‘Playthings’ is a Wonderful World of Hamburger Drums and Hot Dog Xylophones


Before his death, acclaimed psychonaut and technologist Terrence McKenna once said that virtual reality “…is a technology that will allow us to show each other our dreams. We will be able to build structures in the imagination that we cannot now share with each other.” Playthings, a prototype interactive experience from Always & Forever Computer Entertainment, is like the wonderfully manic fever dream of a candy-fuelled pre-teen, and we need to see more.

Playthings developer George Michael Brower told us that since starting out on the project in November of last year “…it’s been like a major relief to finally ‘get it off my chest.’ I was primarily doing web stuff before this, which is very very simple to get in front of a lot of people: web browsers are quite prevalent, room-scale VR HMD’s, not so much right now…”

Brower’s affair with VR started when he moved out of his home office into a shared studio space with a few friends in Brooklyn, NY. Fortuitously, an Oculus Rift DK1 was there waiting for him and what followed next was nothing short of a creative exorcism.

playthings gummi bears
musical gummy bears and a mallet – enough said

“I just kind of got obsessed and this thing started pouring out of me without any real plan. The past few months have been like a major creative explosion for me, but it’s also been so frustrating to see anything in the news or on social media pertaining to VR [and not be able to talk about Playthings].”

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For the sake of quick prototyping, Playthings currently sends MIDI out to external software synths. Because of this, Brower isn’t actively sharing any demos of Playthings, as he’s still working out some of the more fundamental mechanics of the game so it can work for a larger home audience. Brower has however recently licensed the game (and synth setup) for two events at NY Fashion Week.

“People in fashion are supposed to take themselves too seriously, so it was really fun to watch these highly refined individuals become toddlers once they get the drumsticks in their hands,” Brower said.

Although he maintains that the teaser video was an effort to “throw it against the Internet-wall and see how that reaction stirs [his] insides and decide what to do next from there,” we hope we’ll be playing hamburger drums and hot dog xylophones on the HTC Vive in the near future.

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  • Sky Castle

    There’s so many VR games on the list coming this year that just looks like something that will be entertaining for a few minutes, including this one, which is fine, but I’m looking forward to the real AAA games hopefully coming soon.

    • kalqlate

      Did you see all the smiles and laughter? Sure, for a single person, this might get old pretty quick. For gatherings of family and friends, however, these types of games that bring on the laughter will be enormous continual hits, especially if there are competitive and/or collaborative elements added.

      • Sky Castle

        I have a family, and friends, and work with hundreds of co-workers in the Air Force. I bring my Gear VR to show everyone every chance I get. The results are always positive. These games are great for what you mentioned, but it doesn’t change the fact of what I said that we need games that are more than just demos, which is what most of these games feels like.

        I know it takes time, and there are good games that will hold me over like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen as well as the hundreds of current games that can be converted into VR with Vorpx, but I still long for the day we get a true full blown VR game.

        • kalqlate

          OK, I get your point better and agree on an individual entertainment basis. I experienced a tiny bit of Elite Dangerous in VR, and it was mind-blowing. What do you think of Star Citizen in VR? I know it’s not explicitly designed for VR just yet, but what are your impressions so far?

          • realtrisk

            Nothing in it works in VR right now. They said they are going to get the game put together while they wait for mature SDKs and game engine, and will address VR at a later date in development. The only part of the game that was really ever in VR was the hangar, way back on DK1, and it used an awful depth buffer trick to render the 3D, which looked terrible. That’s the latest I’ve heard on it, unless someone can correct me. I hope Chris will insist on support day one and not let it slide…

          • kalqlate

            Ahh. Thanks for sharing your experience, insights, and assessment.

          • realtrisk

            Aaand I was wrong. I hadn’t looked for information on it since last year, and apparently at the beginning of this year, they started to focus on VR development again. There are videos on Youtube of people playing the current game in the DK2, and it now appears to have true 3D and good support. I think they’re supporting both headsets, so it should be awesome.

            I’m leaning towards Vive being a better system for it, since you can stand up for shooter segments, sit down at your HOTAS and keyboard for flight, and use the outfacing camera to see what you’re doing while transitioning between. I thought the camera was a stupid gimmick at first, but now I’m starting to think it was a brilliant move.

          • kalqlate

            All great to hear!!

          • Peter

            Same here. I “bought a spaceship” about a year ago solely to have feet inside once VR really kicks in. Imagin walking on the bridge of a spaceship!

          • kalqlate

            I was just considering the seated experience, but a room-scale inner spaceship experience would really be something.

    • Tuu T

      What you describe is a real issue, and true for most VR apps: fun for a few minutes, but get old quickly. The real challenge is to create applications (and user interfaces) that provide performance/fun-factor in the long run, when compared to their non-VR counterparts. Immersive games could certainly do that, if done right. Doesn’t even need to be triple-A.

      • Sky Castle

        True, they don’t need to be AAA games. I like a game that have a good story that will take me to new places and be able to explore new things that will take time to complete. An rpg in Vr is actually what I want and just described. I know it takes time to do these things though.

  • realtrisk

    I’m actually interested in the possibilities of serious music creation in VR. I use Propellerhead’s Reason for my compositions, and I can imagine an interface like that in VR, with the piano roll laid out like a mat in front of you, the different instruments floating around you with cables connecting them… It would be an awesome way to compose music, just as awesome as painting in VR or modeling worlds in Unreal Engine 4 in VR…