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New Oculus Rift game from Words With Friends creators brings Mario-like gameplay into virtual reality

Oculus Rift's second development kit, which has many of the features consumers will end up using.

Above: Oculus Rift's second development kit, which has many of the features consumers will end up using.

Image Credit: Oculus VR

Virtual reality gives people the opportunity to look through someone else’s digital eyes, but that’s not how developer Playful Corp. is going to do things.

The studio, which Words With Friends co-creator Paul Bettner founded in 2013, revealed that it is making a VR game called Lucky’s Tale for the Oculus Rift headset. It is a platformer (where characters jump around on things and enemies to reach the end of a stage) that players will control from a third-person perspective, which is a very unusual experience for the Rift, which usually hosts games with first-person perspectives. Playful is teaming up with Oculus VR to work on the title, and the two companies will show it off in action for the first time at next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. This is just the latest piece of software for the device that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spent $2 billion to acquire.

“This is not a port, ” Bettner said in a statement. “We’ve made something new, from scratch — a made-only-for-VR game. The result is unexpected and surprisingly delightful.”

Most VR games for the Rift take place from a first-person point of view. That makes sense because Oculus’s device enables people to look around as if their head was really in another world. A platformer, a very traditional game, doesn’t seem like a good fit for that platform.

But Bettner is confident Lucky’s Tale will work well on Rift.

“It’s a totally new experience,” he said. “It’s not what typically comes to mind when you think of what a VR game can be. I can’t wait to see how people react when they get to play it for the first time at E3.”

In addition to Lucky’s Tale, Playful also intends to port Creativerse, its open-world sandbox title for the PC, to the Rift. Playful views Oculus Rift as an important leap in gaming, and the company wants to contribute to that.

“Virtual reality — I mean truly accurate, comfortable virtual reality — is the most important thing to happen to interactive entertainment in decades,” said Bettner. “I know it sounds like exaggeration, but it’s impossible to explain what this is like to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. Your brain is convinced that you are somewhere else, that you are in another world. I have worked my entire career to get to this moment, to create something like this.”

As for Oculus VR, while the company is still finalizing the consumer hardware — which it expects to debut later this year or in early 2015 — this deal with Playful shows how it plans to work with game creators. The company isn’t just making a headset and setting it loose on the world; it wants to guide the future of VR with a hands-on approach.

“Oculus is committed to bringing the best and most innovative content from developers large and small to our new platform,” Oculus VR head of worldwide publishing David De Martini said. “We are delighted with our new partnership with Playful.”

The industry is buzzing over Oculus Rift. People wear the VR headset over their eyes, and the system tracks their movement to create a life-like immersive three-dimensional experience. Oculus VR launched the device with a Kickstarter that raised $2.4 million from more than 9,000 backers in September 2012. Oculus didn’t only capture the attention of gamers. Facebook’s Zuckerberg took notice, which led to the social network acquiring Oculus VR in March.

Oculus Rift Future: What Will Facebook Do With Virtual Reality?

More information:

Oculus VR™ was founded by Palmer Luckey, self-described virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund development of their first product, the Oculus Rift, a ground-breaking vir... read more »

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