Fantastic Contraption was originally a building game made way back in 2008. Millions of people played it obsessively and saved over 12 million contraptions. You can still play it for free. For years we loved the idea of a 3d Fantastic Contraption but couldn't figure out how it would work. Then we tried the Vive.
The new Fantastic Contraption has been designed from the ground up for room-scale VR. Imagine walking around a grassy island in the sky while you build a machine the size of a horse with your own hands. Press play and watch it trundle off to reach the goal on the other side of the island. With 40+ levels and infinite solutions, it's a VR experience you and your friends will play for hours.
Fantastic Contraption has been nominated for the prestigious IGF Nuovo award, and for Best VR Experience at the Vision VR/AR Awards (read more at our Road to IGF interview). The team is thrilled and we’ll be showing the game at both the IGF expo at the Game Developers Conference in March, and at the Vision summit next month in LA. Come visit us if you’re there!
It’s as cool as it sounds. We’ve started live streaming Fantastic Contraption on our Twitch stream every Thursday at noon PST. Here’s this past week’s stream:
Twitch isn’t just for e-sports and speedruns anymore; it’s getting downright mainstream as a marketing tool, a way for people to check games out before buying them, participate in events, and to obsess over games while at work / any moment they can’t be playing them (guilty!). But for months we’ve been asking: how the hell do you stream virtual reality games? Especially room-scale VR using the HTC Vive?
The standard picture-in-picture game footage + webcam technique doesn’t do VR justice. The first-person in-game feed from VR games gives at best a cropped, distorted view of what the player is actually seeing, and talking heads wearing VR headsets are even duller than regular talking heads. After an hour-long session with Youtuber Northernlion, we did some brainstorming.
Then we geared up:
Our livingroom has huge windows on two sides, so it was a challenge to keep the green screen lighting consistent (bedsheets and cardboard were involved). But we discovered that our webcam feed has considerably less lag during the day when all that natural light lowers exposure time.
Our first trials used OBS to combine three views. We stuck a webcam on a tripod and synced it’s position with two in-game 3rd-person cameras. One only saw foreground objects, and the other only saw the sky, ground, and objects behind the headset. We first tried using a clipping pane, then tried blipping game objects between two visibility layers.
We output the in-game cameras side-by-side then smushed the 3 feeds together in OBS:
It’s not half bad without the green screens too, if you overlay the background camera at 50% transparency.
But for our next stream we’re going to try piping the live webcam feed into Fantastic Contraption, so we can display it on a moving plane in the game. This should give us fewer blipping glitches and a higher output resolution. Thanks to Edwon for the suggestion and help!
We’ve got some in-game tools to use while streaming, like a floating Twitch comments feed that only the player can see, and director controls that let our “couchies” swap the view between various game cameras.
We’ll keep things fresh by bringing on special guests, and will be reaching out to local Vancouver Twitch streamers to come stream from our rad green screen studio (aka our livingroom). Stay tuned, Thursdays at noon PST!
We were recently featured by Made with Unity in a short film – a really beautiful vanity piece by Breakwater Studios, all about the Northways and our love of virtual reality. We spent a couple days filming with Ben Proudfoot and cinematographer David Bolen, and experimented with some neat VR / reality overlays. At one point we duct-taped a third Vive controller to a portable camera and used it for positional tracking for the in-game camera.
The results are so damn COOL!:
(my favorite shot is at 2:57)
We also did an interview for Made with Unity if you aren’t done gagging over how adorable we are. I’m so happy I’ve joined the project now and get to work with Colin again, but we can’t stress enough that Northway Games is only half of Team Fantastic Contraption, and that Radial Games have been here every step of the way, waist-deep in this surreal virtual reality world we’re building together.
Colin Northway is doing programming and design for Fantastic Contraption. He made the original Fantastic Contraption, Incredipede and Deep Under the Sky. He and Sarah Northway spent the last 5 years traveling the world while working on their games.
Kimberly Voll is our resident VR expert - she’s spent her career so far studying player cognition and game design, and specializes in UX, AI and gameplay. She’s got a PhD in computer science, and an honours degree in cognitive science, and has worked on too many games to list, including ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS. (She blogs at zanytomato.tumblr.com.)
Lindsay Jorgensen is doing art for Fantastic Contraption. He’s worked at Bioware, Radical Entertainment, Big Fish Games and joined Radial Games in 2014.
Andy Moore started his game development career doing Community Management and Design for the original Fantastic Contraption, and has since founded Radial Games -- responsible for ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS, Monster Loves You!, and SteamBirds. He's also a licensed commercial pilot and will talk your ear off about airplanes. (He blogs at captain-andy.com.)
Gordon McGladdery aka A Shell in the Pit is doing sound and music. He is a vocal binaural and VR audio enthusiast whose past projects include Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door Games), Invisible Inc. (Klei Entertainment) and is the composer for the Youtube Channel Smarter Every Day.
Sarah Northway is working on programming and design for Fantastic Contraption. She's best known for her popular Rebuild series which she wrote while traveling the world!
Power Up Audio is a proudly independent sound house located in Vancouver, Canada, specializing in SFX, music, and voiceover production. They have worked on a variety of games spanning multiple genres and platforms - from the Eldritch horror of Darkest Dungeon, to the rhythm beatdowns of Crypt of the NecroDancer, and the galaxy-ballet dogfighting of ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS. Power Up is thrilled to be providing audio assistance on their first foray into VR with Fantastic Contraption.