austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Go forward, move ahead

So the Amazing Race tournament started, finally, for everyone who got past Freddy. That would be everybody. It started slowly. The first couple players, after all, have every reason to put up their highest scores possible. They have no idea what the lowest two scores --- the early rounds eliminate two players --- are going to be. There's a lot of going back and checking what the posted scores have been. This is done on paper, which can't be easily sorted into ascending-score order, so it's often confusing just where the minimum bar is. And the first game after Freddy, going in the specified order around the room, is our nemesis Road Show. Good players can go on this game forever, and many of the state's best players are here.

And everyone starts from the same point. A contestant who knows the score is high enough can go on to the next table, but everyone else has to wait. Later in the day we work out the playing of provisional games, stepping ahead one or two tables for scores that will count only if we go back and get a good enough core on something other players are taking forever on.

One of the logjam games is World Poker Tour, an 2006 Stern game that's rare in these parts anyway. PH, who knocked me out of the winners bracket in the main tournament, has one. But most of us don't know what to do in the game, or how to efficiently score. And it's the next one after Road Show. If you don't know how to play a game, but you can keep the ball in play, you can eventually get any score since it's not like points run out. It just takes longer. And longer still.

Some of us gather around, watching earlier players, hoping to pick up strategies that might work. ``Shoot the most distant target on the playfield and every ramp three times'' isn't a bad one, although there's ambiguities about what the most distant target is. And with several dozen people crowding around the one machine it's hard to get a good view and pick up anything from the people who seem to know what they're doing. Many of them are quietly hoping the player has a worse game than they did, so they can move on. The suggestion goes around that the theme for Amazing Race tournaments should be the vulture.

There's a bit of relief after World Poker Tour. There's a string of a couple solid-state games like Paragon and Stars. Even if you're not familiar with these games per se, it's easy to tell what to do. Hit banks of drop targets. Keep doing that. The logjam disperses as people find shots worth as much as 50,000 points and, with games that don't last so long even when they're long games, can move forward.

Then it's into a patch of modern-era games, like The Walking Dead and Kiss and Game of Thrones. People know how to grab points on these quickly. bunny_hugger is aware of the relatively low bar on Kiss, particularly. At the start of Kiss you select a song, and with it a mode, to play. ``Detroit Rock City'' is a mode with many shots open for not so many points, but, she notices, all that you need for the threshold as it stands. She whips through it in no time. More experienced players see her and adapt. They're used to picking songs with fewer targets worth more points. But players are starting to understand: they don't need high scores. They just need high enough scores, and can shoot for low and safe points.

They don't have to, though. Game of Thrones is a new table. Its software is still imperfectly formed. AJG, who won the state's tournament, has a knack for finding imperfections in its software. He has worked out a scheme that lets one build a particular shot to gob-smackingly enormous scores, and he uses it repeatedly. He's done this before: Jersey Jack Pinball issued a patch to The Wizard of Oz to eliminate an exploit he's worked out. Stern Pinball might issue a patch to Game of Thrones for this. One can ask, fairly, whether he really is exploiting the code. His schemes require a lot of setup, a lot of work, a lot of skill to carry off. Shouldn't that be rewarded with billions of points?

Well, if all you need is twenty million points, it does seem a bit like showing off. I don't remember him doing too much of that during the Amazing Race, but he was certainly shooting for it in the main tournament, and the side tournament had to pause for games the main tournament was still playing.

I stumble in the modern games. I shouldn't, but I do have a harder time getting through tables like The Walking Dead than I should. I spend a lot of time among the vultures, waiting to see anyone stumble worse than I do. They do on Game of Thrones finally and I get over to The Walking Dead. They do on The Walking Dead finally and I get to Kiss, which goes well. Then to Nascar.

This is a late-90s game, although it's a peculiar one. Its playfield has the style and look and even the colors of a late-80s game. It's got a racing theme, naturally. You can make an engine-revving noise by hitting the flippers before you launch the ball, the way every racing-themed or car-themed pinball game does. It's not a popular game. It's openly called Nastycar even by the people logging scores. It's not so easy to find its appeal.

I play in a group with bunny_hugger and GRV. GRV knows every rule to every pinball game ever, and if he somehow doesn't he knows who to ask. He is generous with his knowledge. He coaches us to the best shots to make for a quick points payoff. For bunny_hugger this goes well and she puts up, if I remember it right, her personal high score on the table.

For me, it doesn't. I have two house balls, ones that hit a target and not the flipper and that drain down the center right after the minimum-playtime ball saver drops off. I start to pull it together, building toward multiball on my last chance, and then the ball rolls into the outlane.

Everyone's played, and I have the lowest score. I'm knocked out.

Except ---

Trivia: Sadi Carnot self-published his 118-page Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, about 600 copies explaining the fundamentals of how steam engines work, which remained obscure for Carnot's life. Source: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Tom Schachtman.

Currently Reading: The Punic Wars, Adrian Goldsworthy.

PS: Only Fractions, some mathematics run across in the Studio Ghibli film we saw last weekend, Only Yesterday.

Tags: michigan state pinball championship, pinball

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