austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Sure plays a mean pinball

Somebody I never played with my first day at Pinburgh? Someone who brought a pen. I always carry a pen and relinquished it to the round scorekeeper reluctantly. Not because of my not-actually-crippling germ phobia, but just because I know lending pens is the first step to losing pens, and to do without a pen would be horrible. I didn't lose my pen. I would get a cold. This changed the second day; people brought pens, this after I grabbed a pen from the free supply offered by the scorekeepers. But I had a pen I could sacrifice in case someone lost one.

Somebody else I never played with my first day at Pinburgh? Women. None in the five groups I played with. Also none I played with the first two rounds of the second day. The third round that finally broke; there were two women in my group, on Bank 43, Cassiopeia. I look the games up early and feel good. NBA Fastbreak I slightly know; it's a late-90s basketball-themed game. It comes in a variant to allow for head-to-head play, duplicate tables next to one another. I go in feeling good about this. I'm wrong to. It wasn't NBA Fastbreak. It was Stern's 2009 NBA, which I never knew existed. And I can't get back on PinTips to get advice. It doesn't have anything, anyway; if it had I might have realized there were two different similarly-named, similarly-themed games.

Well, there's always something to fall back on. Read the instruction card. Try shooting all the ramps and whatever the obvious gimmick on the playfield is. Watch other players. I'm player two, so there's not much I can learn from the first ball before I'm up, but I can pick up some things. Like what seems to build multiball, and what the basketball points seem to offer. I do get multiballs going on, I believe, balls one and three. I end up winning, 5.1 million to 5.0 million to a couple people around half our score. It's a good start.

It's almost a stop. Next to us is a group of Division A ringers, including AJG again. They're playing the electromechanical, Bally's 1975 Captain Fantastic. It's themed to the Pinball Wizard sequence in the movie Tommy. AJG is in a quartet that threatens to recreate the scene. Among those in the group: Lyman Sheats, whose name means nothing to you. He's the programmer whose game logic is behind many of the murderer's row of 90s Williams tables, and many of the better modern Stern tables. He literally wrote the code for the NBA game in that group. We can't play until they finish playing. They have multiple people who roll the table.

We play a lot quicker. I have the best game of the set, coming in at 64,000 points. It's not best by a lot; the second-place finisher had 63,830 points. One good spinner shot and the round would have been lesser for me. Third place ended up at 60,510. It really could have been anybody's game.

It's our game for a while, though, as AJG and his group continue on the late-solid-state game, Williams's 1990 Diner. I keep looking over their shoulders, trying to get some idea of how the game works for experts. There's not much I gain that I didn't already know; I played the game some in the 90s and it's got a rule set that isn't deep but that is fussy. I do get to see Lyman Sheats fumble the ball trying to post-pass. It's a trick where you tap a flipper quickly to send a ball rebounding to the other flipper. bunny_hugger berates herself whenever she fumbles this and the ball drains. I can attest, now, that even Lyman Sheats will sometimes fumble the post-pass.

Finally they finish, and move on to the next game, Gottleib's 1983 Ready ... Aim ... Fire!, which they promptly break. Techs rush over to open it up and try doing something, and I ponder how long we're going to be stuck waiting after the end of Diner. They eventually move AJG's group to a substitute early-solid-state game, and the techs keep working.

I knew two things from playing Diner on location in the 90s: the skill shot is an easy one, all timing, and the multiball isn't worth going for. The skill shot still serves me well, though I have to study other players closely to pick up the timing. And multiball ... is surprisingly easy to get. Maybe the table's being nice to me. Maybe I'm better at this than I thought. I get a speedy little two-ball multiball going, and leave a ball locked when my turn ends, and then think: there's surely locked-ball stealing in a game of this era.

I get away with it, though, ending up just short of three million points. Second-place is around two and a quarter million. I've already got on the record nine wins, zero losses, and we haven't played the early-solid-state game. And I'm liberated: no matter what happens, I have had a great round.

What I try very hard not to think of: I could have a perfect round.

I know nothing of Ready ... Aim ... Fire!. PinTips's whole advice is ``keep toward the top and complete the standups for bonus x''. OK. The game is carnival or amusement-park themed, with the whole game accompanied by lovely early-digital circus music. It's a wide-open playfield, bumpers each protecting a set of standing targets. Hit all the targets of a single color and you collect a prize. Collect more prizes for more points. I'm enchanted by the theme right away. The gameplay is just as good, for me. More, it's fun. I think I would have liked the game anyway, but a long first ball, and an even longer second ball, wins it a grand place in my heart.

I'm the third player. When the third ball is over, I have 615,690 points, more than double what the first two have. They clap. I shake it off: there's still another player with the last ball. I'm not trying to be self-effacing. I point out, I got three hundred thousand points (or something) on one ball, there's no reason the guy couldn't.

He doesn't. I come in first again. I have a perfect round.

They clap. I stagger over against the table and giggle. I can't believe it.

They congratulate me and talk about how just great it was to see, and we all reflect on what a close thing it was. And they sign the score sheet. I take a photo and swear I'm not doing it for pride. I've been photographing the score sheets in case one gets misplaced. They say they understand; many people do that. I still worry I'm coming off as boastful. But still, a perfect round.

I walk with the score sheet in a daze. Before I get to the scorekeepers PH spots me and asks how I'm doing. I can't help it and show the sheet. He's congratulatory. I don't think he's ever done this. His son, AJH, never has. It fuels my giddiness.

Finally, finally, after the many delays from being behind AJG's group and from the length of our own games and from the daze with which I took the score sheet up, I find bunny_hugger. I deliver the news of my own perfect round. She accuses me of upstaging her.

A half-hour or so before this Michigan Pinball had been gathering to go out and eat somewhere. The chance for that is long since past. My group was just too slow, exciting as it was for me. I get a black bean burger from the refreshments kiosk inside the conference hall; bunny_hugger passes. We have something under an hour before the fourth round of the day.

My perfect round has launched me from 10th place to 1st, sitting with 30 wins and 6 losses just barely ahead of second place. bunny_hugger talks about how I might go on to win the division. I answer, ``chickens and eggs''. There's two rounds to go even before the finals lines are drawn. And finals themselves would have ... who knows how many rounds? (Five rounds, but some would get byes.)

bunny_hugger's third round of the day, on bank 40, Libra, wasn't a bad one for her. It includes Williams's 1989 Zootopia table. She went 7-5, putting her record for the day at 24 wins, 12 losses, and setting her in a four-way tie for 12th place. Quite good, by any measure; it only looks relatively bad to the extent it does because I got lucky on Captain Fantastic and NBA. And because Ready ... Aim ... Fire was fixed in time.

Trivia: A 1236 statute of English King Henry III, De Anno Bissextili, states that leap day and the day before are to be considered a single day, implying an English leap year would be legally 365 days. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest To Invent The Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: Under A Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894, Daniel James Brown.

PS: The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: Gaussian Primes, which don't include things like '2' or '5' but do include '3' and some crazy numbers like '1 - i'.

Tags: pinball, pinburgh

Posts from This Journal “pinburgh” Tag

  • Sure plays a mean pinball

    Tiebreaker with LEF. I'm already done so much better than I could have imagined. The tournament official declares the tiebreaking will be on a…

  • That deaf, dumb, and blind kid

    The finals! D Division, but still, finals. And the only finals still going, other than those of the A Division, on stage and just next to us and…

  • The digit counters fall

    The semi-finals. Only two groups of people playing now. My pick for the first set, so we go back to Cirqus Voltaire's bank. The official asks what…

  • Plays by intuition

    Finally, the quarterfinals, and my first round to play. It's been several hours. I spent some of it walking around the con. Some of it watching…

  • Always playing clean

    The first round ended. MWS, our most stalwart pinball friend, is already knocked out of his, C Division, finals. (This was separate from our…

  • Feeling all the bumpers

    Saturday we had to get up and to the convention center early, because if you weren't there to check in by 9:30 you lost your spot. And I have to…

  • Becomes part of the machine

    The first four rounds of the day, as the first four rounds of Thursday were, groups were arranged by ``slaughter seeding''. A group of four players…

  • He stands like a statue

    The lunch-or-dinner break came to a halt sometime around 6:15. The round was supposed to start then, it's just that for some reason they don't make…

  • That deaf, dumb, and blind kid

    Second round of the day. For me, Draco. Also playing on this bank, but in the lofty heights of A Division, AJG. (Not the person who'd played with…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.