No matter how many times I read press releases, two words get thrown around more often than any other in the attractions industry lately: immersive and revolutionary. Yet, usually a new attraction features “revolutionary” technology and often refers to some sort of special effect, ride system or even queue interactivity.
Whoop de do. While I love new attractions and technology as much as anyone else who loves this business, few projects are truly “revolutionary.” That one rare exception was a concept called Evermore we reported on here at Theme Park University last year.
In every possible way, Evermore was designed to throw traditional theme park design and thinking out the window and create something entirely different than any other park has ever seen, much less attempted. Instead of the traditional queueing for rides and shows, through wireless technology, guests would be paged via smart phone or other wireless devices to let them know their adventure was about to begin.
Each of Evermore’s experiences was to feature a small group that would live out individual adventures filled with live actors, special effects and even some rides along the way. This would be a theme park where every guest could feel special and unique. They would not feel like a herd of cattle and could create a true personal connection with the environment by becoming an active participant versus just a casual observer. Sound cool? Check out this video below which gave an overview of what Evermore was all about.
The industry needs to go this direction. It has to. However, no major theme park chain would ever change their model that works. It would take a nutty millionaire to pull this off who had enough guts to truly “revolutionize” and that man was Ken Bretschneider.
However, when I reported on the Evermore project last year, I did mention that the “cart was far beyond the horse,” considering they had already signed on make-up artists before they even started shoveling dirt for construction. There were a few red flags that made me wonder if this project would ever get off the ground and sadly, I was proven right.
It seems Evermore Park is, at least for now, dead. It seems the local community in Pleasant Grove, Utah where the Evermore land was purchased poo-pooed the idea of having a theme park in their backyard. While the team behind Evermore says they are still coming to Utah on their Facebook page, they are creating smaller stand-alone attractions to fill that void called: THE VOID.
No, I’m not kidding, THE VOID is seriously the name of their new venture that was just announced. It’s mostly a digital attraction that brings guests unique encounters…. via video screen. Ya know that moment in a movie where you see this big party scene and then something unexpected happens and the DJ scratches the record? All of the sudden party goers listening to Michael Jackson suddenly hear Barry Manilow instead? That’s what just happened with the switch Ken Bretschneider is deciding to take with this new project.
According to the Evermore Park’s Facebook Page, THE VOID was always going to be just one single attraction within the theme park, but until the entire park can be built, they will be constructing stand-alone VOID’s instead. Directly from their website: “At THE VOID, you will walk into new dimensions and experience worlds without limits. From fighting intergalactic wars on alien planets, to casting spells in the darkest of dungeons, THE VOID presents the Future of Entertainment. Only limited by imagination, our advanced Virtual-Reality technologies allow you to see, move, and feel our digital worlds in a completely immersive and realistic way.”
Let me put this into perspective for you. Evermore was to be a park set in a Victorian Village featuring attractions that took place aboard a pirate ship, in an enchanted forest and even in the catacombs beneath a church. Real actors, real physical sets, special effects and a true sense of adventure. The VOID creates a virtual environment through the use of high-tech helmets, vests and gloves to experience a game that you can play with your friends.
Sure, there will also be motion simulators to add in the mix and there will be various simulations which have yet to be fully announced. The video below will give a better idea of what THE VOID will hopefully be like, take a moment to watch this before I start grumbling.
Do you see the difference in the first video and the second? Let’s forget which one appealed to you more personally and take a step back and examine the situation. THE VOID, no matter how you theme it or create it, does not belong in a park with a Victorian theme. At all. Ever. I don’t care what you theme your virtual reality game to, if a guest has to put on a helmet, gloves and a vest, your sense of realism within that theme is lost.
To say I’m a little annoyed and dumbfounded as to how a park with such promise could have included such an attraction is an understatement. In addition, to create these standalone virtual entertainment centers seems like a huge mistake. If Bretschneider is truly developing this technology from scratch and has to build the infrastructure needed to build these virtual worlds, it ain’t cheap.
If you think that this will be the new laser tag, you’re sorely mistaken. The cost to put together a laser tag arena isn’t cheap but the price point can be reasonable for families. THE VOID will have less capacity than a laser tag arena, with more expensive price tag for the tech, meaning a much higher ticket price in order to gain entry to play these virtual reality games on steroids. It may be cool, but the average consumer won’t be able to play it much more than once, if at all.
I’m not the only one who’s disappointed. Jump over to the Evermore Facebook Page where you’ll see dozens of supporters just as upset, confused and dumbfounded as I am. What’s worse is that Bretschneider seems to want to defend his actions to everyone who posts a comment on that page, positive or negative. Here is a direct quote from the man himself in response to someone who was also not too thrilled with the idea of THE VOID after the promise of a physical park, here is his response:
“….I’m not going to try to convince you of anything as your mind appears clearly made up. Fortunately we do not share all of the same vision (BTW this is Ken and I started the dream of Evermore and invested several million to put it into motion). You are obviously a very intelligent young lady and I truly appreciate your drive. Your ideas are not all misplaced, but your experience in building such a large scale project (or projects) is, I’m assuming, limited purely based on age, but I could be wrong. So if you will give a moment to indulge me and hear me out, I will try to answer your questions the best I can….”
His answer is long-winded, goes on for several paragraphs and is irrelevant. Everyone who speaks poorly of Ken’s vision, whatever that may be at the moment, is put down in some small way. There are dozens of people telling him not to move forward and that this doesn’t seem like an attraction they would visit or bring their family to. They are, or were, a core audience of people who were on board with the project in Utah.
Because I know he will read this, I’ll speak to Ken directly here and not in a forum so I don’t have the chance to get talked down to. Here goes…
Dear Ken Bretschneider,
On behalf of someone who spoke of the plans for Evermore Park to dozens of people who are not only theme park fans, but those who work within this industry, I was one of your biggest supporters. Evermore Park, if it will ever come to life, could change the entire theme park industry by creating something truly outside the box. No one else has the guts to try creating a park without traditional queues, rides or attractions. Evermore was all based on a personal journey that each guest could take.
Everything about this project sounds crazy: no waiting in lines, a unique ticket structure and seasonal events where many attractions change entirely. True adventures where each guest no longer play a passive role from the comfort of a ride vehicle, but an active one where the actions they take affects the outcome of the experience. Real sets, real people and real adventure.
THE VOID uses video game technology that will, no matter how you jazz it up, create a virtual experience through the use of some cutting edge gadgets that you’re creating. If this belonged in Evermore, then it would have failed. It doesn’t jive with the rest of the vision you sold me and thousands of others on what the park could be. If THE VOID fails, the odds of an Evermore Park being built grow smaller.
I know you desperately want to create attractions to change the world like your idol Walt Disney you mention so often. Keep in mind, for every Walt there have been thousands who didn’t make it. My advice? Take a second and a step back to listen to what the public is saying. All of it: good, bad and indifferent. I understand you’ve invested millions and want to see some sort of return. It is in my honest opinion that you’re throwing your money down a bottomless pit with THE VOID that you will never see again.
Take a deep breath and reevaluate. I believe in Evermore and I believe it can change everything.
Best of luck,
Theme Park University
Make sure to follow Theme Park University on Twitter and like our Facebook Page! Doing any online shopping? Click on any Amazon link on this page and it helps us tremendously and costs you nothing extra!
Images Copyright: Evermore Park, THE VOID