temple-run-virtual-reality

With more than one billion downloads on mobile platforms, the Temple Run series is one of the biggest games in the mobile space. The developer behind Temple Run, Imangi Studios, is bringing a virtual reality version of the game to Samsung Gear VR.

Imangi Studios took the infinite-runner genre and ran with it, creating one of the most popular mobile games the world has seen. In Temple Run and Temple Run 2, the character has stolen a mystical idol and is being pursued by a mysterious demon. The only rule: keep running at any cost.

As you run through the world, you jump, dodge, and slide your way around randomly generated obstacles, all while collecting gleaming coins which are used as currency for upgrades. There’s no end, you run as far as you can and then you try to get farther next time. It’s addicting, and I dare you to try to beat my high score.

Now, the company has its sights set on a version of the game built specifically for Samsung Gear VR. Temple Run VR will, perhaps surprisingly, put players in a first-person view, where they’ll “dodge patches of snow and ice, cross frosty footbridges, and jump between alpine cliffs,” according to the company.

temple-run-vr-screenshot

The prospect of being chased by a demon was frightening enough in the mobile version when the beast was trailing close behind; in VR I hope players will be able to peer over their shoulder to see how near they are to impending doom. Imangi Studios says that in Temple Run VR, the player is running from “Arctic Demon Monkeys”, which I assume are of close relation to the plain-old Demon Monkeys found in the mobile version of the game.

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“We are incredibly excited to be a part of this revolution in gaming, and we jumped at the opportunity to work with Samsung and Oculus to make Temple Run VR,” said Keith Shepherd, co-founder of Imangi Studios. “Virtual reality opens up a whole new world of possibilities for us to create amazing experiences. We’ve truly been able to transport players to another world and let them viscerally feel the thrill of the chase.”

One question that pops into my mind is how exactly players will control their actions within the game. I’m hoping that we don’t see ‘head gestures’—like flicking one’s head up or down—as methods for jumping or sliding. I’d hope to instead see head direction determine which path the player takes when approaching a fork, and other more natural methods of input that skip the ‘gesture’ category entirely. Positional tracking would be awesome for this as you could actually jump and duck to do those actions in the game, but Gear VR lacks that capability. It’s possible that we’ll see the touchpad on the side of Gear VR employed for input, though I’m wondering how long players will want to hold their arm up to their temple.

I’m happy to withhold judgment until we have a chance to try the game for ourselves, but my intuition is that a third-person view might be a better path to take with the game, that way the camera would simply follow behind the character and when the character jumped, it wouldn’t lurch the entire camera with them (as it would in the first person perspective). I don’t mean to sound pesimistic, but I’m really hoping that Temple Run VR stays far away from the nauseating Infinity Runner experience.

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Harbor Master HD on iPad
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And while Temple Run VR is exciting, Imangi is also the developer behind another excellent mobile game: Harbor Master. In this game, players use their finger to direct ships into ports to unload their cargo. Players must manage the paths of the ships to prevent crashes. What starts out as a fairly simple game quickly degrades into frantic multitasking overload. It’s a simple game and one that isn’t an obvious fit for VR, but I think it could translate very well as a casual VR game—assuming they can figure out a good input method—especially if the user is floating high over the game area and has to look down in 360 degrees to see the various ports. I’ll be bugging Imangi about making that a (virtual) reality for sure.

There’s no word on a release date for Temple Run VR other than “soon,” though we expect to see it as a launch title for Gear VR which will launch sometime in 2014.

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