Sunday, July 21, 2013

Break Shot: documenting the issues

I haven't had much time for pinball in the last little bit since I was prepping for a gig, but finally want to take a moment to go over the Break Shot machine.

There isn't a lot wrong with it, but there is one major flaw I found: the mini upper flipper is really sticking, making it weak and reliable.

this video shows under the playfield and how sticky it is compared to the main flippers.
I also thought there might be an end-of-stroke issue, as sometimes when it did flip it didn't hold any force on the ball, but I will investigate that once I get this taken care of.
Worst case scenario, people apparently swap out the Capcom flippers for Williams ones.  But at first I hope to try and clean it:
1) tear down miniflipper to clean in hopes it will operate properly

The software is 1.3 which apparently is the latest, but despite that I've come across another weird issue:  When I tilt, the machine just hangs.  It doesn't start next ball, the Start button does nothing.  The game is on, the TILT screen is on the DMD, and then that's it.    You have to turn it off and on again to proceed.
2) find why machine freezes when at TILT.

And aside from those issues, I want to do the basics:
3) clean and wax
4) level the legs

I was considering replacing the backglass art with a less douchey image, since alternates are available, but in the end we decided that we're ok with it as ridiculous kitsch.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rocky & Bullwinkle: documenting the issues

Let's get right in to R&B and see what we find!  There were a few things that were obvious from inspecting the pre-sale photos alone, and I made note of them all.  Some are fixable, some aren't.

cab wear

minor flaking at bottom center.  Pivot-point damage on Bullwinkle's nose.

missing a decal

wear on the cabinet

wear on the cabinet

So these are all rather minor things for me.  The back glass still looks fabulous and I don't really care about the side artwork.  I'm not the kind of person that would work to have those things fixed.
The big thing is the that Nell assembly is outright missing.  Reproductions are not available.  OK, the motor is available, a band is available, but the gear assembly is not, and everyone is looking for one.  Good riddance to pricey toys.  I'm focused on game play.

So things to add to the list:
1) replacing the SAVED decals.

you can see the minor wear on the lion's pivot point, as well the utter lack of padding remaining at the bottom.

There are some minor issues with the backglass hat trick animation.  There is a bit of wear on the lion, but it's destroyed like some other lions out there.  I found this thread and apparently the lion gets 50V while the other 2 pulls get 32 V, those resulting in the lion damage.  I am going to have to re-learn to solder to connect it to 32V instead.
The padding on the bottom is also decimated, and so needs to be replaced.  That thread links to some stuff I can get at Home Depot to replace it.
The Lion was JUST reproduced in a limited run, so I had to make an order to get one for eventual replacement.   This is a backup part that I probably will never have another opportunity to acquire.
So add to the todo list:
2) wire Lion to 32 V
3) replace the back box hat trick padding
4) replace plastic Lion in hat trick

The hum coming from the speakers seems suspiciously loud, so add that to the list:
5) try troubleshooting audio connections to eliminate hum, perhaps a ground missing?

This is the center drain with the cover removed.  When a ball drains, there is a sensor, and it gets kicked up the little hill and in to the ready spot to be ejected in to the shooter lane.
On the left you can see the metal of the first kicker is totally destroyed, causing it to require multiple attempts to hit the ball over the hill.
6) replace ball drain kicker

there is a crack here at the start of the WABAC ramp.  It doesn't affect game play, but it's something to keep an eye on.  The ramp seems to have been reproduced at one point, but is currently unavailable.  If it comes up again, I might consider buying one, despite the price tag.
7) find a replacement WABAC ramp.

The software display on bootup shows 1.1, and 1.3 is apparently the last relevant update.  The ROMs seem to be available, but I am unsure if I need all of those?   $10 x 5 = $50, but I'll investigate if I actually go buy all of them...
8) Update ROMs to 1.3

I'm not going to bother with this, but I wanted to show that, somehow there is inner cabinet wear.  HOWWWW?

During a game I had the ball just sit flat... in the pop bumpers.  How often does a ball get to rest in the pop bumpers?  I inspected and it was against the post and... that screw.  WHY IS THERE A SCREW THERE?

I checked images on pinside and IPDB, and from what I can see, these other machines don't havea  random screw in the playfield:

Anyone see a screen in those shots???  Nope, me neither.  A random screw like that will bash the pinball, and a bashed up pinball will potentially damage the rest of the playfield..
9) remove pop bumper screw.

And finally, for now, we have this diverter on the left orbit hat trick shot:
 When I was inspecting the game I verfied that the Vertical Upkicker worked, but didn't check the diverter.   Playing at home, when Hat Trick was lit the diverter was not going.  It is supposed to divert it in to the VUK, give the player time to watch the back glass animation, and the it gets kicked up and down the ramp.
The software is at least smart enough to award the Hat Trick on the orbit, but the ball is going far too fast to enjoy the animation.

I pulled out the switch diagram in the manual, went in to the switch test diagnostics mode, pulled off the glass, and tried the left orbit gate:

you can see the switch on the right

with the ball going through, you can see how the switch depresses

but alas nothing was registering
So the switch isn't working.  I went in to the solenoid test and the diverter does indeed work, so we have this problem isolated:
10) repair first left orbit switch so that the diverter can work and the back glass animation can be awesome once more.

Aside form all that there is still basic housekeeping to do:
11) level the legs

Oh and everything needs a solid cleaning.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Game room expanded!!!

and when I say "game room", I mean "back  wall of the basement storage"

It took a significant amount of work and cost a bit to get it all done, but here we have it, the great unveil of my back basement far wall, now a full-fledged pinball arcade.
On vacation in the Muskokas I went to the Balacade (in Bala Ontario!) and bought those 3 fabulous original marquees.
The picture on the left is a print by Tehching Hsieh from 1980.  I collect art a bit, and had no extra room for it.  It's really entirely unrelated to pinball.

But most importantly, we have the 2 new games!  Data East's The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, and Capcom's BreakShot.   Probably 2 games that are on the top of no one else's wishlist, but I don't exactly have a lot of money to buy A-Listers.  This is a fabulous lineup costs $4000 total, less than a single NIB Stern, or any game that is remotely popular.
Mind you, the Royal Flush is now up for sale to pay for Breakshot, but in the meantime, we have a great looking trio.

I will go in to each game in later, but right now I wanted to talk about the ordeal of getting this set up.
On Friday the Rocky & Bullwinkle was delivered.  On Saturday the Breakshot was going to be delivered around noon.  I scheduled my go-to handypeople to come at 2pm to help me get them down the stairs.
I wrote about the crazy stairs in my house on MAACA, and how very difficult the stairs are.  A few steps down, then a landing with a 90 degree turn.  Then another 90 degree turn, except no landing, just rotating stairs.  This is the crucial part:  the machine has to be rotated down the stairs while being held vertically.  That's where my hired help comes in:  These guys built my kitchen, painted my entire house, intsalled all of my appliances, and have done a myriad of repairs:  and now they're also helping get my pinball machines downstairs.

The other crucial aspect of it?  The pinball machines can only make the trip with their heads removed.  No legs, of course, but also the back box has got to go.  A backbox is 27 and 3/4" wide, much wider than the playerfield, so disrupts the critical turning radius of my stairs.  A backbox also weights about 50-60 pounds, so it definitely makes the difficult lift that much lighter.

On an EM machine like Royal Flush, removing the backbox is a breeze:  2 chunky connectors, then the bolts.  The playfield can apparently even be removed almost as easily, breaking the machine down in to more reasonably managed parts.

But on a DMD machine, the back box is a collection of large circuit boards with most wires running down and in to the machine.

In order for me to get the back box off, this would all need to be undone.  Here is where it all feeds to:

11am Saturday, I started getting to work on the Rocky & Bullwinkle.  I got out the camera and photographed each board so I could clearly see the starting state of each connector, and the coloured wires coming off of them, in case I'd need that info later.
Using green painter's tape and a sharpie I started disconnecting things and flagging each side of the connectors.

This was mostly just laborious.  There were 3 connectors that on them I spent more time and energy than the rest combined.  All in all, it took me about 2 hours of solid work to get it all looking like this:

The two main tubes of wires were pushed in to the cabinet, along with a couple extra velcro-strap bindings to keep it all together.

While I was working on this, Breakshot got delivered!  It is a "budget" game, with half of the boards and connectors to unhook.  After Breakshot's back box was disconnected, my guys moved it downstairs and I started the process of setting it up again.  Here it is with the head re-attached and the wires pulled through:

I reattached all of the connectors, trying to affix the wire guides whenever possible.  I made special note of each board's ground wire, hoping that even if I flubbed something, I wouldn't FRY something.
I then went over each connector a second time making sure they were tightly affixed.  Got the power cord, plugged it in, turned it on... AND WORKING!  YAY!
Well, not quite.  Turns out, no sound.  I tried checking the diagnostic LEDs on each of the boards, but was unable to find any reference online or in the manual for the diagnostic LEDs.
I decided to re-check every connector going to or from the sound boards.  I pulled my laptop out and went through each photo of each board.  I found one misplaced connector on the board on the DMD unit that went to the sound board.  I had plugged it to J4 instead of J5.  Or maybe the other way around.  Either way, it was wrong, the picture was right, and after that little fix I turned it on and it was PERFECT.

The next day I got to work on the Rocky & Bullwinkle machine.  I had trouble getting the wires up, I think they all got a bit stuck when I shoved them in to the back box.  I didn't want to yank too hard, as a faulty connector wire would be hard for me to diagnose.  I eventually finangled them up, secured the head, and got started.  Here it is with the left tube of wires attached, the right tube splayed out on playfield glass:

There are wire guides around the motherboards, but there is often an optimal stacking order for laying down the wire.  Since I went left tube then right tube, my wiring job is certainly not as pretty as when I started, but there was no way I was going to start unseating connectors again just to make it pretty.
I went over each connector, making sure they were firmly affixed.  Then got out the photos and made sure each connector was in its proper place on each board.  Put the DMD back, plugged it in...  AND IT WORKED!
No problems whatsoever.

I was SO relieved.  I was dreading the folly of my actions, the seeming inevitability of breaking connectors, unseating wires, busting off capacitors with my fat fingers...  but it all went back together again A-OK.

When I had originally started talking about the necessity of taking off the heads to get machines in to my house a lot of people thought it was a ridiculous idea.  Inconvenient, risky, and downright dangerous.  It was indeed a chore, but these machines will be here for at least a year or two.  And the most inconvenient thing of all would be to MOVE because my god tearing apart a pinball machine has nothing on the difficulty of setting up in to a new house when you have as many art books as me.

Oh, and I got Magic Sliders on each of the machines now and it works great for pulling them out of the line-up for work.  I'm probably going to return the 3-wheeled casters.
And I'm probably going to go play some pinball, since my baby is now sound asleep upstairs.

Friday, July 5, 2013

reflections on my first pin

It was March this year that I got my first pin, my glorious little Royal Flush.  Time to reflect, and to look ahead.
Most important is that the Royal Flush provided everything I was looking for:  a game to play, and a technical challenge for me to persue that wasn't on a computer.  Being so tied to home with my baby, I wanted something to tinker with at night.  Having spent so many years at a computer, I wanted that thing to NOT be at a computer.  Oh and I love pinball.  Perfect fit.

Royal Flush provided a few challenges, as there was indeed a learning curve getting in to electro-mechanical repairs and schematics and such, but nothing insurmountable.  I had a month of downtime that given what I know now, would have been maybe 20-30 minutes tops.

Things are changing:  I measured the back room in the basement and it was a snug 88".  Pinball heads are just shy of 28", and that means I could do a lineup, arcade-style, of 3 machines warmly cuddled together on that back wall.  The 3-pin dream! 
I am already resigned that my ridiculous stairs keeps me away from wide-body pins (I still cry over the lack of Future Spa,) but we love our house and 3 machines is plenty, especially considering my budget.
I will put the work in getting them down.

The space was a major issue.  Having owned the house for 3 years, the garage and basement were still a saturated mess when I had an inkling that I might get a pinball machine.  It took almost a year of late-nights:  opening boxes, sifting contents, purging, sorting, filing, re-opening, tossing, sorting, repeat...  Then came my cleaning, installation of copious shelving, and the continued purging, giveaways, tossoffs, and all that.
We ended up with the cleanest of garages and basements, everything essential, everything in a proper place.
That made room for the Royal Flush.

At first I didn't think there'd be room for an eventual 3 pins in the basement, but then I realized I could have 2 on the back wall, and one facing them, if I got rid of an unused dresser.  that was the lingering plan for a few months.  Then I remeasured:  I could fit 3 against the wall!  But oh, the left-most machine, there wasn't quite the clearance to pull off the backglass, a shelf was in the way.

So I went to the other end of the basement back room, where we had our IKEA Expedit 5x5 massive pantry.  I pulled everything off, and shifted it flush to the wall.  Gained 2 inches.  Resorted the pantry, put everything back.  Next shelf, took everything off, slide it 2.5" over.  Everything back.  3" on the next shelf.  3.5" on the next.  And suddenly there is enough clearance for the machine and the backglass removal.

It is a tight space, and how do I navigate pin moving on my own?  On MAACA recommendation I went out and got these great tri-dolly units.  But then a friend, who bought a machine after me, just said she used magic sliders, and so I tried those and it worked even better because you don't have to get the machine very high to get them under.  I'm sold on them.

I had made a post on MAACA a few weeks ago, expressing my desires for a 2nd pin.  That hail-mary to the community resulted in a number of offers, only a few of them reasonable.
I bought my 2nd pin today, I'll go in to detail about it later.  But I also recently got another nibble from my post.   It was a fun pin in great condition, at a great price.  And he was delivering from 6 hours away.  That pin comes tomorrow.
I justified it by saying that I would sell my Royal Flush, and so, alas, my Royal Flush is now up for sale.
If you read this blog, please help me find a buyer so I can balance my budget.  :)
But it's not a desperate thing, if I have to hold on to it all summer, I'll have the room, physically and financially.  I hope to get out of it what I paid for it.

The dream of having an EM, SS and DMD died when the 2nd seller made me an offer too good to refuse, and for a game that had some EM charm, but DMD grace.

It is hard to think it's only been a few months, but it's time to change things up.  Expect an update soon.