If something were to happen to a friend, a loved one, or even you, what do you think happens when we pass? Some say we go to the next life, some say to heaven, and some say to the final resting place. It may be hard to know for sure based on what one may believe. But what happens on that final journey that our soul goes on? Is it a look back at our life, do we visit those times, or do we wait until we meet our loved ones once again? It really is hard to say, but it is an interesting conversation with as many questions as there could be answers. So when I heard that developer, The Game Forger, made a game about the different emotions our soul visits, I had to learn more. So I reached out and Lasse Loepfe was happy to talk about their newest game, Soulpath: The Final Journey, and also talk about Virtual Reality.
Interview with programmer and bug chaser from The Game Forge, Lasse Loepfe
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at The Game Forger?
“Hi, my name is Lasse Loepfe. I’ve learned coding during my Ph.D. in environmental science and make games since 2013. At The Game Forger, I’m in charge of introducing bugs and then chasing them down again.”
Growing up, what were some of your favorite games, and what was that one VR moment that you knew you had to create something in Virtual Reality?
“As a child, I was really into point & click adventures and civilization games on my Atari. And Tetris on the GameBoy. My first deep cut in VR was the Circ du Soleil show on the GearVR, the moment when one of the actresses came really close to the camera and looked into “my” eyes. It was really intimate.”
The Game Forger has created some games and board games such as Danger Room VR, Aliens Attack VR, and Pandemonium just to name a few. Your newest game, SoulPath: The Final Journey just recently released. What can you tell us about the game?
“We started SoulPath 4 years ago when the Vive came out. It was planned to be a quick-release… Now I like to call it an “author game”. Our goal is to transmit different emotions in a fun and beautiful way.”
So the gameplay, music, and visuals change with the experience?
“We have created 9 different mini-games, each representing an emotion. Some are rather physical, with powerful music and lava all around, while others are more laid-back, calm music in a chilled ambiance. We are really happy that we could count with Andoni Plaza to write the music from scratch, so we could tell him exactly what we wanted.”
Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about some of the mini-games?
“You can play tennis, well sort of, in an aquatic park, relieve stress by breaking glasses, guide a ball through a giant maze, practice tai-chi like movements, and much more.”
Fear, sadness, and joy are some of the emotions you get to play through. How does that work in the game and what can you tell us about how every level changes the way the player plays?
Fear is represented by a rhythm game where you have to beat scary objects before they can wake up the monster below you. Joy, as mentioned before, is about playing a sort of tennis. In Sadness you are in the middle of the ocean, trying to keep an altar in balance by adjusting levers. That one is more of a puzzle game. Also, in this mini-game, sometimes the best choice is not to do anything or just fine adjustments. Just as in life, if you overreact, you lose balance.
What can you tell us about some of the puzzles in the game? Are there some puzzles that some may find to be too challenging or have you found a balance that many should be pleased with?
“Fine-tuning the difficulty was indeed a challenge. Especially because there is no correct difficulty for all players. What is too easy for some, is impossible for others. So, each mini-game has three difficulty levels. The easy level is designed to be really easy, so it does not block player progression and serves as practice, whereas the hard one was set so that it would take several attempts to pass it.”
How do the memories come to play in the game?
“The memories are objects that are fragmented until you grab them with your magic wand to bring them to consciousness. The idea was to have that in all levels, but at the end, they “come to consciousness” without player intervention, because when we had to choose between narrative coherence and fun, we would choose fun.”
Watching the trailer, there was something special about hearing the music and different sounds within the game. Were there anything sounds that were a little more challenging than others to get just right?
“The tricky part was rather bringing them all together. For instance, in Sadness, we wanted to bring the player’s attention to the objects falling down from the sky. But the sound they made would cover the music too much, so finally, we chose to silence their appearance.”
Visually, SoulPath looks like it might bring some immersion that Virtual Reality needs to have a great experience. Was there anything that you learned that you didn’t think would work in VR, but were surprised how well it actually worked?
“From a technical point of view, I was surprised that line renderers and billboard particles can work out sometimes.”
What do you feel is the most important when creating content in Virtual Reality?
“To create for VR. To make everything as natural as possible. For instance, in the first version of SoulPath, bringing grabbed objects closer or further away was done with the joystick. That was really hard to explain to testers. Now it is done calculating the distance of the hand from the camera plane, it just feels natural and does not require any explanation at all.”
Knowing what you know now, what would be the top three things you would tell your younger self about Virtual Reality that you wish someone would have told you?
“Physics don’t need to be accurate, adjust them to be fun. With the correct physics, throwing was very difficult for most people, so we made it much more arcade.
Everything you do for VR, test it early in VR. What looks good on a flat-screen might be awkward in VR.
Don’t believe testers that say your game is awesome when they are in VR for the first time, they are just flashed by VR in general, not by your game.”
Where do you see VR in 5-10 years?
“Without a technical breakthrough, I don’t think it will become mainstream. But the fan base will grow.”
Do you see the game coming to other platforms such as Oculus, Viveport, or even PlayStation VR in the future?
“That depends on the success on Steam. Oculus or Viveport are easy steps. Porting it to Quest or PlayStation VR is more work, but if there is real interest in the game it definitely is an option.”
With the content of Virtual Reality continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Soulpath: The Final Journey?
“I think that on one hand, it is a great entry-level game. We have tested it with many people without prior experience in VR, and they all had a good time. So it’s also a good game to show to your friends. And for more experienced users, the combination of visuals, music, and gameplay, is still a unique experience.
I really want to thank Lasse for taking the time out of his busy workday for giving us a closer look at Soulpath: The Final Journey and for also talking about Virtual Reality.
Soulpath: The Final Journey is out now on Steam.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.