Playful Corp is the developer behind one of virtual reality’s first, and most beloved video games: Lucky’s Tale. This Oculus Rift title is a love letter to the 3D platforming era of Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. The titular Lucky is a cute little fox that managed to jump, spin and dash his way into the hearts of VR’s earliest adopters.
Since Lucky, however, Playful has gone relatively quite, with no major announcements to speak of. “Lucky’s Tale 2” is all but guaranteed following the original’s positive reception and Oculus’ interest in creating a brandable, mascot-driven franchise, but so far there’s been no official word from the studio as to what they’ve been working on.
Today, during a seminar at VRDC in San Francisco Paul Bettner, Playful’s CEO, and Dan Hurd, it’s lead designer announced at least one of their previously undisclosed projects. It’s called Wonderland, and it is an experiment in room-scale, social VR.
During his address, Bettner reiterated strongly that “this is not a product announcement.”
He compared it to the sometimes laborious prototyping process that his studio went through on Lucky’s Tale. The difference being that now the team is experimenting with room-scale, social interactions and hand controllers rather than immersive perspectives and 3D platforming.
Wonderland may one day be a commercial product, but for now it seems it is essentially a chance for a dedicated studio to work on specific VR problems in a room-scale environment. Wonderland is described by Bettner as a “persistent, living world” in which Playful can experiment with VR avatars, socialization, environment design, and locomotion.
To this latter point Playful will be using “arm swinger” locomotion mechanic in Wonderland. This is an experimental movement scheme that allows users to move through a virtual world by, you guessed it, swinging their arms. Arm-swinger is one potential solution to VR’s bigger locomotion puzzle but it is viewed by the some in the community as a stop-gap. Bettner clarified that this strategy is subject to change as they continue to learn and develop.
In an email to UploadVR, Betner further defined Wonderland‘s scope and commercial status:
“Wonderland isn’t a product. Not yet. It is simply a glimpse into some of the ongoing R&D Playful has been doing into the areas of social, room-scale, touch-based virtual reality. Given the subject of our talk, we felt like it was a good opportunity to share some of this very early work with the community and see what we can all learn from it…This is just a glimpse into our R&D and prototyping process.”
Wonderland is, in many ways, a Playful Corp version of the Oculus-produced Toybox experience. Toybox is another social VR demo that emphasizes creativity and free-play over heavy structure.
Playful Corp recently closed a $25 million round of fundraising from a group of undisclosed investors.