Big photodrop update ahead, but the TL;DR take is: We got one!
First off, BIG THANKS to those (you know who you are ) who provided and clarified the contact info we needed. I got in touch with Jody last week and he promptly penned us in for a time that fit our schedule.
Which was today, at 10:30 am....
...so before I go any further, THANK YOU, Jody! And Gary (whom we met very much alive) and the rest of the crew at Stern who were all, without exception, exceedingly friendly, gracious, and patient with a bunch of random strangers in their midst. I know "running a production line" and "indulging the public" are two endeavors that are often very much at odds. This hospitality is remarkable, memorable, and very much appreciated, and a testament to Stern's commitment to the community.
I suddenly feel rather sheepish for not having a Stern in my collection, an issue I think I need to change soon. But at least in pointing that out, nobody can accuse me of being a "fanboy".
One thing that struck me was how pleasant the facility is. It was mid-80's and humid today, but the facility was well ventilated, airy, and comfortable with a clean appearance and excellent lighting. Not too noisy. All the employees seemed at ease, professional, and productive. A lot of easy-going banter and rapport in the more interactive stations. It seems apparent that Stern treats its employees well. Companies that do so, deserve support.
As for the current production, LOTS of different games in process and on the line. I was amazed at the mix. I saw MMR, GB pro, GB LE, MET, KISS, ST, GOT, WNBJM all in process. Regarding "delays", apparently some batches of GB parts were QC rejects and heading back to the vendors, and there's a shortage of legacy CPU boards as well. But the line was pretty busy nonetheless. Some GBLE's are finished, heading to FRANCE (?!) of all places... the same customer had some MMR's on the dock as well.
It's astounding how many different part numbers are in play... both in the warehouses, and at the assembly stations. Various subassemblies, mechs, and other game-specific parts are stocked at any relevant "hand-over" station and it seems like it would be all too easy to make an innocent oops-grab mistake. But there's so much testing and QC along the line any issue would be caught quickly.
The wiring harness creation is the most fascinating aspect to me. Probably as labor-intensive as pf assembly. Holy hell, the amount of prep and effort and checking involved there, in spaghetti hell. And that's even with the Molex machines and other gear!
We got to play GB and GBLE, and I didn't think it was as brutal as some are complaining. Granted I'm not a spectacular player, but I only got to have 3 balls on each one and didn't encounter any frustration. Even my kids had reasonable game lengths. I did note a few airballs and a couple WTF drains, BUT I was able to find a rhythm and I'm sure with some more play time (I let my kids have most of it), I would have done even better. I will say a full right loop shot tends to ROCKET down to the left flipper, and I can see how a transit from inlane-to-outlane could become a problem if the game's not set up properly. The Pro model was already showing some wear so it's probably broken in pretty well. I did manage to set a multiball feature score which was kinda cool. The LE's hologram effect was awesome, and the ramp to the subway was great as well. The game is a ton of fun and the animations are the best I have ever seen on a DMD. But these are all first impressions from limited play... yet I cannot wait to try it again.
Well that's enough rambling I guess... here's a bunch of pics... I'll try to caption some that seem relevant...
THANKS AGAIN to STERN for a great experience! You've locked in a future customer for certain
- GIC & Family
^New parts stock
^ A full 1% of production allotment!
....more to come...