Phoenixx's interview


PN co-founder
Editor’s note. My word processor fouled search and replace, and Capitalized every I in this document. I tried to change all of them that shouldn’t have been Captialized, but since there were close to 1,000, the spellchecker and I may have missed a few. Don’t let this distract you from reading about a very interesting and friendly fellow in Phoenixx.

1 When did you play your first game of pinball, and what game was it, If you remember? Your first game of VP/VPM

My first game of pinball must have been around the age of 6. I’m not exactly sure what the very first game was, but Silverball Mania, Nitro Ground Shaker, and Firepower are coming to mind. These days were my days of pinball, because I was truly hooked. Every coin went Into a pinball machine or a videogame,...I liked both the same at that time, and I didn’t really care whether to play pinball or Phoenix or such,...the most important thing was to play any of those fascinating machines at all. The addiction went so far that we,(me and my buds), took every chance to cheat the machines for free play.

Money was always short, so all that’s left was to try to play for free somehow, since the fascination and the urge to gather control over those machines was much too strong to resist. I even had a lot of fun watching others play. It always gave me a special kind of feeling just to be near those machines, and that’s why I spent most of my free time at any such place where some machines were around. That’s why I consider myself a true maniac, because the pure presence of machines at any place where I was able to reach them was already enough to make me happy. Even If I was only watching the attract mode for hours,...

My first game of VPM was probably Fire Power. It was one of the first games I downloaded the ROMs for, and as soon as I figured how It all works,(see story below),I was downloading the
table for it first as well, far as I remember,...but not 99,999% sure,...

2 When did you discover VP? Do you prefer VP or VPM tables? Are there any types of tables you don’t care for, and which era do you enjoy best, such as 20s-40s commercial coin-op, modern VPM bagatelle, EMs, or SS?

I discovered VP two years ago, more or less by accident. I first discovered MAME, and found some ROMs for pinball machines, but I didn’t know what to do with them at that time. And the funny thing is, I even discovered VP a bit later, but I still didn’t figure that ROMs and VP have some relationship, so all I saw was the blank editor with the Top Speed table in it, since I didn’t know about other tables for it, and how it worked in general. I’m not really a originals-fan, and the quality of Top Speed was way too low to get me interested, so I played with the editor for half an hour and deleted it afterwards,...still having the ROMs for all those tables I was desperately looking for on my hard drive. LOL.

Really,...I would have paid $20 or more to have a table like Fire Power to play on my PC at that time. I already owned M$s Pinball Classics,(and many more PC-PInballs), at that time, and I always thought how cool It would be to have all my favorite machines as well for PC. Yes, can really say it was right in front of my nose, though I didn’t see it. LOL.

Then came the day when I finally figured it,(read it on some website, totally unintended, I was looking for MAME stuff),and you can surely imagine how hard I slapped my own forehead when I saw I could have played all the tables I wanted so desperately for a long time already. LOL. Yes, and since I’m a part of the community. I found out about VPF, and became a member, and now I visit there every day.

I definitely prefer VPM tables. Someone even said that I am a "die-hard-VPMer", and I guess he was right on. VPM tables are giving me the feeling of playing a real machine, and also the chance to re-play many of the machines I know from earlier. I guess I would have played much more originals if there wasn’t VPM, but VPM did "steal them the show", to say,...

The only machines I don’t care for are broken machines. At least not as long as they are on location, and I am supposed to throw money into them. But I buy broken machines, and fix them, like I recently did with my new Raven, which was badly broken and really, really dirty, and actually only a "ruin", to say the truth. Now it looks almost like new and runs almost perfectly, and I have the good feeling that I saved another of those rare exemples of those fascinating machines out there from vanishing forever at some junkyard. I guess I will do that more often from now on, even If I don’t keep them for myself. A good shopped machine will always find a happy home, unlike a broken ruin in a condition like that Raven I just bought.

The machines or era I enjoy best is from 78 to 85. SS, EE or/and EA machines are my clear favorites. I don’t really care much for EMs or older machines, Imp 35, and they have been long before "my time",...Some EMs are not that bad, though, nevertheless I play them only on VERY rare occasions. I can have fun with a DMD machine as well, but If I had the choice, I would always go with an older one. In fact I really love some of the newer machines, like Road Show or Attack from Mars or Tales of the Arabian Nights for example, but like I said,...I prefer Fire Power or Centaur or Medusa, etc. every day.

3 If you are an author, do you work along, or with partners? Which of your tables is your favorite, and why? Which of your tables do you feel Is your best?

I made two tables so far, of which one is still called a "mod" even though I only kept the script. I made It all alone, and I think I can work best with myself. A little help, suggestions, and opinions are always welcome ,but I like to have the last say in my work. Imp very nitpicking with some things, and very much a perfectionist, and that is probably a problem to many others, but it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t fit into a team as well,...I can accept alternatives, If I want to, at least as long as the end result isn’t totally against my imagination of the result,...If you know what I mean ...

Another table I made was an original called "FirePhoenix". It’s a "hybrid" table, because due to the lack of scripting skills, I had to make it work with a ROM from a real table. It runs on the Stellar Wars ROM, and plays quite good I think, in any case better than I thought it would.

And I made a "EasyInstallKit" for VP+VPM+VPL. It consists of a folder with everything needed in it, so that all you have to do is download it, place it where you want to have it, follow a few simple instructions, and put tables and ROMs in the appropriate folders to be ready to play. I made it as a tool for all those beginners with no clue how to puzzle the parts together for a running VP/VPM installation, after I saw that the same old questions are popping up over and over, and because I remembered how I didn’t know how to install it all myself at first, because all I had to figure it out at that time was an instruction sheet in French,...and I don’t even understand French. LOL.

Can say that It was pure "guesswork" to figure it out, and after I saw that this would be something useful to beginners who don’ t know what to do, like myself when I was starting, I just made it. It works perfectly, though I recently had it off my sig for a while because of a silly discrepancy with another VPF member, but now it is updated and back online, because I think it is very important to have this tool available for all those clueless beginners. I know those newbies greatly appreciate it, and that is the most important thing, IMO. All those "thank you" mails and PMs from folks from all around the world are telling me that it was a good thing to have it available.

No favorite nor "best" or "worst" due to the lack of choice in this case.

4 Do you agree or disagree that Originals are the future of VP? What is your favorite VPF forum, and why?

I’m not sure. I really have no idea how it all will develop. I think I can’t say anything about this.

My favorite VP forum is definitely VPF. It became kind of a "home away from home at home",...If you know what I mean. I like to hang around there, read the posts and replies, discuss things etc,...I think its the overall atmosphere which keeps me coming back. And I’m used to it,...I can’t and won’t deny it.

5 What are your best table making skills? What If anything is the hardest part of table making for you?

If any then graphics and correct alignment of xobjects. Like I said before, I’m very nitpicking, and an xobject only one pixel row out of alignment already drives me crazy. I used to zoom in as far as I can to reach the maximum possible resolution to align things like walls, lights, points, etc. In fact, I can spend hours doing such things with barely visible effect just to know it is correct,...If you know what I mean,...It just bothers me to know about anything like a misalignment, and find no rest until I fixed it. I always try to do things as good as I can, and that’s valid also for tables I work on. (And I worked on a lot for myself without releasing them as "mods".)

And I have a passion for sounds. I use to replace all sounds on the tables I play very often with sounds recorded from my real machines. I just cant stand those artificial sounds, which have nothing to do with real pinball machine sounds in many cases.

I(still) suck at scripting. I know I could probably learn it in a few days by intensively exercising, because I already got some grasp on it after checking around in some scripts, but "the coin has still not completely dropped", as we say in Germany. I’m able to script some basic things, but I have to pass on the more complicated things, I guess, but then I never really tried so far.

6 Do you have any hints or tips for making tables that would be helpful to other authors? What do you feel is most important in table making, graphics, layout, playability, added sounds, or something else?

I think I have no special hints other than do your work as nitpicking as you can to reach a maximum result. And listen to the opinions of others, because you might overlook some things down the road by concentrating too much on what you already got. And don’t get angry, or feel like your work is not appreciated If someone doesn’t instantly like what he sees. Some are much too sensitive about their work, and read suggestions and/or opinions as attacks. Keep cool, and at least think about those opinions before getting mad, and If you still think you like it better the way it is, just keep it, but don’t feel insulted for another one’s opinions and/or suggestions.

It’s all equally important, IMO. I wouldn’t prefer anything over another in this case. Only the good balance of all of this makes a truly good table in the end, IMO.

7 What kind of computer set-up do you have? And are you a computer whiz or a computer nerd?

I have a self-built machine consisting of an Athlon XP3000+, running on a 400mhz ASUS motherboard at 2.100GHz. I have currently 512 megs of RAM installed. Graphics come from a Radeon 9200/VIVO with 128MB of RAM. Sound is a 6-channel AC'97 device onboard. Network also onboard. I have no physical DVD drive, but 2 virtual ones. I have one normal CD-ROM drive and one CD-RW-Recorder. Also one 3,5" floppy disk, just in case. My OS is Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 1 installed by default. My system runs stable, and couldn’t be in better shape ATM.

Rather a crack than a nerd. No one’s perfect, that’s understood, but I have a lot of knowledge about computers and electronics In general, and know how to handle most software as well. I can build my own computers without problems, and can also fix them myself if anything is broken. I do this for my whole family, and for all my friends too. Whenever someone’s computer is broken, or someone needs their OS new Installed, I will be called to fix It,,...yes,...rather a crack than a nerd, least that’s what many folks say about me, so there must be something true about it, I guess,... But again,...I’m not "perfect",..."good" at best.

8 Where do you live? How old are you? What kind of work do you do? Describe yourself. What are you hobbies and interests other than VP/VPM? Is there any other personal stuff you’re willing to share with me?

I live in Fuerth/Germany. I turned 33 in December. I’m currently employed at a local woodselling company, and I’m doing all kinds of office work. For example I take the orders for "burnwood", (sp?), and process it in the computer. I arrange delivery-dates and all kind of things which belong to it. In one word: A telephone/computer job. I also make personal cards,(I don’t know the term, but you know, those weird little cards with personal information like name, phone number, etc., In the size of a credit card),and things like that. They’re called business cards in the US.

I also maintain the computers as good as I can. My job is very versatile, and I am glad to have it. I always wanted to work on a computer, so it is even kind of a dream job to me. I planned to become the organizer for eBay-sales in the near future, that means I will write the texts, organize, and setup the auctions, and deal with the auctions in general. [EDIT: I will no longer do this, but I get to do something similar soon.]

My other favorite hobby is electronics in general. I love to repair old HI-FI equipment, for example, because HI-FI,(or even better, High-End), is also one of my dearest hobbies,(actually even more than pinball), but It takes only a backseat-place at the moment. In fact I like to mess with all kinds of broken electronics until I either fix it ,or completely destroy it. LOL. It’s a cool way to be busy with something, and I find it to be very relaxing to solder something or such,...

9 What are some of your favorite VP/VPM tables done by someone other than you? Why?

I love all kinds of VPM tables, and I’d have to lie when I say "table X" is the one I like best. I often tried to figure out my true favorite pinball at all, not only in VPM, and I found it to be a very difficult task for someone who loves this game so much in general like I do,...If you know what I mean. All I can say is that Alien Poker by Kristian is probably one of the most fascinating ones to me, because I keep coming back to it again and again. But it always depends on the mood I am in, to be honest, I guess I just can’t really say what my absolute "favorite" Is,...I guess I don’t really have one,...

10 Do you, and how often do you play real pins? What are some of your favorites? Any that you’re really good on that you simply don’t enjoy playing?

Yes,...I do play real pins, but only my own due to the lack of machines on location in my area. Again, favs,...but I’d definitely like to play some of the ones I grew up with in real again,...

11 Any advice for a new VP member? Better yet, any advice for old, seasoned VPF members? Do you think there are too many VP forums? Do you visit any other than VPF?

No advice. Maybe stay calm, and don’t offend people there. Play by the rules and all will be O.K.

I don’t think there can ever be something as too many forums for something. Some like this place more, some that, and that way everyone will find a place he likes to be at. It’s absolutely O.K. to have more than only one VP related forum, IMO,...

I visit other forums only sporadically, to be honest. shivaSite and Pinball Nirvana are places I visit too from time to time. (I’m registered as "Phantom" at Pinball Nirvana, If you’d like to know.) But I hang out a lot in the German real-pinball-forums. These two,(VPF and PN), are my "major" forums, and somehow even part of my daily life. Kind of a "family away from home at home", If you know what I mean,...

12 Who, If anyone, do you consider to be the movers and shakers in the VP community, or the superstars, and why? Is there one Author whose work you always download, even without seeing the SS, or knowing anything other than the name of the table?

12.There are many important folks in this scene, but after all, it’s a community. One is as important as the other for me, even if some are definitely doing a lot more work than others. But I like to see our community as a whole, and not parts of important and/or non-important, or more or less important members. I download a table If I like it, and not by looking who made It.

13 Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up here?

I’d like to thank all those great and dedicated authors out there for spending their time and effort to make all those great tables and programs. It brought back a very important piece of my youth, which has been buried for a long time. I do greatly appreciate everything they do to make this community what it is. Thanks everyone.
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