I had an opportunity to ask David R. Foley some questions about what's going on at Nanotech Entertainment and Visual Pinball. Here's how it went...
Noah Fentz: First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview.
David R. Foley: No problem, it's the least that I can do. You have been putting a huge effort in building your forum for those that wish to help sustain the digital pinball community.
NF: Thank you.
NF: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the digital pinball industry?
DRF: Attended Northeastern University in 1983. One of my projects was to build a CPU emulator. My senior project ended up building a 6502 emulator that ran on PC. That evolved into an Apple II emulator that ran on PC, and that evolved into a Sega Genesis development system and emulator that ran on a MAC. Which finally evolved into several Sega Genesis games that I worked on and sold through Sega, Ocean, and Electronic Arts.
I've always been a classic arcade fan. In 1992 we built a Joust emulator that ran on the Sega Genesis, and that was the genesis, pardon the pun, for the UltraCade1 concept which started in 1995.
- In 1998, after having the first UltraCade prototypes running, I felt like we could do the same thing with Pinball.
- In 1999, I started pitching the concept of UltraPin2
- In 2003, we started heavily researching the right way to do digital pinball.
We signed an agreement with Randy to license VP for UltraPin. Because of previous issues that online communities had with me over my attempts to protect my business from the influx of unlicensed machines, I made a strong effort in my dealings with Randy to ensure that the online community would benefit from my work.
This resulted in two major things:
First, we licensed back to Randy, at no fee, all of the upgrades that we would be performing on the engine, allowing him to post these enhancements to the public, so the community would benefit from our work.
Secondly, we contacted all of the people involved in the recreations of classic tables, and licensed their work from them, paying a royalty for the inclusion of their work as the basis for our recreations.
In 2005 we launched UltraPin, becoming a full fledged digital Pinball Manufacturer.
NF: Where do you believe Nanotech Entertainment6 will be in the next couple years?
DRF: I believe that we will be the premier supplier of Digital Pinball technology in the world. With Stern shutting down production of new machines, there is a huge need for pinball machines, and our MultiPinTM7 product is going to fill that gap. On top of that, we plan to continue to offer our consumer pinball products like the Pinball Wizard controller8, including console versions of it.
We also have many other technology and game products that we are launching unrelated to pinball.
NF: Briefly, what other products are you developing?
Xtreme Rally Racing - arcade racing game that allows free roaming of the entire world.
Masher - Kids Redemption Machine.
Sonic Gun System - arcade technology for gun games.
MyTunes I/O Controller - arcade audio controller that allows players to use their iPod or similar devices to inject their own soundtrack into a game while playing.
MegaCade3 - multigame arcade / console system for the home.
That's the publicly available list along with the other products already offered on our website.
NF: That's interesting.
NF: Back to pinball, for a moment. Can we expect to see many more updates to Visual Pinball...will there be a Visual Pinball 10 and so on?
DRF: I seriously doubt there will be a VP 10. VP is a great engine, but is flawed in its basic design. Its not really 3D, it's a single scene. Randy has kind of given up on development and moved on. We've released all of our enhancements to the engine. What's really needed is a ROM emulation system for Future Pinball. Chris is actively developing and enhancing FP, and it's a far superior technology.
NF: So, we can count on having the best possible VP9 before you move on to Future Pinball?
DRF: Well, best possible can mean many things. We've taken the code that we got from Randy and the code that we got from Buen Diseno (UltraPin engine developer) and added in our support for the Pinball Wizard controller, along with Brian's [destruk] work on 16:9 tables and offered that to the community.
There were many things in UltraPin that Randy wanted to merge in and release but never did. He told us to go ahead and release it, as he just didn't have the time.
We invested in Future Pinball last year, and that is our primary focus. Our MultiPinTM product is based on FP, and we have no plans to go backwards.
I have two of my emulation programmers looking into developing our own emulation system for pinball that we can link into FP so that ROM based recreations can be offered in subsequent releases of MultiPinTM.
An effort was also started, and we will complete in the coming year to update the physics based on the experience in enhancing the FP physics to create the best possible simulation of an actual pinball.
We are looking at MultiPinTM and our FP project as a multi-year investment, not just a one off product release.
Our experience with UltraCade and Arcade Legends proved that building an 'evergreen' system was a great business model.
NF: Can you explain 'evergreen' system?
DRF: Most arcade machines are a one off game. You sell them, they are static. UltraCade / Arcade Legends was continually updated with new game packs and enhancements. In 1999, it had 8 games on it. In 2005, when I sold UltraCade Technologies, it had 252 games on it.
DRF: Like an evergreen tree, the system comes back year after year.
NF: A lot of members of our community would like to know...How is Randy?
DRF: He seems good, although our conversations are often only five to ten minutes.
He is very busy with work, and travels a lot with his job.
NF: In the past, there have been many rumors and allegations that you limited VP's ability for portrait mode and you were thought to be ruining the project. What would you say to those members who believed that?
DRF: I wish I held so much power. I'm pretty sure that Randy has publicly stated that we indeed sent him all of the changes year ago. I've gone on record, and have provided plenty of info that negates that statement.
Part of our original contract with Randy was that we provided him with the source to the updates, however, we could not release them to the public.
In our new contract with Randy, he has granted us the option to release stuff to the public, and in fact said we should since he didn't have the time to do an update. That is why the recent release of the V9. We took the UP changes, along with our update for Pinball Wizard and pushed them out to the public.
People have to also remember, that I was not involved for a couple of years due to contractual issues with the sale of UltraCade Technologies. Now those issues have expired and I am once again involved.
VP is great for what it started, a digital pinball revolution.
I know that many people love the engine, and thousands of hours have been put into developing tables for that.
I personally, truly feel that FP is the future of digital pinball, and that with emulation, it will be the only pinball engine. I've mentioned this to Chris before, and I know he has considered ways to do emulation.
You have to remember, that guys like Randy and Chris have poured a ton of sweat and love into their products. They offer them graciously to the public for free.
NF: And I know I can speak for everyone when I say, "We are grateful."
NF: One last thing, and it's been a topic of discussion lately...
NF: It is rumored that Nanotech Entertainment is somehow responsible for the demise of AJ's site (vpforums.com), and that you and vpforums.org were in "cahoots" with opening this site. What are your thoughts on that?
DRF: BWA HA HA HA HA
DRF: Boy, people really think I'm some sort of evil dictator with massive powers!
DRF: What would be my motivation for shutting down VP Forums?
Think about it logically for a moment.
I'm a businessman, in business to make money and sell products.
One of my products is specifically focused at digital pinball players.
I am looking to sell my Pinball Controller to users of FP and VP. I've released a new version of VP that has support built in for my controller.
There was a web forum that boasted 100,000 plus members on it.
My target audience 100% for Pinball Wizard.
Why the hell would I shut down the site where I would have direct contact with my target customers!?
What would be my motivation for having any pinball related forum not around?
NF: Why did you choose to release VP updates on vpforums.org, and not a site that has been around longer?
DRF: VPFORUMS.ORG was the only group that reached out to me.
Besides, VPFORUMS isn't the only site. We posted the updates on our website They are available for anyone to download and repost. I've been a member of every online pinball forum for years and always make all of my contact information available. I am easy to get in touch with.
NF: Thank you, Mr. Foley, for taking time out of your day, and I wish you the best in your endeavors.
DRF: Thank you, and good luck with the Forum.
1 - Ultracade - a computer and video game hardware company, founded in 2002 by David R. Foley.
2 - Ultrapin - UltraPin produced by Global VR, is the pinball version of UltraCade using an updated Visual Pinball engine with hardware DirectX 9 and Visual PinMAME. It is set up to look like a real pinball machine. It has two LCD screens, one for the back glass and DMD, and one for the playfield.
3 - Randy Davis - Original creator, father of Visual Pinball. Available right here, in our download section.
4 - Chris Leathley - Joined later in the development of Visual Pinball and is credited with VP's reel feature. Creator of Future Pinball.
5 - Future Pinball - Future Pinball is a real time Pinball Development System. It allows you to design and play your very own pinball simulation in True real time 3D.
6 - Nanotech Entertainment - A virtual manufacturer of innovative products that re-define the state of game play on the PC or gaming station.
7 - MultiPinTM - a new 3D digital pinball game that has 12 built-in, exciting tables, and is expandable to support hundreds of tables. The system supports original tables as well as licensed recreations of classic tables.
8 - Pinball Wizard controller - Lets you experience pinball the way it is meant to be played, using flipper buttons, a real plunger and the ability to shake the table and nudge the ball. It does all this with no drivers or software required. The best PC Pinball Engine and 12 amazing Pinball Tables are all included for free. Available from Nanotech at a discounted price for our members. Check the home page for details.
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