Friday, July 20, 2012

Rant: Lazer Tag Augmented Reality: Jury's out

The new Lazer Tag Augmented Reality line was due to come out any time now, but has been pushed back to late August, according to our pal Bazookafied over at Tactical Tag. It's big news, this LTAR release- Laser Tag has been the poor lil' brother of the toy blaster world and there's a boot load of potential for it to really capture the imaginations of blaster fans everywhere in a way that could hopefully bring it back to the glory days of home laser tag in the 80's.

 In case you've been stuck under a rock for the good part of the year, the big feature that the new LTAR line boasts is the use of iphone/ipod touch app support to give the tagger an all new augmented reality HUD. What this means is you can 'see' all sorts of cool stuff appearing- the targeting/lock on system, actual blaster bursts, even air strikes which also means you can essentially play on your own against the app's AI.

 This is all very cool, and I am quite intrigued, but I have to be honest with you, I myself am not quite sure this is the laser tag game for me. Happy to be proved wrong. My thoughts after the jump.

There's a strong belief that ultimately, we all love first person shooter video games. And given the business that IS FPS video games, there's enough evidence to support this assumption. So often we hear "real life video game"- some things are a stretch, and some things not so much. Things like respawns, or ammo reloads or health packs all came from the video game world,  even real world physical games like Humans vs Zombies take their cues from said elements.  SO it makes sense in theory that in developing an electronic shooter system you'd incorporate what "works" .

The thing is though, is I'm concerned with the fact that it's just a lil bit of overkill. Wowwee's Light Strike line was just chock a block with features from a video game, with multiple weapons, health packs, shields, respawns; it had it all and yet there was something about it that just felt.. cluttered and over complicated.

Flash back a few years and the Tiger Electronics Laser Tag Team Ops (LTTO) was an awesome attempt at laser tag where players could host games, choose from a number of different rules, keep score and so forth, but it was just too complicated again for the casual player. It got to a point where so many players just resorted to playing "every man for himself" - mainly because it was the simplest way to get the game going.

The line that I personally felt worked the best was the Laser Tag Phoenix LTX.  Simple to get going, simple to score, just enough on the features without making it too complicated. The guns looked awesome, easy to work and  game play was quick, fast and furious; exactly the way it should be.

And that's the thing. In my opinion, for home laser tag to be successful, it needs to be simple and easy to pick up with minimal fuss. The basic game is simple- you run, you hide, and you shoot and you get shot at. It's faster and more accurate than a Nerf battle, and while you cannot see a projectile leave the blaster you get instant gratification on whether you hit your target or not. And that's really what makes laser tag fun; the rest of the stuff to be honest often just gets in the way. And if you wanted the other stuff.. chances are you might just fire up Modern Warfare 3.

For me personally, I've become sold on the now discontinued UbiSoft Battle Tag line. Other than the annoying issues with getting the 'Ubi Connect' set up with the laptop, the actual game play itself is exactly the way I like laser tag to be (the taggers also look tough too) and the closest thing to 'classic' laser tag that I'd experienced since the 80's.

So back to the upcoming Lazer Tag Augmented Reality line. The LTAR line seems to have a boot load of functionality, but for me it seems like it could detract a lot from why I like laser tag in the first place. Watching thru a screen rather than over at your target; screwing around with different weapons thru a touchscreen UI- its all just sounds a little too much. The other issue that I don't have an iPhone or an iPod touch (personal issues with Apple products means its very unlikely I ever will buy one alone) so I'm wondering if these blasters are going to be enough to convince me to acquire one? I'm not sure. Also as far as group play is concerned, requiring my close knit of friends to install the app let alone own an iPhone (who many also don't own Apple products) is looking quite unlikely. This isn't a casual user sounding product.

That's just me though; I am still very keen to give them a go but the amount of players I'll be able to muster up for a decent game is looking pretty low:(


  1. We have the Ubisoft Tagger here in Canada! Tons, actually! They're not discontinued here, so come to Canada if you want them :D

  2. For those without an iDevice, the new Lazer Tag has little to offer over the LTX, aside from increased availability since it will no longer be a Toys R Us exclusive.
    However, for those who will be using a coupled iDevice, I think this really will be a fantastic system. The Lazer Tag app is decent in its own right, even without a blaster. So adding multiplayer game hosting and a physical gun just makes it that much better.
    Also, from what I understand, the tag app will be open source so I'm sure it won't be long before we see some third-party shooter games springing up that utilize the new tagger platform. (Star Wars laser tag, anyone?)

  3. Good write-up.

    Complication is the number one killer of just about any sport. Ultimately its where you have trouble getting people involved in what you enjoy and having them understand what it is you like about what you do. It separates the casuals from the aficionados. This concept holds true with Nerf and Super Soaker wars as well. I love offering choices. An outsider would clearly label me on the latter half of the interest spectrum, but that's fine, as long as I don't try to choke them with my hobby while I'm trying to get them interested in it.

    I also think there's an unrealistic expectation with what comes with these games. People want to recreate the immersive environments of FPS's, but they soon discover that--well--"holy crap, this field/building/forest is a lot bigger than I thought", and just minutes after the game starts you end up completely exhausted.

    This is why with Nerf wars I keep the fields very contained--less than a quarter of an acre squared-- usually a friends house that allows a bunch of variance of terrain and throughways but doesn't wear you out getting from one side to the other. We lay out clips and blasters all over a la Goldeneye, but they're in set places each time, and half the fun is dropping the blaster you have to pick up a low power one because you just can't get near an ammo reload. But that's about it. No other special rules apply.

    I'm still looking for another LTX tagger to get a laser tag game going sometime, but my experience with the Laser Challenge and Lazer Tag sets from the mid-90's showed just how much fun you can have with a simple game.

  4. Even without the iOS device, many of the Lazer Tag enthusiasts I've been talking with really like the basic LTAR tagger. The Grab-n-Go abilities that you an I love about the LTX are still there in the LTAR. It has simplified the Hosting software that was kind of a pain in the original LTTO gear too, so I'm hoping this system proves your woes wrong. Once I get my hands on a set, I'll review it with all the fixin's.

  5. Does anyone know if you can set the LTAR to 25 life without using an iOS? I just bought one on clearance and totally love it outside of the fact that we had to keep the games at 10 life because I couldnt figure it out.