Badge For Pfutz DrWhoBallyBackGlassS WMS Doctor Who Pinball ,
Unofficial Doctor Who Pinball History

Back again 11/02/2001
Back again 09/30/2006 finished
Here is my unofficial chronicle of my experiences in making Doctor Who Pinball. (C)Pfutz 2000-2006

The Start
  • --- Actually, After about 10 years as a programmer, Williams gave me the opportunity to be the "Game Designer" of a pinball game. All I had to do is come up with a game idea and "sell" it to management. Several unsold ideas later, Ken Fedesna knew that I was a Doctor Who Fan (and I suspect he was too!) and suggested that I design a game with that subject. So, I went back to the drawing board & designed (in sketches) the main feature & the game story. For the story, I did not want to make a "rerun' so I tried to make one from scratch. I always like time paradoxes, and I wanted to get all the Doctor back together again (like the "3 Doctors" or the "5 Doctor" episodes). I also wanted a companion for each doctor (and speech from each doctor & companion). Next was the conflict, so I added the Daleks and (my favorite) the latest Master. The story was that they compressed time on earth, (hence the continental drift back to the one large continent Pangaea) but the Doctors (who visit Earth alot at different times), escape earth only to be flung into different situations represented by the playfield. Then with this concept and sketches of a 3-level 'mini-playfield' know as the Time Expander, management approved the game. After the licenses for the Doctor Who Show (the BBC) and the Daleks (owned by Terry Nation) were preliminary OK'd, it was then that the project was official and a team would be assembled to make Doctor Who. Since it was a license game (at that time) it would be a Bally Game. And it would be produced after the Bally games "Addams Family" and "Black Rose".

    The Team
  • --- Now that the project was approved by management, the team members could be assembled. The members were a Mechanical Engineer (Zofia Bil), an Graphic Artist (Linda Deal), a sound Engineer (Jon Hey), and a Dot Matrix Display Artist (Scott 'Matrix') assigned to work for me. There were others, like Roger Sharpe from marketing & my contact for Licenses. Plus alot of other people helping. But this was the core. Next was the task of explaining what I wanted each of the team members to do (and the 26 years of Doctor Who episodes).

    The Mini-Playfield
  • --- Zofia started on the 'mini-playfield' (patent #5,226,653 ) ( First page of patent ) from the sketches. Her task was to design it with the smallest footprint possible, but to make it 'indestructible' and still not cost a fortune. Several motor designs were suggested, and a few were simulated, but Zofia liked the offset cam. The motor was chosen to last a long time. Its strength was strong enough to break pencils (fingers would be an easier target), I even demo'd it (please do not do this at home!) for management. This concerned alot of people. Just opening the coin door (It cut power to the solenoids and mini-playfield motor) was not good enough. So a playfield glass switch was added, and I programmed it to only move the mini-playfield if it was closed. There was even an obnoxious alarm sound, a Dot matrix display warning 'sticker', AND speech in 2 languages (English & German) warning the operator.

    The Artwork, Part 1
  • --- I gathered up all my Doctor Who collection (magazines, books, video tapes) and brought it to work. Linda had the time to look at all of it. We also had access to the BBC Archives, but this took several weeks. And despite the descriptions of the pose Linda desired, she was never too happy with chosen profiles. For the Back Glass I gave Linda the requirement that the 7 Doctors, TARDIS & the Master had to be on the backglass. She also added the Daleks and the Who Logo. The BBC had the requirement that the faces had to be all the same size (so that no one was more important that the other). This somewhat restricted the design, so she looked at my collection and came up with the design of the 7 doctors around the Doctor who logo. On the Bottom left was a silhouette of the TARDIS, and on the bottom right was a silhouette of the Master flanked by the Daleks. Once approved by me & management, she make a full sized color magic marker drawing. Next it was sent out for the approval of Bally, the and the BBC. While this was happening, the playfield & cabinet was being designed. After that was done & sent out for approval. The real painted Backglass was started & completed, then 12 translates (temporary backglasses made by a quick process to see the colors & art) were make for the 12 test machines. During all of this, Linda designed the cabinet artwork, The magic motion Artwork, the playfield artwork, the playfield plastics art, the playfield Stickers, and an assortment of free handouts (Bumper Stickers, Coasters, etc).

    The New Playfield Designer, Part 1
  • --- Now, It was my turn to laying out the playfield. I found a discarded drafting table in the hallway. AutoCAD was still not really popular at Williams back in '92. It and the computers with all the extra memory were very expensive. So I dragged it into my office and put down my programmers keyboard for a pencil. Again I found out that I was a better programmer than draftsman, but I did have alot of help from other game designers (they always drafted their playfields themselves!). So the first playfield was designed and build, but the play action was missing. Shots did not work, you could not hit a thing, it was not fun at all. Williams (rightly so) rejected it an I was beginning to think it was going to be a canceled pinball game.

    The New Playfield "Co-Designer", Part 2
  • --- Well, I dragged my ego down to Roger Sharp's office and dumped my "problems" onto his lap. He gave me a pep speech about his game design days, and still though the game had a change (with all those neat features). So he suggested that I ask Barry Oursler if he would co-design the game with me. So I left Roger and made a bee line directly to Barry's office (I had programmed many of his games) and ask him. He accepted, now it was time to convince William management. It took them a little while, but they accepted and Barry took my gadgets, added a few of his own, and make a real game. His play action on a white wood (the playfield without artwork, just wood) worked great! Perhaps too good... The "sonic boom" ramp shot (left flipper to right ramp) was so popular and so easy (for the William's game designers, and let me say that there are some 'real' players that are way better than William's people) to loop forever. I had to modify the rule and on the 10th loop divert the ball from this loop, give the player a bonus, and force the player to use the right flipper with the diverted ball. Of course, a "skilled" player would use the right flipper to shoot under the left ramp. This would trade flippers back to the left one as a setup for the right ramp. But this did slow them down a bit....

    The Dotwork
  • --- Scott also had access to my collection of Doctor Who Photos & tapes. I originally wanted each ball to represent one part of a Doctor Who Complete Episode. And that starting a game would start at Part 1. But I also wanted all the different video effect & themes of all the doctors. This would be selectable depending upon the selected doctor at the start of a ball. However, just doing on one theme (and there was more to a game than the start & end of a ball) in a low resolution dot matrix display was time consuming. So I abandoned the multiple themes (the sound system had limits too) and stuck to one theme. While Scott was working on the display effect he discovered that faces were staring back at him in the Doctor Who Theme Tunnel for the early Tom Baker. There were many other visual effects in the pinball game. Multiball was the most complicated. Both visually & with speech. Because it involved telling a story during the play of game controlled by the player and NOT the actors. (And you actors think you have it tough to talk while running down an infinite corridor! try getting hit by flippers, rolling on the ground, bouncing off posts, and talking in the middle all those sounds and changing rules!) It also interacted with you, as you removed Daleks/Davros, they started to panic.

    The Video Mode
  • --- This was perhaps one of the must fun video modes to play on a pinball. The concept was simple a Doctor was running away from the Dalek that was chasing him. But there are obstacles in his path that the doctor must jump over. The narrow obstacles only need 1 flipper minimum, the wider obstacles require 2 flippers pressed at the same time. If the doctor does not jump over an obstacle or he jumps into an obstacle, he trips and falls and loses (the Dalek catches him, and this obstacle pattern repeats on the next video mode). If the doctor does not trip, and reaches his TARDIS, he is safe and he leaves in the TARDIS. There are some extra points if you jump into the TARDIS, rather than run into it. And points accumulated, on each successful video mode until the "end of the wave" (multiple video modes). Remember that the playfield multiplier can also multiply this score, and the timer for the playfield multiplier was temporarily stopped during video mode.
  • --- All the 7 Doctors (depending upon who you are at the time you start video mode) can run. However, I only had speech from Sylvester McCoy, so.... Every other time (I think) the Doctor made it into the TARDIS, there was "funny" line that the Sylvester would say... I loved the line that went like, "(Exhausted Breathing) I do not mind the Guns or running or a Dalek or two, It's the Obstacles that I hate!"
  • --- Of course a Dalek would not dream of jumping over an obstacle, he merely blasts it to tiny bits. But! at the end of a video mode wave, too many Doctors have escaped. And the Dalek must report his failure. This is something that Daleks to not accept. There are several of these scenes, each getting worse. I do not remember them all, just the final one cause I could not decide what to do. So I gave in to the "Big gun" theory (this is a decision that I am not happy to admit..)

    My favorite Video Effect
  • --- Is the entering of High Score to Date initials. It is really a silly idea, that all time lords already have your initials and score in their record book. All you do is flip the pages until you find your score & initials. Remember that they know the future. But then, has the future really been recorded in this book accurately? You better double check....

    The Cow
  • --- Yes, there is a cow. In case you did not know, Williams has been putting cows in the DOT matrix display for a long time. The trick is to find what makes it appear. I did not want to do it (I am serious about my Doctor Who!). But Scott Matrix made me do it... He was fascinated with the Transmat, and knew my pinball rules about charging the Transmat when the Jet bumpers are hit, and if the charge is big enough Transmat in a Doctor's helper rule. Of course you can activate the Transmat without enough power, and every so often (actually rarely) a cows head would appear with a Tom Baker Hat on the head. Sorry about that Tom....

    The Sounds/Music
  • --- John Hey had the job of reproducing the sound effects and theme music of Doctor Who. My video tapes of the TV show helped him alot. The sound effects were easy for John to reproduce by ear, or at least get close. Some of it was digitized from my video tapes. However, the theme music was a problem. I originally wanted all the different themes to play depending upon which doctor was selected in the game. But just doing the Tom Baker theme took weeks and alot of space was going to be taken up by speech. So we just used the one theme. With un-interrupted music from ball to ball. (A first for Williams) Each ball is supposed to represent 1 part of this Doctor Who episode! And you do not have to wait until next week to play it!
  • --- I did ask the BBC for a copy of the sheet music to the Tom Baker Theme Music. It was then that I found out that there is no sheet music for the music.

    The Speech
  • --- My original Art concept was have as many companions & doctors as possible. Unfortunately there was not enough rules and playfield for everybody. But of those who made it onto the playfield I planned for at least 1 line for everybody. I actually wrote up about 3 lines (on the average) for all the companions. and more for all the 7 Doctors, the Daleks, and the Master. And Williams management started with an open mind, but there is one detail... Money. Williams would have to find, get the actors to/from a recording studio, and pay all the actors something. At the time this payment was not very much AND usually there was only 1 actor involved. I was dividing the pot by about 20. Well, it was a nice idea.

    The Actors
  • --- So a choice had to be made and the 3 characters were: Sylvester McCoy (Doctor 7), Dalek speech, The Master (Anthony Ainley). They were all available and agreed... without seeing a script... (it was not written yet...)
  • --- Left me also explain that I did not talk to the actors directly. I (1) talked to William marketing (2) (i.e. Roger Sharpe), who talked to an international licensing company (3) located in California, who talked to the BBC in England (4), who talked to the actors agents (5), who talked to the their actor (6). This was 6 "filters" of talking, and it took a while to arrange... The actors probably new knew my name...
  • --- Now it was my turn to go back to the drawing board... Remember, that not only is there a certain amount of recording time that can fit on an EPROM, (and I was not going to waste a millisecond!) but it uses lossy compression that trashes the quality of speech. (S's T's are not heard, C's turn into H's, remember the video Sinistar and hearing the phrase "Run Howard!", it was really "Run Coward!"). This is another reason why we ask for more than we can put in a game, cause some of it is not understandable. I quickly re-wrote all the multi-ball speech so that all three would interact in the game. and added more funny lines for video mode, and a few variations. I only had 1 chance to get the speech and get it correct. And I am a better programmer than a writer...
  • --- But the script for Sylvester turned out to be about 1.5 pages mostly instructional with some of the funny lines. The script for the Daleks was less than 1 page, and had there usual "kill" "destroy" etc with a little dialog and funny lines from video mode. Only the Master had about 3 pages of script, cause I found it easy to write for him (perhaps because I liked his character!). Then John Hey quickly packed his bags and when from Chicago to England to record the actors. All this happened very very quickly, schedules for each of the actors was tight and on short notice, and I am sorry to say that all did not go very well... Even today, I am not sure what happened, but Anthony did not record the Master speech. Panic gripped Williams..... (and me too!)
  • --- But, let me first explain about the rights of actors/movies. For Doctor Who in England, The BBC owns the actors faces, characters, and most stories. The actors do not own much... In the case of Doctor Who the Daleks are owned (mostly) by Terry Nation (the creator). Here in the USA usually an actor usually owns his face, but the Movie studio owns the character and story rights.
  • --- Now back to the story. The Dalek speech was the last item to be recorded. Many ideas were discussed, like a sound alike Master (after all there was another master before him...). And John Hey was still in England! But a suggestion came (I think from England) that the person recording the Dalek voice could also do and was willing to do a Davros voice. Well, back to the drawing room I went and super-quickly re-write the Master speech into Davros speech. Then we faxed the new speech to John. Both voices were recorded! Whew!
  • --- But the master issue was not over yet, rumors were flying at super sonic speeds, and there was new talk about removing all traces (playfield & backglass Artwork, Dot Matrix, etc) of the Master. After a couple of weeks this died down to a face lift of the Master on the playfield. The Master now is supposed to look like the first Master. And now instead of the Doctors battling the Daleks with a surprise appearance of the Master being the real villain. Davros was now the surprise real villain. And at the time, with the Bally backglass, he truly was a surprise... (Davros was not on the Bally backglass, the master was on it as a silhouette) More weeks later, sanity was back at Williams. John knew that I missed the Master character and he recorded a sound alike voice for Master's laugh. That I put on the outlanes and a few other places in the game. More weeks went by, and I was talking to Roger Sharpe and told him of the "sound alike laugh" in the game. He showed me a letter from Anthony written in his own hand. (Which was extremely nice of him! He did not have to write it.)
  • --- Backing up the time line, when John Hey returned with the speech tapes. Both Sylvester and the Dalek/Davros speaker had added a few more of their phrases. This added a nice personality touch that I missed, so we used it.

    Here is a news:\\\ article from John himself
    From: jonhey@aol.comnospam (JonHey) (Remove the spam)
    Subject: Re: Doctor Who pinball machine
    Date: 19 Aug 2000 07:54:15 GMT
    Message-ID: <>
    >>Sound is VERY good.
    >Yes, and very authentic to the original TV show.  Right down to
    >Sylvester's McCoy's voice.  (Anyone know if that really is Sylvester
    >McCoy's voice, or just a sound-alike?)
     That IS the "real McCoy". The pinball script was sent to the BBC in London and
     taped "wild" onto DAT then shipped back to Chicago - I grabbed (using Sound
     Designer II at the time on a Mac - then converted through a Williams-custom
     built CVSD encoder) the best and we put them in the game. Pfutz and I
     experimented with Daleks' voices - Daleks sound bad enough to start - much less
     trying to get them to sound correct after CVSD sampling - so we tried, but
     ended choosing the real ones. All the game voices are from the real BBC actors.
     The music was recreated on the Williams Yamaha FM chip sound system by yours
     truly. It was a real challenge making FM synthesis sound like older analog
     synthesis. The Tardis was sampled and played directly from the DAC. All the
     rest of the effects (except drum hits - DAC) were Yamaha FM.
     - Jon Hey

    The New BackBox Feature
  • --- The Dalek Head on top the backbox was an after though. The game had a great white wood, it was playable with alot of rules, the artwork sketches were approved. and management asked me if I could decorate the top of the backbox. I was shocked! Usually they took off features! (of which I tried to be prepared to defend!) And I spent alot of $ on the mini-playfield for the player, rather than decoration. But, in that era, most Williams games had a backbox feature. And the continuing success of "Addams Family" looked like it would never end! So, I decide on a Dalek moving head, with an eye ball that would flash in time with the speech. I even devised an simple electronic circuit & software program that would give me the flash rates for any speech phrase that I could play back. But this was a last minute design that had to be designed quickly. Several motor were tested, and broke. Meanwhile,
  • --- Four Styrofoam models of the head were made. Then I made and sent a video tape of the prototypes for Terry Nation's approval (he was the creator/owner of the Daleks). Finally, a reliable motor was found. a Mockup was make since the real parts would arrive just before out scheduled test date. (and I still needed to develop the software.)
  • ---

    The Test
  • --- The issue of where to test a game has always be been a hot one. Here is the "logic".
  • Criteria #1: Marketing/Sales wants to sell as many as they can of the next game. But they do did not want to impact the sales of the current game. As you know, Williams sells to distributors who stock the game, and the distributors sell the game to operators (operators of arcades and/or a "route"). So typically, they like to test a game as close to production as possible. BUT... "Addams Family" was an bigger hit than expected. And no one knew when it would stop. (and "Doctor Who" was the 2nd game after "Addams Family") So, the "hurry up and wait" syndrome happened.
  • Criteria #2: Test it in a low profile (so know one knows about it) but a high number of plays (popular arcade). Now, how do you get alot of people to play a game, but nobody knows about it?
  • --- Marketing/Sales had the answer: They tested it at an average arcade called "Dennis's Place" Doctor Who on test 05/09/92 (MPG is 8.2MByte) This was an OK place to test the game. They had about 2 walls of pinball machines, mostly videos, and a couple of sit down video games. At the time there were more high profile (i.e. Gala North Arcade) and low profile (i.e. a Bar) locations. All locations were well know test sites for manufacturers. And usually when we went to observe our own game on test we met employees from "other" manufacturers, and sometimes they even beat us to our own test locations!

    The New BackBox AND Backglass
  • --- This after 12 prototypes were build and being tested, Williams wanted the Bally pinball cabinets to be more like Williams Cabinets. This would allow Williams to order the same parts in a higher volume, thus qualifying for discounts on part prices. I knew that this was coming, but I just never predicted when. The situation was: that Doctor Who pinball was ready to be produced, and was just waiting in line, probably for a long time. Then the decision was made by Williams to change from the Bally Style Backbox to the Williams style backbox. The William backbox was alot shorter, Williams management suggested that we just cut off the bottom of the backbox art (even the artist complained). But a mock up was made, and it looked terrible. It was then that the artist and I went back to the drawing board, and whatever we can up with it had to be fast. I had suggested that we do a scene with the time expander, all 7 doctors, Davros, Daleks. Then Linda took over the composition, and the final backglass was generated. We even had to rush & re-get approval from the BBC. I wish to thank Linda for re-doing the backglass so quickly.

    Cost cuts
  • --- Well, it did happen to Doctor Who. The "bean counters" came, and calculated the cost of the game. It cost too much... After many hours of "negotiation" the moving Dalek head had to go. The head itself was cheap and could stay in the game. It was just some plastic and a flasher. And I did integrate it in the effects of the game, probably more effectively than other games. So the head stayed! The change was scheduled to happen AFTER about 100 were produced. I changed the software to try and detect the head, then activate the moving head code. There is even a game adjustment (adjustment 49) to manually enable the head software. Years later, some People have even added a motor to their Doctor Who Game. Those bean counters can be a real pain....

    Visions '92 in Chicago
  • --- I had been to previous Visions conventions, they feature Doctor Who and other programs. Even some of the actors from Doctor Who came to the conventions. I proposed to Williams that we bring a couple of games there and have free handouts and a contest. We had plenty of free plastic handouts, and we decided the contest would award a backglass (or really back plastic). But there was a condition, Doctor who could only go to the convention if the game was in production. (There was this problem that Williams did not show games before production, since it might have bad effects on the current game in production). Since production of Doctor Who was being delayed by the success of Addams Family Pinball, it was impossible to predict if the game could go to the convention. So, even with these restrictions, I contacted the convention people. They we happy that I wanted to show the pinball at there convention, but I could not guarantee if I could bring it to the convention. Hence, there could be no announcement or advertisement about the pinball at the convention. However, I was lucky, about 1 month before the convention, Doctor Who when into production. It was too later to tell the conventioneers, but time enough for us to organize the game for the convention. So me made some big signs for the convention. It turned out to be well received, people loved the free handouts. Although I missed the actors visiting the game, I hear that they liked it. In retrospect, I found out that there were not too many pinball players at the convention, but I believe that we made a few more pinball players.

    The Pinball Market and the production line
  • --- If there is one impossible obstacle that a pinball machine must face, it is being produced after a mega-production-hit. I am of course, talking about Addams Family Pinball, about 20,000 units!. It was a huge success that broke all records and raised all expectations for a popular pinball. The next pinball (Black Rose) has a very short production life, about 3,700 units. Although it was an average game, (in my opinion) it was not as good as Addams Family, and it did not meet the high expectations of the market, and do not sell. It took a while for the last Back Rose to sell. Next in line was Doctor Who at about 7,700 units. Which was an above average production number (4,000 to 5,000 being about average for that time period). Doctor Who pinball started production in September of 1992.

    Doctor Who and the Stock Market
  • --- Williams INC (WMS) was a publicly traded company. WMS had to report to stock holders, usually via an Investment Portfolio send to its stock holders. They sent out a "1992-1993 Investment Portfolio" which included games like (in order of appearance) Black Rose, Doctor Who, Fish Tales, Hot Shot Basketball, Mortal Kombat, Strike Master, Super High Impact, T2 Video, and a Universal Cabinet.

    Doctor Who in the News
  • --- Well, I found a few articles on the pinball trade magazines. The January 2007 issue of Game Room Magazine features Doctor Who Pinball on the cover and a very very nice article (mostly from here), great pictures, and even a page of new list of questions and answers from me. And as of 01/02/2007, there is even a "Doctor Who Pinball Promo Video" made by Williams and on "You Tube".
  • ---

  • References From Fans
  • The Whomiga Times, Pinball
  • The Whomiga Times, Doctor Who Pinball
  • Doctor Who from the Internet Pinball Database (IPD)
  • Game Archive

  • Pfutz's Home