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Welcome to Silverball Magic 2.0!

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Hello and welcome to Silverball Magic, my personal online dedication to probably my biggest hobby, pinball! To many, pinball practically does not exist anymore since it has been replaced by computer games and the Internet. Most people believe that the only decent way to play pinball at home is buying a computer pinball simulation that you can run on your PC. However, pinball is indeed still alive. It may be hard to find a working machine in a bar these days, and more and more arcades are closing their doors. However, around the world, especially in the USA and some European countries, pinball machines are collected by a large group of people who love the game more than anybody else. Be it because pinball was big and beautiful in the 70s and 80s, and many of today's collectors have fond memories from that time. Or be it somebody like me, who did not actively live in this time, but still found the fascination of the rolling silver ball so amazing that it inspired a new spare time dedication. Pinball continues to live on, and if you want to know what today's status of pinball is, how to get started with your own machine, and where you can still play pinball, keep checking back to my site because I will add stuff all the time, including media of all sorts. It will not happen every day, but as my experience and collection grows, so will this site.

First of all, this website is used to document my machines and what I do to make them better. I will share all my knowledge here, link to sources where this knowledge came from (if not from myself) and show you my progress. So, this site will always be under construction from time to time.

Have fun and be sure to come back later for more!

- MadMax
  e-mail me here

Some useful hints: hold the mouse cursor over a picture to receive information, and click the picture to view the full size version (about 100-200 KB each at 1024x768 for most pics). All JPEGs on this site are compressed with a quality factor of 80 out of 100; this gives a nice load speed at acceptable to good quality.
Need info on words I'm using? Check the section "What is Pinball?" for a glossary I put together.

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News

... April 23, 2009: Kickstart

Yeah, you read that right. This is a new entry from 2009. The site hasn't been updated for over a year, and looking at the newsposts below, this isn't so unusual. There are a few reasons for this, and I have never promised again to update or redo the site "in considerable time" because I just knew it wouldn't happen. However, as I'm writing this, things have come to a point where I really feel that pinball will become interesting to me again in the near future. I have read all the articles on this website again, which I haven't done for a long time, and I'm actually chuckling at myself quite often for being as "naive" as I was, especially in the first year. I can see myself in the past and how I felt about pinball; it was the strongest and really the most important thing in my life since I had found a passion to live for, which must have been the first time in my life that this happened. Today this passion has been pushed aside by another passion which I'm very serious about: making music. My band Szanaterria, of which some of you returning visitors may have heard before, has come very far in the two years we spent in the formation of five, and coming far requires a lot of work, time and money first. I found a new dedication in my life and this is something that I have in me just like the fascination of pinball. And this is why I spent most of the time caring about the band and my drumming instead of pinball during the past couple of years.

However, other things that needed my time and attention as well have recently changed. For one, I'm living alone now and my cat Kenny (not the same cat you see on the photos, but he looks similar!) is my only companion in everyday life. During the three years I spent with my former girlfriend I sold all of my pinball machines except for Space Shuttle, simply because I needed more money to keep hold of the flat we lived in. The financial situation was quite problematic (actually it still is now, but I'm recovering with a job and stuff). I practically said goodbye to pinball as a hobby and a passion for quite some time and I saw my band getting more and more serious, so I didn't really miss pinball most of the time. But sometimes I would wake up from sleep, having dreamed about a certain pinball machine and wishing I could have it with me now. It was never dead, it was just on standby so to speak.

What I'm doing this year, and I mean that I am actually doing it and not just saying I want to, is to take my three-year-old Space Shuttle game and restore it. I haven't done serious work on a pinball game for many months; the last time I did was when I had traded my Johnny Mnemonic game for another STTNG that I had for a month and later sold away to gain more money. That was a long time ago and I feel that I'm starting to actually miss pinball as an active hobby again. Since I'm recovering from all the things that happened and giving my life a new direction, it will only be a matter of time before I can afford to buy a new pinball game, which I will. And until that time I'm trying to kickstart the hobby by doing what I could have done way earlier: taking apart the only game that's left in my flat and giving it the attention it deserves and which it never got when I was in a relationship. Talk about irony... ;-)

And again, I'm not going to promise anything. I simply want to give a shout out to the people who are still visiting this site and writing me messages, asking for advice from someone they believe knows enough to be of service. Every one of those messages reminds me that I'm in fact kind of expertised at some aspects of pinball and I should take my knowledge from years ago and perfect it in a second run. This time around I won't be as naive and it won't be as much of a passion as before, but it will be a lot less stressful and more inspired by the pure fun and the fascination of the silver ball. Because that is what pinball ultimately means to me, seeing the ball roll.

Without a promise: this year a relaunch of this website is a lot more probable than last year! So you may want to check back if you're interested at all. :-)


... 31st December 2007: About That Promise!

I quote: So, unless our house burns down, you can expect at least one update in 2007. Would be a real shame if I couldn't keep THAT ONE promise!

2008 is now just a few hours away here in Germany and I won't promise something I can't keep over the course of one full year. If this update makes you think "yeah, whatever", that's totally understandable. Still, people seem to come to this site even though it was never updated during 2007 and that's a very good sign indeed. As I said, I have no intention of removing this archive of pinball information (it's not much more than that right now) and one of my determinations for the new year is to definitely get a new pinball machine AND update the site. "Update" as in redesign. As I've practiced some website design recently and this is what came out of it, I plan to reopen Silverball Magic with a new design, new information (cleaning up the mess that is still left), new pictures and multimedia downloads. But that's only gonna happen once I'm back in pinball. I really miss it sometimes (I've got one machine left, Space Shuttle), but as I said earlier this year (ha ha) there are a lot of other things occupying my time and lack of money means I cannot spend it all on pinball. With any luck, 2008 will bring some improvements and at the first chance you can bet that I will get a new game to write about right here on this site.

The bottom line is, expect something to happen to this space in 2008! Though it may take a while.

... 24th January 2007: Status Report

I know, I know. No updates. Actually I hate people who never update their websites. And in fact I COULD, I do have the time. I'll tell you this... the last time I played pinball must have been weeks ago since I cannot remember exactly. I have two machines in my flat, The Machine and Space Shuttle. The Machine is still in perfect condition, however it actually doesn't belong to me any longer because I "temporarily sold it" to a Pinball Network forum member who will come and pick the game up in spring unless I'm able to pay the money back to him. It was kind of an emergency sale. This emergency is also why the third machine, Johnny Mnemonic, which had been swapped for another Star Trek: The Next Generation (!) in the meantime, is gone now and only two are left. Pinball is a luxury I cannot afford at the moment; it seems that standing on one's own feet comes at a price. Since I have found some other interests (motorcycles recently, more in theory than practically) and I play in two rock bands now as an active drummer, it's not like I'm missing pinball a lot. I simply get my free time's worth in other ways. The thing though is that I still access all the pinball stuff on the net to keep up to date, I still play incoming Future Pinball tables (if you haven't checked out FP, go there now) and of course whenever I enter the pinball room, I look over the two machines that are left and I admire them like trophies of a glorious time.
I wrote a rather long post months ago on the Pinball Network explaining that I felt quite detached from pinball at the moment and I didn't feel any fun or interest in the machines I owned, and I had to sell JM because of financial regress. However, since I couldn't sell it for a good price, I took an offer from a good pinball friend and swapped JM for an STTNG which had good substance and needed some technical touchup. Since I got money back plus all the parts necessary to get STTNG working again, it was a no-brainer. I quickly solved the little problems that kept the machine from running and when I booted it up for the first time, it was like a blast from the past! I remembered when I had my first STTNG before JM and how long it took to make it work, and when I played the new machine, I quickly realized that I had not lost my fascination for pinball after all. In fact, STTNG was a hell of a lot more fun than JM ever was! Talk about irony. Maybe some machines should not be sold when you feel they're right.

Because the financial situation didn't get better, I had to sell the newly awakened STTNG, this time for a right price, and this helped a lot over the next month, but it wasn't enough. I'm not a student anymore at this time, I have a clear wish to go to the SAE Institute in the near future and I need money to start there, so I'm looking for part-time jobs. Finding one is tough in Germany though unless you want to be a call center agent or serve coffee to stressed people, so I try to get my money from the state first. This process takes a long time, though, and I've lived without any income for a while which led to the situation I am describing. The Machine is the core of my pinball hobby and she's in a shape that can't be reconstructed from another model since something will be missing, so selling it would not be an option; however with the "credit" I got I can still buy it back before it goes away. Should it leave my collection, it would go into a collection which even has a webcam installed so I could always watch my Bride being played in another place! It would be very sad to lose her, but the fact remains that this machine, which I did not sell because I felt she was the "rightest" I could get, bores me when it comes to gameplay. She's beautiful and I have a link with her from the past which makes her the #1 machine in my collection. I don't play her anymore, though. When I do, it takes ten minutes to turn it off again. Of course I enjoy friends coming along and playing her together with me, and I still love the flow of the ball, the flashing lights, the sound etc. But I could have that on another Machine model in the future if I really needed to give my model away. It just wouldn't be the same, then.

Now, wrapping up this rather long and personal rant I'll say a few words about the site. I know that many people who have been here have enjoyed reading the stuff I put here; this site is listed in some directories on other pinball websites including PinLinks and whatever may come, the site will always be online as an information resource. I've tried to compile as much information as possible in one place that should help newbies and experienced players/collectors alike, and for that people have thanked me with e-mails that were a joy to read. I actually met pinball star Stephanie Rogers through this site, and what could top that?! I guess all I'm saying is, thanks for stopping by and talking to me, even if you've not been the mass thousands of people I expected X-D
In the future I don't know when updates will come. There's still a little mess in the "Operator's Stuff" and "Visual Pinball" sections since stuff is missing, and a Future Pinball article is overdue. Sometimes I feel like writing something, but then something else takes that away, and this is the only reason why this site hasn't been updated. So instead of telling you over and over that I will update, I tell you this: I won't update! :-P Well of course I will, but I'm making no promises on that. The articles will come and the time when money flows again will be the time when something totally unexpected might happen to this space. So, if you want to see that, you could come back someday and look what's happened. One thing is for sure, the site will not be left iced forever, for that it would take more than a few stones in the way of the silverball! So, unless our house burns down, you can expect at least one update in 2007. Would be a real shame if I couldn't keep THAT ONE promise!

MadMax out.

... 7th October 2006: Hello World

Hi fans, I just clicked my own site link in my favourites list and saw the last entry date, and boy, that's embarrassing. But let me tell you how this happened.

It seems that 2006 is not a good year for this website; four updates only so far and we already have October! One reason why I never get my ass up and write an article about my most recent game, Johnny Mnemonic, is that my girlfriend's and my flat still looks messy in the pinball room.

Apart from the fact that we've got stuff to do, I do have the time it would take to clean and rebuild JM, but I just don't have the space to extract all components and work with tools! And then there's another thing... I think that I am playing pinball once in two weeks recently, most of the time on The Machine because I am part of a team that tries to recreate this lovely game in Future Pinball which is obviously the only thing I actively do that is related to the hobby. There are times when the real machines are left alone for a while and I go off experimenting with the virtual pinball side since I love computers and simulation too. The good news is that the Machine recreation looks very good already and I'll be in charge of programming quite a bit of it, having all the expertise on the real game. Also, after a miserably failing attempt to create my very own pinball game in Future Pinball which was last year, I had a very nice idea for a theme I could base my second try on, and look where it headed me!

On the left, my first real own creation, Diner Dash Pinball! Based on a great little game I played earlier this year. And on the right, the current status of The Machine, a group effort of members of the Future Pinball community. So you see, it's not like pinball doesn't do it for me anymore... it's just that whenever I do something with it, it's sitting over an editor and building stuff, forgetting this website and even the real machines in the other room. To be honest, it's very refreshing to replay a machine you haven't touched in weeks, even if you know it by heart. Once I start getting back to playing more often, I know I will want a new game in this new room since even though JM isn't really old yet, I feel a little bored with the three games I have. And maybe that is a full circle back to why I'm not playing so often.

Another factor that eats time and money which would be spent on pinball is not only the flat (which is cost intensive even after four months; we still miss some furniture), but also my newly started drumming "career" and my band. Seriously, I've been playing drums for twelve years, or actually thirteen if you count the break year, but I never played them really actively, only taking lessons every week and practising a bit, then entering a band, having some gigs for two years and leaving it behind. With Szanaterria, the band I've been in since April, I have kickstarted my love for drumming that I originally had: I bought my first own drum kit for a little price, got back into the "groove" (ahaha, pun intended) of regularly playing in a band, and I keep improving my skills and especially watching my sound for the first time, which results in the same problem that comes with every hobby: you want more, in this case more and better equipment, and that costs money. I have spent quite a few bucks especially on new cymbals (never bought any cymbals in my life before, so I'm just starting), and sometimes I feel that even practising twice a week with the band and having gigs isn't enough for me. I want to play even more drums, maybe even join a second band that has a heavier and thus more challenging musical direction, and to top it off I finished professionally recording eight songs in a studio last week, and Szanaterria is going to have a mini album very soon! So you see, the time I would have spent on pinball work earlier now has another dedication. Which simply means that pinball is on standby, but it's still alive at least on my computer where it costs nothing. I will get back to the real machines once money and space allow it, maybe buy another machine for a nice price just to get it going again, and then come again with regular articles about the games. And an article about Johnny Mnemonic will follow. I could have written it already, but I want to clean the machine first. It's dirty as hell though it plays good, and I want the cleaning job in the article along with a photo story. So be patient, it's a very nice game and I bet once I finally get started with the restoration, I will be all over it again and the stories will come flowing by themselves. At least it's been like this in the past.

Since I was just showing off my Future Pinball work, I think the best thing I could do now for the site is an article about it. I can only write about something when I'm inside it, and because FP has my attention right now, I might just sit down and explain it for you guys, enhan-cing the "Visual Pinball" section and making it more of a computer pinball sim corner. Also, I am planning to create a second site on this web space which will present my band in English so those of you who are curious won't have to blindly navigate through the German mess that is the official band site! ;-) Watch out for an announcement here.

Last but not least I should say that my gameplay video of The Machine has anonymously ended up on YouTube (just search for "Bride of Pinbot"), without a remark by the uploader where the video came from. I think this is not very nice even though I claim no copyright on this video. I made it for this site and the least I deserve for this is credit. Let's see whether I can arrange a contact with the guy.

... 2nd June 2006: Gloves Off

Alright, I'll put the cards on the table. Pinball didn't wake much interest in me in the past few weeks... not just because of Sin, but because my girlfriend and I are trying to find a flat and move in together. That's right, MadMax is becoming an independent adult ;-) Because we found something that we liked, the next few weeks might be a little troublesome and there will be NO time or motivation to update the site. Yeah, I know... I said before I would do it, in little steps if necessary, but I don't even have money to really keep my pinball hobby alive with new stuff. Three machines are standing around, two of them need shopping and I don't even play them now. Good point when I move out: more space so that once there's money available, four, five or six pins might become reality. And then I'll kickstart this site again.

... 13th May 2006: Surprise

Wow, it's been ANOTHER month? Man, time passes me by quicker than I can remember. It's due time I update this site... actually I have been motivated to do some things, it's just that at that point I rarely found the time. I'm playing in a new band (www.szanaterria.de for completion), university gives me headaches and I'm also spending time with my girlfriend planning to move in together. Yes, there's plenty of life next to pinball. :P Plus, ever since Wednesday pinball can kiss my ass because I've been playing the first Sin Episode. It's finally out, it's amazing, it's Sin. If you've never heard of it, it's due time to go there.
Why am I updating today? The maker of the Machine audio clips I'm hosting has contacted me (I had a notice on the site for him), telling me he made these clips and giving me his e-mail address to post on the site, so I did. I'm still hosting the files here because he doesn't have a site where he could put them up. Also, this nice guy told me that he found my site from Stephanie Rogers' place. When I went there to look for my link, I found a small reflection in Steph's blog of 2005 that I wasn't aware of till now! I've included a link and description in the Stephanie Rogers meeting article.

... 20th April 2006: Is Anybody Still Reading This Anyway?

Sorry for the lack of updates. Or to be blunt, blame me for being too lazy, too forgetting and easy-going with this project. Of course I could have updated this site once in a while, it's just that I recently don't find the lot of time to dedicate to writing all of the stuff that's missing from this page. I want to incorporate Future Pinball (it's due time since it's been out for half a year), I want to finish the "Operator's Stuff" section with missing info and pictures of the tech, and I need to write stuff about my newest pinball game, Johnny Mnemonic, and why Star Trek: The Next Generation left my collection for it. Space Shuttle hasn't even been touched, but I fixed all of the technical problems and already played it a few months ago. Months! I mean, this page hasn't seen an update in 16 weeks. I really gotta sit down and do all this stuff... I've had enough time and boredom to do it, but I always found something else to occupy my time with, because as I said, it takes some inspiration and motivation to write so much. Now that university has started again, time will be less, but I think I'll try and do at least some work for the site in the coming days or weeks. I have to clean JM anyway, so taking a few shots and posting them would flow well with that.

... 29th December 2005: Damn

Just when you think that you get used to a life full of stuff you don't like, you're torn out of your routine and given a total refreshment.

In a rush during the past two weeks, my life has changed and I can say that I feel very good. Needless to say, this all but helped me remember that this site needs updates. So here I broke another promise I made, but I'll keep at least one - an update before the end of the year. What was it like for you? Did 2005 satisfy you? It didn't satisfy me, in fact it was one of the worst years I ever had, but the ending makes up for all the misery of the past twelve months.
Pinball-wise, this year wasn't all that exciting. However, I did find my second "want to keep forever" game, STTNG, and I rotated some other machines in search for two others - the second DMD game that'll stay next to STTNG, and the classic Space Shuttle I always wanted to have. Well, I found it, or it found me as a friendly Pinball Network forum member offered me his Shuttle a few weeks ago, and after Stargate was picked up and brought back to where it came from (lol), I immediately organized the transport. I must say that it was worth the wait. Xenon was a mess and I'll never touch that game again for a while, but SpaShu is a very nice (and fast!) game for its age and it plays so damn nicely even in its dirty used state that I can hardly stop playing. I don't know why the System 11 games I had and sold never gave me that much entertainment, and why I can keep a 1984 EE game next to the WPC machines I so love now, but somehow it works. Williams obviously did something right back then.

So, while my Shuttle still needs some work, most of it being cosmetically, I have started the article and included photos I made during the past couple of days, showing what it looks like before I start restoration.

I will say this. Updates may not come very often from now on as pinball is really not my primary focus at the moment (I think you can imagine why, if you know me), but with Space Shuttle here and White Water getting ready for sale sometime in the next two weeks, pinball will still live on here and hopefully I can quickly replace WW with a JM so that it might complete my "perfect" pinball collection.

So long, have a good start into 2006... I sure will!

... 7th November 2005: One Year!

As of today, Silverball Magic is one year old! I launched the site on 7th November 2004 talking about Black Knight 2000 in my first news entry and how much I wanted to have it (I had just lost an eBay auction). Today, the site features a new layout, has grown with pinball articles and media, I've gone from the System 11 games to mostly DMD pins and rotated my collection quite a bit during the past twelve months. I met pinball voice and musician Stephanie Rogers this summer and provided lots of inside information on my site that - as far as I know - no other pinball fan website presented before. It's this stuff that makes me feel that my site is worth the effort, time and money I put into it, even though I have pretty much stopped with regular updates. I started university a few weeks ago and while I still live at home and have time to do my own things, managing a website (which includes writing lots of stuff) is not always the #1 thing I want to do. Still, I know it's time for a few small updates I have sitting around in my head and I'll try implementing these until the end of this year.

On the pinball side of things, I've got a White Water standing in my room in the #4 spot where I still want Space Shuttle to stand once I have it - and after one year of failed attempts to get one, I might just finally receive this fine machine in December! A Pinball Network forum member offered me one for a good price and I'm waiting for my Stargate to be sold by the end of the month (it will be picked up and paid in cash) so I can pull the Shuttle deal off. Meanwhile I'm keeping White Water, a pin I don't love but find quite nice to play, until I sold Stargate, bought Space Shuttle and restored WW to a state where I can sell it for profit. After this, I'm left with my #3 spot being empty, the point when I will start looking for a Johnny Mnemonic. It's time that I find my third "first class" pinball game, although Space Shuttle will be there earlier and if it's just as good as I expect it to be, I'll have some great time with it even before buying JM. If every-thing goes well, December or January could bring me the perfect pinball quartet into my home.

If you've not yet tried out Future Pinball, I ask you: what are you waiting for? Although a few key features like ramps and good flipper physics are still missing, this fine tool outwits Visual Pinball not only graphically, but also in ease of construction. It's perfectly normal to create pinball tables out of simulated components instead of modeling everything yourself, like it had to be done in VP. Lots of integrated object properties mean less scripting and prettier results. The only downside is that Future Pinball is a performance hog, plus it has started an annoying VP-FP war on VPForums (I'm in the middle, I can tell). The Future Pinball support forums are full of creativity, dis-cussion and excitement though, and I'm right in working on my first project, a table based on the classic PC game Descent. That's also why I didn't play real pinball during the past week, I used every spare minute to work with FP instead!

So... until further notice, this is the latest news from Silverball Magic. I think that a Future Pinball article will follow sometime soon in the "Visual Pinball" section, which will then be renamed to "Virtual Pinball" to include all kinds of computer pinball simulators.

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© 2005 Maximilian Schulz - Williams, Bally, Gottlieb and all other names, all pinball games and software mentioned on this site are trademarks of their respective owners.