It is time once again to look back at the last quarter of the year that has just passed – quick as a flash, we are into the home stretch before 2017 draws to a close.
After a manic period of deliverables and finished projects last quarter, the development team were able to relax a little bit and enjoy the rewards of fantastic end of financial year results with some downtime, overdue holidays and time to prototype and investigate new concepts and technologies. So that means overall it’s a shorter than usual quarterly review as much is still to fresh to be talked about just yet, but the last quarter ended with a cliff-hanger around some award nominations and July got straight down to business in answering those dangling strings…
First up however, Directors Sam and Robin were called off to a secret incubator start-up space in Luxembourg to demonstrate the potential powers of VR to an enraptured room of corporate health & safety professionals, as part of a new partnership with a global telecommunications company looking to add immersive technologies to their employee training programs. Look for more details of the output of this partnership in the 2017 Q4 Review.
Once back from overseas, it was time to take Loco Dojo down to Develop: Brighton Expo, where we had been selected to appear in the ‘Indie Developers Showcase‘, as part of the annual three day event. The game was already nominated for “Best Performance” in the Develop Awards, for the voice-over done by Brian Blessed for the Grand Sensei character, so this was our second chance at walking away with an award with ‘Judge’s Choice’ and ‘Peoples’ Choice’ being up for grabs. After two days of demoing the game to developers and journalists at the expo, it was time for the Indie Showcase Awards – having already lost out at the Develop Awards to another VR game, we went to the end showcase ceremony with low expectations. We were pleasantly surprised then to walk out the room with the ‘Judge’s Choice‘ award! As the first game title developed by the Make Real team officially under that moniker, it was a fantastic reward for the team for all their hard work and effort put into the game over the past six months. Go team!
Sam was then asked by Lighthouse in Brighton to give a talk about immersive technologies to the residents of the Reframed 2017 Project Development Programme and of course the opportunity to have some Friday afternoon fun time with some beers and multiplayer Loco Dojo. We can’t wait to see what immersive stories and uses of the technology the current batch of residents create, to be revealed at the wrap party in early October.
Still riding high on the Develop Indie Dev Showcase Award, the team put the finishing touches to the adapted version of Loco Dojo for the Steam VR and HTC Vive release at the end of the month, 3 months on from the initial Oculus Rift + Touch release. Whilst the game operated functionally the same, slight changes and tweaks to the virtual hands and holding position of game objects had to be made to ensure it still felt as fun and natural using the HTC Vive Wand controllers as it does with the Oculus Touch (as well as the Steam platform integration for launching the game and enabling the cross-platform multiplayer support). Now players across both main PC VR systems can play against each other for twice as much fun!
Officially silly season for some, August saw a number of development team members taking well deserved breaks and holidays but not before we went to Oxford to assist McDonald’s with preparation for the Foodsteps truck being present at the BBC Countryfile Live agricultural event, held within the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace. This was to be the final main event for the VR truck of 2017 and so we all wanted to ensure everything was operating correctly and was clean for the BBC cameras.
We also learned that our EDF Energy “Reactor Builder” and PROCAT “Digital VR Applications”, both for HTC Vive VR systems, have been nominated for the VRBound – VR Awards 2017 in the ‘Best use of VR in Education and Training’ category. So we’ll be off wearing our best tuxedos to the award ceremony in early October to find out if one of them wins!
The month started with Sam and Robin once more embarking upon another secret mission to Luxembourg and Budapest to showcase yet more health & safety orientated VR applications.
It wouldn’t be an average month without at least one event to attend, demo or talk at and this month certainly didn’t disappoint. Whilst the secret mission was underway, the other Director Ben was deployed in London at the one-day Digital Futures event to showcase VR and AR with our VR Lounge setup.
However it was towards the end of the month that events really got underway with four days of #TOMTech #vrLAB at The Old Market Theatre, Hove, curated by us and sponsored by EDF Energy and AMD, who kindly provided a number of VR-Ready PCs for experiences to run on their latest and greatest Ryzen CPUs. As curators of the event, we hand-picked a selection of experiences to appear there for attendees to try out, having gotten permission to show content from the likes of BBC, The Guardian, Greenpeace, Sony Music Entertainment and Breaking Forth, as well as having local and indie developers and artists showcasing their VR experiences, alongside our own creations for EDF Energy and our games Loco Dojo and Radial-G : Racing Revolved (developed by us under the Tammeka company moniker). Over a series of two-hour sessions, over 500+ attendees drew, gasped, poked, dodged, watched and admired 18 VR experiences to show the wide range of uses of the technology.
No sooner was #vrLAB packed up and a vanload of Pelicases were returned to the studio, it was time to load up again and drive the VR Lounge to London once more for ‘Technology for Marketing‘ event at Olympia for two days of expo in the Innovation Area. Our Director Sam was also chairing the discussion panel on the 2nd day, “Beyond the Hype – Measuring Success of VR in Marketing”, with panel members Tanya Laird of Digital Jam, Marija Butkovic of Women of Wearables, Karl Roberts of Natural History Museum and our McDonald’s partner Peter Garbutt of McDonald’s UK.
But we’re not finished yet! That very same week ended with Sam and Ben demonstrating VR and AR to a number of Councillors and MPs at Brighton Digital Catapult Centre before running the Pop-Up VR Arcade held by the British Airways i360 Experience, showcasing Loco Dojo and Apollo 11 Mobile VR experiences as well as giving a talk and VR demos at the CodeBar Brighton the same weekend. We think we can safely claim to have owned Brighton Digital Festival this year! (We’ll also be at Brightwave in early October to showcase the web-based multi-user serious fun gamified learning application we created with them for a major drinks distribution company, as part of the Open Studios sessions operating as part of the festival, but thanks to a shift in festival dates for 2017, this slips into 2017 Q4 Review news).
Back to the topic of award nominations, we learned that we have been nominated for three categories in the inaugural Virtual Perceptions – Immersive Perspectives 2017 awards, as follows:
- Education – PROCAT ‘ Digital VR Applications’
- Video Game : Headset – ‘Loco Dojo’
- Consumer Activation – McDonald’s ‘Follow Our Foodsteps – Top of the Crop’
The end of the month also saw Special Effect, a charity that helps disabled gamers, host their “One Special Day” event where we agreed to donate all the sales of Loco Dojo across the various platforms it is currently available on to the cause to help raise money in a nationwide charity drive across the games industry.
Last but not least, we reached a key milestone achievement with our first VR game, “Radial-G : Racing Revolved” (developed as Tammeka) – after a long period of hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing and nail-biting over certification and platform integration for the first time, we finally were given the greenlight and gold master to launch the game on the Sony PlayStation 4 games console with support for their VR hardware. Since first meeting Shuhei Yoshida, Sony President of Worldwide Studios, at Develop: Brighton expo in 2014 as the result of a cheeky tweet asking him to come check the game out, and listing it as the final stretch goal of the Kickstarter campaign that same year, we have long seen the PS VR release as the cherry on the top of the VR cake to aim for. So September 12th saw the digital version of the game go live on the European Sony PlayStation Store with the boxed versions to follow soon behind in Europe along with the US digital and boxed editions to be released in October.
Now we race into the final quarter of 2017 already – five awards are up for grabs in October and many new exciting projects and products will be commenced or completed, details of some of those in the next review. Until then, carry on engaging with immersive technology and don’t forget to talk to us if you want to find out more about how we can develop best-in-class content for you.