Spike debug console


Site Supporter
Feb 5, 2020
Cambridge, UK
Following my ramblings in the speaker lights thread, some people have expressed interest in getting info out of the game. I've found a way that doesn't involve fiddly code injection, and am sharing it in the hope that it's useful to our community.

Legal disclaimer: not endorsed by Stern, you will void your warranty, proceed at your own risk, ymmv, etc.

Credit: I have to give credit to the guys at Mission Pinball Framework who have not only done a lot of hard work here, but also written excellent documentation, which definitely saved me some time along the way. This page is the interesting one for our purposes. Note the photo on there shows an older spike boardset -- on mine the CN2 connector is placed closer to the center, next to the main daughtercard connector (see attached photo).

Debug menu​

Spike game executables have a debug console menu built-in. (NB: I've only tested IMDN and BK3 but I'm pretty sure they all have it. BK3 had more options available, maybe because it was released a year later?)

I'll share examples of the menu in the next post in this thread. Please share examples from other titles if you can!

By default the debug menu isn't wired to any console (tty), so it is effectively disabled.

To access it, we need to do 2 things:
  1. Get a serial port connected to spike CPU.
  2. Configure the game executable to be wired to this serial port.

Can i haz cereal?​

The MPF documentation I linked above explains this in great detail, so I will summarise the 2 options here:
  1. Manly soldering skillz: solder a 3-pin 0.1" header to CN2. Note that the GND pin will sink a *lot* of heat (even my 80W iron needed a while to get things flowing) -- you could also skip that pin and grab GND from one of the unconnected connectors.
  2. USB-to-serial device (aka "FTDI adapter") plugged into one of the USB host ports.
Personally I went for option 1 because it's cheaper and neater, but option 2 has the advantage of being portable between machines.

Whichever way you choose to go for, you'll need a(nother) USB-to-serial device to interact with the console port. Unless you hook it up to something like a ESP32's UART of course.

Configure the game's console port​

For this you will need to edit a text file on the SD card. This isn't possible from a Windows PC . It might be possible from a Mac - I don't have one to try with. If you don't have a Linux PC with a memory card reader handy, create a bootable USB stick and boot from that to temporarily get a Linux computer without touching your existing hard drive. Some docs for that here or here.

Once you've got this, navigate to the 352MB partition (it's the rootfs) and edit this file:
changing both lines to point to /dev/ttymxc0 instead (this refers to CN2).

If you went with option 2 above (USB-to-serial device), then make it /dev/ttyUSB0 instead.

Note the version number (2_0_18) may be different, and there may be other spk package versions present. Most likely you want the highest number. If in doubt just edit all the files!

As mentioned I went with option 1, so my file contents are now:


If you're using CN2 you will get the output from the bootloader (U-boot) and some OS startup messages.

When the game boots, you will get a few warnings on the output (of course) and then nothing.

Press any letter then ENTER -- you should be greeted by the menu's help text. I'll put an example transcript in the next post.

What's it useful for?​

This depends who you are. I can see 3 uses but I'm sure people will come up with more :)
  1. You're a naff player like me. With this menu you can start any mode including the wizard modes which you'd otherwise never get to experience. They're usually the coolest ones too!!
  2. You're a mod maker. With this menu you can get some limited info out of the game (modes status), and also trigger sound effects or display animations (they're opaquely numbered though, so good luck finding the one you need).
  3. You're a technician. With this menu you can automate some of the diagnostics etc. Not sure it's really useful in this case tbh -- let me know if you do something cool here.


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Last edited:


Site Supporter
Feb 5, 2020
Cambridge, UK
Here is what you get on CN2, from my BK :SoR prem running the latest code (1.02 iirc). Separated in 3 sections.

Bootloader and OS init (you won't get this if using method #2):
U-Boot 2015.04+fslc+g5d9ffd2 (Jun 19 2020 - 16:33:21)

CPU:   Freescale i.MX6DL rev1.3 996 MHz (running at 792 MHz)
Reset cause: POR
Board: Wandboard
I2C:   ready
DRAM:  1 GiB
*** Warning - bad CRC, using default environment

INIT: version 2.88 booting
Starting udev
Enabling LVDS panel... done.
ALSA: Restoring mixer settings...
Found hardware: "sgtl5000-main" "" "" "" ""
Hardware is initialized using a generic method
Found hardware: "sgtl5000-center" "" "" "" ""
Hardware is initialized using a generic method
INIT: Entering runlevel: 5
Starting system message bus: dbus.
Starting syslogd/klogd: done
checking network bridge code version...
Bridge firmware revision: 0.5.0 up to date, no update required.
udhcpc (v1.23.1) started
Sending discover...
Sending discover...
Sending discover...
No lease, forking to background
/etc/rc5.d/S95game: line 340: dropbearkey: command not found
/etc/rc5.d/S95game: line 343: dropbear: command not found
starting application...
INIT: no more processes left in this runlevel

Game startup:
(gst-plugin-scanner:606): GLib-GObject-WARNING **: cannot register existing type 'GstVorbisDec'

(gst-plugin-scanner:606): GLib-CRITICAL **: g_once_init_leave: assertion 'result != 0' failed

(gst-plugin-scanner:606): GStreamer-CRITICAL **: gst_element_register: assertion 'g_type_is_a (type, GST_TYPE_ELEMENT)' failed
MAX resolution 1360x768
UPDATE: no update found, exiting
pthread_mutex_unlock(sys_irq_hdw_enable): No such device or address

Playing around with the menu aka the good stuff ;)

To aid readability I've prefixed my inputs with '> ' -- this isn't actually present.
 > f
"f": command not found.
        adj: perform operations on adjustments.
        amp: amp system interface.
        aud: perform operations on audits.
        bdl: start background display layer effects.
        coil: fire a coil.
        credit: manipulate credits.
        debug: get debug information.
        display: display system interface.
        dsp: DSP interface.
        knight_spellout: knight spellout state.
        knocker: perform operations on the knocker.
        le: lamp effect system interface.
        mode: interact with modes.
        node: node diagnostics commands.
        nv: get non-volatile ram info.
        proc: get information about processes.
        red: redemption interface.
        replay: replay interface.
        scene: get information about layered display effect managers and scene cache.
        scene_cache: scene cache system interface.
        score: manipulate player scores.
        sd: shield_diverter.
        sound: sound system interface.
        uplock: interact with upper playfield lockup device.
        video_display: video display system interface.

> mode status
Mode   Lit   CanStart   Running   Spotted   Complete   Completions
   0 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Burning Sands)
   1 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Mud Bog)
   2 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Molten Fire)
   3 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Wicked Cavern)
   4 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Deep Freeze)
   5 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Black Castle)
   6 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Catapult Multiball)
   7 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Triple Knight's Challenge)
   8 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (INVALID)
   9 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (INVALID)
  10 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (INVALID)
  11 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (INVALID)
  12 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (WAR Hurry Ups)
  21 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Black Knight Wizard Multiball)
  22 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (THE KINGS RANSOM)
  23 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (SUPER CATAPULT Multiball)
  24 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (RAGE Multiball)
  25 |      |    Y    |         |        |           |       0    | (Last Chance)

> uplock
        uplock status
        uplock light
        uplock lock
> sd
        sd test start
        sd test stop

> uplock status
Upper Playfield Lockup Device Details
Locks Lit     = 0
Balls Locked  = 0

Device Locks Virtual = no
Device Locks Enabled = 0
Device Locked Balls  = 0

> mode
        mode status
        mode light N
        mode start N
        mode complete N
        mode reset N
        mode complete_all
        mode reset_all
        mode time <N> - add N seconds to all running timed/hurryup modes