So the Main Tournament. We can qualify for this --- scores from the top four performance out of ten machines --- all day Friday, plus a couple hours Saturday. It's a fun mix of games. There are some solid-state tables like Alien Star (which tormented MWS at Pinburgh and which, when we played together, I had a natural touch on) or Meteor (an old friend). Some dot-matrix tables like Tommy and World Cup Soccer. Some modern games like AC/DC. A brand-new game that basically nobody had played before, and that was designed to play like an early solid state, Total Nuclear Annihilation. The top 16 players will go into the A Division Finals. The next eight players --- more or less --- into the B Division Finals. ``More or less'' because there are restricted players, people so highly ranked in the world that they can either qualify for A Division or go home, the better to beat off sandbagging. Neither bunny_hugger nor I are restricted. So even if we only manage to be in the top thirty, maybe 35 of players we'll be in. (It turns out the actual bottom of B Division is at the 33rd player, but there's no way to know that before the end of qualifying.)
I figure to use my normal strategy. Play every game once and then see where I can shore up my standings. Early on it's none too crowded and I have my pick of games. I start with Alien Star, based on fond memories from Pinburgh and have a game that's decent, nothing great. Tommy and a game that breaks 100 million and so is at least fair, although not in this crowd. Meteor and a game that technically exists but isn't anything great. Eight Ball Deluxe, an early solid state, and I finally have a good rhythm and get over 400,000 points. I finally have a respectable score logged. The Shadow and I beat 100 million, which would satisfy me, and most four-player groups at league, but which is sinking without a trace in this group. Star Trek: The Next Generation for a quarter-billion points, and which barely registers. AC/DC where I put up 13 million, a dismal score. Jack-Bot and my game is looking ready to blow up nicely when my multiball races down the drain and the game's over.
You maybe sense where this is going. I am putting up a bunch of games that are, at best, mediocre. Nothing feels lucky, although I come away thinking a little practice on the early solid states --- Alien Star and Eight-Ball Deluxe --- will pay off. But it'll be struggling my way into contention, not simply landing somewhere in the top 24(ish) and holding my position.
I finally get a chance at Total Nuclear Annihilation. It's a retro-style game; just look at the backglass. It's new but follows many early-solid-state rules. No ramps, no separate playfields. The objective is to hit a bunch of targets to start a nuclear reactor, then hit a series of (variable) targets to bring it to critical mass and, ultimately, explode it. (And if you watch Ultravox's video for ``Dancing With Tears In My Eyes'' you'll understand the sick joke in my subject lines for this report.) There's a multiball, all physical locks where even a new player can see it; shoot up this one little tunnel. The detailed rules may be obscure, but it's a refreshingly friendly game for new players. It's easy to guess what a player should do, and easy to read the state of the board, even before you look at the LCD-screen scoreboard with further detail about what there is to do.
I get a reactor started, not destroyed, and get multiball going a while to no particular purpose. I don't quite break 400,000, but that's a good score as it stands so far. It might be my breakthrough game.
I go back trying to shore up scores. Eight Ball Deluxe I nearly double my score on. Meteor I more than double my score on. Then a stretch of bad games, worse than what I had already. I have a slight improvement on The Shadow. Slight improvement on Jack-Bot, which doesn't want to let me play a multiball. Another string of games where I don't improve my score at all. A Star Trek: The Next Generation that breaks 500 million, into the lower levels of competitive. Another half-hour of garbage after that, until I get back on Total Nuclear Annihilation and actually destroy the first (of nine!) reactors. And a game of Alien Star that beats my old by about 50 percent; not enough, but a good direction. Another half-hour of garbage before I double my score on The Shadow.
Then I shift back to Classics, to try to hold my position in the top 16 there. That fails. The consolation: there'll be 105 minutes more of Main qualifying Friday night, and sixteen of the top players won't be putting up Main scores as they've got Classics Finals to deal with. I can surely make progress with this relatively-clear time.
I make no progress with this relatively-clear time. I manage a slightly better game of Tommy, and that's it. Everything else I play I can't beat a previous score.
bunny_hugger has had a better night than I have. But it's not much better. I think she's above 40th place, only going to get in if a bunch of people skip Saturday. I'm below 40th place.
She's in a good spot for qualifying in the Women's tournament. We both failed in the daily tournament, and Classics. And we'd need a big stroke of luck for the Main tournament. The drive home is long and sad, and only the enthusiasm of our rabbits brings us cheer.
Trivia: Between the making of the first prototype integrated circuits and their installation in production models of the Apollo Guidance Computer the cost dropped from about $1000 to about $20 to $30 per chip. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.
Currently Reading: The Zippy Annual, September 2001 - October 2002, Bill Griffith.
PS: And then there's the roller coaster at Keansburg which we failed entirely to ride. How could this come about?
Twin entry gate for the Sea Serpent kiddie coaster and the Log Flume. Do you see why we were denied the chance to ride the Sea Serpent, even though it was the same model as the Dragon which we rode hours before at Bowcraft?
Stepping away from the park a moment, to the sun setting off the coast of New Jersey. (Think about it.)
Looking from Keansburg across to Manhattan, with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge catching the late sunlight. Somewhere off to the right must be Coney Island although I can't swear that we ever got a clear view of the place. We did see bright things