Holo-Dek Gets Players Into The Action
By Scott E. Kinney, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, November 18, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
8 Merrill Drive,
Fri-Sun, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
HAMPTON -- Running through a virtual, three-dimensional environment, armed with your weapon of choice, ready to smite the enemy. Driving a race car at 150 mph through a banked turn. Turning a negative-G dive from the cockpit of one of today's modern jet fighters.
To many video game aficionados, these are familiar scenes.
But now, project the game on a giant screen. Include a surround sound system that makes the game's sound leap at you from all directions.
Still not a real enough experience?
How about the addition of robotics that turns the game into a ride, translating every movement in the game into physical motion for the player.
For nearly a year, a local company has been working to make the video game experience more intense.
Located at its test site at 8 Merrill Industrial Drive, Holo-Dek is working to create a video game experience that is truly all encompassing. The company has been offering gamers an enhanced experience since it first opened its doors in January
"We're trying not to be just a LAN center or an internet café," said Torrey McPheters, the gaming centers self-proclaimed vice president of fun.
He said many gamers enjoy video games at home, but will come to Holo-Dek for the sense of community , to try out a new game or latest piece of computer hardware, or just to play on a screen that is bigger than average.
HoloDek offers 42 gaming stations with top of the line personal computers all linked to the companies high-speed T1 internet connection. The games are displayed on screens ranging in size from 17 inches to 13 feet. All stations are equipped with headphones and microphones, which can allow gamers to speak to players in another part of the building or across the world.
"A lot of what we're doing is tinkering with how we can make their (the gamer's) experience bigger, better, faster," said McPheters.
That tinkering is indicative of Holo-Dek's parent company, Parallel Robotics Systems Corporation and can be noticed throughout the several rooms of the company's offices.
In a separate room known as the "small suite" visitors can play games or watch movies on a giant 13-foot screen complete with 7.1 surround sound.
HoloDek's backroom, however, is where the real tinkering takes place.
In what is basically a big garage, two giant, white structures stand. The "Halfpipe" is a huge wrap around screen 12 feet high and 20 feet wide creating a roughly 120 degree field of view for the player. The other is the "Sphere", a huge 20 foot in diameter screen that will soon offer a 360 degree gaming experience. Housed within the giant dome is a cockpit driven by a robot.
As an example McPheters said a gamer playing a NASCAR style racing simulation would experience the effects of driving on a banked turn, the rumble of driving through dirt and grass or the neck-snapping experience of being in a spin-out.
The Sphere will function through the use of 12 to 15 projectors and acoustics designed to bring all sound directly to the operator.
"We're looking at ways to create total immersion," he said.
McPheters pointed to movie theaters, which use surround sound, large screens and almost total darkness in order to draw the viewer into the on-screen action.
The company hopes to launch several hundred gaming facilities throughout the country over the next 4-5 years. Those facilities would be home to a number of halfpipes, at least one sphere, a restaurant and bar plus retail space.
The gaming center certainly has its share of regulars. McPheters said the majority of Holo-Dek's clientele are males, age 15-25, but there are several older patrons as well as those of the opposite sex. McPheters offered that one regular who is in his 60's frequents Holo-Dek at least one night a week.
Andy Paquette is among the majority when it comes to gamers at Holo-Dek. The 19-year-old said he can be found there from Friday to Sunday and usually two other days during the week.
Paquette said prior to his frequent visits to Holo-Dek he played games at home. Because of the business's superior computer equipment and sense of community that keeps him coming back.
"It's not just going there to play games," said Paquette. "It's going to spend time with friends."