Lions Tigers and Bears

Journey for Elysium is a story-driven VR game that will immerse you in a fictional setting inspired by Ancient Mythology. Use your wit & skills to overcome a series of increasingly elaborate challenges to reach Elysium and obtain redemption.

I joined the Journey For Elysium team when I met Dave and Alexander during my time at LeapFoward when I was working as a UX designer. I had given a few demonstrations of my VR headset at the office, and my work in Tilt Brush. I learned they had a small budget to make a prototype of their game idea, which was about going on a quest through Hades, and involved rowing a boat on the river Styx.

None of us had ever made a game before, but I knew my way around Unity3D, and we had access to a very talented intern from the DAE school who knew all about 3D modelling. With that we got to work. In the first part of the production, I decided to use Tilt Brush to quickly block out various ideas for environments. Experimenting with the app's export features, these served as a guide for Xavier to make his models around. The results of this can be seen in this compilation:

I used the VR design tool Tilt Brush to create VR-native concept art with as accurate scale as I could manage.

After the initial concepting stage I delved deep into VR development. The big design challenge here was the rowing mechanic, which on the face of it combined the two worst case scenarios for motion sickness (i.e. people can get sick both from VR and from being on a boat). I found the VRTK framework to be invaluable, as the game had to support both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. This freed me from having to reinvent the wheel for a lot of basic functionality like grabbing and teleporting, and allowed me to focus on getting the rowing physics to work in a way that feels right but isn't physically realistic enough to cause problems.

With a lot of hacks and workarounds, I finally got it to work. We decided to go for a high contrast black and white look, both to mask the lack of detailed textures, as well as a stylistic differentiator. You can see the result of this initial prototype here:

After this prototype (along with a lengthy set of forms and the game design document) was submitted to the VAF (Flanders Film Fund) we were lucky enough to obtain production funding, which lead to the creation of Mantis Studios and Cronos Interactive in 2018.

We hired some talented young game programmers and artists and got to work. With the prototype serving as the blueprint we set about to design the best damn game we could. I mostly worked on level design, blocking out the environments and creating interesting spaces for the artists and set-dressers to fill as well as some scripting and front-end UI work. A lot of the initial worldbuilding and lore was written by me too, but we hired an external writer for the final piece.

As the team was working on polishing the vertical slice to show at Gamescom I created a set of concepts for future areas in the game, focusing on finding creative re-uses for our already made assets. The results of these explorations ended up making the first official teaser trailer, seen here:

The game was finally launched on October 31st 2019. You can download it and play it right now, provided you have the necessary hardware!

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1036260/Journey_For_Elysium/