Date: 17th - 20th October, 2018
Location: Westin Chicago North Shore, 601 North Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, IL 60090, USA

Welcome to Friday at Pinball Expo 2018, and we start the day back in the Seminars Hall for the first of today’s talks.

We begin with Ron Coon Jr with his Just Another Pinball Lecture.

Ron Coon Jr
Ron Coon Jr

Ron does pinball repairs and told the stories of several repairs he has done on pinball boards, including various surface mount devices and fixing the repairs other people have attempted.  He also showed a sequence of pictures showing the damage caused by leaking batteries.

The second seminar brought Devin Durham to the stage along with Jason Durham to talk about how they made their Spinal Tap custom pinball.

Devin Durham
Devin Durham

The game is based on a Flash Gordon machine and uses a Mac computer inside with the playfield switches simulating keyboard presses.

The custom Spinal Tap game
The custom Spinal Tap game

At 11:15 Tim Arnold began his talk about his plans to move the Pinball Hall of Fame from its current location to a new home on the Las Vegas Strip.

Tim Arnold
Tim Arnold

Tim said the Las Vegas Collectors Club has only two purposes – to keep the Hall of Fame open and to donate money to the Salvation Army.  He said it became clear a couple of years ago that they had a problem with lack of space at the current location and have been saving up to help fund the intended move.

He also said that the neighbourhood had changed for the worse since they set up in their present home, and that two-thirds of their business is from tourists, so it makes sense to move closer to their majority customers.

Tim detailed the history of the plot they are purchasing, the Sombrero hotel that used to stand there, how it closed and changed hands several times over the years.  Tim was negotiating to buy the plot but the seller broke off negotiations and put the land up for auction.  Tim ended up buying it for $4,567,000 after all fees and taxes.

The site diagram for the new home of the Pinball Hall of Fame
The site diagram for the new home of the Pinball Hall of Fame

A car wash company has agreed to buy the existing PHoF building and plot for $2,850,000 and get 21 month’s free rental while the new building is built.  This significantly reduces the need for additional funds, with only a $0.5m shortfall.

Tim also detailed a plan to buy an additional 40-feet of width to the plot which would allow for a bigger building, more parking spaces to match the required number for a retail location (as opposed to a museum), and give a longer frontage to help attract passing trade.

To achieve this, Tim said they are opening up membership of the Las Vegas Collectors Club with various benefits at differing levels of membership.  He has been busy sorting out the purchase of the land and working with the architects to come up with a building design, but he said the membership should be more-heavily promoted in the coming weeks.

After a short break for lunch Jeff Patterson, Zach Meny and Greg Bone held their seminar covering their Straight Down The Middle pinball show and This Week In Pinball website.

Jeff Patterson, Zach Meny and Greg Bone
Jeff Patterson, Zach Meny and Greg Bone

Zach and Greg spoke about what they do in their pinball show, how it began and what their aims are.

Jeff then talked about his TWIP project, why he began doing it and the things he has planned for the future.

The trio then played some games, giving their preferences between pairs of games, or which from a trio of games would they ‘Fling, Marry or Kill’.

Next onto the stage was Scott Darren from PinStadium who explained how he started using LEDs in his pinball machines to improve the brightness of the inserts, and then developed playfield playfield illumination for his own games.

Scott Darren
Scott Darren

Darren said in a sports stadium the lighting is always overhead, not at ground level as they are in pinballs, so he developed a commercial overhead lighting system and called it PinStadium.

Greg and Zach from SDTM then installed a pair of PinStadium lights into a Scared Stiff game to show how quick and easy they are to fit.

Next to speak was Doc Mack who owns and operates the Galloping Ghost arcade near Chicago.

Doc Mack
Doc Mack

Doc said Galloping Ghost was originally set up to make arcade games, but soon he moved into collecting arcade games and the collection just grew to more than 600 games.  He said he loves fixing games and bring them back to life, especially titles people may not even know exist.

He is very active in helping other arcades open and grow, following so many years of closures.  He said Galloping Ghost brings 80,000 people a year to the arcade, with attendance growing with every new idea they try.  They are currently expanding into a fourth building which will add another 240 machines to the collection.

Another satisfying aspect to the arcade is, Doc said, to give the due accolades to the programmers and artists who created them but who largely went unappreciated and whose names weren’t publicised at the time.

Doc said at the most they had nine pinballs but are currently down to four due to how problematic.  However, he said Galloping Ghost is going to open a dedicated pinball arcade with around 40 machines, located two blocks away from their main video arcade.

Following Doc at 3pm was James Loflin who used his seminar to document the rise and fall of the Illinois Pin Ball Company.

James Loflin
James Loflin

Illinois Pin Ball Company was the creation of Gene Cunningham, a serial collector/hoarder who made his money from poor-quality rental properties, bought the inventory from Capcom Pinball when they closed down, creating the game Pool Player from modified Breakshot machines.

Later, when Williams closed at the end of 1999, they too sold off their inventory but also the rights to use their intellectual property.  Gene bought the stock and won the bid to use the rights.  This was the rise of Illinois Pin Ball Company (IPB).

Although IPB had a lot of stock, they didn’t didn’t have any kind of catalogue and didn’t know exactly what they did have or didn’t have.  This made it very difficult to get spares for Williams and Bally games in the years 2000-2004.  At the same time, Gene was organising the building of a new and extended run of Capcom Big Bang Bar machines.

A new law came into force around this time which tightened the rules on rental properties, forcing landlords such as Gene to bring their properties up to code or risk having them closed down.  This had a severe financial impact on Gene.  Gene’s exclusive use of the Williams IP ran out in 2005, and Williams licensed Wayne Gillard in Australia to control the IP whereas Gene only had the use of the IP. Wayne started licensing others to make branded Williams/Bally parts, forcing Gene to do likewise – something he hadn’t done before.

By 2008, James said, Gene was broke after having paid heavily for some rental home repairs and not receiving income from those which were still awaiting repair.  Gene realised he would have to sell-off some of his inventory.  James bought some of the tooling so he could make parts and the parts which he was to sell on to Pinball Spare Parts in Australia.  The deal didn’t go smoothly, leading to lawyers being involved and ultimately Gene declaring bankruptcy.  The banks foreclosed on the loans, sold off many of the properties and Gene’s personal assets, including the Williams rights and remaining assets.  Illinois Pin Ball Company was no more.

Next in the Seminars Room was legendary game designer Pat Lawlor with his Are You Dialed-In? seminar at 4pm.

Pat Lawlor
Pat Lawlor

Pat introduced the Dialed-In! team members he had brought with him; Ted Estes, Joe Katz, David Thiel and Keith Johnson.

Ted, Joe, David and Keith
Ted, Joe, David and Keith

Pat showed some development pictures from Dialed-In!, illustrating just how much the game changes from original concept, through the initial development stages to the final product.

Peppered throughout the talk were draws for Dialed-In! translites and comic books, with everyone in the audience having a raffle ticket.

The seminar ended with a Q&A session covering the original intention for the spider in the game, the use of the ticker along the bottom of the main display, what happens to old whitewoods, and how electronic features in pinball are replacing more directly interactive toys.

Robert Mueller led the Deeproot team onto the stage for the next seminar.  With him were Barry Oursler, John Popadiuk, Quinn Johnson, Jon Norris, Dennis Nordman, Steve Bowden.

The Deeproot Pinball team
The Deeproot Pinball team

Robert asked Quinn to talk about what it is about his post of narrative designer in pinball which appeals to him, coming from a comic book storyline background. The four game designers then talked about what they are trying to achieve with each of their upcoming games and how they will appeal to the masses.

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller
Barry Oursler
Barry Oursler
John Popadiuk
John Popadiuk
Quinn Johnson
Quinn Johnson
Jon Norris
Jon Norris
Dennis Nordman
Dennis Nordman
Steve Bowden
Steve Bowden

Each panel member also explained how their work at Deeproot is different to their previous work, and how they are creating the future of pinball at their San Antonio facility.

There was then a Q&A session with the team, although nobody could talk about any specific elements of their games ahead of the reveal at the Texas Pinball Festival in March.  Robert did say that they would only make one model of each game and not have multiple tiers of the same game, although the individual titles will vary in price.

The evening continued with the induction of the new entrants to the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame.  Since there was no banquet at which to make the inductions, they took place in the seminar room at 7pm on Friday.

The first of these went to Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub for the Support and Service division.  The second to game designer Jon Norris who we saw earlier.

Gary Flower introduces Martin Ayub and Jon Norris
Gary Flower introduces Martin Ayub and Jon Norris
Martin Ayub accepts his award
Martin Ayub accepts his award
Jon Norris collects his award
Jon Norris collects his award
Jon Norris
Jon Norris

Then Steve Ritchie inducted Elliot Eismin, the mechanical designer he worked with at Stern Pinball.

Steve Ritchie introduces Elliot
Steve Ritchie introduces Elliot
Elliot Eismin is inducted into the Hall of Fame
Elliot Eismin is inducted into the Hall of Fame

The Larry DeMar inducted former General Manager and Executive VP at Williams, Ken Fedesna.

Larry DeMar inducts Ken into the Hall of Fame
Larry DeMar inducts Ken into the Hall of Fame
Ken Fedesna and Larry
Ken Fedesna and Larry

The seminars resumed at 8:30pm with the Jersey Jack Pinball presentation.

Jack Guarnieri, Butch Peel and Eric Meunier were on the stage, but it was Jack who led the events.

Jack Guarnieri
Jack Guarnieri
Eric Meunier and Butch Peel
Eric Meunier and Butch Peel

Jack talked about a series of pictures from pinball and trade shows around the world where Jack went to promote JJP’s titles and also people enjoying JJP games in various settings.  He then turned to the company’s latest model, Pirates of the Caribbean, explaining why Jack wanted the licence and how pleased he is with the resulting game.

Eric then took to the podium to describe his delight at the way his Pirates of the Caribbean game design has been received.  He let everyone know about the live streaming of their games they are doing at JJP every week, expressing his thanks to everyone who watches and leaves comments.

Jack then answered questions from the audience about future themes, when future games will be announced, why they don’t have video modes (answered by Keith Johnson), and whether the phone-control introduced in Dialed In! will appear in other games.

The final seminar for Friday was at 10pm and by Lloyd Olson, or as he is also known, LTG :-).

Lloyd Olson
Lloyd Olson

Lloyd took questions from the audience about his lengthy career in the coin-op industry and the current state of the business, as well as specific game repair guidance, giving his replies in typical Lloyd-style honesty.

We’ll be back with live updates throughout the day along with recordings of the seminars.

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