NOW AVAILABLE FOR GEAR VR

Based on the award-winning tabletop card game Lost Cities by world-renowned board game designer Reiner Knizia, Lost Cities VR is a two-player strategy game that transports you to unexplored regions and mythical realms. Can you outwit your opponent and make the most profit as you compete to be the first to discover the ancient lost cities?

VR is more fun with friends!

- by Rachael Hosein

We love virtual reality but sometimes it can get lonely inside the matrix. Today things get a lot less lonely and at lot more social with our latest update to Lost Cities. Now you can play with friends.

For those of you who have have bought the game, thank you. Lost Cities is a type of game that is way more fun playing online and we are excited to share this update.


On the development front, we are looking forward to sharing some of our insights into how we brought this feature to the Gear VR. The number of use cases when bringing a social feature like this can be overwhelming and we learned so much in the process. We are putting together a talk about this topic too.

For those of you who are waiting on the next environment, we are working hard on Neptune's Realm, an underwater world that you can play in.

 

We've finally come up for air

- by Rachael Hosein

Sorry it's been so long, but we've been swimming with the fishes ;)

We're on the tail end of finishing up our next environment for Lost Cities. Soon you'll be able to play at the bottom of the ocean amid the ruins of Atlantis.

Here's a sneak peek!


 

Lost Cities VR is here, and what a journey it's been!

- by John Luxford


The journey to Lost Cities

Just over a year ago, right before leaving for GDC 2015, we licensed the rights to bring the award-winning Lost Cities card game to virtual reality from the game's creator, Reiner Knizia. Vice Motherboard dubbed it the first virtual reality board game.

We had just turned 1, and going to GDC was partly a celebration of our first year as a company, and of taking the plunge to make a full VR game. Up to that point, we had been building experiments in a variety of areas, but we hadn't yet tackled making a complete game together.

Lost Cities felt like the right first game to make. It wasn't a massive game, so it wasn't unachievable, but it still had a lot of moving parts. The core gameplay was already defined for us, but we still had to build our own computer AI player, and we had to make it work in VR. We also had to take a card game and turn that into an immersive VR experience.

The tabletop interface presented a number of interesting challenges. Tabletop games in VR have to balance readability, neck strain and player comfort, as well as user input constraints, especially on mobile VR headsets where user input is so limited. Our design choices ended up resulting in Lesley being invited to talk at Oculus Connect 2, Oculus's invite-only VR conference.

This led to us working with Oculus on their new social platform, which allowed us to make Lost Cities one of the first multiplayer games for the Gear VR. This was a big honour for us, and allowed us to develop our own mobile VR-optimized technology for voice chat that works with Oculus's 3D spatialized audio.

Lost Cities became one of the featured Gear VR titles at both Mobile World Congress and GDC, which resulted in a ton of great exposure for us.

After a year of development, we couldn't be more excited and proud to share our creation with the world. You can find it now on the Gear VR app store, and you can learn more about the making of the game here.


Campfire turns 2

The Campfire Union also turned 2 last month, which we think is a pretty big milestone for a VR company that started 2 years before the VR market even existed. It's also a pretty cool milestone to have coincide with the launch of our first game.

In that time, we threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, experimenting to learn what works and what doesn't work in VR. From simulator sickness challenges in locomotion to neck strain considerations in mobile headsets, we've learned a lot.

VR adds all of the unspoken expectations people make about the world around us to the mix when designing VR interfaces. On top of that, the optimization techniques required to power VR are a whole lot more than your traditional video game or app.

In that 2 years, we accomplished a lot. Some of those accomplishments include:

Life has been a rollercoaster, with countless challenges, and we're super proud of how far we've come, and even more excited for what's to come next.


So many thank yous!

Lost Cities would not exist without the massive contributions from a number of super talented people who believed in our vision and poured their hearts into it too.

  • Liem at Pixel Reborn, your 3D creations and animations really bring the game to life.
  • Olaf, Steve, and Nolan at Dacapo Productions, your music, sound, and voice acting add an incredible richness to the game.
  • Graham, your VFX work makes Lost Cities feel like a real game.
  • Sam, your illustrations bring subtlety and depth to a number of elements in the game.
  • Ryan and Landon, you've both been invaluable in building, fixing, and perfecting a million little details.

To Reiner Knizia, thank you for the chance to create our take on your great game. We've been big fans for a long time :)

To our friends and families, thanks for putting up with our long hours, too-infrequent phone calls, and our obsession with this new thing called "VR".

And lastly, thank you to all the great people at Oculus (Aaron, John, Drew, Chris, Charles, Tina, Ichha, Phil, Callum) for your support in this process, and for believing in a little VR company from the prairies.

Sincerely,
Lesley, Rachael & Lux

 

Lost Cities VR on Tom's Hardware, release plans

- by John Luxford

A screenshot of the new Himalayan Mountains scene

It's been a bit quiet on here, but lots has been going on behind-the-scenes. Our launch plans are starting to ramp up, and we can also share that Lost Cities is going multiplayer in a big way. You can read more about that on Tom's Hardware.

Les just got back from Vision Summit last week, and is already in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, and soon he'll be in NYC joining a panel called "The VR Cutting Edge from Canada: A Look at VR, AR, and Immersive Entertainment from our Northern Neighbors" at Media Summit.

Meanwhile, John's been away on a backpacking adventure through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala where he visited the Mayan cities of Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Tikal. His poor vacation timing aside, he did manage to score some cool Lost Cities photo ops in Tikal (see below), and he promises to share some 360's he took using the Cardboard Camera app at each of the 3 sites when he's back next week.

It's been a Campfire Union world tour! We'll keep posting more Lost Cities info here as soon as we can, so check back soon!

John playing a quick game and fooling around with the Gear VR in Tikal, Guatemala

 

Lost Cities VR has been submitted to the Gear VR app store!

- by John Luxford

Yesterday just after 5pm, we officially submitted Lost Cities to the Gear VR app store! Here's one of the screenshots we submitted with the game (more below):


Lost Cities is our very first game, so this is a huge moment for us as a VR company. Right off the bat, we'd like give a massive thank you to the whole team for your amazing work. Landon, Ryan, Graham, Sam, Liem, Olaf, Steve, and Nolan, you guys came along with us to make something beautiful and fun in a very short time frame. Campfire couldn't have done it without all of you believing in our vision for this game, and that means a lot to us.

We'd also like to take a moment to reflect on the experience of making Lost Cities.

How we ended up making Lost Cities

Last spring, we were talking about what kind of game we'd like to make as our first game. We're all fans of tabletop gaming, and due to the lack of positional tracking on the Gear VR that style of game seemed like a natural fit for the platform. So we started looking at tabletop games for ideas.

What we found was that most tabletop games for one reason or another present substantial challenges in being adapted to VR; too many pieces to select and move, legibility issues on current VR screens, requiring 3-5 players, the list goes on.

We ended up short listing just a handful of games that we thought had potential, with Lost Cities at the top, and right then a bit of serendipity happened. Before going to GDC last year, we were talking with Jay Powell of The Powell Group who was helping us make connections as first-timers to the conference, and in conversation it turned out that he knew Reiner Knizia, the creator of Lost Cities, and put us in touch.

Reiner Knizia and his team were very receptive of our concept, and great to work with. We ended up pulling the trigger on making Lost Cities into a VR game just before leaving for GDC, which gave us double cause to celebrate in San Fransisco (we also turned 1 year old at that time).


Lost Cities as a VR experience

We got asked this more than a few times since we started making the game: Why a board game in VR?

Lost Cities has a great theme that gave us lots to work with and imagine in a VR context. And it's a fun game that Lux has been playing for more than 12 years now, so we knew the replayability was there. The game lends itself naturally to building immersive worlds around each of the 5 expeditions (Desert Sands, Neptune's Realm, Himalayan Mountains, Ancient Volcano, and Brazilian Rainforest), and also allows for crafting Indiana Jones-style narrative elements too.

All of that informed our decisions around the time period, visual style, the music, and even the ways we created affordances to fit some of the UI elements more naturally into the scenes. For example, the settings panel, the door, and especially the map in the explorer's study, which we used as the lobby of the game.


What's next

We shipped Lost Cities with just one of the scenes (Desert Sands), choosing to focus on a polished core game over quantity of content. We put a ton of work into the tutorial and lobby scene too, and are very happy with the results.

We don't have an exact release date yet (we're working with Oculus on an ideal release that doesn't just get buried under the holiday sales), so we'll keep you posted on that.

Next up, we're working on the remaining scenes over the next few months, as well as multiplayer capabilities, so stay tuned for those too.


Lost Cities taught us a lot about games, user interfaces in VR, peoples' expectations of the world around them, as well as keeping a team (11 in total!) focused on the same vision to craft something special. I'm sure we'll have more posts reflecting on that stuff in the future too.

Thanks for reading and celebrating with us. We're really proud of the results of everyone's hard work, and we can't wait to reveal it to the whole (virtual) world soon!

– Rachael, Lesley & John

 

We're getting ready for our submission to the Gear VR app store!

- by Rachael Hosein

Check out some screen shots from our (almost) completed game!


 

We recorded the voice acting for the Lost Cities game tutorial today!

- by John Luxford

Today Les spent the morning with our friends at daCapo (the guys writing the amazing music and sound effects for Lost Cities), where they recorded the voice acting for Reginald, your guide through the game's tutorial. The voice behind our tutorial guide is Nolan Balzer. Thanks Nolan!

Here's a sample clip from their session:

And of course, a couple candid shots too:



 

Tszujing up the map!

- by Rachael Hosein

This week is devoted to putting the finishing touches on our Phase I launch of Lost Cities. Check out our new map icons!


 

Meet the team - Unity Developers, lighting, and effects

- by Rachael Hosein

Our first official Campfire hire, our first intern, and a talented freelance VFX artist - These three get into the nitty gritty to make it all functional and looking glossy.


Ryan Hill (Unity Developer) - Ryan has a computer science degree and once made PewDiePie cry a little bit. Over seven million people have watched other people play his games. Ryan Hill has colourful socks and makes the computer do things.
Landon Butterworth (Unity Developer) - Landon is a passionate software developer and computer science student specializing in artificial intelligence and databases. Landon has researched multiplayer interactions in virtual environments and data analytics for virtual reality with the University of Manitoba's Human Computer Interaction lab.

Graham Weibe (Lighting and effects) - Graham is a video game VFX artist. Throughout his career, he has worked closely with Art and Design Directors to define and elevate the look and feel of games, videos, and overall user experience.

 

Navigation

- by Rachael Hosein

The navigation plot for our Phase I launch!


 

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