P3 TO BE
Date: 11th July, 2012
In March of this year we introduced you to the remarkable P3 pinball which combined a number of unique and innovative new features to create a machine unlike anything seen before.
The most obvious of these was the large playfield-mounted LCD monitor which is coupled with ground-breaking ball tracking technology, allowing the display - and the rest of the game - to interact with the ball as it travelled across the playfield.
The bank of wall targets lit with multi-colour LEDs and the row of ball scoops behind promised a wide variety of gameplay possibilities, and that's before we get to the upper playfield area where much more variety awaits.
The Pinball News article was published just before the first public showing of the P3 at the Texas Pinball Festival (TPF).
In our first article, PinballController.com's Gerry Stellenberg told us he would consider manufacturing the P3 as a commercial product if there was sufficient interest and backing available.
Following the hugely positive reaction given to the game both at the TPF and in our initial report, Pinball News can now exclusively reveal that Gerry together with Brandon Nuss and Les Pitt have decided to take the game into production and have created a new company to manufacture and market it.
Gerry told Pinball News about the game's reception at TPF. "It went great - the reactions far exceeded our expectations! Most people walked up to the machine not knowing what to expect and walked away surprised and excited at the possibilities the machine represents. Watching people's eyes light up when they first realized the physical ball was interacting with virtual targets on the screen was incredibly rewarding, and seeing many of them come back later to show the machine off to their friends was equally satisfying.
It was great to see people of all ages enjoying the machine. We had young kids coming back repeatedly to play just one more game of 'Barnyard', there were a few teenagers we had to ask to take a break so others could have a chance to play, and there were adults who couldn't get enough of 'ROCs' and who didn't want to leave until they completed the 'Walls' mode."
Gerry continued, "Based on reactions from TPF, it's obvious that a machine like the P3 can bring a lot of excitement back to pinball. We knew merging new technologies with traditional pinball features was a risk when we built the machine, but I now believe that risk is gone.
There's a noticeable difference between gratuitous congratulations and sincere enthusiasm, and what we received was sincere enthusiasm, almost universally. While that was great to see, it doesn't mean we could build a viable business around the machine.
However, two specific things happened repeatedly and convinced us we could be successful manufacturing and selling machines:
1) Not only did people want to pre-order the machine right then and there, but we also had offers to buy the prototype machine as-is. Now THAT's validation.
2) We had more than one popular pinball designer congratulate us on our ability to innovate in ways that enhance, rather than replace, the traditional pinball experience.
Since the show, we've continued to get pre-order requests, and we've also been contacted about creating custom-themed versions for specific corporate entities. The potential for custom themes for interested parties is enormous, and we intend to make that a segment of our business. (Interested parties can contact me directly.)
It's obvious the P3 is something special. We are confident the community is ready for this type of machine, and we are putting together a talented and motivated team to bring it to market."
That team is being brought together under the new company name of Multimorphic Inc.
Multimorphic Inc. will develop and market P3 as a pinball platform that includes multiple, complete game applications in a number of different forms aimed at various demographics, and they will continue developing new game applications well into the future. Additionally, the programming interface will be open, so other developers will be able to turn their own visions of the P3 into reality, in the same way many have already used the PinballControlers.com products to create some extraordinary games.
Gerry explained why they decided to establish the new brand and what it means for PinballController.com products.
"In my opinion, PinballControllers.com is a very specific name that perfectly describes the control system components (P-ROC and PDBs) that we sell. As we enter the pinball manufacturing business, I wanted a name that was more general and chose Multimorphic because of the dynamic nature of our machine and our vision.
Not only will we continue to sell P-ROCs and PDBs, and support the development community that's using them, but we will also continue developing and selling new products to give people more options for their custom machines.
We believe our products offer designers more capabilities than any other pinball machine manufacturer can offer, and we intend to continue innovating. The current plan is to continue using the www.pinballcontrollers.com site to sell and support these products."
The creation of Multimorphic Inc. hasn't put the brakes on further development of P3 either and Pinball News can now bring you exclusive details of further innovations introduced into the machine since its appearance at Texas.
First, the LCD screen has been increased in size and now covers the entire flipper area - a development which presented both new possibilities and new challenges.
Mounting flippers above an LCD screen might seem like an impossibility, but inspiration for the solution came from the team's earlier work doing just that with the slingshots.
They tested the new flipper design on the smaller screen first...
..before applying it to the larger monitor.
One difference you can see immediately is how the new flippers are transparent. Because the game knows whether they are in the raised or lowered position, the LCD screen below can be used to create colours, patterns, graphics or words which appear inside the flippers. For the first time, it is possible to have multi-colour or animated flippers.
The Multimorphic team have released a video showing the new flippers in action.
Gerry told us about the new 'floating' flipper design and the possibilities it introduces.
"The slingshot design was a big hit at the show. Many marveled at the aesthetics and wondered how they worked. Others didn't even realize they were different, thereby silently verifying the functionality was spot-on.
The new flippers share some design components with the slingshots. Again, because of the monitor in the playfield, we couldn't drill mounting holes and mount them underneath; so we had to float them. Doing so presented its own set of challenges, the biggest of which was making them feel as solid as the flippers people are used to. Not only do these flippers feel solid, but they also have fewer moving parts and are easier to service than existing flippers mechs.
Because they're transparent and floating above a monitor, we can introduce visual effects that simply weren't possible before. I like to call them animated flippers, and just like the floating slingshots, they're patent pending. Our animated flipper video above shows off just a few introductory visual effects, but there are countless things we can do with them. A few ideas include producing different visual effects when a ball is flipped, when a ball bounces off of a flipper, or even when a live catch is performed. Different balls speeds can affect the intensity or colors of the effects. Other ideas include drawing instructional graphics or text to help the player aim and changing the flipper color or brightness to indicate the current flipper strength."
It was always intended to incorporate this larger monitor into the game's design, but it was held back until the new flipper mechanisms had been created and tested. The use of a larger monitor also introduces the possibility of animated artwork in the inlanes and outlanes as the ball passes through them or as it approaches the flippers.
Gerry told us in the first article how "we re-thought just about every aspect of a pinball machine". The new flippers and slingshots designs are evidence of that, but he still has plenty of new ideas up his sleeve. "Our philosophy is simple. If it's on our game, it's there for a specific reason, and we probably redesigned it to fit our needs. You won't find a single feature that's on the machine because of tradition. We've previously talked about our 'wall' drop targets and integrated RGB LEDs, the custom scoops, and the double-story ball trough. You've seen our custom flashlamps, slingshots, and flippers, and you'll soon get to see new standup targets, custom posts, a new take on the captive ball, and a number of other innovations."
Gerry: As we're still in the planning phases, I'm not ready to define a timeline quite yet. I can say, however, that I've managed complicated product development schedules for multiple companies in the past, and I have a good sense for the process and the time it takes to create a quality product.
Building a new company and taking a pinball machine idea from a theme or concept to release in a year is simply unrealistic. That said, we're well past the concept phase. We have a working, proven boardset (P-ROC & PDBs). We have a full-featured development framework and software environment (pyprocgame). We have working ball-tracking technology, floating flippers, floating slingshots, and numerous other playfield features. We have working demo modes, mini-games, and service features.
In short, we have most of the building blocks already in place. Now we just need to concentrate on engineering in quality, reliability, and, most importantly, fun... and then on building it.
Gerry: We've actually made very few modifications to the P-ROC software suite, but yes, everything we've changed will be pushed back into the public repositories, and we intend to continue doing that in the future.
Gerry: We're working through the bill of materials right now and trying to come up with an appropriate pricing scheme. You're right, there's a lot of hardware and software, and the end result will be different than a traditional pinball machine. Remember, the P3 is not a single-themed machine. It is a multi-game platform - own one machine, play many games. Yes, I know what most people think when they hear me say that, but trust me, the machine we're building won't get stale. More on why at a later date.
Gerry: One could argue that the prices new machines are selling for today are too high for viable commercial operation. Again, I don't know what the exact price of the P3 will be, but I am sure it will offer more value than a traditional machine, both for the home owner and the operator.
Gerry: Discussions are ongoing.
Gerry: Here too, discussions are ongoing. We've had conversations with enthusiastic distributors both in the US and overseas, and we welcome talks with others who are excited about the P3 and interested in becoming part of the process.
Gerry: It's too early to reveal the rest of the team, but I can assure you that our standards are high, and we are surrounding ourselves with the best of the best.
Gerry: Yes and yes. As we reveal more information about the P3 you'll begin to understand the variety it presents. I think it can and will remain relevant for a long time, and we intend to continue supporting it for many years. That said, we've already begun brainstorming new features that might one day be integrated into a new platform.
Gerry: We have lofty goals and a far-reaching roadmap and will definitely need more help to accomplish everything. We are actively looking for more investors so we can begin working on some of our longer term goals. I believe the P3 represents an incredible opportunity, and we have the talent and drive to be successful. Anybody with the means and interest to join us in this endeavour can contact me directly.
Also, we will soon be looking to hire graphic artists. The advantages of having dynamic playfield artwork are obvious, but we'll need some talented artists to help us make proper use of the technology.
Gerry: Personally, I'm excited to see these new companies starting up. For over three years I've been teaching both amateur and professional designers how to use a modern pinball control system in the hopes that many of them would manufacture and sell new machines, and it's great to see it happening.
It's a very exciting time for pinball consumers, especially considering the variety of machines that have been announced. There's certainly a risk that all of these companies are battling for the same small set of customers. From what I've seen, most are building what I consider to be 'traditional' pinball machines, and there is a very well defined market segment for that type of machine.
We feel like the P3 compares favorably to others machines in that segment, and we hope to do well there. That said, our research shows our potential market to be much larger, and we will continue to innovate in the hopes of growing it further.
Gerry: In just a few weeks, we'll begin taking pre-orders for a limited run, special edition P3. If you've ever wanted to be a character in a game, this is the machine for you!
The SE P3 will have features not offered on the standard production model, including a special mini-game that optionally integrates customer supplied media. Quantities and pricing will be revealed soon, along with production timeframes. So check back here at Pinball News for updates.
Gerry: There are a ton of things going into proto 2 that weren't in proto 1. Many will be visible (larger monitor, animated flippers, etc), and many won't be (new circuit boards, new under-playfield channeling, etc). Many of the mini-game rules will be changing, and we'll have new service modes to show off.
Trust me... if you think you've already seen everything the P3 has to offer, you're wrong.
Of course, we only have two more months before the show; so we'd better get busy!
© Pinball News 2012