April 30th, 2015

krazy koati

It takes two to tango

The Michigan Pinball Expo was more than just a set of competitions for bunny_hugger and I to get our egos crushed in. It was also at least a hundred pinball machines being shown off, and seminars, and things like that. A lot of it gave off the vibe of a convention, just with a different base.

For example, one of the panels we were able to attend was hosted by the guy from Pennsylvania who looks remarkably like skylerbunny. He does a lot of pinball restoration and maintenance and gave a talk on how to repair and restore a machine. His was a particularly interesting talk because he was very careful not to slag any pinball manufacturer, but he was also upfront at saying there was a major maker whose products he found terribly shoddy. There is, presently, one major pinball maker and one could-be major one. And he was clear about how happy he was with how the could-be-major maker, Jersey Jack Pinball, makes machines.

But he also gave a good bit of talk about how to get into repairing pinball machines, which requires enough courage to actually solder stuff, and a willingness to rigorously wax table surfaces and the like. We have felt the itch for getting a machine, it must be said. He also spoke about interesting little points, such as that American-made pinball machines up until about 1990 were made as disposable things, with not much thought given to the hardware lasting. Pennsylvania Skyler compared this to an Italian maker whose machines were always stable, reliable things that were almost naturally long-lasting. He thought that reflected a difference in attitudes between making disposable entertainments and making serious durable machines.

While Stern, for reasons I never learned, did not attend the expo and show off its new Wrestlemania pinball, Jersey Jack did. It had a Wizard of Oz of course, used for a children's tournament, and a demonstration table of The Hobbit. That game hasn't yet been released --- MWS said it still seemed to be buggy, even with little things like balls not staying on ramps --- but they had it set up for two-ball demo play.

It's a really impressive table, at least in beta form. It's got a much more open playfield than The Wizard of Oz --- which I think is a brilliant game, but does suffer a bit from their apparently trying to cram everything that might go into a table in one machine --- but everything on it feels nice and solid and well-placed. There's an animatronic Smaug on the table, and its mouth even moves in time to his quotes. It seems to make good use of sounds and video from the movies, I guess, and it's got appealing timer shots. By my third game I was even getting the hang of starting a quite exciting multiball.

When the ball ends the score tallies up a bonus that's presently divided into 'SOME POINTS', 'SOME MORE POINTS', 'COOL STUFF', and 'EVEN MORE'. It is possible these are placeholder descriptions of the bonus's parts, but I like it this way too.

Trivia: In 1372, John de Leye and Thomas Gandre, pouch-makers living on London Bridge, were appointed by the Lord Mayor and aldermen to prevent the sale of counterfeit deerskins. (Gandre was also a toll collector for the bridge.) Source: Old London Bridge: The Story Of The Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe, Patricia Pierce.

Currently Reading: User Unfriendly: Consumer Struggles with Personal Technologies, from Clocks and Sewing Machines to Cars and Computers, Joseph J Corn.