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:
- We built the world's first multiplayer virtual construction site in Tower Crane VR
- Yana Virtual Relaxation became the 63rd app in the very first VR app store (Gear VR)
- Yana was also chosen by Google as a Google Cardboard Favorite
- We wrote our own 360 video platform, called Scout 360
- Together with Handcraft Creative, we created a 360 video experience of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the largest folk festival in the world
- Lost Cities was featured by Oculus at both Mobile World Congress and the Game Developers Conference (GDC)
- Lesley was invited to speak at Oculus Connect 2 about how we created our Lost Cities tabletop game interface
- Rachael made us a new Youth Outreach Coordinator
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.
Lesley, Rachael & Lux