OK, folks, real talk: Whether you self-identify as one or not, we’re all gamers. From masocore to match 3, Go to Go Fish, games make our lives better—or at least a little more fun—and many form the backbone of vibrant communities. Known for tower defense and real-time strategy (RTS) games like Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition and Brass Tactics, Hidden Path Entertainment (HPE) knows what it takes to build a genre-redefining title from the ground up for VR. And today, we’re excited to say they’ve done it again with casual adventure sim Raccoon Lagoon—now available on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform!
You play as an Island Spirit, helping shipwrecked sailors make themselves at home. While it’s possible to speedrun the game in about six hours (if you know exactly where to go and what to look for and have optimized your route), completionists will likely double that time as they explore eight distinct biomes while fishing, cooking, farming, mining, painting, and more.
“The Plains is most indicative of many techniques we used to solve issues with terrain, especially our layering techniques which allowed us to have a combination of farming fields, grassland, and pathways,” notes Hidden Path Entertainment Lead Designer Steve “Devgamer” Kramer. “My favorite character is the farmer named Blanche who lives out in the Plains biome. I just love her derpy voice and enthusiastic attitude. Our goals with the art style throughout the game was to invoke a subtle off-kilter feel that imparts playfulness and a handmade quality. Blanche’s Farmhouse is a great example of this.”
Hidden Path Entertainment set out to achieve total parity across both the PC and standalone VR versions of the game, and they wanted to ensure people could easily play with friends across the Oculus ecosystem. That’s why Raccoon Lagoon offers cross-buy and cross-play support for Quest and the Rift Platform on the Oculus Store from Day 1.
And as it likely goes with saying, getting a game designed for PC VR to run on a mobile chipset posed a unique set of technical challenges.
“Our design was pretty ambitious,” Kramer recalls. “We wanted a seamless world, multiple biomes, a wide variety of characters—and we wanted it to be beautiful. This was achieved by developing a system that allowed us to use many high-fidelity textures with a low impact on performance early on in the development of the game. Aggressive use of optimization features built into Unreal Engine helped us get the rest of the way there.”
To celebrate today’s launch, we sat down with Kramer to learn more about a game we suspect could help open up VR to new audiences.
Looking at the game, we’re getting a pretty strong Stardew Valley feel. What was the inspiration behind Raccoon Lagoon? How has it changed over the course of development?
Steve Kramer: We definitely drew a lot of inspiration from games that take time to smell the roses like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. One of our big goals was to make sure the game could be passed around to friends to show off how cool Oculus Quest is without having to worry about throwing them into some kind of virtual crisis situation. As Raccoon Lagoon began to take shape, we realized there was a big opportunity for HPE to step away from its comfort zone of intense moment-to-moment decision making and explore personal interaction and even nurturing in a VR environment.
What was it like designing for Oculus Quest? How does the nature of fully untethered VR enhance gaming as we know it today?
SK: Comfort is just so important when it comes to being in VR. That includes the ability to get up and move around naturally. The feeling of being freed from wires and having to subconsciously be aware of them is a game changer. Designing our game with this in mind helped us choose activities and interactions that felt natural without fear of tripping people up. Another unsung hero that comes with this freedom is the Guardian system that protects players from bumping into things while playing. When someone sets up their playspace with this in mind, they can walk around freely within the VR world with 1:1 movement, which can be incredibly immersive.
Any fun anecdotes from the development process you can share?
SK: We kept an archive of all kinds of goofy bugs and gameplay moments over the course of the development of the game. At one point, with the right interaction with the hands, we could make any object float into the sky like a balloon.
What’s the funniest reaction you’ve seen while demoing or playtesting the game?
SK: Most people get a big laugh when they discover they can take the Nyms and creatures and toss them around. Not only does it look pretty funny, throwing them feels pretty good—and they appropriately punish you for being a meanie.
If people take one thing away from Raccoon Lagoon, what do you hope it would be and why?
SK: Enjoy your moments, and enjoy your friends. We live in a special time where tech like this brings us together and lets us experience worlds never before imagined together. Just breathe it in.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
SK: At Hidden Path Entertainment, we’ve seen a lot of virtual aliens, armies, and zombies fall before the heroic efforts of gamers across the world. For example, since the release of Brass Tactics, over 35M clockwork soldiers have been summoned to battle, and approximately 18B aliens have perished before towers in the Defense Grid series.
That’s a lot of shootin’, Tex!
When the opportunity to make a flagship game for Oculus Quest was presented to us, we jumped at the chance to showcase untethered VR gaming that could be enjoyed by almost everyone, virtually anywhere. The idea that we can share VR with the uninitiated—be it your neighbor or aunt—without throwing them headlong into a fight was a challenge we wanted to take on.
We’re so proud of our work in Raccoon Lagoon and hope you enjoy your stay with us!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Steve. We’re thrilled to welcome the adorable inhabitants of this island adventure to the Oculus Platform.
— The Oculus Team