Trains VR has left the station at The House of Fables and is now available on the new Oculus Go platform and Gear VR. You can download the game to fulfil childhood dreams of model railway construction, but that isn’t all.
Not only does the casual puzzler allow players to painstakingly create their own miniature tracks, thanks to the power of virtual reality, they get to ride the pint-sized locomotives around them afterwards.
There’s more to it than simply laying down tracks and hopping on board. Users must also pick up cargo and use switches, tunnels and turntables to solve logistical problems along the way. They are encouraged to experiment and get creative while enjoying the simple pleasures of model railway building, without the drawbacks of the real-life pastime, such as space demands and the possibility of losing tiny pieces.
Trains VR features stylised graphics which were inspired by toys, and has been designed to take advantage of the immersive potential of mobile VR technology.
With the game now available to download, we caught up with the Adam Robaszynski-Janiec, the creator of the game to discuss the inspiration behind it, what new features are in the pipeline and whether they might choo-choo-choose to bring it to new platforms in the future.
Tell us a little about the game story and what were the things that inspired you to create it?
Playing with toy train sets with my children brought back childhood memories of me playing with trains as a kid. That kid was always wondering how it would be to travel along the routes I’ve created. With VR, we can not only jump into our train and travel through tunnels but there is also way less mess after that – no need to clean up the building blocks.
What challenges did you face during development, and how did you overcome them?
Preparing a game for new, unreleased hardware was an interesting experience. From the beginning, we were aiming at mobile VR as it is way easier now to build up a room-scale version than the other way around. Finalization of game development aligned with that new platform being released. It was a good moment to “connect the dots”.
With high availability of Oculus Go at a decent price and high quality, it’s a perfect platform to... go with (pun intended). On a challenging side – if you are creating a game for a new unreleased platform, you need to be prepared for constant changes happening under the hood and become very flexible with your development. For instance, the way of handling re-centering changed at the very end of the development.
Which part of the game are you personally the most proud of and why?
I would say its re-playability – there are many solutions on almost each level (even the tutorial levels allow you to play as you like) and at the same time the game is very challenging. We even added some additional hard levels that do not need to be unblocked by playing the previous levels so that you can go through the game with less chances on getting stuck on a particularly hard level. Although, I still personally have trouble on levels numbered from 15 up.
Do you have anything planned in terms of future updates for Trains VR and, if so, can you give us any details of what these might include?
We would love to make updates! There are many things we would like to add and didn’t have enough time to create for the initial release. Multiplayer is definitely on the top of that list. Playing with trains in VR on your own is cool but enjoying it with friends and family? That’s another level! Naturally, we would also like to create more stages and new mechanics.
How about sandbox mode in Trains VR - have you thought about it?
Actually, sandbox mode and unrestricted gameplay of putting tracks together and playing with them was the first idea we came up with for Trains VR. We made a prototype and showed it publicly during one of the game conferences. However, the feedback we gathered proved that players preferred to have certain goals to achieve. So we made a turn and created a puzzle oriented game. With VR age restrictions we’ve decided to prepare a game for older audience too. Thus, the puzzles are pretty challenging. You can spend 30 seconds with the initial tutorial levels and up to 15-20 minutes with the most difficult ones. With all that being said, we might get back to the sandbox mode later on.
What do you feel is the most appealing aspect of the game?
Current VR mobile headsets are compatible with top phones from 2016. Understanding that we run a stereoscopic, VR game on such devices and it still looks great is the most appealing thing for me. Our great team of talented people making all the programming and art, and squeezing what they could from the mobile devices, allowed us to make it happen.
Are you going to bring Trains VR to other platforms?
YES! We are working on releasing the game on other platforms as we speak. We would love to distribute Trains VR on all VR platforms at once but there are so many differences between them and the team is rather small so we’ve decided to go step by step. We are working on a room-scale version, which changes the experience a lot. Both positional tracking and hand controllers immerse you on a completely different level. Imagine standing inside the train, riding your own track, looking through a window and feeling wind in your hair (well, wind feeling is work-in-progress and might take some time.