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  The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot
Absolutely Flawless


Creator: Williams
Designer: Python Anghelo
Year: 1991
IPDB Link: http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=1502

Date of Writing: 1st November 2004, Revised: 22nd September 2005


Pin*Bot's bride on the backglassMy first contact with The Machine happened in 1997 when I was about to graduate from elementary school and move to high school. We were on the final class trip shortly before the school year's end and there, in a large empty white room, she was, the "Bride". Everyone loved her; we couldn't resist asking the staff if we could turn her on and play a few games, and there was no problem. So, every evening when some of us had a few coins left (you know money is thin when you're a youngster), we would go down and play The Machine. It was actually the first time that I played pinball on a real machine with open eyes. Before this, I had only played it for fun, not really knowing where I was aiming, regardless of the score I'd get, and so on. Only a few months before this class trip, I had started to play pinball simulations on the computer and had learned about the common rules, features and score opportunities in pinball games, and now I tried to use this knowledge to my advantage with The Machine. The result was that I got the 2-ball multiball after completing the second face, however I lost both balls very quickly and was amazed at the speed this feature was offering. Plus, since I was so interested in how pinball machines worked, I spent quite a few minutes standing around the turned-off game and inspecting it closely for everything it had on the playfield. I once even found a small sheet of paper in one of my old document stashes which had the measure-ments of the ball, flippers and bumpers handwritten on it. I remember taking those measurements from The Machine back then, just because I wanted a reference. Yeah, I'm weird XD
Whenever I thought about pinball machines, this game was the only one stuck in my head with prominent features I kept remembering: the wheel on the center of the playfield, the head, the voice and the quote "I can speak", the 16-digit displays, the ramps and the grayish spacey colours. Once I saw photos of the game, I also remembered the name (yes, I had forgotten it no matter how simple it was), the shuttle, the helmet, the backglass, the cabinet art, you name it. It came all back to me from the rear of my head and that's why I decided that this machine absolutely had to be mine someday.

And after one month of playing the F-14 and getting bored by it, I quickly had an offer in my PM inbox on the Pinball Network forum: a man named Peter from Berlin had a Machine for sale, but he wanted 400 Euros which I didn't really have, so I agreed to exchange my F-14 plus 200 for The Machine which was an equal value. 400 is not bad since there are Machines that go away for far more than this; however the optical condition justified the fair price (however, he's a fair price guy anyway). The playfield was worn down especially around the inserts, had crowfeet all over and the person who removed the mylar years ago obviously didn't know how to do it correctly, as many insert letters and the paint around them were worn down or taken off with the mylar. However, the playfield played excellently without the mylar compared to my mylared F-14 which was a mess and slowed down the ball quite a bit. Strong, crispy flippers and a high playfield angle made the game fast and precise and gave me a very cool feeling when I played it for the first time. I thought, "wow, so this is what it can be like", being totally used to weak flippers and the open playfield of the F-14. Plus, when I first saw The Machine in reality again after seven years, it was such a beautiful reappearance that she took my heart by storm, and this time I knew she would be mine soon. A week later after I had graduated from school with my final exams completed (wow, graduation again!), I had the cash and we brought The Machine into my room.

Assembly

Apart from the standard backbox-legs-move thing, my friend Lars and I had to reinstall all the plugs and cables in the backbox since it had been removed by Peter for transportation. The weight was so much lighter without the backbox that carrying the game around was quite easy. Thank god he had marked all plugs and sockets, so assembling the backbox was like painting by numbers and after half an hour The Machine was ready to be turned on. Everything worked fine except for a flasher in the right side of the helmet, the helmet lamps and the head: it turned to the right only, never to the left, which gave some strange results during the game when the face changed to something that was obviously wrong. The same night I found out that we had missed one tiny plug in the backbox that was still loose and controlled the rotation to the left plus the helmet lamps. Moral: a single little plug or wire can disarm half of the solenoids (this should be very true later when I installed the new playfield!).

Theme

The Machine is what the title says, a machine, a female robot. She is Pin* Bot's bride (hence the subtitle), so there are similarities in the theme: like Pin*Bot, she must be awakened by the player, but she must also be transformed into a human (or something close to that). The initial message that is displayed in attract mode sums this up with a few words: "Make me live, make me sing, make me feel like a woman..." It sounds alluring and a little erotic, and the fun part is that the game is indeed spiced with some mildly erotic voice samples and graphics. If you look at the artwork on the backglass and cabinet, you instantly see how the designers wanted to give her a full female look, especially around the legs. Why she is built by astronauts in space is beyond me, but the combination of space and a huge cyborg coming to life makes for a nice playfield design which gives you a very sci-fi-like atmosphere. If you listen to the sounds and especially the music, this atmosphere is enhanced because the sound is very special in this game. Using the traditional sample and synthesis system for audio, Williams created a mind-blowing soundtrack that cannot really be placed anywhere. It's neither rock nor techno, it's somewhere between the two, but there is a pop flavour to it as well. If you want to know what I refer to by this, check out the media section.
Also, lighting is very defined. The lamp inserts are extremely sharp and crystalline, delivering a prism effect that enhances the light greatly. If you don't like the gray look of the playfield (which undoubtedly adds to the space theme, though), you have to watch the machine light up when it's turned on. The GI is extremely bright (at least on my model) and cold white, the inserts have all sorts of vivid colours and are nicely arranged. The flasher effects look really spectacular.

an older shot of the cabinet, reminiscent of Metropolisthe wheel and the lane and ramp entrances

I especially love the theme of The Machine because I'm interested in both space and artificial intelligence, respectively robotics. I also love her voice since I get a kick out of the game every time she laughs in ecstasy! XD

Gameplay

a full playfield shotWhen you're not used to playing pinball in reality, The Machine is surely not the best way to start it as it's one of the tougher games that can make you go nuts with the outlanes if you are not trained. However, if you like the theme and are willing to spend some hours of practice, The Machine will probably satisfy you since she keeps everyone coming back who has tried her at my home. As is common with early WPC games, the ruleset is not all that deep, but there are some nice objectives to complete plus the one big goal which is always a plus, and the shots can be greatly timed. There is something special to The Machine you can dive into once you start to play, generated by the visuals and sound, the lighting, the voice and the flow that is quite adrenaline-rushing and fast. Why is that so? Well, a huge part of this feeling comes from the narrow playfield since more than 50 percent has stuff on it, like ramps, loops, lanes and targets. The only open part is the wheel in the center, everything else is close up front for you to shoot at. This makes The Machine still faster than Terminator 2 which is generally a fast game, but because it's a lot more open than The Machine, you don't notice the speed of the ball so much. The Machine however has the ball bumping from one edge to the other in no time and keeps you at your toes at all times. If you are fast enough, you will have a blast playing the game; if you don't have the practice yet or the reaction time (like some of my friends), you might get a little frustrated after a while. Like Peter said, "The Machine forgives no mistakes." This is also the reason why I admire my girl friend Janine who was able to make a whopping seven million points on her first ever pinball game in life! From then on, I called her the Pinball Queen because this proved she has the talent to become a great player (and yes, she still plays well).
What's also nice about the playfield design is that it looks very unconventional, meaning that lamp inserts, the general colouring and the details of the artwork are very different from the norm that Steve Ritchie and other designers use. There are no arrows, circles and triangles here, but every lamp insert is "installed" into the body of the Machine that covers the whole playfield. This body idea was taken from Pin*Bot where the playfield is surrounded by his body and the arms and fingers go down where the flippers are (his fingers are shaped like flippers). The Machine's body is naturally gray, but it doesn't look bland at all, making for a very spaceship-like appearance if you play the game in total darkness and the general illumination on the playfield is the only light source. Every plastic and device including the flippers dives into this cold yet friendly light and the gray steel body of the Bride emphasizes this. If you look closely over the playfield, you will also discover many little astronauts who sit on the metal body stages, enter the Machine from a space shuttle, or fly to her head in a rocket. All those details tend to get lost when playing, but they are still there and make it all the more cute if you have the time to admire them.

the Shuttle Ramp that leads to the headthe Machine's spinning head and the mini playfield

In general, the objective of the game is to awaken The Machine (or the Bride, whatever you call her) by transforming her into a human in four stages, presented by her changing face in the head at the top of the playfield. This is done by shooting the Shuttle Ramp, mostly twice. Once you shot it twice the first time, the ball runs into her open mouth and the head spins by 90 degrees to reveal the second face which has a closed mouth but open eyes to load two balls in. By repeating the double ramp shot sequence, you get the current ball into one of the eyes and a second ball is thrown to the plunger to shoot into play by you. Making one ramp shot with this ball leads it into the second eye, locks both balls in the neck, spins the head to the third face (full face with mouth and eyes) and releases both balls for 2-ball multiball. If you can manage (it's tough!) to keep both balls in play and balance them up the ramp again, you get the metamorphosis, the ultimate transformation into a humanoid woman, and the fourth face. Then you can spin the Big Wheel and get either really big points or even the billion shot. With some practice, getting the metamorphosis done is not so hard at all, but spinning the big wheel after watching the transformation (which is breathtaking when you first see it) is all the more difficult.

the Heart Ramp which can be shot for millionsthe speedy bumpers light up beautifully under the mini playfield

Except for keeping your aim on the Shuttle Ramp, you can always take repeated shots at the loops, the Heart Ramp, the bumpers, the far left lane shot which spins the Small Wheel, and the standup targets to increase your bonus multiplier. The great thing about all returning shots (i.e. loops and the Heart Ramp) is that you get more points the more shots you take. For the loops this means a timed increase from 25k to 500k, for the Heart Ramp it means first 500k and then even a full million per shot. If you know how to do it, you can pump up your score this way! And then there is the Shuttle Skill Shot every time you launch the ball into play, the increasing bumpers that raise their value about every 50 hits, and the plastic mini playfield above them, which is accessible by the first Shuttle Ramp shot and takes the ball to a random location where it might come down to the plunger again. Then, you can try the skill shot another time and the value is doubled, next time tripled etc. So there are way enough opportunities to make the score big!

Restoration

the old heavily worn playfieldWhen I bought The Machine, I got a used spare playfield with it. Peter bought it since he obviously planned to touch it up and install it in the cabinet since the original playfield was in bad shape as I described above. He gave me that playfield for free (thanks Peter, could make good use of it) and it sat up on the closet for five months until the time was right. I had planned to touch up and restore my Machine since I was very annoyed by the wear on the instal-led playfield, and even though it played well, you could feel the uneven spots and the missing coating when you slid your hand along. After I was close to getting my third pinball machine, Terminator 2, I decided that now was the right time to start restoring The Machine. Actually I looked away from instal-ling the spare playfield since it would be a big pack of work, first restoring the thing including mylar removal, then coping with the yellow tone it got over the years, and last but not least disassembling the whole machine and reassem-bling it on the spare playfield. But in the end, I couldn't avoid doing all of this because no matter what I tried, the wear and the crowfeet that were all over the installed playfield were so damn deep in the paint that sanding or wiping it down would have resulted in a lot of paint going with it. Thus, I decided to do it the hard but effective way, and I started using my school's art class knowledge to touch up the wear spots with acrylic paint and a few hours of close looks and steady hands. After this, I did the critical job which was removing the mylar. It was so bad that you could see the scratches on it without looking too close. I re-moved it with the traditional heating method by using a hair dryer to make the mylar and the glue under it soft enough to pull it apart. I spent two hours almost burning my fingers because I wanted to be extra safe since I had seen the damage that was done to the installed playfield by mylar removal, and I wanted tremoving the mylaro prevent this from happening to the spare playfield. In the end it worked and I had a still almost perfectly sealed playfield without mylar, but with a lot of glue on it. Rubbing the glue down involved lighter fluid, isopropanol (pure synthetic alcohol from the pharmacy) and a dish towel. I had to experiment a lot to find out that lighter fluid on a 3 cm spot plus intensive rubbing with the towel gave me the result I wanted. However, the glue was not entirely removed, but just dissolved and rubbed beside, which meant I had a lot of traces on the play-field after the process and those had to be removed using isopropanol and yet another towel. My fingers hurt even more after this and it took me two nights to complete. However, after this was finally done, the result looked very cool - 99% of the coat under the mylar was still on the playfield and looked like new. Now it was time to do the final touch-ups of the few spots where paint had come off, put new lacquer onto the retouched areas so the acrylic paint would be safe from contact, and apply three coats of carnauba wax (normal car wax) on the whole playfield. Polishing the wax after the final layer made the playfield look all shiny and sexy, and it felt like a woman deserves it!

stripping down the playfieldsawing out the head

Elias screwing off the bumper coilsSo, next up was installing the retouched playfield into the cabinet, but first the old one had to get out. I got a little help from my friend Elias, but I had to find the right tools for all the inch screws and buy them, which took me a day or two (Europe isn't all that inch-friendly). Stripping the playfield from the visible top components plus all the metal holders was easy and took only a few hours. I actually had to use a saw to get the head out because one of the four holding screws was totally unable to move and the small part of wood had to be sawed out so I could attack the screw outside of the playfield.
I was amazed at how easily the complicated bottom side went down. In less than 24 hours we had stripped the top and bottom down, I had a lot of wires, lamps and coils lying in the cabinet, and I could install the new playfield with ease. The only thing I had to figure out first was the circuitry for the bumper lamps which is hard-wired on the bottom of the playfield and can't be taken off, so I remade it by soldering (first time in my life that I seriously soldered) a few wires in the same way like it was done with the thick flat wires on the old playfield. Before installing the new playfield, I took some time to clean up all the plastic and metal parts, especially the ramps since those were extremely dirty. If you look at the following comparison shots, you will see what isopropanol did to the dirt. Thank humanity for inventing this liquid; it's an all-in-one wonder. Note: I have recently read that cleaning ramps with alcohol is not widely recommended since it's said to cause tears in the plastic. Quite a number of people recommend stove cleaning spray for ramps.

the Shuttle Ramp in original conditionthe Shuttle Ramp after cleaning!

Reinstalling all the coils, lamps, circuit boards and sorting out the cabling was easier than the stripping part. I only had to follow a few photos I took with my new digital camera and especially the numbers and letters I had written on each lamp socket, plug and coil to know what goes where. Especially when you unplug the ramps, microswitches and flashers from the top of the playfield, you should mark the two connecting plugs with the same number or letter to know they fit together.

the parts from the top of the playfieldthe new playfield, installed and shiny

All in all the stripping and reassembling took me four days, faster than I thought, plus I learned quite a bit. I mean, not every pinball collector has gone the hard way and tried to exchange a playfield with all of this work, so it's an experience that will help me with future projects.

What My Machine is Today

the disassembled head cubeWhen I turned The Machine on the night of Halloween after tightening the last screw, I was surprised and joyful that it booted up without hesitation. A few contacts had to be readjusted, but the one thing that had me looking and guessing for 30 minutes was one tiny wire which had gone off the soldering point of a bumper coil. This wire, since it was part of a larger circuitry, dis-abled two bumpers, the head's eye poppers and the slingshots! Remember the moral from the top of this page? Same goes here; if it's part of a circuitry, you have to make sure that every point in that circuitry is correctly installed or it will lame quite a number of parts.
The next afternoon I came home and played the first game after two weeks. The last fourteen days were rather spent with the new T2 machine while I was still touching up the spare playfield, and I didn't want to play The Machine anymore since I knew I was about to install the other playfield anyway. Now that I got used to the new slick feeling of T2, I really had to find my way back into the groove of The Machine. However, even though it was difficult to feel the difference between old and new after two weeks, I knew that the ball was much faster, reacted a lot more precisely, bumped a lot more from the posts and slingshots, and it was a very cool feeling to play on a fully restored playfield that looked far from what the old playfield was like! This was by far the most satisfying restoration process I went through, not just because the playfield looks great, but also because all the plastics and metal parts were cleaned and The Machine screams at you with the light effects through the transparent plastics. Before this, so many plastic parts (especially the ramps) had completely brown dust traces all over the back, and the difference now is so great that photos cannot fully show it. Still, I hope they give you an impression of the advantage this restoration can bring you. It greatly enhances gameplay and breathes new life into a game that you played a thousand times already.

On top of that, my model of The Machine definitely has some advantages I am very happy about. First of all, the cabinet is close to perfect with only a scratch on the Bride's body on the right side. The colours aren't washed out like they are on countless models and even the backbox almost looks like new. Then, things like mechanics and electronics had no problems from day one and never created any. The displays are extremely bright and sharp, the backglass has some more gloss and colour depth than what I have seen on some other models, and with the restored playfield it's still not perfect (especially since this playfield will not always look freshly restored; it has already begun to degrade), but it's close to that and if I get an NOS or mint condition playfield one day, I'll happily put down money to spend my Bride the final upgrade.

ball view of the freshly installed playfieldcabinet detail on the right side: a little scratch is the only flaw

Strategies

There are not so many strategies you can develop since a lot of the ball action is random. My way to success, if it can be called a stra-tegy, is shooting left and right loops alternately to pump up their values in time without having to wait for the ball to return to the correct flipper. I especially like to shoot the left loop (very easy to aim at) followed by a Heart Ramp shot from the left flipper (yes, I can do this a lot easier than shooting the ramp from the right flipper) and repeating this sequence. I also like to shoot the balls into the bumpers instantly after they are released from the lock in multiball. The advantage of this is that you gain time and hopefully only one of the two balls will come out of the bumpers, go down to the right flipper, and be shot up the Shuttle Ramp, followed in time by the second ball. This seems to work best for me; however, I have lost so many balls in such a short time when multiball started that I cannot really recommend any strategy other than to "feel" where you shoot at and giving the table a gentle shake here and there. Shaking it slightly from left to right and back also helps me prevent a center drain when the ball doesn't make it up the Heart Ramp and comes back down. If you don't shake at this point, the ball will be lost - guaranteed.
Keefer has made a nice guide to the game's rules and strategies that are similar to mine. You can find his guide here.

Flawless?

Why did I call this page "Absolutely Flawless"? Because I saw the George Michael music video on MTV only a few nights after I had The Machine in my room. While I'm not a George Michael fan, I like some of the stuff he makes and this song grabbed my attention because of the robotic "ab-so-lu-tely flaw-less" voice sample in the background that sounded so old-school, just so much like The Machine's look and feel, that she as a robotic woman fit to it so much (I do know that this voice sample and the groove were taken from The Ones' song "Flawless"). The song stuck in my head from then like so many songs that I connect with the weirdest things for simple reasons. Now even the title of the song fits to my personal feeling towards my Machine - now that she is restored, she's flawless. She will always be my favourite, the best pinball game I have in my collection, and she will never leave me because I have too much of a memory in me from the past that connects me with her. So, flawless, huh? Maybe not to everyone, but to me, a true Machine fan.

Now call me whatever you will, as long as you stay on my site! ;-)

this is The Machine's current locationthe playfield looks awesome when lit

Media

Stephanie Rogers is undoubtedly The Machine's voice. Nowadays she is a great rock and pop singer and songwriter and has a ton of acting experience on her back where this little voice job for Williams must have been in her early days.
I have a more or less regular e-mail contact with Stephanie, and I met her in person in July 2005. It all began with an e-mail I wrote to her in 2004 when I had heard that she was responsible for The Machine's voice, but her website does not list this job since it gives you only a brief excerpt of all acting jobs she has done. In the mail I told her that quite a few fans of the pinball game would like to know what she thinks of it and what she felt like when she recorded the lines for the Bride. Sadly, she never replied - until April 2005 when I suddenly found a mail in my inbox from Stephanie. It said that she had read the old version of this article and liked my site, and that she had in fact replied to my e-mail from 2004, but it seemed that it got lost. So she summed up in this new mail what it was like to record The Machine's voice - check it out, you'll be surprised!

"Recording Bride of Pinbot was very low-fi (as were all pinball recordings at the time). I think the year was 1992 [it was 1990 - Max] and it was me and my boyfriend in my parents' living room with a portable DAT machine. (No special mics or sound filtering devices.) We did about two or three takes of each section and it went very quickly. I'm pretty sure I made about 50 bucks from it, though it may have been slightly more. Fifty is what I usually got from Williams for these things, which, at the time, seemed sufficient, especially since these recordings were done "off the record."
The character had to be sexy and we did work on that a little bit. Rich Karstens (my boyfriend at the time) gave me some direction and I added some of my own ideas. I remember I had to speak loudly, for recording purposes, which was a little bit of a challenge (sexy *and* loud?). We had many laughs while recording it, getting the character just right. Then we did the clips. It was quite fun, lively, silly and rather quick. I did not know it would become so popular; I had done many of these and no one ever asked my name or cared... until I became a man-slaying sexpot!"


Great, huh? ;-) Thanks a lot, Stephanie!

After we engaged into a more regular contact via e-mail, I met her in Frankfurt in July, and I wrote an article about this meeting.

Stephanie Rogers' website is www.hipchick.com, her personal recording label. She is an independent artist whose albums you can only purchase locally or on the Internet in a special CD shop. I highly recommend listening to some MP3 samples on the site since the music is freaking great and if you like The Machine, it's a must anyway!

I also created a nice clean wallpaper out of a few photos and a flyer scan. Flyers and photos can be found at the Internet Pinball Data-base. Using info from there, I was also inspired to make a custom pricing card for the game that shows general information about The Machine instead of the useless pricings. You can print this card (at 200 dpi) and cut it out to put it into the card holder. It's not the best, but I'd still have to do better than that!

check out my wallpaper!my price card for The Machine

Back in the days when I was still using the old playfield, I recorded two video clips with a cheap digital photo camera and my PC's high-quality microphone. The result is not pretty, but the tripod we created for the camera to film from this spot was awesome. I might use my new digital camera later to record short clips of a few key scenes, but for now I have uploaded one of the two game recordings for you to enjoy. You need DivX 5 to watch this.

And finally, if you want to hear the great audio side of things, you gotta listen to this mix that fan Marcel Gonzalez (e-mail) created from the game itself, obviously using a direct link to the sound ROM and mixing some sound effects and voice samples into the songs.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

 
 
© 2005 Maximilian Schulz - Williams, Bally, Gottlieb and all other names, all pinball games and software mentioned on this site are trademarks of their respective owners.