Tuesday, March 25, 2014

new stuff on the walls!

OK so this is more exciting for me than anyone else.  My goal is to have my back room look like a stampede of rainbow ponies vomited all over it, and I am now that much closer to that divine goal.

New marquees installed:
Mr. Do's Wild Ride
Crystal Castles
Robotron 2024
Mario Bros.

AND a fabulous Cleopatra backglass, all lovely and framed.

Top Score: player 2 reset issue

A new problem creeped up on Top Score and it took me a little bit longer to fix than I would have liked.  Partially because of my big trade, partially because I've been busy, partially because all pinball time has been spent with Monopoly, and partially maybe kinda because of a stupid error in overlooking something basic on my part...

Here we have it:

Player 2 tens unit was not reseting.
This mean the circuit of zero-position reels never finishes closing, and so the motor is stuck in an endless loop.

You work on EMs, you know the KA-CHUNK-OF-DOOM.  OK OK, not really doom, it just means something isn't right, and now that I know what I know, it's not that hard to figure out.
Let's not forget, on my first machine ever this type of problem stumped  me for almost a month.

This is your motor:
 Pretty basic, lots of stuff that can close at various times and having it ka-chunk-a-chunk forward.

And here is the important part of the player unit:
Remember that the player unit (the big wheel in the head) controls which player + ball it is, and has a few steps for the reset cycles.  Playing each ball of each player, then reseting at each steps, completes the 360 degree revolution.
We've seen this before, the reels need to all be in their zero positions for the NC switches to allow a signal since when reseting player 1's score reel, P3E is open.  When it is time to clear player 2's reel, P4E is open, so the player unit won't go anywhere until they have all hit zero.

What's next?  Figure out what advances the 10's unit!

the N relay is "add 10 points" and M is "add 100 points", pretty basic, and we can see how it goes to either reel depending on which player switch is set.
But then we see the lines for the runout switches and P3A, P4A, P3B, etc switches.  These are parts of the reset circuit.  We can deduce that easily because it's the runout that is open at zero, and closed for 1-9 on the reel.

I started by examining the score reel in question, and cleaned the switches in it's back:
The switch stack on the back of each reel

I never knew this before, but these things have modularity in mind.  Bend back the plastic at the lower left and each unit slides right out!

After this I went on to the back of the player unit.  Which was a bit naive, sure, but it was dirty.  I followed Clay's guide and cleaned the rivets with alcohol, sanded with fine paper, and then applied some contact grease.

I did not disassemble it, just did half, stepped the unit forward manually, then did the other half.

I love this feature:  Takeout one screw and the whole player unit comes down over 90 degrees for maintenance.

So that didn't do it, and I kind of knew it wouldn't, based on the wire colours of the schematics, but I wanted to do it anyways.
I also made sure to tighten the switch stacks, closest to the contacts first, the the other screw second.

To get to the issue directly, I just checked the back page of the manual:
according to schematic, 2nd 10s unit is controlled by P4A on the reset cycle.  We can easily find the cam and switch that is.

The P4 switch stack is the one immediately below the small one.

So my dumb error in all of this?  When I originally cleaned this stack I just didn't really look hard enough and though I was cleaning P4A but actually cleaned P4B.  Ooops.
I got out my trusty contacts file (via Steve Young at Pinball Resource,) did a manouver where I threaded it through the upper stack gaps and got it in to the P4A contacts and rubbed.

Went back to the front of the machine, ran a test, and yup, perfect reset.
Problem solved.

Why does this happen?  Don't forget that this is a relatively significant amount of electricity jumping between these switches, and 40+ years of that leaves corrosion.   That's a big part of why shit on these machines just starts going a touch wonky, and will continue to do so.  But by logically tracing it back, you can always get it working again.
And if you ever want proof, just open the back box, turn off the lights in the room, and have a friend play pinball while you watch the sparks fly!

This most likely will be the last of my Top Score posts, as the owner will be selling it soon.
Oh, what to do with all this free space?  No worries, I have a summer project lined up.  :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

trade dynamics

I traded my Street Fighter 2 and Rocky &  Bullwinkle for a Monopoly.
2 machines for 1!  Is it worth it?  Well, the easy answer is SURE, but pinball valuation is always a bit murky.

In a by-the-numbers way I got the short end of the deal.  That is, I could probably sell both of my old machines to the public for about...  $3100 or so?
I could probably sell this Monopoly for $2800.  But that is via a classified site, and probably NOT to another collector.  And that means I am getting moving assistance from people that probably don't have experience with these.

In a collector-only market, my machines would probably go for $2900, the Monopoly maybe $2600.  A nice one would be in the $3k+ zone.

So did I get ripped off?  HELL NO, I made the initial offer!  What was I thinking?  There are a number of added bonuses here that really help balance things out:
1) It is REALLY HARD to get machines out of my basement.  I need someone strong to coffin-carry them up 180 degrees of tight stairs with me.  This guy can do that.
2) I have no way of transporting pins, and this guy did the delivery and hauled away 2 machines.  That in itself is super valuable.
3) we have to remove the heads from the machines to get them up/down the stairs.  While he helped me set up Monopoly and make sure it was 100%, he just took away the heads and was going to reconnect them on his own.  For a casual buyer, or even another collector, I'd have to reattach and test them again in my garage, adding hours.
4) the deal also included credit in repair time from him, whicn I am going to use on fixing my gassing Flintstones display, as well as take care of an annying stripped screw under the playfield.  (although I guess if we are bookkeeping, this is probably equal to the spare parts I passed with the machines)
5) I knew I wanted to get rid of these 2 eventually, and really wanted space for a project EM, so doing 2-for-1 is a lucrative thing for planning my space.  And most collectors wouldn't want BOTH R+B and SF2, but an operator would, and the whole transaction just took part of an afternoon.
6) this guy knows how to fix everything, so there probably won't be many questions coming back to me.  ;)

Items #1 and #2 are really big factors for me to consider.  #5 is a big time saver, and #3 and #6 save time as well.

There are a few cracked plastics, but those are readily available for fairly cheap.  The ramps are cracked, but I already have a replacement right ramp ready to go.  The cracks in the left ramp are very very hard to see.
But my machines had cracks too.  Rocky + Bullwinkle had cracks at the ramp entrance, and those are ridiculously hard to find.  A few playfield plastics too.
SF2 didn't have any cracks, but some general wear around the holes and inserts.
The only downside for the Monopoly is that it does have 3 points of wear on the playfield.  I plan on covering them with some mylar to prevent further wear, and hope to keep the rest of the PF nicely waxed.

Player's pin traded for player's pin.  They all played perfect, so we were both happy.

So while the trade isn't balanced purely in cash value, there was so much more to consider, and it was an excellent trade.  I am very happy with my Monopoly.

introducing... Monopoly!


Gone are Street Fighter 2 and Rocky + Bullwinkle,  traded for Stern's 2001 Monopoly.
I'll review the trade in the next post.

Monopoly:  packed to the gills with playfield features.  It looks like Pat Lawlor got drunk, became Tetsuo The Iron Man, and vomited a pinball paradise.
It looks dense, but it's full of great shots, has some nice flow, and is a really balanced game.
Someone once said that it was a bit of a No Good Gofers knockoff, but that's what turned me on to it in the first place.  NGG?  Oh yes, hello!  OK so there are only a handful of similarities, but it's still pretty great.
The ramp are smooth and pretty easy to hit. 
It has a spinner on the orbit. 
A bash target (the bank) that opens and closes, blocking the left ramp.
A mid-playfield drop target blocking a path. 
A third flipper that can hit the Electric Company hole, a ramp, the drop target, or bash the bank door.
A standup target for awards.
6 pop bumpers!
A variable post in the upper left corner that can redirect orbit shots to the upper pops!
An INTENSE short track railroad ramp right up at the front.
A bonus award hole (chance/community chest).

a few generic things that I love on pinball machines:
- a third flipper
- bash targets that aren't static (and that clear ramp passageways!)
- mid-playfield drop targets that block features
- stackable modes
- ramps shots that are regularly achievable (grimacing at you, Rocky + Bullwinkle)
- pops that entice usage as part of gameplay strategy
- varied skill shots

on the softest plunge, ball will fall back through the notch in to the Water Works hole
Let's start with the skill shot.  From first plunge this game has some great features going on for it.
1) short plunge, time with the spinning mini flipper, to have the ball get in to the Water Works hole. (Skill Shot)
2) plunge a bit too hard and it falls off the metal lane and can roll down to the upper flipper
3) plunge a bit harder and the ball enters the Roll + Collect hole.
4) plunge a bit harder and the ball gets to the Electric Company Pops
5) a full plunge sends the ball through the full orbit and towards the Water Works pops.  (if the post is down.  Not sure yet what controls it)
There you have it, 5 fricking choices just on the plunge! 

The Bank Door is a fun bash feature.  It has a row of optos in front to register the hits, and it blocks the big center ramp shot when closed.  When open, the door somehow manages to barely effect gameplay.  Good design there.
It is used to start Cash Grab, a very lucrative mode.  I have the game on the default "Moderate" (medium) settings, but I wanted to make Cash Grab a bit harder.  Normally when you hit the bank door you get a letter and then the door opens.  You have to close it again to get the next letter, done by shooting up the center ramp.  That was a bit easy, so on the hard setting you have to hit the Free Parking (upper left) ramp via the upper right flipper.
I am also turning off the "award bank letter with new ball" so that the game doesn't help prod us along to Cash Grab.  When I first played this game, getting that was a bit too easy.

The Monopoly board is well incorporated in to the game.  You "buy" a property block by rolling and collecting it, via the straight-up-the-middle shot that goes to a side-right hole.
There are other things to do that award movement around the board, but those don't collect property.  (collecting each property also starts a mode or awards a specific bonus)
Make it around the board to light the locks for the main multiball.  The first multiball is a bit too easy to get, but subsequent ones require lighting lock for each ball, which seems more fair.
The jackpot on the main multiball is hit from the upper right flipper, and that somewhat hard shot becomes damn frenetically hard with 3 balls flailing about.  I like that challenge:  no easy jackpots.  Then, the relight is the railroad ramp.  Good luck controlling the return.  :)

Like The Simpsons Pinball Party would later, there is a DMD on the playfield that can act as a mode timer.  It also tallies the hits to the pops, and X # of hits starts certain modes or bonuses.

When we set it up I put my digital level on and it was 7.9/8.0 degrees.  The manual calls for 6.5 degrees, but nuts to that, I left it with the severe incline and I love how fast it plays.
Only downside is that really hard shots to the railroad ramp returns the ball with such spin and velocity that it hits the left flipper and then JUMPS IT.  I am going to try and put some mylar there (there is playfield wear there anyways) and see if that helps.
If it keeps happening, that will just be part of the risk/reward dynamic.  A hard shot from the right flipper to the railroad ramp will just require precision striking with the left flipper to avoid the jumps. 

The railroad ramp has its own multiball, the railroads are essential to collecting all the property, and railroads also advance you to the next one, so it can be a lucrative way to move around the board.

And we haven't started with the modes yet.  All this to say, there is not much wasted on Monopoly.  Even if the spinning mini-flipper is a bit of a head scratcher.
I want to know more about the spinner and what the scoring is like, especially with the standup awards tied in.  But I am sure there is something.

Many reviews I read were slagging this game and I don't understand why.  Lots of people seemed to dislike the audio in it, but it all seems pretty well integrated in to the theme.
I only wish someone had a ROM editor so I could splice in my own sound cues.  It'd be a blast to mod it to have Mr. Monopoly critique the tyranny of capitalist excesses.