Pinball Expo 2014 report: Day 3 (Friday)
Posted on October 20, 2014
The Friday on Pinball Expo has a full day of seminars. This year I was invited to do a seminar of my own, which started at 10:00 AM, right after an interesting seminar by Gerry Stellenberg about the development of his P3 platform. Paul Rubens, one of the copy editors of Pinball Magazine, joined me on stage as I had asked him to do a short presentation on his journalistic pinball website Pavlov Pinball. We had both prepared some slides to go with what we wanted to talk about. I’m not gonna repeat the entire seminar here, but those interested can read the summary that Martin Ayub published on Pinball News, or listen to the entire seminar there as well.
There were a couple of other seminars I wanted to attend to myself, but by this time Expo was packed with people and so much stuff going on, that I only attended short segments of some seminars. As soon as I would try to go somewhere I would run into people who I hadn’t seen in a while, so we briefly caught up, or something else caught my attention. One of these things was a table in the hallway which had a huge pile of pinball trading cards on it. Soon I was digging my way through, trying to find as many different ones. I was joined by others and we helped each other out finding the cards we were missing. “Anybody seen a Steve Ritchie card?” “Yeah, there a few in this corner here.” I collected quite a pack of cards which I quickly dropped off in my room.
I managed to catch a small part of the seminar by sound designer David Thiel, where he just played some clips from a videogame that used similar sounds as in the rare Krull pinball. Those who follow my travel reports may remember I played a Krull pinball a few months ago and as I was very impressed with the audio soundtrack of that game I recorded some of it to perhaps use in a music production some time. Later that afternoon I spoke to David about the game and the idea I have to sample that soundtrack.
This whole conversation took place next to Gerry Stellenberg’s P3 game Lexy Lightspeed, which I also played a couple of games on. The game look different as it has a huge LCD screen as part of the playfield and the interaction between the ball play and what happens on the screen is great. The game has improved a lot since I played it last year and I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the shots and ideas incorporated in the game. The playfield design is by Dennis Nordman and it seems to be a very interesting layout. While I do see the huge possibilities of the platform, the current art style on the display may look a bit too much like a videogame to me. I’m curious to see whether a more line art type of animation will look more ‘pinball’ to me.
The great thing about Expo is that you run into pinball industry veterans all the time. In the afternoon I was on my way somewhere when Rob Berk introduced me to Dave Cristensen, who had just arrived. Dave was an artist at Bally and is responsible for some very iconic backglasses, such as Fireball, Mata Hari, Nitro Ground Shaker, Capt. Fantastic, Dolly Parton and many others. Rob suggested I would seize the moment and do an interview with Dave right away. So Dave, his brother John and I moved to a more quiet area near the seminar room where we could talk. When Dave found out I was from The Netherlands he started talking about his visits to Amsterdam during the time he was stationed in Germany. This was in the late ‘50s, in the middle of the cold war. While I was totally unprepared for this interview, so I had no specific questions ready, I managed to come up with some questions that lead to Dave dishing up stories from his Bally days. According to him Bally was the company where the most alcohol was consumed during working hours. There even was a full bar in the office section which was always open and your glass would never be empty. Parts of this interview are likely to show up in Pinball Magazine No. 3.
Following our interview I took Dave to one of the rooms with games where we took some pictures of him standing next to some of the games that carry his artwork. After that Dave hosted a dinner in a separate room where Gary Flower interviewed him as well. I decided to join the dinner and recorded the interview Gary did. Dave repeated some of the stories he had told me and also discussed some specific artwork he had done.
Following the dinner I went to check out the Stern party in the seminar room. There was free beer, a DJ playing music and the entire Walking Dead team sat behind a table to autograph flyers of the game. There was a huge cue for this, as well as for the Walking Dead tournament that was held in the same room. At the party I caught up with Greg Freres’ wife Andy, who is featured in Pinball Magazine No. 2. It’s always nice to see her and as she had received some good news she was in a very happy mood. In the vendor hall I ran into Mark Ritchie, his wife Trudy and their daughter. It’s always nice to see Trudy and this time was no different.
Similar to the night before the evening ended on the 15th floor, where Dutch Pinball held another VIP party in the penthouse. This party was way more crowded than on Thursday night. When I arrived Steve Ritchie and Lyman Sheats, both working at Stern Pinball, just left and were apparently very impressed with the game. Since I had not slept a lot the previous nights I called it quits around 2:30 AM.