Fantastic Contraption developer talks inspiration

by Ian Hamilton • September 7th, 2015

Colin Northway is working on Fantastic Contraption, which started as a browser-based game back in 2008 giving players simple objects, like wheels, that can be hooked up togther to make a simple machine. In VR, players construct these virtual machines in the middle of their living room with friends and family watching what the player is seeing on a TV.

Here is the teaser trailer:

His software is among a crop of apps designed to unleash human creativity in VR using more natural human movements. I also reached out to James King at Facepunch Studios with questions about his Minecraft-style creation platform he plans to release for the HTC Vive and I am looking to find more developers working on these kinds of experiences. Chronicling their experiences and shairng their insights can help us all wrap our minds around just how transformative this new medium will be. If you’re working on an experience like that lets get the conversation started by emailing [email protected].

Here is Northway’s Q&A:

How did you get interested in VR?

Of course I was always somewhat interested in VR, like everyone. I fell in love with VR when I tried a Vive for the first time just a few months ago. Walking around and using my hands gave me the feeling of being in a different place for the first time. That experience hooked me.

When did you get the Vive and how long did it take you to decide you wanted to adapt Fantastic Contraption to it?

We got a Vive a few months ago but we started working on Fantastic Contraption before we had one. We started using a gamepad to “drive” a Vive controller around the space, which was a horrible way to play the game. We got all the basics done that way and then used a Vive from a local game dev studio on the weekend to do our Vive integration.

Soon after that we got our Vive and it’s been full speed ever since.

What kind of experiences are you interested in playing, and making, in VR?

There are all kinds of experiences I want to play in the Vive. Tilt Brush was a huge inspiration to me. Making big sweeping gestures and moving around the room to see things from different perspectives was what made me think Fantastic Contraption would work well in VR.

Job Simulator is all about just the goofy joy of throwing stuff around and being in an imaginative impossible world.

theBlu more than any other thing I’ve tried gets that sense of place right. I really enjoy being on the prow of that ship.

That’s something that surprised me about room scale VR. When you feel like you’re really in a place it becomes much more important what that place is like. Fantastic Contraption is a sunny, grassy, land where you can while away an afternoon. It’s a pleasent place to be and it affects you like walking in a park on a nice day affects you. I don’t know if grey military shooters are going to be as fun in VR as they are on a screen just because those aren’t nice places to spend time.

Are you working on anything else?

I’m working only on Fantastic Contraption

Has your work on Fantastic Contraption changed what you want to work on in the future? In other words, do traditional games still interest you and, if so, what kinds?

I like room scale VR games a lot. I play Fantastic Contraption and Tilt Brush quite a bit every day and haven’t been playing games that aren’t room-scale VR. PAX this year was odly muted for me. I found it hard to get excited about games that would usually exite me because they aren’t room scale VR. It’s just such an exciting medium!

Do first-person shooters interest you on traditional screens, why or why not? What do you think of them in VR?

I don’t play many FPSs at the moment because I’ve spend so many hours of my life playing them. At some point it became really hard for an FPS to give me an experience I haven’t already played to death.

My guess is that FPSs will end up dominating the VR market just like they dominate the current market. It’s so easy to make a room scale VR game where you have a gun and you crouch behind stuff while fending off a wave of bad guys. It’s easy to design and would be obviously fun.

I think the reason the current crop of VR games isn’t focused on shooting people in the face is because as designers we’re all hoping that’s not what’s going to happen. We have this new fresh start. We can make games about airplanes and building stuff and even cooking. It’s just more fun to explore the optomistic and joyous side of this new way to make games.

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