I was never into pinball growing up. Something about traditional arcade games and consoles stole all my attention and free time. The earliest pinball experience I remember enjoying was a simple virtual pinball table game called Space Cadet that shipped with Windows 95. I spent countless hours learning the rules and combos. I can still ‘hear’ the addictive but simple synth tune in my head. Fast forward to 2014… After growing tired of playing Angry Birds all the time, I went searching for another app on my iPhone. I came across the Pinball Arcade and bought several packs of Williams Bally and Gottlieb games. I was hooked! The themes, narratives, and rules were fun and unique. It was a quick play and offered some skill and challenges. I got so attached to several of the games (the usuals… Medieval Madness, Cirqus Voltaire, Attack from Mars, Black Hole, Creature, Monster Bash, Taxi, TOTAN, White Water) that I started searching online as to how much a pinball machine was. My mouth dropped. A pinball machine costs WHAT?! After playing at a Houston vendor and emailing a few distributors, Nic Parks with The Pinball Company got me in touch with a collector in St. Louis who was selling part of his collection. I flew up from Texas, and spent the better part of the day in his basement just geeking out on tens of games. I picked the ones I liked the most and my collection of over 20 games began. Most of my selections were WB offerings from the golden age of pinball (the decade from the late 80’s to late 90’s). I have grown to love the design palette of the Williams and Bally companies, licensed and unlicensed. They offer a ball-centric, packed playfield, an immersive narrative, and good art, along with a mid-level deep ruleset, with memorable animations and score rounding out the production. However, the installation and (especially) maintenance of these complex, bulky machines isn’t for the average consumer. I’ve had to learn hacks and shortcuts along the way to keep them operating, let alone operating in tip top shape. And yes, soldering on a vertical surface sucks!
How did deeproot Pinball start?
It is these experiences that formed the earliest innovation ideas for deeproot Pinball (more on that later). After meeting and attempting (but failing) to work with a number of pinball personalities and companies in 2015, I decided to step back and focus on deeproot’s core business of managing our private funds. However, by late 2016 the dysfunction in the pinball industry had increased and I saw a path forward to disrupt the failure-to-innovate and bring pinball into the modern era. My COO Craig started in October of 2016 by delving in to the unique pinball world, and then shortly thereafter Sean joined and we formally started as an R&D shop in April of 2017. Like myself, Craig and Sean had a shared passion for pinball machines and video games. Exploring a closer marriage of the two became our obsession. For the first year we made due in an office space, but then finally found a home suitable for the venture in April 2018. In the Fall of 2018, we created our art and animation offices in Utah and have since ridden the rollercoaster ups and downs of a pre-revenue startup tech venture. After having hopes of launching in 2019 & then twice in early and mid 2020, we finally got our opportunity to share our pinball vision and passion with the world in November 2020. Despite our current innovations, we will keep innovating in the years to come to make sure that the consumer is getting the value and fun-factor they are paying for.
Pinball is hard.
While it seems to be a taboo idea in this hobby that pinball is anything but hard, it is a fact that a pinball machine is very complex to design and produce--let alone accomplish what deeproot did by reengineering it from the ground up prior to launch. There were many challenges along the way. We had to create multi-industry divisions in engineering, physical design, narrative, coding, IT, art, animation, etc. For each we had to deal with staffing issues, technology limitations, budgeting nightmares, process creation, scope collaboration, impact analysis, etc. Most of the early employees joined knowing this was my vision of how and what pinball should be, and they were happy to be along for the ride. After all, pinball is fun!
However, as the team grew, it became clear that we needed to articulate a vision that the whole team could return to when I wasn’t in the room. In time, we had to create much more realistic and measurable standards that refined and focused our sights on the final deliverables. The key brand tenets of deeproot Pinball were formed, namely:
- Our machine should be designed for a consumer that weighed a fraction of the pinball machine, who couldn’t ‘operate a remote’, and had little to no knowledge of pinball.
- In narrative, we wanted a deep, engaging storyline with themes and characters consumers could connect with.
- For rulesets, we wanted an experience that would challenge both novices and champions alike, without being overwhelming or too convoluted.
- In engineering, we wanted rugged, well-thought-out innovations, rather than prototypes.
- For our electrical system, we chose to go a solderless route (even though more expensive) to simplify assembly and consumer maintenance.
- Our art and animation is broken down into 2D or 3D pipelines with concept art in different genres and styles to refine the core immersive world. Simply put, each game will be a unique world in our portfolio.
- And last (but definitely not least) no expenses spared in making sure the ball constantly interacts with the playfield and mechs.
The deeproot Pinball platform and experience you see today is the collective effort of hundreds of people. It has become ‘our’ vision of pinball, rather than just mine. We have come together to create a pinball platform only found with deeproot Pinball, defined by: Fun, Cool Visuals, Quality and Value built in with a focus on the total Ownership Experience, Innovation, new ways to compete and regard scoring, and Interactivity like never before experienced with a pinball machine. With each new title and game we release, we will add something new to the pinball world and play experience. With feedback and time, soon the deeproot Pinball vision will be a collective vision of the next century of pinball, as we respect and honor the pinball legends who paved the way from the last century.
-- Robert J. Mueller, Principal & Architect of all things deeproot Pinball