Game Preserve Friday: “You can’t be the best at everything”


I’ll get on to the meat of this one in a few. First, I wanted to get through at least some of the highlights from Friday night:

  • 105,740 on Q*Bert’s Qubes
  • 44,930 on Hyper Sports
  • 287,200 on Blue Chip
  • 1,074,090 on Space Shuttle
  • 3,356 on Beat Time

I’ll elaborate on these in reverse order. I’ve put up scores well into the 4,000+ range on Beat Time before, with an all-time record of 6,859. For a nightly highlight, though, 3,356 is a score I’m happy with. It’s above the second of four replay levels (the settings are 2,600/3,300/4,000/4,600).

The Space Shuttle score is again far off of my best, but again quite respectable for a nightly highlight. I had trouble making the lock shots and at times the center drop target and center ramp. If I can consistently hit the lock shots and the ramp, and keep starting multiball after multiball, I’m damn near unstoppable on Space Shuttle. That’s how I ran up the 6,190,550 score back in early August; incidentally, that score is still on the board in second place as of Friday night when I left (someone managed to put up a 6.4M+ since, I have no idea who).

The scores on Blue Chip I put up were pretty good, but the bigger story on that game is that I am now getting to the point where I can consistently make all 8 targets, though getting special afterwards is another story. This is quite noteworthy given the left flipper doesn’t go quite full stroke on this particular table; it’s good enough to make most of the shots except the right saucer, but it is rather difficult to cradle a ball on the left flipper. The right spinner is also not working as of at least the tournament, probably sooner. (Not that it’s particularly easy to really rip the right spinner given the left flipper, so in part that’s just as well…)

The Hyper Sports score represents the first time I have made it all the way to the pole vault stage on an actual arcade machine. In case you have forgotten which game this was, it was the follow-up to Track & Field and featured swimming, skeet shooting, long horse, archery, triple jump, weight lifting, and pole vault. Unlike Track & Field where the hammer throw was usually the game-ending event due to its difficulty, the only truly difficult event is the pole vault. (It is much harder than Track & Field’s high jump, for example; the high jump allows one to change one’s trajectory in mid-jump while the pole vault does not.)

Finally, the Q*Bert’s Qubes score, the video game highlight of the night, is my best on an actual arcade machine. Historically, I have not considered Q*Bert’s Qubes a game I am particularly strong at. I only ever got to play it once or twice near the time of its release “back in the day” (scoring, I think, around 40,000 or so), but I have played it on MAME since then and grown quite a fond appreciation for it. Assuming those are marathon settings, that score would have been good for fourth on the Twin Galaxies board for Q*Bert’s Qubes, however first place on that board is a staggering 10.1M+ by Donald Hayes back in 2007. More on this later.

I did make a pretty solid run on Millipede, trying to better my previous high score. I succeeded in pushing another MAJ score or two off the list (this Millipede has a modified boardset that keeps all 8 high scores, not just the top 3 like original Atari boards). Since I didn’t set an actual new high score, I don’t have a picture.

I did play a couple of quick rounds on Junkyard, which was a recent addition to the lineup at The Game Preserve. Even though the score is rather unremarkable (at least by how I remember this game scoring back in the day) I did take a picture. Along with Junkyard, Congo (re-)joins the lineup in what I’m guessing is a temporary spot next to the tech room.

But the main highlight of the evening would have to be the last game of the night (I didn’t take pictures, for better or worse). I played a six-period game of Tournament Cyberball 2072 against Joe Reyna, one of the owners at The Game Preserve. It was a close game, with Joe’s Tokyo Flash defeating my Moscow Machine by a final score of 28-20. I was able to keep it a competitive game (within a touchdown) for most of the first five periods, though in the end an errant pass was intercepted by Joe’s team which wound up being the deciding factor in the game. The quote in the post title is from Joe, and I chose to make that the post title for a reason.

There is a fine line between being confident and cocky. I know Joe said what he did at least somewhat in jest, but there is an element of truth to it. My ego does tend to get a bit over-inflated from time to time. Yes, I do get rather proud of setting a high score or achieving other important milestones in whatever video game or pinball table I happen to be playing that day; maybe in a few cases, more proud than I should be.

However, there are games I am not good at, that I will probably never be good at because I either find them less interesting, or other reasons. There are also games that I once was somewhat good at that I will probably never take up again. Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up, and similar games would likely qualify as games for which my time to have played them has come and gone. However, the only DDR tournament I entered, I think I wound up busting out in the first round. I enjoyed the hell out of DDR when it was “the game” to be playing in the arcade, particularly when I could hop on the machine and play 8-panel (“doubles”). I did get to the point where I could pass some 6-foot songs playing doubles (this was when I was in my late 20s). Now, if you were to ask me to try even a 3-foot doubles song on DDR today, I’d probably laugh and go back to whatever pinball game I was playing.

I am primarily a pinball player now, though I play enough of certain videogames to be able to show I’m not just a “one-trick pony” and also because, as odd as it seems, a lot of people are more impressed by videogame performances than pinball.

Going back to my previous post, if I hadn’t played enough Millipede on MAME over the years to know what it’s like to play the higher levels of difficulty, I probably would have just looked the other way when I saw MAJ all over the high score list. At most, trying to get the top spot would have been an afterthought. Until I got all the way to where I start at 300,000 points and have to deal with eight spiders at the start of a new game, I had some doubts that I had what it took to beat MAJ’s scores. Even after playing a few times with a 300,000-point start and not cracking the high score list at all, I kept up with it.

To be at the top of the high score list, you don’t have to be the best every time you play, you just have to put up a score higher than what’s on there once.

This is one reason playing in pinball tournaments has been tricky for me at first. There is a huge difference between being able to run up a massive score once or twice over hundreds of attempts, and being able to have a great game right there on the spot in a tournament setting. A lot of tournament games have all four players end the game with what would be otherwise embarrassing scores. There are also situations where the player in fourth place of a four player game (i.e. last place) finishes with a score that ordinarily would be rather impressive. Say, 3.5M+ on Space Shuttle, 150M+ on The Addams Family, 750M+ on Twilight Zone, 500K+ on Mata Hari, 300K+ on Trident, 100K+ on Wizard of Oz, etc. But yet, the other three players managed to top even this. The famous saying of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over,” may well have originated with pinball tournaments.

Anyway, back to videogame records before I close this out. Obviously, Q*Bert’s Qubes is not the game I would prefer to try for a world record on. I could put up a decent score, maybe as high as 300K+ given enough practice. But this would only be good for second or third place on the Twin Galaxies list. So what else does that leave?

I have been eyeing the Klax record and the Centipede 3-minute record. Klax was a good choice if I had jumped on it a couple of years ago, but now the record of 2,833,216 by Paul Hornitzky is quite formidable. I wouldn’t go as far as to say insurmountable, but it took a great deal of effort to top 1 million when I last tried this title in MAME. Part of the reason I consider the Klax record to be as formidable as it is, is the fact that the Twin Galaxies settings include difficulty ramping, a feature intended to shorten game times dramatically (otherwise wizards could sit there and play all day on one credit, something arcade operators really do not like).

The Centipede 3-minute record is a more tempting goal. I am pretty sure the ROM dump of the timed variant ROMs will play on a standard Centipede board. The only catch is that two-player games become unavailable in the process, and Twin Galaxies has not published the settings for this particular record. Donald Hayes, again, holds this record for now with a score of 59,106, and for better or worse it was verified by referee and no video appears to exist, so I’m going to be “in the dark” as to exactly how he did it. I’ve been able to crank out 36K+ scores with regularity playing with a mouse in MAME, though that would only be good for 11th to 13th on the current list I am looking at.

I may consider others, particularly more obscure titles. I probably won’t be in a position to ramp up to a fully publicized videogame record attempt until the latter half of 2016, so pinball is likely to stay my main focus for a while.