Model No: 1196-E
Released: November 26, 1979
Designed By: Greg Kmiec
Art By: Paul Farris
A very popular pinball by Bally, with 11,000 units produced. The machine was noteworthy for a couple reasons. First, the color schele was a significant departure from what pinballs usually went with. They usually stuck with reds and yellows. Xenon, however, used a lot of blue in the design. All of the plastic posts were blue, and the pop bumpers used translucent blue bumper caps, giving a nice glow to the playfield. This was done because of the strong bluish tint that xenon light gives off.
The second, and more noteworthy feature, were the voices. Hitting bumpers and other targets would bring up "ooh"s and "aah"s, starting the game would cause a response of "Enter Xenon", with other sayings, such as "Try A Tube Shot" scattered around. The voices were done by Suzanne Ciani, of Ciani Musica. This was especially noteworthy because the female voice tends to require twice the storage capacity of a male voice for the same quality - which is why all of the previous stored voices were by men.
When Ciani was asked to do the voices, she used her own equipment (as she was creating "New Age" music with various electronics), and, given the restrictions of the chips that the voice would be stored on, created a number of voice samples.
I had a grouping of voice processing gear that I designed into something I called the "Voice Box." This included a Harmonizer, a Vocoder, various filters and processing modules. I modified my own voice with the Voice Box to produce all of the voices.
I was given the specs on the chips that would be used for the project. I replicated the limitations of these chips in my very expensive Synclavier and then worked within those parameters. I wanted to maximize the use of the chips. There were two: one a voice chip that was newly designed and more powerful than earlier chips and thus capable of reproducing the higher frequency female voice. The other was a simple sound chip which was used for the "musical" part
of the sound design.
In the end, 12 of them were selected, and included in the final game.
The game used chaser lights around the edges of the backglass, along with a special mirror to create the "infinity" effect that was introduced on their Space Invaders machine. The lights kept tempo with the music of the game, and as the tempo increased during play, the lights would speed up, faster and faster.
The first thing you'll notice about the playfield is the large transparent tube reaching horizontally across the upper section of the playfield - with lights that "chase" the ball every time a shot is made into it. There is a ramp on the far right leading to it, and the tube exit leads to a little alcove on the left, with a saucer-type kicker at the bottom - the "tube chamber", where a ball will be locked for later multiball. There's an opening at the bottom of the chamber, where the ball will be kicked out.
The top center of the playfield, where the plunger lane exits, has four rollovers, and then below them, a single solitary saucer. Below it are four pop bumpers, in a 'Y' shape, each sticking out with it's blue cap. On the far left side, at a spot about the same as halfway between the bottom two bumpers, is a spinner, and a lane leading up to the top of the playfield.
The middle right of the playfield has a set of four drop targets, and the middle left a pair of stand-up targets, located right between the spinner and the tube chamber kick-out.
There's a standard pair of flippers at the bottom, each with a single inlane and a single outlane, and the triangular slingshots right above and forming one side of the inlane.
The general goal of the game is to hit the top saucer. Each shot into the saucer adds an 'X' token. Collecting three of these tokens allows you to make a tube shot to capture a ball. Three more tokens collected will kick out the captured ball, starting a two-ball multiball. Then just score points by making a lot of tube shots.
Hitting all four drop targets on the right scores the lit award, and the targets are reset for the next award. It also lights the targets on the left to advance the Xenon bonus for collection at the end of a ball.
The tube chamber also has a bonus, which advances during a game as it's collected, eventually rewarding a special.
Bally Xenon, http://www.dreamstasys.com/xenon.htm
Xenon Speaks (again), an interview with Suzanne Ciani, http://www.baverstock.com/xenonQA.html
The Internet Pinball Database, http://www lysator.liu.se/pinball/IPD/