Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Infrared shot to the Foot

Well, UbiSoft's new laser tag system "Battle Tag" has been out for awhile now with a long lull in any positive news from this videogame giant.  Questions on the Battle Tag Forum, which is overseen by UbiSoft, have not turned up any answers as of late as this "Soft Release" continues to drag on. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Gear Up" Website

There's a "Gear Up" promotional website now online with info on both the repainted N-Strike gear and new Vortex lineup.  There's basic info on each blaster with no information you didn't already assume.  Oddly enough, there's no longer a mention of the "Gear Up" colored Recon, only the Raider, Barricade, and Maverick.

Click to Visit Website

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Max Force Advertising

I've seen the commercial for the Max Force stuff now, with the Black armored super soldiers wielding these blasters.  They've got a website up now too and one of the banners at the top I found especially amusing.

There's also a bunch of slow-motion videos of Max Force ammo blasting through things.  If you can't find it on the website, look under the "COOL" link.  (lol)

IMHO, it looks almost like Max Force is trying TOO much to establish itself as a better option than Nerf.  What with Black Armored Spartan Super Soldiers in their commercials and boxes to the "graduate from Foam" slam on Nerf, it's still a glorified spitwad gun.  Very neat looking spitwad guns nonetheless.  The jury is still out on this one for me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

LTX Folding Stock Mod

I've seen a few others build stocks onto their Phoenix LTX blasters and I've always liked their results.  With my LTX DMR still giving me electrical headaches and not much time to dive into it recently, I decided to make a quick rifle out of a Tiger-brand LTX instead.  I prefer rifles to pistols because of the stability you can gain from a stock, so I built one into an LTX that's already seen it's fair share of modifications.

It uses a Nerf Spectre Folding Stock and it turned out pretty good!  Combat Testing will prove whether it can stand up to the rigors of battle, but either way, it's nice to finally have a stock on one of these blasters.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sneaky Mods

You wouldn't think that with a wedding coming up this weekend that I'd be in Nerf Mod Mode, but when I'm not rehearsing music for it/figuring out when to pick up the relatives from the airport, I'm preparing my armory for WAR!

After this weekend's wedding festivities, I'll be going indoors with a few friends and relatives to Nerf it up.  I usually bring a sizeable armory to share with players and take pride in the fact that most of my blasters are modified to some extent.  Most of my mods are internal and basic, so you don't see gobs of hot glue and PVC pipe all over them.  From the outside, they look nearly identical to the stock blasters they once were... but on the inside they're a bit different.  I've been asked several times as to why I don't do lots of Nerf repaints and big modifications and my answer is pretty simple:  I like clean-looking blasters.

It also sort of doubles as camouflage for these powered up blasters.  Normally, players can't tell whether their opponent has a blaster of mine until it's fired at them.  It also means that any pictures we manage to take during games can still be submitted on the Nerf Nation Facebook page without too many folks griping.

Take this Spectre for example.  It looks like a normal blaster, but I've unloaded the rotating chamber so you can see the ARs out.  Inside, it's also got a much better O-Ring seal as well as a pretty nice spring upgrade (the Raider stock covers that up quite nicely too).

I'm completely capable of painting Nerf Blasters, as evidenced by my Laser Tag recasings, but I don't repaint my Nerf Blasters mainly because I don't see much of a point to do so.  Since we play indoors, trying to have any sort of camouflage is just a waste of time.  I also hate it when paint jobs rub off from wear and tear as I think they look sloppy over time.  Nerf has alleviated that problem with many of their recolors.  Currently, I've got two Red Strike series blasters (Recon and Longshot) and I'm itching to get my hands on the Whiteout Series.  My Recon achieved "Shot of the Week" status last time we nabbed a picture of it in a rare backyard war.

Hopefully I'll have some pictures to share of the games we'll play coming up.  Even if we don't manage any pictures, I'm looking forward to some Nerf Wars to wrap up this busy weekend!

Monday, June 20, 2011

All about Arduino!

Since the OLCA started building/recasing their own blasters, one common dead-end that comes up is the board. Up until now, the only options we have had for platforms to build blasters around have been existing Laser Challenge boards.  We can essentially change/customize everything but the settings that the board already has on it, which include sound effects, firing rate, and ammo.  However, thanks to the R&D sector of the OLCA, we are now on the verge of building our own Laser Challenge-compatible boards that carry with them the complete freedom to design your own settings by programming an Arduino board with the proper functions.

Much of this work has been headed up by a player who goes by the name of "German" (due to the Flectarn Camouflage he wears during games).  At last week's game, he brought a working prototype of an Arduino-powered Laser Challenge Blaster built into a Nerf Longstrike shell.  Though the features were very basic and the blaster was largely unfinished, it was still a milestone in the OLCA's history... and as far as I know, no other group has used an Arduino like this before.  He also has quite the optics setup in his Longstrike.  A 35mm lens has been mounted almost seamlessly into the Longstrike's barrel. 

There's obviously a lot more to this project, and we'll update you as it moves along.  Right now, the Longstrike is in it's most basic form.  It can fire (no reloads, just unlimited automatic fire) no sounds (only a white LED that blinks when it's firing right now) and it's sitting inside an unpainted Longstrike shell.  Once German has more features working with this blaster, it's likely that it'll open the floodgates for more custom blasters.  I'm REALLY excited to see what's in store for future projects thanks to this breakthrough!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Outdoor Tests for Battle Tag

My right-hand man Brandon and I found some time yesterday to go outdoors and check out Battle Tag and it's performance outdoors. The video was shot during the tests and we gathered some rough numbers during it.  We returned home to calculate the actual results and to check the range of the UbiConnect.

The range of the blasters seemed to top out at 300 feet while the UbiConnect still managed to keep connection with our blasters about 600 feet out.  We also used a Laser Challenge vest to see if the blaster range would go any further, but it stopped receiving hits at the same point the Battle Tag Sensor Harness did.  The Maximum power setting was used on these blasters.

While the UbiConnect has good range indoors and decent range for outdoor games, serious outdoor laser taggers will find themselves out of connection, especially when in thick cover.  The Sensor setup on these is especially nice though, as both Brandon and I were able to fire from different angles and positions without having the sensors covered up.  The Shoulder sensors are an especially nice addition.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Possible Battle Tag Expansions

When Sundawg and I first inspected the Battle Tag sets from Ubisoft, we noticed that there were 2 points on the equipment themselves that suggested expansions. 

The first being the T-Blaster.  The Black shell around the receiver can be removed and it reveals a 6-point contact on the left side of the blaster.  An external upgrade could plug into this and have new abilities for the T-Blaster.

The shroud comes off starting at the back

Shroud removed

6-point connection for possible expansions
Additionally, the Sensor Harness has a plug that features a 6-point contact.  However, the harness itself only has 4 wires running through this, which could suggest a possible sensor harness upgrade later on.

However, the main question in my mind isn't what upgrades might be in store for Battle Tag, but rather... if Ubisoft will ever get this line out of the "Soft Launch" mode so it can actually generate enough sales to warrant these upgrades.  If you didn't know, the Lazer Tag Phoenix (LTX) was slated to have a series of additional accessories for it that were never released.  There were 4 accessories that were supposed to launch with the LTX, one of them being the Shotblast that came with the initial release.  There were 3 others and I have only seen a prototype of one of them that never saw production.  In the same way that Hasbro axed the LTX's future, Ubisoft could end the Battle Tag line before we ever get a chance to see these expansions.

BT Sensor Harness Adapter

So after inspecting the plug for the Battle Tag sensor harness, it's become abundantly clear that I'll need to fabricate/replicate a housing in a Laser Challenge vest in order for this to work.  Here are shots I've taken of how the assembly works.

The plug is unlike anything else we've seen.  While I could technically put a different plug on there to be used with other equipment, I would rather not tamper with a $130 system and, instead, modify other equipment to use them by making an adapter for them.  Essentially,  I want to replicate the housing that the T-Blaster has where the sensors plug into.  That'd be the best way to do it I think.

Monday, June 6, 2011

OLCA Turns 5!

On June 6th of 2006, I started up a Forum for planning purposes for laser tag games with some friends.  Though our first game planned through the OLCA was kind of a flop (you can read the review of it here), we've since learned, grown, and turned into one of the more active tagging groups in the US. 

Friday, June 3, 2011


I didn't really realize it until someone pointed it out... but a lot of what I do for laser tag has become increasingly Borg-ish.  Though it's not operational yet, I have plans to build a plug in a Laser Challenge-brand vest to accept the Battle Tag Sensor Harness so they can be used in LC games (This is a project I'll outline once I have more to share).  You're already familiar with the LTX DMR, which is made up of a Nerf Stampede, Nerf Lazer Tag Phoenix internals, a Laser Challenge Virtual Paintball Lens, and a Weaver Rail with a Red/Green dot sight mounted on it.  With this setup alone, I have Hasbro, ToyMax, Jakks Pacific, Ubisoft, and CenterPoint equipment being utilized.  Combining the best elements from these brands to achieve perfection... if I start saying things like "Resistance is Futile", I know I've got a real problem on my hands! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tactical Tag meets Battle Tag

I met a white, orange, and gray box entitled "Battle Tag" today and decided to give it a try.  Thanks to the help of Sundawg, I got a taste of what this system is like right out of the box.  There are already great accurate reviews of this system out there, but what I'm more interested in with this is how I can use it and, ultimately, how it could be used for others.

First off, let me say that from the slick packaging to the contents within, Battle Tag made me feel like a kid in a candy store.  The blasters feel great, the vests are wonderful, and things just seem seamless.  Sundawg and I managed to play test these on basic settings indoors.  An outdoor test is soon to come (it was late and rainy outside).  

We ran some tests of our own for compatibility.  If you haven't noticed by now, the group I tag with (the OLCA) utilizes equipment from different systems that work together utilizing the basic Laser Challenge system to  serve as our core system.  We manage to use anything that can land tags on a Laser Challenge sensor.  From other systems like the LTX, LTTO, Laser Command, to simple things like Universal TV Remotes.  Laser Challenge is a simple system that will take hits from anything it manages to recognize, even if it's not genuine LC gear that's doing the firing. 

After running the basic operation tests, we decided to see if Battle Tag blasters could land hits on Laser Challenge sensors.  The T Blaster successfully landed tags on all LC Sensors that were V2 (1998) and older. This means anything Newer than a Radar Extreme (1999) won't receive hits from these T Blasters.  This is not uncommon to have, as we get similar results from LTTO and LTX blasters.  However, we have yet to run into another system that can receive tags from LC Blasters... until now!  Oddly enough, every kind of LC Blaster we tried landed hits on Battle Tag Sensors except for a V2 Firestorm (other V2 blasters still worked).    Even more odd was the fact that the game statistic recorder for the Battle Tag system, while it did recognize that players were getting hit, was not recording a tally of those hits.  It only recorded hits taken by other T Blasters logged into the game.  We even set a game with respawns at every 5 hits and you could still knock a player out, but the system recorder wouldn't count it.  

Even though T Blasters can hit Laser Challenge sensors and the Battle Tag sensor rig can accept hits from Laser Challenge blasters, there's still a few compatibility issues.  In order to have these integrated into Laser Challenge Games, we would need to A: host them from a Laptop with an Ubi Connect (would not be able to turn them on and go like other blasters we use) and B: we would have to set a kill limit on them to 10 hits... which we currently don't have the capability to do.  Not only that, but we would need to adjust the hit timing to be closer to that of Laser Challenge.  LC sensors recieve hits one every second or so.  Near as we can tell,  Battle Tag sensors take hits as fast as they can read them, which is pretty insane.  

So right now, while initial testing shows great results for compatibility, the issue now is incorporating them into games.  We may find a way to do that later, but as they are out of the box with the current software, we can't integrate them into our games with Laser Challenge.  Obviously further testing and troubleshooting will follow as we look to assimilate this new system into what we do.  Until then, a few 'round the house games are certainly in order until I can convince others to pick up a set of their own.

Also in the works for these is a plug adapter that I'd like to design to utilize these Battle Tag sensor vests as Laser Challenge sensors.  Either modifying or building a Laser Challenge vest to plug unto one of these Battle Tag vests would mean EXCELLENT coverage for the player.  Obviously, we would want to have the Battle Tag sensor to still be used with the T Blaster for hosted games through the UbiConnect, but having the ability to plug it into a Laser Challenge board to use for LC games would be pretty neat.  Until we can figure out if it's possible to program Battle Tag to accept 10 hits at a rate similar to LC, this is the only way I can think of to utilize these excellent sensor rigs.

Next for our Battle Tag set, outdoor tests for range on both the T Blaster and the UbiConnect hosting station!