gatzke writes "Some interesting developments have been coming online with new technology being developed that may lead to new and exciting gaming outside the home. DisneyQuest in Orlando mixes classic / modern video games with virtual reality and interactive games. MagiQuest in Myrtle Beach is an immersive interactive treasure hunt environment with a simple wand interface."Background
I am a thirty-something engineer that grew up with personal computers. When I was in elementary school, I was learning BASIC while playing Atari games like Asteroids, Pong, and Night Rider at the arcade in the mall. Games improved around middle school, Pac-man, Centipede, Galaga, Spy Hunter, Donkey Kong and others were available at the local arcades. At that time my favorite dinner destination was the pizza place with animatronic animals and a huge arcade. My buddies and I even played games at the mall arcade in high school: altered beast, time warriors, and others. At college in the 90s, I would frequent the local gigantic bar / restaurant / pool hall / arcade that had a good variety of games, especially the linked Daytona Racing games where you could drink and drive safely.
I fell off he map for quite some time. Arcade games did not hold my interest. I blame the many Street Fighter variants, with all the buttons and secret moves. No longer could any idiot walk up to a game and have a good time. You had to dedicate a lot of time and effort to get anywhere in those games. The economics changed as well. Games started hitting two or three quarters, not just one. On the home front, I had first person shooters on my PC that were tons of fun and interactive. Why go pay a dollar per game just to get stomped on in public when I have a SLI Voodoo card at home that can run Quake at 1600x1200 on a 21 inch CRT? The home and console technology was outpacing what you could get at the arcade. The arcades dried up in most places, with a few games lingering here and there.
Recently, my wife and I discovered a couple of places that give me hope for the future of gaming outside the home again. DisneyQuest and MagiQuest.
A few years ago, my wife and I were at a conference in Orlando. We took an extra couple of days to see some of Disney. We happened across DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney near the Cirque du Soleil theater. Admission was expensive at over $30 per person for the day, but it ended up being worth it to me. Inside, you enter one of the best arcades ever, an arcade by Disney. All games are totally free after you pay admission. They had recent games like Crazy Taxi and Top Skater (note, on a recent return trip they have not added many obvious new games). They also had classic games like Asteroids, Moon Patrol, Space War, and BattleZone.
The real outstanding section for me were the VR games. They had an Aladdin type game with a motion sensitive visor where you fly a magic carpet with intuitive controls. They had a superhero game where you get a motion sensitive visor and sword to swing at bad guys. If you have tried out recent VR helmets, you know the resolution is quite lacking and the motion sensing is not the best, especially technology from around 2000. Overall, these were fun but could stand some improvements in the basic helmet technology.
They had other VR / immersive games that did not require a helmet. They had a pinball game where you stand on a giant puck and try to direct your video puck into a goal by leaning left and right, while you play with others on a giant screen. They had a river rafting ride where you and others are on a rubber raft paddling in front of a projection screen while you get bumped around. They had Mech Assault type game where four people get in a pod and try to rescue some colonists while shooting aliens. One of the better games was a pirate game where you wear 3D glasses and man the cannons of a pirate ship surrounded by a few large projection screens. The design-you-own VR roller coaster made me sick, since I thought stacking as many loops and barrel rolls in a row was a good idea. The best game was the bumper cars, which was totally not electronic. You and a partner are in a Plexiglas enclosed bumper car. One drives while the other mans a cannon to shoot nerf soccer balls at other cars. If the sensors detect a hit, you spin around for a few seconds. This was loads of fun, and you can usually run around and get on again if the crowds are light.
My overall impression was favorable, but I was not as enthusiastic after my more recent visit. The technology had not changed in four years, so you still had the old 3D visors. Some video game controllers were not getting the requisite repairs. Things were not as "Disney" as they could have been, but it was still fun.
My wife and I also went to try out MagiQuest at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach. We really did not know what to expect from their advertising. You get a "magic wand" for $11 and then buy time in the game at $8 per hour with discounts if you do two hours on the same day. The wand appears to be some combination of RFID, IR in the tip, and motion sensor. You pick a character class and a name, then go through training where they show you how to cast at items to evoke a response. Chests will open, lights will flash, or some event will be triggered by your wand. After training, you enter the game area which is a large room with different areas. At the center is a stone-henge type place where you go to choose a quest from a touchscreen and watch a related video. The first twelve quests are relatively simple treasure hunt type tasks that have you exploring the environment looking for different items. They have a castle with a few rooms, a dungeon area, a pixie treehouse, a crypt, and some other areas.
There are items all around that you can use the wand to interact with. Cast at a picture and it lights up, even if it is not on your current list of items to be found. Chests open and show jewels or gold. Some statues will talk to you. The first set of quests are fairly simple, with explicit locations and descriptions of the items, but it can still be tricky to find all the items. The game tests your memory, since you will have seen some objects while working on other quests. After you complete the basic quests, they have a series of adventures to work on. My wife and I completed the twelve quests in two hours working together. I would encourage you to do it on your own, but we were dragging a two year old and my wife is seven months pregnant.
The technology is pretty robust. Some sensors required a few casts to activate, but overall it was not frustrating. Most items are static and respond with sound and light. There are around fifteen different stations with projection screen, LCD, or CRTs that are more detailed with some video. Some of these are end locations for quests where a character gives you a rune as reward for a completed quest or someone tells you a story. Some of these stations are apparently part of the more advanced adventures where you have more involved games to try out. They have a dragon and a goblin in the dungeon, but they also have lighter fantasy creatures like a unicorn and a fairy princess.
The environment is fairly immersive. The interactive items are generally embedded pretty well into the environment. The dungeon was my favorite, as you get the feeling of a realistic dark environment. The castle was pretty good, but it was mostly open to the gaming area with only a few rooms. Most of the game is wide open, where you can see all around, including the false sky. This is probably good for the general population, but it does not throw a gamer completely into the fantasy world (which may not be a bad thing). I would like to see a dark forest with shaded canopy and a main street with some interactive stores to explore and lower player density. Overall, it was never crowded, and things were smooth even with a large number of people running around.
There are other details to the game if you really get into it. They keep track of your gold and award you crappy prizes if you want. You get experience and levels, but I am not sure how that helps you. They have a dueling station where you can battle other Magi by choosing spells to use. They have extra crap you can buy to decorate your wand. They also have some extra tokens (compass and key) you can buy to increase your take of gold or give you clues in the game. The game is fun for both adults and kids, both serious gamers and those looking for something other than mini golf. It could be costly if you have a few kids to take in, but not bad after you get past the wand purchase. They also have parent spectator discount cards (first hour full price, second half off, free after)
I tried to search online for information, but it took me a while to realize I was searching for magicquest / magickquest / magic quest, not magiquest. You are a Magi in this game, and I have not seen how your character class influences your game.
Overall, we had a great time and want to go back soon. It is rough to take away beach time to go run around waving a plastic wand at treasure chests, but the game gets to you.
If you are in Orlando or Myrtle Beach, you may want to try these games out. Maybe the economics will work out and they could put them in local malls to get kid out running around again. It certainly is more complicated than buying a space invaders box and harvesting money from kids, but maybe the market is there.