Some enjoy a recap so here goes... Sharing my expo experience and some highlights (and lowlights?). A bit long and rambling after too much fun and not much sleep but wanted to share for those that enjoy this sort of thing.
My Expo weekend started this past wednesday with our monthly Pooley's tournament in Madison, which served as a nice warm up for expo weekend. Hung out with some great friends and I think I was over served (probably not a good thing to stay up too late and drink too much on N1 of pinball fun, but knew the excitement would keep me up anyway).
Drove down to expo on Thursday and dropped off Creech in the freeplay room (it was pre-arranged sale). Great guy/buyer and smooth straightforward transaction. Picked up 2 games and both sellers were easy to deal with a great transactions. Looking forward to unwrapping my games on Sunday and starting to fix/tweak in the coming weeks. I was happy to have arranged a few purchases in advance since the freeplay room was pretty sparse this year and no deals to be found (for what I am ISO).
Thursday night my buddy came in from the city and we hung out and capitalized on the lower crowd to do freeplay stuff. Some very nice playing games despite the reduced numbers. HUGE thanks to ALL that brought working games and some great titles. I spent a good deal of time on goin nuts, qbert, starlight, catacomb, and fireball. All fun times. Lots of other great condition games also! Buddy ditched out for a hot date and I headed over to the Hieghway party at twin peaks. First time I had been and the name twin peaks seems appropriate First time playing the newest version of fullT and enjoyed it very much. Solid player, QUALITY design and engineering, and some well thought out part design! I was never able to really hear the game all too well all weekend, but from what I could see IMO it needs more well thought out light use (constantly changing GI is blargh and frustrating and not very intuitive what to shoot for/ too many inserts always seem to be blinking). Game has solid play and is very fun to shoot! F L O W is the best way I could describe it. The geometry is different feeling but in a good way. The game feels foreign but the player quickly adjusts and figures out the shots and can start to explore. Highlight of Thursday goes to good times with free beers from Highway and fun playing a new to me game.
Not enough sleep on Thursday due to those damn free beers and 2nd night of drinking meant expobrawl was coming early. Friday I played in brawl with the host from the coast. In short our play was not good (we missed C division by 1? spot) but still lots of fun. The general format of brawl is team golf through 3, 9 hole (actually 8,8,7?) courses with very simple goals but stuff really flows well. They have gotten it down to a science and it was a blast to play in despite me pulling up as anchor for quite a few games. Goals are all point based but low enough that even crappy play means a few 1s to lift you up. First round was probably the most fun as we played along with GeneX and Anna? We had alot of fun cheering each other on and flipping off bad games or missed goals with the suspense of a bonus coutdown. Expogolf is a must IMO and I look forward to it next year again.
After expobrawl/golf I headed over to explosion with the Spindler gang. Amazing party as it always is! Thanks to Terry and the PBLife crew for putting it on! I love all the fun contraptions Banger and crew come up with. I never did see Jay, but props on the love tunnel even if the broken belt took it down earlier than hoped. Great free food, beers, sodas, and folks. Met Gryzzz and one hell of a good guy! Had me laughing my arse off for a good half hour. Hung out with Wally a bit also >>that dude needs to post more and share more of all the great projects he is working on! Truly amazing fellow and such great passion for his niche (making pretty much every A lister in the world from scratch) in our niche hobby! PLayed a bunch of 1 handed P3 and had a blast. That game has come a long way and is much more immersive that last year. Better response time and priority coding. Very interested to see what happens with this as it appears to be much closer to production. Would love to put one on route if I could afford it... Game is built like a beast and you can tell Gerry puts alot into the game! Only disappointment is that I was too late to win a free beer form the trilogy game.
Back to expo post the explosion for time in the Vendor area. Highlight for me is always the startups, new games, and 1 off games.
I spent alot of time on FullT, all the roc games, and the fast games. I played TBL and honest opinion is that it was worse than last year. If I had money on it I would be asking for it back. Bad vibes for me on how poor it was, the lack of any obvious improvements from last year, and the constant issues it seemed to have. All appeared to be same games that were stateside last year and many mechs had no improvements. I am not sure what they have been working on for the past year but there was a marked decline in the function of the games. Modes not working and pretty repetitive feel sadly.
I spent a bit of time on GoT and the pro does nothing for me. It 'feels' like Stpro in relative flow, but wide open shots. The code feels to be more of an adventure (like LOTR?) but the combination is not enough for me. To put it simply the pro felt bald to me. It is missing too much and seems to be more built for a home buyer looking for a long player game (i.e. not good for route play or for people that like to accomplish something with some shorter ball times). The code appears like it could be cool once polished. Definitely a different code vibe to this one which is cool. Code may be better in a more intimate setting (where you can hear and see things easier) and as it gets polished but I do not think it can overcome poor art and a stripped back design for me? Time will tell but not purchasing anytime soon.
I was looking forward to actually seeing/playing the LE but it was far too packed to ever get a chance actually play it. I was kind of hoping the full featured version would show me that the prem was a model worth paying a little/lot more for. I quickly realized that the upper flippers appear to always be engaged (despite the ability to know state of ball and when it it entering/exiting the upper pf) and asked about plans to change this. In short I was lambasted by Jody Dankberg for even asking and told I should probably look towards buying something else as not every game is intended for route or in this case for my personal collection. I am truly amazed that Stern puts someone like him out in the public spotlight. He really has some issues and I have never been treated so poorly by someone that I assume is supposed to be attempting to sell me on the highlights of the game and acting as PR. I also saw him barking orders at Jared and other Stern employees throughout the night. Guy has no respect and hence deserves no respect. Really put a bad taste (I cant stand when someone in a higher position treats employees like shit and is so demeaning to them) in my mouth so I easily left their party and went back to play in the vendor hall and free play area for the rest of the night.
Expo for those that have not gone is so much about the social interaction and ability to hang out with industry people, meeting old friends, meeting new friends, putting faces to names and online names. What makes this hobby truly so amazing are all the great people that are part of it. I can list probably 50 of you that I had fun nerd out pinball conversations with and all were unique and enlightening, funny as hell, and just in general a joy! While doing all of the things above I was mainly hanging out and shooting the shit with many of you! Some good laughs and some good times; combined with some good pinball and a general care free experience. Expo was a lot of fun for me.
Next year they need to put more focus on the free play room. I heard from many people that they no longer bring games because "Mike is a jerk" I am not sure how they can get past this, but I assume ticket sales next year will be down due to the largely disjointed players that showed up with the main intent of playing in free play (saw posts on other social media sites telling other players to not bother with the trip down). To me expo is no longer so focused on free play (I go to MGC for that; and maybe TPF sometime?) Expo does some things well > vendor variety, Proc/Fast games, ROb Anthony room of great stuff!, explosion, expogolf, and seems like the big tourney is always a hit even though I never play in it (I dont care for the format), but if they dont get the freeplay room back into shape then they are missing the core of pinball (i.e. the actual games for people to play). I think it is possible for someone else to step in and create a competing event around the same time of year in the general region if they were so inclined. Last year seemed to be a 30th year rejuvenation. This year unfortunately did not maintain that trajectory. Still fun, but lacking the excitement and pizazz of last year; I think largely to the disappointment of many concerning the freeplay room.