Edge Products, was joined by Scott Moehring and Greg Freres to talk about reproducing pinball parts and artwork.

Scott Moehring
Scott Moehring
Greg Freres
Greg Freres

Scott said the number one reason for pinball art is to attract players and get them to put money in the game.  Greg said pinball companies would traditionally support a game with parts sales for five years, although he didn’t think there was any specific expected lifespan for a pinball playfield or other artworked piece.

Bruce said the intention now is to make reproduction parts in keeping with the original design, keeping the intended colours.  Greg spoke about how original parts may not all be consistent due to differences with parts coming in from vendors.  Sometimes they could reject them without affecting production, but if it would mean shutting down the line then parts went out with several variations.  In addition, the final result often couldn’t be seen until the first prototypes came back.

For a parts reproducer, the question is, “which is the ‘right’ version; the one which was supposed to be produced or the one which actually was made?”.  What about variances between different production runs of the same game?  According to Scott, it is the customer who decides which is the ‘right’ version.

Scott also spoke about how modern CMYK printing processes differ from older spot colour printing, and the colour gamut is also different with certain spot colours not possible using the four-colour process.

Download the audio of this seminar here

4:00pm: The Miracle of the Art of Batman ’66 and Beyond
Christopher Franchi & Greg Freres

Christopher Franchi
Christopher Franchi

Greg began by explaining how he found Christopher through an internet search where he found a piece of Batman art he had done.  Stern needed some help realising the Batman 66 pinball art, so he contacted Christopher and a deal was struck.  Christopher did the art for one of the three models, but Stern were suitably impressed and asked him to do all three.

He next showed a series of concept drawings and sketches, along with some of the earlier Batman artwork he had done for model kits and for a DVD which he could use to quickly realise the Stern art packages.

Sample Batman art
Sample Batman art

Everyone in the audience was given a Batman trading card, and one lucky card holder got to win a large canvas of the Batman 66 flyer signed by the team.

Christopher said people don’t appreciate the amount of work which goes into a pinball package and the fanbase should give more credit to Greg’s team who do this work every day.

Greg said in response that fans have been calling for the return to hand-drawn artwork, and he has been trying to bring in new talent to realise this and produce some really distinctive art packages for their games.

Christopher explained how he builds his compositions from separate drawn elements in Photoshop so that he can create all the different formats and layouts required for each job, from backglasses to posters, to flyers, to promotional banners, and so on.

Download the audio of this seminar here

5:00pm: Those Good Old Days at Williams
Larry DeMar, Steve Ritchie, Ken Fedesna, Mike Stroll and Eugene Jarvis

Larry, Eugene, Steve and Ken were on stage at Pinball Expo, and they were joined by Mike Stroll who appeared by a video link.

Larry, Eugene, Steve, Ken and Mike (on screen)
Larry, Eugene, Steve, Ken and Mike (on screen)

Mike began by explaining how Larry, Eugene, Steve and Ken were employed by Mike.  They were part of the Advance Development Team who were pushing the new computerised technology through, to the reluctance of the old-school game builders.

Larry, Eugene,Steve and Ken
Larry, Eugene,Steve and Ken

Eugene said he had been told by the old-school designers how it is impossible to flash a lamp under game control.  When he showed how it could be done he was given the moniker ‘Doctor J’.

Larry, Eugene and Steve joke about the reliability (or otherwise) of Williams' drop targets
Larry, Eugene and Steve joke about the reliability (or otherwise) of Williams’ drop targets

Steve and Eugene shared stories of high jinx at Williams including setting off fireworks in another designers’ office and the rubber band fights.

Ken recounted a time Steve and he were arguing about High Speed.  Steve remembered all the details about the innovative features in the game and wanted to give more information to the player.  Larry said they found new alphanumeric displays which cost twice the price of the purely-numeric displays used previously. The discussion got rather animated and they were told that they couldn’t have the new displays.  There was eventually a compromise where the top row of displays was alphanumeric but the bottom row was just numeric, and that’s how the game (and future games) was produced.

Steve, Larry and Eugene exchanged memories of working on High Speed’s sound, including how they sampled Larry’s car sounds in the parking lot at Williams and sampled one guitar note for the music and replayed it at different rates to create all the notes.  Steve thanked Mike for allowing the design team to think of crazy new ideas and let them be so creative.  Mike said he was happy to allow them to think in new ways about how games should work because they were talented enough to be given free-reign.

The team were joined by Pat Lawlor to talk about how he joined Williams and the creation of The Addams Family.

Pat Lawlor
Pat Lawlor

He said they really wanted to make sure all the parts of the movie people would remember were in the game.  He said he had played games in the hall next door and whoever made them had forgotten to put the theme in the game.

Download the audio of this seminar here

6:00pm: Dutch Pinball Update
Jaap Nauta & Barry Driessen

Jaap Nauta
Jaap Nauta
Barry Driessen
Barry Driessen

Jaap said they know there are still 130 people waiting for their The Big Lebowski, and Jaap said he can’t answer the question about when they will get their machine.  He said they were there to take everyone through the steps they are taking and that they can see that they will get their game.  He said they could have thrown in the towel and abandoned the whole company, or they could have tried working again with the original contract manufacturer ARA, but that wasn’t an option, so their third option was to find a new contract manufacturer.  It is that third option that they have taken, and their a representative from the new contract manufacturer – XYTECH Modules Technologies – is here to explain the plans.

Jaap recalled the steps they have taken so far, saying they plan to have their production sample ready with the new manufacturer this month.  He said the specs for the new model are the same as previous version, and they plan to show the new boardset at the Dutch Pinball Expo next month in Eindhoven (we will be there, of course).

The new boardset uses more, smaller boards, each of which has a specific function – LED boards, driver boards and I/O boards to talk to the P3ROC and game switches.

Jaap said the driver and I/O boards are generic enough to work in future Dutch Pinball games and should be backwards compatible with the existing games except for the cable harness.

Erwin Streefland from XYTECH Modules Technologies joined Jaap and Barry to talk about the company, saying they take projects from the pre-production stage to series production.  They can provide the total supply chain through their manufacturing facilities in China, co-engineer the products, build them, QA them and provide the logistics to ship them.

Erwin Streefland
Erwin Streefland

XYTECH was founded in 2005 and is privately-owned.  They have their HQ in Venray, Netherlands and have a wholly-owned production facility in Suzhou, China.  Their major customers are in the industrial printing and image processing business.

Erwin said their New Product Innovation (NPI) stages are:

  1. RFQ
  2. Planning
  3. Materials and tooling
  4. Pilot
  5. Production

He said they are currently at the Pilot stage.

Barry, Jaap & Erwin
Barry, Jaap & Erwin

Asked if they will pick up with delivery of machine number 56, Jaap said they don’t have the money to just build all the pre-orders with no income, so they will need to build some new-order machines which will help fund the production of the pre-orders.

Jaap said they didn’t like having to do things this way but they guarantee everyone who ordered will get their Lebowski game.

Download the audio of this seminar here

7:00pm: Star Wars – The Saga Continues
Steve Ritchie

Steve Ritchie
Steve Ritchie

Steve said they had a lot of hard work dealing with Lucasfilm, and weren’t able to get the artist they wanted to work on the game due to the demands for three different sets of cabinet, backbox, translite and plastics art for the three versions of the game.

Steve then named all the members of the team who worked on every aspect of the game from software, artwork, sounds and music, mechanical design and so on.  He then did a photo tour of the factory as Star Wars is being made from the bare playfields and cabinets to the finished game.

Steve shows the audience around the factory
Steve shows the audience around the factory

Steve said he wouldn’t say he enjoyed himself making Star Wars, and he is done with licensing for now.  His next game, he said, would not be a licence.  He then took questions from the audience about the game, his plans and the state of the industry.

Download the audio of this seminar here

8:30pm: Stern-O-Rama 2017
Jody Dankberg & Zach Sharpe

The banner for Stern-O-Rama
The banner for Stern-O-Rama

The Stern-O-Rama event was a large party featuring the company’s newest Star Wars games, a number of older titles and a couple of video games from Logan Arcade, an IFPA mini-tournament held on two Star Wars Pro machines, a DJ pumping out some catchy dance tunes, the opportunity to meet pinball artists and designers, and a bar offering everyone a free Pinball beer from Two Brothers Brewing.

The free beer - there was also a cash bar for more drinks
The free beer – there was also a cash bar for more drinks
Pinball beer from Two Brothers
Pinball beer from Two Brothers
Games on free play
Games on free play
Games on free play
Games on free play
Games on free play
Games on free play
Tournament machines
Tournament machines
The evening's DJ
The evening’s DJ
The first guests through the doors
The first guests through the doors
The place was soon packed
The place was soon packed
Jeremy Packer, Christopher Franchi and Greg Freres
Jeremy Packer, Christopher Franchi and Greg Freres

While we were tied up in the Seminars Hall for most of the day, we did escape briefly and were able to grab this eight minute video showing the tournament area and the Games Hall where we show you all the machines available to play.

In addition, after the events in the Seminar Hall had finished, Pinball News’s Editor Martin Ayub teamed up with Pinball Magazine’s Editor Jonathan Joosten to interview Jersey Jack Pinball’s Jack Guarnieri and Eric Meunier about their new game Pirates of the Caribbean.

What began as a quick five-minute chat soon turned into a full forty-five minute in-depth interview about all aspects of the game.

You can watch it here:

Back to the Pinball Expo 2017 index

  • Recbar 812 in Louisville, Kentucky

    RECBAR 812

    Louisville’s well-known arcade bar, Recbar, has recently opened a satellite location…
  • SS Billiards in Hopkins, MN

    SS BILLIARDS: AFTER THE REFRESH

    LTG – The Media SS Billiards is synonymously linked with its owner; The Man, The Myt…
  • Blue Sun Soda & Sweets Shop

    BLUE SUN SODA & SWEET SHOP – A YEAR LATER

    Back in November of 2018 we visited the Blue Sun Soda & Sweet Shop (BSSSS), and, as we…
Load More Related Articles
  • SS Billiards in Hopkins, MN

    SS BILLIARDS: AFTER THE REFRESH

    LTG – The Media SS Billiards is synonymously linked with its owner; The Man, The Myt…
  • The Pinball News Review of the Year for 2019

    2019 REVIEW OF THE YEAR

    Hello and welcome to our annual look back at the past twelve months in the world of pinbal…
  • The EAG International Expo 2020

    EAG INTERNATIONAL EXPO 2020

    We’re back in London’s Docklands to check out the annual Entertainment, Attrac…
Load More By Pinball News
  • The EAG International Expo 2020

    EAG INTERNATIONAL EXPO 2020

    We’re back in London’s Docklands to check out the annual Entertainment, Attrac…
  • The 2019 Grand Old Gameroom Expo

    GRAND OLE GAMEROOM EXPO 2019

    Nashville’s Grand Ole Gameroom Expo (Grand OGRE) is now in its fourth year and for 2019 wa…
  • The first game hall at the DPO Expo 2019

    DUTCH PINBALL OPEN EXPO 2019

    After several years occupying the De Vene Voorst in Drunen, for 2019 the annual Dutch Pinb…
Load More In SHOWS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

EAG INTERNATIONAL EXPO 2020

We’re back in London’s Docklands to check out the annual Entertainment, Attrac…