Northern Ireland indie game studio Italic Pig is jumping headfirst into the virtual reality arena with the successful award of a €125 000 grant from Creative Europe Media.
The irreverent team behind Mona Lisa (mobile, in development) and Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (Steam/Xbox/PS4) was granted the award with their proposal for a new “vertical reality” adventure entitled The Infinite Hotel.
The Infinite Hotel concept pitch boasts the creation of a narrative-driven, immersive VR game combining elements of popular, award-winning games like Job Simulator, Papers Please, and Grim Fandango… “all from inside a 5-foot square.”
The Creative Europe judging panel was impressed by The Infinite Hotel game concept, uniqueness of story and the VR game mechanics. As always, a key strength of the Italic Pig team is story writing and character development. The panel relayed this to the successful team with feedback stating that the “overall story is intriguing” and the “sharp satirical tone of voice adds a definite edge to the storytelling and content.” In addition, they described the multitude of characters within the game as “not stereotypical game characters, but rather intriguing and innovative”.
In particular, the panel recognized that creating a “VR experience based on a huge amount of interweaving stories is an ambitious task.” They also understood that the VR platform is in its infancy and ripe for strong story-based games, indicating the high likelihood that The Infinite Hotel will move past development into a globally published VR title.
When asked about the studio’s interest in VR, Director Kevin Beimers said, “When people ask me what sort of games Italic Pig makes, I usually reply ‘self-indulgent, sarcastically-epic ones.’ I know that’s not very descriptive, but I believe it embodies what it means to be an Indie Game Developer; there’s a game in the back of your mind that you’ve always wanted to play, but nobody’s made it for you, so you’re finally forced to throw up your hands and make it yourself.
“What interests me in VR,” adds Kevin, “is that it hasn’t had its ‘Fruit Ninja’ moment yet. I’m not saying I’m looking for Fruit Ninja VR, but Fruit Ninja as a metaphor represents the new game mechanic that truly embraced and catered to the touchscreen mobile. VR is still in its infancy, and as far as I can tell, people are still searching for the new mechanic that is ‘special ‘to VR – not a port, not a reskinning, but a unique, purist experience for the medium. As someone who likes to mess with expectations and experimentally mash genres together, it’s the absence of hard rules that excites me most.”
Italic Pig was one of only 6 UK companies to receive the award from the Creative Europe MEDIA Sub-Programme support. The callout received nearly 150 pitches from 19 countries all over the EU, with a total of 32 successful companies chosen. The aim of the grant is to improve the competitiveness of the European video games industry by increasing its capacity to develop European Audiovisual works with a high circulation potential, both in the EU and beyond. The grant places a strong emphasis on narrative and character development, with the intention of promoting the video game industry as a strong storytelling medium.
This is the second time Italic Pig has received this award from Creative Europe.
Funding of €122,500 for Italic Pig’s Renaissance adventure Mona Lisa was received in 2015 and match-funded by Northern Ireland Screen.
Mona Lisa is an artistic new heist and forgery adventure for mobiles and tablets. The player takes on the role of the mysterious Mona Lisa, Renaissance Italy’s greatest art thief. Mona sneaks into the studios of the other great masters of the 16th century using Leonardo’s arsenal of gadgetry, locating precious works of art, and swapping them out with slapdash forgeries created by the player during the robbery in under two minutes.
Mona Lisa’s hook is its speed-painting engine, which, in Kevin’s words: “offers the player the satisfaction of creating something beautiful in minutes, without silly things like lack of talent getting in the way.”
Still in development, Mona Lisa has already achieved recognition at worldwide events, winning the Very Big Indie Pitch at PocketGamer Connects, becoming the branding sponsor for Casual Connect USA, and winning several awards and nominations for Best Casual Game, Best Indie Game, Best Mobile Game, Most Creative & Original, and Most Innovative Game.
“When we started Mona Lisa, all we had was a great story and a loose direction of how we wanted the game to work. The funding from Creative Europe and Northern Ireland Screen gave us the freedom to experiment, resulting in a truly unique, award-worthy mobile game that is turning a lot of heads,” adds Kevin. “We’re hoping that the same spark will happen with The Infinite Hotel.”
For more information:
Creative Europe MEDIA Sub-Programme
The MEDIA Sub-programme of Creative Europe is designed to support European film and other audiovisual industries. It provides funding for the development, promotion and distribution of European works within Europe and beyond.