Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spiderman Shop Job Part 3

*Sweating...* "Man cleaning playfield parts can be tiring!" 

A dirty part about to be cleaned!

Last time on Pinball Aficionado we were looking at a routed Spiderman that my buddy had picked up and decided to shop. We followed a plan of attack where we had taken photos of everything, then disassembled the playfield components, and kept them organized in clusters around the room. We then took a breath ("phew!), started cleaning the playing surface (and all the components) with alcohol, and then after everything was clean, we went and polished the playfield, and some of the components with Novus 2

Cleaning up that playfield! ("Spiderman......Spiderman...Does whatever a spider can".....oh sorry :D)

Working on a pop bumper...

Pop bumper progress.....

Now after all that (about 6 hours in), the real fun begins....REASSEMBLY!!! (Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh!!!) This is typically the cringe-worthy moment, the "put up or shut up" the moment that you gotta put everything back in order and when you're done it all has to work! The thing about modern pinball machines, is that typically, due to their complexity, parts have to be reassembled in a specific way. You can't just put stuff in when you want to, things are placed with other things in mind, and if it's done out of order, certain things will no longer fit properly (can't screw in a plastic after a ramp is in if that plastic belonged below it for example). 

Almost there!!!

I should take this time to mention that during the cleaning portion, we took a look at the playfield underside and cleaned and checked the major components down there (magnets, coils, solenoids) and replaced or repaired any worn parts. My buddy also insisted on installing LEDs, and we did that when all the above board parts had been removed.

Installing LEDs................

During assembly is where all the photos came in handy (note to self, video can be good too). I took so many pictures during the breakdown that we were able to piece it together backwards and know what components went off first, then second, etc. If you know the order of how you took it all down, then it's easier, as most parts only fit in their respective spot on the game (duh! that's how they're designed). So using the photos, having all the newly cleaned parts organized around the work area, and using the game's manual schematics as a safety net, we went and reassembled it. 

Finishing touches....

........................................."7 hours later"......................................... 

We managed to complete it!
..........Aaaaand Done!!!!!!!!!!!


So the moment of truth arrived and it was time to turn the game on, and..........................IT WORKED!

Ooh Shiny!!!

We played a game and it was great. I guess you could say.........THE DAY WAS SAVED!!!!!! 

My buddy later decided to operate the game on his route at Arcade Odyssey, in Miami FL. You can see two videos (Game View and Demo) of this very Spiderman below:

View of the restored, working game today

Game being played...

Fun facts: the total shop job took just over 13 hours, which we accomplished during 4 sessions. A few playfield plastics were broken but we found replacements, all the major underside mechanisms worked after they were cleaned, and once it was finished, the game was good as new. Some people online have given grief as to the durability of Stern games, but I gotta say, in this case Spiderman seems a very durable title that cleaned up very well, one might even say......SUPER well! (har har har) ;)

Till next time!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spiderman Shop Job Part 2

Ugh! I think that stuff is still on my hands........ 

Well, if you're just joining us Aficionados, in the last entry (Spiderman Shop Job Part 1), my buddy picked up a routed (what an understatement) Stern Spiderman pinball machine and invited me over to check it out and help him clean it. Turns out this game was extremely worn and dirty and there was so much soot and filth that we both thought it might be beyond salvation.

Dirty Parts to Disassemble...

Despite that, we carried on. I grabbed more towels, more alcohol and got the Novus 2 ready. 

Alcohol to the Rescue!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We continued to disassemble the playfield (which we detached from the cabinet and put on a workbench), and got a system going where he would unscrew a part from the wood and I would separate it in a cup or a spot on the floor with other parts from the specific playfield area where it came from. Mind you I took over 100 photographs of the playfield from every angle, and then took photos of areas of the game right before we would remove parts, all so that a record of positions would be available to help in the reassembly.

Parts were everywhere!!!

After everything topside had been removed, my friend and I proceeded to take the alcohol, apply it to the shop towels and then began to clean the filth off the surface. It's important to wipe it away onto the towel and not rub it into the wood, as that will only make things worse. The crap came off in huge quantities. 

Wiping the playfield's backboard with Alcohol...

Eek! Look at that crap come off!!!

At this point he and I were sweating, swearing, badmouthing the previous owner, it involved a LOT of elbow grease to say the least. He took a towel, I took one, and we were double teaming the surface (you know, that sounds kind of "dirty" har har har), anyway after a bit we started to see the original color of the art again. You know, while we were badmouthing the previous op for his horrible maintenance, I gotta take this moment to thank and praise Steve Ritchie (the game's designer) for making a game that was done in such a way to have easy access to all the major areas for cleaning and straight forward disassembly. We weren't in a "White Water" situation here where we had to disassemble layers upon layers of playfields and ramps to get stuff off. It wasn't that bad, and that kind of thought toward maintenance seems to be a Ritchie trademark.

After it was cleaned, we took clean towels and applied the Novus to them and then we polished the cleaned wood. In this case we rubbed the Novus in so that the polish would work its magic and after a ton of polishing, the game's art looked amazing!

Rubbing and wiping the playfield with Novus 2...

Despite all the dirt and soot that had been on the wood, the playfield came back to a shine that made it look new again. It was incredible! Stern's factory clearcoat is pretty impressive stuff, despite all the crap that had formed on top, the original art had been protected underneath and after the clean and polish, it came out to shine once again.

Now............Time to clean all those disassembled parts...........oh boy.............

Dirty plastic to be cleaned...
That's one dirty ramp!!!

Doc Ock waiting to be cleaned and re-installed...
Sandman waiting for his turn to be cleaned and rebuilt (that does NOT look like Lowell to me somehow...)

Next time we'll see how the shop job ended up......................

Yeah!!!! Coming together................

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spiderman Shop Job Part 1

A friend of mine recently picked up a Stern Spiderman from an operating location that was looking to change up their machines. He called me to tell me about the deal and I asked him if the game had seen a lot of use. He replied "Uhh yeah." (turns out it had over 100,000 plays on it over 7 years and the operator had never really maintained the game in all that time)! I went over to look at the game and my mouth hit the floor, it looked like someone had taken the playfield, thew it on a dung heap and then proceeded to slide it down a muddy wet hill. It was BAD, like HOLY CRAP BAD! The playfield surface was greasy, blackened, worn, wear spots in places. The toys were black with filth, the cabinet was black on the inside, like magic marker black! Blackest night black, you know! I just stared at it and was like: "So......... um, where should we start?"

Top area of the dirty playfield
7 Years of service and filth


He and I then proceeded to shop the game out. "Shopping" is when one takes a pinball machine and cleans it, fixes it, and replaces worn or broken rubbers, balls, parts, and toys. Good operators might do a full tear down shop job like this once a year. While a collector might only do something like this when he's about to sell a game. In this Spiderman's case, a job like this was LONG overdue!!!

We got some 91% alcohol (higher concentration is better, but this worked fine) some magic erasers, about 20 lint free soft shop towels, Novous Polish #2, and went to work.

We started by taking LOTS OF PHOTOS of the playfield and then formulated a plan of attack. We decided to start by taking the entire populated playfield apart to the wood (this means every mechanism, ramp, plastic, screw, even the washers and posts). I grabbed some cups and labeled them by area so that pieces wouldn't be lost (there's hundreds of parts on a populated playfield, not counting everything else in the game cabinet). 

These cups were a lifesaver!!!

Then the plan was then to clean everything that could be salvaged, take note of things that could not be, so that replacements could be located later, clean the wood and  polish it as much as possible, and then reassemble everything!

Easy right?!!?!?


Uhhh, hmmmmm.....Where did these......

Gah!!! It's on my hands?!?!?!

Julian Noa style discombobulated announcer voice: 
"Are Eric and his friend way over there heads? Will there be enough shop towels to finish the job? Will they be able to put everything back in its place??? Will the machine catch fire before everything is said and done?!??!? Find out on our next episode...I mean entry!!!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Makes a Pinball Shot Feel Good: The Answers!!!

Some of the Shots available in Stern's Star Trek

Wow! Well after throwing that question out there (What Makes a Pinball Shot Feel Good), I was blown away by the response. Answers poured in from aficionados all over the pinball community. Tournament players, novices, collectors, operators, techs, designers, even the VP of Design at Stern Pinball chimed in!!!

Here are some of their responses:

"The best shots are the ones that can be dialed in by the player to be made with regularity and therefore be satisfying."

-- Marcel Gonzalez (Showrunner - Florida Arcade Pinball Expo)

"Feedback- its all and only about feedback- the choreography of the event , the things you see, hear, the emotion evoked by the realization that you have: advanced, achieved a goal, completed something, incremented score, heard or discovered a piece of the story, evoked an emotion from an opponent whether real (your buddy) or virtual( the animated 3d Hulk toy you just hit). The smooth transition of the ball is a visually and aurally perceived event. Feedback- like all games is the magic."

-- George Gomez (Designer, Stern Pinball VP of Game Design)

"It's about satisfaction. It's such a relief when you achieve it, like a weight is lifted off your shoulders and you're on top of the world. (Especially those difficult, timed shots worth a ton of points)."

"It feels similar to scoring that winning goal/basket/TD/Home run/KO punch and getting a rise from the audience.

Same with golf, pool or bowling. When that ball rolls a strike, or falls in the intended hole/pocket, it evokes the same visceral reaction as scoring a super jackpot."

-- Joel Cohen (Tournament Player)

"Pinball does an amazing job of letting you know that YOU are the one in control...but it also does a great job of letting you know that YOU screwed it a great shot, but I also like the feeling of great ball control. To me there's greater satisfaction from a solid live catch/drop catch/cradle separation followed by a tough shot."

-- Carlos Porta (Tournament Player)

"The best shots are not too easy, not too hard, and have good feedback so you know you did something cool, or that you pushed forward in the rules of the game."

-- FLECOM (Operator/Tech/Collector)

"Not an easy question, I think a pinball design is not about one shot... its how all the shots, flow (up & down), rebounds, bounce, rest, jumps, timing, and many more factors. I guess ultimately for me a "shot" is part of a larger composition...and it is all related in some fashion."

-- John Popadiuk (Pinbal Designer)

"What makes a good shot for me is that it puts me into a Peak Experience. A peak experience is that sweet spot my mind gets into when it faces a desirable challenge, a challenge that is difficult enough to not be boring but not too difficult where it puts me off. It’s at a specific level where I have to focus at the peak of my ability. When I get into a good flow of making shots and keeping the ball alive who I am and what I think about diminish and only the pinball and the field exist. Sometimes I get so lost in that flow that the boundaries between my fingertips and the flippers disappear. When I keep shooting the shots I need to hit faster and smoother than I can think normally is what makes pinball extremely enjoyable for me."

-- Joshua Fay (Pinball Enthusiast)

Wow, so from most of these responses, it would appear that the key is not so much in a particular shot, but the many things that the player experiences in tandem during a good game. Factors like challenge, rebounds, flow, feedback, sound, choreography, all play a part in making pinball feel good.

So going back to the original question, I guess that the reason why a shot might feel good even if the ball leaves your direct control lies not in a single shot alone, but in the overall design and its impact on the player and how it makes him or her feel. The beauty lies not in the single tree, but in the forest it calls home.

To sum it up, here's an amazing video that I feel encapsulates all of the factors mentioned. It's called "The Last Empire" by Adrian Seifert. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What makes a pinball shot feel good?

What makes a pinball shot feel good?

The Screamingly Great Left Orbit Spinner on ACDC

The game of pinball centers on the physical interaction of the ball, how the player manipulates that ball, and how the ball interacts with the playfield. Because of this physical interaction (along with sound effects and scoring potentialities), not all shots are the same. Along this same line, if you ask players who are flipping the ball, they may tell you: "This shot rocks!" or "This shot sucks!!!." How is that possible? You're flipping a ball through a predetermined path on a piece of wood and after the ball leaves the flipper it leaves your control until it reaches its destination. How does that action equate to "feeling great"?

To solve this grand query, I would like YOUR opinions on this phenomenon and am also in the process of asking a slew of people from throughout the pinball universe to see what they think about the question. 

So let's see what you pinball aficionados have to say??? Use the Comment form below or the Contact form on the left. Send in your input and let's see what we find!!!

Thanks for your info!