Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DTZ6 Interview!!

Quick update this week!  Alec and I are starting to kick the production of DTZ6 up!  Both of us are really committed to getting this out by the end of the summer!  One of the more daunting tasks on my list of DTZ6 to-dos is the transcribing of an interview that I did at Stern HQ.  There, I got to talk to Jody Dankberg, Steve Ritchie, Mark Galvez, George Gomez, and Gary Stern.  Phew!  Not everything will make it into the issue, but I'm going to be transcribing it for posterity.

Ha ha, that's right, I'm old school!  I got this audio recorder in college, and it has served me well ever since!  If I can digress for a second, I just want to stress that this recorder is the Roles Royce of audio cassette recorders: the Sony TCM-210DV Voice Recorder!  JUST LOOK AT THIS THING!  You can change the speed that you record and play back content!  You can change the recording setting to double so that you get double the millage out of your audio cassettes!  There is a pause switch that allows you to pause either your recording or your playback.

In summary, the recorder is cool, and transcribing the interview has been a lengthy process.  The highlight was easily when I realized that the meeting between me and George Gomez was captured here ON TAPE.  NERD.  OUT.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reading from Yesteryear

A couple weeks ago, my fellow Center for Cartoon Studies faculty member and all-around great guy Stephen Bissette handed me an article that he had cut out from Wired magazine.  It had been delicately cut out of the magazine, and all 3 pages had been placed in its own manilla envelope with "FOR JON CHAD!  ABOUT PINBALL!" scrawled across it.  He gave it to me, knowing of my love of pinball.  I just got around to reading it last week, and it was a very surreal experience.

As I opened the article to its first page, I was shocked by the headline.  As I tore into it, I realized that this was the grimmest look at pinball that I had ever encountered.  Here's some passages that really put a stake in my heart:

"Toll the bell, dead"
"Pinball machines were too heavy, bulky, and delicate...the arcade dinosaur had met its mammal"
"In retrospect, pinball was only a bridge between the machine age and the digital age.  Like it or not, we have reached the farther shore."

What is all this about?  I thought that we were living in an age where you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting an article from a local paper writing, "remember pinball?!" in reference to some new barcade-type outfit opening up.  This is supposed to be the fat years for pinball, right?  What's going on!?

In full disclosure, I only got one page into the article before I stopped, and it finally dawned on me, "wait, when was this written?"  I know that that must seem like the dumbest thing in the world, but I really hadn't thought of it.  So, low and behold, this was written in February 2000.  Doing some quick math, that's, like, 4 months after Williams closed the doors of their pinball division.  FOUR MONTHS!

Suddenly, the article took a new light.  It wasn't infuriating like the first page had been, where I was thinking that Wired just had their facts grievously wrong about what I saw as a thriving pinball scene.  Instead, it was sad, and frightening.  THIS was the length that people were convinced that pinball was dead.  WIRED MAGAZINE was willing to put it in print and run it.  I feel so lucky that Alec and I got into pinball when we did, but this makes me admire those who went through the pinball dark ages!  It's a testament to the strength of the community, and the enduring enthusiasm that pinball fans, operators, and designers have for the craft.

Again,  going through the early 2000's wasn't part of my pinball narrative, so reading this article and seeing the articulation of the sentiments at the time was really fascinating.  If you are interested in checking it out, I found it archived HERE.

Friday, July 11, 2014

May Pinball Recap

In May I traveled to Toronto, Ontario in Canada for the Toronto Comics Arts Festival.  I was stoked to find that Toronto came up on the Pinball Map app, but sadly, the neighborhood where the festival was taking place was pretty far from any of the machines on the map.

The only machine I saw while I was in Canada was this Buccaneer in a shop in the Kensington Market area.  Tragically, it was out of service.  I still don't think I've ever played pinball in Canada.  One of these days!!!

A few weeks later, back in the states my wife Claire and I were up in Oakland seeing a movie, so we swung by the Legionnaire Saloon to play a few games of Monster Bash.  The machine had a full-color LED dot matrix display, which I have been seeing more and more of lately.  They are super cool looking!  I kind of want to get one for my Medieval Madness machine, but they are still pretty expensive...  I know a lot of work went into graphics, hand painting every pixel, so they are worth every penny.  I guess I just gotta save up for it!

Then, at the end of the month, I was in Chicago for the CAKE festival.  After day one of the show a big posse of friends once again headed down to Headquarters Beercade for some free pinball.  Yes, I repeat, FREE PINBALL.  It was a good way to wrap up the month of May!

Monday, July 7, 2014

There's a new SW:E1 pinball machine in the Bay Area!

It used to be that the only Star Wars: Episode One pinball machine in the San Francisco Bay Area was at Playland Not-At-The-Beach.  Don't get me wrong, PNATB is great, but it's only open on the weekends, and it's a bit of a hike to get up to El Cerrito.

Back in May, my buddy Gene X Hwang sent me a tweet asking, "Guess what machine they just got at Free Gold Watch?"  Gene knows that SW:E1 is my favorite machine, and we have been trying to find some time to make it up to PNATB so that I could show him what I know about the game.  I replied, "No way!" and we set a time to meet at Free Gold Watch to play the machine... on May the 4th (be with you!)  Appropriate, right?

The SW:E1 machine was in okay condition.  The pop bumpers were blasted out (a common problem with this machine) and the center gate was having a few issues, but other than that it was working great.  Two things made this particular machine different than any other SW:E1 machine I had played thus far:  1) It had a Revenge From Mars cabinet!  Originally, the Pinball 2000 machines were going to have a generic cabinet and you would just insert whatever playfield you wanted, and then swap out the backglass.  This is still possible, though I had never seen it done, until now.  2) It had a LED screen instead of a CRT monitor.  The back was off the machine, so I was able to snap this photo of its insides:

This was cool because it made the picture much more crisp and bright, but also because it meant that the cabinet wasn't quite as heavy.  Usually it's pretty much impossible to move this machine around, but it was slightly more possible with this lighter monitor (though the tilt was so tight, we were both tilting).  If memory serves, Gene got a high score and I couldn't put a good game together.

Anyway, I'm stoked there's another SW:E1 machine in the Bay Area and I will definitely be playing this more, in my attempt to beat the machine.

Friday, July 4, 2014

HP6 Dream Machine begins...

Figuring out my Dream Machine layout for HP6.  Assets for Drop Target #6 are underway!  We're still aiming for a September release, in time for SPX.  Thanks for your patience - we know it has been a long wait this time around.  We've got a bunch of cool stuff planned, so hopefully it'll be worth it!