Pumpkin VR has made the rounds since 2017, but you’d be forgiven for not having come across them until now.
Based within Taiwan, this studio developed a few arcade-exclusive titles, ones that were only been distributed within VR Centres across Asia such as Taboo, Forbidden Z and Iron Gate. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic making these locations less accessible than ever, that approach is about to change. Forbidden Z arrived on Steam for free last month, and in the meantime, Pumpkin is preparing their newest game, Quantaar.
Described as a “fast-paced VR Melee”, Quantaar first appeared back in 2019 for an Esports tournament in Taipei Syntrend. Offering 90 second matches that bases wins on kills and damage dealt, they advised the game is “fitted for hardcore and casual players”, offering a clear competitive focus with additional single-player options. Unusually for VR, that action takes place within third-person gameplay, making it somewhat unique.
With a Kickstarter campaign now running, we reached out to Pumpkin VR to learn more about it. Speaking to the studio founder Peter Liao – with thanks to Huei-Ting Chan for arranging this – he kindly shared some new details (this interview has been edited for clarity).
UploadVR: First off, thank you for joining me today! Could you please introduce yourself?
Peter: Hi I’m Peter Liao, founder of Pumpkin Studio and Pumpkin VR. We are a Taiwan-based indie team focusing on VR content production since 2016 (3 VR arcade titles have been released under the name of Pumpkin Studio.) Pumpkin VR is the new facade we started in 2020 dedicating to our upcoming online multiplayer VR title – Quantaar, which we’ve been developing for over 2 years and it’s still ongoing!
UploadVR: Pumpkin Studio has previously released VR arcade titles such as Forbidden Z, Iron Gate and Taboo, without any home releases. Is there a particular reason your studio focused on the arcade market?
Peter: Our VR game journey started by developing a VR shooter for a local arcade center back in early 2017, when the arcade market was way more active than the VR home user. We then kept developing and licensing original VR arcade titles for global arcade centers. In other words, we’ve been waiting for a good time to enter the home user market.
UploadVR: Given that many of us are homebound due to Covid-19, arcades are mostly off-limits, depending on what part of the world you are in. Has the pandemic affected Quantaar’s development at all?
Peter: Yes and no. The initial timeline of the game was releasing its arcade version first as a warmup for its online. However, the pandemic has forced us to drop off this plan due to the shutdown of most brick and mortars across the world. We started immediately replanning the development schedule of Quantaar last March. Which means, new planning, game design, art style, server building…etc. We literally are developing a new game preserving the core gameplay and the title. Luckily, we are based in Taiwan, our developers can stay focused on game development itself.
UploadVR: With this in mind, can we expect to see Quantaar launch on Steam VR, other PC platforms or Oculus Quest?
Peter: As Quantaar is a VR melee, maximizing player pool is one of the key elements to make each experience thrilling. Steam VR and Oculus Quest are for sure the destinies where to launch the game. However, we might need to prioritize the launch time on each platform instead of releasing on the two platforms at the same time based on the workload and financial.
We have tried adapting Quantaar into the PC version for testing, but the result is not satisfactory. Due to the limit of vision on PC, we have to abandon some VR features and the game looks a bit flat compared to its VR version. VR is still our first priority at present. But we do expect the day we can do PC-VR cross platform play.
UploadVR: Moving towards Quantaar itself: it first launched as an arcade title back in 2019. Could you tell us a bit about the basic gameplay premise, and whether it’s changed much since that initial release?
Peter: The core gameplay is very simple: kick opponents out of the arena and cause as much damage as possible! The initial version of Quantaar was designed to provide a fierce VR gaming experience to the general public (those who have no VR equipment at home.) So, once players put in a coin, they will be led to a spaceship, starting choosing heroes and maps then get ready for a 5-minute-long fast-paced battle in third-person view in VR.
We keep the core gameplay and expand the world of Quantaar in the online version adding more functions in either combat systems or the worldview.
UploadVR: Considering VR’s immersive nature lends itself towards first-person gameplay, it’s unusual to see a third-person combat game arrive for it. Why did the team choose this approach to gameplay?
Peter: First-person gameplay is without doubt a great way to deliver immersive experiences but sometimes it comes with physical discomfort as well. Our previous experience in LBE VR drove us to think in unconventional ways creating something innovative, fun and reducing the happening of motion sickness as much as possible. That’s where we began to develop third-person gameplay and secure VR features in the meantime.
UploadVR: How does Quantaar utilize VR in-game, were there certain benefits to this as opposed to traditional console/PC experiences?
Peter: Quantaar is now developing into a complex virtual world instead of a combat-only game from its original. During the match, players control their heroes from above but apply props (appearing on the stage randomly) and release certain skills (according to the heroes) in first-person view. To enhance VR in game, we add a great amount of VFX creating stunning in-battle environments that can be experienced in VR only.
For example, there’s an octopus item that will stick on players’ vision when attacked. The ultimate skill of Quasar (a hero from nova star) is a strong light beam that can swipe all opponents out of the stage by tilting the head right and left. Aside from the matches, Quantaar also marries other elements to build its metaverse from player avatars, side games to character levels. More details will be revealing soon!
UploadVR: It seems clear that Quantaar holds competitive elements and you recently released an Esports trailer, showing some footage from Syntrend Taipei. Will Esports be a major focus for the game?
Peter: Esports is a potential outcome for the game as the core gameplay is PvP fast-paced time-limited fighting like the other classics (Street Fighters, King of Fighters…). What makes the game hard to master is the complexity of the combat system (combining heroes class and rune system). It requires not only intense practices but also a deep understanding of each characters’ class and skills when it comes to team play (2V2).
During the Esports event at Syntrend Taipei, we’ve witnessed many novel tactical strategies from each esports team including heroes combination and prop-use strategy. The game has its balance design and the flexibility for players to develop their play style. I think that’s the key reason why it has the potential for Esports.
UploadVR: The Kickstarter campaign is now live, but why wait until now to launch it, as opposed to 2019?
Peter: Developing an online VR multiplayer at the scale of Quantaar is difficult. I have to admit that we never thought about one day we would extend the game at today’s level as it was an arcade title while we started designing it (back to 2018). We’ve spent a whole year redesigning and testing features step by step as a team of 18. Also, with the fast growth of VR in terms of player number and hardware sales since 2020, we think this year is the time to share the game and its current stage publicly.
UploadVR: Lastly, is there any message you’d like to share at all?
Peter: We want to create something classic in VR like how League of Legends kicked off 10 years ago. To reach the goal, we’ve been endeavoring to craft a game with longevity and scalability that we’d love to stick around and grow with as a gamer. Quantaar is the game we want to bring to VR and non-VR players.