November 15



Finally, the pinball company Deeproot has unveiled it’s first pinball machine to the public.  Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland has been shown at the Houston and Pinball Expo recently and looks to be a playing and workable game.

The game looks to have great artwork on the playfield and cabinet. John Popadiuk is the lead designer on the game.  John had some controversy when his pinball company filed for bankruptcy and many people who ordered games from him did not receive the games and lost money.  Hopefully this will not hurt the sales of this game for Deeproot.  People have short memories sometimes.

This Week in Pinball has great pics of  the new game as well as interviews of the team who created the machine.

Interview with John Popadiuk

TWIP: I want to focus on Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland, but first wanted to ask about your journey from Zidware to deeproot Pinball, with deeproot helping the past Zidware customers, to this Houston Arcade Expo and showing the world your newest design. Can you share what that journey was like and what you learned along the way?

John Popadiuk: Big question… Zidware was started to bring back the “90s” style of pinball to the community in 2011. Obviously it was not so easy to do as I learned. We had a great development group back at WMS.

Also in this case I had to develop the whole platform from scratch (which) became magic girl and engineer it all from the ground up.

It has been an extremely hard road and certainly harder from a business point of view. I am a better showman and pinball designer than CEO. but the passion was always about pinball and making “better” games that raised the bar.

Even as the road became difficult, almost impossible, I did what I could to keep going and told folks that I would not give up on keeping the games alive as they are relevant.

Around this time I met Robert thru a mutual pinball buddy, and he was able to see my work, my studio and the effort I was trying to do in making these games. Robert is very passionate and loves pinball as much as I do, he must have seen something in me or my games that wanted him to throw in his armor and join the quest. A quest it is.

As with anyone with a dream, struggle seems to be part of learning. And those that have actually been inside Zidware and now deeproot can really understand more of what it takes to make pinball, and slog thru the daily grind of “problems”. The end goal is the game and really is the only thing that will speak for us and the dedicated talented teams of creators behind the curtain.

But today certainly I am learning (learned) patience, humility, gratitude and more. It is really a team effort and I believe our pinball community needs people that love making games while they bang bricks on their head trying to make something amazing.

For me “amazing” is just a starting point or blank sheet of paper as there are a lot of new pinball inventions to make.

To top it off Robert has built an amazing facility staffed with the most talented pinball makers I have ever worked with, so for this we are really thankful that he has that vision and business sense to put in place great foundation stones at deeproot.

TWIP: Games designed by JPOP have a distinct look and feel. When you design layout, what do you focus on first? What does your design process look like?

JPOP: I guess I can give some of my secrets away….

Well I start with the theme and the name first….the theme has to be something exciting, new, inventive and classic. licensing is great for some titles but the best games from 90s are mostly original themes

Once I select a theme idea, then I go for the look of the game, art style, color, design and try to get a visual look in my mind. the same way Nikola Tesla (I am no Tesla) would create machines in his mind. I can see the whole game in my mind space, all created and in color.

Then I will try to now find a common element, feature, character or idea to use as a central “hook”. All good pinball needs a hook and all great past games have them. Flying saucer, castle, magic box, ventriloquist head, monster, etc.

In the case of Retro Zombie the main idea was an amusement park, like Cyclone or Hurricane, but then the twist is the space zombie alien thing. People love family style pinball, and for me have dead zombies was not really fun for mom to play. Hence the original theme idea that can work in pinball.

Once I get this far I start sketching on a yellow pad and then move to full size paper. I do not use technology to draw my designs, ramps, flow. I do that by hand like Leonardo, and then use a tool like 2d or 3d cad to get it into my digital canvas. That’s one of my big secrets! 🙂

This way I will know and see that my basic vectors will react the same as drawn. the big thing I try to teach new designers or engineers is that pinball actually comes with a complicated set of physics and unpredictable behaviors.

Most of the time the ball is spinning as it is rolling, even though you may not see it. So the way it comes off a flipper, or a sling or around a bumper area is not real predictable. So I have to design with this in mind and then try to relay this to the team who may want a change in the geometry. Steve Ritchie taught me a lot about what the ball does and how to think about the ball on its way back to you the flippers. Naturally Gottlieb games from the 50’s and 60’s did this well, using seemingly little on the playfield but having great play and flipper shots.

Read the full interview below at This Week in Pinball :


Courtesy of Flip N Out Pinball