Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Edge of Innovation: Part 3

Today, I'll close up thoughts on this topic that has spanned 3 weeks of considering all the input by readers here as well as my own observations of reactions to "new" designs presented by Nerf (especially recent ones).  As with Part 1 and Part 2, there's the disclaimer that these are all based on information we have up to January 30th, 2014 (when this post was written).  If Nerf happens to catch on and wisen up by stealing some of these ideas in the future, we totally called it.  Just sayin'.

Speaking of that disclaimer... there's actually a lot of blasters coming out that Nerf probably thinks are "Innovative".  Of these newbies, the Cam CS-12, Demolisher, and SlingFire represent a good amount of new ideas they've introduced.  However, a quick step back and you'll find that there's not a lot of "new" under the shell.  The SlingFire's lever-action reload has been on Foam Dart blasters for awhile (BuzzBee has been using it for years).  The Demolisher is a Stryfe with a Rocket Launcher underneath it.  The Cam CS-12 is a Stryfe with a more-than-outdated inbuilt camera system.  They've abandoned Air Blaster systems, never returned to the "combine blasters together for a Unity Power System" (that you'd think would be a hit for marketing), and are finding more ways to reshell tech that they already have.

Based on what folks have been saying about these three new blasters, there's still not enough "new" to what Nerf has been considering for blasters.  Ideas that we came up with in Part 2 and even more that continue to flow in are certainly within the realm of something they could introduce.  However, it seems that Nerf is more interested in pumping new blaster designs with firing systems that they've already had.  Look at the number of blasters Nerf is pumping out each year.  Not just new blasters for one lineup, but entirely new lineups with blasters that continue to hit shelves.  However, it's more about what the blaster looks like than how it's firing that dart or disk.

Elite Darts, Clip-System, Accessories, a nifty way to prime the blaster or have flywheels with batteries.  That's really the name of the game right now.  Flywheels, when the Barricade came out, were "new"... Lever-action priming on the SlingFire is "new"...but both were ideas we'd seen for ages with other blasters.  Since the Barricade, we have it's Elite clone the Stockade, the Rayven, the Elite Rayven, the Stryfe, even the Hailfire which was heralded by Nerf as the "Pinnacle of Nerf Innovation" was a flywheel blaster with a clunky rotating magazine system.

I think, regardless of what Nerf releases in the future, it's become abundantly clear that to make something exciting... it can't be the same firing system with some new "gimmick".  Give fans a different way to fire the dart, because at the end of the day, we've got Plunger Systems and Flywheels all over the place.  "Let's put a 1998 Video Camera in it!"  No.  "Let's give it a funky reload!"  No.  Give fans something more than a fancy new tacti-cool shell.  Put something new in it!  It doesn't have to re-invent the wheel, but as long as it works with other blasters and accessories, it'll be a home-run with Nerf fans.  There are endless possibilities once you escape the tunnel vision that designs seem to have nowadays.  We've identified what folks are tired of, what they have come to "expect" now from the latest and greatest blasters hitting shelves... now it'll just take someone brave enough in the R&D division to take a step back and break out from it to deliver something we won't expect.  And, to do that, they need to discover the Edge of Innovation.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


So here's the story: my fiance was coming over for lunch today and, so far, the morning hadn't gone quite as she had planned it so she was running late.  I figured I'd lighten her spirits and plan a little something for her.  I'll let you watch the rest in this video.

Post-wedding update: she still stakes out on the upper level.  Just had another "fight" the other day and it brought back memories.  She HAS, however, gotten to be a better shot since then!

NERF N-Strike Elite Cam ECS-12

I was quite surprised this morning upon checking Southern Brisbane Nerf Club's scoop on the latest leaked blaster design for 2014: the Elite Cam ECS-12!

This new blaster has a built-in battle camera with a rear-facing viewscreen, control buttons, and an ejectable SD card that sits just below the buttons so you can upload those battle scenes to your computer.

There's only one other Elite blaster with the "ECS" designation: the N-Strike Stampede, means that this new Elite blaster is using a full-auto direct plunger firing system like it's shield-toting brother before it... right?  Wrong.  If you watch the video on engaget, you'll hear the whirring of Flywheels and see that he's pulling the trigger for each shot.  Also, it's more than evident in the video footage of the flywheels, as the microphone built into the Cam ECS-12 records the overbearingly loud drone of the blaster firing.

There's a static shoulder stock (no adjustment) and two N-Strike Tactical Rails mounted on the top of the blaster and below the main barrel.  No option for a removable stock, either... so aside from the camera built into this new blaster dressed in white-out-esque colors, there's not a lot of "new" here and no other obvious features.

Their website has 20 photos of them horsing around the office with the new Nerf Cam ECS-12, some videos of firing it, and gratuitous amounts of shooting one of their employees (who is blindfolded) in the face with the darts.

Already there's some coloration differences between the blaster they have their hands on and this preview to the left, but I don't expect many changes with this blaster outside of that.  I must say I'm surprised with the in-built camera, but outside of that, for me, there's really nothing else new with this blaster.  As with the name, it's simply the "Cam ECS" and that's all it appears to be: a Nerf blaster with a Camera.  More to come later!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Revisiting OMW

I'll be the first to admit that I may have been a bit too harsh in my throwing Orange Mod Works under the bus.  It's been over a year since I even bothered doing anything with them since the failures on the Longstrike Massacre kit and the incredibly delayed release of the Longshot Immortal Kit.  I decided to give them another go and do it with one of my favorite blasters: the Elite Alpha Trooper.

This revisitation comes in the form of a type of product OMW never really seemed to mess up metal parts.  I got on board with Orange Mod Works just as they were transitioning from metal parts to polycarbonate parts... which proved to be a troublesome time.  The polycarbonate parts just weren't delivering the same reliability their metal parts had been doing before.  In this video, I not only review this kit, but really weigh in on the unresolved issues that stemmed from the Massacre Kit mess with the polycarbonate stuff that I had and the forseeable future with Orange Mod Works kits in general.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Debunking the Demolisher

So, in the short time that news of the Demolisher has been running amok on the Internet, there have been a couple of "facts" that have slipped into the realm of speculation.  Initially, when news broke, I was under the impression that there were 4 rails on the blaster.  I misread this as it was 3 when I revisited the site.  Now, with all of the "rocket launcher isn't removable" claims running around, it sounds more like only 2 rails on the blaster.  Eventually the other two will fall off and we'll have a Dart Tag blaster.  (I kid, of course)  If this is still in "prototype phase" it could prove otherwise, but most of the folks who have had the ability to get their hands on this blaster seem to point towards a "No, it's stuck on there for good" fact.

Exhibit A
I've also read some folks, as a result of the "prototype" status this blaster apparently has, is the hope having the ability to fire full-auto (like the RapidStrike CS-18).  While there's certainly room to put the automatic dart pusher that would be needed to perform this kind of function, there IS a fact about the Demolisher we do know about that sinks that ship: AA Batteries.

The Demolisher seems to be the cousin of the Stryfe, which uses 4 AA batteries to power it's flywheels.  The full-auto mechanism, which is that wide box above the trigger as seen with "Exhibit A", would probably fit in the Demolisher.  However, with only AA batteries powering the blaster, unlike the C-cell batteries in the RapidStrike's system, it would lack the strength to power both the flywheels and the auto-pusher.  The voltage would be there, but the mAh wouldn't be enough.  AA batteries typically have 600-800 mAh each whereas C batteries typically have 8,000 mAh each.

I don't expect much to really change with what we've seen of the Demolisher so far.  It lacks a name plate on the side of the blaster, so maybe some aesthetic things will change, but it's functions should remain mostly unchanged.  We'll get more details later, as there's several months ahead left for more details to leak out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Edge of Innovation: Part 2

While we'll continue this series as planned, it is interesting that during the time between Part 1 and Part 2, Nerf unveiled a blaster that seems to have answered the call of some long-sought features.  For those of us who might be picking up on this series in the future (by the way, I hope we have hoverboards by 2015.  Just saying) the NERF N-Strike Elite Demolisher hit the internet by surprise on January 20th, 2014.  I figure knowing the current events while this discussion is happening is important to keep in mind.  We may very well out-date ourselves here!

For those just joining us, and for reference, here's a link to The Edge of Innovation: Part 1.  This second part will focus on feedback received in the form of comments in the previous section.

Most folks focused more on a wishlist of ideas for blasters, which wasn't really part of my plan to discuss yet.  I suppose we can jump into that in Part 2, but here's what needed to happen first:  "What I'm interested in trying to discover is the edge of where an Innovative Design can ride be successful. In order to identify this, we first need to isolate what it needs to share. Once we've done that, we'll move on to isolating elements that have not worked well in the past, as well as problems that could be solved on current blasters. For the sake of discussion, I'm going to focus on a blaster that can fire Elite Darts."

So the blaster is going to use Elite Darts.  That's our staple.  To me, we've gotta start with the firing system and there are several common formats that Nerf has used.  The two most prominent right now are the Plunger System (Direct and Reverse) and the Flywheel system.  To continue using those systems wouldn't exactly be "innovative" in my eyes.  Hear me out on this one, but I've yet to see an electronically primed Air Tank blaster.  Air Blasters used to dominate the pre-N-Strike era and are still quite common to see used as a platform for NIC-style blasters.  The biggest issue folks seem to have with air blasters is the time that it takes to pump and prime the blaster to prepare it for firing.  Nerf is already using batteries to power flywheel motors, so why not use a system to pull air into a reservoir and automatically fill it before each shot?  The blaster would fill it's air tank before each shot, not upon pulling the trigger.  Better yet, why not give that control to the user in the form of what is usually used as an "Accelerator Trigger" that we see on Flywheel-driven blasters.  Pull the lower, smaller trigger to fill the air tank.  Then pull the main trigger to fire.  Or you could have a secondary button forward of the trigger where a grip would be for your other hand to fill the reservoir.  It could also have the ability to just pull the trigger without pulling the priming trigger before and do all of that before releasing the air, but that'd be a laggy shot (I'm thinking the Stampede).  You'd get the legendary power of an Air Blaster with the ease-of-use that an electronic blaster provides.  SG Nerf's ModWorks division already has made something similar for a Nerf Magstrike.  Sure it'd be a noisy blaster, but the Stampede has proven Nerf isn't afraid of making a loud system.

As far as our wishlist goes, it seems pretty obvious that having Tactical Rails, Removable Stocks, and options for other accessories is important.  I feel like more important than just HAVING accessories is to have ones that are actually useful.  A tactical light, decent sights, ammo storage, sturdy designs for stocks, etc.  It's not really "innovative", but more like an approach that would make them more successful.  I think if Nerf used a more secure Tactical Rail attachment, like they did on the iOS Cradle for the Mission App, that'd improve overall reliability of the accessories mounted.  It would also mean you could mount heavier items, perhaps even make attachments for other blasters.

Speaking of that, I think that's an idea Nerf missed out on capitalizing on.  The Nerf Crossfire, as part of the early Dart Tag lineup, was actually quite a useful little blaster.  With it's ability to attach to a lower rail on a blaster, it's the closest thing we've had to an under-slung secondary blaster.  Details on the Nerf Demolisher's rocket launcher are still fuzzy at this point, but it seems like it'll have a similar function.  The ability to combine blasters like this could be quite useful.  If they utilized a stronger tactical rail connection (like on that iOS Cradle), it'd be even better!

Blackout and harupia have similar ideas with a rotating shotgun thing, and I gotta say I'm a fan of that.  Essentially use SledgeFire 3-Round Shells and have a series of those in a rotating chamber.  Have a large in-built drum magazine with the ability to load cartridges from the back side.  Cartridges could be ejected much in the same way they'd be loaded, if they used a similar loading mechanism already in the SledgeFire.  Click it in to lock the cartridge in place, fire, and then click on a "ejection" button paired to the chamber to pop it back out.  If we were to pair this system with the automatic air blaster I mentioned earlier in the article, you'd have a pretty lethal combination.

Alright.  Did I get things right?  Are there other options we could consider that'd be better or worse than some of the ideas brought to light here?  It's time again for you to chime in with your comments and feedback on this.  We'll meet again in Part 3 next week!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New 2014 New-ness

Thanks to UK Nerf for giving me the tip this morning from across the pond, we've got some new photos and angles of blasters slated for a 2014 release.  I know they're up on other sites, too.  Figured I'd weigh in with some new ideas about 'em.  The Thunderbow, Slingfire, and Demolisher stand out to me, as these shots have helped me get a better idea of what they'll be like in person.
First up, I suppose I may end up owing a well-deserved apology to the ZombieStrike Slingfire.  The initial photo I based my first impressions on with this blaster made it look short and stubby.  I even likened it to the state of Ohio.  The new photo has it looking much more rifle-like and I expect this to be a pretty comfortable blaster to use.  Still not quite the heft that I enjoy from my beloved Longshot, but it it'll at least fill that "large Nerf rifle" void in terms of length for folks who liked that.

Second, there's that MEGA Thunderbow, which I haven't really weighed in on until now.  Honestly, I think it brings some nifty functionality to the many bow-n-arrow setups Nerf has had in the past.  Not sure how it'll work or if it'll be a good system to use yet, but at least it has some promise.  It's likely going to work like a RoughCut or Crossfire Bow in that those 5-Darts probably have dart sensor behind each one.  Sadly, this will limit the modification potential for this design, but at least it should be fun going to the Hunger Games with MEGA darts.

Then there's the undisputed hero of the lineup: the Nerf Demolisher!  I've already gone bonkers with MS Paint to get different variations of this model out of my head and onto the screen.  This shows us the other side with that 4 AA-Battery door that's forward of the trigger grip.  I still think this blaster would look way cooler in Elite Blue, as I don't care for the Orange-on-Orange Juice colorscheme.  This angle gives us some depth of the blaster and it's rocket-storage stock that looks deliciously hefty.  I don't think I'm alone in my hopes that the rocket storage will be able to store a water bottle or beverage that I can run a tube through to have on-the-go refreshment as I slaughter my foes with foam dart goodness.  It's the little things that make life fun, you know?

There's a Rebelle bow, but I've never really covered that stuff (nor do I care to).  It's not that I don't like girls, far from it.  It's just that, well, I've never been the rainbows & unicorns bit.  Probably explains why I never got on the Brony train, but to each their own.  Speaking of "own", I can't wait to see how these blasters perform!  I'd say I'm most excited for the Demolisher, interested in how the Slingfire feels, and curious how the Thunderbow will work.

Monday, January 20, 2014

NERF Demolisher Concepts

::DISCLAIMER:: This article was written before the Demolisher was actaually released.  Functions differ from what was previously anticipated to the actual product!

My buddy over at MLD had a chance to mess around with a concept (known as the Rayzorback) of the NERF Demolisher that has been making the rounds on the internet today.  I couldn't help but notice the article describes it as a "2-IN-1 blaster that dominates both MEGA and ELITE missions!"  I couldn't shake that "MEGA" bit outta my head, especially after seeing folks take the Magnus and sling it under a barrel of an Elite blaster.  Well, regardless of how the Demolisher will actually function, it is stated to have 4 tactical rails.  There's a top rail, two side rails, and one under the muzzle, so that rocket launcher has to be detachable.   Therefore, I present to you how I believe the Demolisher will look with it's rocket launcher detached as well as a MEGA dart launcher that I have fabricated from a Magnus image to illustrate a possibility for making this blaster dominate both ELITE and MEGA missions, just as the description said.

Images courtesy of MS Paint, so be kind to my limited abilities to modify the image!

I've also pondered that perhaps the rocket launcher itself could fire multiple MEGA darts in the same way that there's a cartridge for the ZombieStrike SledgeFire.  Put 3 MEGA darts in a cartridge sized to fit in the rocket launcher place to truly make this a "Masterkey" (as most are shotgun-based).  It's an idea, but I figured I'd share it whether it's true or not.  It's always fun to speculate the possibilities for future Nerf products!

Mean Magnus Monitor

There's a new dominant force in the office.  It's big, bulky, and full of unbridled rage waiting to be unleashed up to 3 times before reloading.  Yes, the N-Strike Elite MEGA Magnus is large and in charge at my workplace.

It's been hiding in my desk drawer, rearing it's head whenever trouble strikes.  Those who face it must be willing to accept two facts.  The first being that the darts it dishes out are much more noticeable than the Elite blue darts whizzing around during battle.  They whistle, so you hear it coming and when they do connect with the target, there's no question whether it hit you or not.  The second is that, while you can't fire these darts back to the sender without a MEGA blaster of your own, these darts are very throw-able.  Put a fingertip to the back of the dart and throw it from there and you'll find you've got quite the lethal rocket in your hand.

Now, there is a worry that I had when this blaster was new that is starting to show.  Because of the nature of how these darts are loaded into the blaster, in that they're getting "smooshed" into the 3-round in-built magazine, they are starting to lose their structural integrity.  AKA: they're getting beat up.  So I still defend that this blaster is leagues better than the Centurion before it, there is the slight drawback that extended use with the same darts will start to take their toll on the quality of those darts hold.  You can extend the life of your MEGA darts being used in the Magnus by purchasing a 10-Dart refill pack and rotating your darts through that.  The wear and tear of the loading sequence on the Magnus on these darts isn't as noticeable if you do this.

The trajectories of Mega darts are still a little squirly, which was a noticeable problem when I first tried out the Centurion, but this Magnus is still more reliable and more accurate than it's predecessor.  While it does take up more space, I can still hide the Magnus in a desk drawer, along with it's spare ammo.  However, this blaster is not quite as stealthy as the other N-Strike Elite rivals around the office.  Priming the blaster is loud and obvious, whereas the single "click" of a Firestrike or Triad is much easier to hide for those initiating the attack.  I suppose the Magnus' loud audible priming action is more of a warning to others, so the intimidation factor is certainly present from the start.  Plus the fact that the darts do whistle every time they're fired, so even if you manage to throw a dart with your hand, the target still hears it coming.  Stealth is certainly not the Magnus' strong point!

I'd say the Magnus will remain my blaster of choice in the office for awhile.  No-one else has managed to one-up it and there's still a sense of fear that it's use can induce on my enemies even before it's been fired.  It's not the best blaster in terms of speedy reloads, it's loud and clunky, but it packs a whallop that has created quite the reputation of this being one bad-ass pistol.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Streamlight TLR-3 Review

This is a great accessory to any Laser Tag or Nerf blaster for those who need a hand in the dark... without giving up a hand.  So instead of grabbing for a flashlight mid-game, why not already have it on hand without even noticing it?  This is the Streamlight TLR-3.  It's an incredibly small, lightweight, tactical light that mounts to a weaver rail.  Granted, this product is designed for a real steel Gun, like a pistol with an under-barrel-mounted rail, but it's application to what I do with Nerf and Laser Tag is incredibly useful.  It's the cross-over application that I love about accessories like this.  Nerf, Laser Tag, Airsoft, Paintball, if it's got a weaver-rail on it and it can be aimed, this fella will shed light on any situation.  Literally...

See the video review after the jump to learn just how easily this accessory can be applied to benefit you in a game.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Edge of Innovation: Part 1

If there's one thing I've noticed with Nerf and the fans that follow it is the pursuit of being "Innovative".  To bring something new to the market is a tricky thing.  Make something too bland to stand out and it'll just float along with the rest of it's mediocre friends.  Make something too extreme and it'll be set on fire as an example to all.  Even outside of the Nerf realm, other companies that have tried to do something never-before attempted have flopped on themselves.

In the wake of a recent blaster unveiling, the ZombieStrike SlingFire, I saw a mix of receptions for this "new" blaster.  Among those reactions, there were a few folk who were expecting something more ground-breaking than a lever-action clip-fed blaster.  Considering that there have been lever-action blasters before, this feature is really just new to the brand, not the foam-dart blaster world in general.  There's not a feature to the blaster that really tells you the guys on the Nerf floor at Hasbro were really thinking outside the box.  It's a safe, conservative move.

What I'm interested in trying to discover is the edge of where an Innovative Design can ride be successful.  In order to identify this, we first need to isolate what it needs to share.  Once we've done that, we'll move on to isolating elements that have not worked well in the past, as well as problems that could be solved on current blasters.  For the sake of discussion, I'm going to focus on a blaster that can fire Elite Darts.  Who knows?  By the time we're done with this 3-Part series, we may have an awesome idea for Nerf to try out!  Or at least help them avoid future flops.

This is where you come in.  I've got some ideas, but I need your input on this to help create a consensus on what's in, what's out, and what's needed.  When we've agreed on that, we'll start looking for an innovative feature to build onto the core elements of our blaster.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SlingFire - Initial Impression

My Last Dart showed us the latest addition to the ZombieStrike lineup unveiled by Nerf earlier today: the SlingFire.  According to the description, it's a lever-action, magazine-fed dart blaster.  Nerf claims that the reload time is quicker because of the lever-action prime and that it has a "DIY-style design" which gives "an authentic feel to any NERF zombie attack".  This is the first blaster in the ZombieStrike lineup that has a magazine-fed system.

Alright.  Details over.  Time to pick this thing apart!

Nerf Herders

We had that "Happy Nerf Year" game before 2013 was up.  Got some more pictures from the event from another camera.  Thought I'd share more from that awesome set of games!
If it wasn't already obvious, we had a pretty crazy night of games.  Used a buncha different blasters, old and new, modded and stock.  It's not every day you see such a mixture of blasters in full force, and this is one of the larger indoor Nerf games I've been to.  Good times!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

LTAR-AR Combat Testing

So we had that Frozen Fortress game today (which was 12 different kinds of AWESOME, by the way) and I took the LTAR-AR out for a spin.  It's currently fitted with the lens arrangement once found on the LTX EF5, a Super Soaker stock, and a new addition: a weaver rail mount with a Red/Green Dot sight!

The picture to the right shows the LTAR-AR fitted with all three of these in-development accessories next to our fully-equipped CTDYNE LTX.  It's actually about the same size, somehow.

We've already done quite a bit of testing on the lens adapter.  It was the first accessory completed for the LTAR.  The Stock adapter is new, as I completed it last week at our Mod Night.  Didn't really notice the stock the entire game until I realized "Holy cow.  I made something that hasn't broken!"  It's solid.  SUPER solid, and feels like part of the blaster.  Granted the stock does dip down a little more into the grip than most would like, but using some gloves will make it unnoticeable.  I need to tweak the design of the newest addition: that Weaver Rail accessory.  The Plast-Aid (same material used on the removable stock adapter) didn't settle straight, so the rail isn't level.  We couldn't adjust the sight enough to compensate, so my accuracy was a bit off.

There's something I really enjoyed about the CTDYNE LTX and that's how solid of a rifle-feel you got fro a modified pistol.  That's just how the LTAR-AR, fitted with all our prototype parts we've designed for the LTAR so far, felt.  Much of that great solid feel of the CTDYNE LTX is because... well... I didn't build it.  My hero, Mike Yates of Custom Tag Dynamics, built the Combo Mount that is mostly responsible for it's great solid design.  So, almost two years after it's design, have I finally gotten good enough at fabricating parts to rival that of this masterful piece of gear built by an icon in the Laser Tag Modding world?

I'll leave that up to you guys to decide.  And you can decide that one we get the prototyping done and start releasing these add-on parts for the LTAR.  That's the eventual plan, with the -AR at the heart of it's development.

Not only was the game a complete blast (I'll have more on that later), but I can honestly say that I didn't expect so much satisfaction from a rifle built around a pistol.  Aside from the adjustment to the Weaver Rail design, these designs are moving along much faster than I thought.  It's a good thing, both for our group as we approach our next Summer Season of Laser Tag, and for anyone else in the world who wants to easily modify their LTAR.  Exceedingly proud of this development!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nerf Mods & Reviews: My Story

Nerf Mods & Reviews.  2009 to 2014.  I've still got mixed feelings about this, but it still seems like the right decision.  Yesterday, a giant in the Nerf Blog world closed up shop.  I'd say it was the decision of it's long list of authors... but since those contributors had since gone AWOL, it actually came down to a decision that I made.  Nothing against Psyk, Coop, RS09, or the countless other authors that I have a great amount of respect for, but when a Laser Tag/Nerf guy named Bazookafied is the only one left running the show, it's a tough call to make.  Here's my story on the tail end of one of the best blogs in the community.

Friday, January 10, 2014

How do I Improve?

Greetings loyal readers!  We're a couple days into 2014 and I figured, after reviewing readership statistics over the past few years that I think I'm in need of some advice from YOU.  Essentially, Tactical Tag had a gradual climb in pageviews from the time we started (April of 2011) until February of 2012.  You'll recall, that month, that I covered the Pyragon sighting at the Toy Fair.  Things kind of exploded after that, but since that time, the average has stuck around 26k-27k pageviews per month.

I've had a lot of changes in my life since starting the blog.  New Car, new Job, getting engaged (and soon to be married), getting a house, I've certainly gotten more busy over the past few years.  However, things keep chugging along here at the blog.  In that time, we've seen a lot of blogs and contributors to the community come and go, but I've manged (or at least tried) to stay consistent and keep at it.

While I do attempt to report the news (which seems to get the most attention if you're "First"), Tactical Tag has always focused on what projects are on the workbench for me and the events I've attended.  Sometimes there's more of a Nerf Focus, sometimes there's more of a Laser Tag focus.  It really just depends on what I'm up to.  However, with the seemingly flatlined performance, I wondered if there was either more I could do to better serve the community or if I should face the fact that this is where the blog will be without much further growth to be expected.  I'm really okay with either, but I figured I'd ask YOU, since reader input has always been important to me and a major driving force to this blog.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TWS Update #1

Most folks interested in Costume building are interested mostly with screen accuracy and getting all the details right.  While I'm certainly picky when it comes to that stuff, the work I did on previous costumes for Captain America were important to keep usability in mind for games.  There is, especially in this case, a tactical element to this build.  I'm literally using BDU-style clothing to build the rest of this uniform off of.

If you've missed it, I'm aiming for the latest version of Captain America's costume seen in The Winter Soldier, coming out in April.  While initially, the goal is to have the costume ready for the premier, I need to keep the Halloween Laser Tag game in mind as it will get used again then.

It's fun blending the art of costume building with the practical approach to have this latest rendition work FOR me, not against me.  First up in this build is getting the shield harness together.  It mounts to the back of a modified leather shoulder holster.  Normally, the belts would connect to a belt.  Instead, Cap has it set up to go underneath the arms and meet back in the middle of the back to mount the shield.  While the bracket at the back isn't the metal belt system (which would probably be pretty uncomfortable in actual application) it does mount the shield on my back, as seen in the previews.

The rest of the pieces are on the way already.  The uniform will be built based off of a Rapid Assault Combat Shirt made by 511 Tactical.  There's also combat pants in the same Navy Blue as the shirt.  Not only will it be an excellent match for the colors needed for this build, but this is essentially the same kind of gear I run with for our outdoor laser tag games.  Both my Desert and Woodland MARPAT camouflage setups have a combat shirt base and they're incredibly comfortable.  My "Avengers" version focused on being lightweight and it was nice to use indoors and outdoors, but it was pretty much impossible to hide with, tough to carry much of anything with me.  No spare batteries, no screwdriver, not even a phone.  This new version is already darker (which should make me a little less obvious) and gives me the ability to store the shield on my back.  It can easily get out of my way when I don't want the flag on my shield to give me away.  Not only that, but I won't be limited to using a single-hand use blaster for the games.  With two hands free and the shield on my back, I can use a rifle like I normally do.  The LTAR-AR that I have in the works now should be more than complete by the time this game comes around!  I'll likely combat test the uniform before the Halloween Game anyways!

I really think that's what I'm most excited about with this one.  The ability to build a great costume but also to have it work a little more WITH me than simply serving the purpose of an iconic badass superhero.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Not-So-Frozen Fortress?

So last week we rescheduled our "Frozen Fortress" game because it was an icy 12° outside (without wind chill).  This week, it's quite the opposite.  Weather forecasts for Sunday show a high of 47°, more than ample for our batteries to hold through the combat.  I'm a bit bummed since I do enjoy battling the elements every now and then and usually we do one game a year with less-than-desirable weather conditions.

It's part of what I enjoy about Laser Tag in general.  Going outdoors, conquering the terrain, using the cover to outmaneuver your opponent's team, it's just a lot more fun when it's not just "Who has the better blaster", you know?  Anyone can build a super mega awesome blaster of doom (like this guy to the left).  Okay... maybe not ANYONE, but still there's the skills necessary to navigate your way through the field, take up a good position, and lead your team to glorious victory that gives you the thrill that has me hooked on outdoor laser tag.

Adding weather-related elements to the mix makes it even more difficult, and in these Off-Season games, that's the kind of challenge I look forward to.  During our regular season games, the weather is warm, the parks are nice, and it's a more casual setting usually.  Once we go into Off-Season mode, I start digging into the mods and planning more challenging events to satisfy our veterans sweet tooth for these rigorous games.  Having snow, or battling the cold just adds to it.  Sure 47° isn't super warm, but it's a heatwave compared to the wintry weather we're used to this time of year.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

OJ Stryfe. Dangit...

It coulda been GRAND... but no.  Nerf had to take an awesome idea and toss it into the trash.  It would've looked so good so easily with the accessories out there, and perfect for wintry snowy conditions, too!  Oh, well I suppose I should let you know where this ranting started, huh?  Tough to figure out what all my complaints are about if there's no context, right?  Well, none other than the Orange Stryfe!  Or "OJ Stryfe" as I've seen it called once or twice.

Folks have been reporting on this recolor for awhile.  Almost as long as they've been reporting on the White RoughCut 2x4, which almost makes this scenario more irritating for me.  If you haven't noticed, I like keeping my Nerf blasters exteriors looking stock.  Paint just gets chipped or wears off and the beating my blasters take... they'd look awful if I painted 'em all.  So when Nerf comes out with a cool recolor, I'm happy.  Like the Whiteout Series, arguably one of the best looking recolor jobs Nerf has ever done.  So that White RoughCut 2x4 looked pretty sweet too!  Unfortunately, there's not really any accessories you can use on it aside from the tactical rail, so you're not able to use the accessories from the other Whiteout Series blasters on it to make different variants.  SO, if this Stryfe had followed suit, we could've had a White Stryfe with a Longstrike barrel and a SuperSoaker stock on it to make it look all sorts of cool!  Instead, we've got this Orange Juice Stryfe... which I'm not a fan of the Gear Up look anyways.

Perhaps I'm just bummed because I'm still drooling over that repainted Stryfe at XVC.  Granted, it's all sorts of repainted... but it makes me wish the Stryfe was white so I could do something LIKE it.  If I weren't so opposed to painting my blasters just to get 'em all scuffed up, I'd probably pursue a repaint like this.  I'm just too lazy I guess, and need Nerf to do the painting for me.  End rant.  Move along folks.  Nothing to see here.