Most of the games that I restore/fix are mid 90's Bally/Williams. It makes sense, since the games produced in the 90's were some of the best games ever made. (my opinion).
Over the time that I have been fixing games for friends, or just restoring one for myself, I have come to the conclusion that there are at least six things you should do to make those games shine.
Since LED technology was not introduced to pinball until the mid 2000-2010, the games looked horrible when LED's were installed. Of course, that didn't stop us, did it? In very layman's terms (because I am not the smartest tool in the shed), those old games send signals to whatever feature light it happened to be lighting. The nature of the incandescent bulb was such that when it was turned off, it slowly stopped glowing, thus there was a "smoothness" to the games as those lights were turned on/off. It was just the nature of the bulb.
Whelp, you put an LED bulb in that same socket, wire tells it to light (which it does) and then tells it to turn off (which the led light also does). Here is the problem: Those LED lights do not slowly dim out. They immediately turn off leaving the lighting to be choppy - not smooth.
Here is where Harold Toler comes into the picture. He engineered a board that is (In my opinion) extremely easy to use. It replicates the slow fade out of the bulb. It comes (programmed stock) so you can just use it out of the box, but he also has a pretty cool software program where you can control the behavior of any light in your game.
Staying on the LED track for a little while longer, I always put a GI OCD board in my nineties games. I'm not sure when (I'm sure that someone knows) Bally/Williams started to use GI bulbs for effect. Slowly dimming or quick bursts of light, Bally/Williams used every bullet they had in their arsenal. So, they used the GI lighting to add to the playing experience. Just like above, those GI sockets were not built for LED's, so Harold invented the GI OCD board. Same concept. Instead of the GI bulbs quickly blinking as they dimmed, the GI bulbs have a nice smooth transition.
So, that is two things so far that I get for every game. My third thing that I buy are "Cliffies". Cliff Rinear has engineered hundreds of "protectors." These are very thin pieces of metal that protect overused parts of the play fields. If you want to fix your drive in hole in Creature of the Black Lagoon, Cliffy is your man. I won't go into depth on this as I am hoping to do a 20 minute interview with Cliff for my podcast. When I first got into this hobby, I learned about Cliffy's before I learned about anything else. Cool dude too.
This is a tough one. My opinion is starting to change on this, but I would be remiss If I didn't mention Titan's pinball rings. These are silicone rings as opposed to the old rubber rings. I was of the belief (after reading quite a bit about it) that silicone was better to use because it did not leave the residue that rubber tends to leave behind as it ages. It may just be in my head, but I think that rubbers just feel better than Titan's. Titan's are cool because you can color match your play field, but even on this my mind is being changed. I think having black or white rubber makes the game look more like it looked when it original came out. I believe that Titan's do have their place in some cases, but I am going back to rubber.
Two things left. I will leave them for my next blog. I am also asking some "ghost" writers for blogging. As a matter of fact, please contact me if you have something that you think is pretty cool about pinball. We'll put it up.
I really want to encourage you (constant reader) to comment. Keep it clean, but constructive criticism is welcome.
Have fun, and remember: It's only pinball!