inspired by TITMOUSE's annual festival, smash party vr is a physical arcade party game about smashing things
Created in partnership with Titmouse Animation – we did the development, design, and they did the art direction and art assets – Smash Party VR is about the simplest interaction you could have in 6 DOF VR with hand controllers: swinging and hitting things! Lucky for us, Titmouse already had an actual festival to theme it after. Our first first-party party VR game, Smash Party VR became a popular title for streamers, was featured at the 2017 Titmouse Smash Party, and officially premiering at South by Southwest 2017 before being released widely on Steam.
It was the Fall of 2016, and Viacom NEXT had some down time between two major projects. Our team was itching to develop a short, bite-sized experience for the Steam VR store, taking advantage of the increased interest in room-scale VR at the time. What would be amazing is if we could get a well-known collaborator signed with the project, and there were several discussions with our internal brands at Viacom to find such a person, but that yielded little fruit.
Meanwhile, our friend Chris Prynoski at Titmouse Animation had been trying to build projects in Virtual Reality for a while, but was not able to find the means to do so in-house. While catching up one day, he mentioned this offhandedly and wondered how difficult it would be to create a VR version of the annual Titmouse Smash Party, a rowdy open-air invitation-only festival of animators destroying old junk with sledgehammers.
We weren’t one to turn away from serendipity, and so an agreement was quickly worked out – Titmouse would handle all the art, while Viacom NEXT would do all the design and development.
Cheered on by a spectacle of animated characters penned, inked, and colored by renowned animator Chris Prynoski himself, you are a beast in a metal cage charged with destroying round after round of dubiously fragile household objects, shiny new tableware and phosphorescent toilet bowls. The velocity, angle, and impact direction of every swing matters, as does the joint-smoking moon who grants you a charge of energy via your razor-barbed baseball bat. Every round brings surprises, from collapsing floors to time-dilation tactics, to bonus rounds with an aggrieved projectile-launching octopus. At the very end, see how you compare with your peers via local and global leaderboards, a call to return to do better next time.
The guiding philosophy that we’d adopted for all our VR experiences was to always maintain that you’re having a ‘conversation’ with the digital space. So all interactions needed to be clear, messaged, reactive, and fluid. Swinging an object to hit and therefore ‘interact’ with something is a very rudimentary, intuitive action; and this worked to our benefit to create an experience that was immediately fun, clear, and understandable to folks of all demographics and interests.
“VR is getting very, very good” AV Club
“’Smash Party VR’ Is Just Asking You To Break Your Vive”. UploadVR
“The Titmouse Smash Party was a Blur of VR and IRL Destruction”. Playboy
“’Smash Party’ Is Distilled Destruction Coming Free To HTC Vive”. UploadVR.
“Titmouse’s ‘Smash Party’ proves that smashing stuff still feels good in VR “ DigitalTrends
“Your new favorite stress-reducer Smash Party VR is available now, for free “ KillScreen
My Role: Creative Director
I led the team through the conceptualization, vision and design of the experience, working closely with designer David Palumbo on finessing the pacing, level, and interaction design of the experience. There was a clear, concerted attempt at making this experience significantly more fun than a ‘whack a mole’, which thanks to a lot of great work by David was ultimately achieved.
In addition to managing the resources, the relationship with our partner Titmouse and leading the project from pitch to ship, we also initiated the search for a full-time producer to project manage this and all future experiences as Viacom NEXT began to scale up.
We also asked Chris very nicely for an introduction to his PR crew at Plugged in PR, where the wonderful Heather Sorenson joined us to help lead the launch of the project.
David Shiyang Liu
Producer + Audio Design
Game Design + Art