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Pinball 2000

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Pinball 2000 was a technology developed by Williams pinball in the late 1990’s when the pinball industry was facing major contraction due to the amount of arcades that were gradually disappearing due to the rise of home consoles.  Two games were developed from this technology before Williams closed their pinball division, Revenge from Mars and Star Wars Episode One.

Revenge from Mars, the first Pinball 2000

Revenge from Mars was the first game developed on the pinball 2000 platform, released in January of 1999.  It took the pinball industry by storm, the biggest innovation in pinball since it went to digital scoring in the late 70’s.  Instead of shooting at the usual targets, video targets were now ‘displayed’ on the playfield.  This led to some very cool effects, as instead of just hitting the lit arrow and getting a flash and sound effect, the target would now explode or do some other cool animation.  New players in particular were really impressed with the new gameplay, while more traditional players weren’t as enthused by the new changes, feeling it wasn’t ‘real’ pinball.  Operators really liked it though because the games brought in more money that the previous games Williams had released, plus had a lot of things that made operating easier like swappable playfields and in depth diagnostics.

The general consensus on RFM (acronym for Revenge from Mars) is that it was a great initial game for the Pinball 2000 platform but as good of a game as some of Williams earlier efforts (at least in the eyes of pinball fans).  New players really liked the video integration though.  If you check out the game at the Internation pinball database here:

http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=4446

You’ll see a lot more pictures and information about the game, including a bunch of user reviews.

Star Wars Episode One, the second Pinball 2000 game

The second game developed for the Pinball 2000 platform was Star Wars Episode One.  It came out in June of 1999, hoping to ride the wave of Star Wars Mania that was sweeping the nation at that time.  Unfortunately, the movie didn’t quite meet expectations and neither did the game, as a result.  Williams was hoping that after they sold more than 6800 Revenge from Mars, they could sell even more Star Wars.  The combination though of the movie not being great plus a price increase caused a lot of people to cancel their orders, leading to a production that was significantly less than Revenge from Mars.

Star Wars was made to cater more to the beginner crowd, which led to a lot of veteran players being disappointed with the game.  In fact, if you read the reviews at http://www.ipdb.org you’ll see that the reviews are mainly negative on the game compared to Revenge from Mars.  I personally find the game decently fun but it does seem like you shoot up the middle a lot.  I like the neon light saber on the right side, I think that was a really nice touch on the game.

Pinball 2000 now

After Williams closed the pinball division in late 1999, no new Pinball 2000 games were ever released.  One of the biggest disappointments people had about that was that the third game, Wizard Blocks, was never released.  There are pictures and video of the game circulating around the web, this video on youtube shows Wizard Blocks:

It was supposed to be the first game that really took the technology to the next level, so it’s unfortunate that it never made it to production.

One of the biggest issues that Pinball 2000 owners had was that if the computer in the game went bad, there were no longer replacements because it was PC based rather than the normal custom board.  This was solved for a while when a product called Nucore came out, it allowed owners with broken computer boards to get their games back up and running.  Production of Nucore was suspend though and has not resumed as far as I know.

Buying a Pinball 2000 machine

If you’re going to buy a Pinball 2000 machine, the biggest thing to watch out for is to make sure that the game works (basically that the computer is good) and that the monitor is good.  There are replacements for the monitor now that are LCD based, but the computer can be harder to find or repair.  The prices aren’t too bad for the games, traditional collectors haven’t really gone of them.  Star Wars Episode One swappable playfields are even available occasionally so you can have two games (if you swap them) and only need one cabinet.

Wrapup

Hopefully this has been helpful for those of you looking for Pinball 2000 information.  If you have any questions, please email or check out some of the links I gave in the article.  Tilt! the battle to save pinball is also a good documentary if you really want the whole story.  I bought the film and really enjoyed it.

Pinball Buying Checklist

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World Cup Soccer and Iron Man pinball machines
World Cup Soccer and Iron Man pinball machines

I was thinking about this as I was driving home today, what I would need if I was new to the hobby and wanted to buy a pinball machine.  So I thought a pinball buying checklist would be a good thing to type up for those new players to the hobby.  Here’s the list:

  • Make sure the game powers on.  If the guy has it in his garage not plugged in and says trust me it works, don’t believe it, try it yourself.
  • If it powers on, there are various states of working.  If it lights up but none of the displays work, this generally means there is an electronic problem.  If it starts up but won’t play a game, there are probably missing balls, a switch issue, or electronic board issue.
  • If it powers on and plays, the next step is to start making sure things on the playfield work.  This may be difficult if you’re not familiar with the game, but things to verify are usually:
    • do the flippers work and have enough power for the all of the shots?
    • do all the lights appear to work?
    • do all the displays appear to work?
    • do all the main features appear to work?
    • are there any major broken things?
  • Next it’s time to look at the cosmetics of the machine.  Look at the cabinet first.  Are there any major scratches or dings?  Is there any water damage or fading?  One of the most common things people miss is that a lot of cabinets are heavily faded, especially in the red color.  You can check for fading by having a picture of a perfect machine on your phone when you examine the new game.
  • Next move onto the playfield.  If the game is from the early 80’s, there’s a good chance there may be significant paint loss on the playfield.  90’s games and later usually don’t have playfield wear except for heavily used outholes.
  • If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how functional the game is.  This means that it’s time to figure out how much the game is worth.  This is kind of a grey area, but the first place to start is probably the pinball price guide.  If you don’t have one of those, then the archived ads on http://www.pinside.com can be of pretty good use.  You’ll need to kind of classify each game into it’s own category.  I usually classify games into these:
    • non-working projects.  These games don’t work at all, and usually worth like 50% of what an average game would be worth.
    • partially working games.  These games work partially, but have weak flippers or things not working to some degree.  These games are usually worth like 75% of what an average game would be worth
    • fully working game, very dirty.  These games are usually worth like 90% of what an average game would be worth.
    • fully working and clean game.  These games are your average priced games.
    • fully restored.  These games may have new cabinet art, new playfields, etc.  These games can vary anywhere from 110% to 150% of the value of an average game.

Hopefully this pinball buying checklist is helpful for new pinball buyers.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

Finding an affordable projector screen

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If you’re like I was, finishing out the game room can really stretch your wallet thin.  One of the places I originally skimped on was my home theater screen.  Instead of buying a screen, I made a painted wall.

Painted Wall Screen

Originally when I finished my theater, I painted the front wall with ultra white from Home Depot.  In order to make a border around the screen, I bought 1 x 4’s from Home Depot and wrapped them in black velvet to make a border that absorbed all extra light.  It worked really well for quite a while, but I was never quite satisfied with the picture.  Eventually, I moved onto a new option…

Fabric Theater Screen

After the painted wall, I upgraded to a fabric screen.  When I was first looking at fabric screens, they were all between $500 and $1000 for a 120″ screen.  To me, that was too much when a painted wall was like $50 and offered 90% of performance.  That changed  img_3132-smallthough a couple years ago when I found this from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CYLOTPK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$249 for a 120″ screen was a big savings over what I was looking at before.  How could I lose?  So I went ahead and ordered one.

Putting it together was fairly straightforward, but getting the canvas all stretched out required a bit of effort.  2 years later it still looks great,STR-169120 Silver Ticket 120" Diagonal screen maybe the only slight issue is that there might be a slight bow in the middle (but you’d never notice until you really really looked hard for it).

I’ve tried to take some pictures of the screen.  The one on top is one with my side lights on, the one on the bottom is one with the side lights off.  Projector is a Viewsonic Pro8100 that I’ve owned for quite a while, so with a better projector it could look even better.  The source material is also not high def, fyi.

Hope this helps for those looking for an affordable projector screen.  The painted wall definitely works as a temporary solution, but the screen is definitely a better long term solution.

Game room dimmers

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One of the things that a lot of people need in their game room is controlled lighting.  It can come in very handy whether you’re watching TV, playing pinball, etc.

There are a variety of different dimmers on the market, but in general the most popular ones are made by Lutron.  In my home theater, I installed 4 of the infrared controlled lutron-dimmerdimmers to control my different lighting sections.  The only downside is that you basically need some sort of smart remote if you have more than one of the dimmers, as the remote that comes with it will control all of the switches at once (instead of independently).  I bought a Harmony 650 remote to control the switches.

I have a picture from my home theater at the right.  The presets are what you use in order to come up with the lighting sets you want.  I have mine set to turn off the main lights and just have the side lights on, works great when trying to watch the screen and you need a little light.

Game Room Cornhusker Sign

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Cornhusker Metal Sign
Nebraska Cornhusker Red Metal Sign

I found this sign at a local festival today.  It was $60, which I thought was a pretty good price considering how large it is.

Cornhusker Metal Sign
Nebraska Cornhusker Red Metal Sign

The maker of the sign is Swen Products, and their website is here:

http://www.swenproducts.com/

They had quite a bit of stuff from signs to light switch covers to rain gauges.  If you have a favorite college team and have been looking for a sign, you can’t go wrong with Swen.  I was also going to order some light switch covers but they didn’t have the double ones with them at the festival.