Taipei based virtual reality company Futuretown is planning to build a out of home destination where you can experience custom built VR game experiences built for and enhanced by 3 different motion platforms.
The rampant rise of video games in the 80’s and 90’s brought about an explosion in a new phenomenon, the video game arcade. The drive behind this growth was the promise of games which weren’t possible to replicate on normal consumer hardware. As home video games console became more and more powerful through the 80’s and 90’s, arcades needed to raise the bar to keep drawing in customers.
Sega (among others) dominated the arcade landscape by delivering audio/visual experiences powered by custom designed and built electronics upon motion experiences that couldn’t hope to be replicated by shop-bought hardware. Titles like Space Harrier, Out Run and the outrageous ‘R360’ powered G-LOC and Galaxy Force were examples of premium, immersive gaming experiences that fused the thrill of fairground rides with the intensity of electronic gaming.
Now, Taipei based company Futuretown, who recently brought Cloudlands: Mini Golf to the HTC Vive, is hoping to reinvent that premium arcade experience for the immersive entertainment age. Futuretown’s CEO is Johan Yang and his company has developed a trio of motion platforms for which its also building dedicated games built to take advantage of each, the Sega model if you will.
The core of Futuretown’s technology is its modular motion platform system, developed by partner InJoy Motion, essentially a motorised pedestal which can rotate and tilt in tandem with specially built games experienced via a VR headset. This pedestal base can then accommodate custom mounts which can be built to suite a particular genre of experience. The platform is both motion platform and input device, with body motion determining actions within the game.
One design allows the user to ride it like motorcycle, the next is shaped amusingly like a somewhat disturbing and featureless miniature pony and the last has the user strapped into snowboard-style boots built atop a seriously dangerous looking motion pedestal. Bottom line, there’s not a cat in hell’s chance you’re gonna look cool doing any of these things but, as anyone who’s donned a headset in front of friends will tell you, that’s par for the course for the current gen VR experience.
Yang said of the new venture, “Futuretown has already created an exciting portfolio of socially engaging virtual reality games but we wanted to take the player’s experience to a completely new level through motion simulation technology. The 5D Totalmotion platform opens up new opportunities for developers to create virtual reality experiences that were not possible before. With the modular design of the 5D Totalmotion platform, we can more easily expand and build new virtual reality experiences suitable for all ages.”
The system was launched at the Tokyo Game Show last week alongside 4 specially commissioned games, each designed to show off the different styles of experience Futuretown thinks might appeal to potential customers and highlight those custom motion mounts. Developed in house by Futuretown, Whiteout: Ski VR seems to somewhat miss a trick by not being a snowboard game, but lets you blast through alpine vistas atop skis. There’s also a Motorcycle experience, an amusing looking Horse Riding game and an intriguing looking Surfing title that even Oculus founder Palmer Luckey couldn’t resist trying out himself whilst visiting TGS.
So, will Futuretown succeed in recapturing some of Sega’s 90’s Arcade magic, and tempt entertainment consumers who be increasingly exposed to virtual reality in their homes over the coming years, to venture out to spend money riding these mini attractions? I don’t know, but Futuretown have certainly adopted a smart approach with their modular system, meaning they can quickly adapt to new titles and experiences as they’re developed – a far cry from the custom cabinets of the 90’s. We can’t see ourselves queuing to ride that freaky motion pony any time soon though.