Inside the Headset with Specular Theory
Developers Behind Hotel Transylvania Popstic™
With the recent addition of Hotel Transylvania Popstic™ to the SpringboardVR Marketplace, we thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the game, and why it is a great fit for location-based VR. Hotel Transylvania Popstic™ is an incredible rhythm-based game that features a unique peripheral, family-friendly gameplay, and characters from one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer!
We sat down with Ryan Pulliam (CMO/Co-founder) and Morris May (CEO/Founder) of Specular Theory, and asked them all about their brand new VR experience. See what they had to say below.
In just a few sentences, tell us about Hotel Transylvania Popstic™
Ryan: It’s a VR game for everyone. Think music, strategy and puzzle game meets EDM, poi spinning and flow arts with your favorite movie character as a DJ. It’s this fun music, movie and movement mashup.
What makes the game/experience specifically good for location-based entertainment and VR Arcades?
Morris: The game is built from the ground up FOR arcades, and is only available at VR Arcades. It takes no time whatsoever to learn to play, and quickly becomes very addictive. “Easy to play, yet impossible master” is the gamer term, I believe.
Ryan: We noticed there weren’t a lot of games designed just for VR Arcades and there wasn’t a lot of games made for families — or for first-time users. That’s why we’re excited to feature characters from Sony Animation’s Hotel Transylvania franchise. Such a well-loved brand brings in families — and brand-new visitors. In addition, the game is simple and intuitive, which makes it easy to get started and eliminates the need for lengthy tutorials that delay gameplay and lead to long lines.
What was the inspiration behind the game/experience?
Ryan: We really wanted to make this game about the music, rather than a game set to the timing of the music. On another note, even though I’m a gamer, I’m not super hardcore, and I still get frustrated when I have to deal with difficult controllers. It takes me away from the experience. So it occurred to us to create a simple, easy-to-use controller (the Popstic™), which was an easy, cool way to solve a problem.
What would you tell a VR Arcade owner is the game’s #1 selling point?
Morris: It really is a game for anyone. The easy levels are custom-built for younger players; the medium levels are for gamers who just enjoy music games; and the hard levels are for people who really want to take it to the extreme.
Ryan: Music games are awesome and Hotel Transylvania is a huge franchise with lovable characters. It’s the best of both worlds. In addition, this title is not available for the home market, which draws additional attention to the arcades.
We also love seeing the arcade owners come up with their own creative marketing promotions. For example, one owner talked about offering 5 minutes of free gameplay when customers bring in their Hotel T3 movie stub.
What is YOUR favorite thing about this game or experience?
Morris: I enjoy losing myself in the music, catching a quick look at the DJ, and feeling the connection with the characters, the music, and my whole body. The ‘slow down time’ powerups and ‘row’ powerup came out really well.
Ryan: How toned my arms are getting after testing it every day for the past few months! Griffin’s character is probably my favorite; I like how he helps you with the game along the way. He’s a great tool for letting you have a social experience in the game.
How long is the game/experience? Does it play through in one sitting or are there multiple levels, or chapters?
Ryan: Each level is such a different experience — it’s kind of like 3 games in one. We designed it so the EASY level is great for beginners and families. NORMAL is great for more casual gamers — people who have played games before but aren’t hardcore gamers. The ‘Normal Level’ is more rhythm-esque, so you’re moving your body more.
The HARD level gets a little crazy. It has powerups that let you do things like slow down time. It’s more strategy based, and relies on how you move your body and your Popstic™. Hardcore gamers and people who like ‘Superhot VR’ will love this mode. This is the one for them.
Do you have any special set up requirements or tips for the VR Arcade operator?
Morris: Yes we recommend using our special Popstic™ controller. Try it! It takes just a second to install on the Vive controller as an attachment. It gives you a very unique experience — though it’s not required. And if you’re flipping back and forth between Popstic™ and other games, you can always just go into the controller menu and select ‘Wands.’
Popstics™ are for everyone: Younger people can use them to come up with crazy cool moves, while older users and beginners will only have to deal with one controller instead of two.
What makes the player want to play it again?
Morris: Addictive gameplay was the whole goal. Aside from it being a fun music game, it’s addictive nature stems from focusing on scoring more points and creating your own ‘flow style.’
Ryan: Mastering each level is challenging. Yet it’s enticing for players to try again and again to hit the right orbs at the right time and to perfect their score. The powerups are so fun to discover that you keep wanting to come back after you learn how to use them. It’s really engaging — it requires you to both think and zone out. And you can actively try new styles.
Do you have any tips or tricks the player should know?
Morris: The game is incredibly easy to understand, but the powerups can be a challenge to master. Especially the ‘row’ powerup, which is really just an undiscovered secret. See if you can figure it out!
Ryan: I always play slightly leaned back, which I’ve noticed always improves my game (and I do have the highest score as of today haha). It’s really about finesse and flow, rather than jabbing objects or simply matching rhythms, and we are excited to see how users create their own styles!
What is your team’s background? Any key people on the team you want to call out?
Ryan: Everyone on our team played a key role in getting this game launched, from the software and hardware side to the marketing team. Not only did we build a game and distribute it, but we also took on shipping and fulfillment for the Popstics! … And with the exception of Morris, right now our entire in-house staff is female!
Can you tell us what Specular Theory is working on next?
Ryan: More Popstic™! We are working on creating a whole series of games that are ‘Stic-based’ and POPular (OK, I’ll stop with the marketing puns now…).