Groove Jones is thrilled to announce the launch of a new experience that pushes the boundaries of VR gaming. Adventurers on Royal Caribbean International’s innovative cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas, can experience “Swashbuckler,” a custom-built, dedicated LBE (Location-Based Experience) VR game within Royal Caribbean’s Virtual Adventure Zone.
Virtual Adventure Zone: Zone Zero
Welcome to Virtual Adventure Zone: Zone Zero. The first fully immersive, 4D, virtual reality experience at sea transports you to dimensions you never dreamed existed.
Untethered, you’re free to roam, explore, and physically interact with the environment around you. Your adventure begins at the interdimensional headquarters known as Zone Zero.
Groove Jones worked with Royal Caribbean’s Product Development and technical teams to bring the 4D adventure to life. The leading cruise line’s commitment to delivering the most memorable vacations to travelers of all ages aligns well with Groove Jones’ agile approach to developing next-generation experiences for world-class brands.
Stepping Into Another Universe
Guests set off on their adventure as agents of the Interdimensional Security Agency, a special unit tasked with protecting different worlds and timelines. Once they put on the VR equipment in the headquarters – Zone Zero – players are briefed on their training simulation. What starts as a training simulation becomes an actual mission to recapture a mythical treasure stolen by the mysterious enemy known as the Kraken.
Players enter the launch bay and are transported into the Swashbuckler universe.
The Swashbuckler game is a walkable VR universe within Virtual Adventure Zone: Zone Zero where four players will step into a 12-minute steampunk pirating adventure. Innovative thinking and collaboration between Groove Jones and Royal Caribbean, physical props, wearable haptics, and a play space create the most realistic sense of immersion available anywhere – on land and at sea.
The game focuses on teamwork, combat, cinematic moments, and thrilling VR interactions to create an experience that is challenging, fun, and rewarding for everyone.
The pirating adventure begins within the Captain’s Quarters. Below are screenshots from the game that show off the creative details that the team put into the experience.
Each guest selects a proxy avatar, a unique physical character in the alternate dimension. Each character has their own special weapon and style.
Guests can use their time in the Captain’s Quarters to familiarize themselves with VR controls and check out their character’s outfits in the mirror.
Once players have assumed their character, a companion accompanies & guides them throughout the journey.
Outside of the Captain’s Quarters, players can look around and actually steer the ship to its destination, Skull Island, by taking the helm and turning a physical ship wheel.
As the ship nears Skull Island, the players are attacked by a fleet of flying Skeleton Monkey Pirates. Players can use the ship’s cannons to take out the enemy ships in the distance and fight with the minions being cannoned onto the deck.
The combat intensifies as enemy ships and skeleton monkeys continue their attack. The players’ airship is inevitably destroyed beyond a sailable state, and the players must use an escape vessel to get away.
Guests eventually escape to Skull Island on their search for the Kraken.
Groove Jones worked with Royal Caribbean to develop an experience that remains true to the combination of family-friendly, immersive, and highly memorable experiences Royal Caribbean’s cruise vacations are known for. In the game, players appear as a Proxy or Avatar.
Character Concept Art – Sailmaster Salem
One might assume that Sailmaster Salem was the captain of the ship, but they’d be wrong! Salem’s skills revolve around lifting, moving, and shaking, which makes him the crew’s muscle.
Character Concept Art – Sawbones Romero
Sawbones Romero is a mechanic and doctor, meaning that she’s always keeping something in working order— be it the ship or the crew.
Character Concept Art – Boatswain Bonny
The youngest member of the crew, Boatswain Bonny, is a captain in training. His leadership skills have yet to be truly put to the test, and whether he will lead his crew to glory, or demise has yet to be seen.
Character Concept Art – Parrot
In the game, players are assisted by a robot parrot that helps them with tips, tricks, and keeps them entertained with humorous suggestions.
Character Concept Art – Skeleton Monkey Pirates
Players run into the Skeleton Monkey Pirates throughout the game. They are humorous and deadly villains with glowing red eyes.
Concept Art – Skeleton Money Pirates Airship
The Skeleton Monkey Pirates terrorize the air in odd, sleek vessels. Some of them even have tentacles coming out of the back!
Concept Art – Airship
The players soar through the air on a high-tech, balloon-powered ship. It has taken them far and wide, exploring the vast airways of the swashbuckler universe.
Concept Art – Escape Pod
Unlike the Airship and its balloon, the escape pod is sleek and aerodynamic, meant for speedy getaways in dire situations. If you’re concerned about the lack of a parachute, the escape pod’s name says it all: the Fear Naut.
Concept Art – Captain’s Quarters
This is where the players enter the game. There are all kinds of fun things to do here. Buttons to push, levers to pull, and once the curtains pull back, reveal the Proxies (Avatars) that the players get to choose from.
Every player gets a special weapon. The team had a great time designing the different weapons – all of which have a unique animated state when they are retracted or activated.
Players wear a haptic glove to feel the weapons when they are activated or hit other objects (or a Skeleton Monkey Pirate).
Below is the final model of Gunny Ironside’s saber.
Even the Skeleton Monkey Pirates have their own set of weapons. Below you can see the assortment of crude tools they use to attack you and your crew.
Escape to Skull Island
Additional set locations inside Skull Island include a mysterious cave and the Kraken’s hidden lair.
Initial Boss Battle Art
The logo for Swashbuckler was meant to display as many aspects of the game as possible in the small space it allows. In the final design, our heroes brace for adventure opposite a gaggle of Skeleton Monkey Pirates while Skull Island looms in the background, all placed over a ship’s wheel.
Below, you can see the raw prototype space we created in our Dallas studio to develop the experience.
The 4D VR Hardware Gear
The mixed reality experience utilizes aspects of virtual reality, haptic feedback, and other physical effects. Guests wear an HTCVive Pro VR Headset, hand tracking sensor, feet tracking sensors, and a haptic suit containing 22 points of vibration that interact with a computer to power the headset.
The system is designed to allow its users to walk through and explore a virtual world freely; in reality, the user is confined to a “stage” equipped with ceiling-mounted, motion-tracking lighthouses to read the user’s movements.
The “stage” contains walls, special effects equipment such as fans and ropes, pulleys, a ship’s wheel, switches, and dials to provide physical feedback. These physical elements correspond with elements within the virtual world seen through the headset, increasing the illusion of immersion and dramatic 4D effects.
At the end of the experience, the team can pose for a keepsake photo. Below is a picture of the Groove Jones team that worked on the ship to install the game.
More information about the Virtual Adventure Zone
The Groove Jones team built the experience using Unity software and HTC Vive and HP PC backpacks to create this one-of-a-kind experience.
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FX Network: American Horror Story – https://www.groovejones.com/fx-american-horror-story-fearless/