Pinball Spotlight Series:
This is Stern pinball’s Iron Maiden. Released last year in 2018, this machine is special for a few reasons, firstly because this was the first new game that we put into Wedgehead. We got our premium edition last summer, and christened our pinball room with it. It helped to keep us sane while we were mired in the long dog days of our exhaustive build out (of which we did all of the work ourselves). Being able to play this game helped our crew relax during short break periods and after long, HOT days in spent laboring without AC. But more importantly, this game marked a very exciting mix of new blood into the design pool at Stern. You see, this game was the first pinball design from probably the greatest competitive pinball player of all time, Keith Elwin. Keith Elwin has been a force on the competitive pinball scene for decades, and had been a pinball operator and tech in San Diego for many years. In his spare time, he had decided to build a “homebrew” pinball machine based on the FX TV show Archer.
Eventually his Archer game caught the attention of George Gomez, VP and head of game development at Stern Pinball. He asked Keith to ship his machine out to him in Chicago so that he could play it. Apparently George was very impressed because he offered Keith a design job at Stern. His Archer layout was tweaked and re-themed into Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast.
Keith’s design features four flippers and two separate upper loops, and there are shots for days. It’s a very unique and innovative layout coming straight out of the gate and is a blast to shoot. In an unusual act, Keith is also credited as the rules designer of the game. Usually there are teams of coders led by a lead coder that are responsible for the ruleset of a pinball machine. The playfied designer typically has basic concepts of rules or features, but it’s usually left primarily up to the lead coder to flesh out the rules and balance the scoring. But on Iron Maiden, Keith took the brunt of rules design and scoring logic, and has his software team just do the nuts and bolts work of coding his vision into the game. His ruleset has been universally acclaimed since it came out, and is a favorite amongst tournament players. It’s deep, yet uncomplicated, and there is always something to shoot for/stack with something else.
The artwork is from Jeremy Packer, better known as Zombie Yeti, and he is Stern’s most talented illustrator in a stacked stable of incredible artists. His first work in pinball was for a couple machines for Zidware, John Popadiuk’s now notorious failed pinball startup. He did the art packages for the prototype games Magic Girl and Alice in Wonderland. They were, and still are, absolutely incredible. When Zidware went up in a ball of flames, Zombie Yeti was smartly contracted to develop new pinball art packages for Stern. His first game was for Stern was Ghostbusters, and his hand drawn illustrations for the game were exactly what pinball fans had been craving desperately for the last 20 years. It seemed that Stern had listened to the fans and delivered on a dream theme for many enthusiasts, and Jeremy’s art is a big reason why. Iron Maiden was his second game for Stern, followed by Deadpool later in the same year (we have all three of his games on the floor now).
Since we have the premium, we have the unofficial POWERSLAVE artwork package, and being a lifelong Maiden fan, all I can say to Zombie Yeti is “THANK YOU!” He absolutely killed this art package, and the game is a dream theme that I could have never imagined would have ever been made. But thanks to Stern, and Jeremy, and Keith, my dream is now a reality. Iron Maiden is the PERFECT band pin, because it features the iconic art style and world of Iron Maiden and doesn’t have just have pictures of old dudes all over it. Made the right call with the license the way it is. And whoever made the call on which Maiden songs made the cut knew their Maiden. In closing, this game is a perfect storm of creative synergy, and a badass game that will stand as a high water mark of pinball design. It’s never leaving the floor here. UP THE IRONS!