UK Pinfest 2018 report
Posted on August 28, 2018
Daventry, in the UK Midlands, used to be the home of the annual UK Pinball Party up to two years ago. This year, Philip Murphy initiated a new pinball show in the same venue that hosted the previous event. The hotel had changed ownership again, and had seen some improvements, but was otherwise still very familiar.
The first edition of the UK Pinfest started Friday evening, August 24, with a VIP session. This session was only accessible for those who bought a VIP package. The setup of the show was similar to the UK Pinball Party: most of the pinball games were set up in several rows in one of the conference rooms in the hotel. This year’s edition had a row of the newest games from Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, Spooky Pinball, American Pinball, UK’s own Team Pinball and China-based Homepin. For many attending the show, it may have been their first chance to play games like Iron Maiden, Houdini, Thunderbirds, The Mafia, Pirates of the Caribbean and other recent titles. During the event, several of the newer games and seminars were live-streamed via Twitch by Pinball_Live, and those recordings will be available soon on YouTube.
Homepin owner Mike Kalinowski was a special guest at the show, as were the three team members of Team Pinball and the Pinnovation team from The Netherlands. They brought a Demolition Man on Steroids, The Matrix (using the layout of a Johnny Mnemonic, a game concepted by Gerard van de Sanden), and Kill Bill. The last game uses a modified World Cup Soccer playfield with additional shots and all new artwork, an LCD in the backbox as well as a dotmatrix display. During the weekend three seminars were held, in which all three of the parties mentioned above explained what they have been working on so far.
Saturday morning the show opened at 10:30 AM, although the main and classic tournament started half an hour earlier than that. Most games had been brought in on Friday, but Saturday morning some more were added to the lineup. The number of games was more than the conference room could hold, so about six were set up in an adjacent corridor. The total number of games was 111, although 24 were reserved for the tournaments. The variety of games was interesting. Besides a nice mix of very recent, ‘90s and ‘80s games, there were also several uncommon Italian Zaccaria electromechanical games and a Technoplay X-Force game, all playing very crisp. Aside from the games reserved for the tournaments, all other games were available to all visitors to play.
In the afternoon Team Pinball and Pinnovating each hosted a seminar of their own, which were very well attended. Team Pinball explained how they got together at a different company, which they left over two years ago. Since then they rented a working space in Cardiff where they developed their first game: The Mafia. While they started in a first-floor space, they moved downstairs as they didn’t like carrying pinball machines up and down the stairs. They also explained what they wanted to achieve with the game and why they chose the Mafia as a theme.
Later in the afternoon, Gerard van de Sanden started off the Pinnovating seminar, explaining how he also had a dream of owning a pinball museum. Gerard also figured Johnny Mnemonic would be a good game to retheme as The Matrix. Unable to build such a game himself, he looked for talented people to take over certain tasks. That worked, and The Matrix is one of the custom games that can be found in the Dutch Pinball Museum. Dennis van der Pas then explained how he started working on writing new code for Demolition Man using the P-Roc system. From there he helped Gerard with The Matrix and then spent 3000 hours working on Kill Bill. Dennis showed with the glass removed how one of the modes is supposed to be played. The game was designed for advanced players familiar with the theme in mind, so don’t expect voice calls with hints. The seminars were streamed live and recorded by Pinball Live for YouTube so that you can watch them at a later time.
Meanwhile, the hotel had set up a catering service in the lobby, but the food wasn’t really recommended by those who tried it. Hence several people just ordered food to be delivered to the hotel. The Saturday session closed at the end of the afternoon, but there was another VIP session in the evening hours until midnight.
The Sunday saw a seminar by Homepin owner Mike Kalinowski discussing the making of Thunderbirds and the numerous setbacks he and his team ran into the past five years. Later in the afternoon, Martin Ayub of Pinball News and myself were able to record an interview with Mike that will be part of Pinball Magazine’s and Pinball News’monthly podcast, early next month. Meanwhile, the advanced rounds of the tournaments were played, which actually ran until after the show ended at 17:00 in the afternoon. While many of the games were already being taken down the finals were still being played.
In the evening, while many of the games that were at the show were making their way home, the crew that organized the show had time to sit down and have a few drinks and pizzas following a very successful first edition of UK Pinfest. Philip Murphy indicated he’s already discussing next year’s edition with the hotel, which most likely will be at the end of August again.