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 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 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.

Space City Pinball League Season 3 Week 4: Ghost in the machine?

Unfortunately due to real life and other things coming up, I didn’t get around to posting this until now. Better late than never, I guess. I will be following up shortly with a post about week 7 (which was last week; I missed both weeks 5 and 6) and shortly after that week 8 (which is happening tonight). I will reserve detailed commentary for after my week 8 post.

Another Wednesday night, another week of pinball. I arrive shortly after the nominal start time of 7pm; luckily for me at least a couple of others were running behind schedule as well. Our lineup this week would be: Kiss Pro, Ghostbusters Pro, Metallica LE, Spider-Man Vault Edition, Medeival Madness, Game of Thrones Premium, and The Hobbit.

The highlight of the night may well have been my unexpected grand champion on Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, this came during warmups, and not during actual league play.

I’m going to make this more or less a brief summary because there was really only one noteworthy event, which I’ll explain when I get to it. This week I was grouped with Brian Foytik, Rick Garcia, and Robert Clauson, and we were assigned to The Hobbit, Ghostbusters, Metallica, Spiderman VE, and Medieval Madness (remake).

The first game was on Medieval Madness. I never really got a lot going on this game, and for some reason that seems to be the case in a lot of games once I approach them to play in actual league play. I manage to put up a 1.6M+ good for third. Brian ran away with this one early with 49.9M+ which if memory serves me correctly included the one allowed extra ball.

Next game would be The Hobbit. I would sign off with a 43.0K+ which would be edged out by Robert’s 45.1K+ and completely dominated by the other two players, leaving me with fourth place.

The next game would be Ghostbusters, and this is the game with the irregularity. For some reason the game decides to launch Robert’s (second player) ball while he is away from the table. We have to wait quite a bit of time for Phil to make his ruling, and it’s a pretty obvious and standard one: Robert gets another ball after the current game is over, and the score from that one ball is added to the score from the previous game to determine the final score. To say the least, Robert isn’t too happy about it. While understandable, arguing a ruling the way he did reflects badly on all of us. Anyway, after the dust settles, my 25.8M+ would hold up for second place (Robert put up just less than 1.2M on his replacement ball, he needed around 5.75M to take second).

Game four was Spiderman, another game that Brian just ran away from the pack on. I put up 38.0M+ which is good for second, but still rather disappointing as with better focus and ball control I probably could have put up a score closer to if not higher than Brian’s 65.7M+.

We wrapped up with Metallica, the one game of the night I actually win with an 8.04M+, surpassing Rick’s 6.45M+ and Brian’s 5.50M+. Sum total of the night, 8 standings points of a possible 15.

Space City Pinball League Season 3 Week 2: Busting ghosts and getting medieval

(Yeah I know this is way late… Real life got in the way of getting this finished last week. It happens sometimes.)

So the Space City Pinball League is back in session once again. I was not able to make week 1 due to a conflict; we are playing on Wednesdays now, which unfortunately is going to conflict with a fair number of meetings and meetups I usually attend. Nevertheless, I’ll try to play as many weeks as I can.

This week’s lineup of machines: Game of Thrones Premium, Ghostbusters (Pro), Kiss (LE?), Medieval Madness (remake), Spiderman VE, The Hobbit, and The Walking Dead. After missing week 1, I had heard about Medieval Madness making an appearance that week. I will concede it was not one of my favorite games back in the day, but I remained eager for the chance to play it nonetheless.

This week I was grouped with Nina Ruiz, John Costa, and Ken Holmes. Going into it I figured I had decent chances to make at least a good showing. Unfortunately we would wind up not playing Spiderman or The Hobbit, two of my stronger games out of this bunch.

Our first game was on Ghostbusters. This is one of the newest titles from Stern, much anticipated and hyped. I’ve gotten in a few rounds on it, so I had an idea what to expect. I would post a modest lead after ball 1, but really blow it wide open during ball 2. I would sign off with a 109M+, dwarfing Ken’s second place score of 7.1M+. So one first place finish to start the night, good for three standings points (the scoring system has changed for this system to 3-2-1-0 and 3-1½-0, from the former 5-3-2-1 and 5-3-1).

Our next game would be on Kiss. This wound up being a game I’d rather forget. It seems that during warmups or when I am just doinking around, I do okay on this title, but almost every time I play it during league play I wind up doing poorly. Such was the case here, where I signed off with a measly 3.4M+ in dead last. So it’s still three standings points on the night going into the third game.

We would move on to Medieval Madness. Again, I’ve had some prior experience with this title (the original Williams version, not the remake), and I didn’t remember it too fondly. Nevertheless, I managed to put up a respectable 8.0M+ which nobody else came close to (despite the fact I accidentally tilted out on the last ball). So, two first place finishes and a fourth, that’s six standings points on the night and we move on to the next game.

That next game happened to be The Walking Dead. I have played this game enough to say I don’t particularly like it (the ramp shots are really hard to make consistently, and the extra ball shot is particularly a pain in the ass, though I have managed to make it semi-consistently). I put up a 17.5M+ which I honestly had hoped would hold up for at least a second place. Unfortunately John and Nina both outscored me with 19.7M+ and 29.2M+ respectively, pushing me down to third. Seven standings points and one more game to go.

Wrapping up the night was our turn on Game of Thrones. This is another title I seem to be jinxed on when it comes to league play. I was barely able to put up a 3.5M+, which thankfully was good at least for third behind Nina’s 8,302,350 and Ken’s 8,210,200 (quite a close finish given the scale of the scoring on this game). I wind up with eight standings points from two firsts, two thirds, and a fourth.

I don’t feel that I did terrible, though there were situations where I should have done better than I did. I barely knew who Nina was, but now that I look back at the league history I have at least an idea. Nina finished tied for 27th last season (for comparison purposes I finished tied for 25th) and her regular season performance looks an awful lot like mine: one standout week of 15 points (week 4) with scores of 11, 10, 8, 7, and 7 in the other weeks. Compare this to my standout week of 17 in week 8, with scores of 13, 10, 10, 10, and 9 in the other weeks. So it’s not that big of a surprise that she was able to hold her own against a player of my caliber.

By the time this goes up, week 3 will have come and gone, and I didn’t play. At least I now know which two weeks will get dropped. It also makes it clear as mud where I actually have potential of finishing; we won’t really know that until week 6.

A lull in the action

Yes, it’s been pretty quiet month after the Joystix visit. I have not been playing much pinball, at least much real pinball. I have been playing some Pinball Arcade on my tablet to stay sharp, though obviously that’s not quite the same as the real thing.

I have been keeping up with the goings-on, including the update to the WPPR formula for 2017 posted last week. It’s mostly minor stuff, with the headline change being the addition of an IFPA Tour of “endorsed Pin-Golf events.” For those unfamiliar with it, pin-golf is a tournament format where the goal is to complete objectives using the lowest number of balls in play. An example pin-golf course would be something like this:

  1. Game of Thrones: Start Blackwater Multiball
  2. Black Hole: Score 500K points
  3. Fun House: Score Million Plus during multiball
  4. Xenon: Score 1M points
  5. Earthshaker: Get 50 ramp miles
  6. [etc.]

If I were to get all 5 of these in the first ball of each game, my total score would be the best possible score of 5. If it took me more than that, say I ran into trouble on Xenon and Earthshaker and it took me 3 balls and 4 balls to reach each goal respectively, my score would be 10. Lower scores are better, just like real golf.

I have never really played a pin-golf tournament format, though it does seem like it would be kind of fun and something different. It seems I do better when I focus on just blowing up the score counter versus trying to reach an objective. A case in point would be a recent game of Party Zone I was playing in Pinball Arcade. I was trying to finally make the Big Bang, after many, many failed attempts. When I finally did my final score was in the range of 85M which wasn’t even good enough to make the high score list (I’ve had many games in excess of 100M before).

Amazingly, I made the Big Bang in a way I have never done before on either a real Party Zone machine or in Pinball Arcade: I sent the two balls up the Rock-It ramp right behind each other, such that there was this weird five-second pause on “Lock 2nd Ball for Big Bang” until the game figured out I had already made it. If memory serves me correctly, two of the three times I have made Big Bang on a real machine, it was for a maxed-out 99,999,999 score. (It’s been a while, most of my play of a real Party Zone machine was back when it was new in the early 1990s, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.)

On Pinball Arcade, the Big Bang does not carry over between starts of the app (otherwise, players would sandbag to drive up the value for when it finally does get made) and starts at 20,075,000. That’s still a fairly large bonus in this game, though there are other ways to run up that many points which are arguably lower risk (example: six shots to the far right lane when not lit would score a total of 21M).

Hopefully the next season of the league will start up soon, as I don’t want to have huge gaps between entries. This weekend I will try to find time to post some of my better Pinball Arcade scores over the past few months (there have been quite a few).

Joystix Pac-Man Fever: Some of the old, some of the new

So I went to Joystix this past Friday (May 6) for Pac-Man Fever. The original reason I was going was to meet up with a couple of people I knew from the Extra Life Guild. That quickly turned into somewhat of a flop as they didn’t stick around for that long after I got my wristband to play.

I did get to play quite a few games that I had not played in years. Most notably, two videogame titles, Cliff Hanger (a Stern/Seeburg laserdisc title circa 1983 that I never got to play when it was new) and Time Traveler (the Sega hologram game from 1989 which is now somewhat rare). I also got in my first games of Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons (yes that is actually the title of a pinball game), Terminator 3, and Avatar. I also got to play, for the first time in a very long time, Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Ball. I know that last title is a game people love to hate, much like The Simpsons (the original 1990 Data East game, not The Simpsons Pinball Party which was made by Stern much more recently).

I’m not sure how good the Avatar score is, but I’m pretty damn proud of 1.24B+ on Game of Thrones and 382K+ on The Hobbit. Why the hell couldn’t I do that during league play?!

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