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

The final full day of events at Pinball Expo 2017 continued for us in the Seminars Hall.

The Seminars Hall at Pinball Expo
The Seminars Hall at Pinball Expo

10:00am: The Lost Prototype – The Story of the Bally That Got Away
Casey Gardner, Chuck Gardner and James Hudson

James Hudson, Casey Gardner and Chuck Gardner
James Hudson, Casey Gardner and Chuck Gardner

Casey Chuck and James set out to make an original game in the style of a late ’70s Bally game and chose the Wonder Woman theme for their custom machine.

They picked the features they wanted on the playfield to keep in style, such as spelling out W-O-N-D-E-R and W-O-M-A-N on target banks.

Having designed and drawn out their playfield, they had to build it.  Casey escribed their trials and tribulations once they had to bring the design off the paper and onto the wood.  Right now they have a flipping whitewood with the basic code written but not cabinet paint yet or a backglass.  Their sound system plays MP3s off an SD card and they are about to start sampling originally Bally game sounds to bring them into the game.

The game as it is now
The game as it is now

Download the audio of this seminar here

11:00am: Pinball Wizards, Jackpots and Drains in the Cult of the Silver Ball
Adam Ruben

Adam Ruben
Adam Ruben

Adam has written a book about his personal experience with pinball and the pinball scene, and he was here at Pinball Expo to talk about why he wrote the book and read some excepts from it.

He said he wanted to let people outside the Expo community that pinball is still alive and at the best place it’s been in the past quarter of a century.

Adam's book
Adam’s book

Adam spoke about how cyclical the popularity of pinball has been, citing Pat Lawlor’s target of 10,000 as the definition of a hit title and how no games are known to have sold that quantity since 1993.

The final reading  was about the future of pinball and how it has always survived because it adapts to changing circumstances.  Right now it has never been easier to build your own pinball, and the new start-ups are testament to that and a potential way for pinball to continue expanding its scope and reach.

Download the audio of this seminar here

12:00pm: Chrome Plating, Picking, Hot Rods and Family
Chris Royalty

Chris Royalty
Chris Royalty

Chris came to Expo from Nashville where he is a pastor and also runs the company Pinball Plating.  He explained how he got into pinball when he and a friend bought some arcade games to help with counselling troubled youngsters.  After eventually selling them, he changed to buying games in need of repair and restoration which he found in abundance.

Chris spoke about his friendship and business dealing with Mike Chestnut who restored and rebuilt games, and supplied the hobby with difficult-to-find pinball parts.  When Mike passed away unexpectedly, Chris called Mike’s father to help him cope with the situation and deal with the outstanding orders.  After some time Mike’s father asked Chris to take over Mike’s business and ensure it continues.

He showed a sample of the pinball parts he has plated – a lime green pinball leg and the head collar from Bride of Pinbot in two different styles.

Chris with the Bride of Pinbot collar
Chris with the Bride of Pinbot collar

He said stainless steel is really bad a being plated.  Regular steel is fine, but stainless doesn’t take plating well.  Stainless can be polished to the point it looks like chrome he said, so that’s a better way to get the chromed look.

He now offers an exchange service where you can send him a part and if he has it in stock he can send you straight back a chromed or plated replacement.

Talking about chrome plating plastic parts, Chris said it is a very hard thing to achieve, requiring expensive specialist equipment.  Chris has teamed up with one such plater to offer chromed plastic parts too.

Download the audio of this seminar here

1:00pm: Owning and Operating Galloping Ghost Arcade
Doc Mack

Doc Mack
Doc Mack

Doc said they currently have 615 machines set up in the Galloping Ghost arcade which is located in Brookfield, Illinois.  He said in the early days of arcades there was fierce competition between them, but now there is a great collaborative attitude, with arcades helping each other to grow and expand the player base.  He said that they are currently working with around thirty new arcades to help them open.

Doc said they are at maximum capacity now at Galloping Ghost, but will be opening a fourth building which will take their numbers up to 1,000 machines on the floor.  Their current payment model is $20 for entry and unlimited play.  The city of Brookfield only allows six coin-operated machines in any commercial premises, so a single-entry fee side-steps any issues.

He spoke about his annual events and tournaments which bring people in from all over the world, and some of the side businesses such as reproduction control panels and marquees to help the collector community beyond the arcade itself.

He said it is a phenomenal thing to be able to reconnect people to the games they spent countless hours enjoying in their younger days, generating so many memories, but hadn’t seen for years or even decades.

He said the pinball community is different with a wider range of genres and followers.  Keeping these games up and running is more complex than video games in terms of keeping parts stock to replace perishables.

Download the audio of this seminar here

2:00pm: Autograph Session
Various

The annual autograph session too place at 2pm in the front half of the Seminars Hall which had been divided into two during Doc Mac’s speech.

The autograph session
The autograph session
Steve, George and Stan
Steve, George and Stan
John and Ray
John and Ray
Roger and Steve
Roger and Steve
Adam and J-P
Adam and J-P
Paul, Dennis, Barry and Orin
Paul, Dennis, Barry and Orin
Christopher and Jeremy
Greg, Christopher and Jeremy

Here’s a short video from the Autograph Session.

After touring the autograph session we took a look around the Vendor Hall.  There were several big name companies missing this year such as Multimorphic (with their custom games display), Mezel Mods and Marco Specialties, but still plenty of games to play and parts to buy along with the odd non-pinball seller such as our first vendor, Quill Forest, who were on the left as you entered the hall.

Quill Forest pens
Quill Forest pens

On the right, in his usual place, was Expo co-organiser Mike Pacak’s stand.

Mike Pacak's stand
Mike Pacak’s stand

Mike had loads of translites, pinball publications, manuals, flyers, schematics, as well as a few interesting games.

Some of Mike's pinball paperwork
Some of Mike’s pinball paperwork
Elvis, Verne's World and Brooks & Dunn
Elvis, Verne’s World and Brooks & Dunn
Rare solid-state Aztec & Bow and Arrow machines
Rare solid-state Aztec & Bow and Arrow machines

At the end of the aisle was Mirco Stefan’s playfields stand but unfortunately he had already packed away by the time we came around with our camera.

Opposite Mike was the display from Jersey Jack Pinball, featuring their new Pirates of the Caribbean game alongside their current Dialed In! title.

JJP's new Pirates of the Caribbean games
JJP’s new Pirates of the Caribbean games
More Pirates of the Caribbean games to play
More Pirates of the Caribbean games to play
Next to JJP was their distributor, Pincades
Next to JJP was their distributor, Pincades
Playfield drawings of JJP games could be bought for just shy of $50
Playfield drawings of JJP games could be bought for just shy of $50
Pincades also has a number of pinball parts available
Pincades also has a number of pinball parts available

Along from Pincades was Matt Reister’s Back Alley Creations selling customised and original pinball mods.

Back Alley Creations
Back Alley Creations

Facing Back Alley was a display from Chicago Gaming showing their remade Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness games.

Chicago Gaming Company
Chicago Gaming Company

Next came the Pingame Journal stand.

Pingame Journal
Pingame Journal
They were showing several pieces of artwork by Big Bang Bar artist Stan Fukuoka
They were showing several pieces of artwork by Big Bang Bar artist Stan Fukuoka
At the end of the row, Arcade Adventures were selling new and used pinball and arcade parts
At the end of the row, Arcade Adventures were selling new and used pinball and arcade parts
Behind the PGJ was the Bent Plastic stand
Behind the PGJ was the Bent Plastic stand
CP Pinball were in the centre of the row selling assorted tools
CP Pinball were in the centre of the row selling assorted tools
They also had a choice of blinged-up pinball parts
They also had a choice of blinged-up pinball parts
Outside Edge had reproduction pinball graphical items, including lampshades and coasters
Outside Edge had reproduction pinball graphical items, including lampshades and coasters
Outside Edge were also demonstrating their HardTop artworked playfield overlays
Outside Edge were also demonstrating their HardTop artworked playfield overlays

Over the main corridor we have Pinball Wizard Sales & Service’s long table of boards, cables and other assorted hardware items.

Pinball Wizard Sales & Service
Pinball Wizard Sales & Service
More from Pinball Wizard Sales & Service
More from Pinball Wizard Sales & Service
On the opposite side of the Aisle, CoinTaker had a large stand
On the opposite side of the Aisle, CoinTaker had a large stand
CoinTaker carried their usual large range of pinball LEDs as well as translites and pinball swag
CoinTaker carried their usual large range of pinball LEDs as well as translites and pinball swag
In addition, Dutch Pinball were with their distributor, CoinTaker, to show The Big Lebowski
In addition, Dutch Pinball were with their distributor, CoinTaker, to show The Big Lebowski
At the other end of the row PinStadium had some demonstrations showing how their LED lighting strips brightened up playfields
At the other end of the row PinStadium had some demonstrations showing how their LED lighting strips brightened up playfields
Behind the Pin Stadium games, Pinball Refinery had some classy-looking Stern games
Behind the Pin Stadium games, Pinball Refinery had some classy-looking modded Stern games

Further into the hall we come to American Pinball who had also brightened-up the playfield and made a number of other changes to their Houdini title.

American Pinball's brought three of their Houdini games
American Pinball’s brought three of their Houdini games
The Houdini playfield
The Houdini playfield
Opposite American Pinball, Starship Fantasy had a great selection of pinball ramps, backglasses and spares
Opposite American Pinball, Starship Fantasy had a great selection of pinball ramps, backglasses and spares
Behind the Houdinis, Matis Amusements had mutliple reproduction metal pinball parts
Behind the Houdinis, Matis Amusements had mutliple reproduction metal pinball parts
More metal parts from Mantis Amusements
More metal parts from Mantis Amusements
At the end of the row, Pin Graffix had their selection of colourful pinball interior artwork blades
At the end of the row, Pin Graffix had their selection of colourful pinball interior artwork blades
Around the corner, Operation Pinball had their stand
Around the corner, Operation Pinball had their stand

The next row began with ColorDMD showing their Star Trek colourisation with their LED display compared to the LCD version.

The ColorDMD stand
The ColorDMD stand
VP Cabs had a big display of computer pinball games
VP Cabs had a big display of computer pinball games

A new product on display at the VP Cabs’ stand was this home tabletop bingo game called Dead Man’s Hand.

Dead Man's Hand from VP Cabs
Dead Man’s Hand from VP Cabs

Over the aisle we found Gizmo Games with their Zombie League All Stars pitch & bat game.

Gizmo's Zombie League All Stars
Gizmo’s Zombie League All Stars

Behind VP Cabs , the Pinball Plating stand had some suitably flashy pinball parts on show.

Pinball Plating's display
Pinball Plating’s display
Chromed parts
Chromed parts

Stern Pinball took a large stand at Pinball Expo to show their latest releases in various versions.

Part of the Stern Pinball stand with Aerosmith and Star Wars
Part of the Stern Pinball stand with Aerosmith and Star Wars
Batman 66 and more Star Wars
Batman 66 and more Star Wars

Stern also had three stands to promote artists who have created packages for their titles.  All three were in the Autograph Session while we were taking pictures.

Christopher Franchi's stand
Christopher Franchi’s stand
Zombie Yeti's stand
Zombie Yeti’s stand
Dirty Donny's stand
Dirty Donny’s stand

In the back left corner of the hall, Pinball Inc. had a display of artwork related to Pinball Circus and their intended future title Kingpin, as well as a range of pinball parts for sale.

Pinball Circus shirts and artwork
Pinball Circus shirts and artwork
More Pinball Circus art
More Pinball Circus art
Animal guards pinball parts and translites
Animal guards pinball parts and translites
Next to Pinball Inc., Scott Danesi's Spooky Pinball-produced Total Nuclear Annihilation was very popular
Next to Pinball Inc., Scott Danesi’s Spooky Pinball-produced Total Nuclear Annihilation was very popular
Double Danger were selling their pinball shirts
Double Danger were selling their pinball shirts
Flip N Out had their Escalera pinball lifters
Flip N Out had their Escalera pinball lifters
Pinball Pro had their famous speakers and other pinball mods
Pinball Pro had their famous speakers and other pinball mods
Pinball Universe had teamed up with Tilt! to take over the back right corner of the hall
Pinball Universe had teamed up with Tilt to take over the back right corner of the hall
Stern games from Tilt!
Stern games from Tilt

To get the full atmosphere of the Vendor Hall, here’s our exclusive Twenty-Two Minute Tour video walk around all the stands.

At 7pm the Seminars Hall was turned into the Banquet Hall, as guests arrived for an evening of dinner, speeches and presentations.

The first event is always the Make-A-Wish charity auction, where items donated by individuals and companies are auctioned to raise money for the charity.

Rob Berk auctions another pinball item
Rob Berk auctions another pinball item
Some of the auction items
Some of the auction items
Pat Lawlor donated this celebratory The Addams Family trophy which was given to each member of the TAF design team
Pat Lawlor donated this celebratory The Addams Family trophy which was given to each member of the TAF design team
Game Designer Jim Patla with a signed brick from the now-demolished Bally factory
Game Designer Jim Patla with a signed brick from the now-demolished Bally factory

It was marked how few guests there were for this banquet.  The stand-alone ticket price of $90 might have had something to do with that, but there has certainly been a growth in alternative dinner events on Saturday evening.

The banquet audience
The banquet audience

After the auction it was time for dinner.  There was a good selection of meat and vegetable dishes, soup, bread, desserts, soft drinks and biscuits.

One of the two food service tables
One of the two food service tables
The hot buffet dinner
The hot buffet dinner

Following the dinner, the evening’s guest speaker stood up to give his talk. This year the guest speaker was game designer Jim Patla who is famous for his Kiss, Mata Hari, Centaur, Rolling Stones and Playboy designs.

Jim spoke about how the industry changed over the years and how, although they were business rivals, the various pinball companies in Chicago used to help each other out if one of them ran out of stock of a common part such as lamps, legs or balls.  If there was a dispute over one company using the ideas of another, they would agree not to do it again and move on. Competing companies would openly send their latest games to each other for inspection.

Jim Patla
Jim Patla

At Bally they had a pinball division, a slots machine section, a bingo department, and people working there might be moved on a daily basis from one area to another accorind to where they needed additional help.  Jim said it was a very open and empowering environment where ideas for new features or products were always welcome, with advancement within the company depending on merit.

Jim spoke about the first tests with electronics in pinballs, and how he immediately spotter there was a signifigant lag between pressing the flipper buttons and the flippers responding.  There was a similar delay between the ball hitting a pop bumper or slingshot and the kicker reacting.  Jim pointed out this problem, much to the annoyance of the electronics designers.  However it led to these three devices having their own dedicated circuitry separate from CPU control.

After his talk, Jim was present with a commemorative plaque by Expo organisers Mike Pacak and Rob Berk
After his talk, Jim was present with a commemorative plaque by Expo organisers Mike Pacak and Rob Berk

Download the audio of the banquet speech here

Next came the latest inductions into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame.

The first was musician, sound designer and systems designer for Williams, Data East, Sega and Stern, Brian Schmidt.

Gary Stern and Lonnie Ropp induct Brian Schmidt
Gary Stern and Lonnie Ropp induct Brian Schmidt
Brian Schmidt
Brian Schmidt

Next, Steve Ritchie took to the stage to induct software programmer at Williams and team leader at Stern, Dwight Sullivan.

Steve Ritchie inducts Dwight Sullivan
Steve Ritchie inducts Dwight Sullivan
Dwight thanks the organisers and his colleagues for his induction into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame
Dwight thanks the organisers and his colleagues for his induction into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame

Two of the next three inductions were performed posthumously.  The first was for game designer at United and then Williams, Gordon Horlick.  His induction was made by Circus Maximus team leader, James Loflin.

James Loflin inducts Gordon Horlick
James Loflin inducts Gordon Horlick

Next came the induction of the still-very-much-alive pinball artist on such games as Fish Tales, Dirty Harry and Tales of the Arabian Nights, Pat McMahon.  His induction was announced by Greg Freres.

Greg Freres reads Pat McMahon's induction
Greg Freres reads Pat McMahon’s induction
Pat and Greg
Pat and Greg

The final induction was made posthumously for software designer at Bally, Data East and Sega, Neil Falconer.  His induction was announced By Lonnie Ropp.

Lonnie inducts Neil Falconer
Lonnie inducts Neil Falconer

Two Service and Support awards were then presented.  The first of these was announced by Mike Pacak and went to owner and operator of SS Billiards in Minnesota and provider of front-line technical support to several pinball companies as well as numerous readers online, Lloyd Olson.

Lloyd Olson
Lloyd Olson

The second went to Twin Galaxies founder, Walter Day.  His award was announced by Pingame Journal Editor, Jim Schelberg.

Jim announces Walter's award
Jim announces Walter’s award
Walter Day receives his award
Walter Day receives his award

Walter was then joined on stage by Billy Mitchell and the two of them announced Pinball Expo’s inclusion in the Guinness World Records as the Longest-Running Pinball Event.

The Guinness World Record award
The Guinness World Record award

The banquet ended with all the remaining guests gathering for a group picture.

The banquet guests
The banquet guests

Pinball News has recorded audio of all the seminars and the banquet speech.

The audience is listening
The audience is listening

They are available with each seminar description, or on our special Audio page where you can get all twenty recordings in one easy-to-access list.

Back to the Pinball Expo 2017 index

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