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  Diner
Stir the Cup!


Creator: Williams
Designer: Mark Ritchie
Year: 1990
IPDB Link: http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=681

Date of Writing: 22nd May 2005


Diner's backglass with the jackpot clock and moving customersDiner arrived on 13th April, a Wednesday and about half a month before I finished my nine-month job in civil service. I had planned for it to be the last machine I would buy in a long time because of my changed life, my partner being in Japan and all, and that I wasn't as attracted to pinball as I used to be. Why did I decide to buy Diner? I had gone through a little trouble with the last pinball machine, Xenon, and after months of trying to activate it, I gave up, seeing that my skill wasn't enough and the facts before me were different from those I was given when I bought the machine. So I decided that I needed a very refreshing change, a goodbye to the wish of owning an old classic game since I was so fed up with Xenon that I needed something with a lot more variety to actually breathe new life into my frustrated pinball hobby. Of course this was also necessary to "cure" my mental absence from pinball which had started when that particular thing happened, and although I'll probably never go back to viewing pinball as much as an obsession as I did before, I want to keep the hobby exciting and refreshing, and Diner was of interest to me ever since I had first played it in January. I had not touched it ever since, but I always looked over pictures and read info on other websites, only to find that I was now ready to simply run the risk of buying a machine which was just what I needed right now: different from the others, unique and unusual, in some way classic (it's not the newest game after all) and especially untested. Unlike many other games I want to buy someday, I refused to try out Diner on my PC or play it excessively on location if I had had the chance. I had a one-game impression of the machine and I didn't want to destroy it by getting used to rules and features by extensively playing because, as I realized when I got Black Knight 2000 as well as when I recently played Johnny Mnemonic in a café, testing a game too heavily can make it unattractive or even boring once you get your hands on it yourself. And since I had extensively tested practically every game I bought last year except for The Machine and Pin*Bot, it was a good feeling when I made the deal for Diner since I had not played it anymore and I knew, "this machine is not only very different, it's going to be like brand new, a second-look impression which will give me a lot more fun to explore the game."

The Deal

Diner in placeAs the Internet Pinball Database points out, there were approximately 3552 Diner machines built by Williams, which is a very low number considering that these games were shipped all over the world. Thankfully Germany is a pinball-heavy country (not commercially nowadays, but regarding pinball game amount) which makes for all kinds of profits over the USA, and this helped me find my Diner machine with relative ease, but as usual when I look for a machine, I tend to get a little impatient and take the closest possibility. This means that I was watching a Diner on eBay which had just come in when I started the search and I kept my eye keenly on it, being relatively sure that my Xenon would sell high enough on eBay too so I could put the profit together with some money I already had to afford Diner. Unfortunately it turned out the other way; Xenon did not sell as high as I expected and Diner went up to more than 600 (!) Euros, which is almost ridiculous for a 1990 machine here in Germany, especially since its condition was anything but perfect. Only after this auction was over, I decided to call my search out in the Pinball Network forum and promptly got two offers, both priced at 500 and both machines having strengths and weaknesses in different areas which outweighed each other. Seeing that, I chose the better deal for me based on location, and the man who lived relatively close to Berlin even offered to drive the machine here free of charge! Now that is what I call an offer. I immediately said yes and we had a deal.
When the machine was brought here one and a half weeks later, it was a good day for me anyway and so I was very excited and interested in seeing what was behind the offer. Optically the machine was better than the other I had been offered, however it needed cleaning and lamp insert manipulation. Nothing was broken except for the center drop target bank plastic which is very common, but he brought a reproduction plastic with him which I installed later (and which looks identical to the original). Turning the machine on showed that a few switches were misadjusted (although I had to figure this out later) and that the GI was not working like it should. When we discovered that the GI power connector in the backbox was burnt and needed to be replaced, he reconsidered the situation - there were also scratches on the backglass translite, a missing tilt pendulum, the left side of the backbox had artwork missing for a mysterious reason and the upper display looked worse than I had expected. Seeing all that, he dropped the price to 450 including the shipping of a replacement GI connector and tilt pendulum, which arrived a few weeks later. All in all, it was probably one of the best and undoubtedly the most accommodating deal I ever made.

Theme & Design


the dirty playfield on the first dayYou might have seen them in Hollywood movies that deal with the past, you might have been in a modern day version of them, or possibly you could have lived in their glory time, the 1950s and 60s, and experienced them yourself: the fast food restaurants called diners, very popular in the USA in said time, which did a lot more than only serve burgers and fries like today's fast food giants do: when you look at the pinball game, you can see references to chili, soups, pies, ice cream, coffee, hot dogs and doughnuts all over the place. Even though I am not from America and certainly not from the 50s, what I have seen of American diners is very well captured in the game. I admit that this theme was the main reason why I avoided Diner strictly after I had seen one picture of it. I simply thought, my god, how can a pinball machine look this ugly! Red and white squares everywhere on the playfield and cabinet, comic characters, a lot of different colours and a playfield with many gimmicks and toys all distracted me. However, a pinball machine is only truly beautiful and impressive when you meet it in reality. You can see tons of photos in all detail and it will still be an illusion. Some machines look a lot more exciting on photos than in reality, but for a few it's the other way around. I have experienced it with my brand new Star Trek: The Next Generation, which looks double as impressive when you stand close to it instead of looking at photos, and I assume it was the same when I saw Diner back in January when I visited Hobbykoch - I saw the game and I knew I had to try it because there was an alluring ambience to it. And while my first and only game at that time left me with a mixed aftertaste, it convinced me that this machine had very solid gameplay and it was different in reality where you could see so much more than only colours.
Today I love the theme. The first time I started appreciating Diner's art was when I took a closer look at the cabinet: there was this black scheme of a slim waitress holding coffee and a tablet full of delicious food printed on a big yellow square with black and white checkers in the center, followed by the black Diner font under it, and all of this lined by red and white tiles around the whole cabinet with the menu lineup in the center. This looked appetizing in the sense of the word and it had captured the elegant 50s style perfectly. I still think the most attractive part of Diner's artwork is on the cabinet. However, the playfield offers a lot to discover as well. A major change from the prototype playfield is that most of the tiles which used to be white are now black, making the playfield look a little less "kitchen"-like and giving it a darker tone. Once you get used to the complete tiling in the background, which does add atmosphere, you see that Diner features a lot of tiny details on the playfield which I have so far only seen on The Machine and comparable "unusual design" games. It seems that Mark Ritchie designed his playfields very differently than Steve and some other major designers did, going a non-standard route with Diner and including a lot of lamp inserts in the artwork itself, with only a few arrows and circles which have printed font on them. the waitress, 50s styleThe best example is the food in front of the drop targets which lights up as required when one of the customers orders his combination. Along with this go a ton of funny and colourful spots including bubbles, coffee cups and cans, all kinds of food scattered over the playfield, coins, the comic characters who are your customers in the diner, the black shadow waitresses right over the flippers who go in style with the cabinet art, and unbelievable jokes on the plastics some of which I discovered just when I disassembled the playfield for cleaning!

Also worth noticing are the toys on the playfield which are a lot more than usually used on a machine from this time, and they all look very shiny and well crafted. The transparent coffee cup in the far center of the playfield has a gameplay function I will describe in a minute, but there is also the jukebox on the upper right edge which displays the skill shot value as well as the cash register on top of the left ramp that is completely made of metal and lights up the value of the next ramp shot. Also, the ramps have a lot of plastic parts under and over them which make them more attractive, but it means more cleaning too.

Perhaps even funnier than the visuals is Diner's audio. I had forgotten all the sound I heard on my first game and couldn't imagine the music at all. I was surprised when I heard the jazzy and funky melodies that came out of the speakers of my own Diner when the first game was played, and I didn't like it all that much. By now the music is very fitting to the rest of the audio and I think Chris Granner has done a great job with a lot of variety in all the little jingles Williams put in the game. Musically, Diner has a style you will like or not, but there are a lot of small clips to make the music very interactive with the gameplay so that is doesn't become boring.
Sound effects are simply hilarious. Your customers are one thing, and they can be annoying when they start repeatedly calling on you to hurry up with their order, but because every customer has an accent and style of speaking, it is funny to recognize the irony. Also, the electronic effects the devices produce make me smile a lot of times, like the spinner which sounds like a Hammond organ at first and later turns into some kind of old style bell ringing, the bumpers which sound off three "cute" effects in different heights, or the ramps which can sound ridiculously far away from anything you might have heard on other games. It is an indescribable interplay of effects which gives me a good feeling all the time I play, and I wonder how creative a sound designer must be to come up with such effects. There are also a lot of "dings" and "cranks" to simulate sounds you would hear in a diner, like cash registers, falling spoons, grills, coins, microwave oven timer alerts and many more.

the cash register on the ramp displays the ramp's valuethe jukebox shows the skill shot value

Diner's theme is certainly different from my other machines' styles because it has anything but the dark and sci-fi mood I usually look for. Diner is the contrast and the "family" game to my other machines and it turned out to be the very right decision to buy it because the theme is still fascinating me a lot and gameplay-wise it's exciting anyway, as you will see further down.

Gameplay

the customersDiner's thumb rule is simple. Serve all five customers to light the Dine Time jackpot and score it in 30 seconds. The jackpot's value (in millions) is indi-cated by the analogue clock on the backglass which moves the minute hand to the number of millions the jackpot is currently worth. It starts at one o' clock (one million) and can be increased step by step to up to twelve million, though I never managed to get higher than six. To serve customers, you shoot the two banks of three drop targets, one for the main food and the other for the drink or accompany (like French fries). The drop targets are not timed, so you have all the time you need to complete both banks, however the customer who you are serving quickly becomes impatient if you take too long and starts taunting you to make you go faster. Because every customer resembles a country in a very clichéd accent and speech behaviour, it's fun the first few games, however you barely pay attention to it later. The customers are called Haji (Indian), Babs (British), Boris (Russian), Pepe (Mexican) and Buck (Texas American). The food they order goes along with their cliché, for example Buck orders "Texas chili and fries" while Haji wants a hot dog and a root beer. While the customers are what I most dislike about Diner's art (because I think comics and pinball don't mix well), they are an integral part of the game and as I said, it's fun to serve them. Plus, the more customers you've served by the end of a ball, the more additional points (tips!) you get in the end-of-ball bonus.

Diner has so much more to offer though. Besides the Dine Time jackpot shot (which isn't all that exciting, it's simply a timed shot to gain millions), your secondary focus should always be on the right ramp which lights the DINER letters in the center of the playfield, increasing the value of the ramp, and once all five letters are lit, the next ramp shot will open the ball diverter so that you have a few seconds to shoot the ramp again to have the ball diverted into the cup. The cup is the clearly visible transparent plastic bowl in the center of the far end of the playfield, and once the ball goes in there, the force you shot it in with determines how many points you will get for the shot: the ball starts swirling around the cup and every two revolutions score points; first 250k, then 500k, 750k, one million and if you've had enough force to the ball, you're a lucky bastard who gets 2.5 million with the next two revolutions after the first million! Then it goes up by 100k with each single revolution (if I observed correctly) which are added to the 2.5 million. The highest I ever got were 2.8 million, all with this single shot!
There's no doubt that the cup shot is the main attraction on Diner just like the cannons are the big hit on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the spinning head on The Machine, or the ball accelerator on The Getaway. Even if it's a little dependent on luck how many points you get, usually it's no less than one million and the game rewards you with a very nice "jazz orchestra" jingle if you manage this, however it really starts appreciating your skills when you hit the 2.5 million. Again, audio is what makes Diner the most fun at this point. And to make it easier in the beginning, the cup shot can be lit with the very first right ramp shot you make when you started a new game, and this won't stop until you've had the ball in the cup once - only after this you will have to relight the DINER letters yourself before you can "stir the cup" again.

the cup, the crossing ramps and bumpersApart from these two main targets, Diner has very satisfying jet bumpers in the upper center which see much more action than on any other machine I owned. The bumpers are loud and thumpy, they really pack a punch mecha-nically and have three nice sound effects to go with every hit. The ball can go in any direction from the bumpers since they are open to all sides, and this makes ball movement totally random in there. Behind the bumpers there are three lanes labeled E-A-T and boy were those dirty when I received my machine! They were almost completely black and you could barely see the light shining through the inserts. These lanes increase the bonus multiplier when completed. Since they are mostly obscured from view by the bumpers, Williams included a copy of the E-A-T lights above the cup in the backboard of the playfield. These light up along with the lights under the lanes and you get maximum control of the process. The problem on my Diner is that these lights don't work because one of the connector pins on the light board has broken away and I cannot find a way to get it out to repair it without having the lift the whole playfield out of the cabinet, which is a problem that I will describe further down. So far, I'm forced to lean forward a bit to see all the E-A-T lights under the lanes, but I got used to it, so I don't really need the lights on the backboard.
To cut the rest of the features short, Diner also has a single standup target for the Grill Bonus and extra ball, two saucers on the upper left edge of the playfield, a left ramp which is made of metal and can open to reveil a ball lock, lane change on the inlanes for Dine Time jackpot advancing and on the outlanes for extra ball lights, the Today's Special sinkhole next to the right ramp which spills out a random prize (that's often an extra ball in the beginning of a game), a spinner lane right of the bumpers with increasing points for the spinner, and finally it should be noticed that the two ramps cross each other on top of the bumpers! If you shoot the right ramp and there's too little force to the ball, it might stop on the intersection and fall down on the wireform coming from the left ramp, but most of the time the ball jumps over it and comes down normally on the left side. It is cool nonetheless and hasn't been done on many other machines.

Diner has a skill shot which is similar to that of Terminator 2, but here you shoot with a usual plunger instead of the automatic gun you have on T2 and this makes it a little more difficult to time the shot. On the jukebox on the right side of the backboard, five lamps are flashing in order and show you which value the saucer has where the ball lands after you shot it. While T2 offered only a yes or no to the skill shot, Diner rewards you with whatever you can get, be it 150k for the #1 shot or 25k only for the #5 hit. Each shot will sound off a different musical jingle (again audio is important) and if you get the 150k, a female voice (possibly a waitress) sings "number one!" in a sweet tone followed by a short jingle. It's always nice to hear, but it will take some time to play which you might find a little annoying after you got it a few times.

There is a multiball in Diner which doesn't seem particularly exciting (compared to the cup shot and Dine Time), but it has more to offer than you might initially think. When lock is lit, the left ramp opens for a lock shot which captures the ball, drops the ramp again for nor-mal play and releases a second ball to the plunger. Now you can make the skill shot again with multiplication like on The Machine and the ball must be shot into the spinner lane to release the first ball from the lock which starts multiball. With two balls only it's not the biggest challenge, but you will discover that one or both balls quickly drain if you don't keep an eye on them. Now, what can you do in multiball? There is no certain target to aim for except starting Beat the Rush by shooting the spinner lane and hitting the saucer behind it. "Here comes the rush!" announces the truly exciting part of the multiball and all five customers start calling you to hurry up at the same time, giving you only a few seconds to hit the Today's Special sinkhole which is now lit to "beat the rush". After this nothing seems to happen (except for a "b-b-b-b-baby!" Elvis-like voice sample), but the two yellow arrows above the flippers start flashing now and indicate that both ramps are worth 500k per shot! This goes on until multiball is ended by draining, which means you can make big points by shooting ramps over and over again!

A few little in-betweeners you can make are:

- lighting extra ball by repeatedly shooting the left ramp five times and then redeeming it by hitting the Grill Bonus target
- increasing the Dine Time jackpot by changing inlane lamps when lt, by an award from Today's Special, or by the left ramp
- receiving an award from Today's Special including Dine Time jackpot advancing, extra ball, points, multiball start or serving a customer
- serving a customer by shooting any ramp when it's lit for "Food", after you started shooting the drop targets
- receiving Grill Bonus by shooting the Grill Bonus target after you completed a drop target bank; this will increase the Grill Bonus value

I think that Diner's gameplay is made very exciting by the three "big shots" which are Dine Time, Stir the Cup and Beat the Rush. Plus, the ball flow is very nice. Diner plays more fluently and friendly than a few other tables from the System 11 generation and although Diner is an outlane b*tch just like The Machine, extra balls are easy to get to extend a game and make highscores quite easily. Still, while it does not challenge me all that much with the scores, the gameplay is kept exciting and addictive by the three shots I mentioned and by the feeling you get when the ball whirls around the ramps and jumps around in the bumpers.

Strategies

In order to make a highscore, Diner practically requires you to light Dine Time and increase it as highly as possible before you do this. Remember you could get up to twelve million points with one shot! Also, if you can find the time to keep shooting the right ramp to get as many cup shots as possible, these can shell out big points too since you normally get one million with ease, and sometimes hit the 2.5 million mark as well. And finally the 500k ramps in Beat The Rush are worth trying, although these are most difficult with only one ball drain to end it. If you can get the Grill Bonus up to its highest value, this means another 1.5 million for you. I've had it often enough without even noticing I had increased it so much, so some points will come gradually as you play. The bonus is easy to increase with the E-A-T lanes, but I have the feeling that bonus count is nothing to worry about on Diner because it is not much.

Cleaning & Repair

When Diner came to me, the first thing I noticed (and had seen on photos) was the missing artwork on the left side of the backbox. This was very sad because the backbox has just as beautiful artwork as the cabinet. Somebody must have used thin black paint to exactly overpaint the white bottom part of the artwork so that the burger and fries are not visible anymore. The problem wouldn't be so apparent if I had Diner in another edge of my room with the left side facing a wall, but since I didn't want to do that (the left side of the cabinet looks better than the right side >_<), it is now clearly visible that something is missing. I have heard that I could scan or photograph the right side of the backbox, edit the result so it mirrors and print it out on special paper I can attach to the backbox.
I retouched the black parts of the left cabinet side a bit after I had cleaned it and saw a few scratches, so now it looks almost like new. The front of the cabinet with the start button's description "press for service" has missing wood in a small spot, but it's nothing to become obsessed with.
The backglass itself is scratched heavily just like the translite which has some remarkable spots in the lower left and upper right areas. It's best visible when the machine is on and the backglass is lit by the GI. Unfortunately there is no way to repair this except replacement, so I live with it.

damaged art on the backboxscratches on the backglass

The technical stuff I had to solve were a few misadjusted switches (the upper saucer and the left ramp up/down switch) and the burnt GI connector. It looked truly horrible and although the left side of the playfield was still illuminated, the connector started to smell toasty after a while which meant that it should better be removed from service. Half of the pins were already out of the broken plastic housing and when I examined the rest further, it broke apart in my hands, so I now had four wires with eight pins (looped) loosely in the backbox. Since the seller wanted to send a package to me with a new connector and a fitting pin row for the board, I kept waiting for the package before touching Diner at all. I simply played it without the GI, but I was getting impatient after a while and looked over the situation again to try and solder the pins to the board. This did not work as expected, so I left it, thinking that it's much better anyway to do it the proper way. Soldering is not recommended; it works, but the biggest disadvantage is that it's a permanent fixture which will have to be dis-solved if the board has to be removed or the backbox must be disattached from the cabinet.

the burnt connector and its wiresHowever, when I finally had the new connector, it turned out that this style of plastic housing was not made for looped wires. They had to be looped though for the GI power to be distributed correctly, and since I failed with insulation displacement by hand anyway, I decided to give up the connector idea and looked for a proper way of soldering the wires securely to the board. I knew it wouldn't be the best way to solve the situation, but I was sure it would work and be of no risk to the machine.

I took out the board, desoldered all the pins for the GI connector and looked for a loose and unused wire I remembered in the Xenon cabinet (Xenon was still here at the time). I cut it off and made eight short wires out of it, then unisolated both ends of every wire and soldered them directly on the eight contact points on the board where the pins used to be. The great thing was that the wire from Xenon turned out to be a single thick copper wire instead of many small wire strands, so it fit easily on the board without too much solder to be applied, and this copper could also be bent and would hold the copper wires soldered on the boardposition so that any risk of short circuiting could be minimized. It was in fact a "soft pin" solution as a replacement for the original pins which didn't look all that good anymore and refused to hold the GI wires with solder.
After this was done, I soldered pairs of these copper wires together so that the power from one GI wire would be distributed over two contact points on the board like it was done before by looping the wires on the connector. Then I installed the board in the backbox again and soldered the four GI wired to the copper wire pairs, isolated the open parts with tape, and the GI lit up brightly in the backbox and on the playfield as if I had installed a brand new connector. To this day the fixture has not made any trouble and the tempe-rature it develops from the current is much lower than what was burning the connector before.

Still, soldering is not recommended if you can get your hands on a fitting Molex connector with crimp-style pins since these are easier to install than what I had. Marvin3m's page has all the info you need.

The other thing I still need to do is replacing the upper display. By now I don't actively search for one because Diner can be played with the installed display if you know what it's trying to tell you, and not all digits are broken. Since I'm playing Diner only as long as my Star Trek machine is non-playable and I will abandon the game for a while once STTNG does work, I will wait with display replacement until I find the best offer in the Pinball Network forum or on eBay, even if it's a used display. Replacing a 16-digit alphanumeric display like this requires some soldering because both displays sit on the same board and the original display would have to be removed first. It's pro-bably not very difficult, but it is work, costs money, and right now I'm spending it all on STTNG until it works. For now, the display on Diner shows some glyph-like signs which only happens because the gas inside has started to move out of the segments and spread between them, so the gas is now lit when it shouldn't be and some digits look weird this way. But once you've figured out that the 9 you see is actually a 4, it's still possible to read the proper score, not to mention that the bonus count shows the total score on the buttom display which works perfectly.

the upper display does troublethe DINER and customer inserts have lifted

As for the optics, my Diner's playfield was quite messy when I received it. The biggest issue were the customer and DINER lamp inserts in the center which had mostly lifted up to 1 mm under the mylar. One mystery was how the paint around the inserts could have been worn down by ball travel under the mylar! I saw other Diner machines which all had worn inserts because almost every Diner machine has these inserts come up after years of play and the ball hitting the edges of the inserts over and over will start wearing down the paint around them. However, the mylar on my Diner's playfield looks very much like factory-installed because it is a single perfectly fitting sheet that was applied just like in the factory. The only possible explanation is that it just is not factory-installed, but was purchased as a single coat from Williams and applied by an operator. It is partly visible when you look at the center and see that the mylar is slightly shifted to the right along the slingshots, so this is probably the solution to the secret. For user-installed mylar, it is still in good condition despite the machine's age, and there are no other wear spots on the playfield except for those around the lifted inserts.
To correct the lifting, I engaged my friend Patrick because he's the workout guy and always likes to test his body power. I handed him a usual nail hammer after I had experimented alone with several methods of correcting the lifting and came to the conclusion that a flat metal hammer would be the only solution. Normally you would use a wood block under it or switch to a mallet to avoid damage to the insert, however there was still mylar over the inserts which protected the paint and also softened the impact of the metal hammer. And Diner's inserts just wouldn't want to go back in any other way, they were stubborn as hell! That's why I needed help from Patrick who hammered the surface like there was no tomorrow while I heated the respective insert from the bottom with a conventional hair dryer on maximum degree. After ten minutes we had all the inserts in place, and they never came up a bit again so far (I've read that they can come back up after a while). The ball now rolls smoothly over them on the cleaned machine, but the small air bubbles under the mylar remain. I know a way to fix them, but they are small and many, and I feel I can live with them since they don't disturb the ball a lot.

the cup before cleaningNow I have to take a shot at Williams and complain about their promised ease of servicing starting with Black Knight 2000. While that machine might be easy to service, Diner which was built only a year later is not easily servicable at all. In fact it was true horror sometimes to disattach parts and clean edges in the upper playfield area, and I cut my hands open multiple times on the thin blades of the metal ramp because they are so sharp. This is not how I expect a Williams game to be built. Diner has a lot of plastic and metal parts on the playfield which makes it look impressive and loaded, but servicing these parts and the wood under... I wouldn't want to do it again for a while now that I'm finished, and I couldn't even do it all properly, so I just hope it was enough to keep the machine from becoming dirty again in short time.

What was so difficult about cleaning Diner? The worst thing is the backboard. As I said farther above, I will now describe the problem the backboard pro-vided me with. Since it cannot be disattached like a metal or plastic wall, the backboard should not include vital stuff like lamps, boards or screws which cannot be accessed from the front. Diner has multiple of these in its backboard, though. This means I could not clean the flasher on the left side, replace the missing pin of the E-A-T light board in the center, and I also didn't have a chance to disattach the jukebox to ex-change two broken lamps which are important to show the skill shot scores. To do all of this, I would have had to remove the playfield from the cabinet or at least lift it out of the pivots and move it forward. That would have meant complete disattachment of connectors and wires in the backbox, and as you know, at least four wires are now soldered to a board in the backbox and can't be disattached so easily.

the blades that connect the metal ramp with the plastic partthe cuts I got from the blades (image softened to decrease scare factor)

On top of this, the cup would have needed to be removed for a thorough cleaning of its back side. I could only partially clean the E-A-T lanes under the cup because it was simply in the way to reach every spot. No matter what I tried, the result was that most of the lane area is now clean, but some dirt remains on the track of the ball from the plunger to the saucer. This dirt will probably stick there, but the area will attract new dirt sooner than other areas which means a quicker need for recleaning. And then I still don't know how to disattach the cup without lifting the playfield out. And I'm not going to do that just because Williams requires me to. They did a far better job on The Machine where the backboard was not touched with any lamps, instead they installed those lamps in separate metal sockets in front of the backboard which could be screwed off. But Diner has disappointed me there.
Another thing I didn't understand was the huge red plastic under the left ramp. Why was it there? To look pretty? I know the ramp is transparent, but installing a large plastic with multiple levels to catch dust and dirt over time, only to make the area under the ramp look nicer, sounds chaotic to me. I had to remove the ramp anyway, so there was no real difference, but I saw how much dust was sitting on this plastic and getting it off was difficult enough. Again the cup and the backboard were in the way when I removed the plastic. I did manage it, but it wasn't easy and so one flaw affected the other. Next time, simply give your ramps a colour, Williams!

the difference between a cleaned insert and the dirt!dirt under the cup which was difficult to remove

In general, the cleaning of plastics revealed some surprises. When I took them all out, I started reading all of the text on them for the first time and discovered a few very funny and sarcastic jokes which you can see on the photos. Also, my technique of plastic polishing worked wonders on some of Diner's plastics and I highly recommend trying it on any plastics you might have to clean. Simply add a drop or two of polish (what you use to polish your playfield) or even a polish and wax combination (what I use for playfields and plastics) on the plastic and use a cotton or paper towel to rub the drops along the plastic in circles. Keep going and turn the towel to the dry side once the drops have vanished, increasing strength to distribute the polish/wax all over the plastic and into its scratches. After a minute you will see that the plastic shines again and most of the slighter scratches should be removed. As I said, it worked wonders here. It doesn't make plastics look like brand new, but some come close to it. Just be aware that you shouldn't polish the underside of a plastic (unless it's completely transparent) because it might damage the print.

the polished red plastic under the ramp, mirroring!the jokes are hilarious

I exchanged lamps and rubbers where necessary; however, almost all of the star posts could not be removed because the screws must have connected in some way with the counter nuts on the playfield underside - they cannot be moved. I broke two screws when I tried to move them, so I had no choice but to leave the old post rubbers in the E-A-T lanes. I cleaned them as best as I could, but at least one of them has started flaking and will dissolve by the time. Maybe I can get replacement screws, counter nuts and star posts someday to replace the complete assembly, but for now it should work like it is. All of this (including the backboard and cup hassle) is what I meant when I said that I didn't completely get my Diner clean, so I hope that it will be enough to last for a while.

The jukebox still lights only three of the five skill shot values because I can't change the lamps and the E-A-T lights in the backboard don't light, the rubbers in the lanes are the same as before and there is some dirt left on the way to the saucer. I also didn't exchange the flipper rubbers yet because I ran out of new ones and I like the thinner installed ones more than the thick rubbers I get when I order them, so I just cleaned and turned them so that the worn edges of the flipper tips are now on the back side. These rubbers still work, they just don't look like new.

the inserts are back in the woodmore horrible jokes

Otherwise the cleaning went very well after I had all the parts down from the playfield. The ramps had a lot of brown and yellow on them which was removed by the all-in-one magic cleaner isopropanol which also dissolved the ugly black dirt in the E-A-T lanes (as far as possible with the cup in the way), and even metal parts started to shine without tumbling them. I don't have a tumbler and I don't intend to buy one because I don't care so much for "mint" metal parts, but it's nonetheless good to see that these parts can be given some of their shine back just by cleaning them.

So observe the result!

the diverter had to be removed from the bottomcleaning the cup while it remains installedthe playfield is clean and being put togetherthe full machine after reassemblyclean drop targets and bumpersthe playfield is lit by the "new" GIdifference to other Williams games: the cutlerythe inserts are worn under the mylar

Bottom Line?

Diner is a family game. If you have a family with kids and you want a good game for your money which can be played by anyone, Diner is for you. It's challenging, it keeps you coming back, it is wonderfully designed, a fun machine to sum it up. It's not something to practise for weeks if you know your way around pinball, so it is good for beginners as well as intermediate players. The reason why Diner did not remain the last machine I bought in a while (with STTNG coming a month later!) is simply that I've had one year of intensive pinball hobby behind me and my skill level has risen to something beyond all the games I owned in these twelve months. I need a big machine, one for a pro player, that will challenge me day in and day out and not let me go till I made it. Still, I kept the word I gave myself - my fourth machine (Diner) will be my very last for a while since there is no room for a fifth game, and I am not keen on spending that much money on it anyway with all the other things I have on me now. Also, the 1000 Euro machine I always wanted is in fact in my possession now and I still didn't spend this high amount of money on it - it came rather for free with my T2 going. So it's all well now and for a while, Diner will have a good place in my heart right next to my girlfriend XD

Just watch out if you want Diner that you get one which isn't too troubled. As I said, visual maintenance on this baby is hard. Technically it is as strong as any other System 11 game and shouldn't bring up too many worries.

captured!

Update, 26th September 2005: Although Diner is a very nice game, it eventually had to leave my home because I changed my focus from System 11 to DMD games. It left together with Black Knight 2000 in exchanged for Stargate. Still, once I have moved to a location with more room, I plan on getting Diner back, maybe in an even better condition than the one I had. Diner might not be the most com-plicated and most exciting game (unlike DMD machines), but it is too sweet to give away forever.

Media


If you want to see more info and photos, go to the Internet Pinball Database.

I have recorded a short game on my Diner which does not feature multiball, but I stir the cup and serve customers. Gives a basic impression of what audio is like on Diner without spoiling too much of the game.

If you want to play an admittedly intermediate virtual conversion of Diner with Visual Pinball, get it from VPForums (registration required).

 
 
© 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.