John A. Popadiuk, Jr. (born 1962) also known as JPop, was a pinball machine designer, who started work in the business at 19 for Bally in 1980, and later at WMS Gaming from 1989-2000.
He is credited as principal designer for many popular pinball machines in the 1990s including, Theatre of Magic, Tales of the Arabian Nights, World Cup Soccer, Star Wars Episode I, and Cirqus Voltaire.
After Williams exited the pinball business in 2000; he started a short-lived Neon sign business named "Duke's Neon" in the Northwest Chicago suburbs. It is unclear if he himself ever bent a glass tube, added the gas and electrodes or had someone else perform that work to his design drawings and art.
He also designed a line of toy pinball machines for a now-defunct company named Zizzle between 2006 and 2007.
Between 2009 and 2010, Popadiuk developed two iTunes Apps: Pinball Scrapbook and Pinball Wizard.
Currently, his company, Zidware, has designed three pinball themes, and has collected pre-orders all three. Magic Girl (loosely based on Theatre of Magic), Retro Atomic Zombie Adventure (formerly known as Ben Heck Zombie Adventure), and Alice in Wonderland. He also worked on a foam board prototype of a KISS Pinball machine in 2014 with the intention of obtaining a license to produce a KISS-themed game. Other project ideas that he claimed to be working on during all this was a makerbot pinball project, a pussycat bowling themed pinball, and some sort of EM project. Individuals who had paid for pre-orders for Popadiuk's other three games that were under development complained about wasting time with the KISS project and other concepts, rather than focusing on the other machines he was already contracted to build. A year later in mid-2015, Stern Pinball released a new version of a KISS pinball machine, which appeared to make Popadiuk's KISS project irrelevant.
In May 2015, Popadiuk announced that he was out of funding, and not only couldn't finish the Magic Girl prototype, he had no way of funding the manufacturing of them. One of his buyers (Bill Brandes) formed a company called "Pintasia" in April 2015 where he intended to license the themes and find a way to manufacture them. Between various volunteers, they took one of the prototypes as far as they could in a few short weeks (which included getting the vacuum formed ramps completed) so it could be shown at the Northwest Pinball Show. The machine was analyzed for completeness, and what it would cost to not only finish the prototype but manufacture. When Brandes realized the project wasn't as close to completion as promised by Popadiuk, Brandes announced on June 10, 2015 that he could not move this project forward and it would be cancelled.
As deadlines for each pinball project slid and customers became irate, John would stop responding to emails and phone calls. He claimed he was overloaded with questions from customers and responding to them would only slow down progress. Shortly after these projects collapsed, John pulled himself from social media, including but not limited to deleting his zidware Facebook page, his personal Facebook page, taking his private blog down, and massively editing the zidware.com website month by month until there was nearly nothing left. Since shipping Magic girls he has slowly started to rebuild the site, adding things such as manuals, feature sheets, and future sections such as spare parts. However on July 9th, 2017 the host for the zidware.com domain seems to have expired leaving the domain as a godaddy parked page. Time will tell if the domain itself gets renewed.
Early on, John read Roger Sharpe's pinball book, and saw the name Norm Clarke who was currently working at Bally. He wrote him a letter, and Norm responded with "If you're ever in Chicago, drop me a line and we'll give you a tour", so 2 weeks later he booked a flight and got a tour of the new Bally factory in Bensenville. After lunch Norm offered to drive him back to the airport, but John said "I'm not going back, you're going to have to give me a job". After Norm realized he wasn't joking around, he agreed to hire him. They hired him as a technician in engineering because he had experience troubleshooting games with a Pinball router in Toronto that had about 350 games. One of the designs John had come up with on his own while still in Toronto was Alice in wonderland, which would later become a theme he would revisit. In 1989 he arrived at the new office, Jokerz! was still on test, and his first project was Ice Castle (which never got produced). He shared an office with another designer, and eventually was begged to work on World Cup Soccer 94 because nobody else wanted to tackle that theme. This is the only pinball design that had to be finished by someone else, other than being a family emergency or an accident (see Dennis Nordman's motorcycle accident on Elivra and the party monsters). He would go on to working on four other titles before Williams shut down the pinball division. Theatre of Magic was originally going to be licensed as David copperfield but they never finalized the license. While still working on it, Capcom came out with "Pinball Magic" and Williams of course thought they had stolen the idea but it was coincidence.
Cirqus Voltaire originally started as "Circus Pirates", then "Circus Maximus", but eventually became Voltaire because the market in France wanted it. It was a very unsuccessful title on test, earning only $47 the first week in Waukesha, WI compared to $350–400 for some of the other titles. It did so poorly that they thought something was malfunctioning or the colors were annoying customers enough not to want to play it.
In March 1998 the writing was on the wall at Williams, and management told every engineer to build their dream game because they had to impress the board of directors. Brian Eddy worked on a game, George Gomez was working on a ping pong game. They told John to work on that game with the video display in the backbox. He worked night and day for two weeks teamed with Lyman Sheats to throw together a layout. They liked the game, but decided that they didn't like the screen in the backbox. At the same time, Pat and George were working on a reflective display that would become pinball2000, and the entire team focused on that for 14 months to finish the project. SWE1 was designed to only have 7–8 shots (similar to Captain fantastic) to keep it simple for kids to easily catch on and draw them in. In 2006, the DVD Tilt - The Battle to Save Pinball was released, which was primarily narrated by George Gomez and Pat Lawlor, documentiung the end times at Williams, focusing on the Pinball 2000 project. Popadiuk declined to take part in the documentary, and as a result, comments about Popadiuk's design team for the Star Wars Episode I pinball machine were one-sided.
Currently, customers who pre-ordered games through Zidware are filing legal action against John for being unable to honor his obligations stated in his contract. On February 14th, 2017 there was an email sent out both by John and Scott Goldberg claiming that all of the Magic Girl games were complete and ready to pickup or ship by the end of the month.
John was hired to be sub-contractor / consultant to this company started by Dhaval Vasani. While they showed a full machine in Vegas in September 2016 titled "Houdini", they only brought a lit playfield with no cabinet at Pinball Expo 2016 the following month. They also showed renderings of the redesigned cabinet they plan to implement, which strays away from Zidware, since there is IP ownership by Pintasia. In October 2016, Joe Balcer (former JJP, Stern, and SEGA employee) joined American Pinball, and it was speculated that he was brought in to fix all the issues of the "Houdini" game layout. This seems to be history repeating itself, as most of John's designs at Williams had to be fixed by higher level designers. American Pinball has indicated interest in manufacturing and delivering Zidware games pre-ordered by Zidware customers. However they have no obligation to make any previous customers whole. They are willing to be a manufacturer for any customers, but only after they have approved of a fully working game first.
As of September 2017 John has now taken a job as lead game development at a new pinball startup as stated on their website. Rumor is that this company was initially interested in hiring John before American Pinball hired him.World Cup Soccer
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Theatre of Magic
Star Wars Episode I
Zizzle Marvel Heroes vs Villains
Zizzle Pirates of the Caribbean
Zizzle Marvel Super Heroes
Zizzle Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End
Magic Girl (Early Prototype)
Retro Atomic Zombie Adventure (Early Concept)
Alice in Wonderland (Early Concept)