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austin_dern

September 2017

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Jun. 7th, 2017

Pinball At The Zoo came again. I think of it as our emergence into the real if modest world of competitive statewide pinball play. We expected to need to go two days to have enough time to qualify for both Classics and Main tournaments. [profile] bunny_hugger also had the chance to compete in the Women's Tournament, a rare chance to earn points for the women-only rankings. We don't have many women's-only events in Michigan, and no women's-only leagues. We decided after some dithering not to stay in Kalamazoo, but rather to take the hourlong drive home Friday night and back Saturday morning. That part was only arguably wise. But it did mean we didn't have to board our pet rabbit or set him up with enough food to last a day and a half unsupervised.

Pinball At The Zoo is partly a showcase for pinball machines, mostly people showcasing games they have and, often, offering to sell them. GRV brought his Roller Coaster, a 1971 Gottleib table, in part in the hopes he could sell it to [profile] bunny_hugger, or at least so that we could try it out. She got some time on it. I ended up busy enough with one or another thing that I never got to play the game before it was boxed up and put back in his van. It looks fun, although the game dates to before computers intruded into pinball machines and scoring could be done responsively enough for ramps to become a practical feature. (Could be worse; the Evel Kneivel game just missed by a year or two the technical ability to have ramps and if any game calls for ramps more than a roller coaster theme does, it's Even Kneivel.)

Manufacturers were showing off stuff, too. In particular, Jersey Jack Pinball was there, as promised, with their newest table, Dialed In. This is their third game, and the first from pinball game-design superstar legend Pat Lawlor, famed of FunHouse and Twilight Zone and pretty much every game from the 90s that was a lot of fun to play and that had a flipper on the upper playfield. For a wonder, it's a modern game without any license to it. The theme is something about disasters striking Quantum City, and you charge up a super-tech cell phone to do something about them. I'm not sure exactly and I'm looking forward to finding the concept documentation for it. Also to seeing people really have time to play it so I can see what sort of storyline the game develops.

I only had time for one game, myself, although I watched most of rarer-since-he-had-a-kid RC's test game. Dialed In makes a good first impression. There's a bunch of toys on the playfield, including a simulated cell phone that in some modes starts taking selfies. These get popped up on the (huge) display screen, where they're of almost no value to you as a player but great for friends to point and laugh at. It's a very social game. There's allegedly to be an app that would let one play the game over your cell phone, too, which is stupid except as a way to play pranks on a friend who doesn't know you're ... dialed in. (The game's name is itself a pinball joke, as we describe the process of finding a particular shot as ``dialing in'' to that target.)

I was watching for game references because of course there would be. Back in the 90s most of the Williams games, many of them Pat Lawlor-designed, had references to other games. And while Jersey Jack has no corporate tie-ins to Williams there's plenty of room for it. One of the disasters that can start, for example, is a tornado, or as they call it, a whirlwind. On the display is a running news ticker, reporting the progress of the game. There's an occasional reference to UFOs spotted on the west coast, which must allude to the wizard mode in Road Show. There's glimpses in the city distance of an amusement park, including roller coaster, which could be any of the Comet-Cyclone-Hurricane set and might fit a FunHouse gag in yet. I'm looking forward to it getting into the playable venues. So far it's just on tour at pinball shows.

Trivia: The English East India Company's garrison in Madras increased in number from 360 in 1717 to about 1200 in 1742. Source: India: A History, John Keay.

Currently Reading: The Mighty Music Box: The Golden Age Of Musical Radio, Thomas A DeLong.

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