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The End Of Progress


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An article on the BBC this morning which is interesting in places about the technology of roller coasters


But insiders believe the thrill ride arms race is coming to an end because the costs are spiralling out of control.

Now, I'm sure the same thing was said when Vekoma cobbled together two inversions on a corkscrew, but could it be approaching the truth at long last? Where can the industry go when speed, height and inversions have already been pushed to such extremes? Will the future all be virtual? Will the current records last for all of time? Are there no other records or innovations worth chasing for the cost?

I don't believe it for a second!

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The thing is now is that we've kind of reached a peak in the way of height and speed boundaries that would be cost-effective to build and run on a consistent basis, so there is some truth there...

However, all it means is that the parks need to find other ways of building rides, and as Dr Malcolm says "life will always find a way"...

Some of the concepts being used for Disney Shanghai (specifically the Tron coaster, which NEEDS to happen) kinda show that there are various new and interesting methods available to use for parks, and that's the evolution we'll see next... Rather than the last decade's focus on tallest and fastest...

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When it comes to records, I think with some like the steepest, fastest, tallest, most inversions, etc., we're pretty much at the limit now. The thing is, with records like that, you need to strike up a balance between getting the record and making a ride comfortable and enjoyable. Would anyone really want to go on a 20 inversion roller coaster if you're stuck in a seat for 4 minutes, go up 3 lift hills and get put on a couple of breaks? Maybe, but it certainly isn't going to be as enjoyable as it sounds to people. Ditto with tallest and fastest - no one will want to go up a 500ft lift hill, and being rocketed to 160mph, say, to climb up 500ft vertically isn't efficient, and probably isn't worthwhile enough.

Cost will always be an issue, but there are big companies out there who can afford to spend large amounts of money on new advances. We won't see an end to to progress or anything, I'm sure. I would say we've currently see progress slow down a lot (when was the last truly innovative roller coaster built? I'd argue X in 2002(?)), and progress will stay low for a while, especially with current economic climates. However, things will pick up again, as technology advances. I'm sure that 40 years ago, types of coasters we have now would have been classed as pipe dreams...

For the time being, I expect we'll see current things developed and perfected. For example, B&M developed their own wingrider, and thus wildly improved on Intamin's version. If rumours are true, they are also looking at developing their own 4D type, and then will focus on perfecting that. There's probably loads of technical stuff going on behind the scenes too, making ride systems more efficient, cheaper and such. Perfection is the way forward at this time.

No doubt, we'll also see more developments to other aspects of coasters, like adding on gimmicks (LET'S MAKE RIDES GO BACKWARDS), special effects, theming and so forth. What better way to make something 'new' then adding on a cheap gimmick to something old? It's a short term solution, yes, but arguably that is what we'll be seeing for the near future.

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I don't see roller coasters as exercises in going for the length, height, ride duration or speed. I see them in the sense that for every park adding a roller coaster is progress for that park. If we see things as purely how many headlines they can make or records they can break, we start to lose the importance of what a ride is supposed to be.

In other words, roller coaster won't stagnate because we won't go higher or faster. Instead they will develop as thematic experiences. The differences can be small such as the blink and you miss it Stealth against the attempt at thematics and narratives of Swarm. I reckon story telling will be the route theme parks try to go down.. well in Europe at least.

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Some interesting comments there, and considering I am over 40, and some, I can relate to the comment "I'm sure that 40 years ago, types of coasters we have now would have been classed as pipe dreams...", what John Wardley refers to in his book, I.e.the progress he has been involved in, the aims of major groups, and what the future may produce.

I love the dodgems, and what I mean by that is they are a very old concept, and cheaper than "rides" but they always have a queue where they are available. The secret of the Theme Park is control of the guests. The dodgems are only under the control of the guest, and up to now, all the rides are not. Perhaps the future rides will become more interactive with the guests deciding, by majority, what the ride will do, either virtually or even in reality?

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