Duel. Time to say goodbye?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Wilko, 4th Jun 2017.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Nemesis can run on 3 staff if really necessary. Sub Terra needs about 10!?

    Duel is spot on, needing just 3.

    Sent from my SM-G973F using Tapatalk
     
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  2. Skyscraper

    Skyscraper TowersStreet Member

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    How many general hosts and ops did Sub Terra require? The rest were actors, weren't they?
     
  3. Funcone

    Funcone TowersStreet Member

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    That’s a really good post Ben. You’ve articulated it very well. Looking at the root cause of this, I think there are several issues.

    Merlin as a company has been prone to short term thinking, often trying to satisfy the whims of short term investors over the long term viability of their attractions. Although this seems to hit the resort theme parks more than the Legoland theme parks. The numbers of staff is a good example, but there are others. Buying in intellectual properties helps to market an attraction in the short term, but when the IP expires it can significantly shorten the life span of a ride. Duty managers are discouraged from extending the closing time, which saves on staffing budget, but it leads to a loss of goodwill. The parks spend a lot on new rides (not so much for Chessington), but then it doesn’t spend the relatively small amounts on maintaining them. They do publicity stunts that aren’t just naff, but are completely dishonest. It gets them some free coverage in a national paper, but it erodes the public’s trust in the business.

    These rides that don’t last long because they’re either too staff intensive, use technology that’s hard to maintain, or have an IP that expires is a symptom of this short term thinking. Merlin parks have ended up in a downward spiral of cost cutting.

    I think operations can be over simplified, with some people still seeing it as button pressing. Merlin has deliberately de-skilled many of their operations roles at the parks, often by standardising things and making the critical decisions at head office. This allows them to drive down wages and makes staff disposable. By standardising everything it also makes it easier to run things past their legal team and avoid the worst excesses of incompetence at their parks. It does also mean that the staff at the parks are less knowledgeable about operations, while the staff at their head office are disconnected from what’s going on at the ground.

    Their assessment centres for operations management often don’t involve anything specific to the role. It’s all ‘games’ that are meant to test soft skills and leadership ability. There aren’t normally specific questions about things like safety, operational efficiency and customer service. A short while before Covid one of the Merlin theme parks picked a new operations manager. Activities at the assessment centre included playing What’s the Time Mr Wolf, playing rocks, paper and scissors, and having to dress up a team member who was blind folded. When your senior managers are picked because they’re good at playing What’s the Time Mr Wolf, it doesn’t necessarily give you operations experts. Merlin has degraded the operations roles in the parks to the point where they don’t take their own managers seriously. You make your ops managers a bunch of wallies so you can pay them less, and then you don’t bother to include them at the table when you’re planning new attractions.

    The phrase companies like Merlin use to justify this is, “hire for personality, train for skill”. This might work, to an extent, in a company with a strong training programme, but Merlin isn’t. If anything, the view is that training staff will give them leverage to push for a salary increase or make it easier for them to go off and work somewhere else.

    Oh dear, the whole things such a mess
     
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  4. James

    James TS Founding Member

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    It was typically:

    Entrance Host x 1
    Baggage Staff x 2
    Batching/Pre-show Hosts x 3
    Ride Area Hosts x 2
    Ride Operator x 1
    Actors x 2

    I went on Sub-Terra a few times with more staff than the above, with 4 in the pre-show and 3 or 4 in the ride area and 3 or 4 actors. For a filler ride that not all guests will go on, it required double or triple the staff required for the headline attractions. It was not a cost effective ride at all, and that's been a huge issue with Merlin's investments.

    It's fine if the costs are thought of and the parks are supported to run these attractions with full staffing numbers for eternity, however the parks tend to struggle beyond the first or second year and it's no longer viable to keep these attractions running.

    The rides either become SBNO or have staffing numbers cut, often to the detriment of the experience and/or throughput. Staffed baggage holds being another example on the newer coasters. Wicker Man at least has ample space in the station of a decent baggage hold system when the time comes. Hopefully more forward thinking gets applied with newer rides/attractions.
     
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  5. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    In terms of Duel and potential replacements, as the topic suggests; I suggested a trackless dark ride themed to a haunted house utilising modern technology earlier, which I still maintain is something I would really love to see a park try some day, but I was also thinking that if/when the time comes to replace Duel, something utilising Oceaneering’s Spider-Man-style ride system (there’s probably an official name somewhere, but I can’t think of it) might be good. I’d imagine that it’s come down in price significantly since Spider-Man was first built in 1999 (I believe that this is actually the ride system that Six Flags parks use for their Justice League rides, so I’d be surprised if it costs too much), and I do think it could work really well for a haunted house-style dark ride.

    Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg utilised this ride system, and seemed to have a very “haunted house” type vibe, so I think something similar could work very well as a potential Duel replacement when the time comes. Here’s a POV of DarKastle, to give some idea of what could be done:


    If I’m allowed to go off on a slightly off-topic tangent, I’ve got to admit that DarKastle is a ride that really intrigues me. Was anyone ever able to experience it, and if you were, did you think highly of the ride?
     
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  6. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I rode DarKastle. It was solid, but not as good as the likes of Spider Man. The cost of the technology is much higher, and a park like BGW struggled to do it justice due to the budget.

    The fireplace scene was great - unless you stacked...!
     
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  7. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Do you mean that the DarKastle technology cost more than Spider-Man, or more than the ETF trackless technology mentioned earlier in the thread?

    Out of interest, do you think that something similar to DarKastle could work well at Alton Towers?

    But thanks for your thoughts @AstroDan; really interesting to hear from someone who was able to experience the ride!

    Also, on an unrelated note, is it true that the Haunted House was originally split into separate, defined scenes? As I must admit that I didn’t get that feel from the ride when I rode it in September; it kind of felt more like a traditional ghost train, with lots of sporadic jump scares in various places, and periods of either darkness or nicely themed walls in between these scares. I admit this probably means that I should do far more research into the ride, but to tell you all the honest truth, I wouldn’t be able to differentiate the scenes from one another if I was to watch a POV.
     
  8. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    DarKastle used the same ride system as Spider Man. However, Busch Gardens clearly never had anywhere near the financial muscle of a Universal Studios park. So, the ride was therefore less seamless and well delivered. That isn't to say it was bad, but it would be remiss to say it was as good.

    A ride system like that at ATR would be a bit overblown - the budgets wouldn't really stretch far enough. It's rather like Arthur at EP. The ride system was very expensive, and is wonderful, but as a consequence the theming/effects aren't perhaps as amazing as we may have wanted.
     
  9. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    While I've repeatedly said for years the Spidermam ride system should be utilised by Merlin in the UK it's got to be relevant when we are also discussing Merlins inability to properly fund the ongoing upkeep of attractions that Darkastle was culled because the maimtainance and operating costs were too high. It's still a complex ride system and maybe not one that Merlin should be trusted with.

    Also, on the subject of staffing and ongoing operation costs, I still don't understand why baggage holds are built in to attractions? It's a high level of service as standard that goes against all the things Merlin usually stand for when it wouldn't be unreasonable to install a bunch of lucrative paid lockers.
     
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  10. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    It turns out that BGW was not the only regional theme park to utilise the hardware, however; I know that Tokyo Dome City and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi both have dark rides with this technology, and Six Flags’ Justice League rides utilise what looks to be pretty similar tech.
    EDIT: In Europe, I think Huntik at Rainbow MagicLand is also pretty similar, and that has operated seemingly problem-free for nearly 10 years now.
     
    Last edited: 28th Dec 2020
  11. jon81uk

    jon81uk TowersStreet Member

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    Instead of gaffing about with new largely untested VR technology, could the budget for Derren Brown have paid for a Spider-Man style ride?
     
  12. AT86

    AT86 TowersStreet Member

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    The thing with a ‘Spiderman’ style ride is that it’s not just buying the hardware ride system, you then need to design the effects and the interaction between the the transit system and those effects - and maintain it for however many years the ride exists for. I’m not sure if Merlin would be able to pull that off particularly well.

    With their Legoland dark rides, that seem to generally get good reviews, they have the benefit of being able to spend more on development because that investment can be used across all their parks around the world, take Ninjago or the Flying theatre, if you are going to get 10 attractions out of designing it, you can spend more money and make a better ride. The issue with Alton Towers or Thorpe Park is you are making it for one park only so the cost is more prohibitive.

    In terms of the Duel replacement, if they went down the route of a fantasy house / castle trackless ride system type of affair, it might be financially more palatable if they designed one for Alton Towers and also for a European park such as Gardaland, I know that often isn’t popular with some fans, but since most Towers guests aren’t ever going to visit Gardaland and vice versa, if it makes for a better ride, I’m all for it.
     
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  13. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    I don't know of any reliable information on the cost if the system, but seeing as 6 flags have purchased 8 I'm guessing it's certainly not prohibitively high a d would have been at least compatible for what has been pumped into DBGTROTD.
     
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  14. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Interestingly, it’s actually been said that one was considered for Thorpe Park in the mid to late 2000s...
     
  15. OilyWater

    OilyWater TowersStreet Member

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    Yeah it was scenes, it was never meant to be a bunch of random scares. It's much less clear now because it's been very unmaintained. A sequence playing out like that relies on a theatrical idea of timing, lighting etc, not just random things popping up. A lot of the scenery is either missing or hidden in darkness now.

    There wasn't meant to be a 'story' connecting the scenes. It was just about exploring from one strange room in the house to another, getting stranger as you went along. So it still had the appeal of a haunted house but bigger. Then you go outside and have the finale, which was originally about a third of the whole ride.
     
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  16. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Didn’t they change the finale when the ride became Duel? As nowadays, that’s where all of the zombies are?
     
  17. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Huntik is nowhere near as good as either Spiderman nor Darkastle.
     
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  18. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Even though it uses a similar ride system to Spider-Man/DarKastle, isn’t it also interactive like Duel is?
     
  19. DistortAMG

    DistortAMG TowersStreet Member

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    As with most if not all dark rides, the ride system provides a minimal thrill to the overall ride experience. The majority of the ride experience is made done through effects, theming and external things seperate from the ride system.

    I mean, a trackless dark ride would be pretty rubbish going through an empty building/ building with minimal theming.
     
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  20. Skyscraper

    Skyscraper TowersStreet Member

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    I find it interesting that it's previous incarnation (the Haunted House) lasted for just 10 years, but Duel has lasted for nearly 20. :eek:
    It really is overdue a refurb or upgrade. Wish they'd fix the Trommel too. :p
     

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