Thursday, March 24, 2016

Catching Up On The Last Two Months: New VR Platform, Development News, and The Trip to GDC

Uh, hello. So it's been a little longer than normal since our last post.

There are lots of fun things to go over, but first, a little side-note about our posts lately.

I've thought about it here and there, wondering what I should write to keep you all informed, while not giving surprises away. For everyone who has continued to be supportive and send us good thoughts, we are deeply appreciative. It means so much to us, as we read every comment. 

Now, back to the news!


PlayStation VR Support

So last week we went to GDC, where we announced at a Sony media event on Tuesday that we will be supporting the PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset. You can check out our write-up on the official PlayStation Blog for more information as to why we made the choice and how we think it will benefit more players. 

We are also excited about supporting the PlayStation Move controllers as an optional way of playing through the game. We think that this will be a great option for VR, because you can move your hands around more freely, closer to how you would normally. I had a ton of fun trying out the latest PSVR headset last week, and at the recently announced price of USD $399, I think it will be a great option for people who already own PS4s and want to get into VR.

 Me playing around with the PSVR and Move controllers in the
XING: The Land Beyond demo booth at the PSVR media event, GDC 2016 


On the content side of things, we have been making lots of progress - trying to finish chunks of levels and then testing them out.

We still have a few more puzzles to implement into the remaining levels. One of these levels in particular is our desert level, which we have been pretty quiet about :) You can see a new screenshot from it below:

As I look back through some of the screenshots from previous posts, I think, stylistically, the game is getting brighter and more saturated. This has been a gradual effort to make the game more set in a style which we find more appealing to explore (especially in VR). Overall, XING is now much more friendly looking; however, these changes don't stop many of the puzzles and themes from continuing to be deeper and more complex than perhaps their outward appearance.

Here are some more recent screenshots for your viewing pleasure:

Check out those sweet Mangrove trees!
Morning on the beach. Notice the wet-tech that John implemented for this area, which makes it so that the sand and rocks that are touching the ocean always have a wet ring around them. 
This area is so detailed and packed with plants, rocks and architecture,
but all of that will make it more of a challenge when we start getting deeper into optimizing it for VR...
Recently, we also created a new and better way to have more content available to unlock for players who like to go the extra mile and 100%-ers. Below is a screenshot from an area that will only be available when you unlock it!

In our next post, John promises to take a more in-depth look into what this game is all about.

Trip to GDC

As usual, we like to let you guys in on all of the events that we go to for promoting XING. 

Events always take a chunk of time out of our work schedule, but they're almost always worth it. There's always someone or some company to meet, or some interview to do, or X number of people to talk to about the game, and together those things usually make these trips productive. 

For this trip, not only did we participate in and demo at the Sony Media event for PSVR on Tuesday, but we also got a few meetings done during the rest of the week too. In between those more business-oriented meetings and promotions, we like to take photos of the fun stuff, so here's a little glimpse of the trip! Enjoy :)

Monday: Travel Day

I drove up from LA with my brother (James K) and 2 fellow game developers (Jason and Robby) on Tuesday afternoon, and John and his buddy/our mascot (Speedo) flew in from AZ. We all met up at James' house around 10 pm like we have done for the past 3 years, and talked for a while before heading to bed. 

Oh, I also tried out XING for the first time on the PSVR with move controllers - since James had a kit (and I needed to know exactly what we would be demoing the next day!) I usually only see and play the game on a standard monitor, since we all work from home and John and James are the ones with all the VR equipment set up in their work spaces. I'll just say, it was a blast.

John helping me get set up with PSVR.

Tuesday: PSVR Media Event

The next morning we woke up and got ready for the hour drive into the city. There were 7 of us total, so I was grateful to my parents that they let me borrow their new van for the week (thanks mom and dad!). The "space van" also came with 2 fold-down TV screens, so the group took full advantage of those throughout the long drives by watching DVDs I brought, including: The Road to El Dorado, Galaxy Quest, Starship Troopers, The Incredibles and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. 

When we got to the Moscone Center, we 3 members of White Lotus took off to prep for the media event. The rest of the guys split off to go grab their badges and then sat around having, what I assume to be, long and meaningful conversations. 

When the 3 of us arrived at the event, we were immediately impressed with the setup. People were pretty relaxed and everything seemed to be running smoothly. When we got to our demo station, I got excited about the giant banner they printed for us! It was glorious:

We tried out the XING: The Land Beyond demo (which was already installed on the PS4 there) to make sure there were no hiccups. Thankfully it was all working as planned!

After the big announcement of the October release and price of the PSVR, we had 3 hours to demo to press.

We took turns giving demos and talking to media.  
At the end we each decided to take a photo with the signs around the event.

Koriel (me)

That night we went out to dinner at a great sushi place in the city, then drove back to James' house to rest and recover. I brought out my N64 and we played some Mario Party 2 that night. Awwww yeah.

Wednesday: Mostly Meetings + Afterparty

The next morning we left the house around 11:30am to make our first meeting of the day at 1pm. 

This year I decided to get a little more creative with my title on my badge. The fact that this was approved made me quite happy: 

Later, while walking through the show floor, we found people we knew:

Hanging out with Ryan Warzecha and the team from Cyan They were showing off Obduction at the Epic Games booth!

Hopping around with Palmer Luckey!
(Left to  Right) James Kruer, John Torkington, Palmer Luckey, Koriel Kruer (me) and Speedo
We ran into our friends from Serenity Forge :)
In the last hour we ended up having some time to try out different games at the GDC Play area.

James and I tried out a cool paragliding simulator in the GDC Play are, where the mission was to blow up as many tanks and other vehicles as possible before the time ran out. There was even a fan blowing air at us, to make it feel more like wind!

(Left to right) Speedo, John, James and Robby, playing Auto Age Standoff
That night we ended up splitting up for dinner. I went out to eat with some fellow game dev friends at a nearby Sushi Boat, and later joined back up with the rest of the group. 

Around 8pm we went out to the Epic Games party and waited in line to get in. After the doors opened, the guys ended up talking to other devs and people that we knew there, while I got my groove on. After the party we headed back to James' place around 12am (and arrived at 1am). It was definitely bed time. 

Thursday: 2 Meetings + Lots of walking

The next morning we left a little later than the previous morning, since we were all interested in sleeping in. When we arrived on the show floor again, we ended up noticing something interesting on the giant overhead displays in the halls:

Yep. That's a photo from our booth for XING exactly 2 years ago!
James is even in the corner talking to someone. This was on a 2ish minute loop.
At one point, we ran into Jason again (our friend and the fourth rider up in the "space van" from LA). He was in front of a large TV with some facial expression tracking software going on. It recognized me as a female, and also recognized "joy" whenever I smiled. Here's a photo of some of the guys trying out different expressions:

(Left to right) James Kruer, James Steininger, Jason, Robby and Speedo.
It was pretty amusing. This went on for about 3 minutes, before we had to split off again for meetings. Unfortunately, we ended up having 2 meetings scheduled at the same time (though one was significantly longer). John went to the more technical one, and James and I went to the other one. An hour and a half later we sat in a circle on the side of the expo floor and shared notes. 

John sharing notes from his meeting.
James decided to take a picture of our little discussion circle, and we each had different reactions to that. 
After our little chat, we went over to the Epic Games booth to visit some of our friends there. I think it's safe to say that everyone we have met who works there is extremely nice, helpful and awesome - which is great for us as developers because we love using their Unreal Engine 4!

The Expo Floor ended at 6pm that day, and we debated whether to do parties again or go back to James' house and relax. 

We ended up deciding to leave the city and drive back. That way we would be able to get to the Moscone Center much earlier the following morning for some talks. 

On the way back the guys were hungry, so we stopped at In-N-Out.

I think Speedo wins this picture.
Friday: The Last Day (And Also James' Birthday)

The next morning we got to the Moscone earlier than all the previous days (we were quite proud considering the hour drive there). The guys in back watched the first half of The Incredibles on the way there.

We dropped James K off at the front of the center to run to a talk, while the rest of us went to park the Space Van. 

Walking to the Center.
John, James and I had a lunch date with a friend. Later the 6 of us met back up to tour the expo floor one last time before James' and John's last meeting. While they were in their technical meeting, I was doing something far more productive:

Thinking lofty thoughts....
The show closed at 3pm, so we called Jason and drove back to James' place to celebrate his birthday. Naturally we hit a little more traffic going back, but it was nice to finally be done being "on", and also to have the full group of 7 back in the van. Our plans for that evening were simple: Eat delicious food made by James' mom and then go out for Laser Tag. 

It was 2 free-for-all/death match games, and our group hit every spectrum of the score board. 

John and Speedo teamed up during both games and just shouted out lines from Starship Troopers. 

Speedo was clearly taking this seriously.
(Left to right) Speedo, John, James, James K, Jason and Koriel
It was a great way to end a fun and productive trip to GDC! Huzzah!


Working on XING: The Land Beyond is a wonderful and challenging experience - and I think it's a good sign that each of us to continues to invest so much time into it, because it means we are still passionate about it, and more importantly, we all believe in the project.

It's sad, but I've seen lots of projects slowly die and never get made, because people lose interest, or life gets in the way, or maybe they just stop believing it will work out. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn't. For us, there has never been any question that this is what we want to be doing.

Here's a little poem I wrote for you guys:

Making a game is a lot of hard work,
Especially when in a team of just three,
But we find challenges oh so much fun,
And there is no place that we'd rather be.

Yes, there are times our projections are off,
In game dev it seems a regular thing,
To wait for a wonderful game to be made,
And this time, it happens to be our game, XING.

But please do not fret, for we work night and day,
Pouring into it our hearts and our souls,
To make a great game that soon you will play,
While trying to ignore the cynics and trolls.

We're grateful to all who are reading this page,
And yes, that means I am talking to you,
Our wonderful fans, I must bid thee farewell,
For now there is still so much we must do!

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave us any comments or questions. You can also contact us at

Till next time! Squadala, we're off!