This summer I was happy to get to attend Southern Fried Gameroom Expo in Atlanta with my family and along with fellow arcade and pin collecting friends. These events are always better if you can share them!
The SFGE folks put on another great show. It is impressive considering this is only their (3rd?) year of doing this show - just how well it all comes together. In fact, this year the show moved to a new venue to accommodate the growth / popularity of the event.
My family appreciated the new venue. Spacious rooms and clean rooms, friendly staff and roomy venue area, all walking distance to a nearby mall via a sky-bridge with good eats and shopping.
The event coordinators handled the morning /day one rush and constant comings-and-goings with professionalism and efficiency. An organized, well-oiled machine. Speaking of machines, the repair volunteers did a great job of keeping games going throughout the weekend.
There were some real proud-dad moments watching Jena play in her first ranked tournament match. In fact, maybe I should have spent less time being proud and more time playing better; she qualified ahead of me in standings :)
Being a JJP loyalist / I would start off with JJP, right? JJP and Flip-n-Out pinball brought two Hobbits, a WOZ and a MMR.
Whenever I look at Hobbit, I'm struck with just how awesome the game looks. It is gorgeous and it exudes quality in person. I have complex opinions regarding this pin. On one hand, I think it looks great / sounds great and it was quite fun to play. On the other hand, I'm not really into Tolkien stuff, I'm not a LOTR or Hobbit fan. I guess maybe a symptom of my rampant ADD, I've never been able to sit through the books or the movies enough to really care what's going on.
In fairness, my complex opinions towards this pin might be colored by a largely disappointing pre-order experience with a particular JJP Distributor.
In the end, I think The Hobbit, is much like LOTR, at least to me. Whenever I'd play LOTR in a setting full of noise and distraction, I really didn't get the love that people have for the game. As I got to play a few good examples of the pin and go through the modes, learn the shots LOTR opened up for me. "AHA! I get it now, this is a really fun pin."
Same goes for Hobbit. I don't think a show is the best environment to really experience what Hobbit has going for it. You really need to hear it, see it and feel the shots as you go through mode progression to fully appreciate the game. Hobbit is a great second game from JJP. WOZ was a hard act to follow. Is The Hobbit better than WOZ? As a matter of opinion, I don't think it is. But WOZ might also be among the best games ever made..
Jack's presentation covered his storied history in the industry, a Q&A format with a follow-on slide deck of some of the awesome things going on at JJP. They continue to build Hobbits, will be building more WOZ 75th games and are staging for their next title. From the sounds of it, the next title will scuttle the preorder-payment model and follow a more concise announce / reveal, sell and ship schedule similar to Stern.
If you've never met Jack in person, you should endeavor to make it to a show and get some face time with him. He's a super-sharp guy and his influence has raised the bar for pinball in quality, innovation (and price..) Jack is good people.
Ghostbusters, the hype is real. In my short time in this hobby, I haven't seen anything in the pin community like the response to this pin. This show was the first change for many folks to get their first plays in one of several Ghostbusters games brought to the show by Marco Specialities.
The Ghostbusters pins at the show had a line behind them, constantly. I would love to have gotten their play counts, though the SM VE next to it got around 500 plays for the weekend. (Not as much as I would have expected)
My impressions? Ghostbusters if fun, fast and challenging. Ball times are generally short, less than 1/3 of folks appeared to start Storage Facility Multiball. I noticed two people get Mass Hysteria, in the full weekend. The artwork is.., well art. Gorgeous. Nearly TOTAN-level of gorgeous in my humble opinion.
I couldn't hear the sound very well during the show but I recently found a GB in the wild at a Movie theater and got to enjoy the full sound experience - it sounded great. I can see, though that some of the callouts and sounds might end up being repetitive after a lot of play.
The pro and the LE played differently. I think the pro was a little harder, though the LE was plenty difficult. I *really* liked the magnetic slings in the LE. They often worked like regular slings but when they didn't - it was cool. Something fresh, something different. Apparently Marco set them to "Very Active" in game settings.
The LE/ Slimer Mech did experience some problems a few times during the show. At some point they had to disable him entirely. As far as I could tell, the pros experienced no problems. Negative Reinforcement was spelled wrong on the pro. :)
At one point, there was a Ghostbusters 1-Ball tournament. I was proud of Jena for stepping up for some tournament action, this trip. The the video below, the GB Pro I was playing was super-tilty, or maybe the sun was in my eyes? Playing up-hill in the snow.... :)
I spent much of my pinball time at this show running back and fourth between Hobbit and Ghostbusters. I liked them both but for different reasons.
Which one comes home with me? For now, Ghostbusters. I love the theme, the art is cool and it fills a play / gameplay style hole in my pin lineup.
All in all, Stern has a smash-hit in Ghostbusters. Now they just have to catch up with demand. I expect they will be making this game for years. Looking forward to my Premium in a few weeks.
What can I say about Whoa Nelly Big Juicy Melons? I was surprised how much fun I had playing this title. I don't think I'll ever buy one but I did really enjoy it.
...and at the end of the day, who doesn't like Big Juicy Melons? It is summer after all..
Getting Our Game On
I tried to balance my time between pins an arcades because I really love both. While most of the pinball tables constantly had lines, the arcades were quite accessible.
SFGE this year was a blast. The weekend went by really too quickly. As, I came home and flipped the lights on in the game room it was a bitter-sweet moment; a mixture appreciation for the fun games I have but sorry the fun weekend of arcade festivities was over.
All the more reason to go back next year!