Note: Distortion and blur in the screenshots is a side effect of the Oculus Rift display mode, it doesent look like that in actual play!
Finding myself to be a “VR enthusiast” having obtained an Oculus Rift via Mysterious Circumstances™ I’m doing that thing of downloading absolutely everything (within the realms of non-WTFGTFOeww) I can find for it to experience. That inexorably led me to finding Pixel Rift – an absolute delight of an indie project by the immensely talented Ana Ribeiro and her team. The game is still very much in early development, but the premise is not only clever and original, but also hugely appeals to the RetroGaming fan that I am too. It also contributes to Donna’s and my own love of indie Kickstarter projects 🙂
The game is played from a first-person view, from the perspective of Nicola, a gamer who’s a huge fan of the fictional game “Pixel Rift”. What follows is a progression for both Nicola and the “game within a game” as she gets older, and the game “upgrades” through generational hardware changes… e.g. Atari console, to Gameboy, to SNES, and beyond. The clever framing mechanism for this is the virtual representation of the environment, and Nicola’s “growing up”
In the alpha demo, the menu screen sees you as a baby toddler, sat on the floor, with an old telly looming in front of you in an appropriately “giant” living-room. There’s an advert in creaky old 70’s style on the tv for Pixel Rift – watch it long enough and you get a pseudo-augmented-reality explosion of colour from it, delighting both you, and your virtual infant representation. In front of you are the various consoles, delineated by year, with their representation of the virtual Pixel Rift game. In the demo, you can only play the 1989 “Gamegirl” version, the others are “locked out”.
Selecting the Gameboy… er, Gamegirl, you find yourself in a primary-school classroom, sat at a desk covered in paraphernalia relating to Nicola’s Pixel Rift obsession. Your classmates surround you, fooling around, whispering at you and each other. At the front, next to the blackboard, your very hoary strict school teacher/school mistress (a la “Misty” comic, those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) talks at the class in a very thick Northern accent, dryly talking about the subject (Biology, I think!) and –depending on you, and the class’s behaviour – either turning her back to write on the blackboard, or shouting/being exasperated at you and the other children. With her back turned, you can look down to sneak your Gameboy out from under the desk, using the gamepad to control the virtual game, within the game.
Pixel Rift for the “Gameboy” – is a mono platform game, the objective being to get to the end and fight the end-of-level boss. Play is interrupted by having to drop the Gameboy back under the desk when the teacher turns around, or risk her wrath. However – there is MUCH more to explore beyond playing the game-within-a-game. You’re also armed with a paper spitball launcher, which you can use to torment classmates, the teacher, or somewhat more modestly fire into the bin in the corner – the results of which are somewhat fantastical, but hilarious.
Get to the end-of-level-boss on the Gameboy, however, and you are treated to an explosion of virtual augmented reality, as the boss and your player avatar leap out of the confines of the game, out in front of you, as the reality of the classroom fade into the background. Its gorgeous as the characters appear as their 2D chunky pixelized selves, but huge, capering and clambering about in front of you and over your books and desk, whilst the 3D world of the classroom still resides hazily in the background. Defeating the boss requires a blend of the 2D play mechanics, and the “real” world.
The potential for this game is HUGE, and I *love* its quirky fun little nature. The promise of going through different ages and years, Nicola growing up, the games becoming more advanced just really appeals to me. I really like the pseudo-personal nature of the premise, but also how it appeals to my nostalgia. However… I don’t know how much the game will appeal when played in a purely 2D non-VR realm , and VR is the only way to play it at the moment. Suffice to say it is very much a niche product at present. I think there might be an audience for Ana’s game were she to make it 2D compatible too, but the game most definitely achieves the wow-factor when played with an Oculus Rift.
It’s got some glitches, some oddities, and some of the animation is buggy, or at least unfinished – but for a prototype game for a prototype device, it’s immensely entertaining, and has a lot of potential. It might be a bit of a British gamer thing in particular, but I’d love to see posters and assorted other paraphernalia of the eras shown in the various scenes, e.g. movie posters, “Look-in!” pinups, etc. From the screen shots on their page, it seems that there might be some other expanded stuff beyond the classroom/living room environments, so maybe we’ll see that kind of stuff later.
With a relatively small audience available for VR projects at the moment, I hope it is successful in its bid for Steam Green Lighting, or if they decide to kickstart it, though again I think they could help themselves a bit by making a non-VR play option too, it would certainly appeal to the RetroGamers out there.
That is to say, an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2. Which is a Virtual Reality HMD (Head Mounted Display) – as opposed to some kind of smelly ailment cultivating product, which is what it sounds a bit like from the name.
Sony have also announced a similar solution for the PS4 available in the near future (albeit with some SERIOUSLY problematic demos)
The OcRift has been on the go for just over year, from a successful kickstarter campaign, through to a first prototype, a massive investment by some big name firms (including most (in)famously Facebook) and now a 2nd prototype (DK2) which is pretty close, I imagine, to the final product, despite protestations of still insufficient screen resolution (1920×1080, but with the horizontal split in two, 960 pixels per eye) – but given the sheer amount of horsepower to meet the idealized 75hz 1080p display, I doubt we’ll see a practical 1440p or 4K offering anytime soon.
I will be reporting on using the DK2 over the coming weeks, including re-jigging my near complete preview of Elite: Dangerous, for which EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED :O
Additionally, with any luck, I might be able comment on my own tentative haphazard steps into developing VR projects for the device.
I’ll leave you with the ever energetic JackSepticEye to give you an idea what we’re talking about here…
This is my Valentines Day present. Screw dinner and a movie and flowers. Encouraging my obsession is way better.
Best husband ever.
(For those not in the know, it’s ClapTrap from Borderlands)
A while ago, I wrote a review of Steve Jackson’s highly entertaining Zombie Dice game. There was a very silly expansion involving Santa and cheerleaders (and I mean that in a good way), which has now been followed up with a new stand alone game using the same background mechanic: Dino Hunt Dice.
Unlike the previous game, where the premise was to eat as many yummy human brains as possible, this time you’re trying to capture dinosaurs for your zoo – I like to think of it as people too lazy to make their own Jurassic Park from scratch indulging in a bit of suicidal industrial espionage. As with Zombie dice, you get a cardboard dice cup with the game, although this one is a little dinkier than its elder sibling’s. You also receive ten dice and a mercifully brief sheet of rules.
There are three types of dice, although the brains have been replaced with dinosaurs, and the shotguns with leaves. The footsteps remain, but their roles have been switched – instead of being a good thing, now they are a very bad thing indeed, and mean that instead of escaping, you’ve been “stomped” by an unhappy dino who didn’t appreciate your efforts to bag him. There are five green dice (apatosaurus), three yellow ones (triceratops) and two red ones (tyrannosaurus), with progressively more footprints and fewer monsters.
Players take turns in selecting three dice from the cup, chosen at random and without peeking. They then roll those dice, and see what they get: dinosaurs are put to one side, as are stompy footprints. Provided all three dice didn’t roll stomps, then the player chooses enough dice to make their hand back up to three and rolls again, if they want to; leaf dice are rerolled. All dice are returned to the pot when players change over, with the running total of dinosaurs captured marked by tokens (which aren’t supplied). The first person to twenty dinos wins.
It’s a deceptively simple mechanic, requiring each player to make a judgement on how much they want to push their luck in any given turn; after all, if you acquire three stomps in one roll sequence, you lose any dinos you’ve captured in that sequence. Sometimes nerves of steel pay off – in one game, my husband kept rolling and managed a streak of eight dinos and only two feet! It also meant he beat me…
This is a fast, easily portable game and a great deal of fun. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an accompanying app for this incarnation of the game. The lack of tokens is understandable as it will keep the costs down, but given the propensity of Steve Jackson Games to produce tie-in tat for Munchkin, I am a little surprised they haven’t done the same for these games – there is room in the cup for storage.
PS: In looking to see if SJG did have associated tie-in tat, I discovered that they also have a version of these games for deer hunting called Trophy Buck. Ick…
There really was no way I was going to resist this when our own PuffyTail posted a link to it on Twitter. Yes I paid way too much for shipping from the US to the UK, but it did get here in 4 days and that includes the weekend. I’ve been waiting for this little guy forever and finally he’s here and all mine.
I really don’t have much to share. I just wanted to share my joy at getting him today. You can buy one of your own here.