Thursday, May 31, 2012

Laser Tag Santa Monica

The Lazer Tag Santa Monica (LTSM) group is based out of California and usually has games held in the Santa Monica or San Fernando Valley areas.  This active group uses Lazer Tag brand gear for their games and post Events through their newly re-opened website. While not an "official" club, they simply promote the game through their events at parks to play  together at a local level.  Much like the MLTA that I run here in the heartland, new folks are more than welcome to join.

The dates and times for the upcoming games are usually posted about a week or so in advance. LTSM members are very friendly so if you have never played Lazer tag before, they are more than willing to help you out and teach you how to play.  So, if you're in the area, be sure to look them up!  Their website is in the link below.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Soak 'em Up!

My loadout for Water Wars
So this Memorial Day weekend has been excellent weather for something that'll cool you down.  Nerf's Super Soaker lineup has been fun to mess around with in the backyard with friends around the pool.  I know there's lots of "hate" out there for the new Super Soaker stuff when compared to the high powered CPS blasters of the 90's, but if there's one thing that I've really taken a liking to: it's this water clip system.  The only downside is that there's only two (technically three) blasters in the Super Soaker Line that use clips.  To make matters worse, only one of them is really worth using in a water war... or at least that's what I've found in the backyard games I've had.

Full Auto doesn't make up for it's weak power if you ask me
The Tornado Strike, pictured above, is arguably one of the coolest looking blasters since Nerf took the Super Soaker lineup in 2010.  Hands down, it just performs better than the Thunderstorm/Lightningstorm clip-fed water blasters and, while it is a manual front-pump firing blaster, the spinning streams of water give this blaster a nice spread to work with too.  Interestingly enough, my favorite blasters that have come out of the new Super Soaker blasters under the Nerf brand have been triggerless.  With the exception of the Hydro Cannon, I tend to prefer the Tornado Strike, Shot Blast, and Scatter Blast over any other current soaker.  At first, of those three I preferred the Scatter Blast because of it's spread and capacity (it actually has the highest internal storage with the exception of the Hydro Cannon).  Then I was a fan of the Shot Blast because of it's general power and comfort.  This Tornado Strike is really growing on me though because of this clip system.  The Drum magazine on it with two spare clips make for a nice complete loadout.  It's been fun to use and combines that spread of the Scatter Blast that I liked with the rifle feel of the Shot Blast.

If you haven't given the new Super Soaker lineup a shot, they are a lot of fun to use.  If you forget about the legendary power of the 90's era Super Soakers and just ignore all the trolls online who hate on this new spin on these water blasters, you'll enjoy them even more.  I'll probably never get into Super Soakers as much as I have Nerf and Laser Tag, but it is fun to be shooting stuff around to keep cool during the summer just for some shameless fun.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Urban Taggers: Blue is Better!

My buddy at Urban Taggers has confirmed it!  Blue Trigger = better range for the Dart Tag lineup.  I reported on this earlier, but this is really just a follow-up and confirmation of this fact.  Plus, I wanted to redirect you to UT's article on it, since they did a great job reviewing it (as usual).

Swarmfire 2.0 Article @ Urban Taggers

Feel free to check out my original article on this.

Got the Blues?

Keeping Cool with Super Soakers

With summer upon us and record heat gripping many parts of the US this weekend, what better way to chill out and still keep your trigger finger happy than with a good ol Water Blaster war?  To help things out, Super Soaker has a few new products I've noticed at my local Toys R Us that I thought would be worth sharing.

The odd thing about this latest update?  No blasters.  However, they have introduced some things to "enhance" the game.  There's this inflatable battle shield you can use to shield yourself from another new product: the "Soaker Burst"... which is a foam water grenade... thing.

 The Soaker Bursts are foam balls with holes in them that soak up water and jet them out on contact with whatever you've managed to lob them at.  They come in Orange and white and are available in the 2 pack, with a Battle Shield, or with a Pool Splash Mat game.  There's also a larger version called the "Soaker Bolt" that looks a little more like a Vortex Football with a fin design on the tail end.  It is made of the same squishy foam material that the Soaker Bursts use.  It's neat seeing how Hasbro has managed to work actual Nerf foam into the Super Soaker lineup with these water bombs, as well as creating a fun pool game with it too.

We've got a pool at our home that is frequently the centerpiece for our backyard water wars during the summer so it'll be neat to have fun with some Nerf products for just general games instead of always having to shoot at folks.  Makes the game a little more appealing for the lady types wandering around the deck, which is always a good thing.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, America!  In the meantime, I'm gonna wash the dirt off my soakers from last year in preparation for our cookouts that'll likely spawn water wars.  The high today is 95ยบ F, so we could definetly use a game that'll cool us off!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Taggin it Up!

Veterans and Newbies combine as this team
swept their opponents in a recent game
Season 7 is off to a great start!  Since our first game at the beginning of the month to kick things off, we've had great turnout and enjoyable games.  At first, I was worried that with the switch to the LTXs for our normal games that we would have equipment loaning issues, but with our average turnout for games sticking to the low 20s, we've been doing alright in that area.

Games have gone very smoothly and folks seem to enjoy the switch so far.  I've been busier with things outside of my hobbies that have prevented me from breaking more ground on the hobby side of laser tag, but these games have kept things fun and have been a great way to break up my workload each week.

Fleeing from that deadly infrared light!
Fight Nights #1 and #2 are in the bag now, as well as an extra game that was held during one of our "off" weeks.  We've also seen a great mix of veteran players and new faces for these games that have helped keep things fresh.  This is especially helpful to a group of taggers that have been doing this for over half a decade at the same park.  The mix of Middle School, High School, and College age kids has been much better than I expected.  I think having some of the younger folks there helps keep the edge of "super serious strategical" players that have been doing this for awhile.  At least, that's how I've viewed it!

After his blaster caught up with all the hits he had taken
the dome remained red = he's dead
We almost lost Fight Night #2 to Mother Nature, when a hot and humid day looked to fire cells of thunderstorms across the area.  We still managed to get in 3 games before calling it off under looming storm clouds.  Left some of our veteran players some downtime to grab some earlier-than-expected dinner and just hang out/watch some Eddie Izzard stand up.  Good times!

Pulse Rifle progress is sitting where we last left our heroes: SO close... but still not operational enough to be fielded.  With a busy life outside my hobbies keeping me from the workbench, I haven't had much time to even look into fixing my glitchy LTX DMR for games.  When it comes down to it, there's still fun games to be had and at the end of the day, that's my favorite part of this.  The hobby side is good and all when there's no games to play, but if I didn't love the game itself, there'd be less meaning to the hobby for me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Battle Kata Blaster Project

GI Joe Resolute: the route Hasbro SHOULD'VE taken
While I grew up with/was a fan of the old GI Joe cartoons growing up, I can't say that I'm as avid of a fan of the newer era of the Movies Hasbro has made for them thus far.  If you ask me, GI Joe Resolute was a MUCH cooler path that they should've expanded on instead of the live-action poorly-scripted big-name actor laden production they've got now.  Hasbro only recently took down the website for that series, so if you're into GI Joe but don't care too much for the new movies, give that mini-series a check.  In the meantime, I'll just have to settle with what we've got... but at least they gave me a neat looking blaster to play with.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Top-Rail Elite Accessories?

So we've been getting more and more official (and unofficial) information about the N-Strike Elite Lineup and the one thing I can't help but notice is that amidst all the cool recolors, gimmicks, and accessories... we have no N-Strike Accessories for the top-rail.  The only N-Strike Accessory for the rail system currently is the Retaliator's foregrip.  We have at least 2 new clip sizes (12 round and 25 round), two new stocks (Retaliator and Stockade), but nothing for the top rail.  While I can't say there have been many accessories that have been especially helpful anyways, I just find it odd that there's nothing to mount up there.  The foregrip from the Retaliator is only really useful on a bottom-mounted grip, which only the Retaliator has... so there's not much else to put there.  Earlier photos of the Rampage had shown a top-rail mounted shield, but since then, everything else has omitted this.  But wait, there's more!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Elite Alpha Trooper? Naw, it's just the SotW

I don't frequent the Nerf Nation Facebook Page much these days, what with how they handled the Urban Taggers thing (or lack thereof) and just the general intelligence level of the posters on there.  However, I AM a bit of a photography nut, so when I saw the Shot of the Week entry with a Lightning Strike in the background, I was interested.  Then I noticed that woman's "USS Nostromo" patch on her bicep, which is from the film Alien directed by Ridley Scott.  He's got Prometheus, a prequel to Alien coming out this summer, so it was neat to see that patch show up.  Then I noticed her blaster... which at first glance I thought was a Raider, what with the 35 round drum on there and the blue color, until I was pleasantly surprised to see it was, instead, a blue painted Alpha Trooper.

U shud reed dis

While this post may or may not have been triggered by a recent experience in a chatroom this morning, this is an ongoing issue that I've been wrestling with.  If you've ever seen me talking on the NM&R or T³ chat and tear some kid a new one for spelling/grammatical errors, from a certain perspective, it looks like I'm just trolling.  I'm not one to claim that I have perfect spelling or put commas where they're supposed to be 100% of the time, so if your goal is to pick this post apart and find all my mistakes, go right ahead.

I'm only gonna say this once:  If you can't manage to say things that people will understand, you're wasting everyone's time... including your own.

For example, if you're telling us "i 1 2 gt a longsut", you've made your readers A: attempt to decode what words they can assume from this sentence, and B: realize that they don't know what a "longsut" is.  It could be a Longshot.  It could be a Longstrike.  You could even be saying you'd like a Long Suit for the next formal event you'll be attending at the Governors Home.  Either way, you've effectively failed to utilize language for it's basic purpose: to communicate with others.

On the one hand, younger generations seem to think that using slang and abbreviations for things is "cool"... which I understand in this age of texting and other English-destroying forms of social media.  However, I have yet to see someone who uses abbreviated text or internet slang also show proficiency in basic spelling of words, rendering their message a garbled mess of numbers and letters that would make an English Teacher jump off a bridge.  A bridge that crosses over a molten pit of lava with stainless steel spikes rising up from above it with a boombox playing the latest Disney Star's 1# hit.

So if you don't want Bazookafied to be "Mean" or come off as a total jerk, respect everyone's time and just spell things out correctly.  In the end, you'll appear smarter, folks will (likely) respect your input more, and everyone ultimately wins.  Still bad at spelling?  There's no excuse in the information era for ignorance.  Google Chrome and Firefox have spell checkers built-in.  Too lazy to download a new browser to help your awful spelling?  There's and other websites that'll help you out too.  The only time fail-tacular spelling is acceptable to me is those "lol cats".  Prove you're smarter than those internet felines and just do the English language some justice.  It'd be a refreshing change of pace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salve, Italia!

Couldn't help but notice my friends in Italy checking up on the blog.  The folks at the Nerf Italia Forum are talking about the Elite Firestrike and have referenced this blog.  Suppose I feel proud about this because I am 50% Italian.

It's always fun checking the stats that Blogger collects to not only see what interests readers, but also where those readers are from.  Always fun to see my distant Italian relatives browsing the blog!  Regardless of where you're checking in from, thanks for stopping by!

Elite Longshot

This is my recently completed Elite Longshot.  Built from a blue 1st Generation Longshot with light modifications, this blaster easily hits 75 feet with stock streamlines.  As N-Strike's largest direct plunger system blaster, it only seemed right to finish this up amidst all the Retaliator and Rampage news that's been floating around.  This Elite Longshot should remind these new blasters what a real direct plunger blaster is capable of!

The Elite Longshot has already been range tested and worked on internally.  Originally, I was waiting for the Orange Mod Works Immortal Longshot kit to put in there, but after seeing my simple mods perform so well and the constant delays in OMW's production of this kit, I decided this was more than good enough to go toe-to-toe with the new N-Strike Elite blasters poised to debut this summer.

Elite's Direct Plunger System

I'm certainly not claiming to be the first to post this information, but rather give you some insight/thoughts I have on the latest information revealed about the Rampage's internals (that are likely identical/similar to the Retaliator's) and the direction the N-Strike Elite lineup has been taking based on facts we have so far.

If you've missed it somehow, the cat is outta the bag.  Internals of the Rampage that were shown at Modworks (SG Nerf) reveal that Hasbro's designers have crammed a Direct Plunger system into the limited real estate of the Raider shell.  Again, we'll assume that this also applies to the Retaliator's retooled Recon shell.  Alliteration aside, and while I approve off these blaster improvements, I still gotta wonder... why?  Why go through the trouble to design such an extensive overhaul of the Recon and Raider just to settle for a smaller plunger system?  While having a Direct Plunger System in there is good and all, the Longshot and NiteFinder still have larger systems that are able to deliver more power.  Yes, the Recon and the Raider were popular designs, as one of my readers (Shannon) had pointed out before.

Monday, May 14, 2012

N-Strike Elite: Firestrike

Guess I wasn't too far off the mark... as we've got a 5th N-Strike Elite blaster confirmed for 2013: the Firestrike.  From the looks of it, it's got a Nitefinder pull-back priming handle, so my "Seeker" that I made earlier this season was a pretty close prediction.

I'd like to see better images of the Firestrike to check out what aesthetic changes they may have made to the Nitefinder, if any.  From the looks of it, the priming handle and rear design look pretty spot-on compared to a NiteFinder, but the front end looks a little different.  I'll have more up once better images surface of this.

Nerf Projects: What to do?

Well, I haven't done much in the way of Nerf stuff in awhile.  I'm knee deep into Laser Tag stuff and wanna know from YOU what I should delve back into?  I'd be working on a Longshot right now were it not for the continued delays from OMW with the Immortal kit, so that one is kinda on the back burner.

So, I'm asking YOU... what should I tackle?  Some older projects like my unfinished Alpha Trooper Pistol, Air Canister Magstrike, or SMG Stampede?  Maybe something new that I haven't tried yet?  Toss some ideas out there and I'll start up something this week.  Either way, it'll be good to balance out this blog's activity again between my two hobbies that I cover.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MLTA Kicks off Season 7

We've officially started off another great season of Laser Tag for the MLTA!  The switch to the Phoenix LTX blasters as well as new blood filling the ranks of our games shows great development and a promising future for our group.  Although my Pulse Rifle wasn't ready to roll and the LTX DMR had power failure issues, the rest of the gear worked pretty flawlessly and everyone seemed to enjoy using it.

Pulse Rifle: So Close!!

Yesterday, German and I worked tirelessly on the Pulse Rifle in an attempt to get it ready for the MLTA's first game of the summer season for laser tag.  We got SO close, but as you'll learn from this post, the Pulse Rifle never left my basement.  After nearly 7 hours of continuous work, we ran into one kink in the design that would set it back and leave it on the workbench.

However, there was STILL more than enough good things happening to make our work worth it. The only trouble was that we couldn't field it just yet!  Above, you can see the Arduino Mini installed on breadboard that has all the neccissary wirings and resistors mounted on it.  This is the board before we started hooking it up to all the components and switches... still pretty clean looking.

 Work on the internally-mounted sensors and hit lights took a BIG step forward.  To the right, you can see the deadbug sensor before and after it's wiring.  Both of these sensors are to be mounted in the white housings built from the 3D printer in the second picture to the right.  In the foreground, you can see an older design of the housing that didn't accomodate the space needed for the Airsoft barrel to run above these sensors.  The row of red LEDs are actually taken off of a Laser Challenge Team Force pistol and will light up when the sensors on the Pulse Rifle are hit.

The last picture on the right shows the housing inside the metal vent cage that it's designed to fit inside.  The housing will be painted later, but this gives you a clear idea of how it'll fit in the cage.  The top barrel of the Pulse Rifle runs along the open section of this cage.  Reflective panels will be installed inside the cage to get the entire section to glow red when the sensors take a hit.  Unfortunately, right now the lights aren't working properly, as they are staying lit when the blaster is turned on.  Additional wiring checks and programming checks will be needed to see if it's a physical problem with our wiring or if there's a bug in the program we've installed to the Arduino.

You can see the first signs of life in the Pulse Rifle.  This is a picture of the internals after we sent power through them for the first time.  The blue light is from the amplifier for the sound board, which is not getting power for some reason.  You can also see the 3 LEDs shining, as we didn't figure out why they were staying lit.  Still, it appears about 85% of the wiring we did is good, though there are still problems to sort through.  I should've expected hiccups in it's production, since this is still the first Laser Tag blaster we have made to be fully compatible with the Phoenix LTX laser tag system.
This is the adapter plugged into the Arduino that allows us to program the board.  It allowed us to figure out what problems the programming were causing as well as what problems there were potentially with the wiring/design of the internals.  We're really close to getting this thing buttoned up and rolled out, but this snag was more than enough to sideline the Pulse Rifle for our first game.  Oh well!  These things happen!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Return of the Alpha Trooper

Apparently an N-Strike Favorite as made it's promised return to the local shelves at Target.  Thanks to a tip from Frost_Nerfer, the listing for the Alpha Trooper has been switched back to "In Stock".  Not only that, but store listings show that they have sneaked back onto my own local shelves.  I was at my local Target not even two days ago and didn't see a single AT there, so I have yet to confirm this myself.  If you've spotted them wherever you are, let us know!

Pulse Rifle: Almost ready

As of this post, I am hopefully only a day away from having my M41A Pulse Rifle project fully compatible with Lazer Tag Phoenix blasters, just in time for the start of our 7th Summer Season of laser tag.

To the left, there's an image of the Sensor housing/Hit Light tray that's in progress still.  We've gone through dozens of prototypes for this design and I think we've finally got one that'll work well.  If you're having a hard time picturing it, lay that piece flat on the ground, put two IR Sensors in those boxes on the right and left of the design, and put a row of red LEDs on that tray between those two posts.  Then set that inside the vent housing of the Pulse Rifle and you've got the right and left sensors plus hit lights mounted on the blaster.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rant: "Those were the days"

Seems like there's an increasing divide between fans that you THINK would be a natural generational gap.  It's no secret that I'm a bit older than most of the fans of Nerf so growing up in the '90s meant that what most refer to as the "Golden Era" for Nerf and Super Soakers was my time as a kid.  From the Constant Pressure System water blasters that could knock you on your feet with a column of water to the long range arrow launchers like the Arrowstorm, Bow 'n Arrow, and Crossbow, this was the stuff used in backyard wars during my childhood.  They were a lot of fun... while the lasted.  I remember CPS pumping mechanisms breaking and arrows getting so bent they wouldn't fly straight again.  But nowaways, with all the new "Tacticool" blasters that Hasbro has made under the Nerf and Super Soaker brands, all anyone seems to talk about are the "vintage" blasters.  Not only does this make me feel like an antique, but it also makes me weigh in on whether this is just a case of folks in love with the Glory Days that they really never experienced.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Avengers: Opening Night

 It's not exactly Nerf or Laser Tag, but with the costume I made last fall and with all the blasters and toys released for the Avengers, I couldn't help but share this.  A few friends and I went to see the US opening of Marvel's "The Avengers".  Hands down one of the most fun and exciting films I've seen in a long time... not to mention it's written by the same guy who did Firefly and Serenity.  Very fun stuff, so GO SEE IT!

Definitely got a lot of photo ops with folks at the theater.  It kinda helped the hour that we got there early to get good seats fly by.  My only regret?  Not having a lighter, more breathable suit... as humidity today was still lingering at night.  Not to mention a theater packed with comic book fans doesn't tend to be the most lilac-fresh crowd either.

But yeah, go check out the movie this weekend.  Just a lot of fun to watch.  In the meantime, I managed to find some friends at the theater, Loki, and a miniaturized version of me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pulse Rifle: Sensor Construction

 Got some major work done on building housings for the sensors on my Pulse Rifle.  The 3D Printer is responsible for making these parts that'll be utilized to hold IR Sensors on the left, right, and top of the blaster.  To the left is another prototype of the design to be used for the right and left sensors.  It has to be modified to account for the barrel that'll be overhead in the vent cover, but that's a simple change to be made.

This is the design for the sensors electronics.  There are a total of 3 of these.  Thanks to a sanding mishap, I had to redo one of them, but it was good practice for me!  This one is bent so that it'll fit in the top housing.  All that's needed is to mount it and run the wires down through the shroud to the Arduino Mini that's running this thing.

Here's where the front-facing housing will sit.  It'll obviously be painted and I'm not done sanding/smoothing it out yet.  That square in the front is where the IR Sensor will face outward.  We decided to mount the front sensor on top so that way when the blaster is angled downwards (not firing), it can still take hits.

The hit lights will be set inside those vents too (in front of the right and left sensors), so there's still a lot of work to be done on this within the week.  More progress later!

Mod Night Happenings

One of our modders taking a break from work to talk to YOU!
Just finished another successful Mod Night!  We covered a lot of ground on a LOT of projects and, as always, it's just fun to be in the company of hobbyists who also happen to be good friends of yours!  It was also inspiring to have Iron Man playing in the background as we watched Tony Stark build up an advanced prosthesis far more advanced than anything WE were working on!

We opened up that Star Wars blaster tonight too.  Good ol late-90's-era electronics!  Shouldn't be too difficult to convert to an LTX blaster, so understanding what we've got to work with on the inside gives us a better idea of how to lay it all out.  Once we get blasters like my Pulse Rifle, German's Rayven, and Sundawg's Stampede running with Arduino-run blasters.

Speaking of that, Sundawg made some great progress cutting/fitting this pipe that'll house the lens for his dual-purpose blaster.  On the one hand, it's a modified Stampede, shelling out Streamlines up to 60 feet at 4 darts per second.  On the other, it'll be a beast of a laser tag blaster with excellent range, sending beams of IR Light over 1,100 Feet!  Either way you look at it, this Stampede will be something to fear for both the hobbies I enjoy!

I'll have a full post up with updates about my Pulse Rifle a little later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Longshot Immortal: The wait continues

A Longshot Trigger up for auction for a good cause
Well, we've officially blown past the "Late April" claims that Orange Mod Works was shooting for a couple months ago for the release of their Longshot Immortal kit.  The fiasco with the Massacre kit release date getting pushed back set this launch date back and now I suspect that quality issues with those kits has kicked back the Longshot kit yet again.  And, just like old times, it'll take some kicking and whining from fans to get some more information about the development of this kit and projected release date.  Pre-orders stopped almost a month ago for this kit, so I was hoping we'd have something by now.  As far as I can see, it's another waiting game.

Feeling Evil

Just a random bit... since there's really not a whole lot to report on right now.  Didn't shave for a couple of days and, as I was cleaning up, I decided to go with the Disney Villian Goatee.  Figured what better way to be "evil" than to act as the opponent of N-Strike: Vortex!

It just always caught me as funny how the Vortex line got pitched as the "enemy" of N-Strike.  It's never been flat-out said but it seems like the N-Strike side is perceived as the good guys while the Vortex line look like they're henchmen of a dark overlord bent on world domination through his death army.

Anywho, tonight is another Mod Night.  As I have before, I'll be on the T³ Chat taking questions and such.  In the future, I'd like to do some kind of webinar/video chat thing with folks, but I just didn't have time to set something up like that.

Disclaimer: if you're looking to talk Nerf during tonight's Mod Night, you'll be a bit disappointed.  With our laser tag regular season a week away, we're focused on finishing up those projects.  I'm not saying there will be no talk of Nerf, but rather that our focus tonight will be Laser Tag.  Join us in the chatroll at 7pm Central Standard Time!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pulse Rifle: Sensor Housing

Last week a friend of mine got his 3D printer running and started testing it out with shapes and designs.  As the kinks get worked out of this machine, we're moving forward with designs to implement into our creations.  First on the list is my M41A Pulse Rifle project.  Pictured to the left is a prototype of a lens housing that will fit inside the vent shaft along the main barrel.  On either side of this shaft, there will be an IR Sensor that will take hits from the left and right of the blaster.  A third sensor will be installed in a housing on top of the blaster.

Here's a look at where those sensors would be placed.  As you can see, the prototype part that German has designed would fit on the inside of this metal shaft.  Obviously there will have to be a place for the IR Sensors (pictured to the right) to sit, but we're still designing how the block will fit in there before we cut into the design to complete the housing.

A Mod Night has been scheduled for Wednesday (May 2nd) so hopefully we'll have a little more completion on this.  There's still a lot of work to be done on my Pulse Rifle, but I think we might be able to get it functional for our first game of Season 7.