Triangular Pixels began life as a company in 2014, when Creative Director Katie Goode and Technical Director John Campbell fulfilled their dream of shifting from AAA studio game creation to making their own independent games. Thanks to clever business decisions and saved funds the partners moved to Bude, Cornwall, to concentrate on making exciting virtual reality games suitable for all players and ages.
Smash Hit Plunder, which is due for release this year, has had an interesting development history. The story started in 2014 when Katie and John realised that their dream for Triangular Pixels was to make a truly social VR game – the kind of game that couch friends could get in on. We wanted to make a game that would feel tactile (smashing!) and immersive (plundering!) with a medieval pixel-art arcade theme. The story behind the game is that the player is a VR Mage on a magical quest to unlock their ancestral home, which has been locked down by a devious debt collector, Mordred – and the only way to pay him back is to loot your own castle for treasure!
Here’s a very early image of the game in development….
After 3 weeks of crunch prototyping and development Smash Hit Plunder was first trialed at LadyCade on 18th July 2014. Initially, the game was intended for release on the Gear VR, using a 2D shared screen to draw in external players and viewers. We had a great showing at GameCity in Nottingham that year, too. Here you can see the VR player using the Gear and the social screen demonstrating their actions for everyone to enjoy. At this point, the 2D screen was essentially a map screen showing what the VR player was doing:
By May 2015, the game was really beginning to expand and push at the limits of VR capabilities and the platform we were targeting, so we started trying to find a platform and a partner that really fit with the game. We saw the possibilities with PlayStation VR: how it was a system designed for the living room with sofa multiplayer in mind – fitting exactly with our passions for the game. We made the big step to change platforms and focus only on PSVR. We were then very proud and excited to receive support from Sony! So in October that year, development shifted to PSVR – a great business move as the PSVR is the highest selling VR HMD at the moment!
Holidays were hard to take, and every day off we had from full time positions at other studios were used on development for Smash Hit Plunder. However in September 2015 we justified a ‘game dev holiday’ where we had a month off Smash Hit Plunder to work on a new platform, HTC Vive, and project – Unseen Diplomacy. The game went on to be a huge success – being nominated and winning multiple awards for our first ever release, which raised the company profile.
2016 was spent porting, designing and developing the game into a fully-fledged adventure game specifically designed for PSVR. Going from a Mobile VR prototype to a console VR game also meant a change in direction and scale. We added story, dungeons, spirits to either make friends with or fight, and the 2D TV screen (social screen) became a whole new area we were finally able to focus on.
The social screen now shows what’s happening with the VR Mage in real time:
Not only that, but multiplayer modes were added – these were then properly refined in 2017 and include 2 player co-op, and 2 manic versus modes which means friends can play along as a Goblin using a PS4 pad and viewing the social screen. We added three more game modes: scavenger hunt and treasure rush set you the challenge of finding enough items within a specific time limit, or of finding that one piece of very special treasure, and free play which lets the player explore (and smash!) at their leisure.
Smash Hit Plunder has a full cast of spiritual characters – both friend and foe – and the player’s Grandma is always about to help guide the VR Mage to success.
2017 was a whirlwind of development and business growth and we announced the game at Paris Games Week in November. Thanks to local funding support from Cultivator Cornwall and students from Cornwall College we created our very own trailer from scratch:
And now it’s 2018! We have a full team working on the game – design, code, art, audio, production and music, and we’re looking forward to releasing this year!