Rangi is a game developed by Funsoft. This studio recently won Digital Games Conference in Dubai (DGC). The DGC is an Indie Prize nomination partner. As winner, Funsoft has the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize Seattle at Casual Connect USA 2017. The following is a postmortem of Rangi and the journey in to VR behind it.
By Hatim Bensaid, CEO and Founder of Funsoft
Funsoft is based in Casablanca, one of the largest cities in Africa bordering Morocco’s Atlantic Ocean coast. The team is composed of several ex-Ubisoft employees who have contributed to titles such as Rayman Legends, Rayman Origins, Prince of Persia, Raving Rabbids, and CSI Hidden Crime.
It all started when Funsoft’s current creative director prototyped a VR demo during his spare time with a couple of colleagues. They presented the idea to the studio. The reaction was good, and so the adventure began. Initially intended to be a small game, the enthusiasm around it gradually grew with time, this urged to expand the ambitions and the team on the project, which led to a memorable journey.
Overkill VR is a result of cooperation between two teams: Game Troopers & Starloop Studios. Game Troopers is the official publisher of Overkill VR, managing promotion, marketing and distribution. Game Troopers is also an experienced publisher in mobile gaming, with a strong background in the Windows phone & Windows PC markets. While Starloop Studios is a multi-platform studio formed by developers and artists. Starloop has had many successful projects on different platforms, including PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, mobile, VR, and more. This experience gives Starloop a unique perspective on game development in different environments and, as the devs state, increases their potential for success.
Starloop’s biggest title to date is Make it Rain – The Love of Money, a mobile clicker with more than 20-million downloads across its three platforms, Android, iOS and Windows phone. These are the teams that created Overkill VR. Here’s how it happened.
With over a decade of experience in the game development industry, Eipix Entertainment is currently the most productive cross-platform developer of HOPA games in the world, developing more than 20 new titles a year, and employing more than 300 creatives. The company is also deep into the process of expanding onto other fields of the gaming industry, such as adventure games, text-based adventures and VR games. In 2016, it has set its sight on new territory – self-publishing and the free-to-play casual gaming industry.
New beginnings are tough. Eipix has worked on a variety of projects since its inception back in 2005, but for the past five years the company has almost exclusively worked on HOPA titles released by its publisher, Big Fish Games. These games put us on the map, and it is their success that allowed us to consider branching out and venturing into unknown territories.
Once we were able to consolidate our operations and create a steady pipeline for such a massive output of HOPA games, the next logical step was trying our hand in a different genre. Finally, in 2016 we chose to enter the self-publishing arena.
By Bobby Patteson, CEO&Founder of Highcastle Studios
Turns out that making an indie game is somewhat like the process of brewing a good beer. Through a series of tedious steps, water and malt are transformed into the beverage that is commonly consumed after a good old Canadian hockey match. My name is Bobby Patteson and my latest game Beer League Hockey has been fermenting for the past two and a half years. After being brought back from the dead on several occasions this pugilistic sports game has eventually found its way on iOS and Android.
Cells Gamesis a small indie team of professionals that got together a few years ago. But it was just in the beginning of this year that they found time to focus on a project. The team got even more tight-knit when they started preparing for the Game Jam Kanobu 2016 contest where they eventually won the Unity Special Award there.
“We work remotely, everyone being in different parts of the world: I’m in Kyiv, our programmer Sasha is in Krasnoyarsk, another programmer Misha and artist Andriy are in Dnipro, and sound designer Anton is in St. Petersburg. So yes, it’s all remote, but this doesn’t get in our way to communicate and have good workflow”, says the studio’s CEO Eugene Lavrinenko as he shares the story of Madness Road, a mobile racing game inspired by post-apocalyptic movies about total destruction.
I’m Benoit Freslon, I’m 31, based in France, and I’ve liked making games since my childhood. I studied in a gaming school and earned experience in a game studio in Paris before becoming a solo indie game developer in 2009.
EnigmBox on iOS is a compilation of 56 different puzzles that make you “think outside the box”. Use all the iPhone functionalities: move it, touch it, take pictures, capture videos, plug in accessories, use location service, all buttons and the mobile features. At Casual Connect Asia this game won the Best in Show Critics Choice and the Most Innovative Game awards.
How do startup companies begin? It’s different for everyone. For some people, having lots of brilliant ideas is the thing, and sooner or later one of them is brought to fruition. Some people polish their single idea for many years before finally finding the resources to bring it to life. For some, it’s happenstance. OWL-Studio’s CEO Vera Velichko shares her experience.
BalanCity is a goofy mixture between the oldschool Sim City and Jenga. In this physical city builder you need to make a towering metropolis over a treacherous seesaw. You can build houses, offices, parks, transportation, landmarks and more. Eventually, disasters will hit your city, so you must have your emergency services ready to act. Citizen approval is also a thing you must take care of if you do not want your people to start rioting and burn the city down. There is a Free Build Mode as well as Challenges and Scenarios where you must build real life metropolis with their famous landmarks.
“At The House of Fables we specialize in making casual adventure games, where hidden object scenes and logic puzzles are the most important aspects of gameplay. Fascinated by the possibilities offered by VR we decided to transfer this kind of game into the immersive VR environment. We instinctively felt that beautiful hand-drawn hidden object scenes may be much more fun to play in 360˚”, says The House of Fables’ producer Marta Wierzbolowska as she sheds more light on the creation process of Wrath of Loki, The Best VR Game and Most Innovative Game of Indie Prize Tel Aviv 2016.
“We knew that VR projects were dominated by horror and thriller experiences. Therefore we decided to offer something completely different: a relaxing experience based in pleasant
locations and casual puzzles. That is how Wrath of Loki was born”.
Our previous games have been based around Slavic mythology, but in case of the new VR project we
turned to the Nordic gods and myths. We wanted it to be epic, so that the immersive VR experience
could be fully enjoyed. We chose two Nordic gods: Loki and Thor. This pair is famous for continuously fighting with each other, so it gave us a ready-made setup that everyone could step into without needing much of explanation. Therefore, while having created a new project, we were sure we had an idea familiar enough to be catchy, yet epic enough to become a truly unforgettable experience.
An idea familiar enough to be catchy, yet epic enough to become a truly unforgettable experience.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. It soon turned out that our usual way of preparing assets was not going to work for VR. We had to figure out an entirely new production pipeline. We had to convert our hand-drawn 2D locations to the 360˚ technology. It took a lot of learning and many iterations of trial and error. It’s not so easy to draw a “flat” 2D world in a way that it can be applied onto a sphere and transformed into an immersive environment that gives the player the illusion of being inside a 3D world. We needed to find a way for the parallax to work. So we created our own tool which allows us to present 2D graphics in the way we need. I can assure that in the next game (in 360) the graphics will be even better – we found a way to do really awesome stuff! And we’re excited to show it to the world ^_^.
At the same time we tried to make a user interface that would work naturally in a situation where you can only use your head and gaze to control the gameplay. Our main goal was to create an interface simple enough so that it will not destroy the feeling of immersion. And there was still the issue of moving between locations. We decided magical portals that transfer you between the worlds would be the most natural choice for Asgaard. It also helped to keep the VR biggest danger – motion sickness – at bay. It was our main goal when designing the interface and movement in game: to make it available for everyone and we can proudly say that we succeeded. There is no nausea effect in our VR game!
There is no nausea effect in our VR game!
Still we were battling other problems. The puzzles and challenges we were used to producing were not easily transferable into VR. Difficulty levels that are appropriate for mobile or PC games are not applicable for a headset and gaze-based interface. We had to find the golden mean between a puzzle, that is “too easy” and “too annoying” to solve. Classic minigames, such as connecting dots, etc. can be tiring and burdensome in VR, despite being a very simple and well-known mechanic. Even hidden object scenes had to be designed in a different way, to ensure all 360˚ of the backgrounds are used.
We have also implemented our own version of the inventory and hint button, but not all players found them intuitive to use. It took a lot of testing and adjustment to make it work. So our best advice for fellow VR developers is: try, try and try again, and do not be afraid of failing over several attempts. Eventually you will find the solution. Just don’t give up!
Classic minigames, such as connecting dots, can be tiring and burdensome in VR.
What are we Proud of?
We have gained a lot of experience over this project. We are happy to admit that we have created a unique and effective pipeline for using a hand-drawn 2D location in a 3D environment.
We wanted the player to feel that they were inside Asgaard, so we put a lot of effort into creating locations that would be epic and legendary. Music has been added that would help enhance the atmosphere in such places. We work with a great composer – Arkadiusz Reiko Reikowski. He’s a very talented man. We are so lucky he has the time and is willing to work with us! So we didn’t choose music – it’s music composed specifically for this game (like in all our projects). Thanks to all of this we succeeded in creating the unforgettable experience of being in a different world.
We have found that there is still a lot of space for improvements. We would like to create more complex and lively animations and interactions with NPCs. As well as to design more complicated puzzles and more demanding hidden object scenes. We want to further improve the hint and inventory mechanics. We also believe that the introduction of menu or UI to the players should be entwined into the first location (not through a tutorial). A menu that is a natural element of a location (for example: a cockpit in a spaceship) is much better for the immersion. It can be fun to learn and can be perceived as a part of the game, not as a boring interface. As you can see, we have a long list of improvements.
“This project was our first attempt and now we know we could have done better. And that is what we are going to do next time: we will do it better”, Marta promises.
Wrath of Loki is available on the website, and the team’s updates can be tracked on Facebook.
“21 Steps to Soul is not just the first game I have developed, it is closely connected to the story of my life”, says Russian indie developer Grigory Everstov as he shares his story of a gamer and then developer. The number 21 in the game title is a reference to 21 grams that people presumably lose when they pass away. Grigory likes to think that is how much he put into creating his game.