In the thick of counting down to Oculus Quest’s arrival, Director of Content Ecosystem Chris Pruett shared his excitement about a trippy adventure that lets you explore biomes while doing “creative gardening.” And today, you can step into the lush, green world of Fujii, the latest otherworldly experience from Cosmic Trip creators Funktronic Labs—available now on the Rift Platform and Quest!
We talked to Funktronic Labs Co-Founder Eddie Lee to hear more about how this grand landscape was built.
What was the inspiration behind Fujii? What can you tell us about the game’s narrative?
Eddie Lee: Fujii is inspired by nature, and the idea that we’re interconnected within nature as one. Nature-inspired activities such as gardening and hiking have brought tremendous positivity and therapy to my life, and we’ve endeavored to find a way to synthesize a lot of these positive feelings into an accessible VR experience.
As for the narrative, the land of Fujii has been abandoned, left to fall into darkness and dormancy. It’s the player’s duty to explore, grow, and help revive the land back to health. Watering, touching, and interacting with plants and creatures throughout each biome will help restore their life force and expand the ring of light in the sky above.
Where did the game’s title come from? How (if at all) does it relate to the narrative and/or gameplay?
EL: Fuji is the name of my wife Robyn’s lovely grandmother, a second-generation Japanese-American plant enthusiast who nurtured a wonderful garden in her backyard. Robyn told me wonderful stories of visiting her grandma when she was a little girl, and seeing her beautiful space with hundreds of orchids lined up in rows underneath a shade cloth. The imagery of Fuji’s garden, and the fact that our team has pulled a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture (Studio Ghibli, Japanese aquascapes) made the name Fujii feel fitting.
What kind of community response have you seen since thus far?
EL: The reactions from the community and playtesters have been very interesting. Given that VR is such a physical medium, people can very visibly express their experience within the game itself. We built Fujii to be a mix between gardening and going on a “magical hike,” and we expected players to engage directly with a lot of these mechanics that we’ve designed. But what was interesting was how people reacted—some players would become explorers and try to find all hidden details of the experience, while some would simply find a peaceful quiet corner and sit down for long durations, something we didn’t anticipate.
Who did you work with on the soundtrack? What was that experience like?
EL: We worked with Luc Jolivet, aka Norman Bambi, a composer based in Paris. Luc has a remarkable ability to capture magical, fantastical feelings with his music, from soft and mysterious to vibrant and joyful. Also, his ability to create dynamic, interactive music was essential: the environment of Fujii responds musically to the player, and there’s a lot of music theory and tech underlying the experience. Luc was able to help us create a sonically immersive world, with sound effects and ambient noises that complement the musical compositions and harmonies.
How does Fujii build upon your earlier works in VR, like Cosmic Trip?
EL: Back in 2015 when we were developing Cosmic Trip, there wasn’t a lot of content to reference. Now there’s so much more content to study, and the design space has evolved dramatically since then. That said, from our time developing Cosmic Trip, we learned a lot in terms of game feel and UI/UX design. We studied what kinds of haptics feel good on the controller, timing animations to feel right in VR, and even how to develop assets for VR more efficiently.
Since then, we’ve also upgraded our production workflow: Our artist Tetra would develop concepts with Quill, and we would then synthesize 3D VR concepts into assets developed in Maya, which saved a lot of time.
What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
EL: Now that Quest is out, there are so many possibilities! The beauty of Quest is its untethered freedom. Being able to walk freely in a room within the headset is emotionally very freeing. The VR design space is so exciting and there’s so much to explore. We would love to develop a multiplayer experience that fully uses large open spaces in a social context.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Eddie. We’re excited to see what Funktronic Labs dreams up next.
— The Oculus Team