In nearly every case, when pinball games are designed, changes have to be made to keep the cost within the agreed budget. If the bill of materials becomes too high, features or mechanisms have to be simplified or even dropped all together.
Drop targets become standup targets, custom models become off-the-shelf toys and motorised features become static ones.
But nagging away at the back of some people's minds is the question: "Wouldn't it be great if those features could be put back?" In some cases it's simply impractical. The devices removed could never be made to work properly, the software needed to drive them never existed or it was simply a bad idea in the first place which added nothing to the game.
But there are notable examples where this has been done with great success. Drop targets have been put back into Firepower, the third magnet has been refitted to Twilight Zone and Judge Dredd's Deadworld is now able to lock balls in the way it was always supposed to.
One game we've featured in these pages before is Data East's Tommy and it too has a history which includes some features not found on the production version. The prototype version featured two sets of three pop bumpers, a much larger bomber plane which dropped "bombs" on the playfield and a shaker motor.
While these first two features would involve extensive remodeling of the playfield and all three would need software to support them, there is another device fitted to prototype machines and subsequently taken out which can more easily be re-installed.
The display on Tommy can show the current player's score using a digital representation of score reels, to fit in better with the post-war era in which the story is set. To accompany those reels, the prototype games used real chimes to make the appropriate sounds when the score increased, but these were taken out as they were too costly.
Pinball player Ben Yetter has now re-fitted these chimes to his game and he agreed to share his story with Pinball News readers.
"I have owned Tommy for about 5 months now. Tommy was a pin I just had to have. My love of The Who and the Broadway play are huge. Tommy is kinda shrouded in mystery. From the original plan of Bally doing the machine to the pass off to Data East. The original machine, while fantastic looking, played like crap. That's what my sources tell me anyway."
So having got his Tommy, Ben set about reinstalling the chimes. "I have met two great people willing to share there info on their own prototype machines. The fact that the proto had 6 pops, a shaker, a chime unit & the bomb drop is just fantastic. I mean, come on, this is great stuff - expensive, but great stuff none the less. I had to have the chimes back in."
Chime units, while common on electro-mechanical machines, are not ideal for use with electronic games. So Ben used the same chimes used on the prototype, from a Data East Time Machine."I asked Lyman (Sheats) if this is what they used and he confirmed this. I sourced them from a parts supplier and away I went."
To work around the problem of the software not including code to drive the chimes, Ben decided to attach the chimes to the pop bumpers, so they would sound whenever the ball hits a bumper. "The pops must be in tip-top shape. Switches gapped right, spoons in new condition. Tommy does not have the best pop bumper design, as most of the time the ball can roll right through or just hit one pop and bounce out, but when you hit that magical shot up there, it's a glorious sound."
He made it more glorious still by making new chime bars to tune the tones to his liking. He now says he is "very pleased with the result", but says with a smile, "of course, every time I want to hit the pops now I can't."
Ben's not finished with his Tommy either. "I am also working on shaker support. I will be getting the prototype ROMs soon. I am hoping to get them in the right hands but it is not crucial to my shaker quest."
In addition, he's moved the knocker up to the backbox from the cabinet to improve the sound, and added LED lighting to boost the colours. "Only one word can be used to describe playing my Tommy; 'psychedelic'.
Would he recommend others do the same to their machines? "If you love Tommy as much as I do.....YES!!!"