Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Problem Solving with LC

How we used to do it!  Front sensors and crummy gear!
This photo was taken during the OLCA's first season in 2006.
Before the OLCA was able to obtain enough Laser Challenge sensors that had Back Sensors, we worked with what we had.  This was also the time when Jakks Pacific, the developer of Laser Challenge at that time, was mimicking the LTTO line's design of a blaster with the sensor mounted on it.  Previous versions that Jakks Pacific had developed had a tethered cord running from the blaster to the sensor vest.  When they mounted the sensor on the blaster, they called it a "Wireless system", since Wireless Internet was becoming increasingly popular at that time.  It was a cheap move with even cheaper technology at it's core.  Because the processor of the Laser Challenge systems that JP had developed could only handle one job at a time, the blaster couldn't fire while it was taking a hit.  On the other end, when the user was firing, they were essentially invincible for that moment... which ended up making trigger-happy users impossible to hit.  However, blasters with a sensor on them were somewhat useful when it came to our shortage of back sensors for our Laser Challenge equipment, so we used them for a short time.

During this time, one of our veteran players and a founding member of the OLCA was under criticism for being nearly impossible to hit because of the blaster he wielded and his large size.  With a front sensor mounted on his torso, his build and the bulk of the Laser Challenge V2 Firestorm that he used blocked the sensor during combat, making him increasingly tough to land a hit on.  To counter this, we tried coming up with a blaster-mounted sensor that wouldn't be effected by the problems that Jakks Pacific's blasters had.  Essentially, we took a domed sensor from a broken blaster and installed a second system into the Firestorm.  The Firestorm, which runs off of 6 batteries, only uses 3 of these batteries to run the blaster.  The other 3 batteries run the rumble pack that triggers when the blaster is fired.  While the tray houses 6 batteries, they are not linked together so that the board can run off of one set and the rumble pack can run off the others.  However, since we removed the rumble pack in his Firestorm, there were 3 open spots in the battery tray plus a large empty space where the rumble pack once was.  A sensor vest also runs off of 3 batteries, so we wired the separate board into the unused half of the Firestorm's tray.  After installing a separate speaker, the sensor dome, and a power switch onto the bulk of the Firestorm, we essentially had two systems running independently inside the blaster!

Later on, the OLCA's founders voted that one type of sensor system should be used for our games.  It was decided that every player must have a front and back sensor to make things fair.  As such, this custom blaster's internal sensor system was useless.  Eventually, we would scrap this blaster but use it's lens and other parts to build another blaster for it's owner.  However, we still needed to develop a front and back mounted sensor system that could be hit when players were using large weapons like the Firestorm.  The Custom Vest Project, or CVP, solved this with a shoulder mounted sensor with a dome construction.  We adopted the idea from Mike Yates of CTDYNE and have put it to use in several new sensor systems.

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