Who doesn’t love a good ol’ retro game now and then? If it wasn’t for affordable consoles of the modern-day, gaming arcades would still be as popular as it was back in the mid twentieth century. Actually, if you want to experience the arcade environment again in virtual reality, then there is New Retro Arcade: Neon. Though, if you’re looking for an re-imagined retro game built for virtual reality, then BattleZoneVR is one to add to your VR to-do list.
Rebellion are the re-imaginaries of this classic 80’s arcade game. Founded in 1992, Rebellion is an impressive studio, which has had several games top the charts, which include the Sniper Elite series, Nazi Zombie Army, Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron and Aliens vs. Predator. They are also acquired cult comic publisher, 2000 AD, who are responsible for Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper. With over 23 years of experience developing great games and being avid arcade junkies, they’ve put their skills to the test to bring BattleZone into the future.
If you don’t know the backstory of BattleZone, the game takes place in a technologically advanced wasteland filled with robots who are controlled by The Corporation(an all dominating industrial complex). Humanity is nearing extinction, who now relies on you and your Cobra( the most powerful battle vehicle ever) to take down The Corporation and it’s legions of mechanized forces.
The current iteration of BattleZone is built from the ground-up specifically for PlayStation VR. No two maps you battle in is the same, as it is procedurally generated, which means it’s important for you to choose the tank and load-out most handy for you. There is different ways to customize your cobra, with an arsenal of tools of destruction, including machine guns, laser-guided missiles, shield bursts, etc.
As you continue to chip at the corp, you’ll gain access to more powerful tanks, weapons and equipment, ensuring that you can stand against the more formidable foes. You’ll also be collecting data which allows you to boost your health and shields. If you’re worried about facing the corporation alone or just want a squad to ensure their downfall, there is a co-op mode.
With highly detailed colorful environments and ever-changing battle sequences for the PSVR owner to immerse themselves in, it induces high competitiveness and replay-ability. BattleZone has received recognition from VideoGamer.com (“One of the best shooters I’ve played in ages”), GamesRadar(“This is a PlayStation VR launch you’ll want on your day one list”) and other VR enthusiasts. The game is currently available in major retailers for price of $40, which will be well worth it. To follow-up on their developments and announcements on Twitter @BattlezoneVR.
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Having own the HTC Vive for some time now(more like a few months), I don’t see how anyone who doesn’t own one of these majestic interfaces can criticize it. Fact is, it act as an portal to the places you want to visit the most. Whether it be seeing the Eiffel tower full-scale or witnessing the Avenger’s Tower under siege “in-person.” Virtual reality provides a great opportunity for developers to experiment with space and storytelling.
Speaking of storytelling, Maximum Games and Untold Games have partnered, to develop the technologically advanced world of “Loading Human.” Maximum games, as described by them, “a boutique publisher of quality electronic entertainment.” Untold games, founded in 2013 and backed by a team of professional developers and artists, follows the ideas and imagination of Creator Director, Flavio Parenti. Together, they are exploring the future of storytelling.
Loading Human follows the protagonist, Prometheus Baarick, who’s dying father, Dorian Baarick, is requesting him to venture on an intergalactic mission to retrieve an energy source, the Quintessence. But his romantic interest in Dorian’s assistant, Alice, will have him contemplating about this task at hand. “Loading Human dives deep into complex questions of familial and romantic love, duty and sacrifice, science and romance.” It’s a future where technology distorts reality.
The studios plans to make this an episodic adventure, where each DLC will delve into each characters perspective, providing players a complete understanding of the technologically advanced world and the dynamic relationships taking place within it. You’ll explore memories of their past and witness their future.
The game takes inspiration from classic adventure games like Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island. If you like exploring, which VR definitely prompts you to do so, there will be various sceneries to check out, as well as puzzles to solve, adding another dynamic to the immersive game.
Loading Human is currently available for order, which you can find available retailers on their site. If you plan on owning or’ve purchased the PSVR, then this is a game definitely worth looking into. You can follow new developments and connect via Twitter @MaximumGames.
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When we’re binge watching a TV show or read a book, most of us imagine being inside the world of the characters or even being one of the characters themselves. What if we don’t have to imagine being in the story, but actually be in it? Maybe you can guess where I’m hinting, because the realm of virtual reality makes this possible. It makes experiencing the stories we love to hear and watch, nearly tangible. This brings me to one studio who is helping to make this an reality.
Penrose Studio is an San Francisco based production studio started by Eugene Chung(previous Head of Film & Media at Oculus VR) and Jimmy Maidens( previous worked over 12 years at Dreamwork), with the sole purpose of propelling the VR/AR marketplace. Just recently, they’ve received a $8.5 million investment during a seeding round, which they plan to hire leading engineers/artists and equip themselves with new tech to stabilize their operation.
If you’ve seen their debut VR film, “The rose and I,” then you’ll understand why they’ve been entrusted with such an investment. Based off the famous story “The Little Prince,” the film follows a sick day of the rose. The little prince, concerned for the Rose’s well being, or confusion on why a rose sneezes, spends the day with the rose, nursing her back to health. It’s an light-hearted film, which has been showcased at Tribeca Film Festival 2015.
Their latest immersive film, “Allumette,” was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” in which the viewer gets to experience an colorful scenery peeking into an relationship between a mother and her daughter, named Allumette.
The setting is very fantastical like, with re-imagining Venice as an floating city. One interesting feature about the film is its implementation of stop-motion animation, which can be disconcerting for some viewers who are used to smooth frame-rates at 90fps. You’ll have to experience it for yourself, to see if this kind of immersion is right for you.
As time moves forward, we can expect to see more colorful worlds and stories hand-crafted by Penrose Studios developers. With an extra few millions backing their development process, it is going to be exciting to see how far they push the boundaries of storytelling in VR. Until then, you can connect with Penrose via Twitter @PenroseVR.
If you do not own a VR headset yet, start setting aside some dollars and treat yourself to the future. Virtual reality provides a great expanse for ideas and thoughts to flourish on, as well as providing an new means of socializing. It seems, with infinity of 3D space to work in, there is an infinity of ways to explore the inner workings of our own minds. But this is just a philosophical view.
On a more tangible note, since the release of Playstation VR, there will inevitably be another massive pulse in VR adoption, which means there are some thrilling and next-level content to look forward to. This brings me to a game studio who will be setting sail in the VR waters, starting with the PSVR.
StireFire Studios is a team of multi-faceted professionals who deal in publishing, marketing, consulting and game development. The studio is based in the mining town of Perth, Western Australia, and as they like to clarify, “Stirefire is more interested in human resources than mineral ones, and reservoirs of talent rather than fossil fuels.” They work with investors, independent dev studios and aspiring digital artist, to bring intangible ideas to being a full-fledge product.
They already have a few of their own projects to showcase their work. One such project is Orbeats, which was thier first title in partnership with WRK Studios. Orbeats is a music-centric game, in which the player works the orbs to the ever-changing beat. New tracks are unveiled as the player reaches target scores and scores can be shared with friends. Orbeat is a very entertaining game, built for anyone with a love for music, but it is still limited to the two-D screen.
But don’t worry, scheduled for beginning of 2017, they will be launching their first hi-end VR game for PSVR and HTC Vive, titled “Symphony of the machine.” It is a puzzle-based game, who’s colorful environment and puzzle reminds me of a game developed by InnerVision, titled “Thunderbird,” though Symphony of the Machine is meant to be more of a meditative game, rather than an rage-inducing relentlessly frustrating puzzle game.
Set in an post apocalyptic world, the player is atop a powerful, yet mysterious tower. In order to restore the desert-like landscape back to a habitable environment, players must direct a beam of light centered on top of the tower platform towards inscribed glyphs, which gives the player the power to control the weather of the land.
In VRFocus post, they state “Symphony of the Machine’s back story will be kept purposefully ambiguous as the main focus is the puzzle element, the tower and the surrounding landscape do provide some clues to the back story.” Stirfire Studio also removed text and narration for greater sense of “presence” and mystery.
I do expect Stirefire Studios to have plans for other VR titles, but for now, Symphony of the Machine will be their gateway into the marketplace. With an already established market for Playstation 4 gamers, this would be as good as time as any to create VR games, since the price to adopt is a lot lower than it’s PC counterparts. The game is scheduled to be released early 2017 for HTC Vive and Playstation VR. If you want to learn more about their game or future plans, you can contact them.
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It’s great to see many professional creative artists take on the task of producing engaging and visually stunning content for people to experience in virtual reality. One independent developer I’ve had the pleasure to write about was Ali Elsami, who was one of the first to created surreal artful experiences in VR which utilizes Leap Motions technology. Which brings me to another artist which deserves recognition also.
He goes by the name of Quba Michalski, who has been an professional creative artist for over a couple decades. Born in Poland and a traveler of the world at age 16, living in places such as Middle East and United States, he has had the pleasure to experience different cultures and build a knowledge-base of his interest, which include coding, filmmaking, quantum physics, anthropology and game design.
Knowing this, it is no surprise that he gained his Bachelors and Masters of Fine Arts in Graphic Design between years 1999 and 2001. Since graduating from college, he’s been a creative director at Imago Studio(Istanbul, Turkey), Autofuss(San Francisco, CA) and Google(Mountain View & Venice, CA). He’s also an freelancer, academic instructor, web designer/coder and a writer. He’s is a full-spectrum within the creative field.
After getting his hands on Google’s Photosphere technology several years ago, he has spent those years understanding, developing and leveraging virtual and augmented reality platform, in order to provide an fluent understanding on how to effectively create immersive experiences.
In an interview with Kuula, when talking about 360 photos, he explains “good 360 photos need to withstand the same level of critique and scrutiny traditional photography has to. This means good composition, color, dynamism, lighting, resolution and direction. We should not give images a ‘free pass’ solely on the merit of the novelty of 360.” This is exactly what his current projects accomplishes.
One colorful immersive experience he has produced is Prismatic. Prismative is Quba’s first independent project after leaving his position at Google and Autofuss in 2015. This experience puts the player in infinite mirror-like illusion or kaleidoscopic environment, which is filled with strobing fluorescent lights and music to match.
In collaboration with Impossible Acoustic(audio), his latest project, The Pull, puts the viewer in a room of furniture which undergoes gravity flux. It utilizes light as a way to direct viewers gaze and a spinning fade to transition through each scene. He used a software concoction, consisting of the Octane Render, After Effects, Cinema 4D and Mettle Skybox VR to bring this project to reality. Like Ali Elsami, he is bringing a new level of experiences for people to explore in virtual reality.
His work can be viewed on JauntVR and VRideo. Quba is definitely exploring ways to utilize the infinity of space, virtual reality has to offer, so new experiences are bound to come. You can take a look at his full immersive portfolio on QubaVR.com or connect with him via Twitter @QubaVR.
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I must admit, it’s fun scouring the internet for game studios and engineering companies who are adding creative solutions and entertaining content to the VR marketplace. Honestly, who would’ve expected that immersive interfaces, such as the HTC Vive and Playstation VR, was right around the corner for the average person to purchase? Who would’ve thought so much experiences and digital tools would be available for VR within a year of it’s introduction to the public marketplace? But who can blame these pioneering developers, such as Fierce Kaiju.
Fierce Kaiju is a game development studio based in Yorkshire, UK, which was founded in mid-year 2014 by Paul Colls(Creative Director), Dan Roberts(Art Director) and Andy Greensmith, with the focus on creating immersive content. Before its founding, the developers have been harnessing their skills with Rockstar Games and Activision, being a part of the Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series.
In cooperation with Oculus in year 2015, they produced their flagship VR game “Viral,” for the Gear VR. Viral puts you into an A.I. program named E.V.E.(a.k.a. Emotional Virtual Engine), as the anti-virus warrior program “Ragnarok”. Needless to say, your objective: Eliminate the Viruses. You have access to power-ups and E.V.E.’s dormant defense system to clean out her system.
To create a comfortable and intuitive gaming system, they’ve kept the player stationery, so in order to avoid health-loss, you must shoot incoming projectiles fired from the viruses. Also, to advance through the levels, they employ a teleportation system, where the player shoots the next platform after done eliminating the enemies. The game is colorful and addictive and has recieced recognition from Polygon and Three Bens in VR. If you own a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, then you’re in luck, since they are making the game compatible for these hi-end immersive interfaces.
For a studio founded on the purpose of creating entertaining and addictive immersive games to add traction to the adoption of virtual reality, we should expect to see more polished experiences from Fierce Kaiju. If you’re you are interested in learning more about them, you can connect with them via Twitter @FierceKaiju.
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It can be a struggle for independent game studios to prove themselves in a world where corporate gatekeepers exist. Though this shouldn’t deter any aspiring developers, and with interactive virtual reality content essentially being a new thing for the public marketplace, this will afford another opportunity for independent game studios to prove their worth.
Speaking of studios on the grind that has recently developed for VR, Turtle Rock Studios has announced their development of two game for the Samsung Gear VR. For those who does not recognize them, Turtle Rock is an American studio founded in 2002 by ex-Westwood Pacific developer, Michael Booth and now currently ran jointly by Phil Robb and Chris Ashton, after having a brief one year stint with Valve Corporation(2008-2009). They are the original creators of Left 4 Dead and Evolve.
Now they’re working on a immersive horror and exploratory experiences. Face your fears can be likened to “Don’t Let Go(Yorick van Vliet),” where the gameplay focuses around you facing horrifying events. They’ve incorporated an eye-tracking element to it, where depending on where you are focusing your attention, will depend on how the game will scare you. Two of the in-game experiences they announce is Skyscraper(targeted towards acrophobes), and the Haunting(targeted towards phasmophobes).
To balance out this experience, they are also coming out with Other Worlds, which is similar to the experience of Ali Eslami’s re-interpretation of Rene Magritte’s Paintings, except you’ll get to explore the creative mind of artist Justin Cherry. Those this world is much more active, as explained by them “Other Worlds allows players to experience the awe and beauty of being inside a painting, showcasing three unique worlds… and explore the environment long enough and the player may see one of many random events tailored to the world they’re currently in.”
So if you own the Gear VR and want to experience some triple-A content, make sure you add these games to your VR to-do list. Meantime, in-between time you can chat it up on their forums or connect with them via Twitter @TurtleRock.
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What would books be, without the stories and knowledge written upon them? What would television be, without the films and documentaries broadcast to them? What would the internet be, without social media and plethora of digital content that entices us to stay online?
Point is, media platforms are nothing without content, which is why creating engaging, comfortable, entertaining and useful experiences in virtual reality will be crucial to fueling and stabilizing the immersive marketplace.
In order to leverage VR’s potential, content-creators must be able to understand how to effectively create immersive experiences. Which brings me to a nine-day creative creative workshop, titled “Open Immersion: A VR Creative Doc Lab.”
Open Immersion is a collaborative event with hosting partners Canadian Film Centre, CFC Media Lab, Just Films Ford Foundation and NFB. Each company has made a name for themselves in the entertainment industry, with CFC Media Lab being an internationally acclaimed digital media think tank and the Ford Foundation funding stories focused around social justice.
To re-enforce the immersive workshops, Creative Doc Lab has been equipped with respected artists from both Canada and America, who include Scott Benesiinaabandan(Anishinabe Intermedia), Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers(Kainai First Nation), Kevin Lee Burton(originally God’s Lake Narrows First Nation), Kai Lumumba Barrow(New Orleans visual artist), Michaela Pilar Brown(multidisciplinary artist) and RaMell Ross(Research Affiliate MIT Media Lab).
The event will take place in Toronto, Canada, with the first two days starting at the Canadian Film Centre and the next 7 days downtown at NFB’s VR Lab. First two days will be orientation and knowledge breakdown of virtual reality, then the rest of the time participants be downtown to enjoy various workshops from professionals in the field of art, academics and production.
Undoubtedly, for those who are attending, will come out with a deep understanding of how to leverage VR to create comfortable, yet creative experiences that will be necessary to bring the marketplace to the next-level. It’s been barely a year since Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has been made available for the public and there are already plenty of experiences to check out, so we can only imagine what the VR marketplace will become a year from now. Open Immersion: A VR Creative Doc Lab will start on October 11 and end on October 19. To learn more, you can visit cfccreates.com.