Saturday, January 28, 2012
EpcotServo's Updates #2.47- Cardcaptor Sakura
-Weather was great, crowds were medium to low.
-OK, so here we go...Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Let me start by saying where I come from: I hate the Nextgen master plan of every person's vacation planned to the minute, and customized by silly screens and face capture. However I'm pretty much an expert and supporter of Alternate Reality Gaming in the parks, as I was one of the first in line wayback when to give the Kim Possible beta-test a try. I extremely enjoyed it, and immediately saw the potential. The idea of an attraction that you're in complete control of, and is hidden and integrated into the very park itself? It's pretty huge, and I think a good one. I'm a staunch supporter of giant, themed, traditional additions, but I totally love the use of new technology and screens to do cool stuff as well.
So as you can see, I'm kind of in the middle of a vortex stuck between two extremes. And I think SOTMK is too, in a way. But let's save ideals for the last few thoughts, and go through more literal things...I've seen some cards, heard all the reports, both shared in and rebuked some measure of complainy-ness online, but avoided all videos of the game. I think this is a wise move, watching a video of it and judging it on that isn't really an accurate or fair experience. It's corny, but when you're actually IN the Magic Kingdom it tends to make a bit of sense, location wise.
So the Beta-test/Load test version of the game is basically this: Your ticket is scanned, you get a keycard, 5 attack cards, and a map of portal locations. You're taken to a training window where the story is established, you practice holding up a card, and then sent to your first location. So the "Game Zones" are Adventureland, Frontier/Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Main Street. Each game zone has "missions", basically. Adventureland has a Mufasa/Lion King mission, and an Yzma/Kronk mission I hear. Frontierland/Liberty Square has Princess and the Frog/ Pocahontas. Now what's interesting though, is that Frontier/Liberty square share Princess and the Frog with Adventureland I think. So some stories are land-locked, and others aren't. I believe that right now Adventureland / Liberty / Frontier are sort of the "main system" and when the Main System is full, it starts sending players to Main Street and Fantasyland, which have only 1 mission story. (Main Street has 101 Dalmatians, I think Fantasyland has Sleeping Beauty.) Each land has 5 portals, which can each tell a Beginning, Attack, Middle, and Finale. You put your keycard up the keybox and it instantly knows what mission you were on, which window you should be at, and what part of the story is happening. (So if you go up to a wrong window, it shows you which window to visit regardless of weather it can take you or not.)
Technically, it all works just fine. One problem is of course unlike Kim Possible, there's no phone to send the players off on a red-herring quest until the player ahead has finished at the next location. So you WILL find yourself waiting on a few people ahead of you to finish up. Now this isn't a problem if there's enough interesting missions and attacks, because then it's entertaining. But with so few missions, you kind of have to look away to avoid spoilers. Which brings up to Valid Complaint/Praise 1- The idea is bigger than the practicality. It's a great germ of an idea, a card game integrated into a Theme Park. But there then needs to be a HUGE variety of missions, cards, and attacks to make it really perfect. And then, in turn, keep the number of players down and the visibility low, to make it feel secret and cool.
Next of all, story. Alot of fans argue that a portal in Adventureland opening up into the pridelands of Africa, wherein we fight Mufusa who has been allied with Hades, using spells cards based on Disney and Pixar movies, that we got from Merlin, is flat-out weird. And I agree. Where I disagree, is the connotation- You say that like it's a bad thing! I think it's hilariously awesome. We beat the crap out of Cruella Deville using the Queen of Hearts's cards and eeyore's storm cloud through a Magic Portal on Main Street, because the "lord of the Dead wants to take over the Magic Kingdom." -Their words, not mine. I think that's so surreal and hilarious, that I love it. (You can use more than one attack at the same time, which I suggest doing!)
Which gets to the heart of it, on your state of the Magic Kingdom. Could the money have gone elsewhere? Of course. But it didn't. That's just Magic Kingdom nowadays, so personally I don't see how this makes it any worse. The idea of the noise and bother ruining quiet thematic spots doesn't really work for me personally, other than another training area going in Liberty Square. Most of the actual portals are in out of the way spots, but nowhere there was seating or an area to relax. Most of them are just odd corners or uninteresting windows anyway. There isn't a single "quiet theme spot" in Kingdom I like that's been messed with. (We'll see about Center Street, most of it is walled off now. And personally the one portal furthest in Center Street isn't all the way back, and it was my favorite. Really well hidden.)
If there is a bone to pick with it- It's not what it is, but what it will become. It seems like a fun, harmless addition to Magic Kindom that was made cleverly, but was only given the funding and permission because it will be a springboard for interacting with wristbands and ticketless entry. THAT'S why they wanted it.. It's not like any of the Characters are there to sell merch. (I mean, Merlin? Ratcliffe? Hades? Characters aren't exactly the ones management WANTS to shove in the park.) It really seems like the game part of it is a great idea made a placeholder, something in the meantime for some Imagineers who like gaming to think up a way to use it.
Which leads to my biggest virtue/problem, the gaming! The numbers on the cards, make no sense now. There's classes, attack styles, and all this other stuff that looks like it's been thought up by somebody who's played a TCG or two. I guess it'll be introduced in the future, but they really need to do these things:
1. Figure out the gameplay mechanic.
2.Introduce PVP, player vs. player. Something to do with the cards outside the park.
3. Simplify the story. They're evil, we know that! Just say BOOM! I'm Simba and I'm here to kick your ass and restore the circle of life, and I'm done restoring the circle of life! Make it a Disney Battle Royale and it'll help speed the portal turnaround and make it more exciting.
So, in a nutshell it seems like I have problems with it...But really I don't. Why? Potential. I REALLY like some of the ideas, and the whole gameplay and story of it all. (I mean, when Hades shows Main Street in flames, with demons, it's hard NOT to see a glimpse of awesome in it.) They should really go with more of a Kingdom Hearts type theme. There's just so many places to go with this. And I'd happily collect the cards and get mission stats and everything. That cool blend of Trading Card Game, Alternate Reality Game, and Magic Kingdom has so much potential it's got me writing this huge thing for it. In short, it's a GREAT idea that's stuck in a vortex betweeen the evil intentions of the higher powers, and the good will and creativeness of WDI. (Who let's face it, are playing both sides of the fence. On one hand they get to spend scads of money on awesome traditional projects in Disneyland, and in Orlando get to play around with really weird experimental Theme Park craziness nobody ever's done before.)
In closing though, I must say it isn't worth dismissing out of hand. It's one thing to argue ideals on Twitter, and entirely different thing to see non-angular kids totally enjoy defeating bad guys in the Magic Kingdom. Sure you could slap the cards away from them and tell them this used to be a quiet, boring, window and that was better, but let's face it-Who looks stupider? I don't think the kid holding the card. So go, see it. Don't watch the videos, just go and do it. You might hate it, you might love it. I don't know. You figure it out. Because frankly, SOTMK is this confusing mess of awesome, problems, good ideals, and bad ideals, and I'm not sure what to stand on ideals-wise for this one. But I'll know I'll collect the cards.
-Epcot is still great.
OK, that's all for the words. BIG PICTURES...IT'S SHOWTIME!