Hello John. What’s happening with you lately? Are you working on anything pinball-related?
Currently I own a mobile development studio creating kids learning apps for iPhone and iPad. But I am always working on pinball things, as a pinball designer I never stop creating new pinball layouts or mechanical features. Just recently I started developing custom pinball games for clients who want something original, highly creative and in low numbers. Magic Girl is first and sold out in under a week the total run.
You’ve made a lot of great games. Which one of all your games are you most pleased with, and why?
Funny, everyone asks me that question, I do not have a favorite as they all are much different and creative in different ways. Very excited about my new pinball projects like Magic Girl, Zombie Adventureland and Alice in Wonderland for 2013.
Which one of your game are you the least happy with, and what would you change about it if you could?
Again I have no complaint on any of the games. Cirqus has a lot of green art, people usually do not like green pinball machines, but it is a collectors favorite. Theatre of Magic had an up-post we removed and magic electric wand. But for the most part they are timeless, and came out well. We could not have made better games.
You seem to have a penchant for using a target/captive ball on either side of the play field. Where did this idea first came from?
As a kid I grew up on old Bally games made by Ted Zale. He was a master of the assymetrical playfield and the captive ball like on Fireball. I also try to find old features lost in pinball history and bring them forward, like the rollover button on WCS.
How come there are for round button rollovers on the play field of World Cup Soccer instead of four star-shaped rollovers? Was the intention to change the ball direction on rollover (which sometimes drives players crazy)?
WCS original had 5 rollovers, one on each star. But the bottom one was removed as it caused the ball to exit the right outlane too much. We did not think of a star shaped rollover at the time, but a good idea. Can I use it for future games?
According to IPDB you designed a game called Ice Castle in 1989 which was never put into production. What was that theme, and what features would it have had? Did you re-use some of the ideas from that game in later designs?
Ice Kastle was a medieval themed game like MM, but this one was set in a snowy netherword with snow monsters and ice-breathing dragons. It had a neon castle tower and three-level playfield and a catapult, drawbridge and ice bridge. It was really a great design, but somehow was never put into an engineering schedule. I did not really bring forward any of those ideas. My brain is very creative, so I enjoy making new things all the time for the pinball playfield. One feature that was nice was a bottom jewel bonus similar to Arabian Nights. Lots of lights that glow as you play.
What do you think will happen to the pinball manufacturing business in the future – say in ten years?
I think in ten years there will be a new group of younger pinball designers and developer making the retro-style and digital-style games. New ideas, new technology and more customization. Currently at my studio (pinballinventor.org) we are working with mostly new pinball engineers creating old and new digital games for the future. Our next game will have more customization by the owner. So each game will be designed, under my hand, by the owners and all different. A new radical idea. It is all very exciting and I hope to show more designs soon. For me having people call me, email or buy my games is the best help I can get.
Stern has adopted the devise ”More fun for everyone”, which means simplified and more random rules in the games, hoping to attract more casual players. Do you think this is the right way forward for pinball’s future?
No I do not think this is the right direction. Pinball is a very complicated game to develop with a very diverse, universal audience. The home collector market has now become the biggest market, and the operators have no good games to earn money. The most successful games currently on location and at home have very specific rule sets, wonderful design and imaginative play. It is not really casual. Also I believe the games need more haptic (touch) things for the player, not just a flashing arrow.
Pinball is an old game, and spans the field of sophisticated play and clever ideas all wrapped up in a beautiful art package developed by a dedicated team that want to make the best pinball, not just make a profit or deadline.
Pinball must be magical.