PINBALL EXPO '93 (PART 1)
By Russ Jensen
Well, its time to again report on the greatest pinball show of all, Pinball Expo. Pinball Expo '93 was the ninth year of the show and was held this time on September 9 through 12, 1993, again at the Ramada/O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL.
This time I decided to travel to Chicago from nearer-by Hollywood/Burbank Airport instead of Los Angeles International. I had used that airport several months earlier when going to the Arizona Pinball show and found it much more convenient to get to and from; and my daughter could drive me both ways using my car.
The only disadvantage of this plan was that there were no non-stop flights to Chicago. Going I had to change planes in Denver and returning in San Francisco (but more about that later). Well, the flight to Chicago was uneventful and I arrived at the hotel around 2:30 Thursday afternoon. Because the show this year had a four day schedule (Thursday through Sunday), and the pinball plant tour was scheduled for 1 PM Thursday, I had to miss the tour of the new Alvin G. and Co. plant which I really regretted since it's the only plant I have never seen before.
THE ALVIN G. & CO. SOLID-STATE SYSTEM
So, by the time I arrived, it was about time for the "Tour Wrap-up" session (a presentation by the Alvin G. crew) which I attended. Mike Gottlieb, son and partner of company founder Alvin Gottlieb, began the presentation. After remarking that this was the 9th Expo, and telling us that he personally had enjoyed all the shows, he asked the audience for questions.
Someone first asked if Mike had "hunted" for the five pingames he personally owned? Mike said that both Donal Murphy and Steve Young had helped him, adding that his Gottlieb DRAGONETTE had come from Rhode Island.
When asked how many games the company produced per day, Mike replied that they were capable of doing 125, but now are doing anywhere from 5 to 50 depending on orders.
When asked if they could make more than one model at a time, he replied that this was not planned in the near future, adding that the plant had the flexibility of changing over to a different game more easily than the larger manufacturers. Mike then remarked that their "redemption game" (a game where you win tickets rather than free games), PERKY THE CLOWN, was doing well, adding that it only took two and one half months to go through design into production due to it's less complicate "game rules".
When Mike was asked about some unused floor space someone noticed at the plant, he replied that it could be used if they ever decide to increase their production line to produce pins and redemption games at the same time.
Mike was then asked if they had problems setting up world-wide distribution for their games? Mike said that Europe was not easy. He then talked about their requirement that distributors also stock repair parts. Mike then said that the "bottom line" when it came to game maintenance was to "make sure game customers know how to fix their games."
When asked about game software development, Mike said they use the Rockwell 6502 microprocessor, and have their own in-house assembly language operating system, adding that you don't need "486 processor power" for pingames.
Mike was then asked if the company was thinking about entering into areas of the business that other companies don't. He replied "if we do in a year the business Williams does in a week, that's good". He later remarked that they were not trying to be Williams, adding "let them do the fancy stuff; different companies like different types of games".
When asked if their games targeted a particular age group, Mike replied that it's interesting to note that many people of all ages like the simpler games they produce. He was then asked if in 15 or so years would they support collectors? Mike answered "Absolutely!", then telling us that Gottlieb always kept older parts and that they would do the same.
Mike was asked what the company planned for 1994? He replied that they were planning on doing 3 or 4 games each year with production of 2 to 3 thousand units each. He then said their next game would be shown at the next AMOA show, would have "depth", and would not be a "license". That last remark drew a round of applause.
Mike then went on to say that a good game should be made to last, and should be profitable for the operator. As to the future direction of pinball, he said that some manufacturers "back themselves into a corner" making games better and better, therefore having to increase prices too much.
Finally someone remarked that they had noticed improvements in the company's products since their first pin WORLD TOUR, asking Mike if he had sat down with the designers, or something? Mike replied that there always is a stigma attached to a first game, saying it was not that easy to get out.
He then told us that their new game MYSTERY CASTLE was "improved" by eliminating complex things. Mike added that it was conservatively engineered, works good, and was a "fun game".
At that point Mike introduced their head of field service, Ed Smith. Ed began by joking that he had stayed up half the night preparing his "pep talk". He then passed out service manuals to everyone for MYSTERY CASTLE.
Ed told us that he had been in the business for 25 years, but was now with "the Gottlieb family". He said the company had put together a rough and tumble team of industry veterans who really work as a team.
MYSTERY CASTLE, Ed went on, was "the fruit of that team", and it took hard work to improve over their first pin WORLD TOUR. Ed then said he was excited about their games and the company's future.
He then started naming the team. First he mentioned Ray Merchant who he said had programmed about 60 solid-state pins (many for Bally) and also wrote their company's computer Operating System. John Boyleston, he said, worked 14 years at Bally and believes that standardization is a good thing.
Adolph Seitz Jr., Ed went on, started with Gottlieb at the age of 16, adding that his father, Adolph Sr., left Premier to become Alvin G.'s production engineer.
Ed then told us that he used to be known as "fast Eddie". He then gave out their toll-free service number. Ed remarked that it was a privilege to speak to our group - saying that most of his career he communicated mostly by phone or was on the road dealing with industry people and talking only business and "dollars and cents". He said it was a treat to deal with us because we enjoy games and like their features, referring to us as "pin freaks".
At that point Ed introduced their field representative who he said takes about 800 calls a day. He also introduced their parts and sales representative who he said was "always available to us".
Ed then gave some information about MYSTERY CASTLE. He said it's 6502 microprocessor had 64K of RAM, and driver boards supporting 24 coils and 96 switches/lamps. He then told about their sound board which produced 42 watts of digital stereo power. Ed said that Kyle Johnson was their sound designer. He then told of their new dot-matrix display board, which he said had no problems.
Ed also told us that MYSTERY CASTLE had a "straightforward, clean system". He then related a comical story about working on a game on location in a bar when a drunk gave him some problems with his questions.
At that point Ed started describing the game's self-diagnosing features. As part of this he asked a lady from the audience to volunteer to help him demonstrate. When she introduced herself I was surprised to hear that she only lived about 15 miles from me (it surely is "a small pinball world").
Ed had this lady operate the push button controls on the machine to perform various tests, demonstrating how easy it was. The tests performed included such things as testing the lamp matrix, ball trough switches, momentary switches, flasher lamps, solenoids, pop-bumpers, and the sound system.
After that rather long demonstration Ed asked for questions from the audience. The first question asked was if it was advisable to turn the machine on and off often. Ed replied it should be done "as needed", adding that the games do have a "line filter" and a "varistor" which help protect the circuitry from voltage surges and spikes.
Ed was next asked if there were any problems with running two games side by side? He replied there should be no interference if both games are properly grounded using a 3-prong power receptacle. This precipitated a somewhat lengthy discussion of electronic grounding practices.
When there were no more questions Ed said that the session was over, suggesting that we participate in the next event - pinball playing lessons.
At that point many of the show attendees went to the large area where those lessons were being given. The instructors this year (like last year when this idea was first instituted) were all expert tournament players. The lessons this year were very popular, people standing in line to get their instruction.
The Expo seminar program began Friday morning with opening remarks by show producer Rob Berk. Rob began by reminding everyone that this was the 9th Expo. He then welcomed those who were attending for the first time, asking us "old timers" to help them out.
Rob next remarked that the previous day's plant tour was very interesting, adding that maybe there might be some new plants to tour in the future. He then told us that the "Flip-Out" pinball tournament connected with the show would last until Saturday evening.
Rob then told of a change in the Pinball Art seminar - Greg Feres replacing Python Anghelo. After telling us that the pinball movies "Tommy" and "Tilt" would b shown late at night, he then told about the pinball auction scheduled to start Saturday at 10 AM.
The seminars, Rob reminded us, would be all that day, plus one on Saturday at 1:30 PM. He then introduced Mark Pratt from Arizona who would be recording and selling (for $5 each) audio cassettes of the seminars. Rob then introduced his co-producer and Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak who gave out information on the Exhibit Hall hours.
PINBALL CABINET RESTORATION TIPS
The first Expo seminar was a video tape prepared by East Coast collector Bob Jarm. Bob's tape began with a self-introduction, he then saying that Gottlieb's 1952 pin CROSSROADS would be used in his demonstration.
Bob showed that his work area was set up like an auto body shop. He told us that anyone can do cabinet restoration and you don't have to be an artist. Bob then remarked that he is still gaining experience as he goes along.
He next showed the CROSSROADS before the cabinet was painted, remarking that it was often hard to remove the old paint. Bob then showed how the old pattern under the removed paint can be measured to help in the restoration, and that the new pattern can then be laid out, using photos of another game if necessary.
Bob then said you should sand the cabinet to the bare wood using 100 grit sandpaper first, then 120 grit. After that, he went on, you should fill any gouges in the wood with auto body filler or putty. He then showed similar work on the game's head.
After reminding us that the wood rails should be masked first, Bob said to use a primer of grey auto lacquer which you should let set up for one hour. He then showed how he repaired a broken area on the coin door with wood filler and then primered it.
Bob then showed his application of two coats of the base color paint. He then gave more detail on copying the original artwork pattern using either stencils or doing it visually. Bob then reminded us to sand the primer before applying the base coats to get a good adhesion.
Before you do the details of the artwork pattern, Bob reminded us to "think how you want to do it" before you start. He then said that to start the detail you should locate the center of the pattern and use a stencil (or mask) when painting the pattern colors.
Bob then showed how stripes in the pattern are taped off before painting, but untaped before the paint is entirely dry to kill any heavy edges on the border lines. He then showed the cardboard stencil he used, and how he used tape to line it up. Bob then demonstrated how he used a combination of the stencil and fine-line masking tape to create a line going through a circle.
He then showed the completed game ready for display at Pin Fest '93. Bob commented that a good cabinet enhances a game in addition to a good backglass and playfield, adding that a good cabinet makes other flaws not as noticeable. He then remarked that he can live with a fair original cabinet, unless it is really bad.
Bob next made the comment that he had shown us how he did it, adding that someone else might do it differently. He then said you don't have to completely strip a cabinet. Bob told us that his total time to do the cabinet shown was approximately 25 hours.
He then showed the backglass and playfield for the CROSSROADS, remarking that the glass was pretty good and saying he did not touch up the playfield. We were then shown close-ups of the game.
At that point Bob began showing other games he had restored, starting with Gottlieb's KNOCKOUT which had a very good backglass. He then showed shots of his basement game room containing many fine wood-rail pins and pins from the 1960's. The 1960's games he showed included Gottlieb's 1965 classic ICE REVIEW and CROSSTOWN from 1966, remarking that he had used the restoration method he just demonstrated on those games.
Bob then remarked that anything can be restored if you take enough time. When he showed Gottlieb's 1941 pin MIAMI BEACH Bob told us that he had found the original artwork pattern on the old cabinet. He then showed a Gottlieb GIGI which he said had had it's cabinet painted brown when he found it.
Bob next showed pictures of his "60's Room" with 1960's era pins plus a juke box and pool table. Showing his shop again (where a Williams SAN FRANCISCO was being restored) Bob said that 60's machines only take about 20 hours of cabinet restoration, but will last for years if his method is used.
He next talked some more about techniques. Bob said that "thin line" (3/8") masking tape is flexible and easy to use, even for making circular patterns, is faster than using stencils, and can be found at an auto body supply store.
Bob next talked about his playfield restorations, saying there is more than one way to do it. He told of a SEA WOLF he did which had a 6 inch area of bare wood around the kickers. He then remarked that if a field is bad what can you lose by trying to restore it?
Bob then suggested that instead of just touching up a bad area, you should find areas where you can blend new paint with the old. He told us he used enamels with a brush and mixed colors. He then added that you don't have to be fancy and not to worry about outlines which you can do later.
Bob then showed how he blended paint into a bad area, remarking that this is hard to spot afterwards unless a person is really looking for it. He then showed how he added "shadow" with a pen. Bob then remarked that he often does outlines heavier than the originals to cover any slop in his painting, adding that you should let the touch-up set for 2 days before doing the outlines.
Bob said that the field should be finished off with polyurathane, which also can be used to fill in finer depressions. He said two or three coats should be used, sanding the first coat with 600 grit sandpaper. After setting for two days, he said, the field should be waxed.
This type of restoration, Bob went on, is a good way of increasing the value of a game - sometimes making it look close to the original. He said that this is one way of "getting good games from bad ones".
At that point Bob showed more of his restored games. He showed a Gottlieb DAISY MAE which he said originally had "silver dollar sized" bare spots on it's playfield. He then showed a Gottlieb HAPPY DAYS which he said had a bad field (with 2 inch bare spots at the bottom) but had a good backglass and cabinet.
Bob next told us that he sometimes gives advice over the phone. He then said that what he has done has been successful for him. He then told us that his average time for a full restoration is about a month (including drying time, etc.), but that a wood-rail could take a little longer.
As far as shipping games to him for restoration is concerned Bob said he had no good suggestions - especially over long distances. He then remarked that if a person lives in the Northeast he might consider driving to meet them half way. As far as guaranteeing his work is concerned, he said if a person is not happy with it he might consider re-doing it or giving a partial refund.
Bob then said that the worst criticism he remembers is that the restored game "looks too good". He then remarked that he tries to make games look "factory fresh", just like a restored automobile.
Finally, Bob said that he probably could make a game look aged if that's what the customer wants. He then said that if anyone is interested in having him do a game for them they should give him a call.
When the video ended, Rob Berk remarked that he had seen Bob's collection and that it was "hard to match"! He then said that there was an example of Bob's work on display in Steve Young's booth in the Exhibit Hall.
THE EVOLUTION OF PINBALL DESIGN
Rob Berk then started to introduce the next seminar. He began by saying that when he planned the first Expo in 1985 he wanted to get together some great long-time pinball designers, which he did. He said that nine years later they are "living legends".
Rob then introduced long-time designer Wayne Neyens who designed all the Gottlieb games from 1951 through 1967 (at a rate of about one per month). Rob told us that Wayne started with Western Products in the 1930's and ended up at Gottlieb, but in between also worked for awhile at both Chicago Coin and Genco. This drew a round of applause.
The second panelist, Norm Clark, Rob jokingly referred to as "the old man", Norm being by far the youngest. He told us Norm started at Williams in 1954, worked for Bally for awhile, and now has his own business.
Rob then introduced designer Steve Kordek, who he said was 82 years young and had been a pin designer for over 52 years! He had started at Genco, later worked for a short time at Bally, and has been with Williams for many years. Rob then added that the end of Steve's career was "nowhere in sight", which drew a round of applause.
Rob then told us that the subject of the seminar was "the evolution of pingame design". He then asked each panelist to give a brief summary of his experience.
Wayne began by talking of being hired by Western Products while he was still in high school and working with ace designer Lyn Durrant. He said he started out doing drafting but later "did everything".
Wayne told us that at the time there were 5 or 6 designers at Western and each didn't know what the others were doing. He said they sat in cubicles and would sometime peek over at others and copy their work. Wayne then told us that the boss, Jimmy Johnson, would often tell them to quit copying each other.
Wayne said he eventually got to Gottlieb and got to work with the great designer Harry Mabs (the inventor of the flipper) from whom Wayne said he learned a lot. He said that when Mabs left the company to go to work for Williams he "fell into the chief designer's job".
Today, Wayne commented, there are also programmers involved, but in those days the designers had no such help - they had to design their own units and make them work. He then told of a device which he called the "slow drop" which he said was the forerunner of the pinball score motor.
Wayne then told us that the first four-player pin, SUPER JUMBO, which he designed in 1954, was a "take-off" of the shuffle bowling games prevalent at the time. He also told of a six-player game, which he was going to call HIGH BOY, which never got into production.
Wayne ended by mentioning the Add-A-Ball games which were originated at Gottlieb to try and get around legal problems pins were having in some locations.
Norm Clark then began by saying that he was happy to say he was the youngest of the three. He told us that he was an Electrical Engineer who hailed from Canada and got a job in Chicago with the Hallicrafters radio company.
He said that later he was hired at Williams because Harry Williams wanted to incorporate electronics into pingames - but the use of vacuum tubes in pins proved to be prohibitive. So, Norm said, he became a technician at the plant.
Norm said at that time both Harry Williams and Harry Mabs were at Williams. He then told of Harry Williams flying back and forth from California, of Harry Mabs leaving the company, and of Steve Kordek being hired in 1960
In 1961, Norm said, Williams president Sam Stern gave him a shot at game design, his first game being KING PIN in 1962. He then said that he did well in designing, continuing with Williams until 1974, adding that he and Steve Kordek did design, wiring, etc., producing 8 to 10 games per year.
At that point Steve Kordek began with his history. He first said that Norm's KING PIN had the largest run of any game in the 1960's. Steve then said that he helped Harry Mabs before he left Williams and has been with the company for over 30 years.
Going back to his old days at Genco, Steve said that the reason they always used D.C. circuitry in their games was that it was cheaper. He then briefly mentioned the "slow-drop" circuitry Wayne had referred to earlier, and then talked about the use of copper "slugs" in electro-magnet coils to give slower pick-up and drop-out action.
Steve then told about the "roll-down" games Genco made in the late 1940's (such as TOTAL ROLL and ADVANCE ROLL) and told the story of how, when they were short on wood for the cabinets, Howard Hughes flew lumber to them which was left over from his "Spruce Goose" project in California. He said that that was not common knowledge.
Steve next told us that he has had an exciting experience in the pingame industry. He said he started out as a Forrest Ranger, but came to Chicago to try and get a job close to his family. Steve then told how he ducked into Genco's doorway to get out of the rain and ended up getting a job as a solderer. He then said it has been fun ever since and that he has worked with the best designers in the world.
He then started talking about the many phases in the evolution of pinball. Steve said he could even talk about cabinets for weeks, including changes in legs, widths, and lightboxes. Pinball legs, he went on, were originally made from solid Oak or Birch, and Williams once used tubular steel legs.
Steve then told of special cabinets with shelves which did not work because people spilled too much beer on the game. He also talked about changes in coin doors, and how the lightboxes increased in size over the years.
On the subject of playfields, Steve said at first they were entirely mechanical. He then told of Harvey Heiss designing a game for Genco called SPITFIRE in 1935 which had a ramp on it's field, saying that Harry Williams also used a playfield ramp, but not until 1947 or 1948.
After remarking that he thought Dick Bueschel's book, PINBALL 1, was very good, he talked about early electro-mechanical pins using lights for score indication, also mentioning "score inflation" (how scoring units have increased over the years). Steve then said that he wanted to repeat what he has often said, that the greatest advance in the history of pinball was the invention of the flipper by Harry Mabs in 1947 - adding that he learned to appreciate Harry when he worked with him.
Steve then skipped ahead to the era of solid-state pingames for a moment. He said that in the early 1930's people never thought that such things as "carrying over" one player's features on multi-player pins could be possible because of the limitations of electro-mechanical technology. Steve then told us that today's designers are continually coming up with new and different ideas and gimmicks, adding that he would love to be around for awhile longer to see what is coming next.
Going back again to the early days, Steve told about the first use of electric action in Harry Williams' CONTACT in 1934, and the first "pendulum tilt" on Bally's SIGNAL later that year. Steve then mentioned other pioneer pingames such as BALLYHOO by Bally in 1932 named after a magazine, and ROLLS ROYCE (A.M. Waltzer - 1932) which he said "had no royalty".
After mentioning Rockola's mechanical classic, JIGSAW from 1933, Steve said that the first football theme pin was Bally's PENNANT of that same year. He then mentioned Genco's 1934 pin OFFICIAL BASEBALL which he said was copied from Rockola's WORLD SERIES.
Steve next told of the introduction of the bumper to pinball on Bally's 1936 game BUMPER, remarking that those were not "pop bumpers" as we know them today.
Steve said that after that there were many new things added to pingames over the years; such as drop and rotating targets, "horserace games", etc. He ended by remarking "to me, it's the future that counts - the young designers are so capable - we'll just have to wait and see the future".
At that point Rob Berk asked for questions from the audience for the panelists. The first question asked was: In the 1930's and 1940's how were designs laid out? Wayne answered first saying they made sketches first, then a "white-board" mock-up to test the action of the game.
Steve Kordek then remarked that it was exciting to design. In the early 1960's, he told us, they first drew on a board, including new components which a "model maker" would then fabricate. Going back to his early days at Genco, Steve told us that he also did electrical work and prepared wiring diagrams.
After remarking that in the old days one or two people designed the whole game while today they use teams, Steve told us it was unbelievable all the fine people involved in designing pingames today. He then commented that the reason new games cost so much today is that it costs about a million dollars to prepare each new design, compared to about half that five years ago. Because of this, he said, "today the designers better be right!"
The next question asked was what was the difference in designing single and multi-player games? Norm first answered that single players had all the features and multi-players were just "scoring games" with less features. He then remarked that two-player Williams EIGHT BALL in the mid Sixties, however, had a form of "player feature memory" using a split relay bank.
Wayne then commented that different types of games use different concepts. Add-A-Balls, he went on, are even different, adding that players like Add-A-Balls if no replay games are available. He then commented that he had laid out all types of pingames. Steve Kordek then added that after awhile many games were made which could be operated as either replay or Add-A-Ball games depending on a plug adjustment in the backbox.
Rob Berk then asked the panel if there were any wide playfield games in the 1950's or 1960's? The answer given was "no, the company's couldn't afford it". Steve Kordek next remarked that in later years designers made wide-body games every so often.
Steve then commented that most designers would love to make them all 10 feet wide - but there is a limit. He then remarked that he thinks they might go back to a smaller size because wide games cost too much to make.
Rob Berk then asked the panel their reaction to ramps on pingames? Wayne said they were "after my time". Norm then commented that Harry Williams once tried to design a 5-level playfield! Steve then remarked that ramps made games "exciting".
Someone from the audience next asked how much new games cost to buy and to play? Steve said he had the figures. In 1961, he said, Williams' DOUBLE BARREL, cost about $700 to get into production, and contained $174 in parts per machine - the production quantity for the game being 1250 units. SPACE MISSION in 1976, Steve told us, had a production run of around 16,000, sold for around $700, and contained $356 worth of parts.
My friend Sam Harvey then asked who's idea it was to have some Add-A- Ball games with, and some without, replay versions? Wayne answered that Add-A-Balls were required for certain territories, mentioning Texas as an example, adding that Gottlieb also made special games for Italy. He then commented that Add-A-Balls were "a big plus for Gottlieb", telling how Alvin Gottlieb started it all with his 1960 game FLIPPER.
Wayne then told us that he designed many 2-player pins, with 4-player games being just a modification of 2-player designs. Sam then asked if the same designer did all versions (single-player, 2 and 4 player, Add-A-Ball, etc.) of a game? Wayne answered "yes I did". Norm Clark then told about some territories where you could not even have the "cut-out" where replays are shown on a game.
Gottlieb collector Gordon Hasse from New York then asked how in the 1950's Gottlieb was able to produce 12 or 13 new pins each year? Wayne answered that games were much simpler then, adding that one model often grew out of the previous one with little modifications. He then told us that they had to do it to keep the factory workers employed because they "depended on you".
Norm then remarked that when he started at Williams a production run of 300 for a game was considered good. He said they often made corrections to a game right on the assembly line, adding that sometimes they had to lay off production workers between games.
At that point a player from the audience said that when pingames went from 5 ball to 3 ball play he felt betrayed; asking the panel why they went to 3 ball games? Steve commented that whether you have 1, 3, 5, or 10 balls, playing time for a game should be all that is important. Today, he went on, some games will return for replay any ball which does not score.
Someone then asked the panel if they would encourage people to become designers? Steve replied that he receives from 3 to 6 letters a week from would-be designers, remarking "every player thinks he is a designer". He went on to say that it's hard to encourage someone to go right into design, believing they should get into the industry at a lower level (as a technician, for example) first.
Steve next told of getting a letter from an eight year old containing a proposed design and including the name of his lawyer. Rob Berk then mentioned a story Norm Clark once told about getting a letter containing a design which included a bag of beans from a man in an insane asylum.
Steve then told us that it was nice to see so many young people in attendance, giving credit to Rob Berk. This drew a round of applause.
The next question asked was what type of batteries were used in pingames in the 1930's? Steve answered that they were "C batteries" which measured 3 by 9 inches. He then remarked that they lasted a long time because they didn't have to do much, just light a few lights and maybe power one kicker.
Wayne then commented that if the batteries were not changed often enough they would leak acid making the cabinets a mess. He then remarked that operators in those days were afraid of using A.C. power. Steve then commented that many location owners did not like the power cords running across the floor of their establishments fearing a customer might trip over it and sue.
Someone then asked the panel members what their favorite games were - both their own and their competitors? Wayne was first to answer saying QUEEN OF HEARTS, adding that maybe it should by SLICK CHICK. He then said that he liked most of the Add-A-Balls, then mentioning a game called TEXAS GAUCHO (which I have never heard of).
Norm said his favorites of his designs were Williams' KING PINS (1962) and EIGHT BALL (1967). As far as other's work was concerned he mentioned Wayne's QUEEN OF HEARTS and Steve's SPACE MISSION.
Steve said he was partial to Norm's 1966 design for Williams, A-GO-GO, which he said had a large production run of 5100 games. Of his own games, he quipped "the last one is always the best". As far as other companies' games were concerned, Steve said that Gottlieb's first flipper game HUMPTY DUMPTY was worthy of mention.
Someone then asked what the work weeks were like in the 1930's and 1940's? Wayne answered that they usually worked 8 to 5 and Saturdays, saying they had "good work habits". He said that since they had no association with their competitors the Gottlieb employees had Dave Gottlieb's work habits.
Norm said in the early days he worked many hours, once working from midnight until 7 AM, and also on Saturdays. Steve then told us that people worked any time they had to in the Thirties.
The last question asked of the panel was regarding "accommodations" for games sent to Canada? Steve said he couldn't remember any. Norm then commented that he remembered changing some names to French. Finally Wayne made a comment regarding how they had to be careful when exporting games that the names didn't have a bad connotation in that country's language. That ended the designers panel.
After some props were brought up on stage, Rob Berk introduced the next speaker, pinball artist Greg Feres, who was to replace the originally scheduled artist Python Anghelo. Rob then said that Greg started at Bally in 1978 and had such game artwork to his credit as HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS, ELVIRA, FATHOM, and DR. DUDE.
Greg began by giving 10 reasons (David Letterman style) why he was there and Python was not, ending with Number '1' - "I hate my job and will do anything to get out of the office". He then asked for questions from the audience.
Gordon Hasse first asked "what do today's artists see as their mission? Greg answered "to put out the greatest possible art to attract players - either from across the street or 6 inches away".
When next asked about artists conforming to "aesthetic principles", Greg replied that lots of people review their work, especially where licenses are involved. He said they also work closely with others on the design team, adding that the company also directs what they do in their art.
Greg was then asked in the case of licensed games if they had a sense of who their target audience was? He replied that we like to think we do. He then added that he hoped their games appeal to ages from 12 to 50 or 60, because they try to keep their themes universally appealing.
Someone then asked how the team that designed Bally's 1990 game DR. DUDE was assembled? Greg replied that when the theme of the game was first presented to management they only got "blank stares" - Steve Kordek just shaking his head. He then said that after ELVIRA was put out they were told they could go ahead with DR. DUDE.
Greg then told us that he did his own cartoon figure for the game which he wanted to capture the older player market. He said he wanted everybody to know who Dr. Dude was when he was finished.
At that point Rob Berk asked if artwork is ever stolen from a game as sometimes happened with playfield layouts? Greg answered that it might have happened in the old days, but not now.
Steve Kordek then asked Greg to explain how the licensing company got involved with the art? Greg first quipped "they get in our way", then telling us that they have to be shown each step in the artwork development by being given sketches. He then remarked that some companies are better than others to deal with - even sometimes helping to refine the artwork.
Rob Berk next asked Greg what he thought of the pinball art of the 30's, 40's and 50's? Greg answered that he was born in 1954 but has seen some of it in books. He said he thinks it was good for it's time and reflected the "pop culture" of the period just as pin art continues to do today.
After mentioning a young man from Ohio State (Chad Dresbach) who is doing a Master's Thesis on pinball art and design, someone from the audience asked Greg how involved the artists are with the actual layout of the games?
Greg replied that he is involved almost all the time - sometimes even being involved with component placement on the playfield. He then remarked that the longer you work in the industry the more suggestions you can make to the game designers. He then added that 3-dimensional objects on the field are becoming more important.
When asked about the possibility of licensing Disney properties, Greg replied probably not since that would involve much money. When next asked if he had met Elvira while doing that game, Greg said he spent 3 months with her pictures in his office. He then told us he met her once at a trade show, that she was fun to work with, was "down to earth", and has a nice personality.
Greg was next asked if there were any non-licensed games coming - he answered "maybe". When Rob Berk asked what hours he works, Greg first jokingly replied "10:30 to 1:30 with an hour lunch". He then said it was more like 6 AM to 8:30 PM, which he said was also a lie.
The next question asked was did he know of any instances of humor in pinball art? Greg replied, "yes", telling of showing broken bones on the ELVIRA backglass after fellow Williamsite Dennis Nordman got into a motorcycle accident, adding that with licensed games it was hard to get by with such a thing.
Greg was next asked if he ever did any calligraphy on games? He answered that ex-Bally artist Dave Christiansen was a master at that, but that he did not do it, saying that they spend their time on the art, letting computers take care of lettering, which he said eliminates the chance of "typos".
Someone next asked if censorship was the reason sensual themes in pinball art seem to be decreasing? Greg answered that licensing has had something to do with it, adding that they are trying to produce more family oriented games to attract the "family crowd". He then said that a decal could be provided for locations to put over Elvira's cleavage if desired.
When asked who owned the "original art" for a game, Greg replied that that was a subject he'd rather not discuss. Jim Schelberg spoke up commenting that the company retains some rights and the artist others.
Greg was next asked how the "plastics" were created which were often given away at shows and with pinball magazines? He said they were done especially for pin magazine publisher Jim Schelberg. That drew a round of applause.
He went on to say that these "giveaways" were produced when there is extra room on a sheet of playfield plastics and that their Marketing Director Roger Sharpe also uses them in promotional mailers - calling them "a fun thing".
When asked about his personal favorite game art, Greg replied ELVIRA, DR. DUDE, and PARTY ZONE as far as his own work was concerned. As far as other artist's work he named Kevin O'Connor's SILVER BALL MANIA, and Dave Christiansen's WIZARD and CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, the latter being his all-time favorite.
Someone next asked if they ever considered doing some games for a strictly family audience for use in churches, social clubs, or homes? Greg answered "no", saying they try to market games to as wide a variety of groups as possible. He then remarked that if you target one group you tend to lose another so they try to keep a broad appeal for their products.
Greg was next asked if he used "magic markers" or paint when he did Bally's 1978 game HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS? He replied he did paintings, using an air-brush with acrylic paints, which he referred to as "mixed media".
Rob Berk then asked what steps are involved in producing pingame art? For backglasses, Greg replied, you do a painting which is converted to the production screens using what is known as the "4-color process".
With the playfield, Greg went on, it is very important you work with the team. The artist first does pencil sketches, then ink. It then goes to the "color separator" (such as Margaret Hudson) who does the screen cuttings used to print the artwork on the field.
Sam Harvey next asked if the game artist is responsible for all the art in a game (backglass, playfield, cabinet, etc.)? Greg answered that most of the time this is true. Occasionally, he went on, the job may be broken up between two or more artists.
The last question asked had to do with possible changes in the artwork after the prototype is built? Greg answered that sometimes minor changes in the art are made due to late design changes. Finally Greg commented that earlier pin artist Gordon Morrison had a great influence on his work.
56 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO FIX YOUR PINBALL MACHINE
Next on the seminar schedule was Expo regular Tim Arnold (now of Las Vegas) with a presentation he called "56 Things You Need To Know to Fix Your Pinball Machine". If this sounds vaguely familiar to some of you readers it's because Tim's presentation at the previous year's show was called "34 Things Not To Do To A Pinball Machine".
Also this year, as last year, the number of items in Tim's title did not agree with the actual number presented - this time he actually spoke of 42 items. In addition to the title of the talks being similar, most of the items discussed were the same as presented last year. So, not to repeat myself, I will only tell here of the new topics which Tim presented this time, plus additional information and answers to questions provided by him.
Rob Berk introduced Tim, saying that he lived most of his life in Michigan but moved to Las Vegas a few years ago. He then told of Tim's pingame collection which Rob said consisted of some 800 games!
Tim next passed out his hand-outs itemizing his 42 items. He then gave out his phone number, inviting people to call him with questions. Tim then told us that this year's presentation would be "an enlargement of last year's".
The first 17 items Tim presented were repeats from the previous year. Item '18' consisted of recommending that we tape an extra front door key to the bottom of our games.
After many more "repeats", Item '30' was a discussion about removing wire from a pinball coil to give it more "kicking power".
The last two items on Tim's list this year also presented new information. The first of these involved solid-state games only - advising that when replacing diodes you should use one with a higher "Peak Inverse Voltage" (PIV). The last item was a suggestion to "rotate" (turn over) parts used in electro-mechanical game chime units in order to make them last longer. That ended the items in Tim's handout.
At that point Tim started giving us information regarding the part numbering systems used by pingame manufacturers. He told us that a letter contained in a part number usually only denoted the size of the mechanical drawing the part was depicted on.
He then gave out more information regarding both Gottlieb and Williams part numbering systems. This included the information that coil part numbers many times include "wire gauge" information as well as the number of turns of wire on the coil.
Tim next briefly discussed ball sizes, leg bolts, game locks and "E- clips". He then advised that if you are buying a replacement line cord for a game that you purchase an "injection molded" type.
After brief discussions of set screws sizes and wire gauges (sizes), Tim asked for questions from the audience.
The first question asked was how to remove playfield posts if their oval headed mounting screws snap off? Tim answered that you should go up from the bottom of the field with a low speed hand drill, or gouge the wood on the bottom and pull the screws out.
The second question asked of Tim was what to use to remove corrosion from pinball connectors? Tim first suggested replacing them with new ones. He then said that you could use a product called "Scotch Brite" to clean them. Tim then added that he has plenty of spare connectors which he can supply on request.
At that point Tim began a lengthy discussion of treating backglasses. He began by remarking that "nobody knows how what they do to a backglass today will affect it in 50 years".
Tim next told us that the biggest enemies to paint are heat and humidity (especially large changes in them). He went on to say that the game manufacturers didn't make their glasses to last for a long time, they not being made with much care. He then told us that he once heard that Bally used a better quality ink on their glasses in the 1970's
At that point Tim began describing various alternatives which might be used to aid ailing backglasses. He first said you could "pour something over it", such as Steve Young's product Cover Your Glass.
If you decide to do this, Tim went on, you first must make sure the glass' surface is perfectly level - saying you can roll a ball on it to test it. Next he advised us to not shake the can before using.
After advising us to clean the clear areas of the glass (such as score reel openings) before applying the liquid, Tim said that the can's contents should be poured onto the glass in both directions. He then said you should make sure there are no air cross-currents in your working area and warned that a person should avoid breathing the fumes.
Tim next told us that you should allow at least one month total drying time, but that you could move the glass (carrying it horizontally) after about 24 hours. He then advised us not to let the Cover Your Glass get below freezing.
As an alternate to using that product on a backglass, especially one on which the paint is badly damaged, Tim suggested putting a plastic sheet over the painted side. He told of a product called "Suprofilm", which was like playfield mylar, and was available through the Sun Process outfit in Chicago which makes backglasses for the industry.
The final alternative Tim mentioned was to cover the glass with Scotch Magic Transparent Tape. He then commented that he doesn't believe in touching up backglass paint or playfields. Tim then said, however, that he is considering redoing some repainted game cabinets.
At that point there was a final question for Tim from the audience, someone asking his advice on adjusting pingame switch contacts. Tim first stated that contact points on electro-mechanical games were usually made from sliver or silver alloy, while solid-state game contacts are either gold or silver plated.
For solid-state contacts Tim first warned us never to file them, but to clean them with either cloth or paper, reminding us that after awhile plating can rub off and the contacts should either be rotated or replaced. Flipper buttons, Tim went on, on all games are made with the same materials as used in electro-mechanical game contacts.
Before the seminar ended two additional comments were made. One person commented that he had used Cover Your Glass many times and is now using the new Cover Your Glass Lite. Premier designer Jon Norris then commented that their company is replacing mechanical switch contacts with solid-state "piezo-electric" switches.
THE FABULOUS PINBALL GAME SHOW
Next on the agenda was a fun thing touted as "The Fabulous Pinball Game Show". Rob Berk introduced the show's host, Los Angeles dealer/collector Herb Silvers, telling of his numerous magazine articles, his gameroom fixtures store, and of Herb's plans to possibly put on his own pinball show.
Herb then handed out tickets to everyone in the audience. He then introduced his co-host, my old friend Sam Harvey. We were then told how the game worked.
The contestants for the show would be chosen by drawing numbers using the tickets we were given. The contestants would be asked a question regarding flipper pinball machines. All who give a correct answer would be moved to the next round; the others being eliminated.
When there were only four contestants left there would be a "play- off". The prizes for the game, we were told, consisted of T-shirts for 3rd and 4th Place, a reproduction 1957 baseball game backglass for 2nd Place, the First Place winner receiving a trophy and a reproduction Gottlieb KING OF DIAMONDS backglass.
Before starting the game, Sam Harvey told us how the idea for the game originated. He said when a group of Southern California pin enthusiasts (including himself and Herb) were driving to Sacramento to attend an annual pinball show called the "Pinathon", they asked pinball questions of each other to pass the time. This gave them the idea to put on this Expo event.
After the original eight contestants were picked by drawing ticket numbers, the first question was asked. It was "name one of the eight pingames to have a revolving spinning disk on it's playfield? Correct answers given included: Williams WHIRLWIND (1990), Bally FIREBALL (1972), Data East TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1993), Alvin G. and Co. WORLD TOUR (1992), Bally FIREBALL CLASSIC (1982), Chicago Coin CASINO (1972), and Bally TWIN WIN (1974). Several contestants were eliminated.
The second question was "name one of 22 pingames which share a name with a 'video cousin'"? Answers given included: JOUST, SPACE INVADERS, NINJA TURTLES, KRULL, STREET FIGHTER, MR. AND MRS. PACMAN, SPY HUNTER, TERMINATOR 2, ROBO COP, SUPERMAN, TEE'D OFF and STAR TREK. After that round 5 players were left standing.
The third question was to name one of the 9 pingames which had "3-ball multi-ball" capability? Correct answers given included the late model pins: TWILIGHT ZONE, CENTAUR, JURASSIC PARK, INDIANA JONES, and SPRING BREAK. One more contestant was eliminated.
After two more correct answers (F-14 TOMCAT and STRANGE SCIENCE) three contestants remained. The next question "name 8 pins with a 'roulette wheel' on the playfield?", eliminated one more person after correct answers of Bally games MONTE CARLO (1972) and SPEAKEASY (1982).
The final question, which sorted out the Second Place and Grand Prize winner, was "name one of the 6 pingames with a 'bagatelle' game in it's backbox?" After three correct answers (Williams BIG GUNS - 1987, APOLLO - 1967, and Stern CATACOMB - 1981) an incorrect answer decided the First Place winner.
After awarding the regular prizes, an extra question was asked of the people in the audience to give away some T-shirts; "what was the first 'automatic ball return' pingame by the three major manufacturers of the 1960's?" The correct answers were: Bally GRAND TOUR (1964), Williams ALPINE CLUB (1965), and Gottlieb DANCING LADY (1966). That ended the game.
THE MAKING OF TWILIGHT ZONE
For the next seminar Rob Berk introduced the head of the Williams design team for their current hit pingame TWILIGHT ZONE, Pat Lawlor.
Pat began by telling us that we were going to have a lot of fun with his presentation, adding that he hoped to impart to us knowledge of what they do when designing a new game. He then introduced programmer Ted Estes who he said, along with Larry DeMar, programmed TWILIGHT ZONE.
After introducing mechanical engineer John Crutch, which drew a round of applause, Pat introduced artist John Youssi who he said did the artwork for the backglass, playfield, and cabinet. John then received a round of applause.
Pat then began praising Williams' Director of Marketing, long-time pinball fan and author Roger Sharpe. Pat told us they were lucky to have Roger because up until three years ago they had no "licensed games".
Roger began his marketing efforts, Pat went on, and before long "the world wanted to see in pingames names they recognized". Pat then asked the questions "why licenses? - what do they do?". First, he said, games should make money for operators and distributors so they will want to buy and handle them. As far as the players are concerned, he continued, licenses give them something they recognize to get them to try the game.
Roger, Pat told us, acquires a license when a designer has an idea for a new game, making phone contacts to try to get it. Pat then said that he considers Roger an integral part of the design team, saying that without him they couldn't compete in the marketplace.
After telling us that two of his team members were not there - sound designer Chris Granner and programmer Larry DeMar - Pat continued telling why licenses are good. First, he told us, Williams employs 1700 people who "all like to eat".
As to why they did TWILIGHT ZONE, Pat first said that in this country (and many foreign countries as well) the TV show is still in re-runs. Secondly, he went on, the theme cuts across age lines because even young kids see Twilight Zone on cable. Also, he added, people remember the show's episodes.
Pat then told us that after Roger acquired the license he started to sketch the playfield, assisted by reference material obtained from the Licensor, Viacom. He also said they got information from the book "Twilight Zone Companion" which provides synopses of all the show's episodes. Pat then told us that they also had to license Rod Serling's likeness from his wife Carol.
At that point Roger Sharpe told a story regarding his dealings with Carol Serling. He said when he first talked to her about using Rod's likeness on a pingame she was hesitant because she had always thought of pins as having a "sensual tone" - which would not be "faithful to Rod's memory". Roger said that he had artist John Youssi make her a sketch to try and give her a sense of what they were planning to do with the game. After that, Roger told us, Mrs. Serling was more positive about the project.
Pat then continued talking about the TWILIGHT ZONE design. He said that after he finished his preliminary sketches for the field he went to mechanical engineer John Crutch regarding the design of the gumball machine to be used on the playfield. He told us that there was never such an item on a Twilight Zone episode, but the show dealt with "everyday things taking on a different meaning", so he thought the machine could fit that idea.
Pat also told us that John Crutch designed the "optical clock" used on the field. John then spoke up remarking that Pat always comes to him asking about special devices for his games, and he keeps telling Pat to "go away". After a few weeks however, John continued, he will come to Pat with the finished design.
We were then shown the "optical clock", Pat telling us that a lot of time goes into producing such an item which has to be "injection molded". The first prototype, he added, must be hand make and evaluated before molds are produced.
Pat next said that he was very proud of TWILIGHT ZONE and the work of his team, adding that it had more patentable devices on it than any previous Williams game. He then began discussing the cost of producing the game. We were told that by the time the first machine was produced the company had spent over one million dollars, not including the cost of the license. Pat said that their patents are to try and protect that investment.
Pat next told us that there is also a limit on the cost of the materials used in a game, saying that for TWILIGHT ZONE at least one item had to be eliminated due to it's cost. Continuing with pricing, Pat told us that the prices of materials and labor in pingame manufacturing keep going up and that this makes it difficult for the companies to "hold the price line".
At that point Pat told us an amusing story about the first TWILIGHT ZONE going into a test location. He said a kid put in his money, started to play the game, and the gumball machine gave him the special "white ball" (a special light weight ball which moves at a higher speed). Pat told us that the kid exclaimed "get this thing away from me - I hate it!" Pat then said that on their second test location try things were not much better.
A comment from the audience then promoted a brief discussion of the "break-even point" in pingame manufacturing. Pat commented that hopefully they will "hit a home run" once or twice a year.
At that point Pat asked programmer Ted Estes to talk about software. Ted began by remarking that it takes a lot of work to make a new game come together. He said the designer puts a lot of things in the game and the software people have to implement the "rules" to make them work, saying it was always a "trial and error" process.
Ted then said that the rules for "multi-ball play" usually end up being about a "4th incarnation". He then commented that the process of "balancing a game out" is always an iterative process. Ted then added that they also had to program the new "dot-matrix display" on the backboard to produce pictures and flashing lights.
After that Pat remarked that they have to make games attractive to a "new generation of people". Ted then told us that they were lucky to have two great dot-matrix "artists". He then added that the video effects have to be synchronized with other play features of the game.
Pat next commented that their games actually contain "games within games", saying that these have to be "seamless" which is very time consuming for the programmers. Ted then remarked that even though it takes many, many hours to program a new game it is still a "fun process".
At that point Pat showed a series of slides showing various steps in the production of TWILIGHT ZONE. These were essentially the same slides he had shown us during his banquet speech at the Arizona Pinball Show earlier in the year.
Next to speak was artist John Youssi who did the artwork for the game. After showing us his work John commented that his work on TWILIGHT ZONE went smoothly for him. He then told us that Rod Serling's wife didn't want her husband to be depicted holding a cigarette.
John then told us that the backglass was easy to do, but he had to do several designs for the cabinet art. When he showed his sketches to Pat, John said, Pat decided he wanted him to combine parts of each in the final design, which he did.
On the cabinet, John continued, you are limited to five colors. He then showed us a pencil drawing of the backglass. Pat's idea for the backglass, John told us, was to show Rod Serling in a curio shop containing items from various Twilight Zone episodes.
John then showed mylars of the playfield layout, then his second drawing for the field, followed by the final "sepia" print. After Pat remarked that there are "many iterations for this type of thing", John ended up by showing us his original painting for the backglass.
At that point questions were solicited from the audience. The first question asked was "who owns the original art?" John answered "the company."
When it was then asked who did Rod Serling's voice on the game?, Pat answered that it was a "professional 'sound alike'". He then added that they had to 'tweak' the voice a lot to make it sound like it came from a 1960's TV speaker.
When asked about how the production figures for TWILIGHT ZONE compared with their previous hit game ADDAMS FAMILY?, Pat said that ADDAMS FAMILY had a run of over 20,000, and that TWILIGHT ZONE was "the 7th or 8th best selling pingame of all times".
It was then asked how much time generally elapsed between the formation of the concept for a new game and it's first location test? Pat answered approximately 14 months.
Someone then asked where the idea for the "power" and "spiral" used on the game came from? Pat answered that the spiral was from the beginning of the TV show and the "power" was his own "hidden agenda".
The final question was "how was it decided, after the bad first location test described earlier, to still leave the "power ball" in the game? Pat answered that they made changes so players would know what to do with the white power ball. That ended the presentation.
HOW TO MARKET USED GAMES TO THE PUBLIC
Rob Berk next introduced Todd Tuckey from Pennsylvania who was going to tell us how we can make extra money selling used pingames. Todd was the owner of "T and T Amusements" in Philadelphia.
Todd began by naming 2 pins which would sell for over $3,000. He then remarked that older solid-state games are now decreasing in price, but still can be sold for around $600 in good condition. He then told us that his seminar would deal with selling games to the public. Selling to the public, he went on, can benefit collecting in three ways.
First, Todd told us, it gets more people interested in playing pinball. Secondly, he went on, it enables collectors to make extra cash. Finally, he said it helps the resale value of the games in your collection to remain high or increase.
Todd next remarked that there is always a wholesale market for games, such as the Expo. He said he also sells games to other dealers at lower prices. He then passed out to us a hand-out giving guidelines for operating a retail games selling business.
At that point Todd began telling his own personal history. He began by telling us that in the early 1970's he bought a used pingame for home use, which he later put on location at his uncle's summer camp. After it started making money for him he said he added others.
In 1979, Todd went on, he bought a video game which he put on location and made some pretty good money. He said he bought his first new pingame shortly afterward, a Williams TRI-ZONE for $1395.
Todd then told us that he operated pins at Temple University and had an outside route on the side. He said one of the professors wanted to go into partnership with him; which he did. Todd said that they did well at first and eventually had 300 games (both pins and videos) in some 45 locations. In 1984, he told us, the business "died" and they were getting desperate.
In September 1984, Todd went on, while looking at their old videos, they decided to try and sell to the public. They set some games in front of the house with a sign reading "$100 AND UP". He said they sold many the first few days.
Todd then told us that he had no complaints when he sold older videos for $100 each. He told us that they sold one-third of the equipment from their route that weren't making money for them.
After that, Todd told us, they rented a warehouse with a showroom for public sales in which they would put up about 30 games at one time. In 1987, he continued, they moved to a larger location with 5,000 square feet of area in two buildings which they had filled with games.
At that point Todd started going through the points in the hand-out he had previously given us. First, he told us, you should give your business a good name. Next, Todd went on, you need a showroom in a central location. You should avoiding main roads, he added, but your location should not be hard to find and should be in a safe neighborhood.
Todd next suggested laying out your showroom like an arcade and also thinking about future expansion. He next suggested that your business hours be easy to remember and that you be open four or five days a week (or 6 with extra help).
It was next suggested that you have an alternate use for your showroom, such as renting it out for private parties. In that connection Todd suggested that you have a separate "food room" where food could be served at parties.
Todd then remarked that often games are sold as the result of these parties. He said he has rented to many adult parties and that this extra cash sure helps, especially when game sales are down.
Todd next broached the subject of advertising. First he said, "word of mouth" usually provides some potential customers. He next suggested advertising in the Yellow Pages under "Amusement Devices", or possibly "Vending". Todd suggested large ads, which usually cost about $35 per month per book. After remarking that color ads don't pay, he suggested having a live person to answer your phone.
As far as newspaper classifieds were concerned, Todd recommended once- a-week ads saying something like "Pinballs, Videos, Jukeboxes For Sale - Call For Free Catalog". He then added that you might want to also say "We Buy Old Pinballs" in your ad.
Todd next talked about selling games at shows. He suggested that you get a good cam-corder and make a video to display at your booth. He then showed a video he had made showing how they recondition their games before selling them.
The game used in the video was Gottlieb's early solid-state pin JOKER POKER. It first showed that game being checked inside, illustrating problems that were discovered. It was then shown how circuit boards were removed and their contact pins cleaned and the batteries replaced.
Following that the video showed the game's rubber rings and balls being replaced and the cleaning of the stainless steel front door and legs. The use of a "check list" for making sure everything was done was illustrated.
After showing that the game was checked to see if it had a good instruction card, the video ended showing the cleaning of the playfield glass, followed by a final check-out of the game.
As for the types of shows games could be sold at, Todd suggested Mall shows, Computer Shows, Collectables Shows, and of course Pinball and Jukebox Shows. He then added that sometimes you have to cut prices when selling at a show.
Todd next talked about the use of advertising brochures. He began by saying that a good brochure, containing good color photos, helps to establish your credibility.
Todd then told us that an 8 page color brochure costs about 21 cents per copy to print. He said they should either be mailed out free to potential customers, or possibly you could ask for stamps. As far as including a price list, he told us this could often work against you.
The use of a computer to maintain files was next discussed, Todd suggesting that it be used to maintain business files, including a list of customers. He said you should maintain a record of game sales versus customer to be used to promote "follow-up sales".
After telling us that a computer program to do this should cost about $250, Todd said sales records could be used if you want to buy back a game you once sold if someone else wants it, or to offer a trade-in on a new game. He then remarked that a Roll-A-Dex file can also be used for a "quick response", especially for customers who frequently "trade up" to later games.
If you send out catalogs, Todd told us, you should send them out once a year. He then suggested that they be sent to people who have previously purchased a game and to those who ask for one.
Todd then suggested sending post cards to people who haven't bought a new game for awhile. He said you could possibly offer a free video game with the purchase of a pingame, adding you can give away videos that are not selling this way.
For old customers, Todd went on, you could offer 75 percent of the original purchase price to trade in a previously purchased game for a new one. He said this brings in quick cash plus the old game for resale. He then suggested sending post cards to old customers offering a "tune-up" for their game for 75 to 100 dollars.
Todd next commented on TV advertising. As far as producing a TV ad, he said that your local station can tell you who produces local commercials. Todd told us it would possibly cost about $3,000 to produce a commercial. Cable TV channels, he went on, are usually fairly cheap to advertise on - some charging as little as $10 for late night commercials.
Todd then played examples of his commercials, including one for his party rentals. He then told us that for $500 he bought a "news spot" at 6 PM. He also told of in 1981 having a "feature story" about his business which showed for 2 minutes on the 11 O-clock News.
Todd told us that that brought in many customers, and that some people still remember it today. He then said that you can put on a 15 to 30 minute "info-mercial" to run six times a day for about $150.
Todd's next topic was rebuilding and reconditioning of games. He said you should make sure a game is 100 percent working before trying to sell it. He then remarked that some games you buy can't be sold, these being delegated as "parts games".
Todd next presented a list of what should be checked on each game. First, he said, is the head and cabinet which should be repainted or touched-up if necessary. He then remarked that "Bond-O" can be used for cabinet repairing, adding that he will never paint a cabinet a "custom color".
Next, Todd went on, are the playfields, which, after being touched up if necessary, should be mylar sealed. Todd then remarked that sometimes you have to combine two games to get one good one. He said you should always ask yourself: "would you sell this game to your mom?"
Todd next told us that he puts a sticker on all games he has sold. He then remarked that he always makes copies of a game's original instruction cards to put on it, keeping the original. He then said that he "play tests" all games before he sells them, remarking that he almost always finds something bad.
The final subject of Todd's presentation was that of service and warranties. He began by telling us that the customer always asks about service. Todd told us that he normally gives a "30 day warrantee" and offers an extended (2 year) warrantee for approximately $150 for his home customers.
Todd went on to say that his warranties did not cover "acts of God" (such as lightning) or broken glass - something like a homeowners policy. At the end of the second year, he told us, he usually offers a trade-in plus a 2 year warrantee on the new game.
Todd then commented that he also offers a "circuit board exchange" service for solid-state games where a customer could trade his bad logic board for a good one for $75, which he said seldom happens. Todd ended by telling us that you should always "service what you sell", provide timely service calls, and employ competent service people.
Finally he asked if we had any questions? The only question asked was if he gave his customers the keys to their games? Todd answered "no", but said he will provide a lock for $5. That ended Todd's presentation.
DESIGN A PINBALL MACHINE
As has happened at the past several Expos, the next thing on the program was the do-it-yourself pingame design session. Rob Berk introduced this year's host, Data East chief designer Joe Kaminkow.
Joe began by telling us that this year's design session would be a little different than in previous years, saying it would give us a feel for the "creative design environment". He then said we would be trying to design a pingame which would be marketable today.
Joe then told of Data East producing a special pingame for TV producer Aaron Spelling's wife to give to her husband for his birthday. This game we were told cost $100,000. He then showed an 8 minute video, provided in part by the Spellings, showing comical "out takes" from the Love Boat TV show and from Tales From The Crypt (the theme of a future Data East game). It was quite entertaining.
At that point Joe passed out candies, which he called "fire balls", to the audience. He then remarked that they were what he called "designer foods" which he said also included fast food chicken, pretzels, pizza, and Chinese take out. He said the boys at Data East ate much of that kind of food during the long hours it took to design their hit pingame JURASSIC PARK.
On the subject of design, Joe told us that there was no such thing as a bad idea. He then commented that you can never say something can't be done, adding, "look at putting a man on the moon!"
Joe then told us that games must satisfy many levels of players; appealing to the general population, if possible. He then remarked that in game design a "straight edge" is an important tool, being used to judge certain shots.
At that point the "audience participation design" began. Joe had people from the audience suggest themes for the proposed game and then vote on them. The winning theme turned out to be "Joey Buttafuco". The closest runners-up included: cows (oh yeah!), The Titanic, crash dummies, and Space Balls.
We were next asked to choose a "gadget" (or gimmick) for our game. The winner was a "revolver". Other suggested gadgets included: body shop, talk show set, gavel, and a TV monitor.
When we then voted to have four "thumper bumpers" on the game, Joe remarked that the best action in a pingame is "pop-bumper to rubber". We then voted on the number of balls in the "multi-ball feature". Three were chosen, representing Joey, Amy, and Mary Jo.
Joe next said that we had to choose our game's "rules and special features". It was first decided to load the "revolver" (a "six-shooter") with three balls. Next it was decided to use targets to represent "evidence" in the trial, the first ball being able to "enhance the evidence" by hitting a certain target.
An idea was next presented to allow the player to select "who he is" (Joey, Amy, or Mary Jo) at the start of the game. After that Joe passed out some more "designer food", this time it was pretzels.
At that point Joe called up an artist from the audience to sketch the backglass for the game, remarking "at Data East everybody works on a project". He then put up a large pad on an easel for the playfield sketch, bringing up people from the audience to draw various items on it.
It was then decided that the game would have four flippers; they were then drawn on the sketch. Four lanes were next drawn at the top of the field, labeled "B-U-T-T". The three pop-bumpers (representing Joey, Amy, and Mary Jo) were also added to the playfield drawing.
After adding the gun (with bullets) to the field sketch, ramps were shown. Pingame Journal publisher Jim Schelberg then drew in the target banks. The finished playfield drawing was then displayed, as well as the great backglass drawing done by the artist from the audience, which received a hugh round of applause.
Joe next showed a short promotional video for the current Broadway hit musical "Tommy", the famous pin-related production. After that Joe made the statement "remember - all designers in the past thought each game they did was the hardest thing they ever did."
Joe finished the session with a couple final comments. He told us that there have been big changes at Data East since their inception in 1986. Every designer, he finally commented, puts his heart and soul into his games.
Well, that's all for this time. In the next issue I'll finish my coverage of Pinball Expo '93, including the last lengthy seminar "Pinball History, Art, and Technology", and coverage of the coin machine auction, the banquet, and the great exhibit hall (including a list of all the pingames there) - so stay tuned!
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