(Topic ID: 232957)

Node Boards- Update- Stern tech fixes issue via email


By shacklersrevenge

5 months ago



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  • 744 posts
  • 148 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 11 days ago by russdx
  • Topic is favorited by 25 Pinsiders

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#397 4 months ago

I don't think Stern is purposefully planning obsolescence. I think the surface mount components are simply cheaper for them to deal with, and a side benefit is the games will not last forever. I have mild hope that Stern is taking good notes when dealing with customers and collecting data to make smart design choices for the inevitable Spike 3 system. Spike 3 won't be easy to repair for most, but it will hopefully have some of the discovered design flaws addressed. Stern still has some interest in making sure the games last long enough that most people will not realize that their game is broken when it's collecting dust in a man cave.

This is an industry that has been transitioning away from a business model of operators routing these things for several years, making a nice ROI on the machine, and then simply sending it off to a dump when it stops being worth the effort/money to route. Pinball machines were designed to last only so many years for decades. Didn't some Williams/Bally guys say that things like clear coating the playfields likely hurt the company long term because it was such a significant boost to the service life of the machine?

Now new Stern games are going into private collections that will see a fraction of the number of plays, be coddled like babies, and being maintained by people that can't even operate a multimeter. The only thing they care about are the obvious cosmetic issues; they don't understand inherent engineering flaws when looking at a mess of wires and PCBs and couldn't care less because they have no interest in learning how to repair them, even if they were easy to field repair.

Stern will keep doing it because there are thousands of suckers out there buying these toys for themselves and not as commercial devices which have a much higher expectation on longevity and performance. Pinball machines are bought by the wealthy who don't care about spending $600 on some node boards vs spending $200 for a repair tech to fix issues on a WPC game. The Spike system was entirely designed around selling a couple of games to consumers and not operators. The writing was on the wall when it became the standard architecture for the entire product line.

Their private equity overlords will continue to push them to increase margins by decreasing BOM while raising prices. Stern will figure out where the tipping point is eventually, but until then they will continue to push forward to sell to the consumers with the deepest pockets and cause the the least amount of headaches. Home collectors simply don't request the accountability that operators require, and operators are being left behind as a result.

#398 4 months ago
Quoted from iceman44:

I'm trying to think of an example?

Recently? Sears. Bought out with a bunch of debt, sold off all their valuable assets, driven in to the ground until sold off cheap in bankruptcy (to the guy who drove it into the ground). It was one of the great American brands and now its worthless after two decades of short term profit over long term growth. A few people made out like bandits while tens of thousands were put out of work and buildings sit unused.

And don't say Amazon killed Sears. Sears were the pioneers of remote ordering and delivery. Amazon filled the void while Sears was too busy being gutted.

#414 4 months ago
Quoted from Bublehead:

This is a very smart idea when done right. I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with node board architecture, just node board durability and circuit isolation. When a playfield short takes out a node board and every other board it is connected to, that is not a great design. If the bus truly isolates node boards, AND any coupling that might be required between two node boards to syncronize an operation is opto isolated, AND boards are adequately fused and watchdogged, the design carries more pluses than minuses for both repair, and ease and cost of manufacturing.

People are going to be really mad whenever they debut Spike 3 (or whatever they call it) which will presumably fix some of these issues; but it will not be backwards compatible, relegating Spike 1-2 to rely on the free market to provide long term solutions.

#417 4 months ago
Quoted from ForceFlow:

Maybe they would do upgrade kits? Cash grab and satisfy people who don't want to deal with spike 1/2?

That would be a nice token gesture to operators and some collectors, and create a nice secondary market of used Spike nodes for those that don't want to invest/fool-with a full upgrade.

#473 4 months ago
Quoted from iceman44:

Can we at least agree that Stern isn't STUPID? That they aren't going to say F you and your node boards. "No more support for you because we don't want to ever sell our Stern pins in the future". Its just crazy and unrealistic.

I think it's crazy to think that Stern will be held accountable for their actions. They're the only pinball manufacturer that is producing at large scale. They are the backbone of the industry. If Joe Schmo wants a pinball game, it's probably going to be a Stern because of price, theme, and (most importantly) availability. Sure pinheads are aware of Spooky, JJP, Chicago Games, etc... but when you go to most pinball dealerships or websites, the majority of the inventory are going to be Sterns. People don't wanna wait months or even years for a game. People who are new to the hobby will buy Sterns. Distributors will keep selling Sterns because of the profit margin. Heck, even a lot of pinheads are hypocrites with Stern. As soon as they tease a single theme that they are fond of, they open their wallet and forget all previous transgressions.

This is the closest we're getting to another golden age for pinball. Stern is going to make as much money as possible before the economy tanks and they go back into hibernation.

But you're clearly someone with deep pockets, so you obviously doesn't care about expensive replacement parts or serviceability. Let the rest of us pinball plebeians be concerned

#486 4 months ago
Quoted from iceman44:

Of course, common sense!
A lot of guys must be holding out for a Queen pinball machine because we got a lot of "drama Queens" up in here!
We got bigger things to worry about like "global warming" right? Any of you folks live up north?

Let me get this straight. You think "global warming" is some kinda conspiracy involving millions of players (because you're being flip about it in this thread). You do that while simultaneously saying that people are crazy to think that the few people that run Stern would purposely make an inferior product to help with future sales...

It's like the people who think the government could organize the massive hoax of landing on the moon, but were also too incompetent to handle covering up a simple B&E at a hotel.

Bravo on your gold medal in mental gymnastics. One less event for Tokyo to worry about next year.

#511 4 months ago

Stern isn't going to reveal the failure rates. People complaining on pinside about their failures is only a small slice of the pinball buying public (and you primarily only hear from people when things are going poorly). Large, experienced distributors probably have a decent idea of the failure rate. But I'm sure they're afraid of Stern if they start revealing any meaningful information on how often they have to help their customers with node board replacements. They're the ones who would be most knowledgeable if there has been an uptick in reliability issues since the introduction of Spike.

The fact is we don't know how often node boards are failing, but we do know they are not easy to repair because of a lack of documentation and the relative lack of expertise on working on this style of electrical PCB design. It is entirely valid to be anxious about the long term support Stern will provide because they have failed to act on previous promises of making this information available.

#514 4 months ago
Quoted from Jvspin:

I'm surprised they don't just release the information. Then people couldn't complain about that and I think the reality is, 99% of the buyers won't capable of, or bother with, repairing the boards anyway.

If it was so great than they would say so. It would be a huge selling point for all of the home buyers who are not electrically or mechanically inclined. The node system was entirely designed for that kind of customer.

#516 4 months ago
Quoted from TheLaw:

Problem is they don't seem to need a huge selling point at the moment.

Yep. Stern is selling them as fast as they can make them.

#519 4 months ago
Quoted from Bublehead:

Biggest reason they are not releasing them, I think is because of IP theft by China. How many node boards will we be buying from Stern if a company in China offers exact reengineered replacements for $30 shipping included. And if it goes bad in 30 days, just email them and they send a replacement for free. This kind of thing is happening in other electronics based hobbies, so Stern is probably smart not putting the schematics out right now... they wait till the demand trickles off, which means the crappy node boards are all weeded out by attrition, then release the schematics.
Don’t like it, but it may actually be whats at play here, not the planned obsolecense argument.

They probably make the boards in China. It's surprising their plans haven't been leaked or stolen yet. Probably no one over there realizing the profits to be had (yet).

#524 4 months ago
Quoted from Zablon:

I figured it had more to do with not letting their (new) competitors easily have their proprietary designs being the most likely scenario. Not that it would stop them for long.

Interesting theory, but most companies already developed their own stuff or are on P-ROC. Maybe Homepin would steal the design

Plus I think Stern just laughs whenever they see anyone else trying to get off the ground. They gotta figure out the manufacturing part. The electrical system design is the least of their worries.

#526 4 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

That claim sounds like BS. Source?

The Spike system was developed for the home games, Transformers The Pin and Avengers The Pin, in 2012. Those didn't pan out and then it was retooled and became the standard architecture for the commercial games in 2015.

#538 4 months ago
Quoted from Bublehead:

If I can get a schematic and BOM for that, I could be in for one node board reversed engineered. Wonder what the legal ramifications are to releasing it to the wild if you were to do that? I am not sure how Stern would feel if someone started posting a generic schematic and BOM for thier boards... probably get a CAD letter from their lawyers right off the bat...

The software is where the protection is. You can reverse engineer hardware protected by trade secrets. Just leave Stern's trademarks off of it and don't preload it with any of their proprietary software. Unless I'm mistaken, they didn't patent any of the node boards.

edit: Hell, lets not forget this is Stern. They have a long history of reverse engineering their competitions designs.

#539 4 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

If you want your claim to be believed support it with evidence. You're trying to support it with more conjecture. The fact it was first used on those games doesn't mean it was developed for the audience you claim it was. Lyman Sheats (one of the developers) has discussed this publicly. One recent discussion was in episode 73 of the Head2Head podcast https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/head2head-pinball-podcast-new-australian-podcast/page/12#post-4727453

Can you please provide a timestamp in that 2.5 hr interview? I'm happy to listen to what he has to say.

Yes I'm putting it forth as a theory. I think it's true for other reasons I've outlined in this thread and elsewhere. I'm not going to be able to provide hard evidence on it because I am not privy to the discussions of Stern upper level management and their R&D process. I think the theory makes sense to me though.

#541 4 months ago
Quoted from TheLaw:

THat's all any of us have needed.

My life is now complete

#547 4 months ago
Quoted from iceman44:

Maybe you missed the polar vortex we are currently experiencing and wasn't able to understand the irony of the situation.
Lighten up Francis!

lol, u salty

#702 4 months ago
Quoted from goingincirclez:

So SPIKE is now going into 5 years' production for standard machines, and might be considered 7-8 years if you count "The Pins". Both timeframes have historic precedent as a complete run for a pinball platform. SAM was approx. 8 years. Whitestar about the same. B/W platforms generally went roughly 5 years or so from System 6/7 to System9 /11 to WPC to WPC 95 and so on.
When SPIKE was developed, LED bulbs were the "new" thing and since then we've seen widespread adoption of LCD/HD video, better sound, more complex light shows and feature integration... How much more overhead is available in SPIKE to drive now-common (or future) enhancements and innovations? After all, someone pointed out that PC_based platforms are driving most of Stern's most compelling competition. There must be a reason.
Anyone think Stern is readying the successor to SPIKE, and the long-delayed release of schematics signals its end of life ("We're done here so here you go, have fun...")? Perhaps Stern has something larger in the works. I mean they'd have to, right... but maybe it's more imminent than we think...?

Combine that with the talks about Stern games going online, I think Spike 3 will launch within two to three years. Hopefully they learned enough about what causes node board failures (design, updates, placement on the game, vibrations, etc...) to make the successor better. I'm going to be super bummed if Jaws comes out soon and I can't buy it because of FUD related to Spike.

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