Six Flags doubles down on VR with interactive gaming coasters
Six Flags announced today that it will increase its investment in virtual reality on roller coasters by installing fully interactive gaming experiences on eight roller coasters around North America
This spring, Six Flags introduced VR on nine coasters. Some of them included a light gaming element, where riders could take "target practice" by firing as the coasters went up their initial lifts. But there was no score keeping and the interaction amounted to little more than a way to distract riders and kill time during an otherwise relatively inactive part of the ride.
On "Rage of the Gargoyles," riders wearing Six Flags' wearing Samsung Gear VR headsets will get to play a more engaging game experience. The scenario will be pretty much the same as the "The New Revolution" VR experience currently in place on six coasters. From Six Flags' press release:
[Riders are] seated in the cockpit of an Apache-style helicopter. With a devastated cityscape as the backdrop, a fleet of choppers prepares to battle an army of terrorizing, winged creatures. The action-packed adventure begins when riders ascend up the coaster’s lift hill as the blood-thirsty gargoyles mercilessly attack the copter’s fragile glass barrier. The epic on-screen conflict quickly accelerates as the high-definition imagery synchs perfectly to the coaster’s movements sending riders twisting, turning and diving through the hazardous city streets - flying over battered skyscrapers, plunging underneath twisted bridges and dodging falling debris, all while shooting to repel these lethal demons and conquer the vicious master gargoyle.
Unlike on the current installation, riders will not need to tap the side of their headsets to fire. Instead, on Rage of the Gargoyles, firing will happen automatically and be targeted by riders' head movement.
Rage of the Gargoyles will replace The New Revolution on five coasters:
- Shock Wave at Six Flags Over Texas
- Dare Devil Dive at Six Flags Over Georgia
- Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis
- Goliath at La Ronde
- Steamin’ Demon at The Great Escape
In addition, it will go on three additional coasters:
- Demon at Six Flags Great America
- Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great Adventure
- Kong at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
There's no mention in today's announcement of the current VR installations on The New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain or of the three Superman VR installations at Six Flags New England, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Six Flags America.
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The next generation of VR should be a small simulator cabin mounted on a track. It should be totally enclosed inside a building so the track is not seen. And it could start with a magnetic launch so you don't have the slow uphill climb. Is this what the Millenium Falcon ride will be like? I hope so.
The problem with VR is that it tends to make loading times abysmally slow. While at Six Flags Over Texas a couple of months ago, I decided to ride Shock Wave (the regular way, never having been to SFOT before) and sat in the train for some time before it was dispatched, due to problems other riders were having with the Samsung headgear. Apparently they weren't seeing the right image or there was some other problem, so it ended up being a case of ride ops collecting the headgear and coming back with fresh sets, multiple times. My intention was to ride Shock Wave once without the headgear and go back later in the day to have the VR experience but the queue and long loading times made this impracticable. Instead I opted for a 3rd or 4th ride on New Texas Giant, which by that time of day was a walk-on (besides being totally awesome!).
After riding Goliath at La Ronde under La New Revolúsion (or something like that) I'm not happy that my home park is getting one. Granted it's on Skull Mountain but it's going to become a 2 hour wait instead of like 2 minuets.
Demon is currently the roughest ride at Great America. I can't imagine VR would be particularly helpful, even if the video is perfectly in sync.
It kills me that VR is slowing dispatch times, because it just doesn't have to be that way. For those riding with the headsets, there should be a designated "preshow" area, where guests put on the headsets, adjust the fit and calibrate. Only when they are good to go should they move from the preshow holding pen to the dispatch area. Riders without VR should go from the queue straight to dispatch.
The problem with the loading is it takes time to get the headsets property fitted, and then you can't see to walk. They need redesigned headsets to allow for a preloading area. Plus, it really isn't quite ready for prime time, but it is very fun if it works.
I'm okay with the VR staying, but only if Six Flags can find a way to make it work. 200 riders per hour is just unacceptable for any attraction at a major theme park. In my opinion, if they can operate a coaster with VR and still get 75% of the capacity it would get otherwise, that is acceptable, but any more of a reduction than that just isn't worth it. I know they are already swapping out the equipment for new headsets that are much easier to secure, but hopefully Six Flags will redesign the loading station and queue line for anything that will have VR in 2017.
I agree with Bobbie, having the same experience with Shock Wave at SFOT just last week. Until they can make the loading faster and more reliable or do it out-of-line, I'm not thrilled to see it expanding
I haven't ridden any of these yet so I'm not sure about the logistics. Are there any safety concerns about headsets potentially coming off during the ride and injuring someone behind you?
Are people not getting sick riding roller coasters with VR? I've read so many stories of people getting sick just walking around in VR, it's had me wondering how VR roller coasters are even possible. Anybody have any thoughts/remarks about this?
I dont mean to be negative, but VR on Kong at SFDK is an aweful idea. The ride is already a head bangin mess. I was impressed after riding VR Shockwave at SFOT, yet slightly nautious. I back the technological progression that parks are pushing for with VR, I just dont think it is the right move for Kong, or any similarly rough/intense coasters. It needs to a mellow, smooth coaster.
This is all getting too much. I just want to ride a roller coaster. I don't want to wear glasses or get a headache trying to see your effects. I don't need a music track allegedly sycronised to the movements, and I don't want a pre show boring me with some story I couldn't care less about.
I rode Superman with and without VR at the New England park recently. They have been running the VR for a couple of months there and they are still having issues. First, as mentioned, it slowed the line from a 20 min wait before the VR time (which didn't start until 1pm) to a 45 min wait after it started from the same point.
VR is optional on all Six Flags coasters where available. I went to SFFT for the first time and wanted to ride Superman Krypton Coaster. As that was the VR ride at that park, I had to ride twice; once with VR and once without. VR at Six Flags is free to those wishing to experience it but certainly not required.
Initially I was intrigued by the VR thing. However, after experiencing the New Revolution, I'm 100% out. The images were choppy, low-quality (they're HD, but so is a 3 year-old's finger painting), and completely unsynced. The extra load time is the icing on the cake. Hows abouts Six Flags invests in updating their parks, rather than trying to get people in the door with gimmicks like this?
Demon is the roughest ride at Six Flags Great America. It never has a line. I don't even ride it anymore; cuz its not worth the possible concussion. It bangs up your ears bad; it has even caused my cartilage piercings to bleed once.
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