UK theme parks from another point of view!

 
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Jack
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:07 pm

I honestly don't understand the low expectations of Merlin, in my opinion they have proved that their new attractions almost guarantee quality. Everything from Saw to the Smiler in my opinion has been consistently good in terms of ride and theming. And Ghost Train really has blown that all out of the water in my opinion. The problems with Ghost Train however really aren't Merlins fault, for all we know when it opened it could have been deemed 100% ready by the park and all involved. In the end it is a stupidly complex ride system that maybe for the first season really requires the downtime, we will really never know.

I understand that for some people Merlin have made some frustrating decisions and new rides have a reputation for downtime, but it's a bit unfair to see Merlin being endlessly blamed for things going wrong as a lot of major parks and chains in the world have much bigger issues yet don't get the endless hate Merlin do. And as it stands it is showing more and more that Merlin really are second to Disney in my honest opinion. :)
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:55 pm

Jack wrote:
The problems with Ghost Train however really aren't Merlins fault, for all we know when it opened it could have been deemed 100% ready by the park and all involved. In the end it is a stupidly complex ride system that maybe for the first season really requires the downtime, we will really never know.

Of course the issues aren't directly Merlin's fault, but they hold the ultimate responsibility of when to officially open an attraction. As you say, it may have been seen as fully ready to open by the park, although I would question how they can make this call on such a technically complex attraction after just a week in proper technical rehearsals. You'd think after three years in development they'd want to put it through a more extensive testing phase. Furthermore, if it was 'deemed 100% ready' then this obviously ignores the fact that not all of the journeys and one of the endings would be available, as well as the fact that not all the headsets were working, to the best of my knowledge.

I'm perfectly understanding of short periods of downtime given the nature of the attraction, but I would also expect that when open it's running pretty much faultlessly. Instead it seems there are a significant number of headsets out of action and then others which have audio and visual problems which can effectively ruin a large portion of the experience for the unfortunate guest. Although these are relatively minor problems compared to a mechanical component failing they are integral to the individual experience, without these the immersion isn't there and then it's no surprise that the guest comes off significantly underwhelmed, providing negative feedback accordingly.

Generally I have quite a positive outlook on things and recognise that the potential is there for an impressive attraction, with elements such as the overall theming and preshow (perhaps the only consistent part of the attraction at this stage) done well. However it is the knowledge that it is effectively incomplete and the hit-and-miss nature of the attraction which is a put-off for me, especially when your first ride is likely to leave a lasting impression with this attraction perhaps relying on unpredictability more than most dark rides.
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:05 pm

Aren't the headset issues down to Figment? And therefore if the park were told there should be no faults and to open it, that is Figments fault if there are a lot of faults with the headsets? Not only this, but the ride system is complex, and in the same way a new style of roller coaster will have downtime due to the technology playing up, the same will happen here whether it is 100% ready or not, you have to remember the manufacturers and the park are learning all the time as it is a prototype in the same way S&S still take notes about Rush's operations, breakdowns, etc. Not to mention the fact that the headsets have been massively more reliable, well synced and the rest of it than a certain virtual reality experience at a more Northern theme park. ;)
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:40 pm

As I said, I don't hold Merlin accountable for the specific issues, with the responsibility there falling to the relevant company, but they are still the ones signing off on the attraction and accepting the state that it is in. With their own reputation as well as Derren's on the line, I would expect them to have had fairly extensive testing procedures with reasonably high standards to satisfy before allowing the attraction to open. Perhaps they thought they did, although with hindsight it's evident that maybe more could have been done, but one week of technical rehearsals, opening without all the VR incarnations and some headsets not working doesn't really support this.

To me this instead signals that there was commercial pressure behind the scenes just to get the attraction in a minimally acceptable state to open, although in this case that still made for a somewhat impressive attraction on a good run-through probably because of Derren's influence of those standards and the fact the whole experience breaks-down even if just a minor element isn't working. Added to this you have Figment Productions themselves publicly admitting the technology isn't yet available to deliver the experience the creative team wanted (whether this is in reference to the VR content and/or suitability of the HTC Vive in a theme park environment is unclear), something I'm sure they would have expressed to Merlin but it was decided it did the job. This feeling of pressure also comes from when the attraction did eventually open, with it being just prior to the school summer holidays, an undoubtedly key period in any theme park's calendar and so understandable that a park would want its new major attraction open in time. Perhaps this is why we saw a shorter period of technical rehearsals than we may have expected, with Thorpe/Merlin taking the decision that it would rather have the attraction open for peak season (and could market it being so) than allow for a longer testing phase that may have identified some of the issues that surfaced once the attraction had been operating for longer.

I never expected the attraction to open in a perfect state with no downtime, Merlin were of course attempting something genuinely innovative which I won't criticise them for, but I would want to feel satisfied that it was opened in the knowledge that it was complete and wouldn't have any major or experience-ruining issues and for the reasons above I don't. There are of course worse examples of theme park operating companies in the world than Merlin, but there are arguably also those that are superior in terms of giving creative forces more control over their commercial counterparts.

Mainly comparisons are drawn with Disney and Universal because these are the companies opening state-of-the-art dark rides (as well as being the closest in terms of attendance), and perhaps therein lies the problem; these are parks which are open all year round, as well as appealing to a large and consistent international market, and so have a more fluid investment cycle as a result. When Merlin assign a theme park high capex for a particular year, this isn't something that can be changed in the late stages without having knock-on effects to the expenditure cycles of other Resort Theme Parks in the group, and so they're therefore committed to opening an attraction in the year that has always been planned. As we've recently seen with delay of Fast and Furious at Universal Studios Florida, these other companies can delay an attraction without there being too much fuss. Although it may have meant DBGT opening in a more impressive/consistent state, I can't imagine such a delay would go down as well in the UK market. Regardless of all this, you could make the argument that a comparison with these two companies is flawed from the beginning with Disney's attendance far great than Merlin's, with Merlin's then only exceeding Universal's because of its other sectors (primarily Midway Attractions), but that's not a discussion for here.

I come back to my point of these issues being understandable but not entirely excusable, in my opinion. While I enjoyed my experience of the attraction, to me it is currently tainted with the knowledge that it could be better.

Naturally we'll all have different opinions which allows for healthy discussion on a forum such as this, and I by no means want to force my pessimism in this case upon those who can currently look at DBGT in a more favourable light than others :P
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:44 pm

The hardware itself of the headsets are made by HTC, but I have no idea about the headphones. As far as visuals go, figment is definitely responsible for that. However, I'm not sure how much of the technical faults are due to the actual visuals or just the physical headsets themselves failing.
 
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 04, 2016 11:47 pm

Not to continue anything, however I found it funny how you used Fast & Furious - Supercharged as an example, considering I've not seen anyone overly happy with the development :lol

I think people need to learn that firstly, Merlin are far from a bad company - but they aren't amazing either. I'm personally quite content with all their major installations - however there are issues with Ghost Train which like I say, are disappointing however if we'd not known about these then no one would know the difference which is why I find some comments made slightly harsh. :)
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Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:19 am

I'm just glad that there at least trying to make it better. Even though all the effects weren't working on my 4 runs, I was very pleased. And whether the downtime is due to technical reasons, which is entirely not their fault, or they're trying to improve the ride, which is better than leaving it unfinished.

I think that the downtime is a mix of both, if the ride needs a week, give it 2 and try adding in the other effects. I don't know if this is how it works, but that's what Derren would've wanted.

I think that Merlin have been unlucky, we've all been a bit harsh on l them, but bow we've seen this complex attraction in action which is either good or bad depending on your opinion, we need to ease off. Let them do what they feel is right and see what happens.

Indeed for people who are eager to ride the Ghost Train my opinion is quite selfish, and it must be frustrating for them, however I believe that when they do eventually get to ride it, they won't be disappointed, and will see why the attraction is so unreliable.

I don't think I'll be riding much of the Ghost Train next year anyway, and trips to Thorpe will be cut down and no AT. I'm glad I was able to ride it this year, otherwise I'd likely be waiting until 2018.


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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:24 am

Owen wrote:
I think people need to learn that firstly, Merlin are far from a bad company - but they aren't amazing either.

This is something I have said in my last post. I'm not one for persistent Merlin bashing as for the most part I'm understanding and accepting of why their UK parks are operated in the way that they are, but I don't think it's a negative to demand better within what's reasonable to expect. I haven't just baselessly criticised DBGT or slated Merlin (the posts would certainly be much shorter if I had), instead I've outlined what I hope are rational reasons for my current discontent.

Owen wrote:
I'm personally quite content with all their major installations - however there are issues with Ghost Train which like I say, are disappointing however if we'd not known about these then no one would know the difference which is why I find some comments made slightly harsh. :)

But the point is that we do know about these features which aren't currently active because the park marketed them, so that is the context in which I've given my thoughts. If we'd been told not to expect them until 2017 it would be less underwhelming, but for whatever reason (either they were being consciously misleading or there was some sort of unpredictable technological failing late in the process, although I don't really see how that could happen with VR content) that has not been so. Although you can have a perfectly enjoyable experience with journeys missing, that is still a key part of the attraction that is yet to materialise. The variation of journeys play a key role in getting guests to 'question their perception' after the experience, and I'm inclined to believe there is more to differentiate the remaining journeys than just a different character speaking very similar dialogue - perhaps this is why they are taking longer, due to requiring the programming of different physical effects.

Anyway, I don't want to get hung up on speculation over specific features as my frustration comes from the culmination of several different things, but it does seem like some of Merlin's latest projects have just missed out on achieving their full potential. I do think that now more people are travelling to international parks, especially in Europe, their expectations are beginning to change as they realise there are better parks out there (which sometimes represent better value to visit than domestic Merlin parks) so perhaps we will see Merlin's attitude shift in the long term.
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Mon Sep 05, 2016 12:45 pm

Speaking of journeys, how many are active. I've had a different start on all my rides and people have said they've had different endings. There must be a decent amount in there already if that's the case?
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:03 pm

Lewis, I must agree. You make many valid points which I share with you!
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:23 pm

This recent post on Thorpe Park Mania lists a number of issues which only adds to my current disappointment with DBGT.
Martin.C wrote:
- Outdoor queue-line audio was silent with absolutely nothing coming through the speakers. Every few minutes, someone was tapping against a microphone which could be heard and that was about it.

- Besides the outdoor audio not working, the interior audio was muted too, both the corridor up the stairs between the pre-show room and the warehouse as well as the sound effects used inside the warehouse too.

- I had to change to a different headset 3 times in the first section of the VR experience on the first ride as the audio through the headphones was either not working or only one side was working.

- The half-way walk through section was a lot quieter than before with the audio levels turned down, plus, there was almost no smoke coming from the tunnel with the moving tube train.

- Worst part for me was when I boarded the carriage for the 2nd half of the VR experience, we all sat here motionless with nothing happening for approximately 3 minutes on both rides. It appears that Thorpe have decided in order to fix the green smoke scene where you were waiting for a few minutes, you instead wait here before the train begins to move and VR footage begins inside the carriage with no audio or visuals. As much as the green smoke scene kept you waiting, this new method is even worse as it kills the pace from the evacuation scene half-way through the attraction from earlier.

Despite wanting to be, it's hard to be rationally optimistic when there are already relatively simple things such as the audio appearing to be being neglected after the attraction has only been open for two months (and shut for 3 weeks of that). Of course some of the described problems may have only affected his run-through, but then the unreliability of some elements can't be a positive.

Although it's good to see them potentially tackling the criticisms of the filler section in the second VR portion, it hardly seems like what's described is an improvement or suitable long-term solution. Even just adding some variation into the sequence and perhaps using some of the on-board effects (e.g. vibrations, banging and leg-ticklers) would make it seem less repetitive and boring, although this would understandably take time to implement.

Owen wrote:
Speaking of journeys, how many are active. I've had a different start on all my rides and people have said they've had different endings. There must be a decent amount in there already if that's the case?

While I don't have a number for the journeys, I am aware that they are not all active. I've only read descriptions of three different characters, although there may be other variations to these which make up a few more of the twelve journeys. Only one ending is active, but I have seen reports of possible variations within this that may have meant some people thought both had been added.
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:45 pm

It should be noted that others on Thorpe Park Mania have also said the experience was very enjoyable.

This one is tricky as the experience is so personal it could differ dramatically from person to person, so really we can't base anything on opinions of others. It's a shame it's having issues, but that's like with any ride - the issue with this is that it's a different style of ride that's so much more personal for each person, and so if something goes wrong it can ruin the experience for one but have no effect on another - unlike The Smiler when in 2013, if it broke it broke for everyone :lol

It's a tricky one but hopefully the ride is sorted in due course - like said its only been open a little while, and I do have to think that maybe if Derren wasn't as involved it might have been far superior...
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:51 pm

Universal and Disney's rides plagued by technical issues, nobody bats an eye....

Thorpe Parks rides have technical issues, everybody loses their minds....
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:53 pm

:roll: Jack it's because Ghost Train has derailed them! ;)

In all seriousness it's true, however the audio not playing in the queue isn't really acceptable from my point of view. Although I'd rather not remember standing in that greenhouse of a queue anyway :lol
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 6:14 pm

Jack wrote:
Universal and Disney's rides plagued by technical issues, nobody bats an eye....

Thorpe Parks rides have technical issues, everybody loses their minds....

While I can understand where you're coming from, I'd be very surprised if similar criticisms weren't made of ongoing issues on Universal and Disney's attractions in their respective enthusiast communities.

Ultimately I'm giving my thoughts from the perspective that I have, which is one where Thorpe Park is among the parks that I visit most often and as such I want its attractions to be the best that they can. I don't deny that over time it may well improve, but I'm going to base my current thoughts on the attraction's present state which is hardly perfect. After all, closely following a project that was marketed as 'the future of theme park attractions' throughout its development is going to set some reasonably high expectations.
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 7:12 pm

And the ride really is stupidly complex in how it works, and due to the demand we all gave it to open, we are all really to blame in the project being rushed more than it should have been and its opening in a state that wasn't totally finished. To me it feels like the UK community is far too critical of delays and downtime. Disney have overrun by years on their projects and not received nearly the same criticism the UK parks receive should the delay only be weeks or months. I also must say that if audio is the only real issue with Ghost Train at this time, it is doing a lot better than the northern virtual reality experience.

I feel as if Ghost Train really is the future of theme park attractions (albeit limited to dark rides), using virtual reality with more traditional show and ride effects mixed with extensive theming works incredibly well, and I see this format becoming very popular and replacing simulators on the most part. :)
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 9:55 pm

Relating back to some of the issues I experienced today with Ghost Train on TPM, these to me are some of the most basic elements to the ride which are fundamental to the experience you get and if the park can't get something as simple as the audio working properly outside and inside the building, that concerns me greatly.

I'm not going to deny that this attraction is very complex and requires a fair amount of work and effort put into it to get it working, but considering we are just 9 weeks into it's operation (in addition to a 2 week shutdown period) and we are already seeing faulty headsets, delayed openings every day, breakdowns on a regular basis and an experience that can be either be fantastic or terrible depending on a working VR headset and the content it provides is not a great thing at all.

I want the attraction to do well, I really do as I too believe it has enormous potential. But in it's current state I just cannot see this attraction lasting for very long unless a major overhaul of the system is in the works, whether it be the VR footage improved, a scarier experience for guests or a more reliable ride that can open at 10am instead of the usual "we don't know when it will open today" response at the moment.

As for it being "the future for theme parks across the world", I certainly hope the current state of it does not stack up against that claim.
 
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sat Sep 10, 2016 10:45 pm

I did this twice on Friday and although the audio wasn't working outside, the audio wasn't on on a few rides around the park after park closed to the general public. The runs I had on Friday were near perfect. I had a small 20 second glitch with a headset that automatically sorted itself out. The volume on the headset does need to be turned up a tiny little bit, as I struggled to hear at times. I think the experience will vastly improve if they forked out for noise cancelling headphones as I do feel that hearing the other guests scream kind of ruins it. I have no issues with the actor lead area or the interaction with the guests on the actual train as they were really good (But I think that's partly down to knowing someone who is friends with the actors). I have noticed one improvement since I last rode it. The second VR segment which had a really long boring bit (Don't want to spoil it, but those who have ridden it will know) has got quite shorter. It doesn't feel as draggy as it did.

I'm sure that during the closed period they will do an awful lot of work on the ride, so hopefully next year we will see some quite good changes that will overall benefit the experience. But at the moment, I think its getting there, but there is still a way to go to have it 100% perfect.
 
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:20 am

lewis97 wrote:
This recent post on Thorpe Park Mania lists a number of issues which only adds to my current disappointment with DBGT.
Martin.C wrote:
Worst part for me was when I boarded the carriage for the 2nd half of the VR experience, we all sat here motionless with nothing happening for approximately 3 minutes on both rides. It appears that Thorpe have decided in order to fix the green smoke scene where you were waiting for a few minutes, you instead wait here before the train begins to move and VR footage begins inside the carriage with no audio or visuals. As much as the green smoke scene kept you waiting, this new method is even worse as it kills the pace from the evacuation scene half-way through the attraction from earlier.


This did not happen on Friday when I rode it, I'm guessing it was just a technical glitch.
 
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Re: Derren Brown's Ghost Train - New for 2016

Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:27 pm

I was pleasantly surprised by the Ghost Train today. New additions compared to my first 4 goes which were on the 17th July.

Firstly, just after the pre-show there was a train conductor shouting. Which surprised me.

Secondly within the train, the leg ticklers were working! They were quite mild leg ticklers when you compare it to sub terra.

Thirdly more actors, during the live action but, the story now directs you to interact with
Spoiler: show
The infected people, who now run towards you.


Apart from 2 glitches which fixed themselves in about 5 seconds. By far improved and hopefully there shall be more to come.

However, I did notice that the VR on the first section is very slightly out of sync with the movement of the train out of the hanging room.

I think on my last run I was unlucky. I managed to sit at 2 headsets with perfect visuals, but wrongly calibrated audio on the first section. And no audio on the second.

Despite this, I do hope that they will continue to make improvements like that have done here (at least to me), I hope they'll do at least something special for fright nights, and over the winter, iron out the problems.


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