Mapping pinball trends for the casual enthusiast…

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PEOPLE: Randy Perlow of ColorDMD

When Ted Turner decided to colourize some of Hollywood’s classic black and white films, cinephiles were outraged. Film reviewer Roger Ebert labelled the move towards colourization “vandalism”, and further stated, “What was so wrong about black and white movies in the first place? By filming in black and white, movies can sometimes be more dreamlike and elegant and stylized and mysterious.” Nobody was this upset when Randy Perlow and Chris Enright waged an all out war on monochrome pinball displays. By installing one of their ground-breaking ColorDMDs, you too can eradicate the drab orange dots from your gameroom. ColorDMD has full colour support for eleven different Williams/Bally/Midway titles, while the Sigma option allows you to add nearly 100 different colour hues and various effects to spice up the dots in any WPC/WPC95 or Stern Whitestar/SAM system. I had a chance to ask ColorDMD founder Gary Perlow a few questions about the business, the hobby and the Canadian spelling of colour.

Credit Dot: How long has ColorDMD been in business?

Randy Perlow: ColorDMD Displays LLC was formed in January 2012, and our first product (a multicolor display for Attack From Mars) was released in April of the same year. The only members are Chris Enright and myself. I invented the the hardware/software that drives the ColorDMD and also manage the business. Chris designed the mounting hardware, has colored most of the games we support, and was responsible for test and assembly of our earlier runs.

The work for ColorDMD started much earlier in the summer of 2009. An early prototype was flipping by the Fall of 2009 but it took longer to integrate it inside the backbox, and longer still to reduce it to a form factor that could be shared with other enthusiasts. By September 2011, we had a pre-production display that was similar to our current display and this was the unit that we demonstrated at the Pacific Pinball Expo and Chicago Expo.

CD: How did you first identify this need for not only replacement displays, but replacement displays with colour support?

RP: To be honest, I was never really sure a need existed. I was inspired by some other projects I had seen and was looking for a fun project where I could contribute something back to the pinball community. A color display was the only idea I could come up with and I was curious why current games were still being built with monochromatic dot matrix displays.

The project really started as a challenge to see what could be done with current technology and what the impact might be. I hoped it would be cool and something people would be excited about, but didn’t really think about it from a business perspective until much later.

CD: Where are you located and what are your facilities like? Just a couple of guys in their basement or something more elaborate?

RP: We’re based in San Clemente, California and design from our homes. For over a year, we used Chris’ garage for final assembly and test but have since contracted that work to a local manufacturer.

CD: Fish Tales is the most recent game to get the full colour treatment, and it joins a list of ten other titles with full colour support. What is considered when selecting a game?

RP: We have joked that we pick them out of a hat. The truth is that about half the games were chosen based on the games we had in our collections. Others have focused on “A-list” titles that seemed to be highly requested titles and good candidates from a business perspective.

This year we have started to add additional developers to help build our library of multicolor ROM titles. Many of these titles are being chosen based on developer selection, complexity, and suitability to our hardware coloring engine.

CD: What is the process of getting dots coloured for a specific game? Lots of testing?

RP: The first step is to try to capture all the possible animation frames a game can generate.

We need to see the final frames produced by the game which often include layered animation, text, and scoring data. There’s no easy way to do this without playing the game and exercising the right switch sequences to show all the animation. It takes a deep knowledge of the game rules, and time, lots and lots of time.

The next step is bringing the sequences into the computer where we try to develop strategies to uniquely identify each frame, and generating complementary color data. We don’t store any of the actual game images… only the complementary color data. When the game is played, the hardware engine attempts to recognize each input frame and call up the color data that corresponds to the current frame. This step is a combination of artistry and problem-solving.

Then we export the data to a display and test in the game where we’re looking for sequences we may have missed or are not being recognized and colored properly. We’ll then continue to iterate until we stop finding issues to correct.

CD: I suppose it would be fair to revisit this question given some of the recent trends in the hobby: how do you avoid copyright issues given the images use are adding colour to?

RP: We don’t store or distribute any copyrighted artwork in our color ROMs or display hardware. If you paged through them, they look contain rectangles or amorphous blobs of color that bear little to no resemblance to the original artwork.

All the original game images are generated by the game, and coloring is done on the fly. The end result is similar to holding a multi-colored gel film over a black and white display.

CD: How connected are you with the pinball community at large?

I’ve been collecting pins for about 7 years, and have been active on RGP and Pinside during that time. Besides ColorDMD, I helped complete the emulation of the Micropin for PinMAME and recreated the lost “brain board” for the original Flicker solid-state prototype game, which was Bally’s pioneering entry into solid-state games. I compete (poorly) in the Orange County Pinball League and have attended many pinball shows over the past four years, and given multiple seminars on ColorDMD.

Chris is the founder of the Orange County Pinball League, nearing its tenth year. He has been active on RGP, Pinside, and the prewar pinball forums. Chris is highly regarded by pinball parts distributors and has been responsible for reproducing rare plastic and metal replacement parts that have been otherwise impossible to find.

CD: There was a time when you had trouble keeping these things in stock! Are you still having issues keeping up with the incredible demand? It seems like a good problem to have!

RP: We build in runs that are often aligned to the introduction of new products. We typically have displays in stock through most of the year but there may be an occasional month where we run out of inventory before a production run is complete.

CD: Buying one of your ColorDMDs is cost comparable to buying a more traditional uni-colour DMD. How do you keep the cost so low?

RP: Given the extended multicolor capability of the ColorDMD as well as it’s versatility (custom color selection and display effect), we think it’s a good value. Our pricing is primarily based on our manufacturing BOM, and we have tried to provide these at the lowest cost we can and still meet business needs and return on our time.

CD: Your online store lists twelve “unique” products to buy. Am I right in assuming this is all the same hardware just loaded with different software?

RP: That’s correct. All the ColorDMDs on our site today utilize the same hardware platform with different firmware. The firmware is easily installed with a USB flash drive and can be changed at any time. The only other difference is that the SIGMA display for SAM/Whitestar platforms ships with different installation cables suited for those platforms.

CD: When the product was first released, the displays were locked to a specific game. Why the change?

RP: As our library of supported titles grew, it became too difficult for us and our distributors to stock individual titles. Customers were also asking for capability to move their display to a new game if/when they sold their original game. We decided the best solution was to open the platform.

CD: You offer installation support in the form of videos, and the installation itself looks pretty straight forward. How close is the ColorDMD to being “plug and play” right out of the box?

RP: It’s pretty close. We tried to make it virtually “plug and play” but it’s not exactly so because our display is a different height than the original DMD display and draws low voltage from the power driver board instead of the high voltage video board. Most customers tell us it’s about a ten minute install.

CD: How close are we to seeing full colour dot programming for Stern games?

RP: We’re targeting release of a Stern multicolor title before the end of 2014.

CD: Do you see your product being compatible with the “new old games” being released by Planetary Pinball Supply?

RP: We’ve had some high level discussions with Planetary about supporting their new releases. They have a few options they are exploring, but we’d love to see this happen.

CD: Would there be a market for multi-colour or colour-changing text in earlier alphanumeric games?

RP: Possibly, but that’s not a focus at this time. The technical requirements are quite different than our current platform.

CD: Is there any indication that there would be a market for producing those extra-large Sega DMDs used on Baywatch, Batman Forever, Maverick and Frankenstein or the extra-small ones used on earlier games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

RP: We receive a few requests per year to support the large Sega DMDs. Most of the requests have been from people who have a line out on their current display and are looking for a cheaper alternative than a new plasma. The small screens we use aren’t wide enough to fill the larger speaker panel window on these games. We would need to shift to a larger 17” panel and manufacture a new mounting bracket.

With the added cost, our display would likely be at least as expensive as the plasmas that are still out there. As long as original continue to be available for these games, we’re treating it as a lower priority than other projects but it could be something we offer in the future.

CD: Will you eventually add colour to every Williams DMD game? Even Popeye Saves the Earth?

RP: That’s a great goal but we’re taking it one project at a time, and listening to what the market tells us. We’re also hoping that by broadening our developer program, we will be able to provide support for a much larger library of games than the high-priority titles that people are asking for.

CD: I’m not an owner myself, but its something I have to ask…when will support for Twilight Zone be released?

RP: I can’t provide a date for any specific title, but I can say that Twilight Zone is one of the hardest games for our engine to handle. We’ve been taking on easier titles and building up the feature set of the engine to handle some of the more difficult animation sequences. If/when we think we can do it justice, we do plan to release a multicolor ROM for Twilight Zone.

CD: We may be approaching a point when DMD screens will be eradicated from pinball machines altogether. How has the DMD held on for so long and what are you thoughts on the backbox LCD/LED display?

RP: This is a great question and one that I asked before starting the project… why are games still being built with DMDs? Trying to fit another display technology into a legacy platform isn’t easy. The added information needed to display three colors instead of one requires significant improvements in processor power, data storage, and throughput. If image resolution and color depth is to be increased at the same time, this places an even higher burden on the processing and storage requirements.

With the ColorDMD we insert powerful processing in a place it was never meant to reside… between the DMD controller and the display. While we have achieved very good results, it’s a difficult process and not one that’s well suited to the design of a new game. The better approach is to modify the processor and video display system of the game to handle the added requirements. This is costly and risky and a large reason it has taken so long for color displays to be integrated in new games. It is also more expensive and time consuming to generate high resolution content for these games.

Incorporating a high-resolution screen in the backbox is overdue and opens up new possibilities, but it will take some time (and a few games) for manufacturers and designers to figure out the best way to make use of the extra screen resolution and area.

CD: What is on the horizon for ColorDMD? New technology? New directions? New releases?

RP: We have a lot of active projects now but I’m not ready to reveal any of it! A lot of it is related to things that people have been asking for, but we still have some tricks up our sleeve and hope to unveil a few surprises before the end of the year!

CD: What games currently reside at the ColorDMD HQ or in your private collection?

RP: I currently own a LOTR, TRON, MM, WH2O, IJ, and a bartop Micropin. Chris has an AFM, MM, SS, TZ, Metallica, and SC. This gives us plenty of material to work with, but when needed, members of OCPL often step up and provide access to their collections.

CD: And finally, does it bother you that I’m using the Canadian, or British, spelling of “colour”?

RP: No, I love it! It’s funny but when I sought a name for the company I was looking for something clever that was immediately recognizable and identifiable with our product. It wasn’t until after the release of our first title, that I realized I had picked a name with an alternate spelling in many parts of the world! Thankfully Google is more clever than I, and people have been able to find us!

You can visit ColorDMD displays are available through their website or from purveyors of fine pinball supplies, like Bay Area Amusements in the United States and the Pinball Palace in the UK. Eleven titles are currently have full colour support: The Addams Family, White Water, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, Cactus Canyon, Monster Bash, Scared Stiff, Theatre of Magic and Fish Tales.

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MODS: Foiled Again! The White Water Topper Reproduction

You could easily file this next twisted tale of never-ending reproduction development in the same category as the Creature from the Black Lagoon speaker panel mod I wrote about earlier in the month. While the definitive Creech speaker panel is slowly making its way into the hands of collectors as you read this, the White Water reproduction topper foil is still surrounded by question marks and disappointment.

An original White Water topper is a sight to behold. I had seen the effect in arcades when I was younger, but I was still blown away when I bought my White Water and fired it up for the first time. To this day I’m still amazed at the ingenuity used to create a feature that was completely divorced from gameplay. It was purely a hook used to snag quarters from across a busy arcade. Like the Addams Family before it, the game title was featured on the topper alone, not on the backglass. This glowing topper also makes the game stand taller than all the rest in a lineup, mountainous even, which works well with the overall theme. Like many toppers of the era, quite a few were discarded, broken or stolen over their life in the arcade, so finding one with a complete assembly attached, no matter the condition, should be considered a bonus. I was lucky to get mine complete: with a relatively un-faded foil sticker, properly cascading lights and decent clear dome. However, many of the twenty-year-old assemblies have seen better days. The special bulbs used in the topper obviously generate heat, and the enclosed plastic dome hinders proper ventilation–so many of the white plastic backers are cracked and brittle, and the affixed waterfall foils bubbled, faded and stressed. The metallic sticker is a four-colour process on a heavy foil cardstock and embossed using a die, so that the sweeping lights reflect off of the stamped ridges, making the water and mist looks as if it is in constant motion. A bubbled or stressed sticker will interfere with this delicate effect. Further, UV rays have not been kind to the orange and blue hues, fading them to a muddy mess.

Great Lakes’ WH20 Topper Light PCB

Treasure Cove’s “masking” solution

I guess the good news first: if your topper is missing completely, you can get pretty close to replacing the entire assembly. The cascading lamp PCBs are available from the good folks at Great Lakes Modular for $30USD each (the game uses two). Keep in mind the bulb size for these lamps are the oddball 194s, not your standard 555s. A reproduction dome, the same one that is used by Fish Tales to house that damn flapping fish, is readily available from many sources, like Marco Specialties, for $69.00. Unfortunately, one piece of the puzzle is missing: the foil die-pressed sticker. The only solution offered to this point is available from Treasure Cove. Two versions are offered: a complete sticker printed on vinyl that lacks die pressing which does not reproduce the cascading effect at all, and a “cutout” version, also printed on vinyl, that would leave the original embossing exposed and would only cover up the faded colour artwork. This is by no means a definitive solution…but I guess it would look okay, and some have settled for it. If someone would come up with a true reproduction of the original effect on a foil sticker, there WOULD be a market for it. Word of a true reproduction surfaced on (RGP) in December 2011 via Daren Jacobs of Phoenix Arcade. Mr. Jacobs wrote:

“I have been in touch with the original artist Phillip Grear who says for sure the plates are gone for good. I take him at his word and didnt question them. New plates need to be made and he says he can do them but attached a very hefty price tag to them. There is also a relatively new process I’ve found through a company who says they can do this. Once we get a little further with this Ill get some samples from them. I also visited a company in PHX when I lived there that does this type of work and seen samples in person. But it was quite pricey to do. We want to target $200 and not go above it. That’s the goal.”

Response seemed fairly positive. Folks were willing to pre-order to cover costs, if necessary, and genuinely thought $200 was a fair price for the foil sticker. It would be up to the purchaser to obtain the white plastic support or reuse their old one. Having the original artist on board for consult and direction was a good sign. Rough numbers were bandied about, and it was stated that a cost-effective run would be in the area of 500 units and 250 would have to be sold to hit the break-even mark. 250 is a lot, however, there were a lot of sorry looking WH20 toppers out there with owners that wanted them looking their best. The die tooling would probably eat up the majority of start-up costs. James Loflin of Pinball Inc. posted in the thread and said he would help fund the costs of the project, which was met with, one can assume, off-board discussion between Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Loflin, however there was no sign that Mr. Loflin would be involved (Loflin will make his return later on in this story, so keep reading). Months passed, before Mr. Jacobs gave this update in March 2012:

“Made a little more progress and established a working relationship with the original foil artist Philip Grear who will be highly instrumental in getting this project done. At this point I’m stepping aside to let Rick [Bartlett, of Planetary Pinball/Bay Area Amusements] take it from here and get you all a sweet new topper. Just ask that you continue to be patient. I’m confident Rick will make you all pretty happy.”

Thus, the project was handed over to Mr. Bartlett. There is a gap that needs to be filled in here as to why. Funding? Licencing? General difficulty in getting this item manufactured? My money is on general difficulty. Regardless, it seemed the project was in Mr. Bartlett’s capable hands. The thread goes dead here after a few promises of progress. Then, in May of 2013, nearly a year and a half after the original suggestion of the project, a post appeared on Pinside announcing the White Water topper decal would be available from Twisted Pins, a relatively new pinball restoration online retailer. The post announced:

“Twisted Pins is pleased to announce that we have released a Whitewater foil topper that is approved and available under the PPS license. As you may know this topper has never been reproduced by anybody. Our topper decal is made the exact same way Williams made it. The topper is printed using a 4-color process over white and embossed artwork using .010 foil stock. These are not paper thin decals or printed by an inkjet printer or next generation technology.”

Screen cap from Twisted Pins’ web store

The original cost for the foil sticker with white plastic support was $179USD, or you could add the clear tub to the package for $219USD (prices have since increased). The foreshadowing should not be lost here: the project passed hands from Bartlett, a trusted retailer of quality repro parts, to an unproven player in the market with a shallow track record in large scale press production. Regardless, a pre-order schedule was included in this original announcement and folks started sending in their money. The printing and embossing work was done in Germany, as Twisted Pins claimed that nobody in the US could work with a die as large as this one. With hindsight being an author’s best friend, its very interesting to see so many participants in the Pinside thread asking to see a video of their first samples or early production pieces. Video was promised, but not offered. A photo surfaced of an original next to a Twisted Pins reproduction piece. One user, “ShaunoftheDead”, responded:

“It looks weird in the photos, the original seems more detailed, deeper embossed – the foil part. Be interesting to see if its just the way its been pictured, but I guess video will tell.. […] Surprised they announced/put it up for sale before a video…”

This post, read now, speaks volumes. The grand unveiling was to be at Pin-A-Go-Go 2013, however Twisted Pins were unable to fulfill the promise due to shipping logistics. Interested parties, those that had purchased and those that were waiting for further video evidence, were still waiting with baited breath. When the topper finally reached the hands of those that had pre-ordered, following the Pin-A-Go-Go-No-Show, the first signs of disappointment surfaced, led by user “Tortelvis”:

“Mine arrived today and I don’t see the same cascading water illusion like the original has.”

Many other “fail” reviews, and the above videos, followed. Quick on the recovery, Twisted Pins chimed in:

“We stand behind everything we sell. We will gladly exchange out the toppers at no cost for anybody who wishes when we get our next run done in 2 weeks. We currently are making a new die for the embossing that will allow for it to be much deeper. Should anybody wish to return it that is fine also.”

As an outsider, not having a horse in the race and reading this thread as it unfolded, it sure seems to me that Twisted Pins shipped a product that they knew did not accurately replicate the original. That isn’t good business. Especially not in a small hobby where trust is key and customers have an elephant’s memory. Twisted Pins claimed that if you used a shim under the white plastic support (in the form of a washer) the cascading effect would be more pronounced. Regardless, when the first batch arrived at Twisted Pins HQ and they tested the product, they most certainly should have been scrapped rather than shipped, or at least offered a video of its performance for their customers to decide if it was up to their standards. It’s great to have a customer friendly return policy, but how about being friendly to customers in the first place by not wasting their time by shipping them a product that does not live up to expectations.

Time marched on in the eight page Pinside post, up until the present day. James Loflin (see! I promised!) joined the conversation briefly in the thread. There now sits a series of blank posts where Mr. Loflin and Travis of Twisted Pins had a back and forth, presumably relating to Mr. Loflin’s non-involvement dating back to the Phoenix Arcade initiation. Every so often, Twisted Pins surfaces in the thread and offers that progress, albeit slow, is being made. They claim they have “too much money invested” in the project to let it fail–and I believe that–but how many failed die pressings does it take before you wash your hands of the entire project? Maybe someone else needs to take the reins. Maybe a different solution has to be implemented in the form of a digital display. The failure or unwillingness to follow through with topper reproduction by two other known and trusted commercial entities in the pinball community should speak volumes as to the difficulty of replicating the original.

Twisted Pins has recently announced they are going to start making ramps, beginning with the Taxi “Spinout” ramp. There is a lot of call for this particular ramp, however, to say that Twisted Pins has damaged their reputation in the White Water topper disaster is an absolute understatement. I sincerely hope they get everything sorted out, and a viable foil topper reproduction can enter the marketplace. Many have received refunds for their toppers, while others have kept them, waiting and hoping for a replacement to be sent. Either way, I’m afraid this story doesn’t have a happy ending just yet…

(Note: Twisted Pins was contacted through their contact email address AND through the “Contact Us” form on their website on May 15 2014, but no one bothered to reply. I clearly stated my intentions for this article, to chronicle the history of the WH20 topper with as little muck-raking as possible. I also included a timeframe as to when I was going to post it. They were either unwilling or unable to respond.)

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NEWS: Planetary Pinball and WPC 2.0

It has been a few weeks since Planetary Pinball Supply (PPS) announced, on the heels of the Texas Pinball Festival (TPS), that a new platform, WPC 2.0, is in the works. It’s boils down to a new hardware controller that can run new software with updated code/rules on some games and add missing elements and new features on others. If successful, this project could prove to make blah games superb, and superb games even better. As with any high-profile announcement in the pinball world, excitement was high on Pinside, and so was the usual penchant for griping, arguing and posturing.

I was especially high on this announcement. Funhouse stands as one of my favourite games of all-time, and it solidified its place there during the impressionable days of my childhood. I currently have one in my collection and it gets a lot of play. When Rick Bartlett of PPS shared three slides announcing the platform and his partnership with FAST Pinball for the hardware end of things, it was there in black and white: FUNHOUSE 2.0, DMD support, new DMD animations, game rule extensions. Being one of last games to roll out of the Williams factory with an alpha-numeric display, pinball fans always wondered aloud what the game experience would be like with a DMD. It seems we are not that far off from finding out. One can assume it would follow the Bride of Pinbot 2.0 (BoP2.0) approach by Dutch Pinball—new speaker panel and speakers to accommodate a colour DMD and some new hardware in the backbox to run it all.

Speaking of Dutch Pinball, it was probably their BoP2.0 that got the ball rolling on this whole project. They took the often-criticized one-dimensional/one-shot game and rejigged the software to create a totally new gameplay experience. They posted their results and interest mounted…people wanted this mother-of-all-mods, and there looked to be lots of money to be made, even with its relatively steep price tag. However, legally selling this kit without WMS’ permission/blessing was fuzzy. The new animations on the DMD used copyright WMS artwork, specifically, but not limited to the image of the Bride herself. That is a clear infringement on intellectual property. Seeing dollar signs, Bartlett, who has positioned himself as a representative of WMS and their pinball properties, teamed up with FAST Pinball to allow creative programmers and upstart modders to create something new out of these old relics. The BoP2.0 project was the first to be welcomed under the umbrella of licenced modifications in early April, yet they are just one set of people opening up the machines and tinkering with what is inside. Smaller scale “one-off” projects–single machines that were re-configured using the PROC or Raspberry Pi platforms to reside in the owner’s basement—have been given a new lease on life as there is now an avenue for them to distribute their code on the right side of the (copyright) law.

If the story ended there, we would have a somewhat happy ending. But like most copyright issues in any field, there are always perceived grey areas. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Cactus Canyon Continued.

Written by a true fan of pinball, Eric Priepke took it upon himself to reconfigure the incomplete rules of Willaims/Bally/Midway’s 1998 release Cactus Canyon using a PROC controller, and in doing so made an already desirable game (due to rarity) even more desirable. Countless features that did not exist were added; problematic features that did exist were honed and polished. Williams originally released the game as a throwaway placeholder title, only producing it only to keep the production lines moving while they made the unfortunate move to the Pinball 2000 platform. Priepke fished the abandoned baby out of the dumpster and cared for it like his own. He wasn’t a money monger about it either. Anyone who wanted to buy the PROC controller and a Cactus Canyon machine was welcome to the code at no charge. This was a true labour of love. It was not, however, a labour that was completely above copyright law. Seeing as Priepke used Williams/Bally/Midway characters, names and actual animations from the original game to create his “…Continued” package, Rick/Planetary/WMS took exception. I believe it causes even more of an issue now that Planetary is in the business of re-releasing classic games with an $8000USD price tag–Cactus Canyon is surely on their radar as a future candidate. Folks that have seen what NAME did with the extended rule-set would probably not want an “incomplete” Planetary remake. With the move towards WPC2.0 (and simultaneously away from the PROC platform used to run “…Continued”), it allows Planetary & Co. to reimagine CC however they wish and charge however much they want for it. It appears as if Priepke doesn’t want his code to be a part of it. The unlicensed damage may have already been done: any rule-set update by Planetary will have to exceed the bar set by the “…Continued” code. Expectations have been set. It will be an uphill battle: Priepke is seen as cult hero to the pinball masses for taking on this project and not asking anything in return, while Bartlett, legally protecting what is owned by WMS, is perceived as the Black Bart our story. As of November 2013, the code for “…Continued” is officially available online, but the sounds and animations are not, which renders the code nearly useless. Cactus Canyon Discontinued. I can’t be the first to have made that joke.

“Black Bart” Bartlett responded to critics on Pinside about the copyright concerns, and made it pretty clear, in layman’s terms, for everyone to read:

“So, as all the posts have said, if you are not using (or contributing to people using) ANY wms [intellectual property], then do whatever you want however you want to, if you are using wms [intellectual property], then best to contact me to see if this falls into the ‘we care’ realm and then best to have an idea of what you would like done with it. And of course giving away or making available wms [intellectual property] is just not going to fly now that we have opened up a door with wms to do it legitimately. I’m not sure when people are given a way to utilize wms ip, then the posts take a larger percentage of trying to figure a way around it, that was not the goal, but a way to create upgrades to games for people to enjoy.”

Despite the sour grapes of CCC, there is plenty to be excited about. The above posted slides also mention revisiting the code of Cirqus Voltare and Tales of the Arabian Nights in collaboration with designer John Popadiuk. As if JPop doesn’t have enough to do already! Bartlett also mentioned that the WPC2.0 controller would be compatible with the Planetary Pinball “remakes”, thus if Planetary gives someone the blessing to revamp the code of Medieval Madness, or future remade game, both the original WPC machine and the Planetary reissue would be able to run it.

However, in all the excitement, a concern exists, as I see it–the pace at which Planetary Pinball conducts business. The remake of the Medieval Madness appears to be full steam ahead, but other smaller scale Planetary projects have been slow to be completed, or have stalled completely. The WMS branded shirts and other knickknacks promised at Expo have not surfaced in any mass quantity. My own experiences buying parts from PPS have been mostly positive, however, one decal set I had purchased was missing text on the decals themselves. It took three website “Contact Us” messages to get any sort of acknowledgement back about the misprint. This was during the frenzy of the MMR ordering, so perhaps my $40 order got lost in the shuffle with all the $8,000 pin orders rolling in.

Bartlett has a passion for this hobby, just like many of us, and he wears his passion on his sleeve. It kicks projects into gear, but it can also drive a person to bite off more than they can chew. Sometimes this passion gets the better of Bartlett, and his Pinside posts read as brash and impulsive. Never would you see Gary Stern on Pinside threatening to pull the plug on game production in a response to nay-sayers piling on with criticism like Bartlett did earlier in the year regarding MM (even if it was posted in a flippant manner). But then again, never would you see Gary Stern posting on Pinside. The accessibility and dedication Bartlett has displayed by being a member of the Pinside community is impressive, and his presence adds more than it takes away.

It has been said already that the sky is the limit with the introduction of this new platform, especially paired with the blessing of WMS to mess with their intellectual property. It’s not nice to see Priepke get left out in the cold, but that’s the nature of the copyright business. That code is SO GOOD, one can only hope there will be some sort of settlement where both sides can be appeased. As for my own plans, I’m not an early adopter, nor do I buy unplayed NIB machines…but the prospect of a Funhouse 2.0 has me genuinely excited for the future of my collection, and I’ll be the first one on the pre-order list when the time comes to pay to “Black Bart”.

Further Reading:
Pinside  – WPC 2.0(tm) – Extensions to WPC 2.0 games (from TPF PPS seminar) – …Continued – For Bally’s Cactus Canyon
Planetary Pinball Supply – Official Website