First-time indie VR developer Kerestell Smith was taken aback at the reception of his Early Access multiplayer VR game, Gorilla Tag. The unassuming lo-fi title, which plays like a game of multiplayer tag, has found a synergistic combination of interesting locomotion and social VR. Following the game’s release on Quest via App Lab, player counts have continued to grow, now reaching an impressive 675,000 unique players just four and a half months since the game’s launch.

Update (July 1st, 2021): Four and a half months after the game’s release, Gorilla Tag’s momentum is still going strong.

After being released on App Lab back in March (making it easier for Quest users to jump into the game), the game has reached a new record high count of 5,500 concurrent players across Quest and Steam. Developer Kerestell Smith tells Road to VR that the game has seen 675,000 unique players to date, a staggering success for an indie VR game that’s had no formal marketing.

As a multiplayer game running dedicated servers, the impressive player traction is a blessing and a curse; the game is free, which means that every additional player makes the game more expensive to operate. Smith has since added an ‘Early Access Supporter Pack’ DLC on Steam for $10 to give players a way to support the game’s ongoing development and get exclusive in-game cosmetics.

Smith says this has allowed him to cover server costs up to this point; most of the growth is happening on Quest though, which presents a problem. Developers are currently unable to offer paid add-ons (like Gorilla Tag’s Early Access Supporter Pack) through App Lab on Quest, which hampers the game’s monetization options.

The original article, which overviews the game and its impressive organic traction, continues below.

Original Article (March 1st, 2021): Gorilla Tag is as straightforward as it sounds… players take on the role of (legless) gorillas which toss themselves around by smacking their hands on the ground in an effort to chase one another in a game of tag. Interestingly though, you’ll find nearly as many people simply fooling around and chatting with one another as those who are really there to play tag.

Currently available in Early Access on Steam and Quest via SideQuest (update: now also on App Lab), Gorilla Tag is a free game, but even so, that doesn’t account for its unexpected success—the title has quickly become the best rated free VR game on Steam with an ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ 98% rating from 1,854 user reviews, beating out the likes of Google Earth VR, The Lab, and all others. It has seen a similarly positive reception on SideQuest where it currently holds a 4.9 out of 5 rating from 218 reviews.

Update (July 1st, 2021): The latest of the above figures:

  • Steam: ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ 97% from 7,086 reviews
  • Quest (SideQuest): 4.7 out of 5 from 685 reviews
  • Quest (App Lab): 4.8 out of 5 from 2,560 reviews

“[…] the response [to Gorilla Tag] has been completely insane,” developer Kerestell Smith wrote to his community after the game’s first week. “In my wildest dreams I was hoping for a slow burn, so I’d be able to work on stuff at a steady pace and maybe there’d be a room or two of people playing at any given time, but, uh, it turns out lots more people like to ‘be monke’ than I thought they would.”

According to Smith, the game’s sole developer, Gorilla Tag saw 42,000 unique players across all platforms in its first two weeks after release; as of today (three days later) it has reached 54,000 players.

Update (July 1st, 2021): The latest of the above figures:

  • Unique players: 675,000
  • Max concurrent players: 5,500

Even for an Early Access title, Gorilla Tag is a bare-bones game right now. Between the pixelated graphics and legless avatars, you’d be forgiven for passing it by. But if you peer inside you’ll find a winning combination of interesting locomotion and social VR magic. Road to VR spoke to Smith about the project and what comes next.

Image courtesy Another Axiom

Smith is a 31 year old enterprise software developer. While Gorilla Tag is his first game development project, he was previously involved in Echo Arena’s competitive scene and says he was inspired by the game’s take on VR locomotion (which doesn’t rely on typical stick or teleportation movement).

“When you’re doing something like stick locomotion or teleportation, you’re more or less giving orders to a virtual entity. It doesn’t fully feel like you’re present. Like with stick locomotion it feels a lot more like you’re kind of sliding and ice skating around. It doesn’t feel like you’re moving through an environment,” Smith says. “When you have to walk with your hands [as in Gorilla Tag], every movement is dependent on how you’re actually moving [in the real world]. You’re using your arms like you would be using your feet, so it feels a lot more like you’re actually walking around.”

As for the gameplay, Smith notes that the simple game of tag is “a really primal thing,” which makes for easy and compelling multiplayer experience.

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For his game he also sought to remove parts of the character that weren’t directly controllable by the player.

“I tried to focus the design as much as possible was on making it feel as grounded as possible,” he says. “You don’t have feet controls in VR, so I took out the legs. You don’t have ring and pinky fingers in most controllers, so I took those out. I didn’t put in any floating menus or UI, everything is grounded in the world.”

The ‘grounded’ metaphor even extends to how players find their way from one game lobby to the next. Instead of a floating multiplayer menu, players climb up a large tree and then descend down a tunnel into a ‘mine’ level. On their way down the tunnel they are seamlessly connected into a new multiplayer session happening in that level. To navigate back to the other level, just climb back up the tunnel and you’ll be connected to a session happening there.

Smith has clearly been taken aback at the game’s traction right out of the gate.

“I didn’t expect this reception at all, I figured I’d have time to work on more of the basics […], but im starting to feel pretty dumb for not having any way for people to give me money at all.”

That said, his short-term plan is to add some paid DLC to Gorilla Tag to give players a way to directly support the game’s ongoing development.

“I’m just working on fleshing out some of the more core features like making it easier for people to play with their friends in public rooms, making a queue for players who want to play a little harder, making more game modes and maps, and working on technical stuff like reducing the networking traffic and adding lag compensation and more server locations,” he said about the near-term goals for the game.

Smith also tells Road to VR that Gorilla Tag is awaiting App Lab approval which will make it much more easily accessible to Quest players (currently the game is only available on Quest via sideload).

 – – — – –

Whether Gorilla Tag will be able to translate its early traction into lasting success is anyone’s guess at this point, but there’s clear lessons here in both VR design & distribution that are worth studying.

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  • RedBrumbler

    Honestly to me this game is so simple that it’s extremely good. There isn’t much to be said about a game of tag, what really makes it is the movement and the interaction with others, if there was no mic available I don’t think it would’ve been so successful

    And besides the base game, I feel it has incredible modding potential *because* it’s so bare bones, modders are looking into making custom maps possible, and there is already some cosmetic items

    All around amazing game imo and I can totally see it become a staple vr game

    ~RedBrumbler

    • Bonnie Jones

      Get $192 ph from Google!…(a723) Yes this is best since I just got my first paycheck of $24413 and this was just of a one week… I have also purchased my McLaren Speedtail right after this payment…(a723) it is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it >>>> http://www.bhst.us/googletrends2020 ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤…,

    • Elaine Berry

      Get $192 ph from Google!…(a777) Yes this is best since I just got my first paycheck of $24413 and this was just of a one week… I have also purchased my McLaren Speedtail right after this payment…(a777) it is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it >>>> https://anoni.sh/googletrends ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤.

  • wheeler

    I bet the general concept here could be expanded to something more ambitious, e.g. a first person platformer–the VR counterpart to donkey kong. Coop too, use your hands to boost and throw each other to high places

  • Ad

    He should add RTX and DLSS on PC

  • kuhpunkt

    Monke

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    If you needed more proof who we really are… Brother monkeys welcome home :)

  • TechPassion

    Silly game, for silly people.

    • Chad

      Once you use the word retarded and start judging people for what they like to play, you sound like a ten year old and have no credibility.

    • Wow. And I used to think some of your posts really added to the conversations in here. Apparently you’re just a salty d!ckhe@d who’s VR ideas didn’t take off. Like @VR5.

      Also, every play Kick the Can? Duck, Duck, Goose? Who can blow the largest spit bubble?

      Go back to your EVE Online and get off my lawn!

      /BN

    • R3ST4RT

      You disappoint me TechPassion. You’ve added nothing to the conversation.

    • D’Arcy Rien

      You sound like one of those “macho” manchildren who thinks they’re too “cool” and “manly” to have fun. Pathetic.

  • VR5

    “When you’re doing something like stick locomotion or teleportation, you’re more or less giving orders to a virtual entity. It doesn’t fully feel like you’re present. Like with stick locomotion it feels a lot more like you’re kind of sliding and ice skating around. It doesn’t feel like you’re moving through an environment,” Smith says. “When you have to walk with your hands [as in Gorilla Tag], every movement is dependent on how you’re actually moving [in the real world]. You’re using your arms like you would be using your feet, so it feels a lot more like you’re actually walking around.”

    I use the same concept of “hands are feet” in my own game, which released almost a year ago on SideQuest. I tried Gorilla Tag and its implementation is not quite the same but it’s a bit annoying that this game gets recognition for a concept I came up with.

    Of course, pulling the world towards you is something you do in almost all VR games when you climb, or in Lone Echo or Gorn. The main innovation of my game was that you don’t have to push a button to move the world.

    Gorilla Tag adds momentum, sliding and jumping, as well as requiring continous force to climb, and it deserves credit for that. But the buttonless immersive hand movement was pioneered by The Puny Climber last year.

    • That’s some salty, bitter shit right there. Welcome to the Entertainment Industry, cupcake. Gotta play the game smarter.

      • Yah, I understand your issue @VR5 but “pioneered” is a bit….self aggrandizing and …wrong. “The Climb” has been out, what, almost 5 years?

        Now, I watched your trailer and you do have some very interesting takes on platforming games translated to VR.

        Also, I was incredibly bored by it. Now, I’m not a platform game kinda guys. Honestly, I may take some heat, but for me, Mario games suuuuuck.

        Gorilla tag? Just watch the trailer and makes me sad I did not bring my Quest 2 to work today. It grabbed me instantly. Why?

        1. Fast paced.
        2. I understood the concept within the first couple of seconds of the video.
        3. Just looked fun as hell.
        4. Better use of Vr mechanics. Im going to side load yours tonight to give it a fair shake, but dude…..

        Watching the Gorilla Tag video I was already swinging my arms next to my chair mimicking their movements. Just like when I first saw Beat Saber.

        Work on it. You’ll find something.

        • VR5

          The mechanic I said I pioneered isn’t in The Climb. It is in Gorilla Tag. Smith specifically refers to it when he explains what makes it immersive.

          • Sweet! An actual dialogue!
            Please explain which parts he referenced that is directly the way you came up with (that is different from The Climb)

            I ask in all seriousness. My co-worker and I are actually working on our first game idea. We want something super simple but super engaging / immersive.

            I mean, with enough time, almost any game can be translated to VR, yes? And by time, I mostly mean the hardware and peripherals catching up with “real world” mechanics.

            But, there are some games that just instinctively feel like they were made for VR.

            Have you tried Angry Birds VR:Isle of Pigs? Brilliant.

            Something like that.

          • VR5

            Walking with one’s hands. That isn’t in The Climb. It’s the slogan of my game: “hands are feet”.

            Here’s a video demonstration of my mechanic from February 2020:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKvPkOxhYRA&list=PLLgn0Dj742BJ1bTwKlv3Abm-zzbsDQjII&index=2

          • Wow. Thanks for that perfect illustration! I understand now.
            I would love to see tutorials like that for other games out there. Basically, Oculus gives you a tutorial for the Quest when you first use it, but very few games provide as such.

            Now, that being said, I still disagree. Gorilla Tag isn’t using hands as feet. It *is* using hands for locomotion, specifically NOT as feet. He took feet off the player model cause no controllers on feet, and kept it simple. And yes, I get that your point has some merit after watching your video.

            But, monkeys generally have more ground movement from their arm actions than their feet. Watch some videos.
            I would like to eventually *see* the feet on the Gorilla Tag monkeys, but they aren’t needed.

            Also, Tesla invented Radio before Marconi did. Etc, Etc.

            But, Keep improvising!!

          • R3ST4RT

            Yeah, I get what VR5 is trying to say but Gorilla Tag is not “hands as feet”, it’s “hands as hands” with the lack of any legs. I understand that you may feel like you invented “Hands as locomotion” but just like Battlenun said about The Climb, “Hands as locomotion” has been done many times before even if yours is similar to Gorilla Tag.

          • VR5

            What is new is that you don’t need to press buttons. That is a huge game changer because it allows for very quick and dynamic movement.

          • VR5

            I did feel like Tesla here, yeah lol.

            If you move yourself by your hands making contact with surfaces and pushing yourself away from them, your arms act as legs. This is different from say Sprint Vector, where swinging your arms in the air moves you, because there is no one to one translation of arm movement and your own.

            I already mentioned Gorn, where you can attach to any point in the air by pressing a button and then move yourself one to one with your hand. But removing the button and requiring surface contact turns it into leg movement, using your arms.

          • Guygasm

            FYI, there are early public builds of Gorilla Tag a month before your first Puny Climber videos.

          • VR5

            Can I get a link for that? You can edit it into an existing comment. Trying to post a comment containing a link might flag it as spam and prevent it from appearing.

          • Tobias Hudelist

            Take Minecraft as an example.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            And I’ll bet he has never even heard of your game, as he clearly states he was inspired by Echo Arena, which existed way before your game.

          • VR5

            I’m not accusing him of stealing the idea and I agree, the influence of the Echo games is clear, also on me. But there is difference between floating and walking on a surface. Although I guess Echo also has buttonless pushback.

      • VR5

        And why are you downvoting me exactly? I don’t have a right to inform people about this?

        • Because self-aggrandizing “woe me” posts deserve to be downvoted into oblivion.

          • VR5

            Annoyance isn’t grief.

            Actually seeing games like Gorilla Tag emerging can only mean good things for The Puny Climber, because the concept gets recognition. Smith and I both developed an enjoyable locomotion method. I’m just stating I did it first and a year early.

          • NOBODY GIVES A SHIT.

          • VR5

            Actually you do, enough to harrass me.

          • Nobody is harassing you. YOU JUST WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT.

        • D’Arcy Rien

          We’re downvoting you because you sound like an arrogant moron. You didn’t invent the idea. The developer of Gorrilla Tag developed this idea on his own, I highly, highly doubt he’s ever heard of your project.
          The fact that you missed out on recognition is tough luck, dude. That’s how life goes. Maybe you should have put more effort into marketing your game, eh? The notion that you deserve some kind of “credit” for the movement system used in Gorilla Tag is utterly laughable. Get over yourself dude. Maybe your game just sucks, and that’s why nobody is playing it or writing articles about it? You pathetic narcissist.

        • Aeroflux

          I totally get where you’re coming from. Games take a lot of work, and VR games take extra. It’s not easy trying to come up with something unique and forging it into a workable and enjoyable mechanic.

          That said, putting your game out into the wild is similar to any other art. You can’t predict the reaction. Some soar, others fall flat on their face.

          You have a right to vocalize your contributions to the wild. You put in the effort and it should be recognized. But it won’t change the result.

          The developer of Gorilla Tag could very well have found inspiration from your game, and studying their game could make your next creation even better. That is the cycle of art.

          • VR5

            Thanks for this post! Smith definitely beat me in terms of marketing and I respect that.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      ” that this game gets recognition for a concept I came up with”
      And there you lost us.. acting like you actually invented the concept and no-one could have the same idea.. Personally I had never heard of Gorilla tag, and I certainly haven’t heard of your The Puny Climber, and watching the video I don’t see any resemblance with Gorilla tag, not even the movement.

      • VR5

        You’re definitely right that you can come up with the same concept without knowing about someone else having already done it. And I’m not accusing anyone of stealing my idea, especially when it is built and expanded upon. That’s okay and moves the medium forward.

        But the similarity is clear: you push yourself upwards and forwards with your hands, so they act as legs. And you don’t need to push a button to do it.

        I feel this has a lot of potential and I don’t really mind it getting more use, although coming up with a suitable setting to use it isn’t easy I guess.

    • meduzo

      Hey, just wanted to add, those tweaks that Gorilla Tag implemented like: momentum, sliding, jumping, sound design and multiplayer makes all the difference from your development. Also one very important part of Gorilla Tag is that your hands are actually NOT sticky (as they are in your game). Your hands need to be on a flat area to grab, and those kind of things separate Gorilla Tag from other games with similar mechanics such as: Climbey, Sweet Escape, To The Top and TossVR (some better known projects than yours which do employ buttons to climb surfaces).

      I think that rather than getting annoyed by this article of some concept you came up and didn’t succeed to captivate a broader audience with, learn from it. What has Gorilla Tag done better than you that you can implement in your own development? How can you do better? How can you do the next big thing?

      Don’t quit being a VR Dev because of this or anything similar, keep it up and build upon these kinds of experiences.

      Also… proofread whatever you read, since nowadays being a developer also means you need to keep peace with your audience and from the look of this post you’ll gain some haters :S

      • VR5

        Yeah, Gorilla Tag’s hands have friction, they aren’t sticky. I give him credit for that. But the immersiveness of moving without an abstract method like a stick is the same.

        You can attach to non flat surfaces in The Puny Climber. If the surface isn’t causing injury (like spikes), any place can be climbed.

    • Geoff

      I think many people came up with this concept of movement in the early days of VR when it became apparent that moving was a huge challenge. I know I thought of exactly this type of movement waaaay back in the day too however I didn’t do anything with it.

      What I think you should take from this is that you were and still are on the right track if you want to develop it further. VR is still emerging tech and innovative advancements in core design should not be bound by IP imo.

      • VR5

        Did you make it buttonless? I felt huge potential when I figured out that particular method and I knew, this is worth exploring. That’s why I’m putting all my efforts in this game.

    • handmethemic

      I’m sorry but I just looked up your game. Its a glorified prototype, there is no hook yet to invite the interest of the consumer regardless of how groundbreaking you think your idea is. And using hands as a traversal mechanic are far from an original vr concept, heck even something like Lone Echo uses hands as traversal in zero G.

      We’ve butted at the idea of hand movement a couple of times in fun-time game-jams at the small studio I work at, but I would never have the amount of arrogance it takes to claim I invented hand movement in 2020.

      I can promise you that thousands have tinkered with the idea of hand movement. Ideas are worth nothing if you cant execute on them well and communicate it to the world.

      • VR5

        The Puny Climber is definitely more than a prototype, there is plenty of content and variety of mechanics, other than the traversal mechanic. The current version on SideQuest takes about two hours to complete. It’s early access and free.

        I repeated myself in these comments plenty of times already and I already covered Lone Echo. As far as I know, The Puny Climber and Gorilla Tag are the only VR games in which you walk on your hands without using buttons. Unless you can name a third one that predates mine, I in fact invented this method.

        • Demian

          Natural Locomotion on steam

          • VR5

            Natural Locomotion is more like Sprint Vector and Stride, isn’t it? In that case your arms aren’t acting as legs, they just provide movement for your brain to associate the artificial locomotion with.

            In The Puny Climber and Gorilla Tag your hands make contact with the floor and push yourself away from it. The resulting movement is predictable, very precise and dynamic. That combination opens up a satisfying new skill layer.

    • SCheeseman

      Putting aside that both games are very different aside from the broad strokes:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sszHXpzLC8Q
      Note the date.

      • VR5

        Yeah, I’m strictly talking about the locomotion method, the games are quite different.

        I guess it was closer than first thought, and Gorilla Tag also beat me in first presenting its concept. My first private git commit of the working method is from September 2019 but I’m sure Smith also had this cooking for a while before he showed it off to the public.

    • benz145

      If we’re talking about the timeline, Lucid Trips deserves a shout-out. The team was working with the arms-as-legs concept at least as far back as 2016. If I recall correctly, the momentum-based movement was buttonless (though I think climbing involved grabbing).

      I specifically pointed out the game as a smart innovation: https://www.roadtovr.com/the-fearless-creativity-of-lucid-trips-is-exactly-what-vr-needs-to-thrive/

      In many ways, Lucid Trips could be called ahead of its time. […] Curiously enough, Lucid Trips largely uses the hand controllers as a replacement for your feet—a novel locomotion system which gives you disembodied virtual arms with which to crawl, jump, and fly around the game’s dreamscapes.

      […]

      The locomotion system is a complete departure from anything else I’ve seen in VR and I was surprised to find that it was a completely comfortable way of getting around a virtual world. And it served purpose beyond simply moving me from one place to the next; while some games use locomotion out of necessity, Lucid Trips’ novel movement scheme is half the fun, providing challenge in learning how to navigate in an elegant, if inhuman, way, and also lending you the dream-like ability to fly unhindered.

      […]

      Lucid Trips is among a handful of VR games that are genuinely thinking outside the box and exploring what can be done in virtual reality that simply wouldn’t make sense on other platforms. These are games that can hardly be described as ‘X in VR’ because they’re simply too different than what’s come before. The more developers being fearlessly creative in VR, the faster the platform will evolve into its own distinct medium.

      I’d argue it’s set of locomotion modalities are even more interesting than Gorilla Tag, and would be a great starting point for someone who wanted to build something around similar locomotion.

      • VR5

        Okay this settles who should take credit for the concept at least, since this predates both our games. Totally passed me by, I didn’t get into PCVR until the end of 2017. I started with a Gear VR on an S7, then PSVR when that launched. Incidentally VR Nerds actually was one of the first VR related sites I read.

        Will definitely try this game now that I’m aware of it.

        • benz145

          It’s great, I’d love to see someone take the concept further. Maybe that could be you!

          IMO, 90% of all design is building on the work of others, sometimes directly, sometimes without even realizing it. Borrowing of good ideas should be embraced!

          • VR5

            Definitely. One thing I’ve been considering to add is momentum based jumping, based on how it is done in Stormlands, where you can thrust yourself away from (and upwards) surfaces you’re climbing.

            Though the lack of momentum based locomotion in TPC is what makes it feel precise and (I think) easy to learn. If I’m going to add it, it might be item enabled and only available in certain levels, as to not break the design of the ones I already have. Though it would probably be available once unlocked at all times in the open world.

            There’s another jumping mechanic I’ve planned and will add for sure once I introduce a certain gameplay element it is linked to. I think it will surprise players and I got the idea for it from watching a movie years ago.

          • Jonathan Winters III

            This.

    • George Kobty

      Everyone should build on each others ideas and make the entire gaming industry better. We all win when one of us wins

  • It’s cool to see an indie become so successful! I hope he will manage to monetize the game!

  • namekuseijin

    the age where “games” are just an excuse for social intercourse

    that’s why the most popular VR “game” is a chat

    hope VR grows out of its primitive arcade days some day

  • George Kobty

    Hi if the developer is reading this, just start charging for it now, even if its just $1

  • Sven Viking

    Surely you mean “Quest Ape Lab”?

  • VR Marts

    hey everyone, made a designer tour style game that you can see on desktop web or VR headset ! check it out http://www.VRmarts.com thanks !

  • xyzs

    This stuff is a hit ?
    Damn, expectations in VR are low.
    You can downvote as much as you want if it makes you feel better but I am sill right.

    • TechPassion

      Most people are fools and primitive. That’s why shallow, repetetive, boring things like Beat Saber are a hit. Or this one. You can downvote me I do not care as well.

    • Biddymacp

      The most popular games ever made are Tetris and Minecraft! appealing mechanics and simple gameplay are the winning factors in games after that the rest is a confidence trick. If you are looking for gloss over gameplay it might be that your expectations easily bought.

  • Holdup

    Fun game but full of racist 11 year olds

  • Scientism

    More like 600k players tried the game, 550k understood that the game is too puke and headache inducing for them.

  • MaliciousALENA

    i hope that gorilla tag comes to ps5 too so me and my friends can play togheter