Could a pinball renewal be upon us?

Everyone knows all about the upcoming Wizard of Oz pinball machine by now, but another new pinball vendor has a hot new title in the works as well.

Skit-B Pinball is working on bringing you Predator pinball — based on the 1987 film of the same name.

Kevin Kulek from Skit-B was kind enough to spend some time with The GameRoom Blog to give us the skinny.

I take it that you spent some time deciding what kind of custom pinball machine to make. What are some of the other themes that you considered? Why did Predator eventually win out?

This is one of my favorite questions. We get this one a lot, and the answer is much simpler than expected. One would expect that we thought on the theme for a long time before deciding on what to go with, but that is not the case, at all.

As the story goes, we were discussing the idea of making a new pinball machine in something of a ‘daydreaming’ manner, obviously before we decided to take the project full-scale. It was really as simple as the short conversation between myself and my partner, which went something to the tune of “Well, what theme would we want to use?,” to which the reply I received was a very powerful “F%#&ing Predator!”

With a little bit of thought, I was left only to say, “Oh, yeah!”

To this day I can’t believe how out-of-the-blue the theme choice was, and how well it has worked out. It’s not like we sit around and watch Predator all the time; I honestly hadn’t seen the show in something like 8 years or so — so it somewhat blind-sided me when it came up — but it’s not like the age of Predator even matters.

It’s an awesome, timeless movie to me and hopefully others feel the same way.

That being said, we talk about other pin designs all the time, and potential license ideas and things like that, and we do have some sincere misfires that could never make the cut that might be fun to share in the context of this question.

We talked about a World War II machine, but we decided pretty quickly that the idea might not be so great when you figure on how the modes would have to tie in with real-life events and real-life carnage and violence, so we stopped right there.

Another one we really wanted to work with was Blazing Saddles, but we aren’t exactly comfortable with using so many racial comments, even in good humor, in a pinball machine, and the license would fall on its face without it.

My favorite one that was just blatantly shot-down at the moment it was brought up was “The Internet: The Pinball.”  It was fun to talk about, but speaking candidly, the idea itself is just really silly.

Predator Pinball Cabinet Art

Predator Pinball Cabinet Art

Well it seems like a fine choice to me. Is it strictly based on the original movie or do you have some Alien vs. Predator stuff or things from other sequels in there?

We toyed with the idea of having some stuff from following Predator movies, but after digging our nails in we found that there was more than enough going on in the first movie alone to easily fill a machine without having to stretch it at all.

The only thing we came up with that we really loved that had to be left out because of the decision to only use the original movie was one feature that would chase the ball with blue light around the outer loops, simulating the blue streak behind those Predator discs from the later installments in the series (I think they came up in Predator 2, but I’m not 100% on that).

Could That be the Predator Playing His Own Machine?

Could That be the Predator Playing His Own Machine?

Let’s talk about the playfield mechanics.

Are you doing anything unique or unusual with the mechanical aspects of the game? Are you planning on using unique flipper parts or Williams parts like Jersey Jack is doing?

There isn’t too much wild new machinery on the playfield, so to speak, but there are some new concepts applied to some simpler stuff.

We use a diverter post at the top of the loops that you control with the flippers, giving you the control to choose a full orbit or to let the ball drop into the multiplier lanes, instead.

We have another diverter on the left ramp which steals the ball off the ramp itself and drops it into the left side eject, which points outward away from the flippers and into the pop bumpers, as opposed to the more conventional way scoops and ejects like to fire the ball back to the flippers more “safely.”

The right eject is an extremely low shot which also fires out directly into the pops, as well. We are also using an extra string of general illumination in a very unconventional way on this machine. It’s used as part of what we call the “hunt” mode, which we have gotten an incredible amount of positive feedback.

We’re not really trying to reinvent the means; we’re just re-imagining the ends.

Using existing hardware would make our lives a lot easier, but we haven’t solidified any deals with anyone yet as to if we will be able to use them or not. We have briefly talked with a few vendors/manufacturers, and we plan to continue working on a deal until something comes of it, or else we are going to have to manufacture our own. We have local companies lined up that have offered to tackle the project for us if it comes to that. I guess the best answer to this question is, “we’ll see.”

I have seen the “hunt” mode and like what I see there.

What can you tell us about the operating system? Are you using a P-ROC or do you have a custom solution?

The game is driven by a P-ROC and driver boards which were also made by the creator of the P-ROC. We originally thought it would be a necessary part of the process, but after researching what the P-ROC could do, we couldn’t even come close to the functionality of the P-ROC with our custom solutions while maintaining affordability.

While we have yet to receive our driver boards, I’ve seen their schematics and have talked with the P-ROC creator about their uses and functionality. They should prove to be a godsend to us both developmentally and to the end users.

The power supply is not attached to the driver board; it is another board altogether, saving technicians the trouble of worrying about changing rectifiers and capacitors on the driver board. If a power supply goes bad, repairing it should be similar to that of a more conventional high-power region of a driver board, but a replacement power supply is available for a much more reasonable price than said conventional driver boards.

The driver boards we will be using are a sequence of small boards that control the elements within the game based on voltages, so if all of the coils of a similar voltage stop working, you can easily figure out where the problem is and react accordingly.

The driver boards are very straightforward in their design, so finding a blown transistor or something is also a pretty simple process. If all else fails, these boards are also replaceable for a much more reasonable cost than conventional driver boards.

While we’re talking about hardware, I should also mention that all of our games use LED displays, so there is no need for a display controller board to regulate high voltages to a plasma display. This also removes the worry of “credit dots” and fading displays altogether.

Predator Backglass Art

Predator Backglass Art

That all sounds like a solid foundation.

What about the playfield printing and clear coating. Are you doing that in house or outsourcing that somehow?

All of the graphics for the game, both playfield and cabinet, will be done by local contractors here in Mid-Michigan.

The application of the playfield artwork on this game is very unique, so it will most likely be going through a multiple clear-coat process to protect many layers of color. The Hunt mode initiates UV lights along the edges of the playfield, so we are planning on adding a layer paint that can only be seen under black light to further the feeling of being the Predator himself.

In order for this to work and hold up to years upon years of use and abuse, we will need to silk-screen the artwork, then add a layer of clear-coat to protect it. After that, the UV paint layer will be applied, then yet another clear-coat to protect that, as well. The layer of clear-coat in the middle is necessary so the two different kinds of paint don’t bleed together.

Do you have a set price in place? How many units are you going to sell?

We have a good general idea of what the price will be, but we can’t quite say it’s set in stone yet until we get all of our suppliers in order first. Target price per unit is $4750 US, but as I said, that may have to change a bit. We’re doing everything we can to keep it under the $5000 mark, and so far we’ve been doing pretty well with that rule.

We’ve managed to get quite a few big names on board with the project, like Marco Specialties to supply parts and Back Alley Creations to create some playfield eye-candy, and the price point hasn’t needed to move yet.

We are making no more than 250 units of the game. We have been taking private pre-orders for a few weeks now, and the response has been overwhelming. We have only technically opened up the pre-order list to a single website user base and our own local pinball league here in Michigan, and we have already filled about half of the orders.

We will take any pre-orders that come in directly through my email listed on the website (www.skitbpinball.com) at this time, and we are planning on taking the updated prototype machine to the Pinfest show in Allentown, PA May 4th and 5th and allowing orders there, as well. We expect the list to be all but filled at that point, so we aren’t really seeing much of a reason to open a public order as we had originally planned.