Friday, January 25, 2008

Junk Yard Story

This is the story I wrote to help explain some of the sillyness in the game.
JUNK YARD.... The Story

"Nice Doggie!", I exclaimed. Where did this ugly dog come from? I was only looking at a beat up old toaster and the next thing I knew a mouth full of ivory spikes was chomping on my heels as I fled for my life.


"Maybe I have a Milkbone," it was lie. I rounded the corner and dashed through a large sliding gate. Spike was still coming, attitude and all. Dropping the toaster, I hurried to slide the gate shut as Spike's shadow grew all around me. CLANG! The gate closed and Spike was unable to stop in time.

Then I got a bad feeling as I heard laughter all around me echoing. "You're trapped in my junkyard. HA HA HA HA HA!!!" That must be CRAZY BOB, I thought. I'm going to have to build some kind of flying jalopy to get out of here.

The growls and snarls of Spike grew faint as I wandered deeper into the canyons of junk. I stumbled across a functional television set. Now, if I only had a weather vane I could create a radar device. I looked up and there was a weather vane sticking out of a telephone pole. Climbing on top of a stack of cars, I retrieved the weather vane. Using some extra wiring, I integrated the weather vane to the TV creating a radar device. It was time to test the device. I flipped through the channels on the TV. My choices were Christmas trees, time machines, fireworks, hot babes, junk, and Mean Dogs. I chose fireworks. Then I adjusted the tuner and bingo: the display showed me where and how close the fireworks were.

Just then I saw a hair dryer buried under some bicycle tires. I combined the hair dryer and the toaster creating a kind of toaster gun. Holding the gun I felt the urge to say 'feeling lucky PUNK!', but I resisted.

With new found confidence I made my way deeper into the labyrinth. I had a growing sensation. The sensation of being watched. Turning the corner I saw them. Down the alley, under a street lamp, hundreds, no thousands of rats were bubbling out of crates of fireworks. A sudden urge of stupidity swelled within me. I charged down the alley screaming at the top of my lungs and toaster gun blazing. As I reached the crates, I wasn't sure if it was toast or dead rats crunching under my shoes. I had a feeling that I would need these fireworks sooner or later.

I heard the distinct sound of water running. Climbing over stacks of tires I hid in the shadows and watched. A bare outstretched foot and a wet leg glistened in the moon light. She was taking a bath! I started to forget my surroundings when I heard a familiar yet loathing sound.

"GRRRRFFFFF GRFF GRFFFFFF!" Spike had a limited vocabulary. The bathing beauty leapt from the water naked and suds flying. I took a firm grip of the toaster gun, and a smile took control of my face.

"Somebody get this dog away from me!" She blurted. Leaping to my feet, I chased after them. FLANK FLANK FLANK, three pieces of toast whizzed past his head. I missed. I followed them to a small alcove. Locked in a figure eight, she was running for her life. I knew how she felt.

Crouching down I took aim. FLANK. Nervous, I shot too soon. The toast narrowly went between them. FLANK. This time I was successful! Spike, knocked down and away, the girl had time to escape. "Eat hot toast you scruffy old mutt!" I exclaimed victoriously.

That's when I had an idea. I tuned my radar device to the junk channel and calibrated it to search for a fan. I was lucky. There was a fan nearby. I tested the fan. I plugged the fan in and turned it on and the force blew me back against a wall of cars. The next thing I remembered was toast, dead rats, and small pieces of junk flying down the alley.

The bath tub still had her sweet smell. Digging the bike tires out I added them to the bath tub. I attached the fan to the rear. Using the fan as a means of locomotion and a rudder, I was soon tooling around the junk yard in my new jalopy.

I knew then that I would be able to collect all the junk I needed to finish this flying jalopy and go on many more adventures.

- J. W. O'Mally

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


While we were developing WHO ? dunnit it was important to me to have a back story that we could all draw from mainly to minimize the the continuity errors. It was also important to me for all the characters in the game to have real reasons to want to kill all the other characters in the game.

So I made most of the team sit in Barry's office for hours till we came up with the following background story for the game:


TONY’S PALACE – Casino, The place it all happens.

Nick Spade Private eye.

Tony 38 Owner of the casino and very content.
Trixie 23 Works as a dealer, for Tony
Bruno 42 Tony’s bouncer/ body guard.
Victoria 34 Spider Lady from Europe.
Butler 53 Victoria’s Manservant.

Walter, a young wealthy playboy, and Mia, wife of the English Ambassador have a fling. They conceive VICTORIA, a secret VICTORIA’S mother keeps. She doesn’t tell him before he leaves never to see him again.

TRIXIE’S mom dies giving birth to her. Tex is forced to be a single parent.

Walter comes to town, meets TONY, and they become partners. They start the W&T PALACE, a struggling casino. TONY then cheats Walter out of his half of the casino and Walter disappears.

Walter returns to Europe to learn that VICTORIA’S mother has died and that VICTORIA has grown up in a boarding school. VICTORIA looks amazingly like her mother. Walter can only think of how much he loved Mia when he sees VICTORIA. Walter changes his name to BUTLER. He tells VICTORIA that he used to work for her mom and she hires him as her manservant. BUTLER, trapped by the memory of Mia, does whatever VICTORIA says. VICTORIA treats BUTLER like dirt… as she does most everyone.

Tex forms a partnership with TONY and they create the T&T PALACE. This casino thrives and they become rich. TONY and Tex each get a tattoo on their arm that reads T&T PALACE. TRIXIE is 8 and has a crush on TONY. TONY and Tex are like brothers.

1922 MAY
BUTLER suspects the fate of all his daughter’s past husbands and encourages VICTORIA to go after TONY. VICTORIA shows up with BUTLER. VICTORIA and TONY have been lovers off and on for a couple of years. TONY still avoids her grasp. VICTORIA marries Tex, her third husband. She becomes TRIXIE’S stepmother. TONY doesn’t recognize Walter because BUTLER is the shadow of the man Walter was and looks 10 years older.

VICTORIA and TONY conspire to kill Tex. The plan was: VICTORIA gets the money and TONY gets the CASINO. Tex overhears VICTORIA’S half of the conspiracy. When she hangs up the phone he roughs her up and threatens that if anything happened to him she would be sorry. BUTLER witnessed Tex roughing her up. Unknowing to VICTORIA or TONY, BUTLER sabotages the brakes of Texs’ car. Tex drives off a cliff. Car explodes. Body was never found.

Tex, injured and disfigured, makes it to an underground doctor/plastic surgeon. Tex is reborn as BRUNO. BRUNO has one agenda, to get VICTORIA for attempting to kill him. No one will get in his way.

TRIXIE, now 11, moves in with TONY. VICTORIA cannot be tied down with a child. TONY is the closest family that TRIXIE has. She resents VICTORIA for this and still has a crush on TONY.

TONY and VICTORIA each believe that the other did the brake job on Tex. VICTORIA and BUTLER leave for Europe in search of another husband for VICTORIA.


TRIXIE and TONY are lovers but TONY will not commit. TONY gives her a job at his casino. He keeps her on a string, never letting her get enough money to be free.

BRUNO goes on a fact-finding mission about VICTORIA. He learns all about her and her dead husbands. He learns about her real father. He also learns about her relationship with TONY. He now suspects TONY and VICTORIA of “fixing” his brakes.

TONY, unknowingly, hires BRUNO to work for him. BRUNO wants to be close because he knows that sooner or later VICTORIA will show up, and he wants to keep an eye on TRIXIE, his daughter. TRIXIE has been his only reason to live on some dark lonely nights. BRUNO keeps a locker full of TRIXIE pictures and news clippings.

1934 (Yesterday)
BRUNO waits for the day he can extract his revenge on VICTORIA and TONY.

TONY thinks all is well and is ready to enjoy the good life that he deserves.

TRIXIE has finally learned that TONY is not to be trusted and she must do what it takes to protect her-self.

VICTORIA and BUTLER show up to try and snag TONY once more!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

WHO ? dunnit

This is an article I wrote in 2003.

WHO dunnit is the story of how I met Barry Oursler.

By 1995, with the help of many talented people, I had helped design some very successful games. While up to this point I had a great deal of input into those games, I wanted more control over the design of a game.

Through attrition of one sort or another, Barry Oursler, a game designer of almost 3 decades was left with a short design team. He often worked, in later years, with Mark Ritche, Bill Pfutzenreuter, or Python Angelo. I approached my bosses and Barry and suggested that I start co-designing games with him. They all agreed that that made sense.

I told Barry about an idea that I had been cooking. It was an idea to do a game about a murder mystery. He liked it and showed me a playfield that he had drawn. We started talking about how we could merry his playfield idea to my murder mystery game. Since it was my idea to do the theme we agreed that the buck would stop with me on theme related stuff and Barry would handle everything else.

My main goal in the design was to have the player solve the murder. To do this someone would have to die and there would have to be suspects. This means there would have to be a handful of characters. It also had to be different from game-to-game or murder-to-murder. If there is a different person killed each time and any of the remaining characters could have done it, then all the characters had to be related to each other in some way and all had to have a reason for wanting to kill any of the others. This lead to team meetings where we hashed out the background stories for all the characters. Paul Heitch (sound engineer), Linda Deal (artist), Adam Rhine (dot Artist), Barry, and I worked hard at making sure there would be no loopholes in the back-stories of the characters. It was a lot of fun.

At this point in pinball history, gamming machines in Europe called AWPs and just gambling in general were being blamed for the decline of coin-op/pinball. It was decided that our pinball machines needed to have more gambling themes. This changed the theme of our game a bit. We wrote into the story that it all took place in a casino, Tony’s Palace. We also then added the slot machine toy in the game.

Once we had the story and we mapped the theme to the playfield the rest of the game fell into place. We needed lights to show the players what was going on. We needed speech, lots of speech, to tell the player the background story. I think it was Barry that came up with the phone ‘toy’. I thought of how to use it. It is one of my favorite features in all of pinball. When a phone rings its clear what is going on. You have to answer it.

After WHO dunnit, Barry and I started to do another game that takes place in a junkyard. Since I was the lead of WHO dunnit Barry was going to take the lead of this game. Near the beginning of Junk Yard Barry was laid off from Williams.

Early in the development of WHO dunnit Barry and I started a group of people playing poker at his house every month. I still play poker at Barry’s house almost every month to this day.

Dwight Sullivan

“Somebody answer the phone”

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Famous Star Trek door

Star trek Door

The story goes like this:
Bill Grupp put two TWO Congo backbox decals nicely centered on his door. Well, I knew I had bunches of ST:TNG decals and decided to one (or several) up him. That’s how the door was created.

Years later we were all laid off. While many of us were still gathering and boxing up our stuff. Ken Fedesna in passing and I am sure half joking said "Dwight I am surprised that you didn't take your door with you". Well I took that to mean I had permission. I told the story to Jim Patla who agreed it must mean I had permission and Jim gave me a property pass so I could get the door out of building.

When I finish my basement someday I plan on using it, maybe.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hidden brick game in ST:TNG

I wrote the following in January 2004:

There is a hidden brick-video-game mode for the dot matrix display in the “Star Trek The Next Generation” pinball machine. It is similar to many of the brick video games that came out in the ‘80s. At one point, after the start of production of STTNG, to avoid any possible legal problems, it was decided that we should keep the mode a secret.

Since we decided to keep the game a secret only a handful of people knew how to get to it. This created a mystery. For a long time the mystery around this mode was the most asked question of enthusiast when I was at pinball events. Even today the topic comes up from time to time. It has been long enough now and finally I have the time to tell about this mode.

How do codes work on my games:
All the games I have programmed from “Riverboat Gambler” to today have all had a system of monitoring for Easter eggs. An Easter egg is something that is hidden in the game that most people don’t know about and mostly are simple and/or silly text messages on the display. All codes are four digits and are entered using the buttons on the game. Most of them just use the flipper buttons.

The most common system uses the right button to enter the current number and clear. The left button is to bump the current number by one.

To enter a code you only have to know the series of four numbers for that code.
Tap the right flipper button once. (Clear)
Tap the left flipper the number of times of the first number.
Tap the right flipper button once. (Enter and clear)
Tap the left flipper the number of times of the second number.
Tap the right flipper button once. (Enter and clear)
Tap the left flipper the number of times of the third number.
Tap the right flipper button once. (Enter and clear)
Tap the left flipper the number of times of the fourth number.
Tap the right flipper button once. (Enter and clear)
The code is now entered and the game will probably do something.

Try the code 3333 where R = right flipper and L = left flipper.
This will give a message from me to you on almost any of my newer games.
For older games like Star Trek you need to start the sequence by holding both flippers and release to clear, and you have to hit the right flipper one more time at the end.

The code 3333 on Star Trek:

What is the code for the brick game?
0248 is the code for the brick game in STTNG.

The only feedback you will get is the display will sort of flicker. (It is doing a wipe of itself on top of itself).

Then you have to play Riker’s Poker Night. If you did the above code you will get the brick game instead of getting Riker’s Poker Night.

You have to do this code while in a game. I normally do it at the beginning of the first ball. Then you try and light video mode. Then you try and shoot video mode. Then you select what would normally give you Riker’s Poker Night.

Riker’s Poker Night is in itself a hidden video mode. To get Riker’s Poker Night you have to light and shoot for video mode. Then at the opening screen, where you are given a choice of video mode or points, hold the ball launch trigger while you select the point’s option. This will start a poker game.

What is the brick game?
It is a video game played on the dot matrix where a square ball propelled by a paddle that you control tries to knock out all the layers bricks looming above.

When the ball comes down you have to use the flipper buttons to move the paddle left or right to keep the paddle under the ball.

When the ball hits the paddle it will then head back up. If the ball hits a brick the brick is destroyed and the ball heads back down. Every time the ball hits something it will bounce.

If the ball breaks through the top layer it will bounce off the ceiling and continue to destroy bricks from the top. When the last brick is gone a new set of bricks will appear and the game continues.

It is possible to destroy the last brick from the top and have the ball stuck between the top of the new set of bricks and the ceiling. It will then have to destroy much of the new set before you have to hit it with the paddle again. This is a personal high for me.

If you miss the ball with the paddle it will go off the screen through the bottom. When you miss your fifth ball the game ends and it will kick you back out to your normal pinball life.

This video mode gives no score to the pinball game.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

T2, Getaway, and Star Trek: TNG

This is a quick pass at the history of my time working on my 2nd, 3rd, and fourth games. There are couple areas here I want to revisit and talk about in more depth some day. None the least of which is my now 17 year history with Steve Ritchie.

First some background. The most recent hay day of the coin-op industry / Pinball was in the early 1990s. When I arrived at Williams the average sale of a particular title for us was about 3k. 5000 of a unit was a good day. For many reasons pinball popularity went through the roof for a few years. I happened to work on three of the highest earning and best selling pinball machines of that era.

In 1990, at Williams, game designer Steve Ritchie started designing / drawing a playfield that later became “The Getaway: High Speed II”. At an early stage of development he shelved what he had designed so far because he got an opportunity to do “Terminator 2” and took it.

To be in line with the release of the movie Steve would have to start right away designing a new game. Steve, some video game designers including George Petro, and others went to California to meet with James Cameron (the movie director) and others to learn what they could about the movie. By all accounts they had an amazing time. The plan was Williams would do a pinball machine and Midway would do a video game. At the time Midway was just the video game division downstairs.

I didn’t go because I was not on the Getaway team and therefore not on the T2 team. At this point in my pinball history I was a green pinball programmer with one game freshly tucked into my belt, “Riverboat Gambler”. I was having the time of my life and they were paying me. Money. I finished “Riverboat Gambler” and went on vacation with my girlfriend. When I got back from vacation I was told that I was going to be working with Steve on T2 and not to “mess it up”. Somewhere in here Steve had a falling out with the current programmer on his team, Mark Penacho. I knew very little of Steve at the time. Little did I know that I was about to grab the tail of a comet.

Terminator 2 was to be the first game with a dot matrix display. This new innovation did what we hoped it would do, it gave pinball a shot in the arm in sales. New games with dot matrixes made all old games look old when they sat next to them. In the end, Terminator 2 was the third game to reach production with a dot matrix display. “Gillian’s Island” beat us to production, but Checkpoint by Data East was the first pinball machine with a dot-matrix. Although it was not as tall, it was only 16x128. Compared to our ‘huge’ 32 tall by 128 pixels long display. :- >

The dot-matrix also enabled us to do video modes. This was something more we could do that was different from recent games. For a while most pins had video modes. Some had more than one.

One day near the very beginning of T2 development George Petro stopped me in the hall and told me he was concerned that T2 Pinball could make his game, T2 Video, look bad. I don’t think he was being funny and at the time I thought this was very rude but I didn’t say anything. In the end T2 Pinball outsold the video game and it out earned T2 video at most test locations. In fact Terminator 2 pinball sold over 15K games and is one of the all time top-selling pinball machines.

When T2 was done Steve and I quickly went into the next game, which was “The Getaway: High Speed II”. It went really fast because Steve already had a good start. Early in the development of “Getaway” we went to Steve’s house. He owned a “High Speed” and we wanted to review what that game was like. The funny thing is we spent only a few minutes playing and talking about “High Speed” and the rest of the evening checking out Steve’s new Big screen home theater equipment.

Soon after this Steve sold me his copy of High Speed. I was thrilled because High Speed was the game that got me into pinball and to this day is a jewel in my small collection.

Steve and I went to back-to-back trade shows with T2 and then with Getaway. Both were in Las Vegas. While we were at the second show, selling “The Getaway”, Larry DeMar noticed one of the large Las Vegas strip signs that face the road say the following: “… ENJOY OUR NEW ARCADE; FEATURING; T2 PINBALL”. “T2 PINBALL” filled their entire display. I think it was the Silver Dollar casino. Larry drove me to see it and I have a picture of it. We sold over 13K copies of Getaway at that trade show almost sight unseen.

After Getaway I had some spare time. In this spare time, one of the things I did was write a brick video game for the dot matrix display. It was fun.

For a while the game we were doing after “The Getaway” was going to be Under Siege based on the upcoming movie. Steve had ideas of putting two cannons on the right side of the playfield and dress that side up to look like half of a ship. The two cannons would look like cannons of the destroyer, the ship that is used as the setting of the movie. There was room for this because we were now in the land of wider games. I believe “Twilight Zone” started this trend.

I modified the brick game so the bricks looked like a ship that you were destroying. It was then to be a main video mode for the game. Not really sure how that fits the story of Under Siege but it would have been fun.

Then the opportunity came to do Star Trek: The Next Generation. Steve and I were both huge fans of the show. We switched tracks from Under Siege fast.

Steve Ritchie, Roger Sharpe, Greg Ferris, and I went to Hollywood. We went to Paramount Studios to talk to their licensing department. They took us on a tour of the Enterprise. I walked on the Enterprise! We saw the one large crew quarters that they filmed all crew quarter scenes. I saw the holodeck and Ten Forward. I was on the bridge (they had the chairs covered in plastic). You could walk right through the view screen. We saw them set up the lighting for a scene and on our way from there Gates Mcfadden (Doctor Crusher) walked right past us on her way to that scene. She was very tall.

After our tour of the Enterprise we had lunch in the Paramount commissary. This commissary was huge. Many other celebrity sightings were to be had. The coolest was Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard). He sat at the table directly behind Steve. The really interesting part was that just before he arrived we, the ladies of Paramount licensing department and us, had a very tense discussion about what we were allowed to do in the game. They wanted to make it clear that the Enterprise would never fire first and never before some negotiating. This was a great trip.

Even to this day Star Trek is my favorite game of all the games I have worked on.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In the begining....

I wrote this article I beleive in 2003 (not sure). I wrote it for Michael Schalhoub whom asked me to write a few articles for his book "The Pinball Compendium: 1982 to Present"

This is the story of how I got my job in the coin-op industry working for Williams Electronic Games in 1989.

It was mid-September, 1989. I was 24 years old. I was due to graduate from DeVry Institute of Technology next month. My counselor at DeVry was hard at work getting me interviews and telling me about job fairs. She told me about an entry-level job opening with Johnson Controls. She gave me the time and address of the hotel for the interview. I shaved, gathered some cool looking resumes into my leather-bound notebook, put on my one suit, and left. I had been on three previous interviews and had a good handle of the process. I was familiar with Johnson Controls and I wanted this job.

When I arrived at the hotel, to my dismay, there were no Johnson Controls interviews. My counselor had given me the wrong date. There was a job fair at the hotel that night instead. Many companies had hotel rooms that opened to a common area in the center of the hotel. You could go from room to room and talk with people that needed people. I was all dressed up so what could it hurt? I went to some of the rooms and started talking to people. After about three brief talks (“Sorry we are not looking for entry-level people”) I got the idea that this fair was not for entry-level people. The fourth interviewer was nicer. I wish I remembered her name. She told me that the fair was not for entry-level jobs but knew a man named Ed Suchocki who often called her looking for people. She asked if I would like to program games. My eyes lit up. It was hard to maintain some composure. She told me that Ed had graduated from DeVry too and that I should call him.

I called him the next day. I mentioned his female friend and that I was about to graduate. I told him I was in the EET (Electronics Engineering Technology) program at DeVry. I told him that I could put together a portfolio and come for an interview. When I hung up the phone I thought what the hell is a portfolio? It turned out not to be hard to gather some stuff I had done: Logic diagrams and schematics from school; art work I had drawn on a program I had written on my Mac; a spider-man picture I had had scanned with my black and white Mac and then did the color-separation to it and printed it back out; art work I had drawn for the playing pieces for a Monopoly game I was writing for the Mac; and some source code of a real-time game I wrote for the Commodore 64. My classmates had told me that I should try for a software job. Believe it or not I was the best at software in my class. Thinking of this and looking at my portfolio I was confident. My girlfriend kissed me, wished me luck, and I left for my interview with Ed.

At this point I was vague about what Williams/Bally/Midway was. My best friend Glenn Wilcox and I had spent many hours playing pinball and video games back in the suburbs of Detroit where I grew up. While High Speed and Defender were my favorite games, I barley knew they were made by the same company. I had no concept of design teams or designers for that matter.

When I arrived at 3401 N. California Avenue, I told the receptionist I was there to see Ed Suchocki. While I waited I couldn’t help but notice all the plaques and awards that filled one wall of the reception room. Mark Penacho and Bill Pfutzenreuter came down to greet me. They told me Ed was busy and that they would interview me. They took me to a small room off the reception area and we sat at a round table. I opened my briefcase and to my horror my leather-bound folder with my cool looking resumes was not there. I apologized to them and we started to go through all the other stuff I brought. It was hard to get a read on them. I wasn’t sure if Pfutz (Bill had told me to call him that) was impressed, but I thought Mark was somewhat interested. Mark then stood and left. He went to get Larry DeMar. Larry came in the room and I briefly went through all the stuff I brought again. At the time I didn’t understand why they were not that impressed with the source code I had brought. I now understand how small the software was.

When I was done talking about all the eclectic things I had brought, Larry didn’t really say anything. Instead Pfutz leaned forward, squinted at me with a very serious look and asked, “Would you rather work on pinball machines or on video games?” I was taken aback. I sat back and thought about it. Was this an offer or a test? These were all pinball people. “Pinball”, I said with a slight hesitation. I did prefer to play pinball to video but at the time would have taken a job in either.

After a small amount of questions about my portfolio, “Do you ever have bugs in your code?”, another test. After a slight pause I said “Yes, doesn’t everyone?”

“What are your favorite games?” I told them Defender and High Speed, not knowing at the time who Larry was.

On my way home I was convinced that I did not get the job. What kind of idiot leaves his resume at home? When I got home I told my girlfriend (later to be my wife) what an idiot I was. I put some resumes in a big envelope and mailed them off to Ed Suchocki. Less than a week later I called Ed to see if he had received them. He said he was glad I called and that he was about to call me. He told me that apparently I made quite an impression and that he wanted to hire me. He asked me what salary I was looking for. I had been told not to give a number to make them give the first number. "$25,000" I said. He said ok. I am not sure if he ever looked at the resumes.

I worked at Williams helping to design pinball machines from Nov 6th, 1989 to Oct 25th, 1999.