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Pinball Rumors Club, Scorbit Interview, Who is Melvin Williams, Little Shop of Horrors & MOOORE

I’m starting to get into a bit of a pattern with these (this will be our 13th consecutive edition since picking things up again earlier this year).

Every week, without fail, I find myself thinking that it’s going to be a light week for TWIP, and then bam, suddenly, it’s Friday morning, I’m pushing 2,000 words, and we’ve got another jam-packed edition out the door.

This Week’s Pinball Agenda

  • A toe-tapping Song of the Week

  • A secretive Sponsor of the Week

  • Pinball News of the Week

    • Scorbit launches new app features (plus an interview with CEO Ron Richards)

    • Who exactly is Melvin “Williams” Brouwer?

    • TiltBob’s First Licensed Theme Revealed?

    • ABBA Pinball Deep Dive

    • Recapping Ohio’s PinBrew Festival

    • A new NBA Fastbreak Tutorial

  • Creator Highlights of the Week

  • Event of the Week

  • Poll of the Week

Song of the Week

This week, we’ve got Be Sweet by Japanese Breakfast. I like the song (and the band) quite a lot, but it’s the video I find most compelling and the reason for the share. It’s a fun X-Files-inspired romp (relevant to pinball!) that fits the theme of this week’s newsletter and hopefully gets you tapping your toes before diving into this week’s edition.

Shhhh, it’s a secret!

This week’s edition is brought to you by the new Pinball Rumors Club on Facebook. Join to discuss all the hottest pinball rumors and gossip. After all, sharing is caring!

Pinball News of the Week

Scorbit Releases Major App Update; What Else Have They Been Up To?

This past week, Scorbit released a major app updated with a pretty neat feature they are dubbing the Interactive Score Timeline. Essentially, it’s a visualization of your gameplay session that logs all your major scoring moments, when modes start, when you make jackpots, etc. It’s a fun way to break down, analyze, and share pinball gameplay sessions that I haven’t seen done before.

The last time we talked to Scorbit was just over a year ago when Jersey Jack ended their relationship with the company. Since then, the company has been active but quietly so. With this new update, we figured it would be a good time to catch up with CEO Ron Richards on the state of the company and where he sees things headed.

CA: What's been going on at Scorbit over the last year? What have you been focusing on?

RR: This past year, we’ve had tremendous user growth and development as an organization. Our silence is a sign of the “good kind” of distraction. We’ve sold out of our inventory of Scorbitrons twice in the past year. We now support more games than ever before as well as being embraced by the virtual pinball community, and it’s been a major year for catching up and catching our breath. We’ve been focusing on updates to our app, and along with that we’ve upgraded our architecture to support millions of live game sessions being fed into the platform. Not to mention some new hardware manufacturers integrating our platform. We’ve hardly had a moment of rest.

CA: With Stern growing their Insider Connected platform and JJP ending their relationship with Scorbit, what would you say the long term vision is for the service and where do you see it fitting in the future pinball landscape?

RR: We’re pretty pleased with where we fit in the pinball landscape as the largest connected pinball platform in the world, supporting the most titles and the largest feature set, including all of Stern’s games and still including most of JJP’s games. And we’re super excited for American Pinball, who are releasing Scorbit support for all of their new games (Barry O's BBQ Challenge is so much fun!) We also work on Spooky titles such as Total Nuclear Annihilation and Rick & Morty. Most importantly, Scorbit is the only platform that works with both retro machines (going all the way back to solid states) and modern machines, and the only platform with live scoring and mode display. And we’re really proud of the fact that Scorbit is the only platform that directly integrates with tournament software like Match Play Events and Drains Tournament Manager.

Regardless of what others may or may not decide, our long-term vision remains the same: To get more people playing pinball, in a way the next generation of players engage. When we say “the future of pinball is connected,” we mean it! It’s been great to see Stern’s progress with Insider Connected and seeing so many people having fun with their twenty or so Spike 2 games, many of them connected to both platforms. Their progress has been fantastic, it validates the demand, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

On our end, adding support for new manufacturers, new titles, and growing the potential of what we can do with the hundreds of existing titles we already support from the 1970s until today on the platform has been keeping us plenty busy!

CA: Can you share any upcoming initiatives that you're excited about?

RR: Top of mind, some keen eyes have noticed Pulp Fiction has been shipping with plans for full support of Scorbit. That game is one of the best new games to come out in the past year and we’re excited to partner with Play Mechanix and CGC to bring it into the connected pinball world. Look for this and many more new manufacturer integrations!

The Interactive Score Timeline in Action

Also, we just released our latest app update that includes an exciting new feature, the Interactive Score TimelineThis is truly a first in pinball and something we’ve been working towards for a while. When a game is connected to Scorbit, every individual game session is saved with a detailed log of what the player was doing and when. This includes what targets were hit, what scoring moments happened and what modes were stacked to achieve what score over the duration of the game.

We now made it possible for a player to go back in time to any game and “drag across” the timeline of the session, seeing what happened and when! You can scrub back and forth across a beautiful visualization of the score and modes, making it easy to understand how the game progressed. This includes game sessions we logged going all the way back to early 2020. Pinball can happen pretty fast, so this is a great way to go back and analyze your own gameplay or if you want to see how your friend or a top player you admire managed such a huge score, now you can see how it happened.

CA: What's the best way for someone new to the Scorbit experience to try this feature out?

RR: First, download and install the Scorbit app - available on the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android - and sign up with an account! From within the app, you can browse the Machines tab to take a look at your favorite games, check out their leaderboards, tap on a score that interests you, and explore with the feature yourself. Or you can go find your friends on Scorbit and check out their profile to see their recent scores. Tap on one that looks interesting and dive into their scoring timeline.

Second, to try out the features when you play, find a machine that is connected to the Scorbit platform, like at Outer Orbit in San Francisco for example. When the game starts, claim your player slot following the instructions in the app, either by navigating to the machine or scanning a QR code. This can be any machine with a Scorbitron installed or any machine that directly connects without hardware. You can even run Scorbit on VPINs (virtual pins), as machine developers have added it to many of those titles.

And despite rumors to the contrary, Jersey Jack games also do still directly connect to Scorbit, as long as the owner of the game has a version of the code that still has online features. If you want to try it, the owner just needs to reach out to Scorbit to re-enable the connectivity. Check out our support threads to see what software versions still work, or if you have to downgrade to an earlier version (that usually is the same code, just with Scorbit in it).

CA: In an ideal scenario, how do you see users best leveraging this new feature? 

RR: We see users finish games all the time and look up at their score having no idea how they got there. Often, we all watch someone crush a game and wonder what choices they made or just how did they get that huge score? Using this feature allows a user to see how it was done. Which combination of game elements work well, and which do not?

Imagine: You now can go to any machine leaderboard on the Scorbit app, find the top scores, and visit their timelines to see how they were achieved!

This provides an entire new way of analyzing and improving your game performance. Manufacturers can also leverage this as a way to see what modes work and when, and how people are playing with their games, informing changes or their next titles. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do with this data so there’s definitely more to come!

Who is Melvin “Williams” Brouwer?

This one has been gnawing at me all week.

On Monday, I caught up with the latest episode of The Pinball Show as well as the latest episode of the Slam Tilt Podcast.

In the Pinball Show, Dennis Kriesel gave his take on the recent DPX news by aptly describing the move as “arrogant.” Slam Tilt would come to a similar conclusion in spirit, although in a far more hilarious way (DPX is now short for Dual Penetration Xtreme).

Both of these got me thinking: Who is Melvin “Williams” Brouwer, anyway? Recent developments notwithstanding, I don’t get the sense that many people in pinball know much about him.

He’s not easily found online, but after digging, I found at least one interview with Melvin from the WC Pot-Cast series recorded during the 2022 Dutch Pinball Open. It’s only 20 minutes long, but I found it to be illuminating.

We learn a few things from this interview:

  • He’s described as a “ghost in pinball.”

  • He was involved with Pedretti’s Funhouse 2.0 kit as a project manager.

  • He’s a pinball collector and is big into flipping games.

  • He talks about being the type of collector who focuses on niche products, like prototypes or low-production games.

  • He’s been collecting for 15 years (as of 2022).

  • Got into the pinball business 5 years ago (as of 2022).

  • Made money selling high-end exclusive cars.

  • Really wants a “clown-horror” themed game, like IT.

Some of these points (flipping games, focused on rare titles, background in high-end cars) more-or-less line up with character traits that I would picture for someone involved with an effort like DPX.

While I don’t know the specific timeline for when he started working on DPX or acquiring rights to Magic Girl and RAZA, reading between the lines of this 2022 interview, you can tell he was already developing the concept for this company.

Is TiltBob Making Little Shop of Horrors Pinball?

While going down the Melvin “Williams” Brouwer rabbit hole, I stumbled upon a trademark filing by TiltBob Pinball for a Little Shop of Horrors machine, which was filed earlier this year. I’ve reached out to founder Bob Neis for confirmation or further comment but have not yet heard back.

ABBA Pinball Deep Dive

Following up on our coverage of the ABBA launch last week, we’ve got a deep-dive roundup of everything we know about the latest Pinball Brothers release on Kineticist, including team credits, photos, a launch trailer, gameplay footage, and more.

Recapping the 2024 Ohio Pinbrew Festival

Ohio's PinBrew Fest was last week, and Matt Owen was there to cover all the happenings of this growing celebration of all things pinball and craft beer. If this fest wasn't already on your radar, it should be!

New NBA Fastbreak Tutorial: Just in Time for Playoffs!

Thanks to James McFatter, we’ve got another in-depth pinball tutorial for you, this time covering Bally’s 1997 basketball-themed classic, NBA Fastbreak. Personally, I’ve always found this to be a fun shooter, even if the scoring is a little wonky compared to any other game of its era.

Creator Highlights of the Week

  • Stern’s Michael Grant (Senior Manager of Global Location Entertainment) was interviewed on Pinball Profile this week about his role with Stern and the Stern Army. Fun fact: Michael was part of my first New England Pinball League match many years ago and helped show me the ropes of the local pinball scene. For those of you who know him, he’s a heck of an ambassador for the game and the hobby.

  • TiltTrek interviewed Jersey Jack’s Bill Grupp about his work as lead programmer on Elton John. I particularly enjoyed hearing about some of the creative processes involved in making pinball games and how some game designers are more opinionated than others when it comes to rules and code.

    Also! Note that TiltTrek is running a giveaway until May 4th for an Elton John banner. Like/Subscribe/Comment on YouTube for an entry.

  • In Before the Lock had a great conversation with Kyle Smet, who was behind the Friday the 13th homebrew machine, one of several that stole the show at TPF.

Event of the Week

Pintastic New England is this weekend! It’s my hometown show, so of course, I’m going to give it a shout here. If you’re anywhere near Massachussets, it’s always a great time with an entertaining mix of pinball activities. I hope to stop by for a few hours on Friday and Saturday, so wave if you see me around!

Poll of the Week

How much do you care about pinball rumors and gossip?

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Last Week’s Poll Results

If money were no object, which of these would you be most interested in buying?

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ Alice in Wonderland (22)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ Magic Girl (10)

🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA) (14)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 Why are we still doing this? (35)

“Toxic garbage with bad juju”

-Selected “Why are we still doing this?”

“There aren’t enough zombies in pinball”

-Selected RAZA

“Beautiful design, needs help to actually make it work”

-Selected Magic Girl

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