Friday, January 13, 2012

Battle Tag: Nail in the Coffin

It seems I've come across the only evidence that Battle Tag has truly left the world of Laser Tag.  While cleaning my workshop up, I came across my Battle Tag 2 player set and was like "oh yeah!  I wonder if they've done anything else with it?"  Upon deciding to check up on their dedicated forum for it only to be redirected to the main Ubisoft Forum, I did some more research around the 'net to see where Battle Tag had gone.  Battle Tag has been removed from Ubisoft's online store and no searches on their website or forum bring up any information about this system.  The only thing that still officially exists (as of the time of this post) is the Battle Tag Website.

I've been calling Battle Tag's demise for awhile.  It never got out of it's "Soft Launch" state, which was essentially market testing after which it just sat there.  With no word from Ubisoft on the forums after Summer of 2011,  I presumed it dead, but posts still lingered on the forum and things still showed up on eBay for the system.  However, after today's findings, it's safe to say that Ubisoft has effectively closed the door on this laser tag system.  It had some good things going for it and had a lot of potential for expansion and to get better... but obviously there wasn't enough in Battle Tag for Ubisoft to continue it.



At this point, I'm not really sure of what to do with my Battle Tag system.  We've considered assimilating the sensor vest as a Laser Challenge vest due to it's nice coverage and adjustable straps.  I'm not entirely sure what to do with the T-Blaster though.  I can't remember the last time I bothered hosting a game from my laptop other than for our range testing we did awhile back.  I find it funny that of the two new Laser Tag Systems that were coming out around this time last year, the one that I actually kind of liked is the one that faded away whereas there's Light Strike all over retailers shelves.  Truth be told, I don't think either system has really caught on with anyone else.  I've seen a few things with Light Strike, but nothing significant enough to show a good following.  Then again, Laser Tag in general doesn't seem to have a good following in the United States, which is a shame.


For an in-depth and level-headed review of the system, go to "Thoughts, by Izzy".

12 comments:

  1. It's always a shame when a new product fails to catch on.

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  2. I think with Nerf branding and some real marketing there is a whole lot of room for laser tag to catch on with the mainstream.

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  3. I'm working with a few developers from Grooveshark on a open-source alternative to the Ubisoft software in Node.JS. We have it working for the Free For All game currently and on Linux/Mac. We're looking into adding support for Windows soon as well as the other games. Could you guys send over any details you had on the Ubisoft version that could assist us? Also, we are looking for ideas to make the game better.

    I would like to also point out that we are not sharing the code quite yet but it will be available on Github once we have it more stable and working with more games.

    - James Hartig
    Twitter: @jameshartig

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    1. I've never been even close to having a working understanding of the programming/computer side of this stuff. That and the fact that this system is effectively dead in the water as far as future production/expansion on a consumer-grade level gives me even less of a reason to want to explore it further. For a system that wasn't widely release, was overpriced, and wasn't compatible with anything else, the only thing that I've been interested in about this system has been trying to utilize it's sensor harness for use with other systems.

      I wish you luck in your endeavors, though! I just doubt I have any skills that could assist you!

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    2. It looks like the missions are all lua programming from what poking around I've seen. Beyond that I don't have a lot of information: I don't know for example if all you have to do is program in a new script and the program will pick it up and run with it (I suspect so but I don't know lua... yet...)

      Beyond that, the game officially supports 8 blasters per antenna. You can associate more, and after player 8 joins you see player A B C etc... I don't know if the 8 player team limit is hard coded into the software or if it's a hardware thing or what. I do know that Ubisoft promised to daisy chain antennas to support up to 40 players but never got around to it. Plugging in multiple antenna creates issues inside the actual ubisoft software. Namely, units never associate with the base station when there are two base stations plugged in, even after you've gone through the initial hardware sets.

      I do have 12 blaster sets, 4 of which are still in packaging in case I decide I want to sell them, so I haven't done any experiments yet. I might crack one open and see what happens in free-for-all when I add a 9th player.

      When you start a game the script seems to download to each of the blasters, or at least the rules of the game are downloaded (lives, lasers, clips, etc...)

      My main wish, more than anything else, would be to get up to 12 players in a game. I don't know if this is a hardware issue (each blaster gets a channel and there's 8 in the antenna) or what. Even if you could do a hub & spoke configuration it'd be *huge*.

      My second wish is obviously more game modes, but I'm not sure off the top of my head what I'd want. With the expansion adding health stations and extra bases, CTF becomes possible, which rocks. Moreso I'd like to see customization of scoring: for example, losing a point when you are hit, but scoring 5 when you hit someone, more like the laser tag arenas I grew up in.

      Finally, since you'd be ditching the Ubisoft UI, I would love, love, LOVE to see score sheet AARs. If I could print them that'd be awesome, but punching up my points, who hit me, who I hit, base scores, etc... would be fantastic.

      As I said, I have a considerable collection (thanks to a clearance sale of obscene proportions) and I'm willing to work with you/test things out. I'm not much of a programmer, but with the proper know how and guidance I could probably help you out a lot.

      If you want to talk, you can message me at flatline42 at gmail and I'll be happy to see how I can help you folks along.

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    3. Again, still have little-to-no idea what half of that you just talked about was. Besides, one of the "Nails in the Coffin" for Battle Tag for me was the team limitation anyways. The fact that you have to be A: limited to the range of the UbiConnect and B: can only host up to 8 players kills it for use with what our tagging group generally does. Our games average 25-35 players per week at an outdoor park that exceeds the range of the UbiConnect. The post-game readout isn't important enough for me to have any weight either, so Battle Tag just doesn't really work for the kind of stuff we're doing.

      The level of work and research you're doing on it is impressive, no doubt about that! I just don't have any interest in a system that doesn't meet any of my needs without serious system modifications.

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    4. Well I stumbled onto a wiki community where there's a pretty thriving Java-based reverse engineering program going on.

      Turns out you can expand the game beyond 8 players by modifying 2-3 text files. Past player 9 you get into hex code, and the display on the gun tops out at 31 permutations. The antenna itself can handle 254 devices though as long as you don't need to display player numbers. Right now someone has verified 16 players and I've verified 12, and we're going to try 18 in a few weeks when new handsets arrive. They assume they're going to have new game modes in their java host pretty soon too. One interesting side effect is that a powered USB hub and an android phone could run the entire kit eventually.

      I've cracked open the antenna, and it's a *lot* more simple than I anticipated. I could almost certainly wire an amplified, real antenna to the base station and get significant range extension. The only problem at that point is that the handsets don't have very good antennas, so how far out I could get I'm not sure. At best I might be able to double the range of the base station, in reality I'd expect a 33% increase, which isn't bad. I'm also not sure how heavy the power drain on the taggers are. I might be able to wire in an actual antenna instead of what's inside the tagger and again get a range boost. I'm not sure and would have to do some investigation.

      I'm with you on the 8 player limitation, that sucks, but looks like it's bypassable. The antenna range is a little more difficult and is going to require some play on my part. Thankfully, I have 4 antennas to muck with aside from the one I use to game with.

      So Battle Tag isn't quite as dead end as its official diagnosis thankfully. The coders know their stuff and are planning to impliment CTF and bomb defusal game modes in the near future, and right now people are still sussing out the communications between the taggers and the base and the game.

      It's not a perfect tagging solution by any means, but for small to medium urban locations with structured game rules it seems to be an interesting option.

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    5. Did you ever get 18 working? I've had 16 working but have run into problems trying to get more.

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  4. I just received my set from 1saleaday. It's very fun and I decided to buy 2 more 2packs so all of my family can play. Hopefully they will release their code to open source so everyone can share their ideas for this product.

    James, I'll be following your progress on your project. I'm not a programmer or avid laser TAG player but I do see extreme potential in this product and would like to support in any way I can. Thank you for doing what Ubisoft decided they couldn't.

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    1. Glad you're enjoying the gear, Peter!

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  5. Wow, my son and I bought it at a store closing because it was such a great price, now I'm having issues installing the software.

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  6. Hello,

    If anyone is interested in selling their new/used battle tag equipment, I would be interested in purchasing. I would be willing to pay for shipping via paypal.

    Thanks

    andrewiskandar [at] hotmail.com

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