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Had the pleasure to talk with the talented Ana Ribeiro. Let’s learn more about herself, her team, and their game, Pixel Ripped 1989. You can pick up the game right now for the PlayStation VR and Steam.

Thank you Ana for taking the time to speak with me today for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What were your favorite games growing up.

My name is Ana Ribeiro and I am a game developer from Brazil that is passionate about Virtual Reality and it’s possibilities as a medium. Started developing video games in 2011 while I was studying in London, and since then this has been an incredible adventure.

Ana Ribeiro

As a kid, I always loved platform games like Megaman, Super Mario, Sonic, Alex Kidd, a bit of Tetris, Duck Hunt, everybody who plays Pixel Ripped 1989 will get a nice picture of my gaming life as a kid, also there are plenty of references to other classics like Pokémon, Battletoads, Ghosts and Goblins and many more.I put a lot of my own story into that game, but I believe this sort of memory is shared by many people who grew up at the time.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Pixel Ripped 1989, Where did you get the idea to make this great game?

Pixel Ripped 1989

The inspiration was my own story of being a gamer in the 1980s, and growing up playing games my whole life. Throughout my life games have always been there, and I am sure a lot of people can relate to that special feeling of remembering the games you used to love. It was a very fun process to create this zany, magical story while at the same time bringing many roots from my childhood as a gamer and many references to games I love.

You’re currently the Game Creator, Designer, Programmer, Artist and also Cosplayer of Pixel Ripped 1989. Can you explain your roles and responsibilities? Who designed your Cosplay outfit its perfect. How many people were involved in making Pixel Ripped? What are there various roles. How much support has Arvore given you with this game?

Pixel Ripped 1989

The development of the game started in 2014 as a student project, back then I was helping in all the areas you mention, programming, art, production, design, and also we had many people joining the project since, during the first 3 years we were about 4 people. Some members had to leave to work on other games and other sticked until the end. When joining ARVORE, our team grew up to 7 new developers that helped to finish the project and give it the final polish you can enjoy today. Thank to all of them we turned a 15 minute long VR student project into a 2-3 hours game full of secrets and references to the classics, and something more important for all major VR platforms.

Full credits: http://www.pixelripped.com/press/

About the cosplay, my brother did the laser gun, helmet and shoulders, my ants did the clothes and accessories. It was made by family.

Can you explain to our audience what the game Pixel Ripped is to those that are not familiar with it.

Pixel Ripped 1989

Pixel Ripped 1989 is set in the 80s, and tells the story of Dot, a videogame character who sees her game world threatened by the evil Cyblin Lord, a villain able to break through the video game screen and invade the real world. In the game, the player inhabits Nicola, a second-grade student who must help Dot save both realities by facing challenges in the 2D world, all while distracting the cranky teacher and escaping from the furious headmaster in her own 3D world around the school.

During the gameplay, there will be moments when the video game characters you are controlling actually jump out of the handheld console and use the real world as scenario, creating kind of a hybrid world made of pixel and 3D objects around you. The player uses a look-based mechanic still underused in VR, that along with controlling the handheld game within a game feels natural as players strive to address challenges in multiple realities (the classroom, the handheld game).

To help you have a more complete idea about the “meta” level of the game in Pixel Ripped 1989. You have the most common Virtual Reality world type of immersion but also you get to be inside the handheld game you are playing itself, changing that retrogame reality from within, as a player with your old-school pixelated “magic” gamepad.

How did you come up with the graphic style of Pixel Ripped 1989?

Pixel Ripped 1989

The 2D graphics were created all by William Rodrigues and the 3D by Stef Keegan.

Were there any lessons learned from making Pixel Ripped 1989 that you will apply to future games you make?

I think the main lesson is to watch people playing the game as you make it. Test it and test it again with as many people as you can. VR games are a new thing and no design decision should be taken for granted – there are no rules that are set in stone. So try out things with as many users as you can. The reactions are always unexpected. Simple things have people react in ways you never imagined. In the early days there was a scene where I darkened the room and people would start screaming almost as if it was a horror game, while other things I expected people to react to would go by unnoticed. You have to forget all the pre-established rules and watch people play!

Were there any challenges or difficulties when making this game for the various VR Systems including the Playstation VR? Are there any major differences between making the game for the Playstation VR, Oculus Rift or Steam? Are there any noticeable changes?

Pixel Ripped 1989

Apart from the hardware which has different integrations, the biggest difference between specially Playstation VR and the others is the bureaucracy. To release a game on Sony it is a much longer process and harder to get accepted. The whole QA process for Sony took us 3 months more after the game was accepted on all other platforms.

Ana Ribeiro

Will The Pixel Ripped get a physical release on the Playstation VR, is this something you can currently discuss?

We are currently in conversations for that to happen, will be soon announcing more details when is confirmed.

Is there a Pixel Ripped 2 in production? What are you currently working on, might we ever see merchandise?

We want to make Pixel Ripped into a series of games, so we will create new installments of the game, each in a different era of the history of gaming, such as “Pixel Ripped 1995” with the 16-bit era, “Pixel Ripped 1978” with the even earlier days of videogames, and more. So yes, we are working on a sequel, and hopefully we’ll be able to announce it soon!

Do you have any advice for VR developers who are also hoping to create a high quality VR game for either the Playstation VR or any of the various other VR devices?

My advice would be to invite them to think in VR from the very beginning when designing their games. Pixel Ripped 1989 was born in VR, and was made entirely for VR.This is a new medium with its own language to interact with the player, the world, and design rules. We are all discovering them with each new game and that is why it is very important to stay in touch with the rest of the VR community, share your learnings, etc.

As an example, I don’t think it would have been possible or even make sense in another medium. This is because the point of the game is to transport you through time, to special moments that a lot of us share in our childhoods. This, and the whole design of the game within the game would simply not really work the same way on a computer or TV screen. Also having to focus on something you are used to doing in real life – such as playing a 2D video game – while in VR heightens the immersion a lot, as that layered experience makes you quickly forget you are actually in VR.

Pixel Ripped 1989

Before we end this interview is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I want to remark and recognize the amazing work done in the game soundtrack by our collaborators. The original music was created by Terrence Dunn, who he came from a film background so this was his first game project. I think he nailed it, not only the nostalgic style but the adventurous gaming feel. What’s interesting is that everyone who worked with sound in the game had an opportunity to work in two universes and soundscapes at the same time, the 3D world with real life sounds and music to evoke a real life nostalgic feel of the 1980s, and the 2d world with its retro-videogame sounds and music that could only be played in an 8-bit console, created only with synthesizers that could be used at the time. A lot of people who play the game think the game-within-a-game in Pixel Ripped was actually a real game that existed in the 80s because of how authentic the sounds feel.

Pixel Ripped 1989 - All Platforms Announcement Release Teaser - PSVR OCULUS HTC VIVE WINDOWS MR!
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The story of the developer wanted to bring players back in time to relive Video Game History in Virtual Reality.

Starting in the academia, on the road to the market.
Pixel Ripped 1989 is the dream of a true gamer at heart, Ana Ribeiro, who pushed as hard as she could to make her aspiration of becoming a game developer come true. With this game Ana wanted to teleport players from all over the world to a time and place that was the magic of being a child playing games in the 80s – with its midi and pixelated technical limitations, while at the same time, using virtual reality to constantly break the fourth wall at the service of boundless imagination.

FIRST EVER PIXEL RIPPED 1989 INTERVIEW:

FIRST EVER PIXEL RIPPED 1989 INTERVIEW
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All started back in 2010, when Ana had never even considered game design. Instead, she was working for the Brazilian government and nurturing a growing side business selling pies. But as she prepared to take her pie business full-time, she experienced a sudden change of heart. Ana didn’t want to be making pies for the rest of her life, she realized that she had been playing video games since she was a child. So she moved to the UK and enrolled in the National Film and Television School’s (NTFS) game development program. There she conceived Pixel Ripped and met her first development partners, Terrence Dunn, William Rodrigues and Stef Keegan. Terrence did the music, William did the pixel art and Stef was doing the special effects course and realized she wanted to work with games instead of films.

In the end of 2014 Ribeiro and her team decided to join forces to create a games studio that will develop Pixel Ripped from a final course project to a fully fledged VR game. They had to overcome all kinds of barriers to make this project a reality. Not only had they to content with the usual challenges of indie game development; lack of funding, hundreds of investor meetings that led to nothing and a failed Kickstarter. They also had to contend with immigration laws, working remotely and people on Reddit accusing them of being actresses!

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Ana started creating Pixel Ripped out of a passion for the 80s, video gaming and virtual reality. She worked tirelessly over a few months to create a short demo of her vision and released it on the Oculus Share for the world to see. As momentum for the project began to grow, with Youtubers and journalists singing the demo’s praises (the game prototype amassed 5M views in 3 months), Ana looked to start developing the game full time.

Youtubers playing Pixel Ripped
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4 years has passed and the Pixel Ripped 1989 evolved into a much larger experience packed full of 80s goodies, but Ana and team’s philosophy has never wavered; To do what they love, make cool stuff and spread a bit of happiness along the way. That drive and optimism ended up in a powerful partnership with ARVORE, a Brazilian VR Studio and Publisher that helped in every aspect the project needed support in: funding, Q&A, marketing, more highly qualified hands helping to polish the game in every area, and something really important here, a family where everybody takes care of each other.

Pixel Ripped 1989 Team

This partnership allowed Ana and the team to focus 100% on the development of the game and its sequels (see full credits at: http://www.pixelripped.com/press/).

Optimizing your resources and listening to players feedback. The path from a concept demo to a fully-fledged game as an indie developer.

The game was actually created originally for the DK1, and it was only a student project. That version was very different from what we have now, since we restarted the game entirely from scratch to create Pixel Ripped 1989. That original game was only 15 minutes long and today would only represent a fraction of the first level of the current game, which has 4 levels each with its unique boss fight. Also that version didn’t have many fun features – you couldn’t even distract the teacher – and it didn’t have tracked controllers to move the “Gear Kid” console around as the Oculus Touch had not even been announced yet. The game evolved tremendously from those early days, but seeing the response people had back then was what initially gave us the strength to keep going and improving the project.

The evolution during the development process happened during 4 long years when we were so lucky to be able to show the game to a lot of people as it grew and evolved. A lot of funny and crazy things happened at events and places where we were showcasing it. People going nuts when the 2D world characters invaded the 3D world, people apologizing to the teacher as if she were really there, all sorts of strange and fun reactions. There was a little kid who did not want to stop playing and actually peed his pants. His dad took him to clean up and 10 minutes later he was back to play some more. A guy at an event asked for Ana’s hand in marriage when he found out she had created the game. Once, a guy took off his Oculus and started crying his eyes out, telling us that he was ready to give up on games entirely, but that Pixel Ripped had rekindled what he liked and remembered about games from his youth. All these reactions and moments are great fuel for long nights of coding and bug fixing.

Celebrating a fantastic reception from critics and players.

Pixel Ripped 1989 got a really good reception, it has been considered one of the best VR games of 2018 by critics and players. Here are some of the more relevant accolades the game got so far:

Pixel Ripped 1989 Awards

  • Best VR Game at GDC 2018 – Tom’s Guide
  • Best VR Game Selection 2018 – VR Awards
  • IndieCade Selection 2018
  • Most Innovative Selection 2017 – Proto Awards
  • Best Original Score Selection 2017 – Proto Awards
  • Best Virtual Reality App or game 2015 – AMAZE Festival
  • IndieCade Selection 2015
  • Team Choice Award at PAX East 2018 – Marooner’s Rock
  • Team Choice Award at PAX East 2018 – Sidequesting
  • Game of the Year 2014 – Geração Gamer
  • Best Demo Pitch 2014 – Intel

We think the secret of its success relies in the fact that this game was born in VR, made entirely for VR. We don’t think it would have been possible or even make sense in another medium. This is because the point of the game is to transport you through time to special moments that a lot of us share in our childhoods. This, and the whole design of the game within the game would simply not really work the same way on a computer or TV screen. Also having to focus on something you are used to doing in real life – such as playing a 2D video game – while in VR heightens the immersion a lot, as that layered experience makes you quickly forget you are actually in VR.

An ode to and celebration of videogames as a medium.

Video games let us live in imaginary worlds, to embody all kinds of beings while we are put through a really diverse set of situations. Through history, many video game players have felt, at least to some degree, that barrier-breaking illusion of pure imagination; actually jumping into those worlds, and letting those fictional worlds jump into ours. Utilizing a look-based mechanic still underused in VR, controlling the handheld game within a game feels natural as players strive to address challenges in multiple realities (the classroom, the handheld game).

Pixel Ripped 1989

In the making of Pixel Ripped 1989 there’s been significant amount of historic research to be faithful to British 80s aesthetics and culture. The game graphics blend two worlds, the 3D virtual reality world of a school in London and the 8-bit world full of charming and thick pixels, thus creating a very unique atmosphere of fantasy and simulation of daily life that surprises and delights the players, and takes them back in time to re-interpret what’s going on as if they were kids with magic powers.

Pixel Ripped 1989

Pixel Ripped 1989 is not only a nostalgic trip. It breaks barriers, mixes gameplay styles, eras and technologies, and – at its core, is a compelling and fun game. It is an ode to and celebration of videogames as a medium and a true tentpole of gaming in Virtual Reality, with the mission of challenging and unite generations of gamers to celebrate the pure joy of video games.

A final tip for game developers, particularly the ones in VR.

The main lesson for us is to watch people playing the game as we make it. Test it and test it again with as many people as you can. VR games are a new thing and no design decision should be taken for granted – there are no rules that are set in stone. So try out things with as many users as you can. The reactions are always unexpected. Simple things have people react in ways you never imagined. In the early days there was a scene where we darkened the room and people would start screaming almost as if it was a horror game, while other things we expected people to react to would go by unnoticed. You have to forget all the pre-established rules and watch people play!

Pixel Ripped 1989



About Tech Wiz X - Contributor

Steven (TechWizX) has been into video games since Pong. When he's not playing video games or collecting Vintage 80s Toys he's running his YouTube channel.

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