This is a long post [even for me ]. But you want detail; you've got it! [And I have my flack jacket ready to wear if needed.]
1. Thanks for giving this a shot. We all knew going in that this was an experiment whose goal was a proof-of-concept and that there would be some bugs to fix. That it came off as well as it did is a testament to all the organizers and players involved. Thanks to Stern for doing this and kudos to everybody. Please regard all that follows as constructive feedback rather than criticism [well, except for that one item at the end].
2. The rules needed to be clearer and more detailed. I was under the impression before the event that the matches could be played across all three titles, not on just one. Same impression that the higher seed would have choice of goal across all three titles for game one of the match, not “play the first title that’s free” with no choice of title. Unwelcome last-minute changes. I didn’t bitch about it, just went with it since I figured it wouldn’t make that much difference to me, but whether future events do go with “choose your title” or “play first open,” that should be put in the rules beforehand. I would say that the “play first open” can negate the higher seed advantage in many cases, so this could be a good or bad thing depending upon how one views higher seed benefits.
3. Follow-up to that, better clarity was needed for the “player choice” re which 2X multiplier and which SW mode multiball - - player choice as in “your goal is to light a 2X multiplier, for which each player can go for any of them of their own choosing, or it’s goal-choosers-choice as in the goal is this specific multiplier that must be lit. It turned out it was the latter, but again this was not initially clear.
4. There should be a spare of each game present in case of shattered glass, major malfunction, etc. If one of the GBs had gone down instead of one of the Aerosmiths, you’d have only had two titles left.
1. I was happy to volunteer, as were my fellow player refs, but it would clearly be preferable to have them lined up in advance, whether drawn from the ranks of players or not. Thanks to everybody who pitched in.
2. While keeping track of some goals was easy, others were more challenging. You had to be pretty close or at a good angle to see the 20 ghost insert on both GBs at once. If two players with wide stances, say Lyman and Roger, had been playing a match, this would have been quite difficult. You’ll need to figure out how to deal with this for the future.
3. Since reffing was ad-hoc, it was harder to make the changes or clarifications in rules known to everybody. For instance, in some other events, you can play the same game twice if a different player picks it the second time, so some people did that with goals early on since whomever was the ref didn’t know that the intent was to not permit this.
1. I had planned to be an announcer for much of the tournament [said so online long ago], but the atmosphere with all of the noise from the BBH event totally turned me off doing that. Pinball crowd noise would have been okay, but getting the PA blasts from BBH, the excessively loud music and later on the light show glare, too, was bad. On the drive back right afterwards, I noticed that I had the car radio turned up way above normal to be able to hear it - - I was half-deaf from being in the building with BBH all day. Having the two events at the same place at the same time would be okay if they were simply far enough apart in whatever building was used.
2. Machine setup was fine - - no playfield glare, no sunlight issues, good separation between games, etc.
3. Could have used more chairs in the area at times; something to keep in mind.
4. Having a water tap available was a good move.
1. Much about the change from 3 balls to 5 has already been posted, and I agree with the move and most of the comments, I just would have done it sooner. But at least this issue should now be largely behind us.
2. Yes, early rounds were slow and later rounds too fast. Longer matches [best 3 of 5] is one option, but I like another idea, too: a second tier of goals for later rounds [say, final 4 or final 8 level]. Lots of other skill games use “progressively harder” goals, why couldn’t we? But to keep things from getting too hard for the casual audience to follow, they should be parallel to the first tier goals, just “more,” e.g. 40 ghosts vs. 20, 3-minute drill rather than 2 minutes, Toy Box 6 only [vs. 3-6], get a GB superjackpot worth at least X points vs. just any SJ, etc. I think that having harder goals impresses on people that we've now reached the "big time" more than longer matches does.
Machine choice comments
1. What have I said about “button bashing”? How anti-climactic was it that the title of a pinball tournament, and prize of a pinball machine depended on how the button-bashing went on SW? [Karl was at 49 tie fighters when he drained, Ray got to 50 while Karl’s ball was cycling.] While SW was the newest title, and I’m sure that fact and its popular theme were why it was chosen for this event, I don’t think it’s a good title to use unless that aspect is removed, i.e. don’t use the tie fighter goal.
2. Similarly, for the GB 2-minute drill, many players will go video mode on this one; again, that’s not a pinball thing, I’d try to avoid having non-pinball things decide results.
3. Having 3 titles rather than 1 or 10 was in the right area. Three is a good minimum, and I could see as many as 5, but no more than that. Too many gets too hard to follow, too few is not diverse enough. Personally, 3 seems about right, but I’d have two pairs of each game so that early rounds could move faster and so players could more likely choose which title to play on. Two sets would also mean you’d be able to keep all 3 titles in use even if one of the now 4 machines of each title went down.
1. It felt less like true pinball - - not nearly as adaptive as a normal game where you may need to adjust your play on the fly, or where multiple strategies may be feasible. This was a much narrower thing; the closest analogy would be a drive, pitch and putt contest rather than a stroke play golf tournament. It’s still a form of pinball, but lacks much of the strategy of the “real thing,” e.g. trying to stack MBs, having a mode or something running before you start MB or something else, avoiding certain shots until the right time, etc.
2. This format magnifies the consequences of a failed switch hit or a scoop or saucer rejection. For instance, in my first game against Karl, going for Elevator MB, I shot the left orbit early on but it didn’t register. I had the right orbit, but I lost the ball before getting the left one [again]. Progress goes bye-bye, have to start over, never did catch up. If it registers, I have lock 1 early on ball 1 and am in the lead, and maybe get a win that game. Hey, that’s pinball, I played on because that’s the way it goes. But it made me realize that failed switches can be more critical in this format. In a normal game, if a switch fails, you can usually still get another shot at whatever it was later in the ball or later in the game. In heads-up, if a switch fails and your opponent finishes before you, you don’t get that chance to re-make the shot that didn’t register.
3. There’s much clearer focus on the objective, and greatly simplifies what the player is trying to do. Whether this is better or worse is a matter of opinion.
4. Some objectives were too complex for novices, e.g. specific mode MB on SW, and even with coaching, some still didn’t get the idea of how to proceed on GB.
5. Some players said that they “felt the pressure more”; the level of pressure seemed the same to me. [As an aside, the one time I remember really feeling pressure during competition was that 9-way tiebreaker for 2 spots in the Pinburgh A finals.]
Yo, Stern [and JJP and Spooky]: Display the f-ing scores! I’ve been saying for years that I’m sick of pinball machines where you can’t see at all times what everyone’s scores are. The programmers or design team is so bent on showing off their video display skills that they have to pre-empt having the scores of all players visible at all times, as was true for almost every pin made for several prior decades. There’s no excuse [other than design team ego?] for not having a portion of the display always always always show every player’s score. Just box out the left side of the display to show the scores and use the remaining two thirds of it for whatever showy graphics you want. It’s bad enough you can’t tell whether or not to make that desperation save on ball 3 [“do I have enough bonus to win or not?”]. Now, if you’re playing heads-up, you can’t even tell if you’re winning depending on what the goal is. It’s way too important a thing to not fix if this is to go forward. Both the players and the audience need to be able to tell at all times who is ahead and by how much. Can you imagine last night’s World Series Game 5 if neither team, nor the TV audience, knew who was ahead from inning to inning? The come-from-behind and back-and-forth lead changes were the fundamental excitement of that game. Note this may also require some reprogramming or display changes as respects other goals, or very judicious choice of which goals are to be used [or both].