Art director Ruby Wang & guest voice actor Greg Miller explain the story behind the game's creation
Aloha, PlayStation VR Fans! Adam Volker here from Flight School Studio excited as heck to tell you that our next PS VR game, is out today!
This arcade-style survival game strikes a very different tone from our last PS VR release, Manifest 99, which was recently nominated for an Emmy Award. In Island Time VR, you are shipwrecked on a tiny virtual island. You’ll have to find a way to survive and not starve; so, you’ll catch fish, craft tools and fend off pesky creatures like seagulls who steal your stuff.
Oh! And, you’ll have to start a fire to cook food. Good luck with that one.
And, today, I’m chatting with the amazing Ruby Wang, Art Director for Island Time VR and Greg Miller of Kinda Funny, the illustrious voice of Carl The Crab. As the island’s only resident, Carl is the friendliest crustacean you’ve ever met. He helps players out with (sorta) useful tips, tricks, and the occasional claw. He’s your new best friend. Kinda.
Ruby, where did you start with the visual design for Carl? How’d you nail his wacky shape and big personality?
RW: Because Carl is the primary character you interact with and you are constantly dying, it was important that he be as adorable/goofy as possible to give the player encouragement. To try out lots of options, I drew a bunch of character thumbnails to quickly try out several kinds of shapes and styles that might fit his personality.
For the team, the round shape version of Carl just stood out as friendly and cute (bottom row, second from the left)! So, we expanded his design from that small sketch. Once you know what Carl is like, every design detail just followed naturally!
What are some of the challenges of designing characters and objects for PlayStation VR? What makes a great character like Carl work in VR?
RW: Doing design for VR is a little different than designing things in animation, films, or some games. For art, we have to aim for a big, clear silhouette. Because people can get really close to an object in VR, we have to give a lot of detail to props and characters, even if the design seems very simple. We want our game to look nice from far; but, it still should look great if we get closer.
For character design, we have to pay attention to player’s point of view. Most of the time in the game, players see Carl from a top-down view. So, I had to make sure Carl’s silhouette read well and looked cute from that angle. Also, that his floating eyebrows don’t look weird!
Greg, what did you think when you got the first impressions of Carl? How did Ruby’s design impact your voice performance?
GM: Oh, man, I thought he was adorable! The first clip you guys and gals sent me was him just walking around, and even at that rough stage, I thought he looked great. I mean, I’m not a voice actor. I don’t know how anyone can stand my voice!
So when you reached out for the role, I assumed I’d have to do something different, but you explained you wanted me for Carl because Carl is me — honest, heart on his sleeve, and positive as can be. Once I saw him — saw Ruby’s design — I got it. The first trailer my voice is in ends with him talking about how impressed he is with the player, and you can see that in his eyes and — hopefully — hear that in my voice. That’s something special.
Greg, what do you think are Carl’s most helpful tips? Do you think he’s truly motivated to help the player?
GM: Carl is 100 percent motivated to help the player. When we were in the booth, you kept bringing me back to honestly being happy with the player’s performance and positive in Carl’s criticism. It’s not about mocking a player — this is Carl’s only friend; he wants the player to survive just to have someone to talk to. As far as tips? Experiment! You folks have done a great job of making a game that seems simple. It gets deeper the more you tinker. There’s plenty the player will be discovering on their third or fifth playthrough.
Alright, for both you: if you could send one thing to Carl to use while stranded on the island, what would it be?
RW: Another friend, like you! We all need friends around us, making sure we have company in difficult times …like dying. He needs you as much as you need him. So, go get stranded on this tiny island and be a lifelong friend with Carl the Crab!
GM: Chicken wings and a PlayStation Vita. Duh.
Well, nobody asked me so “Gee, Adam, what’s the one thing I’d take with me if I was stranded on an island?” I’d start with a comfy chair to sit in and then go from there.
Thanks Ruby and Greg for bringing Carl to life and for being the absolute best collaborators on the game. I can’t wait to beat your high score.
In any case, dear reader, we’re looking forward to seeing your best survival times and creative solutions to uh… not dying in Island Time VR.