Toy Monsters – The Interview

April 10, 2023 ·

If there was an invasion of monsters, how do you think you would protect your home? Would there be a use of weapons? Maybe the safer route might be escaping. Would you try and reason with them in some way? An invasion can be a scary thing and when you add an invasion of monsters, that can be another level of scary. But when I heard that developer YetUnknown Games was making a tower defense game where your only defense would be an arsenal of toys, I had to learn more. So I reached out and Lubos was more than happy to talk about Toy Monsters and Virtual Reality.


Interview with Game Developer, Lubos of YetUnknown Games


Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at YetUnknown Games?

“My name is Lubos and I am a passionate game developer based in the Czech Republic. I discovered Unity when I was 19 and it changed everything about me. I quickly started doing my own little games, got my first game developer job and I am a professional game programmer ever since. YetUnknown Games is a pseudonym that I started using when I released my first game BeerJump. I am working solo with some help from friends.”

Growing up, what have been some of your most influential gaming moments, and what was that one Virtual Reality moment that made you want to do more with VR?

“I went through a lot of stages along my gaming journey. It started with games like Crash Bandicoot on PS1 and Croc for GameBoy. Counter-Strike 1.6 was hugely influential for me in my teens for the competitive aspect. Then I got stuck on World of Warcraft for a long time. I first tried VR on HTC Vive in 2018. Tried Beat Saber and my competitive aspect quickly kicked in and I spent a lot of time getting better at it. At the time I was already developing games for some time and I didn’t enjoy playing them that much. VR got me excited about the games once again. VR quickly became my go to gaming platform and I was dedicated to show my passion to everybody I knew.”

For those who may not be aware, what are some projects or games that you have been a part of?

“I worked for a bunch of game dev companies as a game programmer. The sad reality of the industry is that most of the games being developed don’t ever come out. Notable games that I worked on are Dead Effect 2 and Payday Mobile. From my personal project, I released on my own are  BeerJump – a casual mobile game, and We Are Two – VR rhythm game.”

Your newest game is a tower defense game that has to do with monsters and toys called Toy Monsters. What can you tell us about the game?

“This was a project I had definitely the most fun developing. Toy Monsters came out of a simple idea I had with a friend. Wondering about the possibilities of mixed-reality and imagining a bunch of zombies invading your coffee table. Running around, attempting to climb the table and failing, and doing all sorts of zombie shenanigans. It slowly grew on me and I had to make something tangible. The most important aspect of the game for me is that it uses hand tracking, is “table-sized”, playful, strategic, and at the same time can be played casually.”

Can you tell us more about how hand tracking and passthrough are used within the game?

“I really wanted for players to be able to interact with small-sized characters running on the table. Delicate hand movements enabled by hand tracking were perfect for this. Players can pick toys, throw all sorts of props around, and interact with monsters. The feature that I like the most is the use of unique abilities based around hand gestures. Passthrough was also a natural fit, as the game can fit your desk and you can still watch TV with your spouse or simply move your game around the house and play anywhere you like.”

What are some of the weapons that can be used to help with the defense?

“It started just with toy defenders that you place on the board and they do the attacks for you. I quickly found that a bit boring and added a bunch of more direct attacks. You can use a cannon that will quickly clear the whole lane of monsters. Also gesture-based abilities such as hand lasers, bombs you can throw, and the ability to turn your fingers into flamethrowers.”

What can you tell us about the toy and monster characters that can be used?

“There are a variety of offensive toys such as vax spitting candle, basketball launching cannon, and pink jumping ram. Defensive ones such as a teddy bear tank and cake-shaped mine. There are a variety of monsters that you will be faced with. The most challenging design exercise was definitely balancing timing and type of monsters for each level for the right amount of challenge for every type of player. The game was either too hard or too easy at various points during the development.”

Without spoiling too much, what are some of the powers and toys that can be unlocked?

“Magic laser beam shooting out of your palms! Each level unlocks something new, either a new toy in your arsenal or a new superpower. My favorites are monster-stomping pink sheep and flame-throwing pumpkins.”

Are there any online leaderboards or online play in the game?

“No, there is no online mode yet. I plan to add 2 player co-op multiplayer in later updates.”

For the monsters, which ones seem to be the most challenging to encounter?

“There are a bunch of them in later levels. Ghost can move through your first toy defender and the wizard will freeze random toy in his lane. Most challenging is definitely the monster boss with a large chunk of HP and the ability to spawn little monsters all over the board.”

Having visual appeal helps make the immersion for the player, did you do anything special that you did to make sure everything is as visually appealing as possible?

“Playfulness was most important to me while revising all visuals. I quickly landed on a cartoonish style with clear and over the top characteristics. That really helped to make each character stand out as you see them mostly from a distance. This style also allowed me to save a lot of texture memory which ended up saving a lot of performance. It doesn’t look that impressive but simulating 50 interactive characters on Quest 2 running 90 FPS is no easy task.”

Where do you see Virtual Reality in 5-10 years?

“With technology moving so fast these days that’s hard to predict. Headsets will definitely be smaller, faster, and easier to use. At this time frame, I could really imagine almost everybody owning some form of a head-mounted display. The thing I am not sure about is the software needed to make the average person want to use it day to day. Our whole current software stack is based on mostly 2D apps that took decades to fine tune. Think word processors, image/video editors, game engines, etc. I definitely hope I can do most of this stuff in VR much faster, bring huge screens with hand-based controls with me anywhere, and access most of the internet information and services in immersive 3D.”

Do you see Toy Monsters coming to other platforms such as PlayStation VR/2, Steam VR, or Viveport in the future?

“During development, I really wanted to focus on one platform only. Multi-platform support is a nightmare in general. I feel that the game is now in pretty good shape. I am definitely looking for ways to bring it to more people.”

If you walked through the door into THE VR DIMENSION and could pick anyone from any time to be a representation of the toys and the monsters, who would it be and why?

“I like to think that neither toys or monsters are the villains in the game. Toys are just more industrious and organized. Monsters are chaotic and barbaric. I am still thinking about the idea of twisting the narrative of the game to make toys for villains that stole something from the monsters and they want it back! Not really answering the question but I really can’t think of anyone to be good representations of my cute cartoon characters.”

With the content for Virtual Reality continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Toy Monsters?

“I am generally pretty humble about my creations. However, I am pretty proud and confident about Toy Monsters. I feel that it’s pretty unique in the current VR game market and I hope to see more games like that. It’s really accessible to VR newcomers, even my mum played and enjoyed it! Even if you don’t enjoy the tower defense genre, give it a go just for tech sake. Honestly, it’s more of a tech demo showing possibilities of hand tracking and passthrough.”

I really want to thank Lubos for taking the time out of their schedule and for giving us a closer look into Toy Monsters, as well as talking about Virtual Reality.

Toy Monsters is out now via Oculus App Lab on the Oculus Store.

To learn more about YetUnknown Games, please visit their site, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Also, check out the Toy Monsters review.

In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.

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