Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 6: Blasts from the past

After taking a brief break in weeks 4 and 5, I would return for week 6 with quite a welcome surprise or two. We would have, in the lineup, two older games that I am rather fond of: Shrek (Stern, 2008) and The Addams Family (Bally, 1992).

Both of these games have rather interesting back stories behind them. I’ll start with The Addams Family. This was the game that brought about the last great golden age of pinball from 1993 up to about 1999 or so, smashing the previous sales record of Bally’s Eight Ball from 1979. It was thus also the game that allowed Pat Lawlor to have near-complete creative control of his next game, Twilight Zone, a game he admits they never should have been allowed to make. (But which sold over 10,000 units anyway!) Alas, the wave wouldn’t last: in 1996 Premier Technologies, owners of the Gottlieb brand, went out of business, with WMS Industries, owners of the Williams and Bally brands, exiting the pinball business. (WMS also owned the Midway and Atari Games arcade video game brands which would also be folded about a year or so later.) Stern Pinball (recently divested from Sega), however, kept on cranking out games for the next decade until some other new companies started breathing new life into pinball.

Which brings us to Shrek. In 2007 Stern had a bunch of playfields and parts left over from the run of Family Guy, a game which for whatever reason didn’t sell well. Someone got an idea to take those figurative lemons, and make lemonade. That “lemonade” was Shrek, which admittedly is a much more fun theme than the original Family Guy. The Shrek pinball is empirical evidence that sometimes the theme makes all the difference between a game worth its weight in gold and the pinball equivalent of a donkey turd.

Anyway, enough waxing historical. The other games in the lineup, besides those two, were Mustang, Kiss, Domino’s Spectacular Pinball Adventure, Ghostbusters, and Wrestlemania (Pro). I would be grouped with Blake Dumesnil and Agustin Montes in a three-player group. And unfortunately, we would not get to actually play either Shrek nor The Addams Family in our five games, which was kind of a letdown.

We would begin the night playing Wrestlemania. While I was never a huge pro-wrestling fan, for some reason the theme doesn’t matter to me that much when playing this pinball. I didn’t have that great of a game, but it was good enough to eek out a first place with 18.3M+ to Blake’s 16.7M+. I did benefit from a brief Ref Knockout Multiball mode, and consistently plunged for bonus multiplier, which may well have made the difference in the final score.

Upward and onward to the Domino’s pin. This was the first time I got to play a game from Spooky Pinball, one of the newer manufacturers. The layout is decent, with a challenging plunger skill shot. When I first saw this game played on the Dead Flip stream on Twitch.tv, I noticed the skill shot had been valued at 1 million, which tended to unbalance the game. The code we played had it valued at a more reasonable 250,000. Again, I emerged in first place with 1.22M+ to Blake’s 790K. So I’m looking at 10 standings points after two games, and starting to feel pretty damn good.

The next game to open up for us would be Mustang. Despite having two rather terrible balls to start the game (I would wind up tilting the second to try to save, only to have the ball saver kick one right back out into play), I would still manage a decent 8.38M+ good for second to Blake’s 8.94M+, bringing me up to 13 standings points on the night with two more games to go.

Ghostbusters was up next, and Agustin had a surprise for us. After not really doing much in the first three games, he’d explode with a 126M+ score. I went into the third ball just trying to get back ahead of Blake’s 37.7M+, which I did. I’d sign off with 43.4M+ good for a second place, bringing me up to a whopping 16 standings points on the night with one more game left to go.

We would finish on Kiss. This is a game I’ve been notoriously lousy on in league play. Tonight was no different, I posted a 2.76M+ which I knew instantly would be good for no better than third. Still, only one third place out of five games isn’t terrible on the night, especially given I would wind up with 17 standings points, probably the best I’ve done in recent memory if not overall.

A note about Houston Arcade Expo

Yep, that announcement I had mentioned before? It’s about my attendance at Houston Arcade Expo this year, or to state it more accurately, my lack thereof. For many reasons I’m not going to publicize, I’ll be sitting out this one barring a miracle, but I will be using the time to regroup and hopefully make it to both Texas Pinball Festival and Houston Arcade Expo next year.

I’m disappointed but at the same time I know there are greater things ahead. Stay tuned.

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 3: English, [bleep], do you speak it?

Our league plays Monday nights. The Houston Texans were playing on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos. In case you missed it, they lost horribly. Was I any more ready for prime time?

Games: Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, Game of Thrones (Premium this time), Metallica, WWE Wrestlemania, Ghostbusters. Notice anything different? No Medieval Madness! No Kiss! (Good riddance to both, though if I can actually play it worth a damn I wouldn’t mind seeing Kiss come back in a later week.)

This week I would be grouped with Austin Knight (who pre-played his games, like I did in week 8 of season 2), Brian Foytik, and Matt Quantz, some of the better competition in this league. Due to Austin having pre-played his games, the score display photos will only show three-player games but I will note Austin’s scores below:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: 6,205,160
  • Game of Thrones: 107,087,350
  • Star Trek: 6,197,670 (not used)
  • Ghostbusters: 27,997,810
  • Metallica: 32,457,160
  • WWE Wrestlemania: 12,380,700 (not used)
  • Spiderman: 33,766,290

We would begin the night on Game of Thrones. This is a game I feel confident playing. This time, the bottom fell out, and I would manage a paltry 1.5M+. Not surprisingly, that’s good for dead last. One game, one standings point.

The next game: Ghostbusters. I had a reasonably good game, but was unable to take advantage of having super jackpot lit on the last ball. 32.3M+ good for second place to Matt’s 44.3M+, bringing me up to four standings points on the night.

Moving on: Metallica. This game usually does not give me the trouble it did tonight. 5.2M+ good for third place, with both Austin and Matt scoring way ahead of my performance (and Brian’s too for that matter). That’s six standings points.

Fourth game: Spiderman. I put up a rather disappointing 14.2M+. I got one ball locked and lock lit for another ball (or I might have had two balls locked, it was difficult to tell). Either way, another case where I wasn’t able to close the deal and wound up with a much lower score than I probably should have. Eight standings points so far with one game left to go…

And finally: Pirates of the Caribbean. This was at least one game Stern released with these screwball player-selectable dual language ROMs. So Matt does us all a huge favor (not!) and selects Spanish… which sticks for all three of us. Matt finds it hilarious; I am most definitely Not Amused, and I’m (for better or worse) the most Hispanic-looking guy in the bunch (though believe me, I identify as white, even if I’m a regular at Chipotle and Taco Cabana). I fall back on shooting for what’s flashing, but only manage 6.0M+. I fail to beat Austin’s score, which Matt and Brian both surpass easily. Nine standings points… kind of like the 9 points the Texans put up on the football scoreboard in Denver. Apparently I wasn’t any more ready for prime time than they were, with not a single first place finish the whole night.

Incidentally, this is an example of getting a good break from the game draw. Austin’s two unused scores were two of the three weakest performances out of the seven games (with the Pirates of the Caribbean score being the other one). I certainly would not be thrilled with a score well under 7M on Star Trek, and I know I can beat 12.38M+ on WWE Wrestlemania (especially Pro) with anything resembling decent luck and would not expect a score in that range to place any better than third realistically.

I will leave this post as the most recent post for a while, but I will have an announcement to make before the week is up. Stay tuned…

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 2: Night of the living dead plumb bobs

A bit late, I know, but a lot has been going on here… This describes the games and events of October 17.

I hoped to continue my good fortune from last week and maintain the momentum from my surprisingly good finish.

This week’s games were: Harley Davidson (Stern), Game of Thrones (Pro), Kiss, Ghostbusters, Medieval Madness, Star Trek, and Big Buck Hunter. This week I was drawn in a four-player group with Marc Gammons, Blake Dumensil, and Joe Cuellar, players I would describe as worthy competitors, though not the very strongest competition the league has to offer. Originally, we were scheduled to play Star Trek, Kiss, Medieval Madness, Ghostbusters, and Harley Davidson; due to some kind of issue with Harley Davidson (before we got to play on it), we would eventually play Game of Thrones in its place (more on that when I get to it).

And so it began. First game: Kiss. It seems like every time I play this game in league play, I do poorly. I spent most of the time waiting for Joe and Marc to put up 25.8M+ and 87.9M+ respectively. My paltry 3.0M+ is good for a nice big fat fourth (last) place. One game, one standings point…

Second game: Ghostbusters. Again, more time spent waiting for the other three players, while I squeak out a paltry 9.8M+. Really now… Two games, two standings points.

Third game: Medieval Madness. I’m just going to come right out and say it: I hate this damn game. It was a lousy game when it first game out, and the remake is just as bad. It’s even worse with a tilt bob set to one notch above “sneeze tilt.” I wind up rage-tilting after I tilt out all three balls just from light nudging. 894K. Last place again. Three games, three standings points.

Fourth game: Game of Thrones. This game was a little nicer to me on this night. I felt like 34.1M+ should have gotten me a little bit better than third place, but the only real contest wound up being Blake and Joe, with 96.8M+ and 95.4M+ respectively. Four games, five standings points.

Fifth game: Star Trek. Finally something goes my way. I bust loose with a 29.0M+ powered by a good multiball round, and the closest any other player can come is Marc with an 8.1M+. I wrap it up with 10 standings points, three less than week 1.

As unhappy as I was about this week, they have gone a bit worse, though 10 points is a likely drop week assuming I make the other weeks in the season. I did put up a moderately better score on Ghostbusters during warmups (106.9M+). As impressive as that was, it would have only been good for second place if I had come anywhere close to repeating it during league play.

As for the title, it seemed like every game was a bit more “tilty” than usual. But maybe it just seemed that way because I had to nudge more than I usually do to try to keep the ball alive… which really came first, the chicken or the egg?

Space City Pinball League Season 4 Week 1: Let’s get this party started

I haven’t been ignoring pinball and video games for the last month. I just haven’t been posting anything here about them. Eventually, I will write posts about my recent playthroughs of Doom (1, 2, and both episodes of Final Doom) and Quake (including the expansion packs).

Anyway, after having nothing to write about for the last month or so regarding pinball, the Space City Pinball League kicked off its fourth season last night, and I was there for it. Yes, this is the third different league night in four seasons (with the first two seasons being on Tuesday night, and last season being on Wednesday night). That’s not the only change: league president Phil Grimaldi laid out quite a few rule changes:

  1. The return of 5-3-2-1 / 5-3-1 scoring from the first two seasons (i.e. a switch back from last season’s 3-2-1-0 / 3-1½-0 scoring).
  2. League dues of $20 are now due after three weeks of participation for everyone (not just those playing in the finals) but can be paid earlier.
  3. A new system for dealing with conduct infractions, similiar to the “yellow card”/”red card” system used in soccer. A yellow card is a warning, but two yellow cards add up to one red card. A red card is a disqualification and forfeit of that night’s scores, two red cards in a disqualification for the season, and a third red card results in indefinite suspension from the league. Hopefully we will never actually have to use this.

Other changes would be to the machine lineup: for the first time in recent memory, The Hobbit was nowhere to be found. What we did have: Kiss Pro, The Avengers, Star Trek, Game of Thrones LE, Ghostbusters Premium (as opposed to the Pro from season 3), Transformers, and Medieval Madness (remake). I would wind up being grouped with Matt Quantz and Melvin Jiles in a three-player group.

First game of the night: Ghostbusters. I didn’t really get much going on this game, though it remained very close with my 15.0M+ not being too far from either Matt’s winning 17.0M+ or Melvin’s runner-up 16.2M+. Knowing I am capable of much better wasn’t much comfort… One game, one standings point.

Second game of the night: Medieval Madness. Again, another game I’d rather forget, because I just wasn’t able to get it together. I managed to make a few shots and score one ball lock, but that was pretty much it. A score of 1.6M+ is pretty much a sure-fire recipe for last place just about anytime, and that’s what I got. Two games, two standings points.

Third game of the night: Transformers. I really thought I was going to break out this game. I locked three balls for Decepticon Multiball, but wasn’t able to get the fourth one in to get it started. I wound up with a disapponting 2.9M+, again not that far from the other two scores. Three games, three standings points, and I’m starting to lose hope.

Fourth game: Star Trek. Not a game I like, and not a game I would pick of the seven in the lineup if I were to pick a game I knew I could do well at. I was facing Melvin’s 28.4M+ with my own score well under 11M going into ball 3. I was able to get Klingon Multiball started and nail quite a few jackpot shots. Between that and the Save the Enterprise mode I carried into multiball, I was able to put up an impressive comeback. I wasn’t completely sure I had it until the game ended and I looked up and saw a score in the 39M range before bonus. Final score 40.8M+. Four games, eight standings points, and it’s starting to look better.

We wrapped up on Game of Thrones. This time, it was a rock-solid performance on ball 2 with a lucrative Blackwater Multiball catapulting me out into the lead. I’d wrap up just barely south of 70M, easily enough to take another first place, and a total of thirteen standings points on the night. Across the entire group it was a relatively balanced field with only Erich Stinson getting 21 standings points and all but four players getting at least 12.

I’m glad to be getting a season off to a good start for once. I hope the momentum continues through the next couple of weeks at least.

Space City Pinball League Season 3 Week 8: Out with a bang?

This update will be unlike most of the previous updates. Due to a conflict, for the first time I had to pre-play my games this week. For those who don’t understand how this works, it’s pretty simple. I arrived during the practice interval and played one game on each machine, recording the score and submitting it. I was (eventually) able to get in games on all seven machines (one should play all seven as games that no scores are submitted for, at least in this league, count as a score of zero, should they happen to be games one’s group is drawn for).

As a result, the scoreboard pictures are going to be a lot different than they usually are. For obvious reasons I will not have scoreboard pictures of the remainder of the group. Instead, I will be using a portion of the screenshot from matchplay.events which is for practical purposes the official record of our league scores anyway. I am also completely blind to what actually transpired when Erich, Nina, and Bruce actually played.

My scores:

  • Star Trek: 23.3M+ (not used)
  • The Hobbit: 53.3K+ (second place)
  • Kiss: 12.3M+ (third place)
  • Metallica: 6.31M+ (second place)
  • Ghostbusters: 55.9M+ (not used)
  • Game of Thrones: 4.57M+ (third place)
  • Spiderman: 9.13M+ (fourth place)

Notice anything missing in the above? Yes, that’s right. Not a single first place out of all five games. The score that represents my best performance on the night, the 55.9M+ on Ghostbusters, wound up on the cutting room floor, a casualty of group game assignment. In any of the groups that actually got assigned this game, it would have been good for first or second. Actually, the same is almost true for my Star Trek score: it would have been good for at least second in three of the four groups that played it, and no worse than third in the other group.

It goes without saying that if I had any plans to play in the league finals, they are out the window at this point. If I show up, and that’s a big fat honking if, it’s strictly to watch and possibly take advantage of the group pizza buy. Right now though, I’m leaning strongly towards just kicking back at home and getting my ducks in a row for next season.

I’ll be making a longer commentary post sometime over the weekend, no later than Monday night. I might actually wait until a set time to post it, I have not decided yet.

Space City Pinball League Season 3 Week 7: House Martell for the win

So as mentioned previously, I was unable to attend the previous two weeks of league play. I likely had questionable chances of qualifying for A division anyway, so from that angle there was not much point in showing up. However, it’s free pinball, and a chance to hang out with everybody again, which I really needed, so why not play anyway?

I would be grouped with Marc Gammons, Brad Berryman, and Jake Valdez. We would be assigned to Medieval Madness, Game of Thrones, Kiss, Wrestlemania, and Spiderman VE. Also, a welcome change would come with this week’s play: the Matchplay.events software now assigns player orders for all five games instead of us having to work out “who goes first this time”.

Again, we would begin with Medeival Madness. And in what is starting to become my usual for this game, I get off to a lousy start and never really get a lot going, signing off with a third-place 1.3M+ which barely edges out Jake’s 1.1M+. Not the start I wanted.

My disappointment would be short-lived, as the next game was on Game of Thrones. This is a game I knew I could put up a winning score on, the only question was whether or not I could. I was able to start Blackwater Multiball during ball 2, and I remembered my add-a-ball (I play House Martell where add-a-ball is the action button award). Somehow I was able to put up a solid 455M+, easily good enough for first place this time, with Brad holding down second with 6.91M+.

Next game was on Kiss, where I’d put up an unremarkable 3.2M+ and wind up with fourth. Enough said.

After that we’d move on to Wrestlemania, another game that I know I can score high on. Unfortunately this time it was not to be, I’d put up a 6.4M+ which realistically isn’t going to be good for much barring a lot of luck and a lot of house balls or quick drains from the other players. Neither of which happened this time, so fourth place it was.

I’d finish the night with a 54.1M+ on Spiderman good for second, however Jake had two stuck balls, and for some reason on this game it was not possible to put them back in play and have him finish the ball normally, so Jake got two replacement balls at the end of the regular game. I don’t have a picture of this score (yet) but he did not score enough to get out of fourth place (his adjusted score was 10.3M+ according to the official record).

You should see my post about week 8 sometime in the next couple days. I will probably not be playing the finals, so the bulk of my commentary on the season (or at least what I got to play of it) will be in that post.

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