Don’t be late! You’re invited to tea with the Queen of Hearts in Down the Rabbit Hole, launching today on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform. Solve puzzles, unravel riddles, and find familiar faces and lost friends in a world that unravels the farther you fall.
We caught up with Cortopia Studios Creative Director Ricky Helgesson for our own trip down the rabbit hole.
What was the inspiration behind Down the Rabbit Hole? How has the project changed over time?
Ricky Helgesson: The initial thought came from Cortopia Studios’ previous Creative Director, Ryan Bednar. Ryan wanted to bring adventure games into VR, and the idea was to build a diorama game that the player could interact with in a way that had never been done before. The development began with an internal demo, called The Pit, which showcased how a player could sit or stand inside a cylinder with 3D comic book strips all around. You could use the thumb stick to rotate and move the world up and down. Although the demo was very simple, the idea was awesome, and we felt like we were really onto something with the diorama approach. Feeling the diorama wrap around you felt really good, and we’re sure that these types of games could be the future for VR gaming.
The second vertical slice of the game was very beautiful. It had polished graphics and our novel locomotion system. We made this vertical slice with a very high amount of polish to make sure that we knew we were going in the right direction, and to be able to present our full vision to our partners. The demo was still not set in the Alice in Wonderland universe, but it had been mentioned in internal discussions. We didn’t keep much of the assets from this demo, but most of the mechanics and design principles were kept and refined in the final version of the game.
At this point, we had a mechanic where it felt like you went deeper and deeper into a hole while a 3D diorama wrapped around you. We realized that this would be a fantastic way of experiencing the Wonderland that Alice tumbled into. Since we wanted to tell our own story, we started working on a prequel to Lewis Carroll’s classic tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The player will recognize many familiar Wonderland characters, and those who pay attention might also notice how we’ve adopted Carroll’s storytelling style and use of language into our story.
We wrote the script, we developed the game’s graphics and mechanics, and step by step, Down the Rabbit Hole came into being. Now that we’ve reached the point where it’s released on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform, it was worth all the effort. Developing this game and watching our Wonderland evolve over time has been amazing since day one.
What’s your favorite part of the game and why?
RH: Personally, I like the Mirror Realm. It’s a region in the game where suddenly up is down and down is up. There are some curious ideas in that design that I really like. In this part of the game, you have to use two characters together to be able to progress and to find Patches, the missing pet. There’s also an interesting encounter with the Queen of Hearts here.
Tell us about your locomotion system.
RH: Early on in the game, the Narrator helps you identify the roots protruding from the walls of the 3D diorama that you’re in. By grabbing one root, you can move the whole world around. By grabbing two roots at a time, you can move and rotate the world in a very intuitive way. This is something that I think every game tester and content creator so far has brought up as something that they find very interesting and comfortable. This allows you to play the game while standing, sitting on a chair or half-lying on your sofa, if that’s what you prefer. We think that this mechanism, in addition to the 360° diorama that wraps around you, might be something that we see others pick up in their game designs going forward.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
RH: Regarding Down the Rabbit Hole, we’re not ready to discuss next steps openly just yet. We have a few ideas of what should be done, but most importantly, we will be learning a lot from the community once the game is out there. We are really, really looking forward to getting reviews and comments from players to learn what we should be doing next.
Apart from Down the Rabbit Hole, we are now making a focused investment on Cortopia Studios’ other VR title, Wands. The multiplayer magic dueling game was initially developed for Samsung Gear VR and is now available on as many as eight VR platforms. The number of active players battling each other from all corners of the world keeps increasing, so it makes sense for us to invest in this game and all the PvP players. It’s going to be interesting to see what players think, but more details on that during the spring.
We’re also building a new VR game that is still under wraps. We’re very excited about it, and we’re looking forward to sharing more about this with you soon.