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Rare Pictures of Never Produced Williams Pinball 2000 Concept Games...Star Trek, Defender & More

Things have been a little quiet on the current events front for pinball over the past several days, so I figured that I'd share something really cool that I recently came across on the Facebook page of the pinball distributor Great American Pinball.


Below are pictures of mockups and concept art for the first two game concepts for Williams Pinball's final project, Pinball 2000. In addition to early designs for the Pinball 2000 cabinet, the pics show three never produced games, "Eight Ball Universe," "Alien Defender," and "Star Trek Universe." I think that it's safe to say, that Williams made a wise choice in publishing "Revenge From Mars" and "Star Wars Episode 1" as its first and only Pinball 2000 games, instead of these.


Other Pinball 2000 titles that were either planned or in the works when WMS Industries closed its pinball division included Wizard Blocks, Playboy and supposedly Monopoly though I haven't heard much about that last one.


I fell down the rabbit hole while writing this post about Pinball 2000, so I have a detour here about the fourth Pinball 2000 game that was in development. It was originally supposed to be a Haunted House theme, using the cool Pinball 2000 monitor reflections to show ghosts on the playfield. There's an entire Pin Game Journal article on the subject from years ago that I was able to find a copy of on a German Pinball 2000 Fan Page (http://www.pinball2000.de/). Here's an excerpt from the article that describes how after the company secured the Playboy license for the Midway Touchmaster Infiniti touchscreen game it forced the switch of the Haunted House theme to that:


"...Later on, we were asked to combine forces again as co-project leads for the 4th Pinball 2000 project. Once again we decided to do the haunted house theme, deciding that the hologram like look of the reflection technology would make a great platform to do all sorts of ghosty and ghoulie effects. Dwight Sullivan and Keith Johnson were assigned as programmers, Greg Freres was going to be doing the art package. I avoid using the term 'game designer', which historically (and internally) had meant the 'daddy of the project'. Game designers are the ones who are ultimately responsible for making sure the game is done on time and on budget. However, in reality the 'game design' aspect really falls on everyone who is on the team.


We experimented with various magnet effects on the playfield. Imagine the Shadow ball lock or the walking ball from Dracula with some cool image animation overlaid on it with ghosts or mist or something. That was the sort of thing we really wanted to do initially. Sadly, as we progressed, it turned out that the magnets warped the image from the monitor too much. So any kind of neat ball-play using magnets had to be avoided, unless we really wanted to mess up all the monitors!


PETE: Originally the theme was a haunted mansion. The team was absolutely excited about the haunted house theme and the creative freedom. We had a floor plan with 28-32 rooms and four levels that the player would travel through. Scott created the furnished rooms in 3D. The rooms had great detail and each room had a scary story attached to it. The creative meetings were absolutely fun. It was difficult to decide what ideas not to use


SCOTT: Anyway, at about this time, management from Midway was really pushing hard for a Playboy game. Midway had completely spun-off from WMS, and through an agreement between both companies, Midway was still able to sell WMS pinball machines. Midway had already secured the rights to Playboy for their Touchmaster games so about a month before pinball got shut down, we were called into a meeting. At this meeting management expressed its discontent with a haunted house theme and suggested we change the theme to Playboy. Arguments were presented on both sides of the table. Generally they came down to management's desire for an adult pinball despite the baggage that a Playboy license entails including limited locations that would accept the game and most likely the complete avoidance of the game by women.


To address those concerns, management summoned about five or six women who worked in the front offices and posed two questions to them. While these are not the exact words used, they fairly accurately capture the spirit of the questions: 'Would you play a haunted house pinball machine?' The general response was 'no'. Followed by this question: 'You are all out at a bachelorette party at a bar. You are all having a great time and you see a Playboy pinball machine. Would you play it?' The general response was a moderately enthusiastic 'yes'. And so, with this 'market research' completed, the theme was officially changed to Playboy.


PETE: o'Neil and Ken came into Scott's office for a progress presentation. Not even five minutes into the presentation Neil killed the theme. Needless to say the team was devastated. I understand what he wanted. His intensions were to target the adult bar market. 'Sex sells.' He wanted us to create something that the adult male would go out his way to play. We talked to the Playboy people who where very open to the idea but from day one we planned on having at least three settings to limit content.


SCOTT: We were not influenced much by Wizard Blocks, but much like the Wizard's team, everyone on our team expressed concern about the way the first two Pinball 2000 games were so 'mode heavy'. We were definitely going to work the rules away from 'you are now in this mode, now you are in this mode' kind of thought. However, in a lot of ways it made sense to develop those games like that since mode-based is something that we were good at doing. It became a way to get a game together quickly, and I think it helped show off the platform visually by having all these different scenes constantly changing.


KEITH: Most of the cool stuff would have been when it was a haunted house game. The playfield was cool in that it was more like a normal playfield - even if the monitor wasn't there - it was designed to be more a pinball game and not a specific pin 2000 game. But that beginning design was sort of forced on us which is why you can get through the whole game on Revenge From Mars by shooting up the middle. And the same on Star Wars..."


I find this sort of pinball history to be absolutely fascinating. Notice the picture of a fax of the Defender concept art that was sent to the infamous John Popadiuk.


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