VDA Q&A: Cloudlands: VR Minigolf
You’ve just been nominated for a Viveport Developer Award - how do you feel?
It's an incredible honor to be nominated for a Viveport Developer Award. The entire development team is ecstatic as this is something very much unexpected. Congratulations and good luck to all of the other nominees.
Where did the idea for Cloudlands: VR Minigolf come from?
When we got our hands on one of the first HTC Vive prototypes we went on a prototyping spree of about 10 different unique-to-motion-control game mechanics such as golfing, baseball, bowling, sword fighting, racquet sports, throwing games, and more. We're a relatively small game team and many of us love golfing. We initially attempted a full on golfing game but settled on the more accessible minigolf genre. Minigolf allowed us to keep the core "golf" mechanic, while exploring much more fantastical environments that wouldn't be possible in the real world. The game started small in scope but after concepting the level editor we realized putting the creative power into the hands of our players was going to produce infinitely more creative levels than our small design team could ever create.
How big is your team and how long did it take to develop?
The Cloudlands core dev team consisted of about 7 people, though we had 14 people touching the project at different times throughout the dev cycle helping with the multiplayer programming, marketing, and performance testing. We started development of Cloudlands in August 2015 and released our launch version in April 2016. The level editor was in development from February 2016 until September 2016 and is still on-going.
Tell us something about Cloudlands: VR Minigolf that we wouldn’t know from just experiencing it on Viveport?
The game art in Cloudlands had to be completely re-done about a month before launch. Stress! We had been developing under the impression that the min spec for VR would be a GTX980 graphics card and we had good performance on that card. However, upon discovering the min spec would be GTX970 graphics cards it forced us to re-create our entire lighting pipeline, redo all the levels, and also change a lot of the art to be more performant. The art team was working around the clock to get it ready for launch. It turns out hitting 90fps can be quite challenging when you also want to push visual quality.
During the development process, did anything surprise you along the way you didn’t expect?
Our initial vision for what the level editor would be, was more of a grid based block snapping tool with the pieces in a menu attached to your hand. It was meant to be fairly simple and a quick addition to the game. However, our designer/engineer working on the level editor had different plans and ended up prototyping this really fantastic and intuitive system for grabbing pieces out of a shelf and snapping them free-form at a smaller scale, which you can then play instantly. The tool continued to grow and ended up being a much more complex feature than originally intended but I think the final product is something we are all extremely proud of.
What do you hope people take away from Cloudlands: VR Minigolf overall?
It's pretty common to have people play and say "Wow, that was way better than I thought. Really fun!" We get it. It's minigolf. And for VR it seems like it wouldn't be anything special, but so many players come out having had a really fun time playing a game they're familiar with, but thrown into crazy impossible real world user generated golf courses.
Are you planning future updates and adding more features to Cloudlands: VR Minigolf? Or what’s next for Futuretown?
The level editor is still relatively new and we're continually listening to the community and incorporating game feedback into the build. We're currently spending the majority of our time on a new unannounced project.
If you could have anyone famous play a round of Cloudlands: VR Minigolf who would it be?
It would probably be Fumito Ueda or Jonathan Blow. Both game design legends and we've learned a lot from them over the past 10 years as independent developers. I'd love to hear their thoughts on the game and interaction design we've crafted.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other developers?
The VR market is extremely small at this time. Make sure your game design considers who the VR market is and make sure you have a realistic understanding of how many copies you'll be able to sell. This will inform your development design and schedule to make sure you're creating a product that can be financially successful and allow you to continue creating games.
Cloudlands: VR Minigolf is available to download on Viveport.
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