Friday, September 26, 2014

What Makes You Prefer One Machine Over Another???

So many many choices.......

Recently I was on Facebook and saw some polls on pinball enthusiast pages that dealt with the usual "What's your favorite game" or "What's the worst pinball game of the 1980's" etc to start discussions. It got me thinking, what DOES make for a good game, or a bad game? Pinball is a funny thing, because one person might love the game you find abhorrent and vice versa. What kind of factors cause that? 

Shots? Art? Lights? Sound?

And why is it that in our hobby, unlike many others, we pinball aficionados obsess over the smallest things. Game might shoot great, but dammit, they got that annoying 5 note loop track or the color of the playfield is yellow and not red and so it's sucky, while that other game next to it plays similar, but has some different sounds and rules and you think it kicks total butt. 

Terminator 2

A non pinball person would see T2 and ACDC and think it was the same game, or at the very least, would think it was made in the same year, but not us, obviously. We'd see both of those very differently, and we'd definitely price them and rate them very differently as well. Why???
Other hobbies/industries don't seem to be that particular. If I or most people go to buy a new car, my main concern would probably be that it drives. It's not a deal breaker if I can't get the car in dark blue when all they have is regular blue, yet in Pinball something like that can be a deal breaker. Are we just a picky bunch? Or is there more to it??? 

Let me know!!!!! Discuss what factors for you, cause a game to suck, or a game to be great! Comment below, here on the blog (make sure java script and cookies are enabled for your comment to come through) and for your trouble one of you will be randomly picked to win a kick-ass "STERN SHOP" T-Shirt, totally free, that I picked up while I was visiting the factory last month!!!


Next time we'll check out your replies. 
Until then!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The World of Modding! - Part 3: Lighting!!!

Colorful LED's lighting up the ramps in a Black Knight

Last week we looked at the "Modding" scene (pinball... not piercings *snicker snicker*) , specifically the different "physical" ways that pinball aficionados modified their games to suit their tastes. That included adding toys, changing game artwork, and personalizing bits of their games to make them specifically their own.

LED's added to the inserts on a Stern: LOTR

This week we're going to look at another huge side of modding, and that is the LIGHTING side. This type of modification involves the changing of lights in a game, most commonly from incandescent bulbs to newer, more versatile, LED types. This is done to suit the owners taste, and in many cases, improve the look of a game. There is also a huge benefit to LED's, in that they're cooler than older style incandescent bulbs, and they typically last thousands of hours longer. The added color potential of LED's also means one can change the look of the game, as old style bulbs only came in white, 99% of the time. The downside to using LED's is that in many cases they do not look the same as older bulbs, and pinball players like what they are accustomed to and find LED lighting to be ugly or negatively impact play. Also in earlier years, LED's were not as sophisticated and the results were less than promising, resulting in older incandescent bulbs holding favor until now. 

Incandescent 555 wedge bulb on the left, it's LED equivalent on the right (old school flasher up top)...

LED's in pinball machines are nothing new, some games came with them (behind the scenes on pinball circuit boards) as early as the mid 70's on early Solid State games, and visible to the pinball player as early as 1987 (seen there in the shooter lane area on a Premier: Arena pinball game). Stern pinball has been messing with them to replace old style incandescent bulbs since at least 2004, but as you can see in the first 5 mins of that video (courtesy of mdclayton), LED's at the time were not quite as sophisticated as today and had issues, resulting in Stern continuing to use older bulbs until last year.

LED bulbs have gotten better lately, and are now available in many different colors, configurations, and brightnesses that can make older games really pop. 

Data East Rocky and Bullwinkle outfitted with Comet LED's

Metallica with custom LED lighting throughout
This has led to several major LED bulb vendors for the pinball community for hobbyists and owners to really trick out their games and modify the game's lighting. 

Some major LED vendors for the community are:

Comet Pinball (My personal favorite, great prices, great variety!)

Black Knight plastic with blue LED underneath

Check out that moon! LED bulb ADDED to that spot for extra effect!!!

With improvements in LED design, you now have dozens if not hundreds of different bulb styles and options to get the light and color just right for you. These vendors even provide entire kits so that you can just tell them the game you want to light up and they will send you all the bulbs in all the right colors to make your game look its best. The LED's themselves have been improved and many of the issues that people faced years ago are gone, so that even Stern has now adopted LED lighting as standard throughout all of their models.

LED lighting on Stern's Star Trek: Pro

This begs the question: "Is the old school incandescent going the way of the Dodo???" Not necessarily, as certain players and collectors will always want to remain traditional and not switch their games over, but for most other people and their games, as well as all newly manufactured titles from here on out, LED's seem to be here to stay. I guess you could say that Pinball is now officially in "The LED Era".

Until next time!!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The World of Modding! - Part 2: Physical Mods

Hand crafted, customized "Candy Apple" plungers to go on many different games...

Continuing on from my last update about the world of Modding. I decided to start by looking into how people trick out their personal games with different art, toys, and customization options. 

Custom topper on a Sega Batman Forever
Let's face it, if you're gonna drop anywhere from 500-9000 dollars on anything, (let alone a pinball machine)  you better be happy with it! Jeez...It would totally suck if you weren't happy after dropping that kind of dough....*shivers*...yikes. Anyway, not everyone is happy with how a particular game looks when it leaves the factory. Some may like the gameplay but hate the artwork, others might find the interactive toys lacking, or the game missing that special something that the designer should have included, but didn't because of cost, time, or lack of foresight. Because of that, people turn to modifications to make their games look better, be more personalized, and in turn, the overall experience improves and they have more fun playing them.

Custom guitar toy and additional side wall art added to a Stern Metallica
There are many big name "Modders" out there who create these modifications and sell them online. Among them are the likes of "Mike D", "Aurich", "Pinball Pimp", "Pingraffix", "Mezelmods", and of course, "Pinball Refinery" just to name a few (click any of those links and prepare to go "Whoa!!!!" because all those guys do incredibly amazing work)! 

Here are some examples:

ACDC with an alternate translite, speaker panel, and custom speaker covers.

Custom snake fangs for Stern's Metallica.

Custom Metallica speaker panel from Back Alley Creations (photo courtesy of Elo Rey).

Custom pinball apron for Apollo 13...
Custom decaled and powder coated side rail for Stern Star Trek

Along with these guys, there is another big modder that has been making a name for himself in the scene lately. He goes by the illusive moniker "The Modfather" and has been creating several very popular items for pinball aficionados that have found their way on games from Seattle to Boston and everywhere in between. After moving mountains, making many clandestine phone calls, sending smoke signals, and solving intricate clues with secret passwords, I discerned his hidden location and was FINALLY granted access to see his work in person......Phew!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The mysterious man himself....

Here's some of his work:

Customized Carpathian Village for Bram Stoker's Dracula

Hand painted...
...And very detailed.
Actual grass in a Stern LOTR!

Custom sword mod for LOTR... (that is a real blade!)
Space Module mod for Apollo 13...
Custom Lockbar for Independence Day
Customized ACDC dynamite, guitar, and drum set toys...

Custom Terminator Exoskeleton mod for Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Custom lit "Warrior Souls" for the Path of the Dead in LOTR...
Custom lettering,  paint job, and shooter rod for LOTR...
Custom graveyard archway for Metallica...
Suffice it to say I was impressed. He's very good at doing customized pinball toys, hand crafted art flourishes, along with stenciling  and has a real passion for detail. Then he showed a few other things that he has done... 

Custom 3D rendered and hand painted witches castle walls for Jersey Jack Wizard of Oz...
That is the upper left playfield on the Wizard of Oz pinball game. Originally those walls were flat, the texture on them a simple print. The Modfather went and made his own set of walls that give significant depth and detail. The walls look great and have become very popular and as such, he has been selling them online to WOZ owners all over the world.

A Wall of Walls......
One last thing he showed me was his new "Candy Apple" shooter rod plungers. These are custom shooters that are hand painted to match any game that uses a standard plunger.
Custom painted shooter rod plungers...
Oooh Pretty!
Plunger for WOZ
Looks kind of like a planet almost....
The paints that are used....
Custom ACDC "Candy Apple" Shooter on the game...
I asked him where one could buy his mods, and he said that you can order his work from several websites including:

Pinside Forum


Comet Pinball

Little Shop of Games

Well there we are, if one is going to spend serious money on something like a Pinball machine, the least you can do is trick it out to your taste so that you love it all the more. Just like how people mod cars or boats, others mod pinball machines.

Till next time, where we see how modding has changed the look of lighting in pinball forever!

Feel free to comment below! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The World of Modding! - Part 1

Black Knight with color coordinated LEDs

Within the pinball universe, there is a phenomenon that's been steadily growing over the years. It's being seen more and more in owners homes and among collections. Sometimes when you come across it, you may not even notice it, other times, it's so extreme and all encompassing you can't miss it. In many cases it can help improve things, but it can also have the opposite effect........What am I talking about?!?! Breast enhancement?!??!?!?! NO! I'm speaking of the world of Modding!!! 

Stern Lord of the Rings with custom cabinet art 

Modding comes in many forms (lighting, artwork, software, toys, toppers, cabinets, you name it) and has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years. Years ago when the primary pinball owner was the operator making money on location (at the bar or arcade), mods were unimportant (unless to improve durability or fix a physical flaw or software glitch), but now as more and more people are personally owning games and the focus has turned from the operator to the private collector, mods have become interesting options to make games more unique and enjoyable for those that own them.

Custom painted and detailed Carpathian village for Bram Stoker's Dracula
Custom wood grained colored shooter rod

Real sword modification in a Lord of the Rings Pinball Machine

Custom translite and speaker panel for ACDC

Aficionados have modded their machines in every way possible, from the types of bulbs used all the way to super exclusive custom toys and personal software enhancements to game content like personal music and speech. These collectors have spent considerable money doing this, in some cases the mods are worth more than what the whole machine is worth stock! They obviously have a passion for it, and this passion is what I'd like to showcase in the coming weeks....STAY TUNED!!!!!

That is an actual 3 inch tall fully functional Tron video game, with working game and real display over the ball scoop on the pinball version.