Swann Pinball Project
31Dec/050

Yearly Report 2005

Here we are, another year of the Swann Pinball Project that went past so quickly. This document is written to follow the tradition of publication of a yearly progress testimony about all that has happened in the past year.

After the first visionary year we left the dream state and entered into concrete actions, all, which took us back several times to the drawing board, redesigning and changing details that we realized would complicate and make the project more expensive.
The goal was to have all AutoCAD drawings for lane-guides finished before the summer season to be able to manufacture them and be able to make minor adjustments in regards to playfield placements and such under the autumn. The hurried raw Drawing-material was scarcely finished, but was sent away despite this, luckily for us, none of it went into production due problems with finding a suitable mechanical subcontractor.
As the autumn arrived a suggestion was made to give it a try to send the drawing-material to a Non-Swedish company to keep costs down. This demanded that we would translate all notes into English and while under the translation-process we made the decision to not rush things again. Therefore we are actually still in the process of working on the drawing-material currently.

One interesting decision that was made here was to change one of the plastic ramps into a metal construction, this mostly to keep prototype costs down, but also to speed up the development and manufacturing process.

Not all things that happened was setbacks though, the redesign of certain parts gave us new ideas that made it possible to invent quite unique new mechanical designs that will astonish most of all the operators. The only issue with our fresh ideas was (and is) that we still were in need of more mechanical and electrical engineers. The people that we have in these fields currently are really good assets, but since there is so much work to be done, so much gets delayed.
And the pile of engineering work to be done is still growing.

Due to the ever-growing pile of details that the machines are made up off, our programming team developed a parts database into which items and sub-items are hierarchically organized. As the project has developed with more and more details so has the need for this quite powerful online database software.

Screen-capture of one of the views from the parts database

Screen-capture of one of the views from the parts database

Electrical Engineering slowed down quite a bit due to illnesses and other related reasons, all of this were sadly out of our control. Luckily for us the electronics development is still not considered the most time consuming field and we feel quite assured to be ready with the quite unique Pinball System before the art and mechanical department have done their complete hand over.

I cannot stress here how much time has been spent on finding appropriate connectors, it would actually be an understatement to say “months”. It’s truly a jungle in regards to this and even when we have gotten some good contact with Aerospace and Military manufactures it hasn’t been easy to find suitable connectors for power connectivity. The specifications that the electronics team had recommended turned out to be quite extreme, so yes you could say a (our) Pinball Machine is on the edge of technology in regards to this.

One step outside of the development phase was also made the past year, we visited Trondheim in Norway where the Norwegian Pinball Convention 2005 was held. It was nice opportunity to be able to present our visions and were we where at that time. Some of the material that’s in this yearly report actually comes directly from that presentation.

One of the pictures by Daniel Borg for the presentation that we made in Norway

One of the pictures by Daniel Borg for the presentation that we made in Norway

Another marketing appearance that we made was to sponsor the Stockholm Open Competition with prices. We do hope to be able to do the same again for the next contest.

This autumn we’ve been working on developing and building a complete User-interface and Coin Acceptor Interface.
The built prototype unit has several I/O ports and is through these also responsible for functions like tilt, slam-tilt, door slam tilt and future feature buttons. What is the most unique here is really the fresh new User-Interface. According to our surveys most operators were satisfied with the WMS-standard (four buttons, back, -, +, test) but were open for improvements. Without actually presenting it here in details we can proudly say that it’s not a step, it’s a leap forward in simplifying and at the same time giving vast many more options at the tip of just one hand.

Our goals while developing this the new User-Interface were several and without bragging, it did turned out to a major improvement in several fields without loosing the familiarity with the classical UI. One field was to minimize the number button presses to reach the option that need change, another to minimize the need for looking in the manual about options, and yes much better adjustability’s, AI functionality for certain details which will improve the time between services and several other quite unique features.

Some screen-captures of our currently proposed User-interface.

Some screen-captures of our currently proposed User-interface.

Our goals while developing this the new User-Interface were several. One field was to minimize the number button presses to reach the option that need change, another to minimize the need for looking in the manual about options, and yes much better adjustability’s. Artificial Intelligence functionality for certain details which will improve the time between services and several other quite unique features. Without bragging (too much), it did turned out to be a major improvement in several fields without loosing the familiarity with the classical User-interface.

We expanded the team with an extra resource with long experience with Music and Sound effects for Computer-games which has been truly great, not only because of creations of amazing soundtracks for the Pinball Game but also as a fresh input source into game development and as a creative soul and contributing spirit. The preceding Audio division was kept primarily for local studio recordings.

Artwork has developed slowly and with grace, the sketches that were presented amazed us and with a true Pinball Spirit on all the different departments it felt like we were on the right track. Sure it was a slow track, but still, heading in the same direction and with a new approach to be able to take Pinball into the next generation of games.

Project management in this scale has been taking its toll and more resource was also needed in this field and a well-known persona in the Swedish Pinball community stepped in to help with administration and organization.
With this additional help, more serious time could be spent on looking into possible financing and government subsidies. Due to some of the previously mentioned setbacks we have realized that serious financing would speed up several of the fields, which up to today have been developing in an unsatisfying pace.
In regards to this I personally have to admit that I’m still quite surprised that to startup a production company that could employ hundreds of people is deemed unorthodox in the Swedish Business climate. With that said we currently don’t know where we will end, but rest assure, we will build our three prototypes and then it’s for the future to decide where to go after that.

I would have wished for that we could have more hard specifics in shape of pictures and other material to present for you, but sadly the hard truth is that if we present our ideas here there’s others more well financed competitors that could easily finalize our ideas before we’ve even sent the drawings to the manufactures. We truly do hope that you all will understand these special circumstances.

And well let’s go back to the question in everybody’s mind, when can the game be test played, well I have to disappoint you there, there’s a lot of work left, and we speak today in terms of years when we’re internally talking about the different phases in progress. With all that said, it’s important to know that there’s actually two ways to reach the goal, one is with “time” and the other one is with “money”, and as I mentioned we are now looking more seriously into reaching there with the means of money.

The upcoming year we hope to have a surprise for you all (and no, it’s not a finished game), don’t want to mention any details yet about this though, but keep your eyes open and your fingers twitching on those flipper buttons and lets see what shows up!
As usual I also want to deeply thank you for all the support that we have received from the Swedish Pinball community and yes most of all the work, spirit and soul that you team members have put into the project.

/Peter Ahremark

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.


Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.