Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Archived Ideas

This week I actually started tooling around with plans for my Swarmfire.  To really get an idea of where improvements need to be on a blaster, I think you've gotta literally have it in your hands.  You can attach gizmos and mount hardware all you want, but at the end of the day, if the layout isn't right, it'll just clutter up the blaster and work against you.  Many times, this means a blaster isn't exactly a "one size fits all" type, and I'm sort of okay with that for one or two blasters.

As such, messing around with this Dart Tag warrior made me remember the last time I worked on one.  Back on March 11th of 2011, around the time when the Swarmfire had just hit shelves in the US, I did an "Amped" video with this blaster hooked up to a DC-Regulated Power Supply.  It was kind of my first hint at the beauty of this blaster.

I think one of the more desirable things about the Swarmfire platform is the simple fact that it combines two common methods of modding Nerf blasters.  It's got a direct plunger system, which is easy to upgrade and work with.  On top of that, it's got an electronic rotating barrel and auto-fire system that can easily be upgraded with more power.  Plunger mods and Volt mods.  It's one of the few blasters that has both of these under one shell.  I'm going to focus on making both of these elements better both performance-wise and in their ease-of-use.

The second throwback video was my "ammo storage mod" that I used.  One of my first Nerf videos I ever made, so it's a little grainy and painful for me to watch... but it's still something I find useful about the Swarmfire: all that extra space to mount stuff.  Not just darts, but helpful equipment.  Many folks utilize the Swarmfire as an extra turret or to minimize, but I plan on making use of this rifle-style design because I just enjoy using a larger rifle during games.  Maybe a reflex sight, a camera mount, perhaps even some kind of in-built holster for something tiny like a Jolt... there's a lot of space there that can be utilized.

The only trouble with the velcro ammo storage is that... well... the group I play with normally just uses Elite darts now.  The old streamlines, whistler, suction and velcro darts aren't really used anymore.  The whole advantage of using this system was for making in-game ammo pickup easier.  The idea will take some retooling if I am to make it work for current games that are mostly using nothing but Elite darts.

This week is really just planning stuff out and seeing what will fit and what will be helpful.  Then it's a matter of finding the right parts to put together on this to build it up.  ...and then I need to test the RoF out on my boss, of course.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What's Next for Nerf?

As more news surfaces of these Elite recolored blasters having better ranges... I can't help but think where all this is leading.  Two years ago, 75ft range claims were earth-shatteringly awesome for stock blasters. Now as these familiar blasters don new colors, they're upping the range on these yet again.  Aesthetic changes can be as minimal as stealing my "White Stripe RapidStrike" idea to a more aggressive Whiteout Series-looking scheme.  Most (not all) of the recolored Elite blasters are now toting those 85 and 90 foot ranges on the boxes.  There's still standard-range recolors like the White RoughCut 2x4 and the "OJ" Stryfe, but blasters like the Strongarm, Retaliator, and other previously blue Elite blasters are getting range upgrades alongside the newer products like the Cam ECS-12 and Demolisher.  The upgraded blasters are being labeled as having "XD" ranges.

On the one hand, this is great news for both the "I just wanna have fun out-of-the-box" folks AND the modding community.  Better stock ranges usually translates to better modified ranges, too.  On the flip side of this, I can't help but wonder "Where is Nerf going with this?"

New blasters that have been coming out haven't really revamped much but add a gimmick to existing N-Strike hardware.  Since the Nerf Longshot CS-6 came out, Clip-System blasters have been plentiful with new designs year after year.  Even the newest blasters to date like the Cam ECS-12, Demolisher 2-in-1, and Slingfire have the Clip System at their core with something else added to it.  The Cam adds a poor-quality video camera.  The Demolisher is a Stryfe with a pump-to-fire rocket launcher.  The Slingfire has that nifty lever-action... but none of this is really new.

On the surface, the "more range" trend works because it means my friend who has a Strongarm can go to the store and buy ANOTHER Strongarm with more than just a recolor.  It's actually a slightly-better performing blaster... and for the same price that he paid for his last one.  Marketing brilliance on the one hand... but a bit of a boring arms-race outlook for new innovations for Nerf.  There's that "TekStrike" thing that was shown at ToyFair, but I haven't seen anything on that since it's announcement more than half-a-year ago.

I'm sort of stumped with the current lineup showing no real signs of change outside of "Put something cool on what we already have".  Will the lineup continue on the same path it's been for the last 24 months?  Or is this stream of normalcy a primer to make the "next big thing" shock fans out of their seats?

Monday, August 18, 2014

S9 Concludes! Off-Season Building Begins!

There are two things you can be sure of at the end of every Laser Tag Season with our group.  The first is everyone is asking "so when's the next game?" as they're still anxious to get out there and have another go.  The second is that the workbench comes ALIVE again.  There's time for projects, to test things out, and to reassess your existing equipment.

But first, a quick review of how Season 9 panned out.  It was a shorter-than-usual schedule, as we started in late-May as opposed to the first or second week.  Despite the short 12-game season, we still saw near-record turnout at a few events.  We also never saw a game rescheduled or rained-out, although one game was stopped early as a thunderstorm rolled in midway through the evening.  The nights with iffy weather or humid conditions saw lower-than-usual turnout, so attendance fluctuated quite a bit this season.  Our Season Opener saw 30 in attendance and our Independence Eve Blast saw 36 while some games near the end of the season barely managed to get 10 players, so the atmosphere at each game was unique every week.

Season 9 also saw the introduction of some new game scenarios.  A favorite (especially with the smaller groups) was a "Snipers" game.  One or two players are selected as Snipers.  The rest of the players form a substantially larger team (8-10, usually).  The Snipers secretly select one player on the other team as "the Traitor" who attempts to help tip the scales in the Sniper teams favor by killing off their own teammates.  Because we're all set on Solo mode, friendly fire is a possibility... but it also means that if someone thinks they've figured out who the Traitor is and tries to kill them... they might still be killing the wrong guy!  To make matters trickier, the Snipers start in the park, lying in wait.  The other team starts from the outside of the park and starts to search, so they're usually walking right into a trap.  These games play out quick and are pretty interesting to be a part of on either side.

With the season concluded as of last Friday, it means we've now got plenty of time to work on projects that had taken a back-seat to busy schedules.  One thing most of our veterans have felt this year was a noticeable shortage of spare time, so a lot of projects we had hoped to work on during the season went unfinished.  Projects like the Demolisher 2-in-1M41A Pulse Rifle, and other custom blasters for players have been on the back burner all summer, so now there's finally time to dig in with those.  Development of the accessories seen on the LTAR-AR are ready to move forward.  I battle tested these adapters through most of the season on my primary blaster with great success.  These accessories, as I've stated before, should help make modifying blasters for newer players even easier.  There are several players who have been making great strides towards building up their own blasters that don't need the help, but others could benefit from these simple upgrades to better suit their equipment to their play style.

We'll probably plan a mod night or two to break some ground on our projects before we schedule another game.  Generally, it's good to use these Off-Season games to test out equipment and work out the flaws of new concepts and designs.  When Season 10 rolls around in May of 2015, we'll be ready with a whole new arsenal of customized gear!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nerf meets Laser Tag this Friday!

I've been thinking of a fun way to add a "Nerf" element to our Laser Tag games and it's finally time to try it out at the last game of the season!  For those who don't know, I run an outdoor Laser Tagging group called the "Midwest Laser Tag Association" (MLTA).  We play in public parks with Hasbro/Tiger Lazer Tag-brand gear, most of which is loaned out at the beginning of each event.  It's free, it's fun, and open to anyone with an itchy trigger finger.  Each summer we host weekly games that make up our "Summer Season".  This Friday, the MLTA will wrap up it's 9th consecutive season of play with a big cookout and games going on into the evening.

The Nerf element I'm adding to this game comes in the form of a new twist on a scenario we often use.  By making use of the Nerf Dart Tag "Electronic Flag", we do Disarm the Device games.  The Defending team's objective is to keep the opposing team from disarming the device by pressing a button on top of it.  It is motion-sensitive, so it's important that the player is careful with it, or else they'll "Set off the bomb" and fail the mission.  The Electronic Flag used has a 15 minute time limit, so either the Disarm Team successfully accomplishes their mission within the time limit or the Defending Team wins if either the disarm is unsuccessful or the time limit is reached.  We actually have two of these devices, so we can also run games where both teams are trying to disarm the other team's "bomb" while simultaneously trying to defend their own.

To change things up, these games would be played out in the same way as far as the roles of disarming and defending go, but the disarm team is carrying an extra piece of equipment: a Nerf Titan.  Instead of running up to the actual device and pressing a button, the team's object ive is literally to knock the device out with the Rocket.  A radius of 30 feet is drawn around the device to mark the minimum engagement distance so that players can't just walk up and push the device over or shoot the rocket at point-blank range.  With the Titan, you have the chance to hit the device from greater distances, but there's always the chance you could miss, so getting as close to that 30 foot radius would be the ideal situation to minimize the chance of missing.  It's still a tough shot, but there's no limit to how many shots you can take at it... but with only one Rocket on hand... it's best to make that one shot count.

There are different ways to approach the game, but I think there's a higher chance of success with this if it is played out as a "Respawn" game, meaning that once players are tagged out, they can return to a designated starting point and rejoin the game.  We could also just do away with the Titan and use a couple of LTTO Tag Master Blasters with Rockets... but the idea is that ANY player can pick up the Rocket Launcher and try to make that crucial hit to win the game.  It's likely that, with this being the first time we will have tried this out, that chances could be made depending on the success we have with it.  Either way, I'm looking forward to bringing the launcher out to add a different element to our popular "Disarm" game!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Swarmfire... from The Dahmer to The Fenrir, using this Dart Tagging beast as an add-on to already awesome blasters seems to be the way to go with it.  The internal layout and design of the Swarmfire lends itself well to being freed from it's plastic prison and being hooked up to something else to make for an awesome combo!  However, I haven't really seen this blaster optimized for use on it's own.  It always seems to be an accessory to something else.  I've personally used the Swarmfire in games before with great results and, for whatever reason, I didn't continue to pursue that.

There are obvious mods for performance that can wring better results out of this blaster.  Remove all the dart pegs, Up the power, and BOOM.  Instant success!  But maybe there were other things we could do with the Swarmfire to really make it a fantastic standalone blaster.  Give it some optics to help with aiming (there's really no way to sight this), lengthen the stock a bit, add some external ammo storage, maybe something I haven't thought of yet.

With the Laser Tag season winding down, I thought it'd be something fun to work on.  I had planned on doing an outdoor game at my new home awhile ago but just got too busy with other stuff and it kinda fell by the wayside.  I've traditionally been an Outdoor Laser Tag and Indoor Nerf guy, but it's fun to blur the lines and change things up!  I've had good luck with the Swarmfire indoors before.  Maybe it'll translate well as an outdoor primary!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Guard the Galaxy with Disks?

I was cleaning and organizing my garage this weekend and, upon rediscovering a few forgotten blasters, I realized something.  Star-Lord, the main character in The Guardians of the Galaxy film that has been smashing box offices nation-wide, uses a Vortex Diatron!

Sure, there's already a legit "Nerf" version that's a lookalike of the one used in the movie, but this Diatron sort of has that same over-under double-barrel look that the Quad Blaster has.  Besides, reviews I've seen of the Quad Blaster toy have shown it to have pretty dismal ranges out-of-the-box.  The Star-Lord Battle Gear set with a smaller single-shot version in blue probably performs better... but looks incredibly tiny to wield.

So... yeah.  For all intents and purposes... Star-Lord uses a Diatron.  At least, to me it was fun feeling like Peter Quill in the garage.

EDIT:  In response to the debbie downers and pick-apart-all-the-fun-on-the-internet folks, yeah... I don't actually think the Diatron is an exact copy of the blaster.  Just felt kinda fun shooting around in my garage after I found it.  No need to get worked up a bit.  "Calm down over there" ;)

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Stuff on your Shelves?

All over the United States, I've been seeing pictures posted of new products out... but it still seems like some places are still waiting for it.  Seems like most of the new Nerf products are hitting shelves, but it's inconsistent and spattered.  For instance, when I found that Chainsaw last week... there still wasn't anything else earth-shatteringly new.  That same day, I had folks posting that they had found ZS Longshots, but no chainsaws.  SlingFires, Demolishers, DoubleStrikes, the whole "new" lineup of Nerf stuff is out there... sort of.

As of this post, consistency has not been the name of the game if you're searching for the latest blasters at your own local stores, so here's a chance for you to check in and report what you've got in your area.  Leave a comment with whatever new blasters you've spotted and give your location.  It doesn't have to be specific like "750 Newport Drive, Providence, Rhode Island".  At least tell us what state or city you're in!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Friends from the Coast

Last night the Midwest Laser Tag Association had a visit from some friends who normally hail from the Pacific Northwest join us for a few rounds of laser tag.  We knew they were coming a few weeks ago, so instead of having the game at our normal location, we decided to head to a place I had run an event at before that seemed pretty cool.  While I wish we had more time to play more games with 'em (we were off to a bit of a late start), the games we did were a lot of fun and VERY demanding.  Not only was the park beating us up (Steep grade pretty much the whole way through), but the level of experience for most of our players was quite high.

14 of us showed up, most seasoned veterans... but all of us still very new to this park.  Only 3 of us had ever played here, and that was back in May.  Add in some customized equipment, long-range snipers, and sneaky tactics, and games were incredibly intense!

Out guests also managed to bring a GoPro and recorded the first two games of combat.  During the games, I also managed to capture some footage with my iPhone once I had been tagged out, so hopefully he and I can get some video together of this awesome event!

Really glad we were able to tag it up with our Oregon friends and, despite running short on time, we didn't have any less fun!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Your Questions for the "Nerf Annual"!

What better way to start off a new month than with the return of MyLastDart?  That's right, his hiatus is over and MLD is back to unveil something he's been working with Nerf on writing a book.
This recently completed project with Pedigree Books has created the first ever "Official Nerf Annual 2015"!  It's an 80 page annual that's up for pre-order right now at Amazon's US and UK websites that will be released in the fall.

This isn't the first time MLD has dabbled with writing, as he was involved with the Nerf Ultimate Blaster Book before.  This new book will be an annual offering, so it's something that will be featured year after year.  As such, I thought I'd gather some questions from fans about this and then pick a few to conduct an interview with MLD about this.

Ask your questions about this new book in the comments below!  Once we've gathered enough to put an interview together, I'll get in touch with him and post his responses to them!