Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IAAPA Day 3: Show Open

See Parts 1 and 2 of our IAAPA coverage here!

The head cold is still going. So everybody: Dayquil, coffee, coffee, biscuits, gravy, coffee, bacon, sausage, fruit, OJ, coffee, GO! Cholesterol, sugar and protein are excellent cure-alls. At least they are in my book.

The show opens around 8am EST with a beautiful ceremony involving speeches, women in tight dresses, speeches given in heavy foreign accents and a live show of some sort. Last year there were some German stunt people and a rather lovely female contortionist, although not at the same time. The contortionist’s costume was what I would call diaphanous. Most would call it transparent. Most men would just make panting sounds and rude gestures. I’ve learned a great deal of self-control over the years so I kept all my impure thoughts just as such. This year was no different, I’m sure, though I was asleep at the time, so I don’t really know what happened, but I assume it was lovely. The combination of jet lag and a head cold can ruin your mornings if you don’t do your best sleep them off.

The Compatriot and I stroll into the North Concourse and its 38,011,280 cubic feet of glory. There’s bounce houses, go carts, toy companies, playground equipment, cheap Chinese knock-offs of Disney products, and food. Never ones to quibble, we quickly realize we’re on the wrong side of town and have a hike to get where we’re going: The Coin-Op Pavilion, home of the video games. The Compatriot’s business is video games. He selects, buys, analyzes, and fixes big electronic toys to maximize profit and provide entertainment for our park. He’s good at his job.

What did I see? I saw amazing things. First and foremost was the new Star Wars Battle Pod. Crafted by Namco and officially licensed by Disney/Lucasfilm et al, it’s a big machine and for good reason. You open a door on the left to get inside. You’ve got a joystick on the right and a throttle on the left. In front of you is a 120 degree curved screen that takes up almost your entire field of vision. The Star Wars Fanfare plays and you can feel your wallet getting thinner as you get ready to go. When the action starts you’re given five missions to choose from: The Battle of Yavin, The Battle of Hoth, The Battle of the Endor Forest, The Battle of Endor Space, and “Vader’s Revenge”. I’ll provide you with a brief description.

Your X-Wing sits in a hanger and the General tells you good luck. Your ship rises out of the forest and flies through the atmosphere into space. There’s a brief transition and suddenly you’re in the thick of things. Tie Fighters are everywhere. Music is blaring, ships are flying past, explosion sound all around you and your job it to clear the path for the bombers. You control your speed with the throttle. Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home, it never left full speed while I was in there. Destroy the guns, how many guns? Looks like 20 guns, some in the trench, some in the towers. Tie fighters fly past. Red Five Going In!

In the trench you’re dodging Tie fighters firing on anything that’s the slightest bit unfriendly. Vader flies past. “The Force is strong in this one.” You fire on his wingman. He spins out of control, into the darkness of space. “Yeehaaah! You’re all clear kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home!” The bombing screen comes up. “Use the Force, Luke.”  There’s the grid. The vertical lines come together while your thumb sits above the torpedo trigger. Red Light, Now! You pull up. Two glowing orbs fall gently into the exhaust port. Four ships jet away from the battle station, and in a flash, the Death Star is no more.

There’s a knock on the door behind me. Doesn’t his person know I’m trying to save the galaxy? Fine. I get out and the seven people in line each move a few inches closer to glory in a galaxy far, far away.

The game is amazing, especially if you’re a fanboy like me. There’s only one real problem with it: Maneuvering is nigh impossible. The game is on a rail but it’s a pretty wide rail so you can slide back and forth inside the virtual tunnel you’re in. It’s not like you can just say, “Screw it, I’m not fighting those AT-ATs. I’m leaving.” And fly off the battle field. That would make it boring.

The theme park I would for will be buying at least one of these. They’re going to cost a lot to play but it’s well worth it for probably the first five or so go rounds. You can get one for your living room too if you want, so long as you’ve got a spare $30,000 sitting around somewhere. Things work on a bit of a different scale in the amusement park industry. Remember that meal from the last article? Every bit of hardware, restaurant and joystick has to pay for itself inside a certain period of time. Otherwise hardware, restaurants and joysticks get replaced. If it happens often, so do people. I’ve no doubt that these things would pay for themselves no matter how many we buy but funds are limited so we’ll see how many show up.

Lunch today was at the food court. While we weren’t at a park per se, we were just as trapped. The busses stop running at 11 and unless you want to hike the mile back to the hotel in whatever this year’s capriciousness decides the weather’s going to be, go ahead. It was $13 for something I’ll politely refer to as Chinese food since I didn’t want to add expletives to the article unnecessarily.

We had an after lunch appointment with a manufacturer for a new game/ride/attraction thingy. I’m being purposefully vague because some things are proprietary, and and because I wanted to include you in on some interesting euphemisms. So, it was me, Compatriot, Boss Man, Big Boss, Even Bigger Boss, and associated executives. We’re all gathered around this… thing. He shows it operating and explains how some parts aren’t quite working but he’s got plans to make it work and why they’re not quite right and how he’s not quite got the PLC up and running because it’s not hearty enough to run all the lights the exact way they’re supposed to and if you get in and sit here you can feel how the safeties are all good and nobody will get injured in any serious way and how the G-Forces are all well under spec for a small coaster… Things went on like that for a while.

It was a good machine but not quite finished yet. I’m in no way impugning the manufacturer or his product. (Or telling us anything about them. -Ed) There are a lot of experimental things going on. Some people are showing up in a booth with just a company name and a few director’s chairs, trying to make a name for themselves. Some others have little scale models of coasters because bringing in a full size one just isn’t possible. A great deal of what you see is up to your own interpretation. Trade shows are like life that way.

After the meeting we all went back to our rooms and changed for a vendor event. I love vendors, spend a mere $2 Million with them and they’ll take you out to a nice $75 dinner. Well, that’s simplifying a bit but that’s the gist of it. This nice company likes to send us to amusement parks, small ones with a more personal feel. We went to a place called “The Fun Spot.” Is it fun? Yes. They have several small coasters, another of which I was goaded into riding. Oh, and there was a giant sling shot type thing that drops you about 250 feet and lets you whip around like a Chihuahua tied to a post during a hurricane. I did not participate.

Some many years back when I was about 3 or 4, my uncle took us to Knott’s Berry Farm. Back then this little thing called safety wasn’t really an issue. It was his idea to have fun with the kiddies whether we liked it or not. So, he took us on the parachute ride. Many of you readers aren’t old enough to understand what that is, so I’ll explain. You all get into this sort of fenced in cage with no ceiling, lock, restraint, or sense of well-being. A crane drags you about 40 feet in the air, maybe more. Right then, my cousin, a year younger than me, decides he wants off. He opened the gate and got one foot into the air before the one available parent grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him back into the box. When you’ve reached maximum appreciable height, they release the brake. I’m unsure what the mechanism is but you drop for what feels to a four year old, like about year, then the parachute opens and you glide to a halt, crashing almost gently, back onto the ground. Afterward you all proceed to the bathroom to empty the children’s pants of whatever unfortunate things may have shown up in the intervening moments between sky and earth. People wonder why I hate falling and via translation, roller coasters.

So I got on this thing called the Freedom Flyer and glided around some curves. There’s the initial drop at the beginning but I held everything shut and tight so I didn’t need a change of clothes afterward. There is no specific phobia for fear of falling itself, not that I’ve found at least. Frankly it’s really not so much fear as a heightened distaste for falling. I rather like heights and enjoy climbing tall things. I also greatly enjoy acceleration which brings us to a nice segue.

Among those of us participating in the event, my coworkers and I are avid fans of Go-Carts and Fun Spot has them in abundance. There’re eight of us in the group with a combined age of nearly 350 years. On the go cart track, that means an average age of 13. Fortunately they’ve had the foresight to wrap them all in these great metal bumpers. They probably need new ones after our visit. There’s a young man shouting safety regulations at us before the race. Yes, well… Immediately into the first turn one fellow was already backwards on the track and thoroughly confused as to what precisely had occurred. Somewhere in the background somebody is yelling “No Bumping!” Poor fellow doesn’t understand. You see, my Big Big Boss knows his Big Big Boss and these things sort of work out in a general if you let me do this here you can come to our park and we’ll crank up the bumper cars to 11 while you’re on them and let you go ‘round the wrong way if you like.

Carts were pummeled, egos were bruised, backs were bruised, Rubber met road, rubber left road, rubber went into eyes, beer was drank, food as eaten, people were sling shotted, and Freedom Flier was flown. It was good night to be in Florida. Onto day 4 in just a few short hours.

The Lopez is an Amusement Park Industry Professional, Artist, Gamer, LARP GM, Member of the Gamer Geekus gaming troupe, and occasional guest star on the Ace of Geeks podcast. You can find Gamer Geekus at www.Facebook.com/Gamergeekus or email him directly at retheon@gmail.com.

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