Swann Pinball Project

About

Introduction

In January 2004 a couple of Pinball enthusiasts got together, some beers were drunken, a lots of flipping on our own Pinball-machines and then suddenly late at night an idea sprung out of nowhere; -Let's build our own game from scratch!

The first step in the journey was to decide how serious the whole project should be, either just a home placed "always almost working" project or an on-location sturdy design.

We choose the path of sturdy finalized design, even when it would mean a more expensive and prolonged development. An early realization told us that this would take time, so we drafted on a timeline two to three years, which still today feels realistic (ie. a release in 2006-2007).

Due to the less than friendly environment for starting up a manufacturing company with a development phase of two to three years we decided to focus our efforts and resources on the development, and not on paperwork such as legal-issues, taxes, registrations and so on. This also meant that all the necessary expenses are taken out of our own pocket, through what is left over from our "every-day job" salaries. Therefore we are very greatful for all voluntary help and sponsoring that enables us to keep expenses from running away.

Teambuilding

With the help from KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) and Svenska Flippersällskapet we quickly located a dynamic team that got inspired of the idea of building a pinball game, some of them Pinball fanatics, some just fascinated by the idea of starting up and building from scratch a new product.

Due to the nature of the project all of the team members are required to spend comprehensive time of their spare time for the project which demanded that they where not sought up, but instead “contacted us” and were willing to offer major time and effort for it.

Design

A major part of the earlier phase was spent in surveying rec.games.pinball and www.svenskaflippersallskapet.com/forum for what players like and dislike in a design. Actually, most important was the "dislike", we wanted to maximize the experience for the player to make sure that this would be the preferred game in a typical lineup.

The keywords became: humor, flow, secrets, downtime and easy to understand.

In regards to the design, we spent time in examining some of the most popular games available in the Stockholm area, like Cactus Canyon, Medieval Madness, Attack from Mars, Indiana Jones, Cirqus Voltaire, Scared Stiff and so on. What made them so popular, which parts in them made people come back to them over and over.
We also interviewed several hardcore players registered at Stockholm Pinball to get a idea of their views of what works in a game.

All great new inventions have developed from some other great (or less great) ideas, so we felt that even by looking on other games it would still not be a copy but instead turn into a natural next step in the development of Pinball.

The first drafts went into the direction of a widebody machine due to the vast amount of toys and gimmicks. After scraping several ideas, simplifying, focusing on ball flow, playability and to minimize downtime we ended out with a normal width playfield.

Mechanics

We were very fortunate to have at hand a very experienced engineer, which enables us to create constructions that through their design at a later stage fairly easy can be manufactured.

In regards to construction of mechanical parts we were privileged to have found a Pinball enthusiast working at ZIWA , a mechanical production company. They were even willing to some extent sponsor the project in regards to the mechanical parts.

Electronics

With our visions clear to give the players a next generation of Pinball machines we have taken into account the old sturdy classical engineering and used it together with newer technologies, which we have mapped together.

This was/is a somewhat complicated process due to the constrained budget that we were having. For example, current Pinball machines are designed according to old regulations, permits in regards to power engineering, a similar design just wouldn't be allowed today.

Software

With the availability of powerful CPU's and High-level languages we were able to create a real time operating system without the usage of conventional synchronized clocking. This enabled us in turn to create a system with possibilities and features that has never before been seen in the realm of Pinball.

Due to the procedure of using traditional rules and generic design we have used and use a vast amount of our effort to maintain attraction for the old-school players without loosing the attraction-value that is so important for all new players.

Artwork

By surveying Pinball-art for the most part fashioned in the 80ties and 90ties we had an idea of suitable imagery, just had to develop a working foundation process.

The idea had all the time been to give players a recognizable environment with extraordinary feature never before experienced, this forced us to develop new never before used techniques for creating pinball art and animations to generate the desired mixture between the old and the new world.

Audio

The Audio involved in the Swann Pinball Project has miscellaneous challenges and a partly new solution compared with the well-known Pinball-branch standards. The keyword humor affects a major part of the audio creation-process. The finished product is planned to have about 200 to 300 samples, which will present audio-effects, comments as well as storytelling. On top of that a soundtrack with various songs will be added to the game.

Our objective is to make a game that is funny with good music that is varied enough to last a long time for both the hardcore and occasional players.
Hardware and software will be slightly different from what is known as standard and we plan to take the audio to a whole new level in pinball history.