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Bridge Simulator Arcade/Amusement

posted Mar 20, 2013 00:34:49 by ErikBergman
I am pretty interested in starting a bridge simulation setup as a business. I'd like to be semi-offical at least, but haven't gotten a reply to my email about the subject. Any thoughts on the legality of setting this up or way to get some more attention from the dev? I know there a places that rent time on video game consoles and computers to play specific games, so not sure what issues there would be, if any. Would want to set it up as a full simulation, with a self contained bridge, maybe some SFX run by someone back stage or modded to automatically occur. Been doing some pricing on retail space and think it could be workable in a 900sqft-1500sqft retail space with rent of $15 per sqft or less and charge about $50 an hour per person. Have some rough plans, ideas to implement and some start-up capitol. Would probably need a business loan, but have some people that could co-sign for that. Anyway, any constructive thoughts would be welcome.
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21 replies
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Captain said Mar 20, 2013 00:45:44
Well your charge of $50 per hour is where you are going wrong and I think the overall failure of the concept. At that much I could by the game and have $10 left over. If this was a massive game and the cost was higher and it required some really powerful computers to run that cost thousands of dollars I could see the business working out. But with the game requirements, the fact you can play online, the cost, and the community being small I can see no real work-ability for the plan. Sorry to destroy that but that's my opinion. The only thing you would have going is if you set it up with cool effects special lights nice bridge design. Some great software. And of course ability to find others to play. But besides that I can't see why people wouldn't just buy the game. You would have to create a unique experience for it to work and I don't think Artemis is a game that would fork for that.

You could alternately design an amazing bridge and rent it out. That idea is already being worked on with the mobile bridge bu that's the only way I see it being feasible.
To Mankind
And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all

Isaac Asimov
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Jim Johnson said Mar 20, 2013 03:25:17
I agree - build out a trailer with a really awesome bridge setup, and rent it out. No need to pay rent on a store, you don't have to pay utilities, and you can set your hours. The only hurdle would be developing a market. Maybe some of these party places that rent rides and stuff can offer your services to their clients for a commission.
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ErikBergman said Mar 20, 2013 04:09:03
Fair points, but I'm basing the potential demand based on another similar business that does flying simulators. They are pretty constantly booked up. I'd be based in a pretty nerd heavy and affluent area (Seattle area). The attraction would not just be the game. Anyway, some constructive points, but if we could consider them covered and move on to other aspects of the topic I would appreciate it.
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SigbiornSigmundarson said Mar 20, 2013 06:00:47
If I were to pay $50 an hour or even $25 I would expect a whole lot more graphically and interactivity than what Artemis can provide. Have a look at what they are doing with newstarship.com. They plan to rebuild and refurbish the Enterprise D set and create an interactive bridge simulator there. That might be an experience I'd pay $50 for.
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ErikBergman said Mar 20, 2013 07:54:35
"Any thoughts on the legality of setting this up or way to get some more attention from the dev? I know there a places that rent time on video game consoles and computers to play specific games, so not sure what issues there would be, if any?"
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Captain said Mar 20, 2013 20:43:44
Issue is cost for an hour is more expensive than game. Make it cheaper. To be successful creates a place with a server so you can fly 6 ships at once without serious lag. As for the legality it really is up to the developer because they own the game (I think) But I don't know for sure though.
To Mankind
And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all

Isaac Asimov
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Charlie said Mar 20, 2013 22:03:53
I am gearing up for a game club environment. I hope to get $25 a mo for 3 hours each week. Each member can bring up to 8 guests. Or $15 to rent the room for 3 hours with up to 8 guests. I plan to have other gaming available also. I'm considering what money can be made from merchandise (capt hats, T shirts & things) or a soda machine.
I have a long way to go before I can consider this but presently I've got my main consoles functional and I plan to rent my bridge unit out for parties. For parties I'm considering $75 for 3 hours and $100 for 5 hours(plus mileage of course). Also I would like to video events that for an additional dollar amount I will edit and mail the guests a copy of their own Artemis experience.
I know my price point is low but I plan to start about this level and increase prices as I improve my setup and as demand increases.
Good luck with everything!

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Eric said Mar 20, 2013 23:34:05
There was a guy a couple of years ago who wanted to do this and got Thom's blessing to do so. I believe Thom gave him posters and such to put up. I'm no expert, but I got the feeling that it was legal to do so, but much cooler and nicer to have Thom's go ahead. If I recall, that business never got off the ground. You can still probably find it in the hardware or off topic section.
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TreChipman said Mar 21, 2013 02:32:39
Yes, I believe Thom is on record saying that he doesn't have a problem with you running the game for profit in a LBE, provided you acknowledge the game's source (a.k.a. Thom) and the fact that it's available for purchase online.
I'm not a mad scientist. I'm an angry one. You'd be wise to fear the latter.

Visit Artemis Command!
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EdwardCope said Mar 21, 2013 12:54:10
I would think the "already engaged" demographic for taking part in a Starship Bridge Simulator is so narrow, especially in comparison to a flight simulator that it seems like a risky proposition. You would REALLY have to work at attracting casual customers. A general flight simulator is an easier proposition for the general public, and from my experience, most casual customers of things like that receive it as a present.

Also, you would need to ensure that you provide a different offering to what people can play at home with friends. Product differentiation. I would assume your product would be the "High End" product. You could offer things like:
- A really cool lighting
- Great sound
- Bridge seats
- projector and large touch screens
- Recording of the games that people could take home

Placement of the store should be near other stores frequented by "already engaged" potential customers. Like sci-fi, bookstores, gaming stores, etc, and maybe have some sort of club which reduces the cost for club members, with this sort of set-up. You could work cross promotions with geeky stores in your area, make up 10% saving coupon that goes on the counters of those stores if they sign up for a membership. Also, any time your business is open and people aren't using the equipment is lost money. $50USB seems steep to me, it needs to be priced right, don't know how to measure that exactly.

It would actually be cool if you could have a mobile setup and take it to conventions and charge there.

My 2 cents.
[Last edited Mar 21, 2013 12:58:14]
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Captain said Mar 21, 2013 22:04:44
Another 2 cents by me.

If you really want to attract customers you need a product. Right now people can buy the game. But if you design a series of missions, Scoring systems, Campaigns, interactive events outside the game, etc. You create the environment. If you had a scoreboard that listed the best ships it would encourage me and others to join and compete for the top spots. Also have people that can fill spots. That way if you don't have enough players you can higher a couple on to the ship for a round or two. That way those without full crews can play in an environment with a full crew. Also attempt to get events going. Example battlegroup going for a fight. Multiple ships competing together on a map for most points. That way you can pit your crews against each other.
To Mankind
And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all

Isaac Asimov
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Jim Johnson said Mar 22, 2013 03:35:12
Perhaps the highest scoring ship would be the Admiral's flagship, and would command the rest of the fleet in the multi-ship cooperative action. One of the biggest selling points of a business like this is the ability to have several ships fighting with (or against) each other.
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MichaelMesich said Mar 22, 2013 04:19:26
This is all pretty well covered in the LBE section. :)

As long as you're licensed, Thom has given his blessing for people to try and make money utilizing Artemis.

For me, I'm at a $5/hour per player with a strong recommendation for two-hour sessions so that players can play two or three stations.

I'm also taking my rig to conventions now. The question is whether to charge the player or see if the venue will pay to provide it to attendees for free. That'll differ, but combined with maybe selling some T-shirts or other merch, I'm hoping it's viable.

I'm also looking into having companies pay to bring the rig in for team-building exercises or just plain old entertainment. I'll report back if I land one of those.

But please, come on over to the LBE section and we'll talk all about it!
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TreChipman said Mar 22, 2013 05:26:41
Some notes I had on the subject from this topic, about a year ago:


I've got a few ideas (in no particular order):

Personally, I think a 2.5 hour play window is way too much time to ask for someone walking in from off the street to commit to. At least give the option of a one hour session.

QUICKLY come up with a system to randomize who does what; I recommend 3x5 index cards with a bridge station on them, shuffled out and handed to the crew; alternatively, you can do this on tablets (see below). They're welcome to trade them among themselves, but once the door to the bridge opens, that's what they're doing.

Give a discount for new users who will need to run through a tutorial; if you do it right, they won't be on the bridge for the tutorial anyway, and that lets you stagger Crews more effectively.

I sorta think that charging by the game, rather than the person, will make for a more attractive gaming experience-- knowing it's the same price if you have 3 players or a full 6 makes a more compelling argument for bringing a full crew to the game, and, IMHO, a full crew amounts to a better overall game. At the very least, comp the 6th player if they can get together a full crew. This also gives you an opportunity to bring in random customer passing by-- “Hey, you, if you're not doing anything for an hour, we're playing a game and we've got a slot open if you'd like to join in.” It also makes it easier for people to man stations that have been traditionally less interesting-- let's face it, if I pay the same amount as everyone else to play communications for an hour, I'm going to feel pretty ripped off, but if I'm playing communications for free (or half price or whatever I've negotiated with the 5 people who talked me into the game), I'm going to be a lot more willing to give it a shot.

Try to build some relationships with local caterers; a LBE would be a natural destination for birthday parties, team building exercises, super geeky bachelor parties, super hot bachelorette parties, etc. so having a place where crews can save the galaxy and eat chicken wings/birthday cake/whatever during the debrief afterward is probably worth a little extra.

I wouldn't discount the value of a group of casual friends becoming a regular event-- in fact, I think these are the customers you'd need to cultivate. Paintball establishments aren't in business for the guys like me who have been maybe two or three times; they're for the guys who have their own gear and have every situation accounted for with practiced precision. The trick is, I think, to make sure the former doesn't run up against the latter right out of the gate, or you'll have a bunch of dejected first-timers who won't come back.

Brief/Debrief your players somewhere other than the bridge, so that your primary moneymaker (the bridge) is in use by as many people as possible as often as possible.

In my Ideal Environment(tm), a LBE would hand out tablets running in kiosk mode tagged to the station of the player giving a video tutorial on the basics of the station, with links to a FAQ or Wiki for follow up questions. Yes, obviously, this is a tough expense for an LBE owner to swallow--a 22 inch touch-screen capable station can be built for less than half the price of a an iPad, but you could probably put them on Kindle Fires fairly cheaply, and I expect tablet prices will drop competitively once Windows 8 hits the market.

Yes, tablets are a bit expensive, but in favor of them because 1) it frees up/reduces employees from walking new crews through a tutorial while giving each station face time, 2) done right, it can help in immersion, and 3) it potentially gives you an interface for users to enter personal/customized info.

Quick sidebar: Why would John Doe enter in this information? Well, the idea here would be to drive the player to create an account/log into his or her account and create a player persona they can identify with or become emotionally invested in. Logging in could give you a list of past achievements/wins/station assignments, etc. You could even tie in a badge system for bragging rights. I'm no fan of grabbing people's email addresses to spam them (which would not be the point of this anyway), but it's hard to argue with the value of knowing your clients.

Debriefing can probably be handled by a clever parsing of the log file similar to the way the Battletech stations used to do-- each player gets a printed out sheet detailing the battle, what happened, and the outcome; individual stations can be highlighted if your log-fu is strong enough (That'll require building your own instance of missions, or at least editing the existing ones, but that's probably a good idea for a lot of reasons). And, whatever you're using to parse the log file can (if cleverly written) automatically update user data, too (I'd suggest Perl with a DBI interface).

Likewise, this sort of parsing allows you to store information on current players; you could award badges or whatnot based on their performance, and they'll come back either to improve or to retain bragging rights.

Anyway, back to my original point, Crew B would come in, pay up (get the money first, or at least a CC#!) are handed tablets, sign in/create accounts/whatever, watch their tutorials while the bridge is engaged with Crew A finishing up their session. When Crew B is done with the tutorial, Crew A will be heading off bridge for their debriefing; timed right, having the briefing/debriefing out of the bridge could free it up for an extra half hour or so every event cycle-- that works out to another bridge session every 6-8 hours. Not huge, but it's not nothing, either.

The LBE location should have a sense of community; to this end, should feature incidental events that happen before or after a game that get people to hang out a little longer. Having a Star Trek trivia night where the winning team gets a complementary session, for example, might be a good way to draw in repeat customers (especially if you offer a lewt bounty on the bridge crew that can beat the trivia contest winners in a PVP session).

Speaking of which, equipment is, of course, a big issue, but if you're not on the move, that simplifies things somewhat-- portability is costly, especially if you're looking at laptops. Refurbished desktop equipment can really be your friend; scuffs and marring on cases won't matter because your computers should only exist in the output; if someone sees your computer, you've already broken immersion-- a scratch on the paint won't make a difference at that point.

And while we're on the subject, let's not kid ourselves: Immersion is the key here. Players need to feel like they're on a starship the second they step on the bridge (or earlier, if possible). Unless you've established that Dell or Logitech is building bridge interfaces in the future, sand those logos off and/or paint over them! Background screens/screen savers need to be appropriate to the environment , too. Hydraulic jacks and whatnot are probably out of the question for a number of reasons (insurance being one of them) but there's already been a lot of discussion about tying in lighting systems and so forth-- a couple fog generators tied to a spark box connected to an appropriately programmed Arduino unit can probably go a long way.

Speaking of Arduinos, I've been throwing a lot of thought lately about tying them to IR sensors that can detect lightgun emissions; I think it's possible that you could build an environment where “away teams” (i.e. LBE lightgun people) are able to trigger in-game events via the GM console (I'm working on ways to automate this; it involves a complicated system of multilingual computer gymnastics), so you could have scenarios like “Well, the Away Team was able to destroy the Kralien artifact, so now we can stop the thing that's threatening to destroy the universe.” I understand that's probably a little TOO immersive for most people, and probably doesn't require the infrastructure I'm assigning to it (It could just as easily be bored employee sees Team A won the skirmish, and hits a key on the GM screen), but personally, I'd play that game in an instant. And daily, given the chance.

Larger things, like campaigns, could be created as well-- you'd have to make player instances of the various enemy ships, but it builds something akin to Artemis bowling leagues-- crews competing against one another to try and achieve a particular goal. Call it the Terran-Argonian War or something, get 3-6 crews on each side, track wins/losses, and after 3 months, declare a victor. The presence of a clear goal will help inspire them to come back on a regular basis.

Oh! Shipbuilding! You could modify the .dat and .ini files for a given crew so they have better weapons, shields, or whathaveyou based on past performance, or you could unlock new ship hulls and abilities (Looking at you, jump drive) as they progress (or pay). Tie the .bat file to the crew file, run it when they show up, and call it a day.

Just a few thoughts off the top of my head.
I'm not a mad scientist. I'm an angry one. You'd be wise to fear the latter.

Visit Artemis Command!
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ErikBergman said Mar 23, 2013 04:04:51
@EdwardCope, I was thinking all those things. Definitly need to be touch screens. Thanks everyone for getting away from just the cost I mentioned initially. This is not something I would try to set up in Denver or somewhere like that. I am Definitly targeting a spacific demographic, which would be well paid nerds, such as the Seattle area software developers, as well as promotion through inviting the Penny Arcade guys (who are local and love this game). A full on experience is the goal. Movie quality set with lighting, effects, touch screens, recording the experience. Under ideal conditions a bar/restaurant refers to as an officers club (probably down the road) and a gift shop (more likely initial). Might add smoke machine of some kinda but that would be subject to various codes. Have a premission orientation first. Probably a birthday/party room. I think the popularity of Star Trek and Battlestar would help push this a bit more mainstream. I am thinking that if I have more than one simulator, there would be different styles. One more next gen, one more military style, and one more TOS.those are long term ideas, but initial one would offer the same high quality experience. Oh, and the projector would be rear projection to help the immersion.
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