I’ve now been twice to Quasar, the laser tag venue in Norwich, and both times have felt like I’m missing something. While running around in the dark with lasers guarantees at least a minimum level of fun, there’s a handful of changes they could implement to make it much more satisfying as a game. Essentially, approaching it like you might design a computer game offers up some obvious areas for improvement.
I’ve no idea whether any of this applies to other laser tag places, or whether the Norwich version is the only one to be needing some of this refreshing, but here goes…
- Clear colour coding throughout. It’s Red Vs Blue, but once you’re in the playing area it’s all just dark walls with vague, dim signs scattered about. Hence it’s very easy to spend the first few minutes shooting your own base before you even realise. Using splashes of coloured lighting would be a pretty easy fix.
- Make impacts super obvious. Video games fall down when the cause-effect flow isn’t obvious. If you’re playing a sword-based combat game and hitting an enemy has no visible effect, you won’t know if you’ve connected and the whole thing feels dissatisfying. Same with Quasar – the result of shooting someone or being shot is so minimal that it’s very easy to not notice. Given this is the main interaction point of the game, it should be a Big Deal. The entire pack should light up! Is there a safe way to generate a small burst of sparks from the gun when you’re shot? Because that would be cool.
- Talking of which, after being tagged by the enemy you simply have to wait a few second for your gun to reactivate. This results in comedic situations when you’re deep in enemy territory where you can just stay where you are, only to be shot again, or you duck round a corner, count to 5, and resume your attack. The consequence of being hit is too minor. There should be a proper ‘respawn’ equivalent, forcing you to return to a specific point(s) on the map in order to reactivate your weapon and get back in the game, much like how multiplayer games such as Battlefield work. It ensures that downed combatants are genuinely removed from that area.
- Every weapon in the game is the same single firing semi-auto thing. It’s not very interesting. Why not have a bunch of different weapons: an inaccurate, slow-wind-up but massively dangerous minigun? A broad-spraying, short range shotgun? A sniper rifle with an actual scope? A rapid-fire automatic pistol? Hell, throw in some grenade launchers or explosive crossbow bolts or something! Get creative. It could either be a virtual weapon change which you can only do during respawn, or you choose your weapon at the start, with actually different weapon models, and stick with it. This would also help with identifying who is who in the dark, by changing the player silhouettes.
- Level design tends to be a bit maze-like. Given the laser-based nature of the game, why not have a more interactive environment? Have sections you can shoot to activate/deactivate defences, or open doors, change the lighting etc. Why not take a leaf from Left 4 Dead’s book and force a team to work as an actual team – ie, one player has to remotely open a door, while another player elsewhere on the map waits to go through it. As well as being more interesting, it’d also give people reason to try different routes, rather than sticking to the same tactics throughout.
Then there’s augmented reality, of course, but that’s a ways off still…