Saturday, June 30, 2012

N-Strike Elite: Sighting!!

An anonymous contributor managed to find this Retaliator at a local Toys R Us in Duluth, GA.  Right now the "Buy one Get one 50% off" Sale is still going on too, so this fan really lucked out!  I've checked my local stores and haven't found any Elite Products accidentally stocked early like this lucky fan, but it's not uncommon for slip-ups like this to happen before the actual release.

For now I guess I'll have to keep using my Elite Longshot to hold me over.  With some folks reporting that the 75ft flat ranges aren't quite true, I'm kind of excited to see how my LS matches up to them.  That, and I'm itching to see if these Blue Darts have solved the problems streamlines have.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Johnson Arms: Pulse Rifle Inspired Stampede

He's done it again... but this time with my favorite Sci-Fi blaster of ALL TIME.  Brian Johnson, founder of Johnson Arms, has turned a Nerf Stampede into this beast of a blaster.  It's designed to look like an M41A Pulse Rifle, the weapon of choice for the Colonial Marines featured in the 1986 blockbuster: Aliens.  It's a beautiful replica of this iconic blaster and even though the tail end of this blaster isn't quite how it's supposed to look (he retained the Stampede's gigantic battery pack in the design) I'm so impressed by the rest of the blaster that I hardly notice it!

Body work is by Christopher Glass Studios, so it's neat to see this blaster as a collaborative effort.  The Pulse Rifle I'm working on is certainly one of those kinds of projects, though it's on the backburner again until we can get the programming figured out.  Still, Brian's work is always epic and I thought it was more than worth sharing here considering my love for the Pulse Rifle in general.

See more of Brian's work at his Deviant Art page and Wordpress Page.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

LTX EF5: Update 3

Broke a LOT of ground today, more than I expected, on the LTX EF5.  From sanding this beast to mounting the sensor dome, progress is moving along much more smoothly/faster than the LTX DMR had last summer.  Here's what I managed to do today!

After using a belt sander to get off all those jagged etched designs from the Tornado Strike shell off, I proceeded to finish up the sensor dome mount. I drilled a space into the top of the shell, modified the existing Phoenix LTX Housing, and connected it all with Plast-aide. It worked great!

I also mounted the Shields button, which is a rocker switch just forward of where the trigger will go.  Flawless, seamless operation of the shields is a MUST in our games, as players who have used the LTX will know.

I also mounted a NcSTAR Reflex sight that works perfectly with the blaster. The sight is elevated enough that it clears the sensor dome in the front. The video below should give you a good idea of where the blaster is at right now.

Here's the previous updates:

Independence Eve Blast: the Tradition

Since I started a laser tagging group back in 2006, we've made an annual event that's unique in that there's really only one good time of year to do something like this.  When we first planned this event 6 years ago, we had no idea it would be so much fun that we'd look forward to it each year.  I'm talking about the "Independence Eve Blast", or "IEB" as some of our veteran players have come to call it.  This is a laser tag event that is scheduled just before July 4th, Independence Day (US) and takes advantage of this... explosive... holiday and the effect that it creates for a laser tag game at nightfall.

The park where we hold our regular summer season games lies in the center of a residential area.  These folks commonly go out and purchase fireworks (legal in this state) and light them off in celebration of Independence Day.  As rockets, balls of light, and other explosions light up the night sky, the park is illuminated in a war-like setting that is a real joy to play in.

This year marks the 7th time we've done this, and it's always something folks look forward to.  Most people also have the 4th of July off from work too, so it's usually one of our events that nearly everyone can come to!  This year is also likely to be the most "explosive" since Fireworks are now able to be legally sold at local stores for a limited time.  Because they're even MORE available and easy to get ahold of, I'm expecting this Tuesday's event to be very... explody.  Obviously, for safety reasons, we don't use fireworks in our actual games.  They're just going off overhead, as utilizing explosives and such during a game like this would be dangerous.  We've thought of using smoke bombs, but with the dry and hot conditions we've had, I don't want any fires getting started from a smoke bomb in some dry grass.  Safety first, kids!

It's also been part of the tradition to have a "Captain America" themed image for the Facebook event.  Every year I've found some kinda patriotic Captain America shot (this obviously goes back much further than the recent movies), but since I've actually got a Cap costume, I decided to take a little time to pose for this year's photo, featuring my beloved CTDYNE LTX.

Either way, celebrating this country's Independence has always been one of my favorite holidays in general.  Ever since we started this tagging tradition 7 years ago, it's been even more fun!  I also may have a bit of a surprise come July 3rd too, so keep it here for that!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last of the LTXs?

Taking care of the fleet.  The MLTA operates 18 LTXs.
Whenever folks ask me where to buy Lazer Tag Phoenix blasters, I always point them to since they've been listed at $59.99, which is the cheapest price for a new set.  However, now it looks like their price has spiked which means one of two things to me.

  1. This is likely the last batch of LTXs
  2. The LTAR will be replacing them soon!
The price for a set of basic Nerf-brand LTXs is now sitting at $127.58, which is FAR from worth it!  If there's any LTXs left at Toys R Us (which is the only other place to find a new set), they're still sitting at a $79.99 pricetag, which isn't TOO bad.  They're also listed as "out of stock for shipping", which further strengthens my theory that these are the last of them.  Considering that the LTAR is about a month away from release with single blasters being sold for ~30 bucks and a set of two for ~60, it's probably better to wave goodbye to the LTX and embrace the next step in the Lazer Tag Brand's evolution!

LTX EF5: Update #2

I finally started digging into the Super Soaker shell at a quick Mod Night a few friends and I threw together.  After examining the lens built by LazerBait and doing some test fitting of the shroud, I determined that the most accurate and effective way to mount the lens would be from deep inside the blaster utilizing the Super Soaker's mounting point for the tail end of the spinning barrel it used to have.  I cleared out the rest of the internal structure to make room for the lens and used the metal LED mount to attach to a piece of plastic I cut to fit between both posts.  It's a super solid connection and it should make adding a sight really easy to zero and adjust.

I also started work on mounting the sensor dome.  Unlike the LTX DMR, this sensor will be centered and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to mount it.  Currently I just have a big hole in the top of the blaster that is roughly the right diameter for the sensor dome, but I'm thinking of using some of the original housing to make a more secure fit for it.  If I use the two halves, it'll also be easier to separate the blaster from a construction standpoint, so I'm really leaning towards doing this.  The main problem this poses is that the parts to house the sensor dome are wider than the space I currently have.  I'll need to make some alterations to the shell around it to accommodate that, but it's still doable.

Below is a video that'll explain the mods a little easier.  Progress is really moving forward rather quickly, so I'm hoping to ride this momentum through to get a completion date in soon!

The first Update can be found here: LTX EF5 Update #1

Nerf's Publicity Focus

So if there's one thing that has seemed to puzzle Nerf fans that are in the know, it's the question of why we've been hearing nothing but news about the N-Strike Elite stuff when we are obviously close to other blaster releases as well.  The Snapfire 8 and the Vortex Pyragon are two new blasters that look to be released this summer, along with the Elite blasters.  However, all we seem to get news about is the N-Strike Elite stuff.  Makes you wonder why, right?

From a marketing standpoint, promoting products from several different lines at the same time would diminish each launch overall.  By focusing their promotional activities on one brand/series, Nerf is able to assure that the N-Strike Elite launch is as strong as ever.  The N-Strike Elite launch is also more important to them since it covers a series of blasters (like the Dart Tag line last spring or the Vortex line last fall), so it's a promotion of 3 blasters instead of a single addition to the existing lineups like the Pyragon and Snapfire 8.

This isn't the first time Hasbro has done this either.  You'll recall the relatively lax promotion of the Speedswarm, the surprise release of the Jolt, and other blasters that have flown under the radar until they're on the shelf.  So for now, just pretend like you don't know about the Pyragon and Snapfire like Hasbro wants you to and be giddy when they're released.  It's like that Christmas Present you found in your parents closet 3 months before December 25th.  You know it's coming, just act surprised!

Monday, June 25, 2012

LTAR: Release Update!

This past weekend, the Lazer Tag Augmented Reality system (LTAR) made an appearance at the annual "TagFest Northwest" event sponsored by 1 Source Laser Tag. Many of my laser tagging heroes were in attendance and, as usual, I was unable to be there. One of these days I'll make it, but this year was a HUGE bummer since TagFerret, the mastermind behind LTTO, LTX, and now the LTAR, had units on hand to use for their games. So not only do we actually have reviews/additional info about the LTAR from seasoned laser tag fans, but we also have an update for it's release date.

Thanks to WindJammer's site and the LTTO Yahoo! Group, we now know the gear and the App will be arriving at the North American toy retail supply chain at the Port of Long Beach, CA on July 8th. That App will be essentially a Beta version, missing some functionality. It will have been updated to the full version 1 App by August 1st, which is the official on-shelf date for North America. Updates to the App will continue to be released regularly.

For more info and for Flux's review and impression of the LTAR, go to Windjammer's LTAR site!

Laser Tag: Q&A Session #2

Near the beginning of the year, I did a series of videos taking questions about Nerf and Laser Tag and had a great time answering them.  I thought I'd open up the floor again for more questions, as well as a review of topics that I've already covered.  Being in the heat (literally) of laser tagging season for the MLTA right now really has me engaged in this hobby and with the release of the LTAR coming up soon, I thought I could be of some help to those who are still curious about this widely unappreciated game.  As a review, there's a list of the previous videos I had put up that might answer some questions you may already have.

So if you've got questions, I'm in the answering mood again!  Either comment below or leave a comment on one of my videos!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

LTX EF5: Update #1

This is the start of my latest laser tag recasing project.  I hadn't planned on doing many more recasings since I expected our Arduino-run laser tag blasters to be out and about by now, but in the wake of delays and setbacks, I'm not about to sit back and take a vacation from modding.  While the Arduino is still in development, I'm tackling another project to keep me busy.  I started work today on this new laser tag blaster I call the LTX EF5!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Light Strike: Sticking around?

Last summer, Wowee Toys released a new laser tag system called "Light Strike".  Right from the get-go I wasn't that big of a fan of this system and even after it was released and I got my hands on it, this only strengthened my distaste for Light Strike.  I've written about it's major flaws that make it a no-go for me but in general, I've been surprised at how long it has stuck around on shelves.  It always seems in stock, which seems to indicate that it's not very in-demand.  But the thing that has puzzled me most about Wowee's failtacular system has been that there have been few attempts to liquidate the system itself.  Accessories for this system have been on sale periodically, but the main blasters themselves have remained at their initial release prices.

Maybe I'm just seeing this through rose colored glasses, but I just can't seem to understand after all my observations, impressions from other folks who have used this system, and just the general lack of activity I see with this stuff, but I just don't get why it's lingering.  With Strikers in the mid 20s and Assault Strikers in the mid 30s, it's still got a hefty pricetag for a Paper Jamz blaster.  Anyone care to weigh in on the success Light Strike has been having that I've been missing out on?

Friday, June 22, 2012

First to Fire

If you've ever been in the NM&R Chatroom talking about the Speedswarm with me, you've probably been victim to my criticism of this blaster in general.  I'll be the first to admit, I've been hard on this blaster... maybe more than I should be.  We're all entitled to our opinions, but I decided to look a little deeper at my disgust for the Speedswarm and have found that it really affects more than this single blaster.  It comes down to one major factor that negates any of the positive aspects of blasters like the Speedswarm: LAG.  Not convinced?  Read on.

Back in Action

I'm officially back in the lower 48 from my trip to Hawaii.  While I'll miss waking to waters as clear as the skies and drifting to sleep to the sound of waves crashing against the remains of the 1926 Mauna Loa lava flow that our residence was built over, I'm ready to attack the workbench with my projects and get out there with the MLTA some more before this summer is over.

Speaking of that, the Midwest Laser Tag Association's summer season has been going great!  Our new schedule has been working well for veterans and new players alike and the switch to the LTX has been enjoyable for everyone.  While we are still working the bugs out of our own custom blasters for the LTX games, I'm confident we'll have stuff running well before the season's end.  The Pulse Rifle project is only one of several others built around the Arduino and I'm anxious to get the programming and wiring fixed so we can finally have a solid design to work with.

I'm also psyched for the N-Strike Elite release, even if the reported ranges aren't getting quite what they had claimed.  I'll be helping out with reviews and news over at Nerf Mods & Reviews for most of that, but I do have a few things in mind for Elite that I'll cover here as well.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Soak of the Week

Even while I'm on vacation, I've managed to get the Shot of the Week for the second time.  A few things have changed with Nerf since my first SotW, but I've learned to forgive and forget about all that Urban Tagger-ness mess they made.  I still enjoy their products and the people that enjoy them along with me, so it's not all bad.  Hasbro is a corporation and sometimes business folks forget that these are toys with a few fans here and there.  We all just need to settle down a bit and just enjoy them for the toys that they are.

My first SotW was definitely staged.  Pretty sure I got it because that N-Strike patch had just came out along with the rare Red Strike series Recon featured in the shot.  In general, there was a LOT of non-standard hardware on there but I still managed to keep it all "Stock" so it'd be kosher for the SotW.  I took this shot with the intent of entering it for that contest and it achieved what I wanted it to.

This recent winner was just me having fun in the backyard with some friends and family.  You can see the spray bouncing off my blaster which was a poorly aimed Hydro Cannon shot I was taking.  It was too good of a shot to pass up so I posted it up after "re-liking" Nerf Nation for their previous crimes against Pocket at UT.  Turned out to be a really fun shot AND I finally got to see that spinning effect the Tornado Strike has that I mentioned in an earlier post.

So keep having fun out there, guys!  I've been laughing at some of the comments this SotW shot has gotten, so if you wanna see folks trying to be bullies with their cracks at my virginity, go ahead and read through 'em.  I do appreciate the support though (I've seen a few folks identify me as Bazookafied or just "Tactical Tag") so thanks for that.  In the meantime, hang loose!  I'll be back from Hawaii on the 22nd!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How I "E"

I'm not expecting to run into many "hobby" related things for a little while here.  I'll be "out of the office" from June 12th-21st on vacation in Hawaii with my family and girlfriend.  I may chime in once or twice if anything relevant to Tactical Tag comes my way, but Nerf and Laser Tag will probably be the last things on my mind as I explore the United States' newest archipelago.

While I do realize that a few readers reside in Hawaii, I likely won't have time during our vacation to swing by to Nerf it up or anything like that.  I will admit, it would be fun to be welcomed to the airport by a flurry of darts from a Hornet that a certain someone won.

Anyways, I'll be back in action in a week or so! Later!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Do you have a Flag?"

Do you have a flag?  I do, and I've loved using it for just about any game I can work it into.  That's kind of the beauty of this Nerf Electronic Flag developed initially for the Dart Tag line in 2010.  The set came with two Stormfire blasters (orange and green) but this device isn't limited to being used for a game of Dart Tag.  Check out my review on one of my favorite accessories to ANY game!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Orange Xplorer Works

My finished Longstrike: featuring OMW and Xplorer
Just a bit of a follow-up on my Whiteout Longstrike that I've been working on.  I've finally got it working the way I'd like it to and it's all prettied up now with a few aesthetic "advertisements".  This project has been a LONG time coming so I thought with it all wrapped up, this might also be a good time to take a look back at the steps I've taken to get here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

SG Nerf: Snapfire!

Those lucky ducks at SG Nerf have nabbed TWO of the new Snapfire 8 blasters.  This is a Dart Tag blaster that we got a sneak peek at during ToyFair 2012 but haven't really seen much of anything on it since.  The review reveals the Snapfire to have excellent performance (especially for it's size), a compact design, and self-contained internals.  SG Nerf had this to say about it's plunger size and possible future modifications.
As for the plunger tube, its short but quite wide (almost the width of a Longshot plunger tube), so there is still a decent amount of air volume being compressed, i guess it's designed that way to compensate for the shorter priming draw. The extension spring can be replaced with a heavier load one, but then the user's grip strength has to be much stronger too. :)
There hasn't been any official word from Nerf about a release date on this, but I would expect the Snapfire to start hitting shelves before the N-Strike Elite stuff is released in August (late June, early July). Certainly looks like a blaster worth getting!

I think one of the reasons the Snapfire seems to have more of my attention is that it addresses a problem I have with current automatic blasters that are electronically driven.  There's not really an "oomph" to them and the winding motor sounds tend to drone on and you loose that "bang bang bang" feel of a manually primed blaster.  The Snapfire takes that automatic feel with it's pull-to-prime trigger, puts it in a compact design, and gets great ranges stock.  It's small size also makes it an excellent candidate for an integration project and the self-contained internals would make such a project even easier.  It's really just looking like a fun blaster to use and I can't wait to get my hands on one!

Check out SG Nerf's review and internals guide for the new Snapfire 8!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Super Soaker Breakdown

While it's certainly not a major focus of mine, I have invested enough time in using the Nerf-line of Super Soakers to feel like I could at least provide some insight and advice about these blasters as a resource to you, my curious readers, about what blaster might fit you best.  I'll admit, that not even I have determined the "best" blaster for me, but hopefully through the info I provide here, you can figure out what works best for you.  I'll only be providing a review of blasters that I've actually had experience with, so this is NOT a full lineup (though it's quite close!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Water Blasting Shots

If there's one thing that's nearly guarenteed to make a shot "cooler", it's catching it in mid-air.  Almost every mid-air shot I've seen for Nerf is pretty epic just because of that fact.  I've staged plenty of pictures before to get this effect but I've never tried it with a water blaster.  Well, today I messed around with some of my favorites from the new Super Soaker lineup and boy was it easy!  Just thought I'd share a few of them here to inspire the inner photographer in you.  Who knows, maybe you could get a Shot of the Week from Nerf Nation?

A quick pull of the trigger just before the timer goes off on my digital camera worked the first time for each blaster.  I use a Canon ELPH 300HS mounted on a tripod, pre-focus it where I want, set the timer for 10 seconds, and let 'er rip just before the shutter closes.  I use this technique for most of my "action shots" that I take, but it usually takes several tries to get it right with a dart blaster.  With these water blasters, it was MUCH easier!

I was kinda hoping for a little more of that "Spinning Cyclone of Soakage" from the Tornado Strike, but I think that was just the effect of the box artwork showcasing it's tightly knit spin for the two streams it puts out.  However, after 3 shots with my Tornado Strike, I'm convinced the spinning has NEVER been that tight.  No big loss, as it still turned out to be a neat shot.

I'm admittedly a bit of a photography nut, as I'm just an aesthetics whore in general.  If you haven't been following Rolley's photography blog and wanna see some neat pictures, go check it out.  He also runs the Street Tag Warfare blog but has this separate blog for his photography hobby.  Gotta say I've been a fan of both.

Friday, June 1, 2012

GI Joe: Retaliation Stuff

I found the "Battle Kata Blaster" that I had been looking forward to.  Not so much in the way that I'm a huge fan of plastic missile launchers (that hardly get 10 feet), but because it's a neat design and I wanna either drop a decent Dart launcher system in there or recase it for laser tag.  Nevertheless, I did manage to toss together a review of it before I gut it and have some fun on my workbench with it.

Rockets Away!

Remember that "Rockets for a better Nerf Internet Community!" Kickstarter project?  Well it looks like they'll be making their way into the supporters hands soon.  I'm excited to get my hands on these custom foam rockets for my Titan (I got the adapter for it too) so expect a review of these NIC-worthy rockets once they get here!