Celebrating Two Years of Development and One Year of Early Access
narayana games' Virtual Reality Rhythm game Holodance has been in development for almost two years now and celebrates its one year anniversary on Steam (Early Access) by joining the 2017 Steam VR Anniversary Sale. Holodance is currently available at a 20% discount for €11.99 / $11.99. The offer lasts only 5 days until Monday, 10am Pacific Time.
Development of Holodance started in June 2015, after taking inspiration at Shayla Games VR Jam in Copenhagen from E-Motion, the first VR rhythm game prototype we are aware of that used the catch orb mechanic, with just a single-page concept for building a VR rhythm game in a trippy clubbing environment with music composed and produced specifically for the audiovisual Virtual Reality music experience. Moving from Mac - a requirement to use Unity 2.0 when Jashan Chittesh started game development in 2007 - back to Windows and with only Oculus DK2 and Razer Hydra available, a first prototype was developed and initial videos released on Vimeo: Holodance Prototype - First Screencast. One attempt to get the VR experience across on flatscreen video in those early days was using picture-in-picture to show a 3rd person in-game view in the main area of the screen, and both a first person in-game view and physical-world third person view. One of those videos also shows the replay feature that will return to the game soon: Holodance Prototype - Gameplay 03.
While narayana games already had an office with plenty of space for room-scale VR, it took another five months to get access to an HTC Vive development kit. One of the highlights during that time was a trip to Julie Heyde's office in Copenhagen for a few days end of July 2015, to use their Vive development kit to fix issues with the prototype and finally playtest the game, that heavily depends on precise room-scale tracking on the hardware it was intended for. Still a single developer, Jashan posted a report named When the DevKit doesn't come to me, I go to the DevKit.
In August 2015, narayana games had a first prototype trailer, and also showed the "Tracer-mechanic" for the first time in a video. While catching orbs works really well for percussive instruments, there are also a lot of interesting sustained instruments in most productions and those are what the "Tracer-mechanic" was designed for: Players see a path in 3D-space, with an orb moving along that path that they follow with their hand by pushing the controller into the moving orb and following its movement. Holodance Alpha 5 Gameplay Edited shows all the gameplay mechanics available in the prototype at that time. Already having this mechanic in the game was one of the reasons narayana games believed that adding support for the flatscreen beatmaps created for osu! should be a really good match, even though osu! Sliders are naturally limited to 2D.
The direction of the project changed towards a story-driven more serious rhythm game about a group of dragons "returning" to planet Earth after thousands of years of absence, to remind the human species of our duty of care for the planet we inhabit. Obviously that could not be accomplished by a single developer strongly focussed on the software-engineering aspects of game development. That was how Samuel Hajek joined in, who previously was just an acquaintance of a friend and since then has become both colleague and friend. Efe Tozan contacted Jashan and asked if he could contribute music when he read about the game in an article. So the team became international. Anne Stokes was also commissioned for a painting of the dragon players meet in the final level of the game.
Step by step, the game turned into an world-wide collaborative effort with people from all almost parts of the world: Artists from Germany, Netherlands, UK, China, Russia and India; musicians from Turkey, Germany, Canada, United States, Belgium, UK and Sweden; voice-actors from UK and France; all working together to create a game that eventually will be about saving the planet by tuning into the rhythms of nature (represented by dragons and music, of course) as an international group of players.
In November 2015, narayana games finally received its own Vive Development Kit and development gained significant momentum working towards a release first scheduled for the end of 2015 because that was when most people thought the Vive would be released to consumers, and eventually April 5th, 2016 when it was actually released. Producing content for twelve full story-based levels took much longer than anticipated, so the game was released as Early Access title.
Ever since the earliest prototypes, narayana games took any possible opportunity to demo Holodance to people interested in Virtual Reality, mostly at various VR meetups, gathering feedback and adding new features as well as dropping features that didn't work and polishing features that kind of worked. One example was that we already had high-fiving Pritvitej, the first dragon players meet, as a gesture to let the player decide when to continue with the game. At Virtual Reality Day 2015 in Munich, we noticed that about 30% of the players stroked the dragon's head. So the next time we demoed, players could both stroke the dragon's head and tickle its neck. Also, watching players we realized that some players would get distracted by the 360° environment and not see the huge animal already standing right behind them. So in that case, the dragon kindly asks the player to turn around, and not get scared.
Some changes took months to be implemented because in the original environment design, of the first level, the dragon landed right at the edge of the maximum play area, which a few players found intimidating. To solve that, narayana games had to change the environment to provide a more distant landing zone and adapt the related animations to the new environment.
Early on, narayana games also received player feedback asking to support osu! and StepMania beatmaps. Initially, the idea was to put this into a second game, called Holodance Episode 2: Modding the Industry which would have also brought our own beatmap editor and basic environment editing features.
Also, narayana games had a booth at Gamescom 2016 and still a lot of work to do on what was planned to be shown at that event (see also our previous press release).
However, over time, it became clear that building story-mode actually takes much more time and money while at the same time turning off a significant fraction of rhythm game players. Story mode also does have fans, including the developers, but the significant increase in sales after free-mode with support for osu! beatmaps was finally added in V0.5.8, October 2016 speak a very clear language.
While going from 2016 to 2017, this transition found a partial completion with new logo and game art: The new Holodance Logo is done! And a little Nostalgia, too!
narayana games is also constantly improving their video materials. A few current examples:
- Holodance @ Gamescom 2016
- Holodance @ Cebit 2017
- Holodance V0.7.2 Gameplay Teaser (Long Version)
- Holodance V0.8.0 Alpha 2: Clubbing Environment, Muzzy - Draining Atlantic
A spatial, audio-visual experience of pure ecstatic joy.
Upcoming features are full body tracking with the new Vive trackers and an Avatar system that lets players dance in various forms, and use their feet to interact with the music, a much improved osu! beatmap browser and UI and finally, our own in-VR beatmap editor. narayana games is also working on several different multiplayer modes.
Visit our full press kit for logos, screenshots and to request keys: