Disneyland Legends of Frontierland – A First Look

Written by Hastin Zylstra. Posted in Disney, Disney News, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort

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Published on July 10, 2014 at 3:00 am with 35 Comments

As you may have seen from our In The Parks updates – a new type of interactive experience has been brewing at Disneyland. Called Legends of Fronterland, the goal of this experience is to allow the guest to create and engage in some of the story that drives a narrative based on the land. Let’s look at the official line from Disney:

Frontierland and its neighbor, Rainbow Ridge, are in the midst of a good, ol’ fashioned land feud. Rainbow Ridge – a once-booming mining town – has dried up, and they have their eyes set on Frontierland. The steady, hardworking folk in Frontierland want to keep the town safe and free of rougharound-the-edges, opportunistic types. Rumors are spreading that gold has been discovered in mines belonging to Frontierland, and there is even a rumor that Frontierland itself sits on the motherlode! Whether or not the rumors are true, the folk in Rainbow Ridge have one thing on their minds: take over Frontierland! Thus, the struggle begins …

MiceChat was there on opening day, and being a fan of interactive games that the park has done in the past, including The Optimist, we thought we would explore how the gameplay works, and what to expect from the experience.

Getting a badge and picking a side

As you enter Frontierland, you’ll notice the new Frontierland Trading Post. This serves as the main point of entry for the game, as you can take a look at the Land Map, and see how each side of the story (Fronterland vs. Rainbow Ridge) is doing. In addition, you can pick up your map and name badge here. Each side has a different color name badge, Frontierland is orange, and Rainbow Ridge is yellow. Most players started as Frontierland, but were encouraged to switch sides by the bandits in Rainbow Ridge.

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It’s time to start our game!

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The map is divided into grid lines, and each team uses ‘bits’ to purchase land, mines, or buildings in Frontierland.

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The somewhat complex rules.

On opening day, the mines and many other aspects of the game were not being used – which added frustration because the Cast Members didn’t always know what was going on.

Earning bits

Currency in Frontierland is called ‘bits’, and you can earn bits by doing just about anything. As we started into the game, we went over to the Telegraph station to get some sort of message to start our journey.

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Miss Priscilla, rumor has it she’s interested in Zane.

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The telegraph machine is the best part of the game. All the characters AND players can send and receive messages through ‘Chicago’ (like a game master), to change outcomes in the game. This is where you can get jobs to deliver. Alerts of property sales go through here as well.

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It costs bits to send a message (such as if you acquire something, or want to put out a message), but if you deliver messages, you get bits!

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Morse Code decoding

Zane and the Welcome Center

Once we delivered a message or two, we ran into one of the main characters, Zane, who had a job proposition for us. Over the day, we interacted with Zane many times, and he did a great job of rolling with the punches.

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Zane calls us over to the Golden Horseshoe.

Zane had us create some signs for the ‘Welcome Center’, and for the Telegraph agency. Now, none of these activities were listed on the map, and instead there was a ‘talent agency’ that didn’t seem to be running. Making these signs seemed like a stop-gap solution to not having aspects of the game going.

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Our first masterpiece. We started ‘The Optimist Sign Company’, and quickly pooled our bits.

 

A Rainbow Ridge character, Red, also needed some signage help, and tried to make us switch teams a couple of times, because of our good sign making. Considering this seemed like a last-minute way to give people something to do, the improv actors had no problem keeping things rolling.

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The tricky Rainbow Ridge Red – it seems like there’s also some inter-personal story relationships here as well that can be explored.

 

After making and posting some signs, we were looking for more to do – so we headed over to the Golden Horseshoe.

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The irony of the ‘Frontierland Beautification Project’ was that they just posted guest-made signs all over Frontierland.

New Golden Horseshoe show and River Water

Once inside the Golden Horseshoe, there’s lots to do. You can either help out for the welcome committee, play High Card, or watch the show and get some new food options (which were not very good).

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The Frontierland ‘Welcome Center’ – this was SUPPOSED to be the Talent Agency, but it seemed like they were not ready for that yet.

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Earn bits by playing High Card with some Rainbow Ridge outlaws.

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New menu items. The new items don’t seem to have an impact on the game.

 

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The new Golden Horseshoe show with Miss Lilly is quite good. There’s a new unique Disneyland song, and she plays up the feud between the sides. She also mingles in the audience during sets, adding to the fun.

In Frontierland, you can challenge any authoritative decision, by either rock-paper-scissors, or via a Water River challenge. We got to test out some Water River in a desperate attempt to earn bits.

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Here comes the River Water! Goal is to drink without flinching.

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Bottoms up!
(The river water was unsweetened Citrus Juice – it was quite puckery, but not terrible.)

 

Arresting guests (or attempting to)

One of the main play components to earn major bits (100+) is to arrest fellow guests. As the characters and cast members see major players in the game, they report them to ‘Chicago’ which sends out telegrams with descriptions. You’re goal is to draw up a wanted poster, then find the guest.

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We have our telegraph, let’s find the varmit!

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Sheriff is just trying to keep the peace between lands.

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Whip up a quick Wanted poster!

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Our wanted poster. We incorrectly put a team name on the ‘By’ line, we should have put ‘Frontierland’ – but the characters were just rolling with it.

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Rainbow Ridge leaders rolling in causing trouble. Not uncommon to see the teams pooling funds and trying to outbuy land.

 

Unfortunately, our guest to arrest had already left the game area – so we couldn’t get those sweet reward bits. Seems like a common problem with this play element, but I think that’s why the reward value is so high.

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Empty jail for us as the guest had already left. (Maybe we spent too long on our sign!)

Buying land, and a wrong turn

After a few hours of play, we had earned about 300 bits, so we thought it was time to buy land. We walked up to the trading post, and we were offered ‘The Hideout’ for 250 bits, so we bought it!

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Getting the deed signed!

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The Optimist Sign Company buys the deed!

 

But, we made a quick mistake with that move. Instead, we should have gotten the squares of land, to build out Frontierland’s land lease-ship. Buying the buildings is a long-term thing, meaning they can just be re-bought by the opposing team, as long as they pay the new market price (it went from 250 to 300 after we bought it).

Rainbow Ridge did a quick fundraising session (walking around collecting funds), and bought the land back. We ‘owned’ it for 5 minutes. We were also disappointed to find out that we didn’t really ‘own’ the playspace – we wanted to charge Rainbow Ridge outlaws rent to us – so we could earn more money. So, after literally 5 minutes, we spent all our cash, had no land, and couldn’t really do anything.

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As the game went on, the goal became clearer (as in ‘clear as mud’). The squares are land leases, while the buildings are long-term (day to day) ownership. We think. Or something.

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Frustrated and a little upset that we made a bad decision (when the rules were not clearly explained to us), we at least got some land back on the board, and ended our adventure. We could have challenged the ruling, but we were done.

So – is it fun?

So overall, we had a fun and fantastic time. The cast member improv interaction was amazing, and we had a great experience. The telegraph machine is quite neat, and there’s a real idea of a solid game here. The ongoing day-to-day land battles are going to be fun for Annual Passholders, and day guests could jump into the fun by only doing one or two things – but this is clearly designed for a locals crowd.

The game isn’t finished yet.

Imagine you went out and bought a board game, and when you got it home it was missing pieces, and there was a flyer that said ‘We’ll send you the rules next week’. That was how Legends of Frontierland felt on the first day.

There were many aspects of the game that were just not done:

Talent Agency - Making signs and posting them felt like a stop-gap solution to an entirely missing aspect of the game in the Golden Horseshoe. The talent agency part wasn’t done yet.

Mines, Moving Pieces, and Land Ownership - Only certain Cast Members knew what was going on, and some of them couldn’t even explain the somewhat-complex rules. The fact that there were aspects missing made the signage pointless, and led our group to make a bad purchasing decision.

Sending telegrams - The whole game has this overtone of sending telegrams, which totally broke and failed the first day. The technology to do it is neat (there’s a hidden scanner and a receipt printer). But once the ‘lines were cut to Chicago’ – the game grinded to a halt – as no character new anything, and no one had tasks to do.

Leveling - Players will be able to level up and get more clout in the Frontierland community, eventually being able to run for mayor – host sessions, and do other things we don’t know yet. None of that was functioning day one – so our first day felt pointless for long-term play.

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These signs are suppose to have flags to show which team is winning. They don’t yet.

If you want to play Legends of Frontierland, I’d wait a week or two for the rules to get hammered out, all aspects to be working, and more playtesting to be done by Disney Imagineers and actors. This is going to be a very dynamic thing that will change rules and gameplay quickly as problem arise.

Interactive Experiences at Disneyland

Overall, do interactive experience like these have any merit at Disneyland? We think they can. We saw many kids and adults having a great time together, and people seemed engaged by what was going on. Mind you there were also hundreds of guests walking by that didn’t care, but the overall experience did a good job of not effecting them.

As things like Cosplay, Tabletop Gaming, roleplay, and other nerdy aspects enter our society – interactive transmedia experiences like these play off those aspects perfectly. Disneyland has always been a place for entertainment, and these experiences can play into that. Experiences like these need to be better integrated, and feel like they are ‘part’ of the land – and not just tacked-on as they do now. Interactive games like these should compliment attractions and existing offerings – not supercede them.

Is this something that a day guest is going to spend their whole day on?
No.
Experiences like these (and other interactive games at Epcot and Magic Kingdom) are designed for long-term multi-day guests, and Annual Passholders – and I think the idea of an ongoing story could be more engaging that just one-off experiences. There are aspects for the quick player, and they can get into the fun if they want to.

Is this for everyone?
Not yet. There are lots of barriers to a game like this. You have to be outgoing, enjoy character interaction, and enjoy gaming. I fall into that target demographic, so it works for me.

Does it work for the average guest?
Maybe not.
But if there’s an engaging enough gateway into the experience, it might. Some people were just playing to get some wooden nickels, and then stopped. Transmedia and interactive experiences are a relatively new thing, and I’m glad to see Imagineering exploring them. They may not last in the long-term, but they are becoming more popular as time goes on.

Overall, Legends of Frontierland could be great, but it’s not quite there yet. Once the full game is running smoothly, we’ll consider another review with all aspects of the game functioning. Overall, once they get these kinks worked out, it should be worth your checking out.

About Hastin Zylstra

Hastin Zylstra, MiceChat Technical Administrator, has been involved with the technical aspects of MiceChat since it's launch in 2005. In addition to keeping MiceChat online, he works for a major software company in the Orange County, California area. Most weekends, he can be found at Disneyland geeking out with MiceChat friends and the latest technology. Currently, he's obsessed with the new Tomorrowland movie, and the adventures that have launched from it.

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35 Comments

There are currently 35 Comments on Disneyland Legends of Frontierland – A First Look. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I’m sure some folks may find this appealing, and kudos to Disneyland for trying new things; but to me this sounds about as appealing as a visit to Innoventions. The point that this may be better suited to APs, rather than out-of-staters like me, is probably a good one.

    • KIDS: “We wanna go on the Matterhorn!”
      FATHER: “You’re playing that game!”
      KIDS: “We thought we came here to have fun!!!”

      I guess it’s Level Two on the cheapness scale, projections on old rides being the first. I don’t even WANT to know what Level Three Cheapness is, but I’m sure we’ll be finding out.

      In the meantime, Springfield and Harry Potter continue at Universal Studios Hollywood.

      Well, I just hope Justin Bieber likes the new Club 33.

      • You hit the nail on the head. Tomorrowland is wasting away. Small World is filthy. I guess they don’t feel the need to improve the park when people keep showing up in droves. Eventually the crowds will thin out and then they won’t have the funds to improve.

  2. Cones of Dunshire!

  3. One thing it looked like was a concern was the congestion in an already clogged area. How did that turn out?

    • Frontierland itself really is never that crouded – and they kept the primary walkway open most of the time. Summer has been so quiet in general, it’s hard to see the impact this might have on a weekend in fall for example.

      • I was told that at this time it is only scheduled to run until Sept. 1. We shall see what happens after that I guess.

  4. Frontierland always looked to me like all of the townsfolk just vanished. Like a ghost town but not old. On the occasion that there was the show outside of the Golden Horshoe (and then the one inside) it helped make it feel more real. But having people play this game with a working telegraph office, and the other CM characters it will feel more like a working town, I think. As long as guests play nice and the game doesn’t clog the streets too much, that is.

    I may give this a try after the kinks get worked out!

  5. Disneyland plussed teh Social Club

    • I’ve heard this comment several times now, and I really don’t think experiences of this kind necessarily overlap with Social Clubs in any significant way. I certainly don’t see how this could be perceived as pandering to them.

      In fact, on opening day, I saw only a single Social Club member participating.

  6. Lost me at ‘we played for 3 hours’. haha Can’t think of any game I’d wanna play for that long, but then, I get easily distracted. I suppose if I was an AP, and visited weekly, I’d give up a day to play around. They should serve alcohol. Those River shots could make the game pretty interesting.

  7. They got rid of the excellent Billy hill show for this? A game for people that spend so much time at disneyland that they are bored and need to play games?

    • No, the Billys got kicked out for Laughing Stock. Laughing Stock then got replaced by this new experiment in entertainment.

    • Daniel, you sure have a way of twisting facts to “prove” your points.

  8. I’ll be interested to see how this all works first-hand. It sounds like I would either love it or hate it and I can’t quite decide which right now… There’s a new “Adventure” Park about to be built about 5 minutes from where I live and based on what I’ve heard about that it might be built around the same types of concepts as “Legends of Frontierland” (just set in Victorian times instead). Since I can’t make it out to Disneyland very often I’ll be interested to see how I like this experience and see if this new park will be anything like it. These types of interactive experiences are popping up more and more all over the place so they must be fun! I’m sure once they get the kinks out it will be a fun experience for the more leisurely guest.

  9. When this was first announced I was hoping it would be like the Pirate Adventure at MK. I did that last time I was there just to check it out and found the scavenger hunt to be really fun. It had a bunch of cool effects that I wasn’t expecting. It also only takes about 20 minutes (if that). We ended up doing 3 different quests we liked it so much.

    I would have much preferred something like that to this fairly involved, confusing and time-consuming competitive game. I go to Disneyland quite a bit so I’m sure I’ll try this out but I can’t imagine an average guest wanting to spend time figuring this out. I guess its nice they added something that the AP’s will enjoy (of course if it is really only running in the summer than a lot of AP’s will never have a chance to try it).

    • Eh there’s what 300k of us premiums and a ton of Deluxe’s also. The weekday locals with the socal passes are the only ones that are affected.

  10. There are a couple factors I’m interested to see play out in the next couple of weeks with the game. First off, what the hours of game play due to congestion of the night time events that use that area for flow of traffic? I can’t imagine it being played too late, sundown? Second, how long are those hand drawn signs going to last? The game looks like fun but I don’t think any part of the park should be decorated like a classroom. Additionally, If the game is missing aspects/rules, maybe for more rapid play they will simplify it and also make it timed. A similar type of experience I’ve seen was at Tokyo Disney Sea with the Fortress Explorations with Leonardo DiVinci and even though we faintly understood Japanese, the game was so much fun due to the fact the area you were exploring and playing in wasn’t used for anything but the game, the symbols were the language and it was very interactive with multimedia and presentation.

    • Flow shouldn’t be a problem. The game starts at 11:00am, and ends at 6:00pm. The area is well cleared out by the time Fantasmic! lineups begin.

  11. I will be trying this out. I know many of the entertainers at the Park now (including some you have photographed here – great guys!) so I will have no problem interacting with the characters. And I am outgoing and can really get into things. But do I “get” gaming? No. Most of this kind of stuff I’ve never done let alone ever heard of. It all looks and sounds a little (no, make that a lot) confusing to me. I’m just glad most of my Laughing Stock performers/friends still have jobs there!

  12. Dud with a thud!
    this is just silly. it might be appealing to AP’s (who are desperate for something NEW), but a family of 4 that spending $400, just to walk-in, isn’t going to waste their time on this. They’re to busy standing in line for the half open attractions.

    • Locals and long-term guests are the target demographic for experiences like these – which is why the gameplay experience of leveling up encourages APers to come back and play more. Today’s theme park revenue standards are all about “per day guest spend”, and experiences like these can encourage those passholders to come back, play, have lunch, and increase that spending.

      According to the last MiceAge update, Disneyland has nearly a MILLION Annual Passholders. Creating experiences that cater to this large demographic is something you are going to see more of in the future, not less. WDW’s interactive experiences cater to long-term overseas vacation homeowners who generally stay in the Orlando area for 14 to 30 days.

  13. This game is pathetic, and only the foolish would waste their time on it…so it has my full support. I will enjoy all of the finer attractions at Disneyland with shorter wait times, and the ignorant can use their $100-per-day ticket to be locked in a jail. Lovely.

    • After 10+ years of owning an Annual Pass, it’s not uncommon for me to come to the park and literally do nothing but hang out with friends (maybe have a meal or two). In the same way that I enjoy board game nights, this can have the same extension – but gives me another reason to come over to the resort.

      I think there’s a false assumption that Disneyland has to be about the day guest, especially when it seems that the average visitor is now an Annual Passholder from the SoCal area (just look at the unbusy summer days as an indication). Keep making new top-notch attractions for the day-guests so they can ride as much as possible, but also create engaging new experiences that appeal to the locals as well. Seems like a win-win to me.

      • Although I think the game is lame, I think the articles written on MiceChat are superb! Keep up the good work Hastin.

    • You must be great at parties.

  14. I’m happy with anything that will make lines shorter when I bring my 15 month old. The game seems really complex and convoluted when reading it online, but I’m sure with time (and a visit to the parks), it will make sense and be a lot of fun. I’m very sad to see the Hillbillies go (they were my favorite and saw the show at least once every trip), but I’m glad they are trying to bring interest back into Frontierland. That whole corner of the park (Adventureland, Frontierland, Critter Country, etc) has been ignored for a long time.

  15. Lame. Should’ve just revived the Revue inside Golden Horse Shoe. Can’t imagine paying that much money to get in and waste valuable time. Been better if they added a second Frozen meet and greet.

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