Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gottlieb Sys80 ground modifications

Started to work on my Black Hole pinball machine. Bought it many many years ago, untested.
Never tested or repaired it. Shopped it, cleaned the playfields, new rubbers, ..
then put everything together (I did test voltages on the powerboard)
Put everything together, started a game, it worked, and then a coil in the back fired and the game just died. Aaargh. Should've known better; but I was young and ancious to get it going.

Put it aside for many years, never worked on it as other games came in and got priority.
Now I'll finally start working on the game and try to get it going.

My Haunted House machine is in good working condition, but never got any upgrades.
As they're next to each other, it's easy for me to do the same upgrade to both machines at the same time.

I've done all the mandatory ground modifications as was described in the past on the pinrepair website. Most of this info is also available on and other gottlieb repair sites, in case you need it.

Now all grounds are tied together, should make these System80 games more reliable.
As my Black Hole is the European version (no infinity lights or double backglass), the backbox is smaller and pcbs are at the backside of the light insert panel. So it wasn't an identical installation on both games, some wires needed to be different in size, also have a few less boards than in my HH or USA version BH.

Also noticed the sound board in my BH is incorrect, BH is game number 668 and the board in my game has eprom 667 installed (Volcano).
Not a real problem as I bought a NOS Black Hole sound/speech board many years ago :)
But my game must be working before I try to add that..

I always double checked my work with the dmm to make sure there wasn't an error or short somewhere.. switching the Haunted House on to test it was a bit scary (you never know I made a mistake and blew something) but everything worked.
Great ! Now my Haunted House is more reliable and step 1 on getting my BH working is done..

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tron LE 1.1 rom version

Following my post of a few weeks ago - Stern has released version 1.1 of the software for Tron LE. These are indeed shipped on usb keys to buyers of the game.
Thanks Erik for the photo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Whitewater adjusted

Opened up my Whitewater pinball machine this evening - someone was looking for a part and I still had it. I keep my game-specific spare parts inside the cabinet of the game so they're always together.

Now I had taken off the glass, I thought of having a look at the left side of the playfield. Slow or fast balls sometimes take a different path, sometimes they nicely bounce onto the flipper, sometimes they just drain. It seemed to depend on the speed but not always.

I was certain it had to be with the end of the metal rail that goes all along the back, at the left side of the playfield (somewhere along the middle) it ends, there's a post and then there are the blue river targets.

I remember when I shopped the game a few years ago that I had bent the end of the metal so the ball would nicely go onto the left flipper.. so why didn't it stay consistent anymore ?

I pushed against the metal.. and it moved.
Wow - wait, let me try that again.. hmm.. moved again ? that's not good !

Partly removed the long ramp, removed the mountain plastic underneath it and I could finally access the part behind the metal guide.
Seems the screw hole at the end of the part was too large, the screw could move around a bit.
Put some parts of a toothpick in it, secured it again.. and now it's tight.

Let the pinball roll by hand a few times, slow, fast, and it always ended nicely on the left flipper (or could just be caught by the tip of the flipper). But certainly no more drains SDTM !

Assembled the mountain and ramp again, played a few testgames, and my Whitewater suddenly behaves. It's like a total new game !

I know adjusting and fine-tuning a game is important and I always try to do it as good as possible (although I have to admit most of my games can need a little bit more of tuning), but this is the first time that one little half loose screw made such an important change to gameplay.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Magic Girl - the newest pinball machine from John Popaduik

Here's a scoop - John Popaduiks new game will be called Magic Girl !

His site existed already some time. In 2 days the details about his first new game will be released.
What I can say is that only 13 will be created, price will be $15.995.
Start saving ! :)

Here is more information about the new Magic Girl pinball.

Update: link went public on 23/7 and all 13 games are now reserved..

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm talking Tina, and here is your extra ball

One of the legs of my TZ wasn't fixed like it should - the screws were worn out and had bolts at the inside. Still there was a little bit of room - which probably caused my tilt during litz a few days ago.
Bought last week some leg plates and new bolts so tonight I installed them.
Noticed too the front wasn't completely level (one leg touched the ground a little bit earlier than the other when you put the game down, and the cabinet twisted a bit).
The game also wasn't setup very steep, leg levellers were out quite a bit.

I just adjusted the one leg so both front legs are level, nothing more. It was less than half a cm (probably 3mm) out, only took me 2 or 3 turns of the leveller.

The game suddenly plays a lot better. It's less agressive (less drains to the outlanes). I also put it to default 5-ball settings (which enabled extra balls).
Played two games, one of 250 million and one of 595 million. Not bad.
I hope the frustrating less than 100 million games are gone now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

LITZ baby !

Played TZ again tonight. Had a few bad games - although bad - same as usualy, drain, drain, good ball, drain, make mistake and drain I finally got a bit more into it.

Some drains you can't do anything about, the ball leaves the popbumpers in the wrong direction and is soo fast it drains before you notice.
Peter of gamebunker also blogged about my TZ and how it's almost impossible to play.

Half of the drains are my own mistake. TZ is not a forgiving game. Every shot must count and be where you want it to be. Miss a shot, the ball will bounce somewhere and drain. Let the ball bounce around out of control, and it'll find its way to the outlanes. So you need ball controll all the time and aim and not miss.

Finally I got a good game ! Lit all door panels and was able to start Lost in the Zone (LITZ). Unfortunately I drained during this multiball - have to adjust the tilt because it just is too sensitive. But I finally put my initials in - grand champion with 909 million. I'm happy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Transformers for next Stern

Transformers is confirmed as the next Stern game, this was in a documentory on CNN about Stern pinball.
Great theme - so lets make it'll be a great pinball too ?!

Jersey Jack Pinball has also announced that their next game (after Wizard of Oz) will be Elvira - seems they're in negotiations with her. This would be the third pin with Elvira as subject (after Elvira and the Party Monsters and Scared Stiff).
Sounds even more interesting to me ! I wonder if people now will skip WOZ to get Elvira ? (I know I would if I was planning to buy one..)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WPC technical articles

The start of some technical articles,
made an overview of all WPC boards and what games they were used in.

Also explained how to add an NTC to a System11 pinball machine, to prevent the main fuse of your house from tripping when you turn on a pinball machine.
It's a problem I had many years ago myself, seen it recently at someone else's place, but don't know if it has been documented somewhere online.. so now it is :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

hacked powerdriverboard

Blogged a few weeks ago about a hacked Fish Tales, here are finally the pictures of the soldering on the powerdriverboard (bad quality, taken with my crappy cellphone).

Because someone had added some jumpers like pinrepair suggest but made a mistake in them, they had created a short on this board.. search for the vaporized trace.

It starts at most right pin of the 2nd connector on the left, and goes along the bottom of the board (3rd trace from the bottom) and continues underneath the black capacitor. Most of it was just gone, only a shadow of where once some copper had been was left..

Bridge rectifiers also had been replaced and soldering wasn't done very professionally. Too much heat (and the game didn't work because some small traces that go to the legs of the bridges didn't have continuity anymore because they were just burnt). Some traces and the board was just burnt, thick blobs of solder where hanging around, ..

Seems they didn't have enough bridges with pins so they used the type with fast-on connectors. Bridges with fast-on connectors are easy to find here in Europe - the type with wires like used on WPC driverboards is not available in most electronic stores. So I can understand the reason why some repair persons use this type or bridge, it's not the first time I encounter it.

To connect this to the board they didn't use wires (like I've seen in the past). The legs of the old bridge rectifier had been cut off pretty high, so that the metal pins were sticking up. Fast-on connectors had been soldered onto these legs. The bridge then just snaps into place. Makes it a lot easier to replace in the future, no soldering is required anymore ! :-)

The back of the board didn't really like the heavy soldering of these fast-on connectors.

TAF nailpolish

This is something I noticed a few years ago when I had a NOS Thing hand for sale from The Addams Family pinball machine, but only recently was able to take a picture from it: there's nailpolish on the fingernails on the plastic hand !

What level of detail did Bally / Williams back then to their pinball machines ? They did not just mold a plastic hand but even have someone put nailpolish on it to make it look more realistic ? While it only comes out of the box for a few seconds, and it's all the way in the back of the playfield so most players wouldn't notice this anyway ?
A pinball manufacturer nowadays would probably take a flat plastic and put a crappy photo of a hand over it..

And as over 20.000 Addams Family pinball machines have been produced - someone had to put nailpolish on over a 100.000 plastic fingernails ?! Can you just imagine this person coming home from work ?
- 'Hi honey, how was your day ?'
- 'Not bad, put nailpolish on 100.000 plastic fingers.'

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Black Indiana Jones

There's not only the limited edition Black Spiderman, I came across a rare Black Indiana Jones ! :-)

And my phone overexposed the image, in reality it was even more dirty than it looks, the white around Indys head was much darker than it shows here..

It was unbelieveable how dirty this game was. Hadn't been cleaned in many years. At the lower part of the playfield rubbers had been replaced (long ago) with black rubbers that were totally hard and dry now.
At the top of the playfield the original white rubbers were still on (from 1992..) almost 20 year old rubber was totally hardened and fell apart. Underneath the mini-playfield the rubbers that should be there were just broken and missing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Started to play my Twilight Zone again

Since last week I have room again in my gameroom ! Before I had an extra machine in for a restoration.
That Medieval Madness is now gone, and now I finally could set up the Little Pro mini golf game. The Little Pro was disassembled since last year in my gameroom, it was in the middle path of the gameroom, in front of my Bram Stokers Dracula and Twilight Zone pinball machines.
So yes, I couldn't play any of these games for almost a year.

To be honest, I even think it was about 5 years since I played Twilight Zone.
OK, I may have played like two to ten games a year on it.. not more.. but that was not really playing, really trying to get a highscore, enjoying the game.. it was more to check if the machine still worked.
A few years ago we even had decided to sell our Twilight Zone as we didn't play it anymore.. but in the end played a few games on it again and decided to keep it anyway.. as it's in such good condition, it would be nearly impossible to find one again should we miss it.. but not that we really play it often.

Since three days now I'm again addicted to Twilight Zone. I really want to set a high score and enter my initials.
That's the goal I've set to myself. The machine has reset to its default settings and high scores, so about 600 million is needed.
Not too high.. should be a possibility for me you'd think ?

First put my electronic level on the playfield, the game was tilted almost 1 degree to the right. No wonder the game played weird. Now it's level. But I think I still need to adjust the playfield tilt and make it either more or less steep.

Like it is now set up, the game is just brutal. I've always hated The Addams Family because the magnets can drain the ball so quickly you can't do anything at all anymore.. but my Twilight Zone is even more a drain monster !

I've had more drains the last days than you can imagine and had more than one game that went like this:
- ball 1: skill shot, rocket kicker, popbumpers, left outlane.
- ball 2: skill shot, rocket kicker, popbumpers, right outlane.
- ball 3: skill shot, rocket kicker, popbumpers, sdtm.
game over without the pinball touching the flippers at all.
Other times: skill shot missed - slotmachine kickout - want to catch it on the right flipper and sometimes it bounces up and goes straight into the right outlane. Why ???

I've had dozens of games where at the start off ball 3 I had less than 10 million points (which is what you can earn with one successful skill shot).
Setting a high score seems an impossible task :-(
I did have a few good games - about 5 times I got between 500 and 550 millions. So almost there.. just have to be a really good game with every ball and I'll get there, I'm sure.

It probably also doesn't help that it's been about 10 years since I shopped the game.
While it is still pretty clean (as it's hardly been played), the rubbers are dead. The red flipper rubbers should be bouncy, but they are not.
I've had ball drains whilest trying to pass the ball from one flipper onto the other, because it didn't bounce hard enough off the flipper tip.
So next on the list is to put fresh rubber on this machine and see how much of a difference that makes.

It probably also doesn't help I'm still recovering from pneumonia. My reflexes are too slow, half of the time I see the bal drain and think 'maybe I should've tried to nudge the machine to rescue that pinball'.

But no more excuses. I should be honest: I'm bad at playing pinball.
Don't get me wrong - I love pinball machines. I love to play them, I love to work on the machines, but I'm just not a good player.
I'm just too bad. I haven't played in the belgian pinball championship for years as I'm not well enough so just don't bother (my goal usually is to be in the top half, but in reality I'm somewhere 2/3rd down the list). The competition is held in january, and I only play often in my gameroom during summer. As from october it gets too cold and I almost don't play anymore. So in january I've totally forgotten how to play pinball and do even more stupid mistakes that frustrate me because I know I should do better but it's been too long since I played.

It's not that I'm really bad a bad player - on a game that fits me I can get high results and get a top 5 score.
The problem is if a game doesn't fit me. I'm not good at nudging, trying to save and keep the ball in the game at all cost, .. then I drain with very low points, which gets my ranking down quickly.. and to do well on competitions you have to average well on any game, and do your best with every ball.

This weekend also was the TIF: Italian pinball championship. The previous two years we visited it, but not this year.
Two years ago we included it with the start of our holidays, last year we even drove especially over there for a weekend.
Not this year. It's just not a good weekend (first weekend of july is the start of the summer holidays, so everyone is driving to the south of Europe with large traffic jams as a result. Last years drive was too exhausting, and this year it would have taken many hours more.. this was not worth it..
I feel sad about it as I loved to meet my Italian friends again, I love to meet pinheads, I love to play all those unknown games I've never seen before..

Maybe one day I'll practice more playing pinball and become a better competition player.. but I've been telling this to myself the last years and I seem to play less and less. I'll just forget about playing championships at all and just concentrate on repairing and restoring these great machines..