The CEO and founder of Alterface shares his expertise on IP and gameplay for the creation of a successful interactive dark ride.
By Benoit ‘Ben’ Cornet
The IP Challenge
In today’s highly mediatized world, media-based attractions are gaining more traction. Visitors are craving more emotionally engaging moments and experiences they can share. An interactive dark ride represents the perfect formula for this requirement.
ABOVE PHOTO: Alterface helped create Kingdom Quest for LEGOLAND. Images courtesy of Alterface.
In the past, a cute park-branded mascot was often used as a character in attractions. And some parks stretched it by developing an entire family of characters with dedicated story and branding. This hasn’t lost its appeal, but nowadays, technology allows for more sophisticated and dynamic attractions as well. With state-of-the-art storytelling tools, we can take things to the next level.
To do so, however, raises new considerations: the character must have enough dimension to ‘act’ during the ride, and ‘interact’ with the players. But costs must be kept within reach of the operator. Even with today’s plummeting cost of media production, the pricetag for creating a quality, durable character and story can easily get out of hand. As a result, characters and their vocabulary often do not get beyond steel and mortar…
As the development of a new, dedicated IP is not always practicable, it is tempting to use existing characters, preferably famous ones from movies or the gaming industry. Whereas this route may be taken by larger operators that command significant budgets, it is not always within reach of the smaller parks. There may be extremely stringent rules for IP deployment at a park. Gaming IPs may offer a great opportunity for the location-based entertainment industry, but they have their own potential drawbacks: achieving meaningful differentiation from the in-home experience is one, and having broad enough appeal for the entire family is another. And even when all this is achieved, the challenge remains to meet the IP owner’s profit expectations.
At Alterface, we have taken a different approach to the IP challenge: we created a series of proprietary characters that can be slightly amended to reflect the specific requirements of each park. We invested heavily in the Popcorn Revenge® IP, an evergreen story with universal appeal yet offering parks the opportunity to add their own flavor. Our Desperados Interactive Theatre has been operating successfully around the world for the last 10 years and has been shown to stimulate significant repeat visitation. Another recent example is the Bazyliszek attraction we are building in the Polish Legendia park. The IP is based on authentic Polish folklore, and the ride takes guests on an exciting journey through the magical forests of Poland.
Not a video game!
Compared with a game or a movie, a dark ride is all about movement and flow rather than singular actions. Shooting or interacting on a screen is not as important as the way the transitions from scene to scene are done. An effectively themed, media-based dark ride, with a good balance between theming and screens is the best guarantee of a long lifespan. The last thing you want is driving players from one scene and screen to another, resulting in a very expensive and tedious “video game on wheels” that will last as long (and as briefly) as the actual video game.
The Alterface gameplay philosophy is based on a few simple rules. Firstly, the non-linear shooting session: some can be very intense and others more peaceful, but always with a grand finale as apotheosis. Secondly, the gameplay should be suitable for all audiences of all ages, entertaining young and older visitors. The third rule is the regulation of the game. Scenes cannot be overloaded but there can also be no empty scenes, while target numbers can be adjusted based on accuracy and game level of the players. And finally, the theming and how it is implemented determines the success of every attraction. Strong themes and characters should be reflected in immersive themed scenes with animatronics, projection & video mapping, shooting and special effects.
Provided they are produced bearing those requirements in mind, interactive dark rides are one of the most effective investments a park can make. Furthermore, they have an excellent repeat business ability. From the many best players pictures we get to see on our attractions, a large portion of players are becoming very dedicated to particular rides and are motivated to keep coming back to improve their ranking.
Avoid these three mistakes
Here are the top three common mistakes to avoid when creating a dark ride:
• Not creating a compelling experience with the right mix of media and non-media components. It is not a video game but an immersive experience with a storyline.
• Buying equipment first and then trying to design around it. The choice of ride systems is extensive and you will do much better to first get your concept right.
• Being tempted by unproven, bleeding edge solutions. Revolution very often falls short; tried and tested is a safer and more solid route.
After 16 years of dedication to media-based interactive attractions and over 50 successful interactive dark rides installed around the world, Alterface offers its knowhow and expertise to the market. We want to continue fueling the progress of this type of attraction by advising customers on the best possible ride with exciting IP and gameplay for their park. This is not altruism: this is the only way for us all to remain successful and secure a great future for our industry. •