Friday, January 8, 2010

Executive Decisions by the Truckload

Hopefully we're about the last to wish you a Happy New Year and here's to the future known as 2010. Really, 2010? We believe it to be the year of the melon. Mark it on your's official.

Before we started looking into the feasibility of doing the Whoa Nellie project as a limited series we had basically jumped-the-gun and already begun to look into acquiring more "base" games for our 150 or so ideas for future projects - sometimes creativity and confidence walk together on "What-If Beach" at sunrise.

Within a very short period of time Dennis had a few winning bids on ebay (with his money), we had already picked up another game at Expo (with our combined money), and he was getting ready to pull the trigger on some more games when the term "Whoa Nellie" became a useful tool for a WhizBang reality check.

In an earlier post I mentioned that we bypassed some of the logistics involved in getting a custom pinball machine off the ground because all we wanted to do was create. So in making the jump from a one-off project to a potential limited series, one of the first problems that came to light was the ability to reproduce.

To finish that sentence properly, we had reached a design crossroad, a point of departure whereby we would need to make one of our first executive decisions without an executive in the room (one of the perks of designing custom games). In one direction, IF we were to offer more than one Whoa Nellie, with all the same attributes as the first Whoa Nellie, THEN we would need to build them on more Continental Cafe games. Since CC was not produced in huge numbers compared to other games from the EM era, we started noticing that Continental Cafe games are not readily available on the used game market. The other directional sign pointed us towards abandoning Continental Cafe as a base game and moving towards a game that is more readily available because of larger production numbers from day one, making it both easier to acquire and reproduce parts for the limited series. Both of us envisioned leaving the old Continental Cafe on the side of this crossroad, playfield up, no legs...cue the tumbleweed...and vultures.

We pondered these ideas for a couple days and executively decided to stick with Continental Cafe and start cranking up the search for more of these lonely games. It was about this time Dennis started talking with Team EM about the ability to revise electro-mechanical games - also known as "hacks" or "mods". After spewing a bunch of "what-ifs" on an email thread with the EM gurus, it seemed that a new approach began to enter into the design equation. By November 2nd, we made yet another executive decision (we now travel in the Whizbang corporate jet), and Dennis was confident that we could "hack" away (with guru guidance and direction) and create a new level of "custom" by adding a feature to the playfield and changing the basic game play of the original Continental Cafe. We no longer were simply providing an aesthetic facelift to an old classic, but we could now enter into the world of... augmentation.

The purchasing department (Dennis) started to get the word out about our search for more Continental Cafe's. Since Pinball Expo was only a couple weeks behind us Dennis contacted Mike Pacak to see if he had any CC's in his collection. Mike had none but suggested that we call Rob Berk (the PT Barnum of Pinball Expo) because of his extensive collection of random games.

Bingo! Jackpot! Hootie-Hoo! Dennis spoke with Rob and he had not ONE but TWO Continental Cafes! We now had three-of-a-kind, the rule of thirds, 1-2-3, Three's Company, the Golden Triangle, a complete Triptych, and quite possibly, The Trilogy of the Melons!

Dennis negotiated with Rob for the two games and worked out the delivery of the games with Mike to the upcoming Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine, and Juke Box Show in St. Charles, Illinois. On a typically gray November Friday (the 13th), Dennis and I headed out to the show pick up our "inventory".

I had never been to the parking lot portion of the show before and saw a lot of fun this antique accident scene. I wanted to draw a chalk line around this banjo buddy.

I'm not sure what this guy was used for...I'm hoping he was once part of some barbershop quartet. Nevertheless, severed heads are creepy, even with woodgrain showing.

Besides the Continental Cafe games, Dennis also arranged for a pick-up of his winning bids on Solar City.

We were warned that one of the CC backglasses was not in very good shape. We didn't realize it was practically a window. Dennis negotiated a price adjustment and was evidently happy with the result.

We wrangled all of our games onto Dennis' pick-up...

...including yet another winning bid...Flying Carpet...

...and got the hell out of there before we spent more money that we didn't have.

With a hefty stash of games for the future (the future beyond the future known as 2010) now safely stored in the "warehouse", and a plan of action for the modified design of the playfield, it was now time to get back to the reality of Game 1 and also start planning for an eventual business future by capturing the costs involved for the first game.

Another pass on the backglass design was needed as the new design direction would affect the layout of the art. And Dennis was still looking forward to figuring out the ball delivery mechanism and using his new special router bit to get the cabinet redesign wrapped up for the upcoming holidays. We'll share all this next time inside the WhizBang studio.

G & D

All art, sketches, or photos related directly to "Whizbang Pinball" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Big Juicy Melons" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Sweet Juicy Melons" are TM and Copyright 2009 WhizBang Pinball, Greg Freres, and Dennis Nordman.

Beach at sunrise photo courtesy stock.xchng

All other photos on this post by G.Freres

1 comment:

  1. Augmenting Big Juicy Melons? I've never heard of that.