Putting words together to tell a story can be crucial to the way the story is told. Sometimes it’s finding the right letters for the words of the right context that can either be the fun part of the challenging part depending on the person and the situation. If you had a time limit to spell as many words as you could, how well do you think you would do? Would the pressure of coming up with a new word help tell the story to add to your intellectual thinking or would you go for as simple as possible given the circumstances? So when I heard that developers, Tea Monster Games and 4 Fun Studio actually made a game involving words and trying to solve anagrams, I became intrigued and wanted to know more. So I reached out and Jeff was more than happy to talk about their game, Paper Jam! as well as talk about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Jeff from Team Monster Games
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Tea Monster Games?
“I’m Jeff from Tea Monster Games! I’ve been a game maker (hobbyist) since the 1980s and professionally for about 18 years or so. I moved to Canada to work at a game studio, stayed there for a while, and then went freelance after that. I’ve worked freelance on a lot of games (no, you probably haven’t heard of any of them – mostly mobile or games for conference booths and such!), worked on a few VR projects, and made a bunch of games myself along the way. I love VR and I totally believe in it, which is why I’ve released two VR games on Steam to date with more to come in the future!”
Growing up, what were some of your gaming influences and what was that one VR moment that really opened your eyes to Virtual Reality?
“I grew up in the UK, in a place called New Brighton (near Liverpool) in the late 1970s and 80s. I played a lot of computer games wherever I could – we had an Atari 2600, then later we got a computer at home and my school had one too, but I also played on my mates Vic 20 and my cousin’s C64. Manic Miner was my favorite game for a long time and it just so happened that Matthew Smith, its creator, lived not too far away and you could often find him at the local computer shop. I never worked up the courage to talk to him, but the times I saw him it was like seeing a pop star to me. Everyone our family knew was unemployed, on the dole, or struggling with badly paid jobs – even though it was beautiful with the sea there and the skyline over the Mersey at night, it was a pretty depressing place to grow up, really. Knowing that someone from ‘where I lived’ could make something so awesome as Manic Miner gave me hope that one day maybe I could do the same.
As I lived in a seaside town, I also spent a lot of time in arcades – there were a bunch of them along the seafront. The games I played there were Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Galaxians. They were games. But there was something better: Battlezone. The arcade cabinet had you look into some binoculars into the game world – a vector universe of tanks and UFOs. This, to me, was virtual reality. Of course, there was no head tracking or anything like that, but the minute you put your face up to the machine and looked into those binoculars, you were in that universe. Ever since that, I wanted to step into a video game. The other game I loved to play was the Star Wars arcade game. One of the arcades had a ‘sit in’ cabinet and that too was like stepping into the game. It had some awesome speakers that you could feel through the seat, a joystick that looked like it came from the movie, and sampled speech like Obi-Wan telling you to use the force. Arcade games didn’t get any better than that, for me. When I could afford to play it, just sitting in the cabinet alone was an out-of-this-world experience.
When the Oculus Rift Kickstarter happened, I had to be a part of it. Just had to. I’d been dreaming of VR since Battlezone! I got the DK1 and made a bunch of different things with it, including a first-person racing game I gave away for free on the Oculus forums and one of the first VR rollercoaster demos. My rollercoaster was really popular and actually got featured in a BBC news tech piece about VR, which was just amazing to be a part of really. The only problem was that I couldn’t really enjoy it myself. In fact, I couldn’t actually use VR for more than a few minutes back then without it making me feel really, really sick. So sick I’d have to stay away from it for a day or two after. I get VR sick very badly and still do, even after almost 9 years of VR almost every day. People say ‘you’ll find your VR legs’ but I never did – for that reason, I make a point of trying to avoid doing anything that might make people feel ill when I make my own VR experiences.”
Tea Monster Games has some interesting games with titles like Axe Throw VR and My Nuclear Octopus. Your latest game has come out this year called Paper Jam!. What can you tell us about the game?
“Paper Jam! had been kicking around in my head for a while. I made a mobile word game a while ago and thought it would be a fun niche to make a VR word game. I started playing around with it, and then it got shelved as I was writing 2 new editions of my books. I was approached by 4 Fun Studio to see if I wanted to collaborate on a game, and we decided to finish Paper Jam! It went from a Minecraft-looking thing to a world of Robots – thanks to the awesome graphic work from Sylvain at 4 Fun Studio.
It’s a pretty simple word game. You help the robots finish their books by creating words on the giant mechanical typewriter and solving anagrams as you go. There’s a career mode as well as a quick play, so you can play any way you like!”
So solving anagrams really does help unlock the story?
“Each anagram is part of the story. However, we are pretty chill at Tea Monster, so we let you unlock the story anyway :).”
Are there different levels of difficulties for those that may want harder or easier words to figure out?
“There are difficulty levels, but they just affect the timer, not the word length. You can make up to 8 letter words if you get a good mix of letters!”
If time runs out, do the robots get angry?
“They get more sad than anything. But you can just try again from where you left off and start getting those hearts again!”
What can you tell us about the leaderboards in the game?
“Right now there aren’t any. Sadly we had issues with SteamWorks, and we haven’t had a chance to fix them up yet. Hopefully, once RC Rush is out, we can go back and sort them out.”
Do you see any future content, maybe something for the upcoming holiday with theming coming to Paper Jam!?
“We aren’t sure yet. We are busy trying to get RC Rush out at the moment.”
Are there any plans of bringing Paper Jam! to other platforms such as Oculus Quest/Quest 2, PlayStation VR, or even Viveport?
“We are looking at getting it onto the Quest, but it may take a little while.”
When working with VR, what do you feel are the top three things that are the most important to follow?
“Don’t make people sick!
Make sure your environment is interactive!
Don’t make people turn around too much – they will tie up their cables and fall over!”
What is the one thing that will always carry with you from project to project about graphics and VR?
“Keep it simple and focus on the immersion rather than the detail.”
So what’s next for you and Tea Monster Games?
“RC Rush! We are teaming up with 4 Fun Studio again to make an RC racing game. It will be available with both a VR and non-VR mode as well as have multiplayer – and yes, the multiplayer can have both VR and non-VR folks playing at the same time! It should be out in Early Access on Steam in the next few weeks!”
If you walked through the door into THE VR DIMENSION, but could never leave, but had to be someone from a different time period to be the new recruit to Ro-Books Bookstore, who would it be and how do you think you would do?
“Isaac Asimov – He’d probably do really well with the robots.”
With all the VR content continuing to expand, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Paper Jam!“
“Paper Jam! is a unique game to VR. If you love word games, then you will love helping out at Ro-Books! It’s one of those games you can pick up and play for a bit, save, and then come back to when you feel like making more words.”
I really want to thank Jeff for taking time out of his day to give us a closer look at Paper Jam! as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Paper Jam! is out now on Steam.
To learn more about Tea Monster Games, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, follow them on Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. To learn more about 4 Fun Studio, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.