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At the indie game showcase that held at SIGGRAPH 2015 we came across the world’s first online multiplayer, first person shooter for virtual reality titled World War Toons. We spoke with Hougant Chen (Lead Programmer) and William Lewis (Community Manager) of Reload Studios about their title, how it was conceived, and why Unreal Engine 4 was used to make the game.
We started up about a year-and-a-half ago. It was founded by James Chung and Taehoon Oh, they came from making Call of Duty. Taehoon spent about 10 years there and if you’ve used a weapon in Call of Duty, he’s the one who created it. James has been all over the board and knows tons of people and he’s always wanted to work with Taehoon. They both saw VR as an emerging technology and they teamed up and created this company.
We’re about 20 people now. We started off with 5 people, we didn’t know it was going to be and it was a little worrisome but we went on and tried to make something out it. We’re still around a year later making the game so yeah. We teamed up with Epic for this indie mix to showcase our game. So we’re fortunate to be able to continue developing this game after a year. Some teams aren’t that fortunate and we are thankful for our continued opportunity.
World War Toons
James Chung, CEO and Founder of Reload Studios, came up with the concept for the game. He really thought that there could be a space for a cartoony, fun, shooter that is accessible to a lot of different audiences going back to Looney Tunes. We had a lot of fun and good times with those cartoons so that’s what we’re trying to go for. A game that you can pick up and have a blast. Some of us have kids now so this is a game that we hope we can play with them someday.
World War Toons is exactly the way it sounds. You take World War ll and Looney Tunes and you mash them together. It’s the world’s first online FPS created for VR. Right now we’re currently showing that it has three different classes. We have the heavy class with the rocket launcher, the soldier with the machine gun, and the officer who has a pistol. Each of them have their own unique traits, some of them are slower, some of them are faster, and we’re currently playing with different abilities and how to make them more unique from each other.
We also have a tank in the game, and at any point in time you can transform into the tank. It gives you a little bit more firepower, but it’s balanced out because you only get one per match so if it blows up you’re kind of done for the time being. You can take out your enemies pretty quickly with the tank.
We chose Unreal Engine to work on our title. They’re actually the reason we are here because they sent us the email asking us if we want to be at SIGGRAPH. There’s a lot of good reasons to do it. We wanted to make a VR game and trying to build an engine from nothing would take many months to years until the rest of the team can get going and start working on their things. Utilizing an engine that’s already built allowed us to start iterating the game really quickly without that lead time. Unreal Engine definitely helped us to get to the point that we’re at.
In a couple of months we were already starting to get gameplay going and the VR side going, which would have taken us a long time to get to that point if we weren’t using Unreal. So we have the multiplayer and the art and animation as well. Obviously there’s stuff we have to build specifically to our game with the engine, but it allows us to focus more on the game and not have to worry about all the intricacies with building an engine from scratch.
In terms of art creation, we use Maya.
We have designers in the studio and we have a phase in which we start off with any features we have in brainstorming session where we try to figure out what we’re doing, what things would be cool and fun. We have Nik Ranieri who is our animation director and he worked at Disney for over 25 years. He’s worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Wreck-It Ralph, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and so on. So he has a different perspective.
Some of us have come from a background making games so we have one thought process in how to make things, but then Nik will come up and say we should try doing it this way or that way, and at first we thought it doesn’t work that way in this genre because nobody does it that way. Then we thought about it some more and we thought, why can’t we do it that way?
The theme of our game is World War Tunes so we try to have fun with the genre. I mean there’s pianos falling from the sky and there’s TNT rockets. Some of those ideas came from brainstorming sessions. After the brainstorming sessions we talk to each team and find out how long it takes to make various parts of our ideas come to life.
For example, the TNT requires art to make the rocket, animation to put the characters on top of the TNT rocket, design to figure out how it should react to different characters, and code to figure out what happens in different parts of the interaction and collision. It’s a lot of the team getting together and figuring out how to add all these different features into the game.
The Decision of VR
A few of us got together and we saw the future of VR. The first time I was really convinced of it was at GDC 2014 when I saw the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 for the first time and I tried EVE: Valkyrie and that just kind of blew me away. I thought this technology is moving in a way that we could never imagine before. It eventually is going to change the way we interact with computers and other people. I saw that and I thought there was an opportunity to learn this medium to try to figure out how to create content on it and take those lessons to continue to build on it. It’s creating something that will change how people interact with computers.
This is the first step here with World War Tunes and we’re learning a lot about VR for sure. A lot of lessons we’ve used in the past in traditional 2D games don’t always translate in making VR games.
The initial funding was conducted by James our CEO and he had some contacts that got us up and running. We continued looking for partners to see if anybody’s interested in what we’re doing and our vision. Our vision is to create great interactive software for VR and our background comes from gaming, so we thought this is something we understand and we hope to bring something to VR and learn something from it while figuring out what’s next.
Along the way we had some great partners such as Rothenberg Ventures who saw something in our product and they partnered with us. World Innovation Lab saw something in us and partnered with us as well. So there’s some really great people helping us workout our vision.
We’re planning on releasing it the first quarter of 2016 but it depends if we want to be with the headset makers at their launch. We have been investigating Oculus and Sony Morpheus. We’re fortunate enough to be able to show with Sony at E3 at their Morpheus booth. There were great people there and at the Oculus booth and in general, people in the industry are amazing, especially in the VR side. Epic Games was so great and Nick Whiting has been helping us a lot.