Six Flags VR Roller Coaster status check

June 1, 2016, 9:05 AM

Earlier this year Six Flags announced the addition of a VR experience on coasters at their parks. I think it’s fair to say many of us thought it was an unproven technology that would result in a lot of unpleasant experiences. Others saw the operational challenges created by this addition to both the ride ops and guests. Robert reported that the on-board experience was actually far better than expected, so that fear was laid to rest.
My question is this. Now that we are past weekend operation and the parks are settling into daily Summer time operation, how’s it going? What are wait times averaging compared to how it was before? How are the headsets holding up? How much more labor is being used to make this all work? Is the general public (folks who don’t spend time on park fan sites like Theme Park Insider) digging it?
I don’t live near enough to a Six Flags park to just pop over and see myself, but I’m curious to know after all the hype at the start, how it’s all turned out.
Thanks Inter-webs!

Replies (5)

June 1, 2016, 12:32 PM

I don't live near an SF park with VR (mine is SFGADV) but I've heard it hasn't been good. I'm checking out at La Ronde soon and I'm worried about it.

June 1, 2016, 2:32 PM

Lines are long, but they are typically billing these as new attractions as well.

Edited: June 5, 2016, 8:32 PM

As most of you may know, the VR technology for my home park SFOG was implemented on Dare Devil Dive. A Euro Fighter coaster that opened about 4-5 years ago. Still an incredibly fun and smooth ride. My only complaint is the slow line and short track length.

Since VR began in March, weekend lines for DD have easily been 1-3 hours. We are season pass holders and have not even attempted to ride it until recently. During the final week of May, we went on a Wed and most coasters were 5-20 min waits. I saw the line for DDD and it was at the 25-30 minute mark under normal operations. While the rest of my party went and did other rides I got in line as a single rider with the hope that I could get on in a reasonable amount of time and give VR a try. The line moved INCREDIBLY SLOW and it looked hopeless. But when I was 2 lines from the loading que, they called for a single rider. And I got my chance.

Once the VR unit was placed over my eyes, I immediately noticed it was slightly blurry. But I thought maybe it was me ?? I liked how head movement resulted in corresponding movement from the gun I controlled in the fighter plane. Tapping one side of the headset caused the gun to shoot. I was starting to think, "this could be pretty cool" when we left the station and ascended up the vertical lift. But once we went through the first drop, the screen motion did not seem to sync up with the coaster. DDD is a fun and smooth coaster. But it has quick transitions from one element to the next. Anticipating those transitions is an important part of the ride experience. I came to understand that better with the VR unit on. And then....just as I was getting the hang of it...the unit blacked out !! So I rode the last third in darkness. I told the ride ops this when we got back and they put me in a flash pass que line to get a re-ride. This time I rode without the VR unit and enjoyed DDD like I always have. Last of all I have to say the graphics were very weak. Like something out of a late 1990s arcade game. So as much as I wanted to embrace this new technology, my experience was disappointing. Add to the fact that wait times for DDD nearly doubled (not line lengths, just the time) and I have to say the whole endeavor has been a flop for SFOG.

Edited: June 7, 2016, 3:07 PM

I was at SFMM on Sunday and rode New Revolution both with and without the VR. I previously posted a review of the VR on the ride, but after riding it both ways I definitely prefer not using the equipment. That's not to say that the VR concept is bad, as the experience itself is quite good, it's just being executed poorly and doesn't improve the experience enough to justify the problems. Based on what I experienced and observed...

What are wait times averaging compared to how it was before?

Revolution should be capable of a 90 second dispatch without too much difficulty. However, due to delays with the equipment, it was averaging 5 minutes between trains. This meant that the ride peaked at a 90 minute wait (and averaged an hour) when nothing else in the park (except X2) exceeded 30 minutes at any point in the day. Personally, I don't think the experience justifies more than a 30 minute wait. Fortunately, I was at the park for a special event, so we got to ride once before the park opened and got an exit pass for one additional ride later in the day.

How are the headsets holding up?

Originally, SFMM started with 200 VR headsets. As of Sunday, roughly half were working at any given time. The employees try their best to make sure everyone receives a functional headset, but it is still not uncommon for one or two to fail to calibrate upon boarding the train, requiring a swap after the train is loaded and delaying dispatch times. The system is also a bit headset calibrated to the seat in front of me and was slightly out of sync, and my friend's headset froze partway through the ride. From people I talked to, about 1 in 4 had some problem during the ride that ruined the VR experience.

How much more labor is being used to make this all work?

During the pass previews, Revolution used a standard station crew (one operator at the panel and two attendants on the platform), plus two additional employees for maintaining VR equipment. On Sunday, there were four attendants on the platform, three additional employees for VR maintenance (if I counted correctly), and a grouper, so the number of employees is nearly doubled. Despite the increased staffing, operations were only a marginal improvement over what they were at the preview.

Is the general public digging it?

Reception appears to be mixed, with slightly more positive than negative reactions. If the equipment works properly, most seem to enjoy the experience, but there is a lot of frustration due to the wait times, operational inefficiencies, and VR malfunctions.

Honestly, I think if Six Flags could implement this technology without any glitches and without causing any operational delays it would be well worth keeping, but at the rate it is going now I hope it is a one season thing. It is not worth cutting an attraction's capacity to roughly 1/3 in order to offer this experience, and the enjoyment value of the VR decreases significantly with each ride since the video remains the same. The VR is definitely a unique experience, but sadly due to the hassle of it I'd file this one under "worth considering if the line isn't too bad" rather than "make a trip to the park to do this."

June 10, 2016, 8:26 AM

Thanks for the wonderful feedback you guys.

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