Bally Revenge from Mars Pinball

Repairs, Restorations, Tweaks and Insights


Original 3/3/2015

Bally's Revenge from Mars is an amazing machine!

Revenge from Mars was the first Pinball 2000 game released. Pinball 2000 was Bally/Williams attempt to reinvent pinball. Key aspects of Pinball 2000 are listed below.

Revenge from Mars, along with Star Wars Episode 1, are the only two Pinball 2000 machines created.

In addition to the benefits of Pinball 2000, the Revenge from Mars game has many great qualities

When discussing pinball machines, people often bring up "Toys". These are the unique aspects of the game which interact with the pinball. Revenge from Mars as the ultimate "Toy", which is a monitor projecting video which is interactive with the pinball onto the playfield.

Backbox Light Stopped Working

Original 8/28/2016

The backbox light on my Revenge from Mars started acting up. When the game was powered on, the backbox would flicker for a few seconds and eventually work correctly. However, recently it stopped working all together.

The backbox light in Pinball 2000 games is a 15" fluorescent bulb. As such, there are 3 typical problems: (1) the starter, (2) the ballast and (3) the bulb itself. The started is by far the cheapest part, so I decided to start there. I picked up a new FS2 starter for about a dollar. I didn't know exactly where the starter plugged into the light, but quickly found it when looking at the light from the back. A picture is shown below. The starter is in the upper left. The monitor is shown to help locate the starter.

I replace the started, the light worked immediately and didn't flicker when powered on. Simple fix! The working fluorescent light is shown below.

Video Amplifier Installation

Original 3/4/2015 Update 3/7/2015

When looking into Pinball 2000 machines, the topic of performing Ultimarc's "Video Amp" modification comes up frequently. Many people swear it makes a huge difference. I was skeptical when reading how the amplifier improved the image. I wondered whether these people had old monitors that needed a "Cap Kit". A "Cap Kit" means replacing all the capacitors on the monitor's PCB. This is a very common operation for older arcade games. Also I wondered if these people simply had their monitor adjusted poorly. However, since the Revenge from Mars I acquired came with an uninstalled video amp and installing the video amplifier seemed easier than doing a cap kit, I decided to give it a try.

Ultimarc's video amplifier is a small device with a VGA input on one side and 6 wire outputs on the other. Pinball 2000 games, such as Revenge from Mars, have a VGA output connector and output a 640x240 signal that is compatible with the video amplifier. The output voltage for the individual red, green and blue colors is 0.7V (TBD, might be 1.5). The video amplifier takes these levels and amplifies them up more common monitor specifications.

Installation is conceptually simple. Use a "VGA" cable from the Pinball 2000's video output to the video amplifier input. Create and use a custom cable from the video amplifier output connectors to the monitor's input. Mount everything nice and tidy and, in theory, you are done. In practice it may be more complicated because the video amplifier requires 5V to power the board and some Pinball 2000 machines, such as mine, don't provide this power over the VGA cable (pin 9). In this case an addition step is required, which is to run a 5V wire to the video amplifier.

More specifically, the required steps are as follows

Additional details and pictures follow.

The power supply within the Pinball 2000 case has several power connectors. These are the same types of power connectors that exist in a regular PC case. To access 5V for the video amp I decided to use one of the larger 4 pin power connectors. These are the ones that often connect to hard drives. I had a spare 4-pin connector to SATA power converter, so I cut off the SATA end and spliced on a longer cable. The 4-pin connector with the single 5V wire is show below.

Revenge from mars 5V modification for video amp (connector)

I removed one of the case card slot covers to make it easy to run the 5V wire outside of the case. I figured that some additional venting in a home environment will cause no harm. I was originally going to run the 5V wire through the empty connector hole just above the VGA output, but decided against this since I wanted to be able to easily remove the cable and the 4-pin connector wouldn't fit through this opening. I noticed that the edges of the card slot were a little sharp, so I covered them with electrical tape to remove any chance of scraping off insulation from the 5V cable over time. This is shown below.

Revenge from mars 5V modification for video amp (case)

I mentioned earlier that the video amp expects 5v on pin 9 of the VGA connector in order to power the op-amp chip. Since I didn't have power on pin 9 of the VGA cable I needed to solder the 5v cable I ran onto the video amp. This is my least favorite aspect of the video amp installation. I like to ensure that everything is connected with "connectors" and nothing is permanent, but there was little choice here. I did briefly toy around with modifying the VGA connector inside the Pinball 2000 case to supply 5v on pin 9 but decided it was best to solder on the $20 video amp rather than a difficult and expensive to replace Pinball 2000 board. The 5v cable soldered onto the video amp is shown below.

Revenge from mars 5V modification for video amp (solder)

I built the custom monitor cable and wired it into the video amp. My Revenge from Mars has a Wells-Gardner 19K7302 monitor which uses a 10 pin input connector. In my pinball supplies I only had an 11-pin connector housing, so I used that. I installed a "plug" in the extra connector to ensure it wasn't installed wrong. Note that I only had single colored wire when I built this cable but I would highly recommend using multiple colors for clarity. For example, blue wire for the blue input.

One item of interest is that the video amp converts the separate horizontal and vertical sync signals into a single composite sync. This is supported by the Well-Gardner monitor but not by all monitors. There is a way to perform yet another modification to the video amplifier and use HV sync, but when I performed this modification I had garbage displayed on the monitor. I decided to stick with the composite output.

Here is how to wiring the video amplifier to the Wells-Gardner monitor:

Some information on the web suggests connecting SYNC to both H/S and V/S. While I initially did this and it doesn't appear to cause any harm, I believe it's unnecessary and may even be wrong. The Wells-Gardner 19K7302 support composites sync though the H/S (aka C-sync) input. It's also worth noting that, per the schematic, both H/S inputs are tied together and both V/S inputs are tied together within the monitor PCB. This is why either H/S input can be used for the video amplifier (composite) SYNC output.

The video amp with the wired monitor cable is shown below followed by a picture of the mounted amp inside the cabinet.

Revenge from mars modification for video amp (wiring)

Revenge from mars modification for video amp (mounting)

And finally, the custom monitor cable is connected to the Wells-Gardner input. This helps show which Wells-Gardner inputs are used by the cable.

Revenge from mars modification for video amp (connector)

I was skeptical when I started this effort, but the results are a significant improvement. While the brightest white hasn't gotten any brighter, the video amplifier has brightened up all the images. I still do not know whether performing a cap kit would have achieved similar results. That's something for another day.

A couple of pictures showing the improvement are shown below. Prior to installation of the video amp, the cow and the pig were transparent. Prior to installation, the Martians in the bar were much more difficult to see.

Revenge from mars Farm

Revenge from mars bar

Notes Regarding Ultimarc Video Amplifier

Original 3/7/2015

The Ultimarc Video Amplifier is a small PCB built around Maxim Integrated's MAX4386E op-amp. Maxim Integrated states this chip is the "Industry's First Video Amp with Integrated ±15kV ESD Protection". The Ultimarc board is basically the MAX4386E chip with a few resistors, capacitors, a female VGA input and screw down output connectors. It is picture below.

Like other op-amps, resistors are needed to configure the gain (amplification). The ratio of the feedback resistor (Rf) and the negative input's ground resistor (Rg) defines the gain. Ultimarc's video amp uses Rf = 220 Ohm and Rg = 1000 Ohm, resulting in a gain of 1 + (220/1000) = 2.2.

I have one gripe concerning the Ultimarc video amplifier. It is that the PCB below the VGA connector extends a bit too far and can block some VGA cables.

Original Revenge from Mars VGA Cable Wiring

Original 3/8/2015

When looking into how to wire the video amplifier, I recorded how the Revenge from Mars VGA cable was wired to the Wells-Gardner 19K7302 monitor. The mapping is shown below.

There is some strangeness going on with this wiring. VGA pins 10 and 11 go to Wells-Gardner pin 7 (T). However Wells-Gardner pin 7 (T) is not connected to anything per the schematic.

Pinball 2000 Driver Board

Original 3/12/2015

The Pinball 2000 driver board provides the hardware functionality to run the various lamps and solenoids on the Revenge from Mars pinball machine. In previous generations of pinball, the driver board was in the backbox behind the translite. For Pinball 2000, it was decided to relocate the driver board to underneath the playfield in the cabinet. Because metal parts, such as screws or similar, tend to fall down from the playfield over time, the Pinball 2000 driver board is covered by a plastic lid. This is shown below.

When I first opened the lid to view the driver board for my Revenge from Mars, I was quite surprised at how much dust was on top of the driver board. While driver boards in previous generations of pinball machines would get dirty, it wasn't common for them to have a layer of dust. This was, perhaps, because they were mounted vertically in the backbox. For Pinball 2000, being mounted horizontally probably contributes of dust accumulation. The picture below attempts to show the dusty Pinball 2000 driver board.

I used compressed air to do an initial cleaning of the Pinball 2000 driver board. While I was cleaning the driver board, I wondered how all the dust arrived in the first place. I then noticed that the lid obscures several air vents. These certainly provided an intake for some dust. The compressed air cleaned Pinball 2000 driver board, as well as the ventilation holes, are shown below.

The CPU in Revenge from Mar's head, just above the monitor, connects to the driver board using a simple parallel cable.

The Pinball 2000 driver board is elegant in that it has an LED for each fuse. This makes it trivial to determine whether a fuse has blown. Prior to Pinball 2000, a technician often needed to pull individual fuses to test their operational status. The fuses and LEDs are pictured below.

Up/Down Ramp Improvement

Original 3/13/2015 Updated 5/7/2020

The Up/Down ramp, located at the upper half of the playfield, worked well most of the time but occasionally stayed in the up position more than expected. This is the ramp that pops up, allowing the ball to fly into the air, ending many of the modes.

I suspected that the solenoid liner needed to be cleaned so I started looking closely at the up/down mechanism. I realized that the down movement is performed purely by gravity. Perhaps because of the age of the hinge, there was enough friction to prevent the mechanism from lowering 100% of the time. Because of this, in addition to cleaning the liner, I decided to install a spring from an unused flipper rebuild kit to assist in pushing the piston down.

The up/down mechanism without the spring is pictured below.

The solenoid is mounted inside the up/down mechanism and requires removing a few parts in order to gain access. First, there are 4 screws that hold the steel flap mechanism in place. When these 4 screws are removed, the flap mechanism easily pulls out from the top side of the playfield. The picture below shows the 4 screws removed.

The picture below shows what the flap mechanism looks like when removed from the top of the playfield.

Removing the flap mechanism allows easy access to the 2 screws that connect the piston to the ramp piece that pushes against the steel flap. This must be disconnected, as well as the two addition screws mentioned below, to allow the piston to come out of the solenoid and holder. With the piston removed, the nylon liner can be cleaned and the spring can be installed. The 2 screws are removed in the image below.

There are 2 more screws on the backside of the solenoid mounting mechanism. The picture below shows these screws removed.

Now the piston can be removed from the solenoid (as well as the liner). The liner wasn't very dirty. I installed a spring on the piston. It fit very well and looks like it could have been an original part of the design. A picture of everything put back together is shown below.

With this modification, I was able to run the up/down flap solenoid diagnostic many times and it would pop up and down every time.

Highly Recommended Game Adjustments

Original 3/5/2015

I liked Revenge from Mars a lot, but I like it 10x more after making the following game adjustments.

These allow the ball to zip around the orbits in many situations, giving Revenge from Mars more flow. As the martin in the "Mars Kneads Women" says, "I like it, I really like it!"

These settings change the game's behavior, to the best of my knowledge, as follows

Version 1.6 Upgrade

Original 3/4/2015

My Revenge from Mars had software version 1.4. From reading the release notes, this version seems quite acceptable. Only small improvements come in later releases. Regardless of the rational, I wanted to upgrade my Revenge from Mars to the latest software, which is 1.6.

Revenge from Mars (Pinball 2000) includes an advanced software upgrade system... At least for 1999 when the game came out! No longer did an operator need to "burn" several EEPROMs and pull chips. One could update the game using a PC and null-modem serial cable (among other methods). Back in 1999 this upgrade would be quite simple. Today, however, it's more complex because of the legacy hardware and software requirements.

My first attempt to upgrade involved using a Window XP virtual machine running on a Macintosh. Since I already had an old XP virtual machine, this seemed like a good starting point. This approach did not work, however, because I found out that the Pinball 2000 upgrade software is written to only support built in serial ports and I was using a USB to serial adapter. As a second approach, I used an older PC (still running Windows XP) that I have inside a MAME cabinet. The software installed and I was able to quickly connect to the Revenge from Mars game.

The upgrade took about 9 minutes. A few pictures from the process are shown below. The first shows the original 1.4 software, followed by the upgrade progress bar, followed by a validation stage and ultimately a success screen. The last picture shows the system information screen showing software version 1.6.

CPU Fan Replacement

Original 3/7/2015

Pinball 2000 uses a standard CPU fan. The fan on my Revenge from Mars was 55mm x 15mm. It mounted to the CPU's heatsink using 4 screws. While the original fan was spinning and appeared to be cooling fine, it was making some whining noises. I decided to replace it. The original CPU fan is pictured below.

I was lucky to find a suitable replacement at a local Micocenter store. It was Evercool's EC5015 and cost about $9. It also came with cabling that connected to the same location as the original.

TBD: Add picture of new fan.

Pictures of Gameplay Video on Playfield

Original 3/5/2015 Updated 3/7/2015

Miscellaneous Pictures...

Original 3/4/2015

7 connectors on playfeild

Playfield removed

Playfield spaceship

Revenge from Mars Cabinet

Revenge from Mars PC

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