Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Battle is (likely) over

Whilst working with the Whiteout Series, the color scheme reminded me of a box collecting dust in my basement.  Of course, the first thing that came to your mind was Battle Tag... the laser tag sensation that has swept the country with it's latest groundbreaking technology and future expansion of the entire lineup!

Heh, ...no.  I was asked the other day "why haven't we heard anything about Battle Tag?" and took a trip to the near-deceased Battle Tag Forum to check up on signs of life.  MikeApostol wrote this there:
...by all accounts no one has heard anything from Ubisoft about this system since many many months ago. I doubt they are continuing to work on this. I wish they were, but the lack of action or communication with them (not to mention taking it off their online store) seems to speak more than their silence. It's really too bad because it's such a great system and with a little more tweaking on the hardware and software side it could be near perfect
 I'm calling this system dead.  Way to kill your own creation, UbiSoft.  Sadly between that system doing a faceplant and Light Strike not reaching the hearts of the hardcore laser taggers I know (not to mention seeing no real signs of their products leaping off store shelves), these systems haven't come close to breathing any new life into the sport I know and love as Laser Tag.  I hope someone comes out with something to show 'em how it's done.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nerf Project: Longstrike Blur

It's a fact:  I'm an aesthetics whore.  It's also a fact that while the Longstrike is arguably one of the best looking blasters to hit the N-Strike lineup, it also has some of the most miserable stock performance ratings.  However, thank's to this thing called "modding", we can change that.  Even moreso, thanks to Orange Mod Works for coming out with kits to help folks improve their blasters... easily.

I've picked up a Whiteout Longstrike and have been working on it a bit.  At first, I was set on just set to upgrade it, but now I kinda wanna have it surpass that by having it sit at the heart of some modifications I want to implement on it.  It's already got a Stage 1 kit installed to give it incredible power, but there are things I can improve to get it performing better while still looking slick.

Here's my project:  the Longstrike Blur.  Not only do I want it to have power, but I want to integrate other features of blasters that I find helpful into this piece of eye candy.  The two biggest points I'd like to replicate are the Slam Fire and a Pump-action reload.  While I'm not 100% certain a Slam Fire mod is doable, I am certain that I'll need to improve the priming system by making it a shotgun-style activation.  I've been using a Longstrike in Nerf Battles for awhile now anyways, making use of the Clip System with 3 magazines.  Two 6-dart clips (one I leave empty at the beginning so as to allow me to pick up darts as I go along) and one 18 round straight clip.
You can see I've already made use of Orange Mod Work's Stickers by integrating it into the clip design.  The other sticker is on the opposite side of the blaster near where I sanded off the "warning, this blaster might be Kick Ass if you mod it" disclaimers.  I'm also gonna look into improving my Streamlines so they have some weight.  Looking into filling the tips with Hot Glue to help balance those uncontrollable pieces of foam.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

OMW Longstrike Issues

Today I hurriedly got to my mail box to discover the Orange Mod Works Longstrike Stage 1 Kit.  Almost instantly, I opened up my Whiteout Longstrike to install the kit to check it out.  After seeing such an excellent review of it on Nerf Mods and Reviews and seeing results of other proud OMW owners, I was eager to feel the power I had been seeing and reading about for a few weeks now.

The installation was flawless, even though I double checked things to make sure I didn't mess something up.  AR Removed, O-Ring Seal improved, Stage 1 kit set to go, I closed it all up and went to test fire.  The prime was tougher than I had expected, but with 6 kg of force (versus 2.5 in the original one), it needed that pull.  I manually loaded a Streamline into the barrel and shot... and just watched the foam fly.  It was a glorious moment!

I proceeded to load up an 18 Round Clip for some extended testing.  After about the third shot, the priming handle piece flew off.  I recovered it and resumed testing.  Then I kept running into issues with the Longstrike not priming correctly and my excitement slowly began to turn sour.  This was the same issue, I remembered, I had with my Longshot spring upgrade.  In order to fully prime the blaster, I needed both hands to pull the priming handle back evenly.
Because of the way a bolt-action blaster is set up, there is actually uneven tension in the priming system.  The Longstrike isn't designed to handle that much stress, so the parts bend a bit and when you prime it, sometimes while the one handle is all the way back, the other side doesn't quite make it.  This means the catch doesn't engage and you can't fire the blaster.  This is an issue I have yet to read about in the Longstrike and one I hope to remedy.

The other issue I ran into wasn't the kit at all... but the other downside I was reminded of when upgrading springs.  Streamline Darts are incredibly inaccurate!  While I was getting excellent ranges, about 1/3rd of my darts were flying off at different angles or spinning out of control the second they left the barrel.  So while the Longstrike now has a much greater range and packs a punch... it's not hardly accurate enough to still be called a "sniper" in my books.  

I think other OMW kits dodge the priming issue because of their design.  The priming handles on the Recon, Alpha Trooper, and Raider all distribute tension evenly.  The Handles actually hold BOTH sides of the bolt to slide it into place evenly.  However, the Longstrike has uneven tension because you prime from either the right or left side, leaving the other side without enough tension to complete the motion.  Hopefully I can find a solution for this.  Any suggestions or help are more than welcome (please comment!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Longstrike Carbine

This blaster has been in use for over a year now, but it hasn't gotten much publicity.  I built it for a friend who has helped me run the OLCA for years now, so I made sure it was a good one.  Turns out this blaster is STILL one of my best in terms of durability and performance.  Part of the reason why it has a boring black paintjob is because I had originally intended to do a camouflage pattern on it.  However, after seeing how powerful this blaster was in the field, we decided that adding the camo would just make it even MORE deadly... so we decided against it.  While this blaster does away with the barrel extension of the Nerf Longstrike, it is still very much a sniper rifle.  We have been unable to determine a maximum range for this blaster... the longest range we have achieved with it that was within boundaries of the game was ~1100 ft.  To make matters worse, it's fully automatic and can expend it's 25 round clip in just over 4 seconds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rayovac Teams up

Not sure if anyone else has seen one of these video things with Light Strike stuff on shelves.  I expected to find something like this at Toys R Us, though to be honest, I wasn't expecting something like this for the Light Strike promotion in the first place.  The videos on it are pretty much what we've already seen on the websites.  However, along with this is a tag at the end for Rayovac.  They also have Rayovac batteries conveniently located to the right of the Light Strike Products.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


So I've been curious and have gotten some less-than-helpful answers that really just make me try harder to get to the bottom of this.

Most of you Nerf fans have probably noticed the small letters printed on some of your darts.  On Streamlines, I've found A, E, T, and K.  On Whistlers I've also found K, T as well as J.  K seems to be the most common type I've found in my collection... but I'm wondering what they mean.  Of the Streamlines that I have, the E and K types tend to be the best and most durable... so are they just different manufacturers?

...or does the guy who oversees Streamline production have a girlfriend named Kate?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Strength in Whiteout?

So Nerf Mods & Reviews got me thinking today.  They tested all the different color variations on the Maverick REV-6 against each other and found that the Whiteout outperformed them all.  While I'm curious to see if it's just the luck of the draw (that the only difference is the darts or that certain production of blasters at the time) or if they legitimately are better for some reason, I couldn't help but wonder if my Longstrike was worse than my new Whiteout Longstrike, so I ran a series of my own tests.
First I put both Longstrikes on even footing.  6 Dart clips with normal streamlines (E Type), no barrels.  Both of these blasters have their AR's removed (my blue one already had that, so to have an accurate test, I did it to the Whiteout one too).  Weather conditions were sunny with hardly any wind.  I set both of them down aimed over my porch off of the railing and fired each one 6 times and inspected the results.  Both blasters achieved the same range at the end of the test.

Nerf Mods & Reviews goes to great lengths to test things out with detailed results, so I trust their information.  However, looking at the chronological releases of Mavericks, seeing that the Clear and Sonic series Mavericks performed as poorly as the original Blue one doesn't lead me to believe that Mavericks have been getting better over time.  I think the real culprit here is that we're applying an exact science to toy blasters that shoot foam.  There's bound to be errors in the production run, especially considering how long the Maverick has been around.  Whether they turn out better or worse than before is kind of a luck of the draw if you ask me.  I wonder if we were to perform AR removal Mods on all of the Mavericks if it would even the playing field.

If there is truly any sort of performance difference between the Whiteout Series and normal blasters, it's likely not with the Longstrike from what my tests revealed.  It is possible that if I had used stock blasters that the results might have been different though.  However, I wasn't about to pick up another blue Longstrike just to run that  scenario.  It's likely that if there IS actually a performance gap, it's due to the fact that Nerf may have tweaked the older Maverick to perform better.  With the Longstrike being a newer blaster, I doubt they needed to make any changes.  Out-of-the-box, the Longstrike gets pretty pitiful ranges for a glorified "sniper rifle", but the bolt action is smooth and it hardly ever jams (unless it's a beat-up dart).

My Whiteout Longstrike will be the recipient of the Stage 1 kit from Orange Mod Works, so I'll be interested to see what the performance is like between my AR-removed Longstrike and my AR-removed Stage 1 Upgraded Whiteout Longstrike is.  It's just a great looking blaster with a comfortable feel and, being a long-time Longshot user, the bolt action makes me feel right at home.  I'll be posting details of that upgrade once the parts come in.  In the meantime, you can check out Nerf Mods & Reviews' post on the Stage 1 kit >here<.  MAN am I stoked to get mine!  Should get here within the week.  Seeing what it's capable of, I'll likely install it the second that package is on my doorstep.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Neverending New Nerf

The shelves are stocked with new Nerf Goodies!
3 different color Mavericks don this Wal-Mart shelf.

Alliteration aside, Nerf has been hitting shelves hard with "new" products recently.  I put that in quotes since most of them are recolors (as evidenced by the photo above) but Vortex's release date is now less than a month away.  With shelves flooded with new products, I imagine their sales are making a killing right now.  And rightfully so!  The new color schemes on some of our most beloved blasters are slick!  I'm personally excited to have the new Whiteout Series Longstrike in my hands now.  I've got some plans to make it a killer primary blaster in upcoming Nerf wars that include the Orange Mod Works Stage 1 Kit for the Longstrike.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Battle with the Band

So every year I host a laser tag game inside the Music Building on campus as part of the post-marching band camp festivities that are planned.  This year we managed enough LTTO and LTX gear to use it, as opposed to our old faithful Laser Challenge gear, which is not as ideal for an indoor setting like the music building.

Here are  a few fun shots from the games we held.  Our attendance reached 30 players, but we continued to play even when the group was as small as 10.  Games lasted from 7-10pm.  Needless to say I'm POOPED!
Upstairs Team for Game 1 (so this is HALF our turnout)

Blastin in the stairwell

Surrounded by ladies?  His shirt is totally saying "oh yeah!"

Getting fragged in a firefight.  Reflection shots are crazy in there!

Even seasoned veterans have trouble holding their own against the hordes of players

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Whiteout's sighted Shelfside

Here in the heartland of America, the Whiteout series is showing up on store shelves almost as quickly as they're disappearing.  I only managed to spot a NiteFinder on the shelf at the Wal-Mart I checked, but was surprised (and kinda bummed) to see two different shopping carts wandering around the store with Whiteout Deploys in them.  No Mavericks or Longstrikes spotted, but then again, the Wally World I checked looked pretty depleted in general.  I have a feeling I missed the original stock by a few days or so.  Darnit!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Busy as ever

Well, you would think that I'd have plenty of time in this last week of "summer" for me, but I'm actually busy right up until things start up again for me on the 22nd of August.  Ironically, I have more free time once school starts!

That said, the OLCA (which I head up) is in the process of trying to reschedule our final game for Season 6.  Myself and many of our distinguished veterans are unable to attend our normal time on August 15th, so I'll wrap things up on this blog about our season a little later.

None of my busy schedule really has to do with laser tag or Nerf, so I won't bother you with the details.  However, I am holding an indoor laser tag game for another group on campus that I'll likely post here.  I can also tell you that I've got another mod for my LTX that I put a stock on a little while ago.  That and finishing the LTX DMR... they're all coming up by the end of this month.  So just hang on until then!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

V2 Firefly Project Revamp

Work has resumed on the V2 Firefly after nearly 2 years of use.  It's getting a bit of a facelift, both internally and externally.  Afrer it's proud owner brought it to me with aiming issues, I've decided to give it a facelift he'll have more trouble messing up.
V2 Firefly in it's original configuration.  
It's owner is one of the original founding members of the Omaha Laser Challenge Association.  He has made a name for himself utilizing a classic laser tag blaster called the "V2 Firestorm".  However, due to his larger size and nature of the game of Laser Challenge, players complained that they couldn't hit his torso-mounted sensor.  Over the years we have built custom equipment for him that still allows him to utilize the power of the Firestorm while still being able to be hit while he's firing.

His customized gear
The Power Switch has been completely replaced, there's a new Firing Indicator light, the Internal setup in general has been revamped and strengthened, and I'm trying to figure out how to best replace the reload switch.

Also in store for it is a new weaver rail / red dot scope.  I'm using lighter materials so as to not cause strain on itself so it won't break apart again, but still stay rigid enough to be accurate.

Here's a video of the internals and setup, as well as a visual representation of the work I've been doing to the trigger grip and weaver rail.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

LTX DMR Update 8

So I finally blew the dust off this project and decided to tackle the main problem head on: power.  In this video, I show you the internals/main issue surrounding the Power switch, as well as explain my solution to it.  I pray this is the last "Progress Update" on it I'll have.  The next one SHOULD be a "I finally got this sonnofabitch done!" video.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I.T.S. reminds me of B.A.R.T.

Granted, it's been almost 15 years since it's debut, but the new I.T.S. released as part of Light Strike's lineup reminds me a bit of our old Laser Challenge Buddy, "B.A.R.T."  ITS stands for "Intelligent Targeting System" and, near as I've been able to tell, is a motorized target with features for different game types and training.  
BART was released with the first wave of Laser Challenge gear by Toymax back in 1997.  It's name stands for "Bio Automated Roaming Target" and runs around on the ground whilst trying to dodge your attacks with a series of random movements.  The "Shootback Bart" that was later released with Laser Challenge V2 had, you guessed it, the ability to shoot back at you while it moved.

I suppose it's just amusing for me to see this concept recycled a decade and a half later!  Obviously the ITS is a bit more advanced than BART, but given the simplistic nature of Laser Challenge and the gimmick-laden complexity of Light Strike, that only makes sense.

Friday, August 5, 2011

System Opinions, Part 2

The "Lazer Tag" brand has been around for a long while.  It's become common practice between laser tag fans such as myself to differentiate this system from others since it is spelt with a "Z" in place of the "S" in "Laser".  This brand, while it has changed hands from manufacturer to manufacturer, has been handled by Shoot the Moon and has a long standing and favorable reputation among consumer-grade laser tag enthusiasts.  Rightfully so, as this system has always been innovative in it's approach to bringing exciting and unique features into the generally dismal market of laser tag at affordable prices.

The two systems bearing the brand name "Lazer Tag" that I have had the most exposure to have been Lazer Tag Team Ops (LTTO) and Lazer Tag Phoenix (reffered to as LTX).  These systems are compatible with each other and have many of the same basic features.  At their core is the setup which they rely on for equipment: a blaster with a sensor dome built-in.  No vest, no headbands, no wires.  It's a setup that has strengths and weaknesses when comparing it to other systems, which generally have the player wearing some kind of sensor on their head or chest.  It means that it's nearly impossible to shoot without being able to be shot at and the domed-nature of the sensor means coverage from multiple angles.

In my experience with this system, the seemingly 360 degree coverage of the domed blaster-mounted sensor is more like 280 degrees, since the player's body can block shots from behind.  It has been an issue that I have run into playing with this system when it comes to trying to pull off ambushes or sneak attacks.  However, it DOES make the flanking maneuver that much more effective, since shots from the side are possible.  While chest-mounted sensors can take hits from the front and back, they often don't receive hits from the right or left.  It's a trade off that can be both good and bad, but one that I have found can be frustrating to deal with when your opponent likes to turn around and run away safely.  During games, I have observed players essentially running laps around the park using this tactic and it is tiring to watch, let alone partake in.

Invulnerability for cowards aside, the system is also quite advanced.  LTTO introduced "Hosting", which connects players blasters through a wireless connection.  Detailed readouts display health, ammo, scores, and other game information.  Though it can be tricky to use at first, once you get the hang of hosting games, most folks never go back to the traditional "turn it on and go" start up.  While you can just start up a basic game without hosting, the LTTO system was clearly designed to flourish in Hosted games.

And that's where the LTX came in.  While the two systems are compatible together and LTX's can be hosted in LTTO games, the Lazer Tag Phoenix is designed to cater towards the "turn it on and go" types.  With a power switch that handles teams settings for Solo, Team 1, and Team 2 (Team 3 is another story ;) ), it's much more simple to set up and does away with the Hosting games and the game types that were available for it.  Instead of detailed readouts on an LCD screen, the LTX has an array of LED lights that indicate health and ammo.  In some ways, it's a watered down version of LTTO since it lacks tagger identification, built-in games, and hit confirmations.  However, the LTX line focuses more heavily on the ability to upgrade the basic blaster.  In it's basic form, it can fire 10 shots that land one hit each before needing to reload.  You can add firepower to the basic form by attaching a Shot Blast, which integrates into the basic blaster's form and adds a pump-action shotgun-style feature which lands 3 hits at close range.  It can also support a Green-dot sight on a rail on top.  You could also attach a TV Game module to the basic blaster and plug it into your Television to play a video game with the LTX at it's core.  The Shot Blast and Green Dot sight were just the tip of the iceberg for expansion of this system.  There were other attachments like the Shot Blast that never made it to production, like the RapidFire version.

Unfortunately, the LTX line did not make it to the market at a good time.  A rough economy made this more-expensive-than-usual system tough to sell and it's been a watered-down system ever since.  When it was first introduced, it included the Shotblasts and Green Dot sights for 2 blasters, along with a TV Module.  Now they're rebranded under the "Nerf" name in their basic forms and even more overpriced than they were WITH the additions.  This system could've been better on it's own if it had gotten the proper marketing and support it deserved.  STM is expected to release another new Laser Tag system in Winter of 2012, just in time for the apocalypse.

Bad luck or not, there are many good things going for both of these systems.  They are both high-end laser tag systems designed by an excellent company.  As a result, their quality is at a much higher grade than other competitors products.  The reverse-compatibility with these also helps you expand your arsenal and assortment of blasters.  These Lazer Tag brand blasters also have excellent sun filtering and are powerful enough to use in broad daylight (although night time is the best time to play ANY laser tag game).  I suppose my only 2 gripes are the invulnerability players have from behind and just the fact that these taggers are so stinkin advanced!  If they break or if something goes wrong, there isn't a whole lot you can do for them.  Thankfully since the quality on these are high, there's a low probability of this ever happening.  However, it DOES make things for modification junkies like myself a bitch-and-a-half since they're so darned complicated and integrated into their casings.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

System Opinions, Part 1

So I've decided that for the next couple of days I'm going to be writing daily entries concerning my opinion of current laser tagging systems out there that I've been able to use.  Some of these are systems that I own and use quite often.  Others are merely impressions I've had of exposure to a system for a short time or that I know enough about to formulate an opinion of.

First up is gear that I wish I had the opportunity to use again.  Myself and a few other laser tagging buddies of mine were exposed to this through a guy who ran a Mobile Laser Tag business here in town.  His company was called "Laser Recon" and he has since moved to the West Coast and set up shop there with this equipment.  The gear was purchased from "Adventure Sports".  The equipment is much like military-grade equipment (like MILES) and is about the most durable and reliable stuff I've ever had the pleasure of using.

Why?  Because it's got enough basic operation to it to be used by anyone easily (not laden with gimmicks) but advanced enough to have the system customized to do whatever you want.  Sound effects, lighting effects, range, Rate of Fire, reload time, partial damage points, the options are through the roof.  This equipment setup, specifically, is also quite nice to use.  The durability of these things is unparalleled, with most of the models having metal casings.  Sensor coverage is about as realistic as you can get with head sensors that are domed and give 360 degree coverage.  Some of the blasters even have a gun-mounted sensor.

With all the praise I've given them, I bet you're wondering why I don't have an arsenal of these myself.  Truth be told, the way I run things, I could never afford a system like this to do what our group currently does.  If this were a "everyone owns their own set" thing, that'd be different, but the pricetag on these is still up there.  I can easily outfit a group of 20 players with a store-bought laser tag system for the price of one or two of these guys.  I had the pleasure of being able to use this gear when Laser Recon's founder was here in town.  It still tops my list as one of the best that I've managed to get my hands on.