Cleveland-based game developer Dr. Bloc launches first VR game

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Dr. Bloc launches its GDEX Best of Show Award-winning VR game stray light January 31. The soundtrack, composed by Cleveland artist Rob Kovacs, opens on January 27. By Becky Bobán

Enter the world of stray lighta bejeweled tour of invisible galaxies in which the player acts as a cyberpunk spider man.

Four and a half years ago Dr. Bloc’s first virtual reality game it was in its beginnings. At a hotel in Rocky River, two programmers, two movie makers, and a composer met for Global Game Jam in 2018. “They just bought a VR headset right when it first came out and we all fell in love with it,” says Benjamin. barrel, stray light creative leader.

With dazzling energy and Rob “88-bit” Kovacs’ mesmerizing soundtrack performed on a Sequential Prophet 5 synth, and two Best in Show trophies from the GDEX Columbus gaming expo later. stray light opens on January 31. The award-winning soundtrack, for which you can promises a dark purple vinyl—Posts on January 27.

stray light ($19.99) is available to order at SteamPSVR, Meta Apps Lab Y secondary mission. It is compatible with most virtual reality headsets.

cleveland magazine explore the creative process with Barr and Kovacs.

Cleveland Magazine: what inspired Straylight’s aesthetic?
Benjamin Barr: The name comes from a rather famous novel by William Gibson called neuromancer. At first we thought we were going to try to bet on that cyberpunk, retrofuturist aesthetic. We ended up, for some technical reasons, going more abstract, but still kept that purple, airy, cybernetic look, which was also underscored by Rob’s score. We took a lot of inspiration from and tried to channel old-school Nintendo side-scrolling platformers:donkey kong Y super mario brothers—all those old things we love.

CM: What are some of the old school qualities that you incorporated?
BED AND BREAKFAST: Those old games used to have one or two buttons. You only went one way. You could jump, maybe shoot a firewall. The goal was not complicated. The fun and complexity came from making it harder and harder to use those simple tools to get to the end of the finish line. So that’s what we’re trying to do with this game. The only real point is getting to the end of each level using very simple tools, pulling yourself with a grappling hook. But it gets harder and harder as we throw more and more fun stuff at you.

CM: What influenced Straylight’s sound?
Rob Kovacs: [In] a virtual reality game where you can fly, repel and balance in space… the idea of ​​floating and something baseless. I was playing Parsley by Stravinsky and there is a section called “Dance of the Coachmen and Grooms”. This great chord has this kind of weightlessness in anticipation. I used it as inspiration for the first song. This game is very new. When you play it, you’re seeing something you’ve never seen before. Musically it should reflect that. You should listen to something that you have never heard before to give you the feeling that you are in a whole new world.

CM: How is writing music for a video game different from writing music for a movie?
RK: Movie soundtracks always have characters at the forefront and the music almost always supports them, unless it’s a montage. But in video games you are the main character, you are creating the experience, so the music supports you. You can take a more present and focused presence in the game. There are two main ways you can think of writing music for video games. One is that the music changes and adapts to what the player is doing. That often requires it to repeat itself for a certain amount of time and then something new happens and adds a layer. We finally decided not to. Musically it is very limiting.

CM: How does the soundtrack evolve with stray light?
RK: Each level individually is looped for the most part. In general, from one level to another, there is a sense of progression. The song will become darker and more intense. So do the worlds, they get more massive and threatening. There is definitely progression and an arc throughout the soundtrack.

CM: What is the biggest challenge when designing a VR game?
BED AND BREAKFAST: Somehow we avoided the nausea problem. We found out early on that if we remove all references and make everything abstract, your brain doesn’t know where it is and doesn’t get dizzy. It presented a lot of really interesting design challenges because you can’t have limits around you in any normal sense. We had to find ways to keep the player on the path we wanted. How do we keep the game engaging and visually interesting when you can’t get too close to anything that feels like a wall or floor? Finding a fun game within those limitations was a lot of fun, but it was also hard.

CM: Is virtual reality the future of gaming?
BED AND BREAKFAST: There are a lot of itches in video games and VR only deals with a very narrow band of that. I don’t think it will ever replace traditional video games. There are too many different types. Now, I think that augmented reality, as soon as they can figure out how to do it in the form of glasses, will change the world in the same way that the iPhone did. But I think VR will always be a really cool boutique thing.
RK: Virtual reality is like the wild west of video games right now. In that sense, it’s very new and cutting edge, but VR has a lot of limitations. Video games outside of virtual reality no longer have technical limitations like we had in the 8-bit and 16-bit era.

CM: What are the pros and cons of developing a game in Cleveland?
BED AND BREAKFAST: Cleveland remains an incredibly affordable place for infrastructure and office space. There is also a lot of talent. We see that in game jams. There are a lot of really talented young people here. On the other hand, there is not much technological infrastructure for the public as in other cities more focused on technology to meet and collaborate, interact and bond. I don’t see that as much in Cleveland, but I see it growing and I would love to see it grow even more.
RK: I think it’s very important if you’re in a smaller city like Cleveland to go to gaming conventions to get the attention of other people in the industry. The things we create are worth publishing, we just have to do it.

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