land's end samsung gear vr

As virtual reality begins to hit the mainstream, more and more production studios are starting to explore the vast potential of creating immersive virtual experiences. One such example is the global digital design company known as Ustwo who is priming up to release a beautiful VR game in December called Land’s End for the Samsung Gear VR.

In the past, Ustwo has developed smartphone and tablet applications like the fantastically mysterious, illusionary adventure game called Monument Valley. They’ve also made a psychedelic and surreal flying game named Whale Trail where players take off into the skies, collect power ups, smash enemies, and discover new environments all while making friends along the way. The studio received the 2014 Apple Design Award for Monument Valley.

Both of those experiences though were created for mobile phones, which left the idea of VR development off to the side as Ustwo waited for the virtual reality market to proliferate. That was at least until Oculus approached them with a business opportunity that would open up the doors to exploring the exciting potentials associated with developing for mobile VR.

monument valley
Land’s End doesn’t appear to wander far from Monument Valley’s art design (above), but that’s not a bad thing.

Ustwo jumped at the chance to create a game for the Samsung Gear VR and began building a dreamy oceanic world filled to the brim with scattered islands and shipwrecked architecture. The stylish aesthetic they’re working with looks like a cross between Fez (2012) and Sword and Sworcery (2011).

Of course, the transition from traditional smartphone programming to VR development came with a few challenges that needed to be overcome. For instance, the user movements had to be altered in such a way that was more natural in a virtual reality setting than compared to the type of movements that were typical of the studio’s touch-based games. Instead of tapping a screen over and over the controls for Land’s End focused more on the intuitive head movements that accompany the Gear VR display.

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When prototyping, the studio found that sharp 180-degree turns could be vomit inducing, Ustwo told Wired. The same mechanics used in Monument Valley were adjusted for the new Oculus-powered platform. In addition, the player’s attention needed to be directed towards specific areas of interest which eliminated neck strain when looking up for long periods of time.

Land’s End is expected to be released in December, 2014, which is just in time for the holiday season. As the end of the year approaches, it is likely that other studios will unveil VR projects that are in the works. Even further, additional smartphone game developers are expected to make the leap from traditional mobile apps into the expansive world of virtual reality creation as well.

For more information about Ustwo, visit their website and check out the preview video for the Land’s End VR game below, which debuted initially with Wired’s story on Land’s End.

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