May 23rd, 2013

Joust Master Lon McDonald

100 Rollovers
100 Weeks
1 Billion Points

Joust Tour reaches for the landmark 100th rollover at the Birthplace of Joust.
The Williams Building @ 3401 N California Chicago, IL


Were you part of the Experience, live over the internet

  • The 100th rollover was streamed live at
  • Gameplay was from 8 – 2 pm cdt at WMS
  • Panel discussion was from 2 – 3 pm cdt at WMS


  • Joust Development Team: Python Anghelo, John Newcomer, William Pfutzenreuter
  • WMS Interviewer: Roger Sharpe
  • WMS director of communications, Mollie Cole
  • Steve Sanders and his boys
  • Historian: Mark Hoff
  • Twin Galaxies’ Founder Walter Day to unveil Williams Trading Card

Joust machines on loan from:

Related Links-

  • Lon playing to 99 million points – LINK
  • Lon playing at the original Twin Galaxies arcade location in Ottumwa, IA – LINK
  • Visit Lon’s Joust website-

The pilgrimage to Chicago begins

On Wednesday morning, May 22nd, your author departed from the Video Game Capital of the World, Ottumwa, Iowa.  First stop to meet up with Walter Day in Fairfield, Iowa.  Then make the trek to the epicenter of video game production in Chicago, Illinois.

Somewhere in Illinois, Walter communicated about the epic Joust event at WMS with two okey members of the original National Video Game team.  Steve Harris from Electronic Gaming Monthly and Billy Mitchell from King Of Kong/Ricky’s hot sauce fame.  Yes, he is using an authentic Star Trek Communicator. 🙂

Joust-WaltphoneWhen on an epic quest, it is important to pay proper respect to the authentic heritage of video games.  Visiting the enigmas known as Pat and Glenn from Star Worlds arcade in DeKalb, IL.  Home of the last remaining authentic neighborhood arcade in existence since the early 80’s.

Joust-StarWorldsWe arrived safely to downtown Chicago, at the Marriott hotel overlooking Harry Caray’s Steakhouse.  Lon put everyone up on the 24th floor overlooking a sweeping view of the Chicago skyline.  Class act, this Mr. McDonald.


Dinner at Harry Caray’s. Walter, Bill Pfutzenreuter, Python Anghelo, Robin, Lon, John Newcomer.


If Roger Sharpe can be coined as the man who saved pinball, then it well could be that John Newcomer was the man who saved video games inside Williams Electronics.

  • John has been a prolific presence in the gaming industry, check out a comprehensinve listing of other projects HERE
  • Professional interview about Joust – Youtube


Anyone familiar with the history of Williams Electronics is aware that Python is over-the-top entertaining in conversation.  Here is proof that he may infact have learned some colorful antics from “Pfutz.”

Joust-funA toast to the MVP of the event, Lon’s wife Robin.


History recounted.  Sitting amongst legends of game design, it was fascinating to watch the old partnerships rekindle as nuances of the Joust development process were remembered and shared.  It was very easy to see how such genius came together to produce one of the top games of the 80s in just 6-7 months of effort.

  • Python told many intriguing anecdotal stories about the era, one of which was the key element of bird movement where the neck and wings move opposite each other.  See the illustration below for evidence that minute detail and thought was put into every aspect of the game design.
  • To see more stories of the evening click THIS link.  Including the ISBN numbers for the book below.


JoustFlightDesignOf special note is the famed Joust poster created by Python using colored pencils.

  • John explained that Python was an unending source of promotion within Williams for the game of Joust.
  • He created this poster to help promote the game toward the end of the development cycle.
  • Within Williams there was question about the concept of the game being worthy.
  • You didn’t fly a spaceship or shoot anything, how could it be a valuable game design?
  • Alas, a run of 26,000 plus machines out into the wild and decades of adoring Joust fans has proven the legacy of Joust.
  • One of the top 3 Williams games of all time and most likely top 10 games of classic arcade history. (pictured are Bill P., Joust legend Steve Sanders, Python, and Lon McDonald)


What good is a legacy, if it isn’t shared with the future generations?  Video game legend Steve Sanders mastered many games like Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Robotron in the early 80s.  But he holds Joust the nearest to his heart.  A world record holder on Joust, he shares the experience with his two boys.  One of which is a Guiness record holder and Joust champion in his own right.  Kudos, Mr. Sanders.


What an honor to sit amongst a group who loved Joust as much as I did.  Joust being the game that led me to Twin Galaxies and a decades long friendship with Walter Day.  Unbelievable, really.  Thank you, Lon McDonald for creating a pinnacle of success culminating in such a splendid Joust event.

If you have never had the pleasure of meeting the outlandish character known as Python, please make an effort to visit a Pinball event near you.  One of the true icons of his age.

Bill “Pfutz” Pfutzenreuter has been a prolific game programmer over the decades.  He even worked with the legendary Stern developer Alan McNeil, of Berzerk/Frenzy fame!

  • Visit his resume of achievements at
  • Notable is Pinbot, Star Riders, the Stern pinball Flight 2000
  • Bill is currently Senior Software Engineer at
  • If you look in his pocket you’ll see a Palm device.  More of his programming work to help remind him about company meeting times.  What hasn’t The Pfutz done! 🙂

It should probably be illegal to fit this much genius within one picture

It is fitting to see Lonnie’s wife Robin front and center.  Without the great females in our lives, we wouldn’t be allowed to “play video game” on a Wednesday evening during the work week!  Cheers to Lon’s wife!

In one’s life are certain moments that have a magical feel.  And in those moments there is always a fleeting awareness that joy will turn into the bittersweet realization that the moment’s time is finite.  Thus our poetic moment around the “Holey Cow” as everyone said their good-byes and departed into the chilly Chicago evening.

Thursday morning, May 23rd.  Entering the famous WMS headquarters, a pile of trading cards in tow.


The main lobby of WMS, huge high definition TV screens welcome visitors with aquatic scenes, hot air balloons in the sky, and promotional video of the latest games produced in the facility.  Magnificent!


The first hallway is a spectacle of ambient lighting.  You could well be walking a corridor of the Starship Enterprise.  The grandeure and security presence of the facility is a bit intimidating, thusly I asked security before snapping these shots!


Thanks to Galloping Ghost arcade for supplying a machine, and Logan Hardware arcade for supplying 3 machines and a very cool cocktail table.  It is more work than it appears to the average bystander to keep the circuit boards in a 30 year old machine in tip-top condition.  James Zespy from Logan Hardware is truly a wizard of arcade restoration and repair.

Here we have Lon McDonald trying to explain to Roger Sharpe why playing Joust should not be considered an illegal form of gambling in New York…..ummm, well maybe that is not what they were talking about.  Oh well, nice picture anyway!


Walter Day, the patron saint of video games, is required prior to all monumentous occassions in video game excellence. Youtube

Lon getting started on the 10 million points required to complete the 1 billion point conquest.  WMS being “Suite 100” on the epic journey.  Youtube

To pay tribute to the full-circle culmination of his Joust journey, he played the very first iteration of the Joust code, called the Red Rom set.

  • Since he was used to playing the later Green/White Roms at over 95 locations, this proved to be a daunting task.
  • Mr. Cool was actually sweating and showed signs of anxiety during the last pivotal game, a rarity to this master.
  • A well-deserved battle in the gauntlet to end the journey.
  • Of note, is that John Newcomer sat and observed most of Lon’s game.  Prior to this event, John had felt for 33 years that the “Tery cheat” in the red roms was a glaring oversite that made the game easy.
  • What wasn’t realized is the slight variation in Shadow Lord enemy dynamics which makes the red roms more challenging to marathon than the green.  Anything that can put a master like Lon on edge, well I’d call that a success in game design!



  • Watch the end of Lon’s 100th game- TwitchTV
  • Watch the full 5 hour game here- TwitchTV
  • Watch Walter Day’s analysis of the event-  Youtube

Award presented to WMS Director of Communications, Mollie Cole (who was the wonderful orchestrator of the onsite event at WMS) and Roger Sharpe

Trading cards!

Two special cards were presented at the event.  Marking the role of Williams Electronics in the history of video games and Lon’s 100th Joust machine played at WMS headquarters.

  • Signatures on the pictured cards include Mollie, Roger, Lon, and John

Question and Answer session with WMS employees.  Roger expressed just how monumental the development of Joust was to the continued success and ability for Williams to thrive in the early 80’s.

Above and Beyond Generosity

  • John brought 2 pieces of original artwork for Lon.  The original “Tery” buzzard from Python.  And the mounted Ostrich done by Constantino.
  • He brought 3 original Joust posters.  Lon allowed Steve Sanders one of them.  And your author can tell you I was  thoroughly elated, like a school kid, when one of the signed copies was given to me.  woo hooo!!!!!!!!



What you see here is the original hand-written design of Joust.  In just a few short pages, John wrote out over 90% of what became the final game.  Walter Day likened it to Mozart pulling enlightned grande music out of the ether, whereas his contempories struggled to do the same purely toiling from their own intellect.  A true maestro.  The words “Thank You” don’t begin to express our appreciation, Mr. Newcomer.

  • If you are curious to know more about this document or see it in person, contact Lon McDonald for a viewing.


Thursday evening at Logan Hardware.

We were treated to the privilege of meeting Mr. Chicago, Dan Wolfe, producer of the WLS morning radio show.  Awesome, Dude!

It’s all fun and games until someone tries to beat Dan at Star Wars.  Ain’t gonna happen, nevah!

What happened afterward?

Lon went on to star in the hit Broadway musical about the life and times of flying Ostriches.

And Walter Day went back to his undercover job of 40 years, washing windows at dizzying heights above the Chicago skyline.


In all seriousness and sincerity,  Thank you again Python for making the extra effort to rejoice in a wonderful moment of Joust history with us.  You are loved and appreciated by a generation of adoring fans.  And finally, again, to Lon’s lovely wife Robin.

All the best.

John Newcomer, May 25th 2013-

It was a great joy for me to revisit old friends and meet new friends at the
event. By now you know the secret of Joust is the great German engineering of
Bill Pfutzenreuter who remains my favorite programmer that I worked with in my
30+ year game career. Python is still the most creative person I ever met and he
was instrumental in Joust not just with his artistic talent, but with his
unending vocal support of the game throughout the company as we were in the last
months of development. Luck can be a factor in making games like Joust. And that
luck was in the form of bringing the likes of Pfutz, Python and Jan Hendricks to
one team and having a supportive Director of Engineering like Ken Fedesna at the
helm making sure that the game go to completion despite some raps it was taking
behind the scenes. This sort of thing was the magic of working at Williams and
then Midway.

Lonnie, you are the star of the show and I thank you for
making the gathering possible. Your skills and tenacity are amazing. It makes me
very happy to see a gentleman like you in the record books and all of us classic
developers thank you for putting light on that period of time in game history.
Steve, it was good to meet you and I can’t express how cool it is to see a
father/son combo playing Joust together. Mark, I enjoyed your hospitality and
taking a trip down memory lane. Your contributions to gaming is something to be
appreciated. And Walter, your work on legitimizing arcade scoring is priceless.
It has kept life in the classic games and made them more than a footnote in

Thank you all again for your hospitality

Bill Pfutzenreuter, May 25th 2013-

I too had a great time talking about the birth & growth of Joust. I even
learned more about the sequences of multiple events, that had to happen for
Joust to even be conceived. It was great working/remembering the Joust Team and
reuniting with John & Python.

Lonnie, family, and friends are an
unbelievable talented group of people. I saw the new “Suite 100” flag on the
Lonnie McDonald Tracker. Congratulations!

Python, May 25th 2013- 

For me,…to be at a loss for words? Impossible!!! Be left speechless ? Unthinkable!!! Oh yes, it did just take place right after what you guys did and said, in last three days- what a joy!- what an honor! Unforgettable!!! Robin and Lonnie, thank you for reuniting part of the Joust Team, bringing Steve, Mark, Walter and the young Joust Knights together in a magic gathering of sincere celebration, of an awesome milestone of accomplishment, in the art of video-combat with a lance, while riding a 16 pixel tall ostrich. Holly Cow!!! Literally “Suite 100”
belongs to the Video Joust Wizard, the Great Knight Lonnie McDonald, the Supreme Ruler of all Battle Birds and all Stone Clouds of the Lava Planet!!!   May we all gather again, soon. And after another well fought  Joust Tourny, may we all feast on lava roasted buzzards, pterradactyll steaks, buzzard deviled eggs and drink Lava Troll’s blood smoothies. One frame at a time, animated Love, Python.
To learn more about this epic journey into the medieval world of Joust, visit Lon’s website-

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