2012: Nemesis - What Lies Beneath - Part 1

Got an idea of how the Alton Towers Resort may develop over the coming seasons? Discuss it here.

The way the Hex ops wear National Trust logos on their uniform even in the vault really suggests otherwise. The whole point of it is to go and see the power of the branch for yourself. Everything builds up to it, rather than suggesting it's going to just bea a standard boring talk that suddenly 'goes wrong'.

Yes, but it's got to be realistic. It's hard to suspend reality when the reality they're trying to impart is so clearly fake. It's one thing to believe, say, I'm suddenly on Safari, but another thing to believe that on this safari I'm suddenly ambushed by lions, and that if I decided to go for another safari, I'd have the exact same thing happen again. Going back to Hex, I know that it's going to culminate in me sitting in the vault while the machinery is turned on and the branch does it's stuff and that it's 'supposed' to. I know when I go on Nemesis all I have to do is believe it's an alien, not steel. I don't have to try and believe it's escaping when it's quite clear that in the course of a day it escapes several hundred times and doesn't get anywhere.

Scaremazes work because they feel real. We know they arn't going to murder us, but we're forced to, in the moment, think they are going to. The acting and the set convince us that it's real, and the addrenaline kicks in before we can remember it's not real. The imagination is forced to run wild, and we know that it's designed to scare us with set pieces, we don't have to believe anything other than the house is haunted or whatever the setting is and once it's over we remember it's just there to scare us, whereas a theme park attraction is supposed to convince us it's really happening from start to finish and then for us to almost believe it's real. You can try and pretend it's real as hard as you can, but, especially in American parks, when you climb above the park and see the carparks and the city stretching out, it doesn't amtter how hard they try in the park, theme moment you can see the outside world, the illusion is ruined.

I think most people have a greater capacity to suspend their imagination than you are suggesting they do. And we are not arguing over complex storylines, i am simply saying the lack of a coherent backstory results in a poorly imagned theme, Thirteen is a perfect example of this.

Valhalla has no backstory. It's simply themed to the Viking afterlife (or journey to, it's not made clear). Yet the theme is fully realised. In parts it is poor, but that's down to Blackpool being useless at theming and therefore leaving huge black spaces. The theme itself is fully and well imagined.

And the reverse is also true. Charlie has one of the greatest childrens books in English literature. Yet look at the state of that.

Well done stories and the quality of the finished article is not always proportional.

The way the different sections of Hex fit together is massively inconsistent anyway, as the effects of the curse in the vault have nothing to do with aristocracy dying as explained in the pre-shows. If we're going to analyse it in that much detail, I'd agree that yes, the idea right from the start is that you're going to be taken to see the vault. However, while inevitably the ride is going to end with some extraordinary supernatural goings on, the likelihood is that in story terms the vault equipment isn't meant to get fired up, and the Octagon sequence with its low-tech yet remarkably dramatic effects is meant to imply that things aren't quite right in the Towers. Let's not even begin to consider how the root demon fits into all this.

The point Dave makes is that because enough effort was put into thinking through the ride's backstory, it's very easy for guests to gloss over the plot holes because the atmosphere created is so immersive. In such a situation, the average guest easily puts the fact that none of what they are experiencing is real to the back of their mind, and will certainly never consider that the vault is an eleven year old Dutch hexagonal drum being turned by a few motors in a corrugated metal shed.

Now, Thirteen's backstory. Ah yes, the enthusiast's favourite whipping boy. I'm not going to waste too much time on this because I've said everything I'm about to say before on this forum. I also think it's about time the ride started to be accepted for what it is rather than what it should have been. Nevertheless, I can see as easily as anyone that the Dark Forest lacks the immersiveness of other areas, and I suspect it's all down to how the theme was planned. The evidence, so far as I can see, points to it having come from one development stage too early.

I presume the creative process when developing an immersive ride experience with a clear-cut backstory goes something like this:
  • A loose theme for a new area is considered.
  • Mood boards and brainstorming are used to develop ideas for potential features of the theme.
  • A few of the best or more practical to implement ideas are pulled together, distilled and mixed together to create a simple but well crafted backstory.
Thirteen’s queue features a van and some mannequins being taken over by the forest, as is supposedly happening to the area. It also features gravestones, intended to imply a burial ground setting. As we near the station, we see scaffolding, sheeting, a ladder and a couple of air compressors in the indoor queue, which suggest (although not all that well perhaps, judging from the “it’s not finished” verdict many guests come to) that the building is under restoration. I’m reluctant to bring the M word into this, as we all know the finished product differs a lot from what it implied, but wraiths were very prominent in marketing and feature in stone form on the ride. Finally, we have the name, which brings misfortune and superstition to the table.

That’s a lot of ideas, and when I ride Thirteen, I find none of them come across as particularly strong or well developed. It therefore looks to me like these all came from the mood boards and brainstorming stage. If the process had gone to the refinement stage, we might for example have had a very strong graveyard queue leading to a stunning ruined, unrestored bulding. The overtones of the ride would’ve been much more creepy and about venturing into the unknown, towards a building in a place untouched by man for decades. As the train dropped, guests would perhaps make the connection better between the floorboards giving way and the abandoned nature of the crypt. It would only have taken a relatively short process of deciding which concepts were worth running with to have greatly improved the experience.

In regards to Valhalla, I’m not qualified to pass comment on it too much as I’m yet to visit Blackpool. However, is going on a ride to the afterlife not a story in itself? In many cases, rides have stories no more complicated than that, but if the ride is a good interpretation of that idea, surely that idea being there in the first place is worthwhile. Nobody is trying to claim that using a decent backstory for a ride is a sure-fire way to come up with something decent either; there are countless examples of poorly regarded rides that had backstories (Charlie and X:\WTF) or are story-driven (Excalibur), but the risk of making a duff story has in a huge number of cases been avoided and made great rides phenomenal. I find the fact Blaze that you will accept that Nemesis is meant to be an alien and dug its own pit, yet seem to interpret many other rides as little more than thrill hardware very telling.

I think we all agree that Thirteen didn't know where to focus, and at various points in development the focus seemed to change several times before ariving at some odd mix of all of them.

Regarding Valhalla, it's hardly a story. It's a series of room that suggest you're going to/are in the Viking afterlife, there's no story to it, you're not trying to 'escape' it or anything like that. More of a guided tour if anything. :P But what I am saying is exactly that, that many rides have these really simple backstories with no real plot but still turn out great; there's no need for a pointlessly big story and a daft plot.

I accept Nemesis is supposed to be an alien, and I accept any ride is supposed to be anything it wants/ The difference is that Nemesis fully realises that it is a ride and bases it's story on that, and the idea is fully realised. Other rides try to act as if they arn't rides, which in my opinion makes them much less credible, unless the fact it's a ride is very well disguised and the story takes into account the fact people will ride it over and over, so a concluding story where the bad guy is killed or whatever just doesn't stack up.

I have made this thread a sticky for the time being as it is a fairly major thread at the moment. When Alton Towers announce specific projects and rides for next season, we may then have a new thread depending on the development.


I think Blaze we're talking about two different types of storylines for rides here. What Dave, Sheepie and I have focused on up to now is how a backstory creates the setting for a ride. This is a very different beast to storylines for when you're actually on a ride, which is where I think you're coming from. For example:

Backstory: The 15th Earl of Shrewsbury paid a big price for being a tight-fisted git when an old beggarwoman cursed his family. He then put a stopgap solution in place to try to stop the curse by chaining up the tree that would result in his relatives popping their clogs, then had a go at working out how to actually get rid of it. The likelihood is that he didn’t have much luck with the latter objective.

The Earl was pretty secretive about where he went about his semi-scientific shenanigans, so it was never conclusively known that the vault he used existed until it was discovered during the restoration of his former home.

Ride story: You learn about this story. Despite some supernatural goings-on, you are taken to the unearthed vault. The Earl’s equipment proves to be fully operational after all those years, and you experience the fallen branch’s power in a non-deadly context.

Backstory: An alien fell to Earth after millennia of persecution, finally found the sanctuary it craved and, save for the odd encounter here and there, slept underground in Staffordshire peacefully. Its chance discovery resulted in it waking up, flying into a rage, digging a pit, turning the area into a relative wasteland and having to be pinned down.

Ride story: It’s as simple as you taking a ride on the pinned down monster.

Backstory: In Norse mythology, going from the world of the living to the world of the dead involves travelling through a pretty wet and fearsome place called Valhalla, which some people find looks a lot like a corrugated steel shed.

Ride story: Travel through Valhalla. From what I’ve heard, that’s all there is to it.

There’s elements of most stories at theme parks that are open to interpretation, but yes, backstories and ride stories really are quite different.

I agree that if a ride is going to have a developed storyline, this needs to be put together just as carefully as a backstory does to create a credible experience, but I also think a decent story with a conclusion that can't be reversed can be a strong point because a lot of guests will look at it differently to how you do.

Think of a dark ride where "the bad guy is killed", as you say. That of course makes absolutely no sense on repeat rides if you look at each time you ride as the same events happening at a different time, because this previously destroyed nasty piece of work is back to doing whatever nasty things it does. However, most guests would probably accept each time they ride as like going back through a single story, in much the same way that people re-watch films they enjoy. Guests know a ride is just a ride, but as I said in my previous post, it's not hard to make them prioritise other thoughts. So long as a story is well constructed, properly realised and holds riders' attention from start to finish, why should that story not be an immersive feature of a ride?
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El Patricko
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Either way we can all agree that merlin want to make their new rides and attractions "more than just a ride" I feel the best way to achieve this is by having a situation which is presented to the guest in which they play a leading role, they could be on an alien or in a crypt.

I think you've got to go above and beyond the call of duty these days, the days of unthemed flat rides and coasters (ahem spinball and enterprise) just don't cut it these days. And with merlin now the second biggest entertainment company in the world i feel that a common standard should be set within the theme parks to ensure a quality experience.

As for next year, im on tender hooks wether to expect a flat ride, or a compact coaster :)
"If Alton Towers get a shrek 4d attraction next year i, El Patricko will eat a steak garnished with pond weed"

Officially, "the first man out on the town in shorts 2011"
Big Dave

Some sort of story that runs through a ride, even if its a basic one, will greatly add depth to the ride. It stops becoming just a lump of steel and it becomes a part of something much bigger. Failing to have a decent story and theming it well to that story, just makes it yet another ride that you could find anywhere else in the world. It does not become unique and to be honest, just makes for a boring ride experience.

You only have to look at Oblivion. The ride is short and the drop isnt really that impressive from a overall ride point of view. What makes Oblivion special is its theming AND the story that goes along with it. Event if you dont crasp the story fully, you will be able to understand that its some sort of mechanical machine that takes you underground and you might not survive it to come out the other side. If it had no story and the theme as a result was just around a futuristic ride, Im certain it wouldnt be as good a ride experience has it is.

[quote=""Cheese""]I think Blaze we're talking about two different types of storylines for rides here. What Dave, Sheepie and I have focused on up to now is how a backstory creates the setting for a ride. This is a very different beast to storylines for when you're actually on a ride, which is where I think you're coming from.[/quote]
But that's exactly what I'm saying! Themed rides need some sort of backstory, of course, but they don't need a riding narrative, because that often ends up not being plausible. When they're done good, they can make a good ride great, but if a ride is trying to be anything other that a ride, it often falls apart because the story is poor or the ride isn't able to really tell the story properly or fit into it.

[quote=""Big Dave""]You only have to look at Oblivion. The ride is short and the drop isnt really that impressive from a overall ride point of view. What makes Oblivion special is its theming AND the story that goes along with it. Event if you dont crasp the story fully, you will be able to understand that its some sort of mechanical machine that takes you underground and you might not survive it to come out the other side. If it had no story and the theme as a result was just around a futuristic ride, Im certain it wouldnt be as good a ride experience has it is.[/quote]
Again, yes. Oblivion has a backstory to explain what it is, why you're riding, but the ride itself isn't telling a story, and it isn't trying to be anything other than a ride. It has the backstory that's nothing more than "This is an experiment we're making you take part in. You may die", but the ride itself is jus tthat experiment, not some silly sort of physical representation of what the experiment does to you, you're not escaping the experiment or anything. The ride is simply the experiment. It would not work at all if it tried to expand on it's purpose.
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Can I just say that I'm relieved there are other people who have similar views to me have added their opinions, I was beginning to think I was talking out of my rear end.

Blaze is it not possible that your opinions on these rides are solely how you've interpreted them to fit with your own, preferable narrative? Perception really is a subjective entity and we all interpret things differently. Take colours for example, we all react differently to them and have their own meanings to us. Theatre is the same, we may perceive a particular lighting state or delivery of a piece of dialogue to mean two very different emotions.

I personally feel like a number of members have given several pieces of evidence as to why they believe a fully realised theme and story is beneficial to the experience yet you seem to give the same two or three responses back.

According to your views, the new area and show at Efteling must seem very pretentious and daft as it doesn't declare itself a show within a theme park, but instead immerses its audience within the story narrative.

I would honestly love for Alton to prove you wrong. I really would... nothing personal, I just see better in the park and want them to have amazing areas and themed attractions that I know they're capable of, however I wonder whether you'll still be able to apply your theory of attractions... not because that's the intended theme, but because we'll have yet another poorly realised and ill-thought out story.
Don't blink; not even for a second, blink and you're dead.

I hate repeating myself, I really do. I'm not saying stories are bad and Alton should just ignore making a story.

These rides, which I assume the ones we're talking about above, Nemesis and Oblivion, are not how I choose to interpret them, that is what they are, and the reason they are so successful is because accepting themselves as rides and building their themes and stories around that fact allows them to be heavily detailed without becoming too unrealistic.

Eftlings new area and show I'm sure are excelent. I am not saying at all that it isn't. I'm saying that, in my opinion, when creating a theme for a ride, especially a coaster, the theme should be built around the fact it is a ride, instead of pretending it is something else. This doesn't get in the way of creativity at all, and forces designers to create well thought out concepts and ensures the ride, which at the end of the day, is what we come for, is the centre of the piece, not the theming. Theming should be used to enhance a ride, not the other way around. Alton have always done this with their big attractions, and should do again, because with the money they have to play with and the likely balance of nature and artificial theming, it works best. The total, Disney style aproach only works if you can pull off something Disney-scale, which Alton can't.

You can enjoy and immerse yourself in any theme if it's pulled off well enough, but the easiest to do that with are the ones that require the least amount of suspension of belief. All you have to do with Nemesis is pretend it's not steel, but an alien with seats attached, and you're totally in the theme. I don't watch films like Harry Potter and say they're crap because it's totally fantasy and doesn't admit to being made up, and I would find it stupid if they did. I have not said I don't want Alton to fully immerse people into the theme, or that self-awareness is mutually exclusive to being fully immersive. Like I said, using the fact it is a rollercoaster in it's theme allows Nemesis to fully immerse guests because the theming is in enough quantity and quality to create a realistic looking setting, while the story is simple enough to work and the location and layout doesn't spoil it by reminding you it's just a theme park area by revealing the outside world. The show at Eftling is no doubt fantastic, but, like a film, we know it's just a show. If a show started with the words "This is just a show", it woudn't work. Neither would it work for a themed ride. I'm not saying that's what themed rides should do. What I am saying is by working the fact it is a ride into the story, it works brilliantly. Nemesis doesn't say "This is a coaster made to look like an alien" or "This is a coaster from outer space." It says "This is an alien, we've tied it down and put cars on it". Simple, effective and, obviously not believable, but enough for guests to go along with for the sake of enjoying the ride more.

Sorry, but Alton have always used this approach and used it very well. I've been over Nemesis and Oblivion. Air is simply a ride to give you the feeling of flying. It doesn't pretend, say, it's a big bird that's flying you around or worse, that it's not there and it's just you magically flying. Thirteen is a rollercoaster through a haunted wood. Even the posters around what is now Dark Forest the Scarefest before it opened said "While constructing our new ride...". All of these, especially the first two, show Alton are more than capable of making fully immersive rides, and parts of Thirteen and Raptor at Gardaland (minus story) show they can still do it. It just makes sense for them to just use that it's a coaster in the setting. Most guests arn't exactly responsive to immersive theming anyway, if the way people respond to Hex is anything to go by, so they'd just ignore it or say "This is silly, it's clearly a ride". Why do that when they can just say it's a ride in the story, just do what they did with Nemesis and expand on it, where it's not just a coaster, but a coaster made from an alien from space they found in the ground.

Immersive themes with rides that are aware of what they are work best because we can relate the story with what we're physically feeling and vice versa. If Alton made a coaster that pretended to be something else, they'd have to go quite the extra mile to make it even slightly believable, but they can make as fantastical theme and backstory as they want providing it still allows the coaster to be a coaster and play a proper roll in the story.
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Hi story or no story Valhalla is a brilliant ride scary , fun, so hot you think you may get your clothes burned. Then so cold and windy and the drops come from no where. I love alton much more. But Valhalla is the best thrilling water i,ve been on.

No one is saying otherwise. In fact if you read what I said you'll find I said Valhalla is one of the best water rides in the world because it has no story.
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Sorry if it seems like i'm interrupting in this conversation here, but I just want to say that either of you are wrong. I completely understand where Blaze is coming from regarding the silly aspects of rides which make the 'story' unbelievable. It does kinda dampen the ride for me, as i'm sure it probably does for other people too, but I don't think that far in to it to let it bother me.

For example, I honestly think that there are hundreds of rides out there that wouldn't work even half as well as what they do if they never had a strong backstory. I mean, I hate to bring them in to this but think of Disney, who are by far the best 'storytellers' attraction-wise. Would Tower of Terror work without its backstory, and its video introduction etc? Most probably. However, then the ride just becomes a 'ride of a crazy lift', with no real essence at all.

Both sides of the debate are correct, because it is all due to personal taste. I personally prefer backstories to rides, but that doesn't mean that they don't work without them. The Haunted Mansion, for example, has no backstory. There is no clear reason why you've stumbled upon a mansion in the middle of a theme park that is haunted. All you really do is look through the house - it leaves the rest up to your imagination.

At the end of the day you just have to take rides for what they are. I feel that rides like the blade, or ripsaw, don't need a back story. They are visually stimulating enough to get ones imagination to work and make a quick link to what it may be about, but we don't need to go further than that. Th13teen is a ride that IS suited to having a backstory. Nemesis isn't. Oblivion IS. Rita isn't. It all depends on the individual ride itself, tbh.
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ok my quick two penneth:

I believe that every ride, no matter how small, should have a back story, but I dont think any ride should have a full public back story unless, enjoyment is deendant upon it, but there should always be hints.

My reasoning.

When a guest descovers something it gives them a sence of belonging and being part of the elete who knows. Its exactly the same way that viral videos work, the person who found it gets a belief of being in the know. Flynn Lives.. Clues should illude to a story but never tell the whole story. The idiot get thier thrill ride. The fans get that little bit extra. Something that can give them pseudo status. Every so often, a smidgen more of the story should unfold. Each year another piece of the puzzel, pre laid out, pre designed. Year 2, A new piece of scenery, deliberately missed out of year one, with a inscription upon it. Year 3, the voice over is changed slightly. changing the story, but not relly changing, just telling another face of it.

Keep the customer hooked. Dont just see a ride as a painting to be bought and then left to gather dust.

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But in my opinion, take a ride like Tower of Terror.

Essentially the shortest possible story you can get is: 'Guests enter creepy hotel, walk through, to go up to their room, enter maintance lift. Lift is creepy.'

The huge backstory that Disney have for the attraction is completely wasted on the vast majority of the general public.

Therefore, whilst Alton can come up with elaborate stories. It has to have a simple one for the rest of the guests.
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Thinking about it isn't the reason most of us are so attached to Alton Towers because of the history and complicated backstory behind the parks development? By giving a ride a history or story wouldn't we form just as strong an attachment to that ride, making the experience better?

Just a thought.
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Getting back to the idea of A new family ride in the black hole tent...

Imagine a new , well themed, family boomerang model from vekoma. It could be larger than the Ben 10 ride at Drayton and would have the benefit of being in the dark. The theme would be a "tour" of some kind of research facility. However upon boarding the train, the whole rides theme changes, and the station is in "lockdown". You are then pulled backwards up the spike, and the tunnel is lined with screens displaying malfunction. As you drop through the station, the doors open just in time to the rest of the coaster. You fly through the layout, passing between destroyed corridors, before reaching the top of the spike. At this point, there is a pause, and there is a screen ahead. It displays a 3D image of some kind of alien monster, and then there is a bang and you travel backwards to the station. Once you arrive back, screens display "condition:stable" and you exit the station, leaving an empty car for the next riders.

This would be a relatively short, high capacity coaster, and take the strain off of spinball, and provide a well themed family thrill, reviving X-sector. Thoughts? :)

I think your idea has the basis of a great ride, but it's not perfect.

First off, there's no aliens or anything sci-fi in the X-Sector theme, and an animatronic would be so much better in every way. Otherwise, not bad.

It would be a lot better if the whole conducting experiemnts on guests idea of the area carried on, or if not, that riders are 'tricked' into going on it, so if I take your idea of a 'tour' which goes wrong, which doesn't really make much sense in terms of narrative and all that, and change it so that guests are invited on a tour, but in actual fact it's not a tour, but part of the experiment, then that would be pretty great.

I'd also try to bring back The Lord Of Darkness, and have him explain what's going on on the backwards lift, and maybe a little speach at the end as well. Maybe in the queue explaining it's a tour, and maybe with his alter ego breaking through to warn guests to turn back, like in the Oblivion video.