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The Dude unpacked

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
Since I'm busier than ever, and since PacDude doesn't need anyone speaking for him, I've decided to publish his profile raw and unedited. I did break up a few lengthy paragraphs, but otherwise, here is the Dude in his own words.

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 was almost undoubtedly Black Hole at some time in the early 1980's. I was maybe 7-9 years old or so at the time. I remember that the theme (it reminded me a bit of the Disney movie of the same name when I saw it) combined with that cool lower playfield is what attracted me to it. Oddly enough, I don't recall looking at many other pinball games back then. I think I was more interested in video games. Plus the local arcade that had great deals (like 48 tokens for $5) was originally all pinball (I saw it once briefly when I went to the diner there with my dad) but soon got replaced with all video games. So I saw mostly video game action back then, only to get replaced by interest in computers and computer type games.

I remember briefly playing Taxi around 1989 or so while at a little mini-mall, but I don't think I really played another real pinball game until 1994 or so (I did have Pinball Dreams and Fantasies on my Amiga at that point so that sparked interest in trying some real machines out). In 1994, I played an almost like-new Addams Family at the Americana Hotel in Williamsburg, VA and I was hooked. Since then, I've been able to play many older '80s games and even some older EMs from the '60's and '70s along with the vast majority of '90s games and about half of Stern's post 2000 games.

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, bagatelle, Ems, SS, modern VPM.

I discovered Pinmame before VP (it was called wpcmame back then) and I was following the emulation fairly closely (I was already into all kinds of computer and arcade emulations) because I was a huge real world pinball fan at that point. I remember thinking how cool it would be if we could even somehow tie some photos of real games into the emulation and just display the light changes on-screen. Having a PC pinball game tied into it was always in the back of my mind, but I never really thought I'd see the day.

Then I heard about Visual Pinball. This was in early 2001, around February or March or so. I remember e-mailing Randy (VP's original author) about such a possiblity and he told me that work was already under way. I didn't really think about authoring tables at that point. It wasn't until I decided I wanted to see a regular Addams Family (Boris' releases were based on the Gold graphics) that I started playing with the editor. I picked it all up fast from there.

I think it's pretty obvious at this point that that I prefer VPM tables and that's because they let me recreate my favorite real world tables and even recreate tables I never got a chance to play. With my extensive real-world pinball experience, background in computers and electronics and even earlier 3D editing with Imagine on the Amiga, I picked it all up pretty fast. I'm always trying to improve, though.

I don't get as excited about flipperless and EM pinball games as newer solid-state games. Overall, I'm still a huge fan on late '80s and newer pinball games, but I'm starting to appreciate the early solid-state games as well. Most EM games play too slow for my tastes, though and both many EMS and most flipperless tables don't have the control I desire over the ball. Newer games have more interesting rulesets and varied layouts, but some older games had their own appeal. However, I enjoy looking at all of pinball's history and play real world older games whenver I get the chance.

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 pretty much work alone these days. Many people generously photograph machines and scan plastics and manuals for me, but I tend to build the tables by myself. That gives me the control I desire over the project and also lets me be as creative as I want to be or take the table in any direction I feel like without having to answer to anyone about it.

As for a favorite table or my best work, I hate to pick and choose. I just released V1.0 of Sorcerer today and think it's my best work graphically yet, but it's not neccessarily the most fun real world table to play. I also particularly like how Big Bang Bar, Firepower and RoadShow turned out, but I'm happy with most of the 14 tables I've build by myself in the past year and a half or so. Before that time, I tended to take over existing tables and fix them up.
I've learned since then that I prefer starting over from scratch as the tables usually turn out much better overall as there is no rock left unturned or any work to evaluate and then correct or replace. But there were probably around a dozen other tables I worked on before I started working totally by myself. I still maintain those tables, which include some fan favorites like Addams Family and Twilight Zone.

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

I have doubts about the future of VP period at this point since its primary author (Randy) has disappeared. I don't really believe that VP has to be for one or the other, though. There are those that like to build originals and those that like to build recreations. Contrary to popular belief, there is still lots of work to be done in recreations. There are many many recreations that could be upgraded and/or replaced with better quality tables. Suffice to say that I could spend the rest of my life making tables and still probably not recreate them all in VP.

I'm not really interested in a particular set of forums, but rather the VP and pinball community in general. Wherever they are is where I'll be.

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

I'm good at just about everything in terms of skill at this point, but I think my newer tables tend to stand out these days in terms of the lighting effects on them. I've built an entire system of light control that allows me to use VP lights, wall lights or reel lights in any number of fading, two-state or overlapping combinations. That combined with newer graphic methods I've developed to make more realistic looking lights has resulted in pretty realistic looking effects in a table like Sorcerer.

I also think I've been pretty good at making toys work and gameplay pretty close to the real machine (as far as VP allows). The hardest thing for me is finding enough time to make these tables. I essentially have very little time for a social life between working a regular job, taking care of life's chores and trying to find time for my hobby of recreating pinball tables. I think it's having an adverse effect on my dating life at this point and so I wonder how much longer I'm going to keep it up before either letting go of the hobby or slowing down a lot. I'm pushing 30 now. I might like to start a family before I'm old and decrepit.

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, garphics, layout, playability, added sounds, or something else?

Everything is important. I could probably write a book on how to make a good VPM recreation at this point, but I seriously doubt anyone would read it. I've created tutorial tables before and I don't see many new authors using any of those techniques or even my new lighting systems. I also find many authors don't really like to be told how to make their tables. I also don't have tons of times to both make tables and teach how to make them. Since I'm doing this largely as a fun hobby, I prefer to spend most of the time making tables.

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

Is there a difference? The first computer I had access to was a Commodore Vic-20 and then shortly thereafter a Commodore 64. From there, I moved onto a Commodor Amiga 500 and then an Amiga 3000. I purchased my first Microsoft OS clone type PC in 1999, if you can believe it. I don't like Microsoft, but even the most loyal Amiga fans have to move on sooner or later. I like MacOSX and Linux even, but sadly Visual Pinball and many other computer games won't run on those operating systems. Ultimately, I prefer doing something WITH a computer instead of just playing with operating systems, so here I am. Whether I keep a Microsoft operating system around is going to depend on the software, games and how far Bill Gates decides to take the Big Brother atmosphere that Windows is gaining more and more of

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 prefer to keep some details private due to the nature of recreating real world tables, but my faith is Christianity (I don't subscribe to denominations, but follow the Bible and think for myself), my college background is in Electronics (I've got 2 degrees in Electronic Engineering) and my current job deals with computers. I'm going to be 30 years old in just over a month (at the time of this writing). I have other hobbies and interests in photography (especially night photography), high-end audio and home-theater reproduction and I play the piano, synthesizer, guitar and formerly the alto saxophone as well. My favorite music artist is Tori Amos (I love listening to her as well as playing her music on my Roland Digital Piano), my favorite rock band is Pink Floyd (I play some of their stuff on guitar and the synthesizer/piano) and I tend to like Sci-Fi shows like Star Trek (various incarnations) and comedies like That '70s Show on tv these days. I just recently got HDTV service from my cable company and I love watching Discovery's High Definition Theater as well as numerous DVDs on my 57" widescreen set.

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

I loved Emkaah's Space Shuttle VPM recreation. It's looks as real as one could hope for and also plays very well. Kurt's (aka Scapino) tables are also really nice, but I haven't cared that much for the actual real world tables he's recreated, which are mostly older EM and early Solid-State tables up until this point. I'm looking forward to trying out his upcoming Cirqus Voltaire, though.

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?

I used to play real pins like crazy in the 1990's when I was in college. They were pretty easy to find and I had a lot of free time to play them after school or one days I didn't have class. Unfortunately, I don't get to play real world pins as often these days, but I do play them when I find them. I loved playing a lot of different machines (too many to name), but some of my absolute favorites over the years included, Theatre of Magic, Twilight Zone, Jurassic Park, Attack From Mars, Addams Family, Getaway and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

11 Any advice for a new VPF 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?

I visit Shivasite and The Magic of Flipperless and I frequented VPFF until it recently closed, but most of the traffic is at VPF these days. I think the best advice for a new member is to participate. Ask for posting rights and jump in. We don't see enough feedback and pinball threads these days, in my opinion and we could use more newcomers.

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?
I'm too busy making tables to actually play a lot of tables these days. There just isn't time to play other people's tables and still have time to build and test my own. I know a lot of people out there enjoy my tables (at least I've gotten a ton of PMs and e-mails over the paste few years that claim as much) so I guess I'm doing something right.

13 Is there anything else you’d like to add? It doesn’t have to be about VP. Maybe a secret dream, or a joke, this is your last chance?

I try to encourage people to give a donation to charity if they like one of my table releases instead of thanks or any kind of payment. It occurred to me maybe I could accomplish something good out of this while still allowing myself to enjoy building tables. I can only hope it actually is doing some good as I'll probably never know how many actually do donate anything.

14 So which is it, Red Code Mountain Dew or Vernor's Ginger Ale?

I drink more Diet Rite Cola and Coffee these days more than anything else. I need the caffeine from the coffee to stay awake at work and Diet Rite uses Splenda as an artificial sweetener, which tastes better than Aspartame. Plus some of the things I've heard about Aspartame kind of scare me. Even so, I still buy Diet Code Red sometimes.

When I'm out and/or not watching my weight closely, I'll happily drink Coca-Cola, Vanilla Coca-Cola (preferably made with Torani Vanilla Syrup in regualr coke), Vernors ginger ale, Welch's Grape, regular Code Red. Or better yet, lemonade, limeade or the occasional Margarita. The one variation of Pepsi I ever liked was Pepsi Blue, but I haven't seen it in some time. I find that Torani's blueberry syrup added to regular Pepsi tastes pretty similar, though.
 

bob

Add-a-ball specialist
Site Supporters
My favorite VP VIP has always been PD and I'm not really into VPM. He really is an alright Dude...

@ Tiltjlp, I just posted and now if I scroll up to the top of this page I see no "New Posts" option or "Posts since last visit" option. This is what I meant, so what am I suppose to do now to see the menu of recent posts or todays posts or a post that someone just made?

signed: Lost and frustrated from Ohio :wink:
 

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
Dear lost,

Well I'll be. Since I see it when the forums load, I assumed it was on all the pages. I never use it, so I was wrong on that count. I'll e-mail Jon and see if he can add it for us all. Thanks for pointing it out. :(

John
 

bob

Add-a-ball specialist
Site Supporters
tiltjlp said:
Dear lost,

Well I'll be. Since I see it when the forums load, I assumed it was on all the pages. I never use it, so I was wrong on that count. I'll e-mail Jon and see if he can add it for us all. Thanks for pointing it out. :(

John

So what do you do at that point? Do you use back arrows or do you go to the forums home page? I really like VPF where you can just click on todays posts at that point and it shows you the new posts and the posts for the last 24 hours.
 

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
Well, what I do is always click on the Tilt! Forums link at the top of the page. Since forums with new posts in them have an orange buttom, I open the forum and read all the threads with orange. I can see the merits in your approach, and will e-mail JOH right now, before I forget. Hopefully I'll catch him while he isn't too busy and maybe he can make life easier for you.

John
 

tiltjlp

PN co-founder
Bob, I know this isn't exactly what you asked for, but Jon has added a list of the last 15 posts at the bottom of the front or Home page, along with a link to the forums. I don't know if he has other plans to fulfill your request, especially since this isn't the Suggestion thread. Which brings to mind VPF's Suggestion Box. I thought it was great, but I think you, Rodgz, and I made too many suggestions they didn't like.

John
 

bob

Add-a-ball specialist
Site Supporters
Yes, I like the new addition, I think it will solve my problems. I remember the suggestion box at VPF... The problem was that they really didn't want any suggestions at that time :D Thanks to JPH!
 

elton

Pinball Wizard
Only just noticed this thread - my old age must be showing itself again!

A nice profile. PacDude is one of a number of clever table authors who I hold in very high esteem. He appears to 'knock out' quality tables with alarming regularity and has contributed so much to the VP scene.

He's a good guy.
 
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