Gear VR Interview with RalphVR Co-Founder Richard Hoagland

Earlier this year Oculus VR hosted an official virtual reality development jam to support its mobile-based head-mounted display (HMD), Gear VR, made in partnership with Samsung. Hundreds of entrants competed for cash prizes, creating new VR videogames and experiences for the device. Of the many entries, RalphVR and their game Daydream Blue ended up winning a $100,000 USD Gold award. RalphVR has since released the experience for all to play on Gear VR.

We had the chance to chat with RalphVR Co-Founder Richard Hoagland about Daydream Blue and the introduction of Mobile Multiplayer to VR.

PressA2Join: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Richard, can you start off by telling me a little about your role at RalphVR and Super Soul Studio?

Richard Hoagland: I co-founded RalphVR with Shea Rembold earlier this year after we got the Gold Prize in the Oculus Mobile VR Jam with the prototype of Daydream Blue. My official title is CEO of RalphVR, but there are only the two of us, so on a day to day basis Shea and I juggle many, many tasks. In general though, I deal with more business and legal stuff than Shea, hence I am CEO!

Super Soul is a game studio I co-founded four years ago. I left Super Soul earlier this year to pursue VR game development and continue the weird art installation stuff I was doing with Shea at Super Soul.

Daydream Blue

So for those who don’t know a whole lot about VR or Mobile VR can you explain what makes it so much fun to use?

RH: VR represents a new medium, because it allows creators to develop experiences in a way that was not possible beforehand. These experiences have to do with feeling present in a space. Feeling near others in a space. I saw that a person on twitter referred to a GearVR as an empathy machine.

And I don’t say this lightly, because people in the emerging tech communities love hyperbole, and the VR community is no different when describing VRs future impact on society.

But I think what makes it fun is what makes it a different medium, which is to say the feeling of being in a place. Like a teleportation device to other worlds. So if you have never tried VR, it is really hard to understand. But imagine you were in the middle of your favorite book, and everywhere you looked was that world. That you felt like you were there. So that is pretty cool. Then also throw in the fact you are riding a dragon, pretty fun and something you cannot experience otherwise.

Mobile VR is just a teleportation device you can take with you.

Gear VR

Can you talk a little about how you came up with the idea for Daydream Blue and your feelings on how the game has been received since it’s release?

RH: Sure. Daydream Blue started with the idea of giving players access to a place, and a time of day, regardless of where they are in the real world. So we started with a grass field and clouds in the sky. Once we settled on this direction, the game began to evolve out of my childhood camping and exploring the lakes and forests of Kentucky. Shea and I are also big fans of Nintendo games, and the way they infuse them with fun and playfulness. So we wanted to build a game that was fun and playful. Like exploring the woods as a child.

So far we are really excited with Daydream BLue’s reception. Winning the jam brought tears to my eyes, because we really put our hearts into this game. We needed something to happen to be able to keep making games, and winning the award opened up so many opportunities for us.

A few people have messaged us on twitter that they love Daydream Blue. That makes us really happy and motivated to keep working.Of course not everyone likes the game, which we wish they did, but we just try to use those times as a way to better understand our game and how we can make it better.

You recently won the Gold Award at Oculus VR Jam 2015, that must have been a great feeling to be recognised for something you helped design?

RH: Absolutely! I was outside a movie theater when it happened. I teared up. I was broke when I found out we won. Since winning Shea and I formed RalphVR, moved to California for three months as part of the Boost VC incubator program, I got a free trip to China, and in January we are going to Thailand for two months. Things have been amazing since we won. I just can’t believe it.

Daydream Blue3

What has your journey over the last 5 months or so been like?, you’ve covered a lot of ground in such a short space of time.

RH: Pretty crazy! As I mentioned above, we won the Gold Prize in the Jam. At the time, I was broke, and Shea was traveling out west in his car for a month. I asked him if he wanted to keep working on the game, and I applied for Boost VC on the last day of their application process at the suggestion of our friend. I made a website of 5 JPEG images in a couple of hours and got the application off just in the nick of time. BoostVC is is a business accelerator program in San Mateo, California.

We got accepted and Shea, myself, and Jeff drove across the US from Kentucky to California. We then lived in a hotel and worked across the street in a co-location space for three months. The place we lived had a pool and a beanbag mountain.

I just got back from two weeks in China, as part of a trip we won from a game jam in July. We are now back in Kentucky for the holidays living and working out of a friends house, which has become a game dev house for the time being!

In January we are flying out to San Francisco for a few days, then to Thailand for two months to live and work. Who knows after that?!? We believe that the philosophy of the game Daydream Blue should be the philosophy of our business. So we look for ways we can explore this world and embrace it with wonder and excitement. We feel that will fill our games with the same feelings.

Daydream Blue4

Can you explain a little about the upcoming Multiplayer Update for Daydream Blue, I believe it will be one of the first networked multiplayer games ever?

RH: It is, I think, the second networked multiplayer game on GearVR. And the first I am aware of to support voice chat in game. There are a number of network experiences on Rift and other headsets, but as far as consumer VR is concerned, we are one of the first online multiplayer VR games to ever come out.

Multiplayer itself is designed to extend the single player mode to include friends. So it really is like hanging out with friends around a campfire. What is really cool is how you feel like you are next to them, even when they are across the world. I played a game of golf–a kind of 2D golf game on the horizon, where the golf ball is a huge boulder and the course are the moutains on the horizon–with Shea and our friend Leonard. Shea was in California, Leonard was in Kentucky, and I was in China! But we felt right next to each other.

We kind of think of Daydream Blue multiplayer as a playground for you and your friends to come play at when you want.

Daydream Blue2

Do you believe Multiplayer for Mobile VR is the way to go for the future?

RH: I think that VR allows people to feel near other people, regardless of distance in the real world. I don’t think any technology has ever been able to do this. So multiplayer in VR gives people experiences that were never possible before. There are so many amazing games and experiences to develop, I definitely think multiplayer has huge potential. Not just to entertain, but to connect, teach, anything that being near someone else makes possible.
Mobile VR just means you have access to these experiences, games, and people, no matter where you are. So I can be in my hotel room in China, but be standing across a fire from my friends in the US, while we listen to music and play fetch with a robot.

Other than the Update do you have any future games in the pipeline?

RH: Yes, we have a couple prototypes we want to develop while in Thailand. We hope that we can just hunker down for a few months and work on Daydream Blue, while spending some time building weird new experiments. We just applied for Alt.Ctrl.GDC with a game where three people use custom controllers we built to summon digital spirits while they are huddled together in a VR space.

Massive thanks to Richard Hoagland of RalphVR and Super Soul Studio for taking time out to chat with us.

About Daniel Pitt

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Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.

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