Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Airsoft and laser tag at Escape Sonoma County


This past weekend I went to Escape in Rohnert Park to play airsoft. For those that don't know, airsoft is played like paintball, but the guns shoot plastic BBs instead of paint. The guns are generally realistic replicas of military firearms, as opposed to the funky looking paintball guns. A lot of the guns are such accurate replicas that accessories designed for the real guns fit the airsoft guns.

At Escape airsoft is only played on Sundays, and they use the same arena as QZAR laser tag. The arena is a close quarters battle (CQB) field, it consists of a bunch of little rooms with windows and doors, and random barrels everywhere (just like in video games!). In first-person shooter (FPS) terms the gametype in Team Deathmatch (TDM) without respawn. The rounds end up being pretty short, probably because the area is quite small (5000 sq ft). Overall it's a lot of fun, the people are friendly, and it's well worth the money.

If you bring your own equipment you can play pretty much constantly, if you are renting equipment you have to take turns sharing the equipment. It's much cheaper to play self-equipped, so if you like airsoft it is worth buying your own stuff. They impose a 350 feet-per-second max with 20g BBs.

There is a new airsoft and paintball arena opening in Santa Rosa called Playland. It's not open yet, but it is going to be huge, probably the largest indoor airsoft arena in the western US.

Laser Tag

Last month I played QZAR laser tag at Escape. The laser tag was really fun, and faster paced than airsoft. But the gameplay and scoring are, well, stupid. The gametype is a lot like Capture The Flag (CTF), there is an objective in each base that the opponents are supposed to shoot. But the scoring is more like TDM. You "respawn" about 10 seconds after dying. For the those 10 seconds you can't shoot, but for part of that time you can be shot... yeah.

The scoring goes like this, you get one (1) point for shooting someone, you lose one (1) point for being shot, you get ten (10) points for shooting the objective. The team score is the sum of the player scores. The reason I say the scoring is stupid is because 10 points isn't enough. In most objective gametypes the team wins or loses based on the objective, e.g., one point every time your team captures the flag, kills don't count for team points. As a player you attack or defend the objective at all costs to yourself. At only 10 points the objective is worthless, you will die 10 times in your attempt you get the objective. This is compounded by the fact that you are double penalized (you lose a point AND the other team gets a point), and that period of respawn where you can be shot but can't defend yourself guarantees you will die a lot.

What ends up happening is that the players that would normally score the highest, the ones that aggressively attack the enemy base, actually end up scoring the lowest because the die the most, and the objective can't make up for that. Ultimately if you want to score high you camp on defense. But that's not fun. It works in airsoft because airsoft takes more skill and tactics. You can't even accurately aim the laser tag guns because they don't have sights.

It's a lot of fun to play, but for a competitive person the scoring kind of spoils it. So fix the friggin' scoring, it's either CTF or TDM, not both, and remove the double penalty for dying.