Each year, the Canberra Vice City Players (VCP) club hosts the ACT Pinball Championship, the largest IFPA-endorsed pinball event in the territory. Fiona and I had attended the 2015 and 2016 Championships, and had a great time, even making it to the finals. The quality of the machines was always excellent and it was great excuse to meet up again with pinheads from Canberra, who I met when I got into pinball for the very first time.
This year, the call went out for VCP members to donate machines for the event. Having enjoyed the quality of the machines in previous years, Fiona and I decided to put our hands up and bring our Getaway along for the competition. I had been playing it a lot over the last few months and I thought it was running great. What better way to test out my restoration and repair skills by putting the machine out there for others to play? The Getaway ended up being placed in the free play area on Saturday, before being moved to the competition area for use in the finals. I was stoked that some of the best players in the country would be playing on my machine. So, off to Canberra we went!
We rolled into Exhibition Park just after 10:00 pm and unloaded the Getaway without any issues. A bit of leveling and a few test games later, I was happy with how it played.
Saturday came and went quickly. I checked on the Getaway a few times during the day and everything seemed to be working just fine. That night, after the free play session was over, I checked to see everything was still in good order.
There were a couple of issues. First, there were switch errors associated with the optos in the supercharger. This is a pretty good indicator that balls aren't making it into the supercharger as they should. Sure enough, when I started a test game, the supercharger ramp diverter failed to open properly. I noticed that the diverter itself was quite wobbly and unstable. It was failing to open because the shaft (part no. A-15586) had loosened itself from the crank assembly (part no. A-15569) which is pulled by the plunger into the diverter coil. Bugger. It looks like I didn't tighten it up properly after cleaning the supercharger the weekend before. There are two grub screws that fasten the diverter onto the crank assembly. I tightened these up and the diverter worked properly again. You can tighten these screws with a hex key with the supercharger still installed on the playfield, but it is a tight squeeze.
The second issue was that the upper right flipper had moved slightly and was sticking outwards more than it should have been. The crank link assembly was fatigued, and wasn't grabbing onto the flipper shaft. A new crank link assembly was installed and everything was good to go again.
Come Sunday, it was finals time. The Getaway was moved from the free play area to the competition area. The format of the finals consisted of several rounds, so the Getaway was played quite a bit during the morning but not much in the afternoon. I spoke to a few of the guys that played it over the course of the day and all of them had positive feedback.
There was one issue pointed out that did need some attention, though. The left outlane kickback was not kicking balls consistently back into the tunnel saucer, as it should. Most of the balls were hitting the post to the right of the supercharger ramp entry, and then bouncing towards the right slingshot and outlane. This turned out to be an adjustment I had to save until after the competition. The ball guide that lines the left outlane had shifted slightly and needed to be bent to guide balls to the correct spot. A set of pliers and a few minutes was all it took to bend it into the right shape. Make sure the ball guide isn't pressing against the rubber ring on the star post in this area, as a ball impacting the rubber will also go off in weird directions.
There was a major issue during the finals when the finalists were all playing on the Getaway. Half way through a cracking 500-million point game by Paul Jones, someone bumped the power board that the machines were plugged into, and the Getaway lost power. Poof! Games and scores all gone. The game had to be restarted from scratch, and Paul was definitely not happy. At least this one wasn't the Getaway's fault! In the end, it didn't really matter, as he walked away with first place anyway!
Out of interest, I also kept track of some gameplay and feature audits during the event so I could see how many times the game had been played. Here's the data (note that this is the free play session data and the championship finals data combined):
Over 10,000 right flips! That's a lot of flipper action. The game was played for almost 7 straight hours and almost 200 separate games were started. I'd say that's a good workout for a 25-year-old game! With that many games played it's expected a couple of small issues may crop up, so I'm not surprised that a couple of things needed tightening up. The important thing was that it performed admirably in the finals!
By Sunday afternoon, Fiona and I were pretty beat. It is interesting how tiring it is just to supervise gameplay and look after machines! We started the long drive home and bid Canberra farewell for another year. We will definitely be back next year and will bring a different machine along for the ride!
Here you will find logs of our pinball machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball topics, and recounts of our random pinball adventures.
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