Geod Studio is an army of one. Truc is the fiendishly clever developer behind what is considered the foremost 3D NES emulator. The twist? 3dSenVR is available in VR – which takes immersion to a whole new level.
Available onSteamand Itch.io, 3dSenVR will ignite your retro fire, and take you back, while simultaneously keeping you in the future, as you jump, run, fight, fly and more in virtual reality.
We wanted to know how Truc came up with the concept, and how he managed such an incredible project on his own. Here is the interview. Links, videos and more information can be found at the end of this article.
Hey Truc! What an amazing project 3dSenVR is. We saw that you have been working on it since 2015. What gave you the idea back then?
Well NES console was my first ever gaming system and always have a really special place in my heart and my mind. Similar to many other children at my age, I had many imagination of how the game worlds look like in 3D. Fast forward to 2015 I was a developer working for an out-sourcing company. The job didn’t fit me well and I lost all the working motivation. The repetitive work [and bureaucracy] was really killing me; I really wanted to work on something original that I loved.
I started asking myself why I didn’t do something special [for myself]. That was when everything began, and as people often say the rest is history.
What got you started in game development originally?
It comes to me the most natural way possible. When I was a kid, I loved playing computer games like crazy and often skipped school to play/watch other kids playing. Since 4th class in 1989, I learned in a special school for pupils with special capability in math. They did also teach programming quite a bit because math and IT are close domains. But some of us are [only] interested in gaming not programming. When I grew up a bit we naturally shifted our interest from playing games to game creation. That was the time we decided to switch from math to IT. Classmates who didn’t like gaming followed the math path and we who love gaming followed the IT path. That’s my story : )
What was the first game you wanted to play through on 3dSenVR?
Super Mario Bros.
The interest in the emulator has been incredible, and you’ve shown you like to be close to the community. What’s the most requested feature that you have implemented/are planning to implement?
This is the support for the game Punch Out. I’m planning to add support for it at some point in the future. Imagine you control the character by throwing punches yourself… makes me really excited.
Punch Out is an absolute classic. Making it into a VR first person would just be incredible. Is this something you have developed in the past, or will this be 100% new to you?
I gave it a quick try in the past but quickly realized that’s not something easily solves while there are other games with equal interest from the audience which I can quickly solve and support. So I left it and will come back later at a point in the future with more skill and experience.
…and which game has proven to be most popular with retro gamers?
Super Mario Bros as you can guess. Everyone knows and loves it already so they want to try it first with 3dSen.
The project cleverly takes advantage of VR, but not in the traditional sense of a shooter, driving or other genre of VR game. Do you think the VR industry is going in the right direction, or is there not enough diversity?
Well we are still in the early stage of this current VR technology area (there were already some VR waves in the past). The tech still evolves fast and there are still many things to explore and imagine. I wouldn’t say right or wrong but I would say as of a VR enthusiasm it’s a very exciting time to be alive.
Have you been disappointed with Nintendo’s lack of VR development?
No I’m not disappointed at all. It seems to me that Nintendo philosophy is a little bit similar to Apple. They are never the revolutionists but most of the time they do provide the best and unique experience (all aspects around) to their loyal users.
How difficult was the overall development process – were there any bootstrap methods you could build on, or was it entirely from scratch?
The most difficulty I met in the overall development process is the mentality aspect. I have to constantly fight against myself and keep the motivation up. There is nothing like a bootstrap method cause there is no similar work like 3dSen in the past. I have to let my imagination fly then try to find a practical solution for it then repeat the process : ) That’s my methodology.
I see the project rather like an inner up-hill battle against myself.
Truc – Geod Studio
Was there ever a point where you thought you bit off more than you could chew – with such a massive retro gaming audience anticipating the launch?
Never. Big or not, it is how we evaluate our resource and how we limit the project scope to match it. It’s true that when I first showed my project to the public, there are some people liked it but there are also some people hated it and even talked shi@t about it. I was a little bit shocked at first but I quickly realized that no matter what I do there are always likers and haters.
So it’s all up to me. Am I capable of creating a solution for my vision, of polishing it, of finding the right audience without losing the motivation in this (very very long) process? I see the project rather like an inner up-hill battle against myself. So no, no outside pressure at all!
Was you shocked at the popularity of the project when first build was released for browsers back in 2016?
Yes I’m truly shocked, it’s covered by all big tech sites and people talked about it everywhere. For the up-coming launch not that much of a shock as you stated above: I interact quite closely with the community.
What were the biggest challenges you overcame?
Winning against myself to maintain the motivation. There are time continuously in several weeks I kept turning on my PC then read news after news the whole day until I was completely tired and fell asleep. Those are the hardest times when I lost all the motivation. Luckily I overcame it all in the end.
What are you most happy about with 3dSenVR?
I’m most happy and proud with the profile for DuckHunt game. From a 2D game it completely turns into a real 3D first person shooter game. This is 3D gameplay; I mean the ducks really fly in all 3 dimension and you can move and aim from whatever angle you want.
What advice would you give to any indie game developers that are inspired by the originality & concept of your work?
Well I was almost a loser and there is a big luck factor involving the moderate success of 3dSenVR release on Steam. So I don’t think i’m in the position to give advice to anyone : )
Do you have any plans for other development projects besides 3dSenVR?
Yes in my vision, once I’m done with NES I will probably move to another 8-bit console like GBA or Master System. 16 bits console graphics are way too complex so I prefer supporting another 8-bits system.
Thanks so much for the interview, Truc. It has been a pleasure talking to a true pioneer in VR development. Even better that you are an indie game developer who is unafraid of pushing boundaries. Truly inspirational!
Thank you for the selection. It’s really my honor!
3dSenVR – a multi-platform voxel based 3D NES emulator
Based on the horrifying works of Trevor Henderson, Siren Head: Retribution is a free first-person horror that was developed by indie developer Nathan Brower, and released on Itch.io in March 2020.
In Siren Head: Retribution, you take on the role of a mechanic who gets a little more than he bargained for, while performing some routine maintenance.
“It should have been easy to drive up to the Chattahoochee National Forest ranger station. It would have been easy to meet up with Riley and Dan for another quiet evening. It should have been easy to leave.”
Siren Head: Retribution on Itch.io
We were lucky enough to get one of the first interviews with Nathan Brower, to get a peak in the mind of an indie game horror developer (who doesn’t like horror games!).
Hey Nathan! Thanks for doing this interview. Siren Head: Retribution is an open world horror game based on Trevor Henderson’s work. There are a number of Siren Head games but yours has been lauded as one of the best by more than one reviewer. What sets it apart, in your opinon?
Hey, and thanks for having me!
I think the primary difference between this and other Siren Head games is that Siren Head: Retribution gives you a bigger world to explore, and since some points of interest are shuffled between playthroughs, you have to often find a different strategy to win the game.
So just to go off on a slant – how did you get into dame development?
My dad is a computer wizard, and he taught me Java at young age. I was always interested in computers, and being able to write instructions to tell them what to do really engaged me. Later on, I made several mods for Star Wars BattleFront 2 (the classic 2005 version), and released one to the public. Seeing all the comments and videos of people playing my creation truly filled my heart with joy, and it was that moment that I realized this is what I wanted to do.
Holy mother of Lord baby Jesus on a tricycle… I personally think this is the best Siren Head game I’ve played so far!
Andy R – YouTube
You worked on the game with your brother… are you good colleagues?
Yes! Matthew actually came to me with the idea of making this game. He realized that Siren Head was a popular internet topic right now, and if we wanted to get our names out there, creating a game based on the character would be a good idea. I was actually against this at first, as I have a project that fills my days currently, and taking time away from it made me uncomfortable. I slept on it, and decided that he was right, there would be a good chance that many people would see our work.
Now, Matthew is not a game developer, but he is a great story teller, and he’s written several. One of which is a rather lengthy sci-fi novel that he’s looking to publish soon. Naturally, he would be in charge of all the writing in the game. He also stepped up and did most of the sounds you hear when playing. The title screen music (and the chase music which is a variant) was created by him recording sounds in our garage.
Was making a horror game that is so foreboding difficult in terms of keeping your spirits up… or can you disassociate from the mood of it when developing?
So I have to admit. I do not actually play horror games, and do not watch horror movies. I’m basically a big chicken! Part of my initial resistance to developing this game was being scared by my own creation.
But I must say: between having knowledge of where Siren Head was probably going to be, overall desensitization, and being able to see through the console what he was thinking at all times, there were virtually no instances I was scared through development, which was, for a scaredy cat like me, a pleasant surprise.
Was there ever a point in the game where you thought “Yeah, that part will scare the pants off the player!”?
Ok so I fibbed a little during that last question.
For some context, the astute player might realize that Siren Head is actually teleporting about the map over the course of the game. There are various reasons for this, but I had to do my best to hide this mechanic, as Siren Head does not canonically teleport.
One of the ways I tried to hide this was by making the actual audio source that outputs what Siren Head is yelling at you, track to his location. So, when he would teleport away, instead of having the noise immediately vanish, it would sound more like he’s simply walking away. When I first jumped into the test world to try this out, I was a little freaked out by the sounds pitch shifting up and down. I was not expecting it, and it sounded quite creepy. This is actually the doppler effect, and I considered removing it to hide his teleportation a little better, but since it scared me even after all the knowledge and desensitization, I knew I had to leave it in.
What was the biggest challenge about creating Siren Head: Retribution, and how would you do things differently?
I would say the most challenging part of developing Siren Head: Retribution was getting Siren Head to correctly navigate through the trees.
For those familiar with Unity, Siren Head tracks to the player through a Nav Mesh Agent. In order for a Nav Mesh Agent to walk, you must provide a Nav Mesh that shows where to go. You can mark GameObjects as ‘NavMeshStatic’, and this will tell the Nav Mesh that you don’t want any agents walking in that area. This works great for things like buildings, but the trees were a different story.
You see, the Unity terrain system will mark all trees on the terrain as ‘NavMeshStatic’ regardless of the actual tree prefab. Since all foliage, not just the trees, were placed using the terrain’s tree system, it created a hilarious display of Siren Head tip-toeing around every flower and fern, but mostly just caused unsolvable tracks and rendered poor Siren Head motionless.
Ok great, I thought. I’ll just erase the small plants just leaving the trees, bake the Nav Mesh, and simply undo the erase operations. This worked, but there was still a problem. The trees created a big ‘X’ in the Nav Mesh due to the highest LOD level being two planes in a cross. This resulted in Siren Head giving each tree way too much girth and still resulted in unsolvable positions.
Since Unity ignores the tree prefab’s static setting, I couldn’t immediately come up with an elegant solution. I thought my options were to remove the cross from each tree prefab, bake, then add them again for each of the many trees for each time I had to rebake, or manually add a capsule enveloping the tree’s footprint, for each of the trees in the scene.
I wasn’t excited about either option.
At some point I realized I could actually automate the capsule creation process with an editor script that loops through each tree at a given prototype index and instantiates a capsule at the same scale. With this, I was able to erase all the foliage from the terrain before baking a Nav Mesh to just leave nice capsules where I actually wanted Siren Head to avoid. And if I ever needed to rebake, it was a simple process of running the script a few times. Hoo-ray!
Do you have any advice for budding indie game developers?
Let me preface this by saying I am certainly no expert. However, I do think the following advice is valuable, and I wish I had followed it much sooner.
Don’t let your own taste for game quality stop you from putting yourself out there. Especially in the early days, it’s easy to create something that doesn’t live up to your standards. Heck, Siren Head: Retribution doesn’t live up to mine!
In that same vein, it’s important to limit your scope. Could I have spent another several months polishing and adding things to Siren Head: Retribution in an endeavour to bring the game up to my standards? Of course. But you have to draw the line somewhere. Drawing that line in the sand in terms of scope will help you finish way more projects instead of spending countless time on one project in the goose chase of your high standards.
Because in my opinion, that’s really what matters. Finishing projects. Putting a bow them. Learning from each of them.
And of course, being able to show something to the person that asks: “So, what do you do?”
Siren Head: Retribution
Siren Head: Retribution is available now from Itch.io
Did you ever wonder how to approach a game publisher with your game idea? Do you like axes? Annoying monkeys? Dinosaurs? How about flannel shirts? Well, this interview is going to be the highlight of your week.
We spoke with the team at Another RoadPublishing, the publisher behind Lumberhill – a crowdfunded chaos-filled lumberjack game you can play with friends. Play in co-op, PvP or solo mode and swing your axe through insane levels that put your axe wielding skills to the test… all against the clock. Expect to see beautifully drawn pirates, raging wildfires, (annoying) monkeys & pandas among other unexpected things along the way, and get unlocking your way to new worlds and skins. Bags of fun, and already critically acclaimed, Lumberhill is well on its way to a raging success.
Sharpen your axe and iron your flannel – this wild co-op will throw you right into the middle of action! Try to get your job done in a crazy race against the clock: collect orders, fight wildfires, pirates and extremely annoying monkeys! Unlock tons of new skins and worlds playing in co-op, PvP or solo mode… and save the world – lumberjack style!
We have started as a video games accelerator, offering financial support and mentorship to students and young studios, aiding them in completing their first professional projects. It became apparent to us that these fledgling studios would also need help with promotion and marketing of their games. So, the Another Road Publishing was created to do just that.
Congratulations on the Kickstarter. At the time of writing, you are almost halfway to your goal! What was the reason you went with crowdfunding?
The team working on the game is young but very ambitious. At this moment, most of the workload is already completed, but we’ve decided that there are still some things that we would like to expand and polish in the game. It could use an additional round of testing, more levels, a few new mechanics and skins. The game will be released in the beginning of 2021 regardless of the result of the Kickstarter campaign, but at the end of the day we would love to include everything we have planned!
The campaign story, video, GIFs and images on the crowdfund page at Kickstarter are very slick and professional. Did you hire a third party or is it all done in-house?
All in-house! We have amazing artists on board who created all of the beautiful images and GIFs for the campaign!
All of the drawn elements were hand-painted and animated by us, and our video editor put together these amazing videos you see in the campaign. Also the live action scene in the promotional video where we are chased by a definitely real dinosaur was one of the most fun things we did this year.
You already have a great following thanks to previous releases. Do you get a lot of organic feedback on Discord, for example, which helps the developers polish a game before release?
Yes, all of the feedback is extremally valuable for us. We’ve got a lot of it on our Facebook page, Discord servers and from youtubers and streamers playing the game.
Sometimes it helps us in not so obvious ways. Let’s say, we have a specific feature in the game, and we feel like it should be visible and clear to the players that it is there, but we get a lot of feedback that says “it would be cool if I could do this that way”. We get a very clear message that there is something wrong with the way we’ve placed that feature in the game and it should be changed. We also listen very carefully to what people think of the game overall and make adjustments where we can. One great example is the tutorial area, which is now completely different from what we had in the previous demo version of the game.
I’d like to take my time here to thank all of our community for their feedback and support! You guys are the best!
Lumberhill looks and sounds like crazy, chaotic fun, enjoyed by many at the Steam Games Festival. What sort of feedback helped the development process?
All of the feedback helped us immensely in creating the experience the players will love to play. As we published the demo version of the game twice (once during the Summer Steam Game Festival and Autumn edition) we’ve received not only a lot of feedback on the game itself, but we could also see how the changes we’ve introduced for the second demo influenced the experience for the players.
We value any feedback, because even something seemingly irrelevant, like a question about the way that the quests work in the game, might push us in the direction of: “Oh, if they ask about it, maybe we didn’t explain it well enough in the game and we should fix it”.
Have there been any in-house full on, all out Publisher vs. Developer Lumberhill battles during playtesting?
Yes! And we had a lot of fun together! (Well I guess the developer had more fun since we have lost all of the matches, but we gave it our best!)
If we can talk about Weakless for a moment: – When publishing Weakless with Punk Notion, how did Another Road help bring the project to life?
As I mentioned before, Another Road Publishing stems from a video game accelerator that was providing support for young developers just starting out in the business.
Weakless came to be as a student project and when we accepted it into the acceleration programme, it was little more than a big pile of concept art and a bold dream of two girls. You could say Weakless was with us from the very beginning, from the conceptual phase, through first prototypes, to the mature, enchanting game we can play today – and we supported it as much as we could along the way.
Weakless is a very unique slant on a traditional puzzle-adventure. The deaf and blind characters are an incredible twist. Did this evolve or was it planned from the beginning?
Actually, it was one of the first thoughts that sparked the game into existence: to have two characters that complete themselves and find their strengths not, like it’s usually found in games, in their superpowers, but through something that is traditionally considered a disability.
The idea for Weakless came from two incredible young artists, Ania Kowalczyk – a graphic designer, and Agnieszka Wlazły – a composer, so somewhat naturally the concept drifted towards deafness and blindness, or rather – an extraordinary sense of hearing and sight. So, yes, it was planned from the beginning and served as a form of foundation for the rest of the game.
Have you ever been approached by a developer and absolutely knew the game would be a hit? …or even hated a concept and didn’t want to get involved with a game at all?
Yes, sometimes we happen to see a certain game and just know that it will be a great fit for players in terms of innovation, fun, polish and overall quality. But we are just people, and sure we have a lot of experience in the field, but we are still limited by our personal tastes and opinions that could not always be in line with specific player base. And that one amazing or not so great game might be great or not so great only for us. This is why we try to remove ourselves from the process a bit and let the player base speak.
We conduct marketing tests to see if gamers like or dislike certain idea and only then we decide if we want to continue to work with the developer. One thing that can cause the project to be rejected from the get-go is the quality of the presented alpha or tech demo; we feel that even the most incredible ideas won’t be successful when realised poorly.
What gives Another Road the edge when developers choose you?
We base a lot of our approach more on “what will the community think” rather than on “what we think”. We conduct a lot of early marketing tests to make sure that we are a good fit for each other. When they start to work with us, we help and fund \ creation of their Steam page (or work together on reworking it) and then conduct the marketing test. If it works out for everyone, we go ahead. If it doesn’t – we part ways leaving developers with all of the marketing assets and a polished Steam page. We also offer extensive marketing campaign plans reaching from community management to performance campaigns on various channels (FB, Twitter, Reddit etc.)
Reddit is known for its “unique” community. What has been your experience with Reddit marketing?
…”be active on different boards, be a part of the community – and genuinely love it”
Another Road Publishing
As for the performance marketing campaigns via Reddit Ads, I found it to be a straight forward experience – if you ran something on Facebook you will feel at home. But outside of paid marketing, Reddit is really specific as a platform. Overall we feel that there is a change coming (and a really overdue one, in my opinion) to the way marketing works on social media channels.
To this day, many games were promoted across multiple channels, creating a situation where we were active on all the channels, but not *really* present on any of them. This, of course, changes with the size of the team: in bigger companies each channel can have a specific person assigned to it, but in smaller teams usually there is one person operating all of them. And I feel that Reddit is the prime example of that need to be *really* present on it to work out well. You have to not just come around once in a while and post one or two updates, but be active on different boards, be a part of the community – and genuinely love it. To sum it up, during the Lumberhill campaign we decided to put more effort into our Discord community, but perhaps with our next projects we will find Reddit to be the best fit.
There has been an outpouring of praise on YouTube for Lumberhill. Do you feel YouTube is a good platform for an indie developer to find “Let’s Play” creators etc. to get it into the wild?
Yes, working with YouTube creators was a pleasant experience and we didn’t stumble on any serious hurdles along the way. Additionally, we were really happy to see that many of the creators just picked the Lumberhill demo straight from the Steam Game Festival without any prior contact with us, and loved it! For us it was more than just marketing, we watched every gameplay video closely and noted all the comments people had while playing, which resulted in a few changes to the game. So it is not only a great way to get more eyeballs on the project, but also receive extensive and very organic feedback on the gameplay.
How would you suggest indie devs approach creators on YouTube?
I would recommend to approach the creators just like you yourself would like to be approached – we all have limited time in our busy days, and presenting your pitch in an organised manner usually works the best. If you contact them via their business e-mail, first tell them what your game is about in quick points and then present the rest of the materials.
If you pick their interest in your “elevator pitch”, there is a bigger chance they will like to learn more about your game. If you try to include all of the info in one huge paragraph, the essence and the novelty of the game might get lost in the details.
As a publisher you must be approached by people all the time who just have an idea to pitch. What is the most common & overused game pitch you hear?
I don’t feel that there are any “overused” game ideas, as with Indie developers due to the smaller production scale they have a lot more freedom to experiment and take creative risks. So even if we receive a lot of game ideas within the action-RPG genre, every one of them will have a different hook or interesting twist to stick up from the crowd.
Have there been any issues with Coronavirus lockdowns impeding progress on Lumberhill?
When the government rung the first alarm bells about the pandemic outbreak in our country we quickly transformed our physical office in to a virtual one and worked from homes ever since. And as easy it was to move computers and other essential hardware in to our homes, the switch to this new way of working took significantly more time. Also the worry about our loved ones – our parents and grandparents didn’t help. In the end we had to push Lumberhill’s release a few months forward, but thankfully we are now at full speed ahead and focused on our goals.
Are you working with any other developers right now on upcoming games?
It is too early to share 😊
The industry as a whole has seen an increase in interest for indie games, throughout Coronavirus lockdowns. Have you noticed an uptick in developers coming to you with games?
Most of the game pitches come to us through gaming events that we participate in, such as Gamescom, and usually the devs include some kind of demo or tech demo in their pitch, which naturally requires some time to produce. Since the pandemic started around March I feel that if we might see the increase in the amount of the pitches presented, it will happen in 2021 once the devs will have sufficient time to gather their teams and produce first alphas.
What are the steps Another Road takes to ensure the development runs smooth?
Firstly, we conduct a marketing test; we fund, help to rework or create the Steam Page for the game and present it to the community. If it works out we push forward and fund the development of the game. From that point forward we start to work on the marketing and increase the awareness about the game (so this is not something that happens just one month before release of the game). We also provide QA to the developer if necessary, so they can focus on making the game and we can focus on making sure everything runs alright.
One of the burning questions for every indie developer is: how do I approach a games publisher? What advice can you give an indie developer who wants to get their game published with you?
It is the best when we have a pitch document and some kind of demo/alpha/technical demo to work with. Some important things we are looking for are: what is the overall quality of the presented gameplay, what genre it is, what are your past experiences as a studio, what is the USP of the game and what are the estimated development costs. It is much easier if the pitch document is structured in a way that we can easily deduce what is the essence of the project.