More and more theme parks are beginning to integrate virtual reality into their attractions these days. The most recent of the bunch is Knott’s Berry Farm, which teamed up with VRstudios to create a VR arcade experience called VR Showdown in Ghost Town. Recently, I was able to check the VR game out at a preview event, and I have some thoughts which I wanted to bring to you, dear readers. I arrived at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park at about 6:15 PM. I greeted the PR folks, got my appointment time to play the game, and then went into the park for some grub. It was rainy, and the way the light reflected off the wet ground made for some very cool photographs.
At my designated appointment time, I moseyed over to the Boardwalk Arcade, which is located beneath the park’s Voyage to the Iron Reef attraction. They recently rennovated the arcade to have a number of modern arcade enjoyments as well as make use of their own card to magnetically store credits on. You load your card up at stations in the arcade then swipe them in the machines instead of depositing quarters like in the days of old.
The VR Showdown in Ghost Town is located in an offshoot room of the arcade, and is set up like a secret office of Dr Welles. For you Knott’s historians out there, you might recognize that name from the venerable Kingdom of the Dinosaurs attraction which used to reside where the Iron Reef is today. It seems that all of Dr Welles’ offices were not converted, and his secrets are still being shared with us today. Once you swipe your arcade card through the swiper (each person pays $6 dollars to go into the VR experience), you will be escorted in pairs of two into rooms where an assistant of Dr Welles will brief you on safety and the use of the VR gear.
VRstudios is using a proprietary system which handles large scale room tracking, on a bigger scale than the HTC Vive. The play space of the VR Showdown in Ghost Town is 20 feet by 17 feet in dimension and each room is lined with infrared sensors to track the position of the gear. The VR goggles (for lack of a better term) are mildly comfortable, but you will not be able to adjust the interpupillary distance of the two lenses and my head, being a bit larger than most, was squeezed a bit. If you have a large head, please ask the attendant about adjustments. Once the headset is donned, they hand you your gun and then put the headphones on your noggin. The gun is an articulated prop, with several tracking pylons on its edges. The gun prop feels right in the hand and the trigger squeeze, while a bit stiff, will hopefully lighten up after a while.
There is a general VR lobby where you can get used to the visuals, shooting, etc until the attendant activates the game. You can turn your head and see the head and gun of your partner, which helps to avoid colliding with them throughout the game. Unfortunately, this is where things get a bit shaky, literally. Unfortunately, the resolution of the VR headset is a bit low and the refresh rate is set to 60 Hz. This causes some slight visual “stuttering” and actually caused me to get a bit off-balance during a couple twists and ducks I had to perform. The nice thing about the VR game is it is truly meant for players to move around the space and duck behind cover when needed. Also adding to the disorientation effect is that the headset’s field of view is somewhat limited in comparison to a Rift or Vive unite. That might be okay if the refresh rate were increased to 90 Hz, but I digress. Adding to this effect was the fact that I LOVED the system’s wireless capabilities. Their VR headset units have NO WIRES connecting you to anything else. You are truly “free to roam about the cabin” as it were, and so I did.
That being said, the times in which you can stand in one place and shoot straight ahead in the game are outstanding as the image is relatively static (save for bad guys and the like). During these moments, the refresh rate issue did not bother me. This also allowed me to make full use of the 1:1 aiming/shooting provided by VRstudios’ array of tracking sensors.
Overall, the VR Showdown in Ghost Town is a fun arcade experience, but I would not recommend playing if you have ever gotten motion sickness or dizziness from a VR game in the past. Even if you have only had minor dizziness, I guarantee you that the VR Showdown in Ghost Town will bring it out of you like nothing else. That being said, I can’t think of another theme park or arcade that has anything like this attraction right now. It truly is revolutionary, and I hope this is just the start of things to come.