Episode 99 – Meet Punky Willy…His Boy Elroy…

This week, Don and Jeff are joined by Jessica DeNardo to discuss new pins, THE WEATHER, our favorite and least favorite solid state Gottlieb’s, and answer a bunch of listener comments.  Join us as we whisk you off to dreamland…

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Metallica Mods

Stern’s Metallica was released in April, 2013 with five different ‘models’ eventually being offered (Pro, Pro LED, Premium, Master of Puppets LE, Dirty Donny LE).  I ordered mine in May 2013 and received one of the games from the second run of Pro models, in early July 2013.  I had about six weeks to wait for it (nothing compared to the much longer wait for Jersey Jack Pinball’s Wizard of Oz, as detailed here and here), so I had lots of time to check out new mods for the game, and have everything ready for my first NIB (New-In-Box) pinball machine.

As Metallica is a ‘keeper’ game for me, I haven’t minded dumping mods and money into it to craft it into the game I want it to be.  I thought it might be fun to detail everything I added to the game in a blog article.  I’ll add links and price points where I can, and I’m ready to weep when I total everything up to see what I’ve paid to deck out my MET PRO over the years.  I’m not planning on listing everything in any kind of order, but I do have a few mods that I would consider to be my ‘favorites’.

In most cases you can click on the underlined segments for links to each product.

(Also, it should be noted that I have done work for MezelMods since their inception, and many of the mods listed here that they sell are ‘test prototypes’ on my game and were free, or close to free, though also not as ‘nice’ as the items they sell on their site!)

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Premium Ultra-Gloss Pinballs – $1.50 each (MET uses 4) from Pinballlife.com

STOP.  THROW AWAY THE FACTORY BALLS IMMEDIATELY.  The balls that came in my MET and XMEN were pitted and discolored.  Using rough balls is like rolling sandpaper around inside your game.  These Premium balls are by far my favorites.  I’ve tried $6 balls, and they looked ‘normal’ compared to these high gloss balls.  And the $6 balls become magnetized and do not work in games with magnets…like Metallica.  I don’t care what you use, but don’t use the Stern factory balls!

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Skull Flipper Area Protectors – Paid $52 shipped on Pinside, currently $70 from PinProtection.com

This is my number one favorite mod, hands down.  So badass!  These ‘lollipop’ inspired protectors are made with thick metal, matching the paint and thickness of the factory cabinet rails, with a chromed piece of metal underneath, just like the Mirror Blade material that is commonly found.  I did have to drill and screw them into the cab, which was a bit of a jump, but I figured having this skull screwed in instead of worn off decal ink was worth the trade-off.  I bought these on Pinside shortly before the seller was booted from the site for some reason.  They were available on eBay for a short time, and then I thought they disappeared!  After some digging, here they are.

LED Flipper Button Kit – $27.95 from Cointaker.com

These were actually free with some sort of promotion from Cointaker.  Maybe order $100 in LEDs and get a free set?  I want to say it was a New Year’s Day promotion.  I forget, but they’re still installed!  I chose orange, but many colors are available.  My only knock is that the flipper buttons seem to stick just a hair.  They feel a bit better now after nearly three years of use, but I still feel the stick a little bit.  Maybe not recommended for hardcore tournament players, but it’s never bothered me much.

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Snake Fangs – $20 from MezelMods.com

So, the first run of Metallica games came factory installed with a snake head that included sculpted fangs.  Then fangs started snapping off left and right, so VERY QUICKLY Stern decided it would save a lot of headaches to grind off the teeth…leaving Metallica with a giant turtle on the playfield.  Mezelmods came up with these ‘dentures’ and they brought the snake back to life.  A MUST HAVE MOD for your game.  It’s still a thin piece of plastic vs. a steel ball, but I’ve only replaced them once in the past two years.  Worth it, and the tongue decal is also available for an extra $9.99.

Snake Mouth LED Mod – $25 from some dude

Basically, it’s two flexible red LEDs mounted under the playfield and tied into the above-playfield ‘SNAKE IS LIT’ lamp.  So when the ‘Snake is Lit’ his mouth lights up!  You could easily make one for yourself on the cheap, but I was ignorant and paid some dude on Pinside and he did a really nice job.  Feels weird when I play a MET that DOESN’T have this mod since mine has been installed from day one.  Love it.

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ColorDMD – $399.00 plus shipping (~$20)

This is probably the priciest mod I’ve added, but it looks really nice.  The colors are bright and clear, and updates are quick to follow when code updates come from the factory.  If you haven’t seen a ColorDMD in action, go to ColorDMD.com and watch some videos!

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Pile of Skulls Flipper Bat Topper – $9.95 from ULEKStore.com

Saw these only a few months ago and jumped right on them.  The decal is a thick (but not that thick), rubbery plastic that installs in seconds and still looks great.  The yellow perfectly matches the typical yellow Stern bats, but they offer many other colors and designs.  And they often support the show, so go check them out! (and save 20% on your order with coupon code PINBALLPODCAST through July 2016 *cough*)

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MicroDisplayMod – $121.89 from MezelMods.com and SparkyPinball.com

It’s a little TV for your game!  Using a microSD card, you can load up your own video or photos and stream them in game on a loop.  Easy install, and it adds a nice little pop to your pin.  In Metallica, my MDM loops album promos, live footage some music video clips.

Habitrail Mod – $15 shipped from Pinsider S37VEN

Hard to see if you don’t know what you’re looking at, but there is typically a clear plastic floating over the habitrail to the right of the MDM in the above photo.  It keeps the ball from flying off the rails.  S37VEN replaced the plastic with a powdercoated metal piece that matches the habitrail.

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Sparky Helmet – $79.95, but now available for $49.99 from MezelMods

I think this was the first thing I bought for Metallica.  I overpaid, but he looked so weird without the wires coming out (in my opinion).  Lights up with the Sparky flasher, but the orange always looks like it’s on, so I rarely notice it.

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Sparky Shooter Rod – $65?

Around the time I ordered this, my credit card was compromised.  I think it was $50-65 from PinballCustoms.com.  I know I ordered it via Pinside from them, but I don’t see it on their site currently.  I specified that I did not want bloodshot eyes, but they came painted anyway.  They’ve grown on me.  My kids always see Sparky and say ‘EYES?  OUCHY?’

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Pop Bumper Caps – $89.99 from HookedOnPinball.com

I personally can’t see myself paying $90 for pop bumper caps, even though they are pretty great, but I can’t find any info on when I did purchase them.  ANYWAY, they are $90 now so… knock yourself out.  They are thick, chromed steel or something.  Really nice.

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Sparky Plastic Deflector – $3.00 from Pinsider Rickwh

A lot of folks were complaining about airballs off Sparky’s shoes.  I never had an issue with them, but for $3.00 I was willing to upgrade the plastic.  The factory plastic is similar but does not extend out as far.

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Light Up Speakers – $79.89 from MezelMods.com

A set of two speakers are included, and mounted over the ramps.  They flash with the flashers behind the playfield.  I had a lot of purple bulbs in my game when I chose these, so they are purple.  I eventually swapped out a lot of the purple for cool white, so now they look a little weird.

The gate covers are available from MezelMods.com as well, but the ‘M’ decal is custom.

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Flashing Cemetery Arch – $59.99 from MezelMods.com

The current version actually looks nicer than this version.  Instead of three spotlight LEDs, it uses an LED strip that covers more area.  Both look nice in play though, as they are hooked to the cemetery flasher.

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Plastic Protector Set – $27.99 – Orange from MezelMods.com

Plastic Protector Set – $25.00 from Pinbits.com

So, I ordered the Pinbits set a long time ago, and had them installed for a couple years, but recently MezelMods came out with these neon orange protectors for the outlanes and slingshots.  My game is a mix of the two sets now.

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Speaker Light Kit – $45 from SpeakerLightKits.com

Speaker Grill Logo – $29.95 from some other dude

This was a little tricky.  Speakerlightkits.com sells a bunch of different acrylics that you can use as speaker covers with their light kits, but I wasn’t feeling them.  I’ve always liked the Metallica Throwing Star logo, so I took the factory grill completely out, and I keep my light kit always on red (though it came with a remote and supports hundreds of colors).  Eventually, I picked up a Flipper Fidelity Speaker System for Metallica, and had to fit the non-factory speakers, grills and light kit all together.  It worked, and I love the look of the FF speakers coming through the red light and mirrored finish.

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Afterburner Insert Lights – $4.99 each from Cointaker.com

Insert Gels – $10.99 from MezelMods.com

Fuel Target Backlights – $34.99 from MezelMods.com

This was another issue that kept nagging at me.  The large feature inserts right between the slings are HORRIBLY lit on the Pro model.  If you look at the ‘dark’ photo, you can see that the bulb mounts are not centered in the inserts at all.  I tried flex LED’s, two-flex LED’s, super brights, I tried extending the mounts away from the playfield, etc.  I tried literally a dozen different things and they always looked awful.  I first saw the Afterburner bulbs from Cointaker at the Texas Pinball Festival in 2015.  They’re actually made for pop bumpers (hence the odd shape), but they ended up working perfectly in these large Metallica inserts!  I was thrilled.  The colors do bug me a little bit still.  WHITE/WHITE/ORANGE/RED.  I tried blue, but I don’t like blue in the knife switch or the cross.  White-White it is.

I used colored LED’s in the Fuel Gauge, but couldn’t find a ‘light green’ color between yellow and green.  I stacked a yellow and a green gel from MezelMods to create a light green shade and it looks awesome!

I felt the Fuel target area was a little dark, so now it is illuminated red until the gauge is full, then a green LED also lights up.

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Playfield Support Slide Brackets – $54.95 from PinballLife.com

Dirty Donny Decal – $4.00

If you’re planning on getting under the hood (very often) on any Stern Pro made in the past five years or so, you’re going to want to install slide brackets as they only come from the factory with little all-thread pegs now.  Installation made me pucker up a little bit, as even the holes for the rails were not predrilled or dimpled, but they went in fine.  You can see that I did move the right bracket eventually when I upgraded the subwoofer as the rails were landing right on top of it.

I saw someone on Pinside put a decal on the underside of their playfield and thought it was funny.  There is a big empty space under the playfield of Metallica, and I saw this Dirty Donny decal of a driver pulling gears in his little vehicle, so I stuck it in my game – as if he is controlling the pin.  Totally pointless, but I like him there.

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Cliffy Playfield Protectors – $75 for full set

Mystery Hold Protector – $35 from Pin-Protection.com

PinGuard Leg Protectors – $0.45 each from PinballLife.com

Metal Cabinet Protectors – $14.95/set from PinballLife.com

I’m a sucker for Cliffy protectors.  Not only is Cliffy a great guy, but he makes a very solid product.  Many of his products cover existing damage, but they also prevent damage from occurring (in most cases).  The Cliffy’s I used cover the magnets, in-lane switch slots and shooter lane.  That $75 also includes a Mystery Scoop protector, but I ordered one from Pin-Protection when I ordered my Skull Flipper Cabinet Protectors.  I think it was $20 at the time.  On a brand new playfield, an ‘under playfield’ protector can help prevent wear from the start.

I should note that with the magnet protectors, you will need to adjust the magnet cores so they are flush with the top of the protector.  It’s pretty easy.  I installed the protectors, then raised the cores until they were flush.  If you do not do this step, eventually the protectors will curl up on the sides, similar to a taco shell.

The PinGuard protectors are kinda overkill, but I had some on hand.  They keep the bolts from flaking the leg paint off.

The cabinet protectors you cannot see in this photo, and at this time (and maybe still?) Sterns were coming with plastic cabinet protectors, but I had a set of metal protectors on hand.  The idea is that they create a tiny gap between the leg and the cabinet, so the cabinet decal will not wrinkle over time.

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Flipper Fidelity 8″ Speaker Upgrade – $139.95

Subwoofer – $128.00 from Amazon, but often on sale for less

Undercab Lighting Kit – $24.99 from MezelMods.com

I don’t remember if I installed the 8″ or 10″ speaker kit, but I know it was around $150.  Really nice set that replaces the rough factory speakers with higher end components and a master volume control.  I received a subwoofer with another game I purchased, but I hooked it up to Metallica because…why not?  In the above photo you can also see an Undercab lighting kit with two 3′ strips of green LEDs.  I prefer the single color lighting kits to the flasher kits, or RGB color changing kits, but those options are also available.  I made my kit, but MezelMods sells them in a variety of colors as well.

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Apron Cards – FREE from PinballCards.com (Be cool and donate if you use them)

These cards were designed by PinballCards.com as are many of the apron cards in my gameroom.  The cards are free to download, but be cool and donate to their site if you do!  I asked and common donations range from $2-10, with some folks donating over $100.  Spread the love and don’t be shy about requesting other cards for future release!

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Shaker Motor – $119.95 from Cointaker.com

Tournament Button – $5.95 from PinballLife.com

Ok, so that is NOT the Cointaker Red Tremor shaker motor, but I do have one in my TRON that was a $99 show special and its awesome!  The one in Metallica I bought from a friend, so no idea where he got it.  Either way, it shakes.  ‘Nuff said.

Stern’s no longer include a tournament button, but they’re not too pricey and not too tough to install (with some light soldering).  Six bucks beats the $500 Whitestar Tournament kits.  You will need a diode for installation ($0.07 from PinballLife.com), just mimic the set up of the start button and you should be fine.  It’s prewired in the cabinet.

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FTS-8 Power Splitter – $24.95 from DKPinball.com

We have detailed several light-up and powered mods in this article, and this power splitter is a MUST HAVE tool if you’re running more than 2-3 powered mods.  Stern supplies a single factory power source, and DKPinball splits that source to power many different mods.

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I was lucky enough to win this signed Metallica Premium Translite from a Facebook contest Stern ran a while back.  I like the Pro translite, but I LOVE this premium translite.  Metallica Monsters?  Yes, please.  As of this time, they are not available for purchase, but you can find them on the secondary market from time to time.

The Metallica poster features florescent inks on a chrome poster…it’s pretty cool.  It is currently sold out of a run of 200, but there are some available on eBay if you must have one.

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Snake Mod – $35.00 from PinGraffix.com

This is one of the newer mods on my Metallica.  PinGraffix created a plastic that cups against the back of the snake head and extends over the pop bumpers, along with a decal that matches the plastic and sits on the left ramp.  Together they give the effect that the snake is winding its way through the game.  Really cool looking mod.  I bought it at 11pm, and by 7am it was sold out of a run of 50!  They have done reprints though.  Popular mod!

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Personalized Guitar Pick Keychain – $6.95 from ULEKStore.com

The rubber Metallica keychain pictured I had on my keys until last week.  It was $4 on eBay.  Then I received this Personalized Guitar Pick Keychain from ULEKStore.com and immediately swapped it out.  It’s a shiny gold chrome finish, and you can personalize it to read whatever you’d like.  ULEKStore also has flipper shaped keychains available to personalize for all of your pins.

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Bent Plastic Glare Guard – $7.95 from PinballLife.com

Wrong Crowd Productions invented the glare guard, but they don’t seem to be available any longer.  It’s a shame.  Bent Plastic took the idea and ran with it and they’re still available on PinballLife.  Basically, it keeps the reflection from the DMD art off of the glass.  Not a huge deal on Metallica, but I’m used to/spoiled by them at this point.

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Side Mirrors – ~$100 from PinballSideMirrors.com

Eyeball Target – $11.75 from MarcoSpecialties.com

I think it was Pinsider iamdarras that came up with the idea to use the TFTC Eyeball target in Metallica.  He replaced the piston target (as I did), as well as the Fuel standup targets with eyeballs.  Really cool looking mod.

The sidemirrors I think I got for around $100 shipped during some sort of holiday sale.  I forget!

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Speaker Panel Amplifier Decal – $41.95 shipped from eBay

This mod was actually just installed last week!  I like speaker panel decals, but I only ever saw them with weird flames or neon graveyards, until now.  I actually really like the Stern factory decal that was included on the PRO LED models, but its a different shape, and isn’t for sale anyway (leaving money on the table…smh).  This one probably looks even better with the factory PRO translite!

OTHER MODS – There are a few more things I changed, but didn’t necessarily include photos of…

  • Superbands on the miniposts.  I used purple and orange minibands as the white rubber I installed initially kept breaking (especially around Sparky), and I like the look of the glossy colored superbands.  3/8″ OD recommended for MET.
  • The up-post in the loop comes plastic from the factory, but I installed a metal post.  I think it came from Congo…?  I couldn’t find my old order or part number.  From the factory, the ball often bounces off the post in the middle of the loop (right behind Sparky) and goes back to the left instead of dribbling into the rollover lanes as intended.  It’s an awful design.  The Achilles Heel of Metallica.  CSI used two posts.  If MET did, there would be zero issues.
  • Probably a bunch of other things…

TOTAL: $2,066.91 approximately

Truth be told, I wrote about an hour of this post and wordpress decided not to save it, so I’m writing this a second time.  TYPICAL PINBALL PODCAST EFF UPS.

ANYWAY, that price doesn’t always including shipping or taxes, and as stated above, some of these mods I made or are test prototypes or have just plain gone up in price over the past two years.  So that total is about what you would pay to add all of this stuff to your game TODAY (plus $150 or so in LEDs).

I don’t expect anyone to do all this to their game.  It basically raised the price of my Pro to within Premium range sans the spinners, light up apron or hammer toy that rarely works… BUT it has all the gingerbread I WANT on the game.  Me.  My game.  My wasted money on my keeper game.  I totally respect the ‘factory only’ pinball players/collectors, and I respect the ‘kitchen sink’ modders (though not as much *cough*).  Metallica is my kitchen sink game.  Whenever I see something I love, I throw it in there.  And in a few cases, I take out items when it starts to look like ‘too much’ or if my tastes change (like changing the purple GI to cool white).  In the end, it’s only pinball and any pinball is better than no pinball (except for South Park).

Thank you for taking to time to read through this article.  It took some time to compile, but it was a ‘labor of love’ or whatever.  I love Metallica, and plan on keeping it for a long time.  I hope this was an interesting read, or was helpful to someone, or gave someone a laugh as they shook their head.  Feel free to email questions/comments to pinballpodcast at gmail dot com.

– Don

 

Episode 71b – BONESAW IS READY Vault Edition Discussion

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.

We are now schilling for  NiftyLED.com  and ULEKStore.com and MezelMods.com! Go get some!

Joe Zenkus joins us in a mini-episode where we briefly discuss the Stern Spider-Man Vault Edition reveal, and then discuss its’ pricing for like 45 minutes…

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This kid gets it.

Episode 64 – Niftysaurus Isn’t Chronologically Accurate

The Pinball Podcast is sponsored by NiftyLED.

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We are now schilling for  NiftyLED.com  and MezelMods.com! Go get some!  In fact, this month we were joined by Daniel and Nate of NiftyLED.com!  They’re even dropping an EXCLUSIVE 25% coupon code for podcast listeners.  Enter DONJEFF at checkout to activate major savings!

You can now buy The Pinball Podcast Maverick Paddlewheel shirts too! Email pinballpodcast at gmail dot com for information!  $16 shipped in the USA!

974 days. 3 hours. 5 minutes.

974 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes and 0 seconds can be converted to one of these units:

  • 84,164,700 seconds
  • 1,402,745 minutes
  • 23,379 hours (rounded down)
  • 974 days (rounded down)
  • 139 weeks (rounded down)

I ordered my Emerald City Limited Edition Wizard of Oz from Jersey Jack Pinball on January 25, 2011 at 9:25am.  It arrived last week, September 25, 2013 at 12:30pm.

Much has been said/written/trolled about the multiple setbacks as Jersey Jack Pinball became the biggest upstart pinball company to come along since… Capcom?  In the late ’90s?  Here’s my take, dumping my thoughts and feelings *sniff* about the pin, the process and the payoff, no punches pulled.

When the whole ‘deal’ was announced publicly (on the Spooky Pinball Podcast as it were), there was a bit of buzz right off the bat, but it was still early.  The goal was that a respected distributor of over 30 years was going to try his hand at building his own pinball company to bring back the big toys and the wow factor of late ’90s pinball design.  The initial deposit was $250.  You had to make regular payments (roughly $500 a month, but in lump sums), but you had until August to pull out for a full refund.  (I think even now Jack is honoring full refunds if you pull out this late, but I could be mistaken.)  It seemed like little risk, and my wife was cool with trying it out and pulling out if we didn’t like what we saw.  And at that time, Stern had released Avatar, Big Buck Hunter, Iron Man, 24 and NBA as their previous five titles.  None of those did a whole lot for us, personally (although I do like NBA), and some fresh design/competition couldn’t hurt.  (I’d still like to see some new designers even now!  Is John Borg the ‘newest’ designer in pinball, with only 20 years of experience?  But that’s another topic…) The team names thrown around included major players like Nordman, Blacer, Freres, Matt Riesterer of Back Alley Creations, Jerry Vanderstelt, and the major selling points for me: Keith Johnson and Chris Granner.  I chose number #839 (of 1000 Emerald City Limited Edition games) because the film was released in August 1939.  8/39.  I thought it was a cool nod to fans of the film.

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There was an early video of a melting Wicked Witch toy, that dropped into the playfield.  I can’t seem to find it now, but that was the first look at what they were going for with the game.  Then we got a sample of the music.  The familiar ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ loop that everyone following the project heard over and over for years. You can hear it here, over a whitewood gameplay video that was published in October 2011.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/6kJ3vaFgNGk[/youtube]

We saw the cabinet art and I think a CAD-type drawing of the playfield before the August 2011 ‘pull out deadline’.  It’s a little blurry at this point.  We didn’t really tell anyone we had bought it that first year or so, just because it was/is kind of an extravagant purchase for middle class folks in Albuquerque, and pins were a lot cheaper three years ago! Again, we were semi-expecting it to arrive between the initial December 2011 date and June 2012 (our waaaay out there, if it’s running waaaay behind date).  We knew the game had five flippers, two miniplayfields, an LCD monitor to substitute the twenty-year-old standard DMD, and several toys to match the great pins of the late ’90s.  I will say right now that WOZ as we know it today is not the pin that we ordered in 2011.  Jack has said that it is not the pin he envisioned initially either.  It’s much more than that at this point, but of course in the time since WOZ was announced, until the time I received my game, Stern had released EIGHT games (not including Premiums, LE’s, Classics, etc.  EIGHT different licenses.)  Needless to say, they had a longer window to work on the game, and Jack seems to have let the design team throw in everything they could dream of into the final game.

The next several months were kinda quiet, if I remember correctly. Eventually we were shown this video, of an animated logo for JJP with music by the guitarist from Creed.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAF3nrGODEA[/youtube]

I think shortly after that we went to the Texas Pinball Festival and Jack showed us some of the backglass animations that were developed for the LCD monitor.  That’s where the ‘reverse flippers’ rule was leaked (as of this time, it has not been implemented into the game yet.)  Again, that was 19 months ago in itself, so things are a little blurry, we may have seen a bit more at that point.

I remember the first playfield art that was shown was the Witches castle miniplayfield.  It was very different than I had imagined.  In my head, I was thinking it would be similar to The Addams Family, or Twilight Zone.  Licensed images, but hand drawn art.  I was really shocked to see clipart of the Winkie Guards.  woz-witchescastle-print

No one said it was going to be all hand-drawn, that’s just what I envisioned.  The art surrounding the clipart is beautifully done and reminiscent of TAF and TZ, so its a mix of both, and it actually works pretty well.  Either way, that turned my expectations on their ear, and now I really wanted to see where the game was going to end up, visually.  At the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown in April 2012, we were shown some plastics for the first time.  Again, they were not what I expected, but I still think they look great.  Very bright and colorful.  Unconventional in their subject matter too.  A Winkie Guard and Emerald City Guard adorn the slingshots, each with a green starburst pattern behind them.  Slingshot art always drives me nuts.  It’s often terrible (Rescue 911 anyone? Spider-Man?), but as its right by the flippers, you’re staring at it all the time!  And its closer to your face than the playfield AND its lit up!

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At some point, there was discussion of controlled LEDs and how that was thought to be impossible, but Jack had figured it out.  We didn’t know how far it was going to change the game. I would say, without question, that everyones first impression of WOZ is that its ‘so bright and colorful!’  You can see it in action in this clip, but seeing it in person is much different.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/dKiPJI_BHOw[/youtube]

Every time we would see Jack at a convention, our zest would be renewed.  Remember, even in April of 2012 our game had been on order for 16 months, which was AGES and felt even longer.  Especially my wife would be more excited after he spoke.  ‘Well, yeah, Jack is a salesman.  His job is to get people excited about his product.’ I would tell her.  Jack is a very charismatic guy, with a long background in sales and customer satisfaction.  I think without his enthusiastic charm, the project would have died long ago.  He made you WANT to stay attached, you WANTED to believe all these lofty promises.  With the XBox One coming next month, I’ve been looking back at the promises of what the Xbox 360 would do, as made eight years ago as it was preparing to launch.  Many of the features disappeared, never came to fruition, were abandoned, etc.  With Jack, his mantra was ‘underpromise, overdeliver’ and he stuck to that.  All these lofty promises CAME TRUE.  I’m hard pressed to think of anything he said they were working on that didn’t happen or isn’t in the works.  Yeah, the topper isn’t all that ‘interactive’, and I’m still praying for some wifi-working online tournaments for WOZ, but the nail isn’t in the coffin yet.

After a year or so of not really telling anyone, we started to tell people that we had ordered a WOZ.  Not only that, but we got in EARLY.  It had to be arriving any day, right?!!  Well, that turned into years of people ribbing us, non-pinheads by the way, ‘So, when is your game coming?’, ‘Did you get your game yet?’ etc. Even last week, my father-in-law asked ‘You ordered it like a year ago, right?’  Er, no, almost three years ago… ‘THREE YEARS?!’

For the most part, the carrot was always dangling RIGHT THERE.  Why pull out now? It should ship next month.  That’s what we told ourselves for the past year and a half or so after the game publicly debuted at E3 in early June 2012.  They made the game.  It exists.  Location games were rolling out to select locations around the country.  We got in early, our game must be one the line, right?  Then, in April 2013, nearly a year later, the first games start shipping to actual, home-use-only customers!  Well, it turns out there were a jillion giant orders or something in the first day or two.  And since I ordered January 25th (the first orders were January 9th I think, with a few people who got in personally with Jack before that), it felt like I was at the back of the line again.  We were ‘on January orders’ FOREVER.  Six months, in fact.  People were (and still are) comparing invoice numbers to try and figure out when their game would ship. When games started shipping, the price went up too.  Positions for games on Pinside were hitting $8500-$9k regularly.  This was the first time I really thought about pulling out.  We waited forever and still not game, so we might as well sell while the slots are hot.  On the other hand, we are SO CLOSE!  Why would we even think of selling now?

There were many periods during the past 2 years and 8 months (to the day) that I just kinda stopped caring.  Yeah, it looks great, so does Salma Hayek, but I’m not bringing her home either.  In July 2012, my wife became pregnant with our twins, who were born in March 2013.  They were born more than two years after we ordered.  We went to a wedding last week for a couple that MET in May 2011.  The wait is a substantial amount of the ‘discount’ and the emotions going into the game.  Jack will tell you that the waiting was harder for him than anyone, and I believe him, but man… that’s one horrendous wait.  Metallica was announced in April/May 2013 and started shipping three weeks later.  I ordered one and got it six weeks later.  I was deep in the excitement of a new pin, and a pin that I was actually interested in, and a pin that I actually ordered and was shipping!  It was a wait, but it was the best kind.  It just kept you waking up everyday like Christmas morning, hitting the forums to read the latest news and reviews about it.  WOZ doesn’t have that benefit.  I should also note that I paid for WOZ with the money I had saved to order a Capcom Kingpin when it was supposed to be reproduced, so THAT project is even more drawn out.  It’s still happening, allegedly, but its no where near as real as WOZ.  WOZ is not ‘vaporware’, and I’ll give them props for that.  Still, we had planned an unboxing party, and ordered a custom cake, in March 2012.  We’ve since cancelled the party/cake/fanfare.

At a certain point, even I had seen so much of WOZ that early details about the NEXT JJP game, The Hobbit, were more exciting to me.  Then I started kicking myself.  Why am I getting excited about details for a game that is two years away when the game I ordered 2 1/2 years ago still isn’t here?!

I did play WOZ twice at the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown in April 2013.  I limited myself to just two quick plays.  I already knew everything about it, right?  What’s the harm in slapping a ball around for 2 minutes?  I waited in the long line to play it, and my games were brief.  I didn’t let my wife come near it, as she stopped caring about it about a year and a half ago and had never even seen the playfield assembled until we unboxed our game last week.  So what did I think after my two quick games?  My first thought was ‘How can I find the money to order The Hobbit?’  haha… WOZ was clearly sooooo far ahead of any other recent pins that I was wanting to get in on the next game NOW.  (I didn’t order The Hobbit by the way, although the playfield looks great and I love the theme.  I’ll wait until it actually comes to life before considering it.)

Wizard of Oz was in the theaters last week.  So is the new Metallica movie.  Both companies nailed it when choosing licenses.  Also, for a couple days before Stern Star Trek shipped, we owned both of the most recent pins available, and could compare them side by side.  Metallica is a great game, but the comparison is similar to the way Pinbot looks sitting next to Road Show.  It’s not an EM/SS divide, but it’s definately the biggest, boldest expansion of pinball since the integration of the DMD in 1991…. TWENTY TWO YEARS AGO.  (RIP Pinball 2000…) Can you imagine if we were only playing Super Nintendo for the past 22 years and then the Xbox 360 came out?  It would be a game changer (literally!  ZING!).

I hope WOZ is the game changer.  Pinball has been growing by leaps and bounds since WOZ was announced.  Not BECAUSE it was announced, but its plain to see that the innovations of JJP have pushed their competitors to change their game plan and battle for your pinball dollar.  The success of JJP has also inspired many others to start their own ’boutique’ pinball companies, and there are more pin projects alive right now than ever(?).  I expect to be blown away by whatever JPop is working on in his secret bunker.  Predator looks awesome already.  Heighway Pinball has made their mark overseas.  The Spooky Pinball People have launched their own business model for home pinball sales with original themes/titles.  No one can deny the mark JJP has left on our hobby already, missed deadlines and delays aside.

Speaking of which, now everyone is asking me ‘Was it worth the wait?’  It’s a bit of a mixed bag honestly.  First, a few small issues put a damper on the experience. We got the game unboxed and set up and noticed that the plunger wouldn’t move.  It turns out that both playfield hangers were snapped._DSC0587

As such, the playfield was resting on the plunger.  The autoplunger specifically was pressing down so the plunger wouldn’t move.  So… if we wanted to play that first night, we needed to raise the playfield.  I snapped a pencil and stuck it under the part of the hook we could see.

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We were able to play that first night, but couldn’t put the glass on because the lockdown bar wouldn’t attach as the playfield was too high.  Then, after a handful of games (8-10?), one of the RGB LED boards went out, and since they are wired in series, everything wired after it went out.  I eventually found the bad board and swapped it with the furthest similar board in the line, and that brought about 85% of the lights to life.  The RAINBOW lights were still out, making ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ mode nearly impossible to complete.  While I was looking for the bad board, I noticed a lug on one of the standup targets was snapped off.  It snapped in such a way that it could not be rigged/repaired.  I ordered new hangers, a new RGB board and a new target and Lloyd had them ordered to ship an hour later.  Great service.  I was bummed that they were shipped by ground service though, which meant the game was ‘broken’ for the next six days until the parts arrived.  I swapped the hangers with the hangers on Pinbot so I could play with the glass on.  We have babies in the house now, so my pinball time is severely limited as it is.

Next, I’d already seen everything about the game over and over for years now.  No surprises out of the box.  That’s not a bad thing, I mean, you know what you’re getting when you buy an Addams Family right now, right?  Doesn’t make the game any less interesting, but it makes the NIB experience a little diminished I guess.  Learning some of the rules and seeing them in action is still pretty exciting, even for a seasoned pinball guy.  When you see inserts flicker like flames in ‘Firefight’ mode, or everything turn sepia-tone as you try to rescue TOTO, it really feels like something new and different.

Was the worth the wait…?  Honestly, I’ll never know.  It was a wait whether we wanted it or not.  In June 2011, I had a chance to buy a TRON LE for $5k, which seemed insane then, but I could have played it for two years until WOZ was available and then easily sold it for over $10k.  Even paying a premium for WOZ now, I would have a lot of cash in pocket and my money wouldn’t have been tied up for the past several years.  I’m not bitter about it, but it is a pinball game and they’re way more fun to play when they’re in your home and not in pieces in a warehouse across the country for years.

WOZ is excellent, easily the visual showpiece of nearly any collection, and it’s more than just a pretty face.  It’s a fun game.  The rules are fantastic, the shots are fun, the randomness of the two outlane ‘ball saver gimmicks’ are interesting.  Code updates seem to be coming about once a month now, which is fine, it still has a long ways to go, but it’s deeper and more fleshed out than Metallica is already.  The team at JJP has been great about replying to concerns, joining in forum conversations, answering questions, adding stuff to the game that the community wants, etc.  I probably wouldn’t have done this if I could go back.  All the games are supposed to have shipped by this January.  Games have been available from distributors and people who have pulled out for several months now.  It feels good to be part of an upstart that changed the face of the game, if not forever, for right now at least.  It was a weird journey, and I’m glad it’s over, but as a great man once said ‘Hey!  It’s only pinball!’.

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photo

The Pinball Podcast Episode 22 – Pinsider? I hardly knew ‘er!

Jeff is delirious with hot car exhaustion and Don is as uninformed as ever.  Join us for Episode 22 of The Pinball Podcast.

We already effed up. I started talking about Nick’s suggestion, then said I’d talk about it later and never got back to it. He wants a mod that allows for lane changing on older pins. Me too!

Pinsanity!
Pinsanity!

You could win this great screen print courtesy of Ken Rossi’s EvolveStudios.com!  Listen for details.

Metallica Pro Unboxing

Just a few weeks after Jeff experienced his first NIB purchase, I joined the NIB club with my own Metallica Pro.  I ordered it during the first production phase of the Pro, but it was already sold out so I had six weeks to order protectors and mods and new balls (more on that later), etc.  The wait was just long enough that I started to dream about the game and I was able to play a friend’s LE before my check was cashed.

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The game shipped from Stern on a Wednesday, and arrived at my home at 1pm the following Tuesday via R&L.  I was able to track it online on Wednesday and it made it all the way to Oklahoma (from Chicago) by Thursday.  Then the tracking went dark until Monday midday.  In the meantime, I called and emailed R&L to make sure it didn’t get shipped back (all previous tracking history had been erased), and they notified me Monday that it was safe and due to be delivered on Tuesday.

When the game arrived, it looked fine, but had a hole in the box (see photo).  I didn’t sign until I ripped open the hole big enough to inspect the ‘damage’.  There was a very, very slight scrape to the bottom back of the head, nothing to get worried about, but I had the driver note the box damage on the bill of lading after hearing horror stories of trying to get recouped for damaged items not noted on the BOL.

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We unboxed the game and immediately started adding ‘mods’.  We replaced the plastic leg standoffs with metal standoffs ordered from PinballLife.com, added a shooter lane protector from PassionForPinball.com, added a Mystery scoop protector found on eBay and swapped out the crappy standard NEW balls that came with the game for some ultra shiny balls from PinballLife.  The balls that came with the game were noticeably duller and one even had a nick in it.  Nice, new balls are one of the cheapest ways to prolong the life of your game (they look nice too).  Old balls = rolling sandpaper on your playfield.

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We finally got the game set up and ‘protected’ and ready to play.  First game, the plunger only shot the ball up about 6″ each time.  The autoplunger was set to fire at 30 seconds, and it shot the ball into play.  My first game was somewhere in the 2 million point ballpark as we were just messing with the plunger.  Then we spent a half hour adjusting the plunger. We got it to a sorta workable point, and played about a half-dozen games.  My buddy had to leave, and my twin infants woke up (I was shocked that they gave us an hour to set up the game!), so no more Metallica until later that night.  It turns out that there are multiple ‘patterns’ used by Stern on Metallica, so the lane protector was causing the ball to ‘ramp’ up very quickly for 1/8″ or so.  Once we found a protector that fit this current layout, the plunger problem was relieved!_DSC0261 _DSC0272

 

The first night, I took an hour or two and swapped out bulbs for LEDs.  I’m very happy with the results.  The only inserts I really don’t like are the four GIANT EOTL inserts right between the slingshots.  The lamp bases are about half the size of the inserts, and are just  screwed to the very edge of the insert.  As such, it only illuminates a small part of the insert.  I tried flex LEDs, but they just don’t spread out far enough.  I might try putting a spacer on the mounting screw so I can shine the light from an inch or so away from the inserts, instead of right on top of the insert.  If that makes any sense…

You can also see that I added LED speaker lights on the backbox, and removed the stock grills in favor of some Metallica throwing star ‘grills’.  Really nice effect, in my opinion.

IMG_1584

 

Cointaker had a sale that offered free flipper LED kits when you spent $100.  I chose an orange kit, and it came out alright.  The leads are a little on the short side, but they worked.  I also added these skull flipper protectors.  Always a little nerve racking drilling holes into a new cabinet, but the lollipop rails offer similar protection and ‘holes’.  I removed the little playfield pegs and added typical playfield slides too.  Drilling more holes, but it is a MASSIVE improvement.

After exactly one week, the game had exactly 150 plays logged.

And now a photo dump!

 

 

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The Pinball Podcast Episode 20 – FS RARE Maverick Contact for ~~Price L@@K!~~

Episode 20 is here, and even though it’s a light news month, we still have plenty of great stuff to talk about in regards to pinball. I want to make a jungle pun in honor of Congo being our featured machine, but I got nothing. Enjoy the show!

  • Featured Machine: Congo
  • Top Five: Favorite Multilevel/Miniplayfield games
  • Virtual Pinball: Champion Pub and Whirlwind are coming to The Pinball Arcade.  ‘Pinball Rocks’ relaunches on iOS.  ‘Pinball Heroes’ coming to Vita.
  • Product Review: AC/DC Total Protection Kit from Pin-Protection

The Pinball Podcast Episode 19 – Taking it Up (or down?) to a New Level

Jeff and I meet up for the first time in years, and bore our listeners with a recap of events.

  • Featured Machine: Mata Hari
  • Top Five: Favorite Multilevel/Miniplayfield games
  • Virtual Pinball: Centaur and Pin*Bot are coming to The Pinball Arcade.  Farfalla for Zaccaria Pinball hits iOS.
  • Product Review: anyPin NVRAM