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Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaurant

Chris Brown

Mr CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

I went on a sunny Saturday in September and the queue board was consistently 50 mins whilst every other ride was max 15 including smiler. The galactica queue was around the area where you split sides and was approximately 25 minutes from this location. We had numerous headsets out across multiple rows so these were being batched so there were empty seats regardless of whether people wanted VR or not. I asked to use an empty seat and was told no even though I said I wasn't bothered about VR. I can't really remember how bad air was before so I can't make a comparison personally
 

Smithy

Well-Known Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

It's been a while and I've never been a regular visitor but I swear Air always used to have some of the longer queues anyway? Definitely had more than any other major coaster bar Smiler
 

GuyWithAStick

Captain Basic
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

Same situation here with Superman at GAm. It always has longer queues than the other rides(bar Goliath and JL). I think it's just the fact that Flyer trains take longer to load due to the bulkiness of them. Putting VR on it doesn't help at all. I wouldn't be surprised at Joeys 20 minute figure.

Sent from my VS820 using Tapatalk
 

Robbie

Active Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

Smithy said:
It's been a while and I've never been a regular visitor but I swear Air always used to have some of the longer queues anyway? Definitely had more than any other major coaster bar Smiler
Yeah, it did. And often had minor breakdowns which I assume were to do with the seating mechanism as I've been left waiting to pull into the station several times.
 

rob666

Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

In reply to Mouse above...
I was lukewarm on Air...not worth a long queue.
I have only been on Galactica three times in total, twice with headset on, once as "Air".
The queue overall seems about twice as slow it was with Air.
I went to the Towers last Thursday on a very quiet day...
had to wait in the station, as the only punter, for the Smiler, about a five minute wait for the minimum(8).
I had a two minute wait for Oblivion, as again I was the only person in the station.
The queue for Galactica...half an hour.
As I had time on my hands I joined the queue, but after a full ten minutes, I had seen only one train go round, so exited the queue via the fasttrack lane.
I wasn't the only one who gave up, two couples in front of me in the queue quit before me.
Not worth queueing for more than ten minutes, and if it is on a single station, forget it.
Bring back Air, not that it was a great ride, but passable as long as the queue isn't too long.
 

JoshC.

Active Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

mouse said:
Seems like the people who like it claim the throughput is okay and those who don't like it claim it's terrible. Does anyone with a more neutral opinion of the ride have an account of the throughput?
I haven't actually been on it so can't give an account of it, but from a more theoretical perspective...

From what I remember of Air, sending a train every 2 minutes or so seemed a pretty reasonable target, and there was 2 staff per station checking restraints? So let's go with that. Allowing 30-40 seconds for general guest faff with bags, getting in their seats and restraints on, and for staff to press their dispatch buttons, that gave staff 5-6 seconds contact time with guests (to check restraints, make sure they're okay, etc.). Pretty reasonable and achievable, especially since that's probably a bit of an underestimate.

With Galactica, they've got to take into account all the same stuff as Air, but also cleaning and general VR faff. Each headset probably takes a couple of seconds to wipe down (note I say wipe down, not clean), so say you allow 10-15 seconds for cleaning, and then 40-50 seconds for general guest faff and getting their headsets on as well. That's allowing staff 10-15 seconds of contact time with the guests. From what I've heard, many people seem to have trouble with the headsets, be that getting them securely, or getting them calibrated properly. So many people will need longer than 10-15 seconds of help. Of course, there will be occasions where the train is full of people who don't need that help, so dispatch times won't be affected. But on the whole, there's a good chance it won't happen.

tl;dr - More often than not, Galactica will dispatch trains less frequently than Air did. So, on the whole, the throughput will be worse.


This will be the issue with most VR coasters, especially thrill ones where people will be so concerned about this big heavy thing strapped to their head flying off, or potentially getting motion sickness. It's not a concern for something like DBGT, since there's no risk of headsets flying off, and the headsets used calibrate a lot better than phones.
 

bob_3_

Active Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

Well if you guys want to know impact on throughput due to VR, seeing as I operate the thing may I highlight some numbers.

Air without VR can easily hit over 1000rph

Galactica is now usually around 750rph. So is has had an impact, but most of the time it actually has a throughput which exceeds The Smiler (that was the aim).
 

Joey

Well-Known Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

Ben said:
Yeah but the solution to the time added is shove on ride ops.

There was never a ride op per row on Air, that's your solution.
Been discussing this with Peep today. It seems like a viable solution, and it's certainly better than nothing, but in reality staff cannot be consistent 100% of the time.

Like, for example, at SFMM some rides had batching staff and others did not when I went. We were a group of 6 and on two separate occasions were split into 2 groups of 3 on 4 accross coasters by batchers. That's no better than not having a batcher.

Also, thanks Bob for the evidence.
 

nealbie

Well-Known Member
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

mouse said:
Seems like the people who like it claim the throughput is okay and those who don't like it claim it's terrible. Does anyone with a more neutral opinion of the ride have an account of the throughput?
I think it's fab but the throughput was atrocious. Will and I worked out it was between 550-600pph, which is appalling. Ben is right though and by changing procedures they can make it better, although it will be difficult to make it as good or better than before it's not impossible. The difference between a good team of ride ops and a bad one is astronomical.
 

furie

SBOPD
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Re: Alton Towers' Galactica VR coaster/Rollercoaster Restaur

Okay, I can weigh in on both of these now.

First up, the divisive Galactica.

I enjoyed it. The two 11 year olds and SSIL_Furie (30-something) also enjoyed it.

I'll caveat that a little. We enjoyed it under the circumstances we were in :)

I fundamentally agree with Joey. There are a lot of faults.

However, Air for me was always a display of missed opportunities. It was a mix of two Tussauds' eras. The one where they wanted to break new ground in the industry and pull the UK Theme Park industry up to international standards and the one where they just wanted to sell out. I think Air started development in the former and was built during the latter (look at 2004 and 2005 additions to see how it went from then on).

So the entire ride was promise, but delivered something that was fundamentally flawed. There's little Alton can do about a poor layout, or swoops over the car park. It can't make it a decent length. It could have perhaps tarted up the tunnel and lift hill and the end brake run - the main parts that the VR really helps with and where you spend most of the ride.

And that for me is key. Air is a mediocre experience (yes, it's nice for people who want a gentle introduction to bigger rides, etc.), but still mediocre at best. Part of that experience is the horrid concreteness of it all. Concrete everywhere. It's grey and depressing. It always has been. Most of the ride you are looking at concrete - or the bottom of somebody's shoes. It's ****.

So, VR definitely improves all of that. You now have something else to distract you. I found it made the top and tail of the ride much better and you barely noticed it. So that's the big positive for me.

In terms of all the gubbins.

Through put is definitely hit, but not anywhere near as badly as I thought. I watched closely (and despite generally avoiding Air, I've always been intrigued by their operations).

As the riders are getting off, the crew walks behind them wiping the headsets. So each row is finished before the ex-riders are off the station platform. They then start batching really quickly. Before there was a much bigger pause between people leaving the area and getting riders on, now it seemed to be as soon as the baggage areas were free of milling people. The staff were really on the ball maximising things and reducing faff. Getting people's headsets on while other members in the group dropped bags or stood looking confused (as some people always seem to do when presented with a coaster seat). Headsets were put on and checked as the staff checked restraints and the control lights on the trains. It added time, but it was minimal. I think that there was different staff running the final checks too, rather than it being the restraint checkers - maybe Bob can confirm.

In all though, the time added was minimal and Ben is right, the trains didn't stack. If the trains don't stack, you've got optimum throughput in dispatch. Maybe they spent an extra 30 seconds on the brake run than usual, but I've certainly had longer waits on that brake run. Or maybe I was there for ages, but with VR I was so detached that I didn't notice it was minutes? I don't think so though.

So I found the dispatch times to be good. The team were very efficient.

I was using disabled access though, so skipped the queue. I suspect my view if waiting an hour may have been different, but see later ;)

The VR experience itself I liked for the reasons I stated above. It added a distraction to the slow crawl out of the station, the tedious lift hill and the nasty spit-covered floor at the end. Was it great VR? No, but it was adequate.

The initial "launch" was ruined by the way the VR playthrough didn't quite match the motion of the trains. Massively dropped the ball on the design element there. That stuck out like a sore thumb both times I rode it. The second time I could force some justification through suspension of disbelief, but it was forced and the first time it did break the VR spell.

The main ride video and experience I found to be "fine". Somebody somewhere (I think it was Joey) said that it takes a coaster and makes it more like "Soarin'", when all that those rides have ever tried to do is imitate a coaster. I agree here, but... There were moments where the more extreme forces and body position worked well with the interactive landscape you were flying through. It was a bit underwhelming in places (the ice planet for instance), but the earlier stages I thought worked well. It's an odd one for me. I have much derided Space Mountain at DLRP for the use of inversions in the dark where you can't tell you're inverted. This suffered less because the VR matched that, so I think it IS kind of that Soarin' experience, but at the same time it adds more. It's a weird one. I agree, but don't care at the same time :)

I just found that overall, it was an improved experience. The same as Air, I would only queue for it if I was in a group. Unlike Air, I would happily queue skip for this. I found Air had become such a bland experience, I'd rather sit it out. Galactica has just enough to interest me now to make it worth riding again. I'm not saying it's good, or a good idea or anything, but it IS an improved experience of a ride that was always never as good as it should have been.

Okay so Galactica out of the way - Rollercoaster Restaurant.

If you've ever been to one of these, you know what to expect. Typical theme park food (i.e. almost, but not quite Wetherspoons quality, only smaller portions and twice the expense) delivered "amusingly". I think the interactive delivery is quite fun and the others with me really enjoyed it.

We got Kids' desserts for £2 each, and they were really good value. Big portions actually.

They do an annual pass discount too of 20% which brought it down to £15 per head, which I don't think is a bad price for a sit down meal at a theme park - when you include drinks and dessert.

The biggest issue for me was the queue length. It was out of the door and they estimated an hour and quarter to get to people further back. When we got in however, there were several "pods" of four seats empty. In fact, we had 8 seats around us empty all the time were were there (over an hour). Yet, the queue outside never diminished.

I don't know if they had some kind of capacity issue due to staffing, but they certainly weren't overly stretched. In fact, considering that the ordering is done yourself on a tablet, the team on the floor have very little to do. I can imagine somebody who has worked in a busy restaurant being flabbergasted by so many floor staff to serve so few tables - especially when they don;t actually have to do any order taking or delivery. I think it's 14 tables of 16 (most with just 8 people on them) and I counted 6 floor staff I think. I don't know how that compares to normal operations in a restaurant?

I liked the internal decor in the place and the references to the coasters past and present. The occasional big screen displays of old ride adverts mixed with other footage was good too. So the atmosphere was quite cool.

I doubt I'll do it ever again, but as a "special treat", it was okay.

In terms of park operations - just to add something to a comment Joey made somewhere - baggage. The crews were awful across the park - not just Galactica. No staff puling the cage doors across (in fact on Oblivion and Nemesis they're removed cage doors). In fact, we had to leave our bags on the station platform on Rita, then fight with other people getting off the train to open and close doors to get at our bags. Utter shambles.
 

Ian

From CoasterForce
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
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Galactica is the best of the three VR coasters I've been on. I though the visuals, audio and story was quite good. It didn't blow me away, but it did give Air a little nudge upwards in my opinion. I agree with furie that the lift hill and break run parts are a vast improvement with VR, but I did think it crammed a bit too much in visually during the actual ride. Air is a coaster that feels slow to me, so I felt the the quick pace of the cartoon didn't marry up with the sensations I was feeling (with the exception of the first drop). Perhaps when I ride it again, I won't be concentrating so much on the story so I'll be able to enjoy both the VR and the coaster itself together.

As a seasoned theme park goer who loves seeing people enjoy rides, the lack of screaming from riders through the inversions really bothered me. Screaming is one of those background noises that I don't hear but subtly they add to the atmosphere of a theme park. When they're no screaming, the atmosphere feels flat. It's odd watching (and being on) a full train of riders motoring around in silence. Maybe they should put it on Oblivion, then the Ropers would have no reason to complain! Although the sound was strange, I did like the new portal. I was lucky enough to see it in action at night and it does look awesome. It lights up and does stuff before the train bursts through it. A really good touch.

I made a point of watching the operations. I thought the staff were very good at batching and assisting with the headsets. I timed two dispatches - from the moment when the restraints were released until the next riders were hoisted up and leaving the station - first result was 4mins 3 seconds, second was 4mins 58 seconds, so from those two unscientific tests, it takes about 4mins 30 seconds to unload, load and dispatch a train. Having never timed it before it had VR, I'm not sure if this is good or not. The chap cleaning my head set gave the goggles a very quick wipe with a wet wipe when he took it from the last rider. Inside they looked quite grimy, but the part that made contact with my face was acceptable. Although a little more attention wouldn't have gone a miss. I did find the headset quite heavy compared to the other ones I've used and I did feel nauseous after the ride. I don't blame this on the motion too much, but the head not being able to deal with the pressure of the headset in that particular position. I did not experience nausea on the other VR coasters I have ridden.

In conclusion, it's ok! Not awful like I was expecting but I am in no hurry to re-ride it. If the queue was about 20-30mins, then yes, I'd do it again.
 
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