Attack from Mars (Remake)
Mini-Saucer LED & Expansion KitTM

About the AFMr Mini-Saucer LED & Expansion Kit

March 31, 2020:
    Greetings everyone, today we have an actual update for the Attack from Mars Remake Mini-Saucer LED project!!

    First, my apologies for the long delay. There were many (extended) family issues, and just life in general. A lot of that has been coming to a close, giving me more time to devote to items sorely in need of attention.

    As I have been able to focus more on this project, I have made some good progress. Through the help of some local friends (Chuck Casey from the Museum of Pinball, and my friend Damon), I have been able to experiment on an actual AFMr, and scope out how things are going to fit together.

    Quickly, we'll start with a little history. I invented the AFM Mini-Saucer LED Kit back in 2004. Since then we have sold over 800 kits, which is kind of astonishing. The original kit added LEDs to the mini-saucers, and the controller board would provide animations to bring the Martian Fleet to life! Also, the kit would track hits to the AFM Mother Ship, such that whenever the mother ship sustained damage, the shockwave would reverbate through the entire fleet.

    Shortly after release, I began to get comments about how the mini-saucers didn't go dark during things like Video Mode, or Strobe Multiball. I hadn't really thought about that, so I began to collect ideas of what else I wanted to include if I were to create an add-on board to support this particular feature. The AFM-Expansion Kit came out in 2010, and it supported new things like an Enhanced Super Jets animation, Enhanced Backglass Animation (including full blackout during Video Mode or Strobe Multiball), custom brackets and two rows of LEDs in the "Attack Hallway" under the AFM Mother Ship, as well as having the mini-saucer go dark during Video Mode and Strobe Multiball.

    In my testing, I believe all of these features can be implemented on AFMr.

Design Research:
    Now, AFMr came with three models: Classic Edition (CE), Special Edition (SE) and Limited Edition (LE). Only the LE included mini-saucer LEDs, and they now support dual-color (red/green) LEDs.

    The more I looked at it, the more impressed I was that Chicago Coin (CC) had done such an amazing job with the AFMr, and specifically how tightly integrated the red/green LEDs were with the game and light show.

    Sadly, this is not the sort of integration I could match or even come close to. My implementation is different, in that the mini-saucers seem to have more autonomy, and a life of their own. They are somewhat separate entities to be dealt with, in the spirit of the game, with less direct influence from the Mother Ship. As much as I love the way the AFMr LE uses the mini-saucer LEDs, I think there's definitely room for both perspectives.

Implementation Details:
    Right now, the plan is to stay with single color LEDs. The most popular colors are red, green and occasionally blue. This plan means moving into production sooner, and keeping prices down. If you really feel dual-color or RGB LEDs in the mini-saucers is something you'd rather have, let me know, but the added R&D time and overall cost increase is unknown at this time. I'd still rather hear the feedback, so please let me know how you feel.

    Also, as much as I'd like to build an all-in-one sort of board, with the different AFMr models, it's probably still smarter to make the Mini-Saucer LED part of the kit separate, so that owners of various models can pick and choose at the different features they wish to add or enhance.

    The likelihood is that we'll stick with the existing model, where one board handles the mini-saucers, and another board handles the rest. I don't think it's going to be cost effective to break it down any further than that. I'll do my best to make installation as simple (and hopefully solder free) as possible, as well as trying to keep the price point roughly the same as the original AFM versions.

Next Steps and Caveats:
    Looking forward, I will start to work on a prototype build. Our area is on quarrantine from COVID-19, which means I won't be able to test anything on an actual AFMr game until after restrictions have been lifted. Once I am happy with the prototype, and I have some feedback from the community, we'll start scheduling production. Unless things get substanially worse, I expect we'll be able to start production in mid-late 2020.
Examples and Feedback:
    I assume most of you have seen the original AFM Mini-Saucer LED Kit in action, but I will see if I can shoot an updated video. The AFM-Expansion Kit does have recently updated video, so check it out and familiarize yourself with the features packed into that kit.

    Finally, send Email and let me know what you think!

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