Cultivate Your Oasis in ‘Garden of the Sea,’ Out Now on PC VR and Quest 2

Oculus Blog
January 13, 2022

There are few things in video games as relaxing as watching a colorful garden of plants and flowers bloom under the digital sun. Garden of the Sea from Neat Corporation is a lovely VR take on classic gardening and farming games full of simple (but responsive) interactions to build out a lovely, bright garden across tiny and cute little islands. You can till the soil and sprout happiness on PC VR via Steam and Quest 2 starting today for $24.99.

PC VR players may already be familiar with Garden of the Sea, as it first released into Early Access on Steam in 2019. Since then, Neat Corporation has been hard at work on refining the game, polishing features, and adding lots more content. It’s a lovely, relaxing, and rich world ready for you to start planting seeds, befriending local animals, fishing for sea creatures, cooking up tasty food, and little by little shaping the landscape around you.

To learn more about Garden of the Sea’s quaint world, we spoke with the team from Neat Corporation:

Garden of the Sea features a gorgeous stylized world. Can you explain the decision for a bright, colorful game world as the chosen art style?

Christoffer Svenningsson, Art Director:Garden of the Sea has been our own refuge after working on darker games, especially the horror update to Budget Cuts 2. We have seen so many shooters and horror games made well - we thought it was time to bring some gardening, crafting and lighter joyful exploration to the VR scene. It’s a game that you can easily pick up again and again without losing track or bumping into an increased difficulty level that you have forgotten how to deal with when you last played. It has a low threshold to entry, yet has content and creative opportunities for hours and hours of play.

Just how laid back of an experience is Garden of the Sea? Is this a very gamified farm like in Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, or is it more of a sandbox that lets you do whatever you want?

Malin von Matern, PR Manager: I'd say it's more of a sandbox, removing the stress of having to care for plants and animals and focusing more on positive interactions and building something that is yours. While there are some farming sim aspects to the game you are never on the clock and are always free to move at your own pace. This helps allow the player to actually explore and solve the puzzles we have added to the game without needing to worry that their farm is suffering from their absence.

I remember that sometimes when I've played other more sim-focused games I longed for a "chill day" so that I could focus on just enjoying a day in the wonderful world they've built. In Garden of the Sea you have that option every day which really helps you keep this air of calm in everything you do. It's a very laid back game and you really notice it when playing.

Jenny Nordenborg, CEO:Both - it is super laid back for the person who just wants to tinker around their house and garden, but also has a world to explore when you feel more adventurous. It is not as unforgiving as real life farming, luckily.

I understand that Garden of the Sea features a day/night cycle with actual stars and a sun that passes by in the sky. How long would it take to watch an entire 24-hr cycle pass in game-time?

Nordenborg: About 24 minutes, or the perfect amount for a VR meditation session perhaps? Pick a favorite spot (or make one!) and just enjoy the changing sky.

Can you go into more detail about how the soundtrack ebbs and flows based on what the player is doing? The OST sounds really unique.

Jonas Kjellberg, Audio and Music Director: The game uses a musical technology called Reactional Music. Garden of the Sea is in fact the first game in the world implementing this. Much of the soundtrack is actually generated and performed live in the game using software instruments. As such, when the player performs certain actions they are also directly controlling and playing an instrument. We are also using Reactional Music to play back musical tracks in different tonalities depending on context, and (without spoiling anything) to create a musical puzzle of sorts, among other things. It’s a very unique system and a new way of thinking of music for games. As game developers we are always looking to push the envelope and we are excited to do this together with the Reactional team.

I know that Garden of the Sea is often identified as one of the most stress-relieving games that can generate positive emotions. Why do you think that’s the case?

Nordenborg: First off, you are always safe. There is no death or fail state in this game. The only way you can fail is by not exploring or trying things, and even at that everything is available at your own pace. Then there is the interaction with the wild animals - if you like them, befriend them by petting and feeding them, and they’ll stay with you. There is nothing that will attack you, and nothing to attack. The game is fully built around joyful interaction, creativity and exploration.

The game’s been in Early Access on PC for over two years. What are some of the big changes you made to the game over that time?

Amanda Rösler, Lead Programmer: We have added multiple additional biomes to explore, a whole lot more content to craft and trade with the merchant, multiple house upgrades, more types of animals, a subtle story arc including an “ending”, the day-night cycle, breeding, cooking and more to craft and recolor.

Flippy Tengwall, 3D Artist: One of the best parts about being in early access is that a ton of our changes are all because of our community, which has helped us shape the game into what it is now in 1.0!

7) What sort of differences are there with the Quest version of the game?

Oliver Bolt, Programmer: Gameplay wise, none. We've worked really hard on maintaining as much parity as possible between the PC and Quest 2 versions of the game, and we've managed to ensure that no gameplay elements have been altered. The main areas where we've had to make changes are visual, and mostly related to foliage and lighting.

Early on in the development of the Quest 2 version there were many discussions regarding potential capping of user generated content (planting plants, crafting objects etc.), and we quickly realized that any caps would severely impact the gameplay feeling in a negative way. So a majority of our focus went into optimizing these systems without compromising any features, and personally I feel that we've achieved that goal really well!

What kind of content do you have planned for the future?

Erik Johansson, Programmer: Being able to experience Garden of the Sea with your friends is a feature that has been frequently requested. While making a full fledged multiplayer experience is an extensive and daunting task to take on, it's safe to say that our players can count on some more social interactions in the future.

Nordenborg: We don’t know, which is very exciting. We made this game with the input and help of our community, and we hope to continue on the same path - being open to input from players and fans, and updating the game to expand or hone in on specific favorites and wishes. We have a looong list of things we would love to add to the game at some point as well, but let us keep that secret for now.

There are so many things to do in Garden of the Sea. What is your favorite thing to do on your virtual oasis?

Rösler: It’s hard to choose just one thing since there’s so much to do, so I’ll say that my two favorite things are: taking the boat out to explore and find secrets; and (of course) breeding and populating my island with small baby creatures in different colors and patterns!

Nordenborg: Personally, I just love watching things grow. Making a perfect little nook that is just mine, plant some seeds and watch them grow. Oh, and when harvest time comes, stay up all night to bring my produce to the Night Merchant. His voice is *chef’s kiss*

Tengwall: I think our fishing feels really nice, and I also love throwing the blowbirds and watching them fly away into the sky.

Garden of the Sea is out now on PC VR and the Quest platform for $24.99. For more details on the game, you can check out the company’s Discord server, as well as their official Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages.