Yee-haw! Saddle up with Hopalong: The Badlands
If you’ve ever played at being a cowboy or pretended a broom was a horse (Wait, just us?) then you’ll be right at home in the wild, weird west of Hopalong: The Badlands. With Hopalong now available as part of Viveport Subscription, we talked to (appropriately enough) Texas-based developers From the Future about their rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ VR experience.
Well howdy there, partner. What’s yer name and what brings you to these parts… or in other words, what gave you the idea for Hopalong: The Badlands?
Howdy! My name is Mike Christian and I’m the CEO and one of four founders of From the Future (here we are on Twitter). The idea for Hopalong: The Badlands fell out of my head one Labor Day weekend and resulted in a prototype. The rest of the Future crew couldn’t help but laugh when they saw the idea, not to mention me hopping around the room in VR gear. The idea quickly evolved from everyone else’s input, and became much, much more than the original concept. My role on the team has mostly been the executive designer, with the occasional bit of programming.
Is it fair to say that Hopalong … doesn’t take the history of the American West that seriously?
Them there is fightin’ words, hombre! Hopalong takes American West history very seriously and we faithfully created that history… if it had been all stick-horses and wooden villains.
After your initial idea, what brought Hopalong to fruition?
Hopalong was an idea that bubbled up from the horse watering trough of desire – a desire to introduce a fun and novel way to traverse large landscapes in VR without teleporting. We figured since people look a little silly playing VR already, why not go the full silly?! People told us ‘never go the full silly’, but we thought that advice was, well, silly.
The original idea was to not only prance around on a stick horse, but to also wave a lasso over your head as you tried to rope in stray bossies. (For you non-Texan types, bossies are cattle.) However, we lost several interns during testing due to CLS, AKA Carpal Lasso Syndrome, so that got cut.
Visually Hopalong is quite unique! Were you inspired mostly by kids and their play, or something else? (I keep flashing to the coconut hooves of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, myself.)
Tell us how the Oscillot system works. What makes it different from other locomotion systems in VR?
At first actually, fully hopping in place was mandatory. However, being game developers we were not in the best shape, so we quickly resorted to shaking our fists...which came much more naturally. Oscillot, also known as O.S.C.I.L.L.O.T., is the science of moving like a bouncy cat. The cat that inspired the name, is known for its sinusoidal-like motion as it pounces on its prey. These cat facts are all well documented on the internet and are assuredly not made up by us.
We found that physical movement helps reduce motion sickness because it allows people to make more of a connection to motion in the game versus motion in the real world. By limiting all the movement to one hand, both velocity and direction, that frees the other hand to wield weapons.
What kind of cool moves can people pull off in Hopalong?
You can shoot dynamite out of the air and back to the enemy that threw it. You can also use your grit to slow down time and multiply the mayhem exponentially. Once you defeat Boss Boomity you earn his flying pig, Pigasus, and hover one meter in the air!!! Oh the places you’ll go! Assuming those places are about three feet above you.
Why is an Eight Shooter inherently better than someone’s trusty six-shooter?
Six plus two times more fun! ™
What weapons did you invent for Hopalong?
The Brimstone Gun for when it's dark, or when you need to light a bandit on fire. Whichever comes first.
The Iron Falcon is an 1880’s style hand-mortar that you can use to blast a bushel of Boomity’s out of the bushes.
What kind of environments can people expect to see in Hopalong?
Hopalong takes players both high and low through an expansive cliffside chock full of narrow paths, perilous edges, and more than a handful of hazardous outhouses. Aside from the wide-open spaces, the Badlands also hosts a number of caverns, rivers and other vistas.
Ahem. What do stick horses eat? Are they easier to train than a normal horse?
The only fuel your stuffed companion craves is the fear of your enemies. It’s like sugar cubes to them. They are much more difficult to train than a four legged horse. Good luck.
Have you any plans for further development of Hopalong? Additional features you’d like to include?
Heck yeah, buckaroo! Multiplayer and VR arcade features are in the planning stages. We have also explored a medieval theme where you are a horse riding wizard that storms all the castles.
What’s next for you guys? I expect you already know considering your studio name.
We have more ideas than you can shake a stick horse at. A couple of ideas in the works are: Flying Blades, a martial arts and sword fighting game that takes place in the air, and a Roman-inspired giant robot game. In Flying Blades, the Oscillot system is used to propel you through the air by flicking a magic sword and using another sword for direction as you battle giant demons. The Romanesque robot game has you commanding a giant mech-like contraption to defend a Rome that never fell...thanks to the robot!
Speaking of that, what is the future like? Are there jetpacks? We were promised jetpacks.
Well, it's not all flying cars and musical toilets. Jetpacks ARE a thing but they are only in fanny pack form. Bell bottoms are back but the bells are reversed. Walt Disney has been resurrected...and man is he angry! Those are the highlights.
Thanks for talking to us, Mike. We’ll let you return to the future now!
Hopalong: The Badlands is available in Viveport Subscription.