Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lazy Tag: Playing a Laser Tag Video Game On My Computer

Yesterday was the first time in probably more than a year that I did not spend any part of my weekend playing out at a laser tag arena. I was thoroughly worn out after a long day in the humidity, having set up and hosted a yard sale in the morning before doing a quick change and emceeing a pageant in the afternoon (yeah, I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it was exhausting!), so I decided that it was not necessary for me to drive an hour and a half to play tag last night. Instead I decided that this would be a good time for me to review a PC video game that I've wanted to share for awhile. Let me tell you about my experience playing Laser Arena by TrainWreck Studios.


I call this "Lazy Tag" only because I didn't have to physically get up and run around. :)


First I must make VERY clear that I am NOT a video gamer. I know NOTHING about the things most gamers are interested in and so this review is from a very different and very novice perspective. I will not talk about graphics because I'm pretty sure any lacking would be on the part of my computer. Also, this game came loaded on a disk for WIndows (is CD-Rom even still a thing?) so the fact that I have a DVD drive on my computer was a plus, but might also reflect that the version I was playing is a couple of years old. Regardless, from my limited view as a non-gamer with only appreciation for the laser tag aspects, I must say I really like this video game!


The first thing I did after installing it was set up my player characteristics.


I typed in my player name and could choose whether my character would play on the red or green team...I chose red. And then the aesthetic of the character body gave an option for different hair colors or whether to wear a "Lazer Tag" type helmet or not. My only gripe about this was there appeared to be only male character images to choose from. Let's not forget that...


While the helmet resembled "Lazer Tag" (or possibly even a nod to Photon) the vest imagery was very reminiscent of LaserTrek, as was some of the cover artwork, so I imagine that to be the system that most inspired the look for the characters in the game.

This could be a multi-player game or you could play against multiple computer opponents in a choice of game modes and laser tag arena maps. Let me say, this they got spot on! And even though I there was a learning curve in me figuring out how to use the arrow key to move and the mouse built into my laptop to aim and fire this was a very impressive to me as an on screen representation of a 3D laser tag arena. As there are references on the packaging to video drivers and 3D accelerators (of which I know nothing) I imagine if you have those resources it would be even more realistic. But from my point of view this really captures the first person point of view while maneuvering through a laser tag arena.


Although there were several arena designs to choose from including Roundabout, The Pit and Fort Z, my favorite was the Blacklight Classic arena. It really looked like an arena I might play! With diamond shaped window cutouts for sniper shots and realistic angle-cut barriers this was to me the map that seemed closest to a real life location. Although they all had options for bounce pads to get you quickly between floors in the arenas, some seemed a bit less authentic than this one. Not that I'd complain if I got to experience a real world counterpart to any of them!


The game choices were also on point. Although I only played the Team Match and Free For All games, I appreciate that there are Domination, Duel and Mega Target formats to choose from as well. Since I am a beginner video gamer (and only just getting a handle on Domination in real arenas) I started with what I was most comfortable with.


The team match plays pretty closely to what you'd expect. If you are playing alone the computer will generate both teammates and opponents. If your goal is the high score you have to play better than the simulations for both sides! Moving forward, backwards and side to side with the arroe keys gave me direction. Using the mouse pad I was able to adjust my aim (using the X on the screen as my guide) and a single mouse click to fire my phaser. As your view is in first person the phaser is the only part of your character that you see on the screen. It took me a little while to get the hang of this, but once I did it was very clear how to target an opponent to earn big points by depleting their energy and tagging them out, which results in the player being "teleported" out of the arena to return after a few seconds in another location. There were also gem stations positioned throughout each map that can replenish energy (a variation on power-ups). If an opponent tags you out then your character would deactivate for a few seconds just like in a real laser tag game.


At the end you will see a scoreboard that reflects not only final score ranking, but also shots, hits and accuracy, just like you might expect to see in a real arena. I must say, this was a really good simulation of laser tag with all these little details included. I'm impressed! And I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who enjoys laser tag.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cool With It

Ok, I'm cool with it. 

I'm also over it. Moving on and back to actually playing laser tag just to enjoy it! :)

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Does It Feel?

Remember those skater kids from the movie Dogma? I think I played tag with them the other night!


Tuesday night in Albany can be exactly as hit or miss as...well...THURSDAY night in Syracuse (members night, enough said). So when I arrived and found that my only game option was to play with a couple of young kids I said "well, I'm already here, I'll just go in with them and be a target." That was before those Dogma teens showed up to join the game. That changed the picture a bit. So I said to the young ones "let's team up and play against them" figuring that way I could actually play a real game. And indeed that's what happened. And that's when I started to notice the resemblance to the kids in the movie.


The first similarity was that they traveled in a pack, even during the game (which of course that made them easier targets). Second was the viciousness of the girl with the long red hair. She was simply not having it. At one point after I had tagged her a few times she got a shot against me and while my pack was down she got right up in my face shouting "How does it feel? Yeah, how does it feel?" Tough talk? Lol..."it feels" like I was going to take a particular interest in tagging her for the rest of the game!


Fortunately it was not long before I was able to turn my attention to a more competitive target when Mason entered the arena wearing a pack and giving me a way better challenge. When I noticed his arrival I said "now we have a real game!" and mostly focused on playing against him. Of course when I crossed paths with the teens I still took my shots. The girl continued her smack talk, but hey, she had a phaser, not a hockey stick. Bring it on! In the end I had the high score so...ask me again "how does it feel?" :)


I actually really enjoyed the competition, even with the extra commentary from the peanut gallery. I only got a couple of games in because it was the night before the 4th of July holiday and VERY hot so nobody else showed up. But there's one thing that can make a night like that totally worthwhile...


New tag swag! Yes, ZG has gotten in some new t-shirts with perfect timing. I'll be wearing mine in a couple of weeks when I play in the Glendale Open in CA because now that FJ is closed this is my home Zone site, so I will proudly represent Albany now...and that feels pretty good to say. :)



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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Change of Scenery

f you’ve been following the last couple of weeks you can probably tell I was really due for a change of scenery. So this weekend I drove out to Queensbury and enjoyed both a change in scenery (and system) while playing some Cyber Blast out at Adventure Family Fun Center. What a great time! I haven’t played here in about a year, but it all came back to me as soon as I walked back into their space themed arena.

I chatted with owners Dexter and Justin for a bit before heading in. I did not realize there was a management transition since the last time I was here. I appreciated them honoring the previous wristband deal when I asked about it because I was definitely able to get my fill of tag after driving the two hours to get to this site. The first game out I played in a group that included another player who has tagged in multiple states (Van) and Hayden, who is one of the veterans of this site among those who joined in to start at 7:00. Hayden especially gave me a very good challenge! He commented that he had not sweat that much in a laser tag game to which I had to giggle and say that means he wasn’t really playing tag before. Just kidding.

But it was more rewarding to come out victorious from a game like that where it was well played and hard fought. Then I looked down to see for the first time the name on my pack. I had not been able to sign in with my Cyber Blast card from Ohio, so I just played under the pre-assigned name given to the vest I chose. I literally could not believe that THIS is the one I picked up.

Sheesh! There is no escape…LOL! So I decided that a coincidence like that had to be fate and I used this pack for all the games I played the rest of the night. Although there were smaller groups coming through, there were different players showing up all throughout the night, so it was unlike my usual haunts where the same group plays all evening. I enjoyed the variety. And Hayden, even though we left our game count at 2:1 I will happily accept the challenge of another good competition with you next time I pass through. In reality the difference in drive time for me is only about a half hour more than the drive to Syracuse, so during the summer when things tend to get quiet at my home site I will certainly come back to play here because it’s in a touristy area that will make it a much busier summer location (as I realized when I was frequenting this spot last year). And next time maybe I’ll make a day of it and pack a lunch since I picked up some new tag swag in the form of an insulated lunch bag.

Gotta love the tag swag! One of my projects for the coming week is to get my collection in better order to showcase some of the cool stuff I’ve brought back from my adventures, so watch for pics of that soon. In the meantime, thanks to Adventure Family Fun Center for being well worth the drive on a VERY hot summer night!

Comments or Questions?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Lesson About Farming and Formats

Last night I let another player get under my skin and I decided to teach a little lesson. The names will be changed here to protect the guilty. Let's just call him The Unnamed Player...and you'll understand that to be a much more clever pseudonym if you happen to be from our site. :)


My agitation with a situation actually started building last week as I watched multiple times where this player did nothing but go all try-hard in some very tame public games by farming huge easy points off kids and inexperienced players (I know, you're saying "it's laser tag, nothing new there") and additionally by staking out the newest addition to our arena, a third tablet beacon. This third beacon is great in that it opens up the possibility of more games (like Domination, which I'll talk about shortly), but it also has been programmed in such a way that it can (and does) artificially inflate player averages. Where before the tablets were installed if a player got a 15,000 average it would be honorably earned with skill and strategy, it now takes little more than staking out that beacon for an extra 1000 points here, 750 there or 3x score multiplier. I might sound hypocritical in saying this (as for two weeks I have deliberately been using this strategy myself to make a point), but it irritates me that this can be abused for creating artificially high scores. Couple that with farming points on kids and I just had a moment where I wanted to even things out a bit. So here's what happened...


The Unnamed Player entered the arena first and I hung back in the vesting room. I had my card out ready to sign in properly, then I looked first to the computer and then over to Justin and I told him "we're going to have some fun this round." I changed cards and pulled out a different one (technically I have seven Laserforce membership cards...they are not all from Syracuse) and I scanned in using a special card I rarely pull out because awhile back I had it locked at level one. Why? Oh, for just such an occasion. :)


This game I could not have cared less about my own points or about tagging any public players. I just wanted to show him what farming points feels like when the shoe is on the other foot. So I staked out that beacon and defended it as if it were a base. I kept The Unnamed PIayer from getting any extra points at the beacon and kept his pack down every time we crossed paths. He asked if I was signed in. I said yes (because technically I was). He said it should not take that many shots to deactivate for a level three (are you telling me you were playing down as a level three or that you thought I was?). In any case I agreed (the statement was not untrue). It was not a truly fair match, but was probably a lot more fair to the kids in that game. He knew what I was doing before too hope is that he also understood WHY I was doing it.


I know, I know...I wasn't a model of maturity that round. Neither was The Unnamed Player who rage quit before the end of the game and had his pack turned off so that my little stunt would not disrupt his average. Hmmm... couldn't we all get a 15,000 average if we got to pick and choose which games we let count and just leave out the ones we don't like? I didn't like a couple last week myself, but a true average is made up of both the highs and the lows. :)


Before I had even left the arena this player was mollified by having figured out the status of my card at the front desk. That's fine, it was a one game stunt. I walked out and gave a cheeky, over-exaggerated shrug. In the end my point was made. And if he's reading this now I'll just leave it with my favorite make-it-all-better quote from Ally McBeal..."bygones?" :)


Well, a few games later The Unnamed Player left early, which is a shame because later in the night we finally got to play some Domination! 


I have been looking forward to playing this game as it's been a relatively new format here (since the addition of the aforementioned third beacon), but I have not had an opportunity to play until now. I have played Domination with iCombat, but the Laserforce version is quite different (although similar in premise).


I'm not sure I caught all the rules (and we were apparently playing a variation for the public games anyway), but in short the goal is to shoot all three beacons a fixed number of times (I believe the number is 8) and if your team captures all three beacons you get points and perks for every five seconds that they stay within your team's control. Keeping it vague because I need to review the details again. By the time we got to this game Jerome and I were the only members there, each going in with a team of two other public players. Not sure how much they were focused on the beacons (although my team focused on a zone defense at each one) so it was pretty much just Jerome and I following each other around from beacon to beacon trying to undo what the other had just done. 


I took my phone out to snap a pic while the green team was in control for an extra long time, but as you can see by the icon in the top right I didn't click fast enough before he was back at another beacon. With eight shots to neutralize and another eight to control this takes a bit of time to do. Although we played three on three I believe this game would definitely be more fun with a larger group. All in all, tag was enjoyable for a myriad of reasons this night. However, it was also a big night for streaming pageant finals (also a big priority in my life), so I left early declaring "no more tag until someone is wearing a crown." Next weekend we'll see whether the home state pageant or a night of tag wins about a tough choice! :)



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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hometown Tag in the Mobile Laser Tag Arena

Normally when I play tag locally I still have to drive an hour and a half to get to the nearest arena, but this past weekend the arena came to me! The Fun Warehouse brought their mobile laser tag arena to a local festival that was happening very close to where I live. Perfect, since I was already planning to be at the festival! This hometown event was an ideal opportunity for the tag guys to come out to my neck of the woods.

This festival arranged to cover the cost of the tag so that it was free for the public to enjoy at the event. Needless to say I played my fill and enjoyed a beautiful day out on the field in between games, some of which included a few highlights. One of my favorite rounds included playing with a group of students (including some members of the football team) and showing them how it’s done. :)

There were plenty of games to be enjoyed with the event-goers who showed up, some out of curiosity just to explore the giant inflatable arena and see what laser tag is about. They ran five minute games and because it was such a hot, sunny day the arena was roasting, so smart players paced themselves a bit.

The inside of the mobile arena has nylon walls, barriers and windows. It’s tough to properly showcase it in photos, but it really is a cool setup.

When you exited the arena it felt like you were walking out into air conditioning.

Now, towards the end of the day a couple of police officers showed up. Not because of any trouble, but rather because they wanted to play some laser tag too! They got in line and when I noticed I thought this would be a fun round to get into. Zac and Lenny had been working the whole time, but Sanch gave Zac the go ahead to join in this game too. That’s was a little extra motivation for me to I want to take on this game.

Initially I thought it would be more interesting to see how my skills stacked up against the officers. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way comparing a game of laser tag to the actual training that they go through. But still, I anticipated a good challenge. In actuality, the challenge played out between Zac and me. We both really wanted the win this time around (probably for the same reason). Neither of us was able to sign in, so we just had random pack names. Before going in he announced to the crowd that Dragon (his pack) would be the winner. I was wearing Ultra. And if anyone is keeping track, the officers were on Phoenix and Warrior. There were a few other public players as well.

The game was Color Rank Supercharge. Zac and I swapped the lead back and forth a couple of times throughout the game. Now, every weekend Tom sums up this game rather succinctly by saying “If your pack is red you are winning, if it’s any other color then try harder.” I especially appreciated that sentiment in the final second of the game as I saw my pack go red and Zac’s turn yellow. Before we even got out to check the scoreboard I heard Sanch shout out “Holy cow, Tivia beat Zac!” 

Well, technically we tied, but since my score was the one in red I will refer you back to Tom’s saying. :) Just kidding. Good game Zac! You can also tell by our scores (again, this was a five minute round) that this was no longer about playing against the officers or the public…it had turned into a competitive grudge match between the two of us try-hards. But it was the best game of the day and I am so glad I got to enjoy the sunshine, the festival and some laser tag to top off an awesome day!

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Northern Air in North Dakota

The final stop on my journey was to play some tag in North Dakota, checking that off as my 49th state played. There were two was an oversized entertainment park where the tag option would have been Lazer Runner (I was going to call this my backup option if timing didn’t work out for my first choice) or driving an hour beyond that (and over three hours from my last stop) to Northern Air Family Fun Center in Grand Forks, ND. By some miracle the timing all worked. I called ahead from South Dakota and Elena told me if I got there by 6:30 I would still be able to play the last game before closing. It looked like I would just make it! So I hit the road again. Remember I actually started this same day leaving early in the morning from Omaha...I put 877 miles on my rental car in one day! But I got there just in time and it was totally worth it. :)

I arrived and Elena greeted me, recognizing right away saying “I bet you’re here to play laser tag.” Yes, indeed. It was just before their closing time on a Sunday night, so she said staff member Jacob would play against me (this was fine, I anticipated this when I called ahead). So we went up the stairs to the laser tag arena and I got a surprise…Delta Strike! I’m not sure why, but for some reason I thought this was a Zone arena. No prob, Delta Strike offered a chance to mix things up a bit. I’ve really only played standard games on this system in the past, so when Jacob asked what I wanted to play I was pleased to learn about some formats I had not previously had an opportunity to try.

We decided on a game called Agents. It’s a little like Capture the Flag only without bases. If you are “holding the flag” your vest turns red and you earn 50 points for every five seconds that you keep it (note – that’s not 10 points per second, that’s a total for a full five second increment). I can imagine this is interesting with a larger group, but honestly this might have been the BEST way to play with only two players. It was really a fantastic game and I genuinely had no idea how the scores would shake out.

Jacob kept the flag for a good stretch in the beginning of the game (frankly I just couldn’t find him in the arena for quite awhile) so I knew he had a good lead with points from that alone. Then once I found him and took the flag things got a little more interesting. We went back and forth with it a couple times, but I know I took more shots deactivating him while I kept it in my control. This was a very stealth kind of game. He certainly knew this arena better than me, but I know how to “read” where I think someone is going to move, so it really did keep things moving and this was a much better game than almost any other I’ve played in a similar situation. It was an excellent game choice for having only two players, but I would also love to experience this game with a larger group.

We took a few pics and then checked out the scoreboard.

Turns out I won the game, but props to Jacob because it could have easily gone either way based on how long he kept the “flag” in the early part of the game. Agents was a really fun game and a first for me on the Delta Strike system.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the arena itself was a typical CW space theme.

I will add another pic next to this center structure to my collection.

There were base areas in the corners that were not in use for this game. There is also a window against the far left wall that you have to watch for reflections. Other than that it was a typical maze. However, what was less typical came later when I went to purchase some tag swag. They had t-shirts, so of course I picked one up. But they also had the most unusual tag swag I’ve come across yet…

SOCKS! And if you look closely at the red grips on the bottom you can even see their logo incorporated. To be honest, I probably won’t be wearing these out of the house, but I thought they were definitely unique enough to bring a few pairs back. Nice job with thinking out of the box!

I left Northern Air feeling great. I got in a really fun final game at the end of a long day and I had accomplished something pretty big by getting to these final four states, ending with North Dakota. I say “final four” even though I know this only brings me to 49, but playing Texas as number 50 will be a whole other adventure dependent on my getting to all the other states first. So this completes a big part of my journey…and I celebrated with sushi!

Comments or Questions?