Experience the glory days of 16-bit and 32-bit gaming all over again with Pixel Ripped 1995, the latest VR adventure from studio ARVORE. Sequel to Pixel Ripped 1989, and the brainchild of Ana Ribeiro, Pixel Ripped 1995 drops you into the virtual sneakers of a 9-year-old boy as he conquers 90s-era game villains while dealing with home life and school bullies. While the first game in the series launched on the Rift Platform, we’re thrilled to say Pixel Ripped 1995 is out today on both Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform.
Like the first game in the series, Pixel Ripped 1995 delivers a buffet of popular game genres. Unlike its predecessor, however, which focused on handheld gaming systems—and monochrome 8-bit visuals—Pixel Ripped 1995 jumps forward to an era of polygon-based visuals and 16-bit sprites. You’ll fight street thugs in a 2D brawler, blast candy-colored critters in a platformer, and battle a 3D dragon in a space shooter.
You’ll also need to contend with an overbearing parent who threatens to switch off your game system every few minutes. The only way to avoid losing progress is by distracting her with a well-timed shot from your dart gun, or by quickly turning off the television set. We’re going to hazard a guess that playing through Pixel Ripped 1995 could produce some nostalgic, pastel-hued tears in a few players out there.
We sat down with series creator (and real-life video game hero) Ana Ribeiro to talk about her latest VR adventure.
In this interview, Ana Ribeiro, the original creator of the series and Creative Director behind both games, shares how a student passion project that began almost seven years ago evolved to become two fully realized VR titles published with partner ARVORE.
What was the original inspiration behind Pixel Ripped and how has the series changed over time?
Ana Riberio: Pixel Ripped started as my final project for my MA degree in 2013. I had a crazy dream about playing video games as they evolved through the years as a kid growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. I thought how cool it would be to relive those childhood experiences, something now possible with VR. I created a prototype for the Oculus DK1 and managed to get funding to keep working on the game with the help of many talented professionals that joined me. The plan was to explore various eras of gaming: 1978, 1983, 1989, 1995 and 1999. I realized that was far too ambitious to do all at once, so I decided to split it up and focus on doing different games for each year, recreating each era the best I could.
I kept developing the game with a small indie team until in 2017, when I joined ARVORE, the publisher and developer that helped fund and launch Pixel Ripped 1989 in 2018. With the success of the first game, we went on to create the next game in the series, set in a year chosen by our fans: Pixel Ripped 1995.
The series has evolved a lot. In the very first prototype, the game was just about beating a classic video game. One day a random bug caused the sprite of the main character Dot to pop out of the screen and into the 3D world. When I saw that it suddenly felt more like a feature than a bug! That’s how one of the most unique and surprising features of the game came to be, and it quickly became the foundational concept of the entire series.
Any favorite anecdotes you’d like to share?
AR: All the motion capture animations were made in-house using VR equipment and tracking, without any previous mocap experience. We developed tools to bring animation captured with VR into the game. We were super lucky that our writer Barbara worked as an actor doing theater plays, so she did all the animations for the characters in the game, not only for body expressions, but also facial animations, which we captured using the face tracking cameras on a phone. Barbara not only wrote all the dialogue but also acted out all the scenes!
How does Pixel Ripped 1995 build off the original?
AR: We started development of 1995 with a fully-realized concept of the series, as well as the core values of the IP. We also had a solid team with financial stability to start work on 1995. Having a dedicated writer made a huge difference in terms of how cohesive and fun the story feels, with much richer character design and development, as well as a lot of funny dialogue and moments.
We improved on the first game a lot thanks to the feedback we got from players. We refined the visuals and gameplay, and especially the narrative.I could personally focus more on developing the creative aspects of the game.
How do you think VR and AR will continue to change the face of gaming moving forward?
AR: Nowadays, technology is our best ally and VR feels even more necessary for people. I believe society will look at the universes and experiences created in virtual universes differently moving forward. I think that user presence in these digital worlds will evolve. Visuals won't be the strongest factor, but the combination of the visual aspect plus other sensory inputs will create sensations that feel real.
Did you encounter any technical challenges? How did you overcome those obstacles?
AR: During development, we grew the team at ARVORE quite a bit—almost tripled its size—so we had to move to a larger office. On moving day, I invited the whole team to my place and we stayed there the whole day playing 90s games. That documentation process was really useful and originated some of the craziest ideas we ended up including in the game. When we arrived in the new office, we had no Internet connection, so we decided to focus on the main story of the game.
Lastly, during the critical final month of development, we all had to work from home because of the pandemic. I thought that this would have slowed things down, but the team was able to work well together remotely.
What’s your favorite part of the game and why?
AR: One of my favorite parts of the game happens in level 2, where the player is at a video rental shop and some kids in the background are arguing about which is the best console of the generation, and they also talk about Tamagotchi and the Virtual Boy, which launched in 1995. Those are moments that remind me a lot of my childhood, as I had many discussions with my neighbors trying to prove to each other our respective consoles were the best (he had Super Nintendo and I owned a Mega Drive).
What advice would you give to a developer looking to start building for VR?
AR: My first tip would be to develop an idea that you couldn't do outside of VR, something that can go beyond traditional technology. I believe many developers are trying to convert ideas that already exist in regular games to VR, and that generally doesn't work very well. I advise them to "break the boundaries" of VR, which has always motivated me.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
AR: We’re focused on the Pixel Ripped franchise. We have three more titles coming after 1995. That's the plan: complete the full series with the best quality we can deliver with the resources available to us.
Also, we’d like to give a special shout to the fact Pixel Ripped 1989 started with Oculus DK1, and that we refined development with each new headset as they became available. It has been amazing to see my student project evolve alongside the industry to become a full game series.
If people take away one thing from Pixel Ripped 1995, what do you hope it would be and why?
My goal has always been to share new worlds with people and help them revisit moments of joy and fantasy. Now, with long days at home in quarantine, I want players to explore the universes we’ve spent years passionately building.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
AR: I am really proud of the quality of the final game and want to thank everybody in the team that developed Pixel Ripped 1995. Everyone on the team has put their best into making this game a success. We are really united, and I consider them my best friends. I hope that feeling of brotherhood can reach all of our players too.