Ana Ribeiro, the creative mind behind the delightful retro gaming infused VR experience Pixel Rift (recently re-titled ‘Pixel Ripped’) talks to Road to VR’s Jon Tustain at the inaugural Southwest VR conference recently on how the project came to be and her desire to bring the classic 80’s and 90’s gaming experience to a new generation through the medium of virtual reality.
Ana Ribeiro, a Brazillian born developer now working in the UK, probably takes the prize for Southwest VR’s most charming and quirky presentation. Her talk charts her unusual life story and career, starting in Psychology counseling couples going through separation, moving through the creation of a Pie-making mini-empire culminating in her eventual move to game development, courtesy of a grant at the National School of Film and Television.
Ribeiro realised that her passion was gaming and not pies and set about learning game development and programming at NSFT, with her final project eventually formed from her lifelong passion for video games, built in VR. Pixel Ripped is a difficult game to summarise, although Ribeiro is becoming quite practiced at doing so “Pixel Rift is a game about being a gamer..” she describes. “So you play your favourite game which is a 2D jumping game, inside a virtual world, in the body of another person”. Ribeiro continues “It’s kind of a trip through video gaming history, and the nostalgia of the 80’s”.
The game demo opens, as you can see for yourself by downloading the demo available now on Oculus VR Share, has you adopting the role of a school child in the 80s. Sat in a classroom, Nintendo Gameboy in hand, your avatar is doing their best not to pay any attention to the lesson happening around them. Your task is to finish the game on the Gameboy whilst avoiding the wrath of the teacher and causing as much havoc in the classroom at the same time. Eventually your overactive childhood imagination and your involvement in the game results in the digital 2D world on the handhelds screen exploding into your virtual world in faux 2D.
It’s a wonderful aesthetic that for me brought to mind greats such as Nintendo’s Paper Mario (2001). It’s also a brilliant exploration of the kinds of experiences virtual reality may be a great enabler of, in this case engaging the player synchronously with two very different forms of gameplay.
“I was born in 1983 and grew up playing [Magnavox] Odyssey and the Megadrive.” Ribeiro says “So I grew up in this amazing age where we had the explosion of the video game industry … and I really want to share this in the game what I think, something I think would be good to celebrate it and to show the other [people] who didn’t have an opportunity to live [through] this.”
The full game, which will begin with the dawn of video games in the 70s, will progress through each video game age as levels progress. The demo available on Oculus VR share represents ‘level 3′ and the 80s, but new levels are planned to be delivered episodically over time – it represents Ribeiro’s work at NSFT but a commercial version is on its way. “Now I’m working to a releasable version. Now I have staff, I have two people in the team now officially and we’re going to work with some freelancers so I’m not alone now.” Ribeiro says, “We’re going to release episodically. We’re planning to release at the end of the year, [the] first episode.”
And on the thorny subject of the Oculus Rift release date, a challenge Ribeiro is not alone in facing right now “It would be nice if Oculus released together, but we are planning on a [non VR] PC version [as we] dont’ want to rely on that. The game is better in VR, it’s a different experience … but some people [who] don’t have the [Oculus Rift] headset yet want play it.”
I highly recommend you catch Ribeiro’s SWVR 2015 talk, aptly entitled “From Pies to Virtual Reality” (below), especially if you’re an aspiring game designer stuck in a career rut looking for inspiration to help you break out and do what you dream.
Pixel Ripped will launch towards the end of the year, but in the mean time I highly recommend you try the demo now available on Oculus VR share. To learn more about Pixel Ripped, head to the games website here.
Our thanks to Ana Ribeiro for her time and to Jonathan Tustain for conducting the interview.