How Imangi Studios has changed Temple Run for virtual reality
Temple of vroom
"Virtual reality is pretty much the most real-to-life you can get with Temple Run," Imangi Studios founder Keith Shepherd tells us, as we launch into the whys and wherefores of how his smash hit free to play runner became one of the Samsung Gear VR's launch titles.
Having achieved over a billion downloads on touchscreen devices, it'll be interesting to see how bringing such an essential smartphone game to the fledgling virtual reality arena impacts this new and exciting corner of the industry.In your face
"We wanted to experiment with developing for new technologies," Keith continues, explaining Imangi's decision to test out a brand new gaming platform like the Gear VR. "It was an interesting challenge and learning experience for us to tackle, and it was very cool to be an early adopter of VR technology."
Obviously one of the major differences in Temple Run VR is that, like any virtual reality game, the perspective has changed. You're no longer peering over the shoulder of the tomb-robbing runner. Now you're inside his head.
"While the gameplay itself is very similar to the smartphone game, virtual reality takes the experience to a level that goes beyond what a phone or tablet can achieve on its own," he says.
"You're as immersed in the game as one can be at this stage in technology."
"The environment is also completely new. We created an arctic wilderness that expands the Temple Run universe and introduces players to a fresh take on the game."
Temple Run VR does indeed work much the same way as its predecessors, and sets an arctic monkey demon hot on your trail as you sprint through the brand new wintry wilderness in an effort to escape with your stolen treasure intact.
The advantage now (if you can call it an advantage) is that you can look behind you to see how close the savage yeti is getting, although you need to be ready to spin around, quite literally, to make sure you don't run into an obstacle or off a cliff.Reality running
It's easy to see how Temple Run VR fits into the existing franchise, and that it's essentially the same gameplay only with quite a different viewpoint. But from a technical standpoint, how did Imangi approach the transition from touchscreen to HMD?
"Apart from a few technical challenges, such as needing to essentially render everything twice, once for each eye, the biggest challenge we faced was really trying to sell the immersion of the experience," says Keith.
"We wanted players to feel like they were actually part of the action, that they were the ones taking the idol and were running for their lives from giant Arctic Demon Monkeys. Creating that feeling of immersion wasn't any singular thing, but more of a combination of properly putting everything together.
"For one, we thought expanding the intro of the game and putting the player directly inside the temple was a good way to feel like you're part of a real environment," he continues.
"When you grab the idol, you actually get Demon Monkeys creeping from the shadows that get right in your face. It sets up the action by making it clear that you better start running for your life, because you've clearly done something these monkeys didn't like."
Although we're all still waiting, with increasing impatience, for the virtual reality gaming explosion to arrive, for many game developers it's already begun.
"I see VR as a huge long-term opportunity," Keith says, "and we were excited to be part of the Samsung Gear VR launch and to be on the ground level for mobile VR technology. We had a great time developing for VR and learned so much from this opportunity, and we hope that being an early adopter on Gear VR will help bring the technology to the mainstream.
"Doing so will definitely take time, but we've helped lay the groundwork for future projects and see VR taking off in the long run."
Does that mean we'll be seeing more Imangi Studios games in stereoscopic splendour in the near future? "We don't have any immediate plans for further VR development, but we believe in the technology and where it’s heading, so I wouldn't count it out for our future projects," he concludes.
In the meantime, Gear VR gamers can check out the free-to-play Temple Run VR by downloading direct from the Oculus Share mobile store.