Ascension VR Press Release

Stone Blade Entertainment and Temple Gates Games Announce Ascension VR

The First Deckbuilding VR Experience will Launch in August 2016

Oceanside, Calif. – July 26, 2016 – Stone Blade Entertainment in partnership with Temple Gates Games today announce Ascension VR, the first deckbuilding Virtual Reality experience on the market, launching on major VR platforms August 1, 2016.

Immersing gamers into the world of Vigil, Ascension VR features the Ascension Deckbuilding Game and includes 52 unique Heroes, Constructs and Monsters with additional expansions to be released subsequently. Fans can play as their favorite Ascension heroes in real time with other players, no matter where they live.

Bringing the tabletop world into the digital sphere by connecting players from all over the world into one virtual space, Ascension VR uses 3D fully animated avatars and showcases social elements including spatialized voice chat, avatar lip sync and avatar animation triggered by real time player movement.  Players can battle for supremacy regardless of what platform they’re on, whether mobile or PC and from a variety of VR headsets.  

For new gamers, learning to play is as easy as if they were sitting around a real table together. Ascension VR features a full single player tutorial, as well as single player AI modes.  Fans can play with up to three AI opponents to build familiarity with the cards, or dive right into multiplayer to learn with friends.  

 

“It’s incredibly exciting to see Ascension come to life in virtual reality, where sitting in the same living room is no longer a requirement and players from all over the world can play a game of Ascension together,” said Justin Gary, Founder and CEO, Stone Blade Entertainment.

Half the fun of board games is tabletalk, which is why it was so fun to bring our team’s favorite deckbuilding game, Ascension to VR.  In Ascension VR, you can be right there with your friends, chatting about strategies and goofing off as you play, no matter how far apart you live,” said Theresa Duringer, CEO, Temple Gates Games.

Ascension Deckbuilding Game revolves around a Center Deck containing Heroes, Constructs and Monsters. Players take turns recruiting Heroes or Constructs for their decks or defeating Monsters to earn honor and ultimate victory.

Ascension VR will be available for $9.99 via the Steam and Oculus Store. For more information on Ascension VR, please visit TempleGatesGames.com/AscensionVR.

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About Stone Blade Entertainment:

Founded by gaming industry veterans in 2010, Stone Blade Entertainment is a premier developer and products include the award-winning Ascension Deckbuilding Game, SolForge Digital Collectible Game and Bad Beets, the fun-filled family bluffing game. For more information, visit www.stoneblade.com​.

 

About Temple Gates Games:

Temple Gates Games is a multi-award winning game development studio located in Silicon Valley that focuses on making VR games. Creators of Bazaar, Discovery VR, and Ascension VR, they make virtual experiences for all ages. Their custom VR engine enables them to push the technical limits of what can be achieved in this rapidly evolving field. Find out more at TempleGatesGames.com.

 

Bazaar launches for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

SAN MATEO, CA – March 28, 2016 – Temple Gates Games is proud to announce the PC release of Bazaar, a fully immersive VR flying carpet adventure, now available on Steam for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.  

In Bazaar, players will explore a mystical world and collect exotic trinkets and curios to wield against the various hazards and traps inhabiting the land. Steering with their eyes, players navigate a flying carpet through the ever-changing labyrinthine aqueducts of a forgotten city – but beware! Lurking in the waters are venomous sea cobras and hungry crocodiles, and pouncing from above are mischievous monkeys that seek to snatch up the player’s precious cargo. Guarding the city is a mighty Lamassu whose relics have been stolen, plunging the land into chaos. It’s up to you to return the Lamassu’s relics and restore peace to the city!

Features

  • Dozens of missions
  • 25+ collectible items, with unique abilities
  • 10+ traps and enemies
  • Ever-changing labyrinths

Bazaar is extensively designed to cater to player comfort. A novel speed-up mechanic allows the player to accelerate when looking directly forward, without any discomfort. Controller support for both gamepad controllers as well as the Vive handsets has been added to support seated play. The PC release also includes a monitor view for video streaming or sharing the experience with friends.  

Bazaar was originally created for the 2015 Oculus VR Jam, and has been extensively overhauled to bring this magical universe to the masses. Though the world may look similar, the game has come a long way since its first inception. The simple matching mechanic from the Jam game has been replaced with a robust world to navigate and perilous enemies and traps to overcome. Each level brings fresh challenges as well as new items and trinkets to counteract them. Inventory management plays a large role, as the player will often have to optimize their inventory to best prepare for the dangers of each city district. Players will also be able to collect a bounty of hidden coins throughout the game, which can be used to replenish critical survival tools or unlock the all-powerful golden trinkets.

The labyrinths of Bazaar are procedurally generated, meaning each and every playthrough will be different from the last. Players will have to stay on the edge of their carpet to navigate each new maze and find the optimal assortment of trinkets hidden around corners and behind stained glass.

One of Bazaar’s most distinctive and alluring features is its visuals. The team opted for a blackless color palette, using a broad spectrum of saturated colors to create a rich, surreal landscape. Cool colors in the foreground blend seamlessly into warm colors in the distance, giving the player an incredible sense of presence in the world; as the player moves forward, the architecture of the city comes into focus before their eyes.

For more information about Bazaar and the team that created it, visit templegatesgames.com. For questions and feedback feel free to reach out to the team at info@templegatesgames.com.

About Temple Gates Games

Temple Gates Games is an independent VR game development studio located in San Mateo, CA. We are long-time game industry veterans with a passion for playing and making games. The team includes Theresa Duringer of Cannon Brawl, Tod Semple who made Plants vs. Zombies, Jeff Gates of Spore, Patrick Benjamin from the Sim City team, and B Rosaschi, pixel wizard.

Bazaar PC Launch

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Temple Gates Games is proud to announce the PC release of Bazaar, a fully immersive VR flying carpet adventure, now available on Steam for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.

If you’ve followed this blog at all you’ve seen a bunch of talk about Bazaar already, so we thought we’d focus on what’s new for the PC build.

The big thing of course is support for both the Vive and the Rift headsets. We’ve made a single executable that can auto detect and run in either headset. And we’re distributing that same executable in both Steam and Oculus stores. What this means is you can buy the game in whatever store you want, and play it in whatever headset you want. You can even go out and get a different headset and it will continue to work, save games and all. We’re big believers in cross platform support and think Bazaar is a great example of how the PC VR ecosystem can work when done right.

Another big feature for the PC release is now we can show a monitor view of the game play. This will be great for streaming or showing off Bazaar to your friends. We’re looking forward to the streams and Let’s Plays of Bazaar as we’ll finally be able to see people playing the game, instead of just watching them play and kinda guessing what they are experiencing from the sound effects (though after hundreds of playtests and demos, we’ve gotten pretty good at that!)

Finally, all the goodness that’s been patched into Bazaar along the way, including missions, the diamond store, and controller support made it’s way into the PC version. We even added Vive controller support because we had some lying around the office (thanks Gabe)!

We’re so excited for the launch of the Rift and the Vive and are looking forward to all the great games coming out. It’s the dawn of consumer VR on the PC and we’re glad we can be a part of this historic milestone. Thanks to everyone who has bought Bazaar and supported us this far, and we look forward to making more great VR games this year and into the future!

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— Theresa

Multiplayer Playtest

Our upcoming game uses multiplayer networking, so we hosted an impromptu playtest with our friends.  I guess they liked it!  We’ll post more details soon.

Paul enters the room
Candace scores a point
Steven and Kevin react to VR
Steven scores a point
Theresa pops in to take over for Kevin
Paul talking to the player on his right
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Kevin kicking back
Doug
Doug scores a point
Candace
Candace’s turn
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Positional head tracking

That’s it for now!  Just a little teaser on what we’re working on to bring multiplayer to VR.

Flying Carpet Prototype

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Using the awesome power of electromagnetism combined with the awesome power of pipe cleaners, I’ve made a little flying carpet prototype that actually hovers!

I plan to bring this to shows like GDC, SXSW, PAX, and GaymerX so when I show off our carpet game, people have something to be hypnotized by while they wait in line for their personal VR demo.

This was my first iteration.

So the carpet needed work.  Over the holiday break I got a chance to visit The Magic Carpet, a shop in Nevada City that inspired my first 3D models for Bazaar.  I got a bunch of design ideas here.   My version is definitely more craftastic.

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But, turns out the chicken-wire matrix screwed up the magnetics so I had to replace it with something non-magnetic that still had some structure to support the rug.  Ikea cutting boards had just the right weight to structure ratio.

The latest version!

 

 

VR and Flight Phobia

I have a fear of flying. The kind of phobia that has me up at night in the days leading up to a flight and gripping the arm rests in terror. It’s an irrational fear that developed sometime in the last five years – but it exists. I’ve tried a bunch of different things, meditation, Xanax, distracting games and calming music, but nothing has helped much. Today I tried using VR to help me cope.  I discovered that it did help, in a surprisingly measurable way.

During a flight I can break out in hives, my chest tightens up, and it feels hard to breathe, think, even answer simple questions.  My heart races so fast it feels like it will beat right out of my chest.  My hope was that taking VR onto the plane would help me in a few ways.  I was optimistic that the illusion of expansive space could counter my claustrophobia from being penned into a cramped compartment.  I hoped the immersive nature of VR would help me transport myself someplace besides an airplane.  I’m not above a little escapism.

I had two flights, totaling about seven hours in the air from San Francisco to Fort Myers.  On the first flight, before we even took off, I started feeling the tightness in my chest.  I was jittery and cotton-mouthed with nerves, but hopeful.  My heart was doing jumping jacks as usual.

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So much for a window seat.

I was off to a bit of a rough start.  My “window” seat was a lie.  Instead of a window I got a blank wall.  I depend on that little square foot portal to the outside world.  Looking out the window is one of the little rituals that gets me through a flight.  I check it  to make sure we’re level to the horizon. When I’m trapped on an airplane with no where to look I get dizzy.  But today VR would be my only window to any world beyond seat 12A.  Once we reached cruising altitude I slipped my headset on and fired up a game hoping to forget about my surroundings.

Despite the fact that the headset was basically jammed up against my face (literally my phone was suspended inches from my eyes), the effect was the exact opposite.  The parallax of VR and orientation tracking harmonized to give the illusion of open space.  It was like being in my own personal holodeck.  Instead of staring at the back of 11A, I looked into the distance of a city stretched ahead of me.

Usually I’ll play a cell phone game or read a book on a flight, but these don’t mask the fact that my body is catapulting untethered 35,000 feet above the ground.  I can’t ignore the fact that I’m on a plane.  With my overly active imagination, every dip, every blip and hum of the engine triggers invasive thoughts of plane engines cutting and the cabin dipping into a dive.  Today, for a bit, I did find myself forgetting that I was on a plane.  It wasn’t the whole time, mostly just when the game got intense.  I think these spells of deep immersion let me reset my nerves to calm down a bit.  With a handheld game, I still see the plane around me.  Of all the light hitting my eye, a small portion represents the distraction.  In the headset, virtually every photon hitting my retina reflected a synthesized world.  Foam around the periphery even filtered out light pollution from the real world.  What I saw is what I elected to see, and that gave me a sense of control.

The second flight had more turbulence than usual.  The captain apologized, let us know about an alternative altitude we would take to help with the rough winds.  He had the attendants stay seated when they would normally run beverage service.  This is when I would usually be freaking out, but I noticed something I hadn’t thought to predict.  Usually during turbulence I’m gripping the armrest in terror, awaiting death.  My hands sweat bullets.  After finishing a full game in VR, my hands were dry.  This was pretty shocking, and is the most compelling evidence to me that there’s something real here.   I was getting a break from fight or flight mode.

Wearing the headset, I saw a glittering sky above me, a mirrored aqueduct below, and dreamy buildings of an ancient city on either side.  The game surrounded me, no matter where I looked.  Years ago I visited sensory deprivation tank.  The vacuum of sensation left me alone with my thoughts.  VR seems to lie on the opposite end of the sensory spectrum.  It’s immediate, attention grabbing, and leaves little room for inner dialog.  On this flight, that’s exactly what I was looking for.

By the end of the second flight I was pretty excited.  Hands dryer.  Heart steadier.  My fear wasn’t completely neutralized, but the flights were definitely more tolerable.  I’m kind of looking forward to my next flight back home.

So this initial test seemed great.  I was engaged, distracted, transported somewhere I wanted to be.  But while I love a good anecdote as much as the next person, what’s needed next is actual data. I’m convinced there’s something here, but before prescribing this as a phobic’s panacea, we need research.  I’d like to see a comparison of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) response for people on comparable flights both with and without VR. This could be measured by galvanic skin response, basically checking for sweaty palms.  It’s possible you could even control for similar flights by gauging turbulence using the accelerometer in the HMD.

Is it possible that the phenomenon of visual precedence, the brain’s prioritization of visual stimuli over conflicting sensory information, helped?  The roar of the engine and the rocking turbulence didn’t bother me as much as usual.  Even though my ears and my body were telling me I was on a plane, my eyes told me a different story. I even noticed that some turbulence during the boss fight was … kind of fun? It almost felt like the rumble of a gamepad.  That sensory override might be illuminated by more research.

I suspect the feeling of agency, tackling specific goals and focusing my attention on missions in the game, also helped.  There’s a feeling of powerlessness inherent to being a passenger.  This probably isn’t specific to VR, but I bet most any game would help passengers regain a sense of control.

In any case, as much as I want this to be a real solution, my optimism is tempered by a few things.  This was a super biased experiment.  I really wanted it to work!  I only tried it on one set of flights, and maybe the novelty of it was what I was responding to.  I’ll be flying again on the 26th, so I’ll see if the benefits persist.  People have asked me whether the cabin pressure, G-force, and other flight sensations can mess with your vestibular system in conjunction with VR.  I didn’t get sick, but I also didn’t wear the headset during takeoff or landing and I didn’t play longer than an hour or so each flight.
Going forward, I plan to try a bunch of other apps and games and get a sense for what helps me most.    I was comforted by the familiarity playing my own game, Bazaar, so I might suggest that people with similar phobias find a favorite VR app before taking VR on a flight.  I’d love to hear from other folks coping with aerophobia. Does VR help? Which apps help most?

 

Edit: I’ve been getting recommendations from other folks who found that VR helped them relax on a flight, too!  I’ll keep a list here in case you need to load up before your next trip:

  • Eve – Gunjack
  • Bombsquad
  • Smash Hit VR
  • Oculus Arcade game: Pac Man, Sonic, Galaga, etc.
  • Bazaar
  • VR Cinema – load up a movie