VRTO — Presenting Manimal Sanctuary!

For the last half year or I’ve been secretly colluding with the folks at Postopian Games to help bring to life “Manimal Sanctuary”, an interactive story/post-apocalyptic lurking simulator for Google Cardboard.

We’ll be showing the game publicly for the first time at VRTO 2017 (Virtual & Augmented Reality World Conference & Expo 2017) this coming weekend. On Monday (June 22) I’ll be joining designer Jim Munroe on stage to talk about about the game and our experiences making it.

Details for the Talk:
VTRO: Manimal Sanctuary: Dev Notes from a Lurking Simulator

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On Poking Mangos

I sorta forgot that I had a website. Here’s some fun tidbits from a talk I did last fall about augmented reality.

Straight-forward example of gyroscope & camera view to achieve visual AR similar to that in Pokémon GO.

Bespoke á Mango
Marker-based AR tracking using the tried and true Vuforia plugin.

Bokeh Mango
The same type of tracking but applied to what I call the “magic window” effect.

Okay, Mango!
3D markers because we can!

Polka Mango
Some markerless fun with Kudan. Easily broken but oh so compelling!

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Final Thoughts on Shu

Yes, we eventually added multiplayer.

I promised I wouldn’t do a postmortem for Shu’s Garden, and I mostly meant it. But two thoughts keep bouncing around in my brain and so here I set them loose.

An Apology

Shu, that happy, weird, space-gardening videogame, failed to go according to plan in so many ways. But in recent months it’s become clear to me that one of the root problems was my inability to commit to the mission: Mr. Colin and I set out to make “a game that could sell”, and to do it in a short, efficient production period (four months). Unconsciously, I worked against these goals.

When we needed to be rapidly building out a game experience (originally meant to be an adventure), I was taking long periods to write and re-write an unnecessary procedural plant-generation scheme. On reflection, such things simply interest me more than making an adventure game, and it seems I can’t help but pursue them, difference in time investment and promises be damned. Where we needed to deliver an experience which hooked in an existing player base and gave them a sense of purpose and value for their time, I pushed for an open-ended world without objectives that just made people scratch their heads.

So four months became more than a year. And “a game that could sell” became a weird, miniature experiment appealing to no existing market.

Despite his protests, I offer my apologies to Mr. Colin. I made promises, and couldn’t bring myself to fulfill them.

A Sideshow

Shu was a commercial failure, no doubt. Even the biggest bursts in sales (from launch announcements and kind articles) only sometimes approached a reasonable income rate before quickly subsiding back to zero. But, for me, the worst failure of Shu isn’t the lack of sales: What haunts me more is that it doesn’t say anything about me as a creator.

I set out as an indie four years ago. Published mostly silly little experiments, and blew a lot of time doing freelance work just to stay in the black. This is the only original work of note to show for all that time, and ultimately it’s just another cutesy kid-friendly game that is easy to dismiss and hard to say anything about. It doesn’t change the way we think about games. It doesn’t reach new audiences. It certainly doesn’t explore any aspect of the whole “interactive story” field which I’ve claimed is my main interest.

Yes, Shu seems like another professional failure. Or perhaps a professional sideshow. Another delay. Another “it’s not really what I’m about” time suck. I learned from it, naturally. But nothing I couldn’t have learned in other ways, in shorter time, pursuing things that matter more to me and have more to say.

Bye, Shu!

So, ten years after graduating university, nine years after trying my hand at teaching, eight years after officially entering the world of videogame development, and four years after going indie, I’m left feeling like I still have yet to get started.

The next phase is unclear. In the coming months, I will finally finish the interactive story project on which I’ve been dragging my heels forever. It will be more modest and under-the-radar than I once hoped, but it will be done come hell or high water. (Or else I will be returning grant money, head hung in shame…) What comes after, I just don’t know.

This will be my last post about Shu’s Garden. The path turns a corner up ahead, and I can’t yet see around it. But the space-cacti are behind me, finally slipping over the horizon.



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