Long ago, when this site first got started, we used to cover consoles news with more frequency, just as long as it was related to arcades (arcade ports onto consoles and the like). Over time, we moved away from that a bit, since there are a plethora of blogs & websites that already cover such things, while out-of-home arcades were mostly ignored by the mainstream. That said, there isn’t any “rule” that such things still can’t be discussed here, hence today’s story about an up-and-coming title for consumer VR by LAI Games called Arcade Legend.
Before we get into this new game, one thing you might be wondering is: “Does this mean LAI is leaving the arcade business?” In the past, some companies jumped ship from arcades in chasing the console lucre. I sat down with Tabor Carlton, LAI Games Marketing Director and Shannon Perell, VP of Product Development to ask that question, and the answer for LAI is: No. They emphasized that the pipeline for future product development remains focused on arcades – but when the pandemic shut down such developments last year, they started looking at ways to adapt to the situation, while putting an innovative touch to the new product. They were already familiar with VR thanks to Virtual Rabbids – The Big Ride, so they began looking at what they could do with consumer VR that still kept a connection to their mainstay, the arcade.
Development on the game started around 8 months ago as a way for LAI to offer their own, professional take on the “virtual arcade” genre (i.e., an arcade-operation simulator). There are a few titles out there that do this – one I own is called Arcadecraft, and I’ve heard of others like Pierhead Arcade (which has a Speed of Light clone in it, along with knock-offs of other staples of the carnival & amusement scene). LAI for their part, is able to take it up a few notches by using virtual facsimiles of their own games including Stacker, Speed of Light, HYPERShoot, Let’s Bounce and more. For fans of these titles, it means you finally get to enjoy them in VR. Here are a couple of animated examples, starting with Speed of Light:
There are two main parts to the game, the first one being the sandbox element of purchasing, placing and playing those aforementioned games into a virtual arcade venue. These aren’t cheap clones, but meticulous virtual recreations, where the focus was on the game design first, not the jackpot. Many of these games have also been recreated by the same teams who designed & produced them in the first place. Just like in a real arcade, you can play these for tickets, which can be redeemed at the prize counter for virtual prizes as well as in-game cosmetic items like clothing, hairstyles, and more.
On top of that, these experiences are “augmented,” using the VR format to the advantage, kind of like how video pinball allows you to do certain things that you can’t do with physical pinball. VP of Product Development, Shannon Perell used HYPERshoot as one example: “Our first prototype involved authentically replicating the accessibility, aesthetics and audio-visual characteristics of HYPERshoot in VR. Then we explored ways to leverage the VR environment and augment gameplay further. When you shoot a ball, there is a nice trailing particle effect. When you sink a basket, sparks shower from the ring and bounce around the cabinet. When you’re on a hot streak and the commentator announces “the ring’s on fire!” the balls and hoop actually ignite into flames and you’re shooting fireballs!”
The second main part of the game is the story. A lot of the arcade sims out there just plunk the player into an empty room with some games and call it a day; LAI wants to recreate the feel of visiting a real arcade while incentivizing players to explore the grounds thanks to a little mystery in the mix. Per the official game website:
RESTORING YOUR ARCADE IS A GAME, AND THE GAMES INSIDE THE ARCADE ARE ALSO GAMES!
The arcade you’ve just inherited is shrouded in mystery and looks like it hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time…what happened? It’s up to you to restore your new arcade to its former glory, unlocking its secrets along the way, and as you do you’ll unlock new games, which are yours to play for free, forever! Arcade Legend is a game within a game, and what your arcade becomes is up to you.
When you first walk into this formerly awesome arcade venue, a mysterious custodian will provide guidance on what to do as you begin cleaning it up and bringing it back to life. You are given a pair of high-tech power gloves (little nod to a little piece of gaming history that some of you might be familiar with 😉 ), which allow you to manipulate the scenery & game placement to your liking, as well as play the games. As the user buys & installs more games, you build your reputation, attracting more NPCs into the venue. The better the reputation, the better your venue earns, and you’ll also begin to unlock other big secrets that the arcade holds. Up to four other real-world users can visit your venue and play your games, or you can visit a buddy’s arcade to see how they are doing. Shannon also hinted that there will be some Easter Eggs spiced throughout the game, although how tough some of might be to unlock he didn’t say.
To start, four of LAI’s games will be available, with more to come down the road; They are also in early talks with other arcade developers about licensing their titles to include into the game, and have already secured a deal with another manufacturer to include “one of the most popular games in the history of our industry” to Arcade Legend, with additional titles to follow. Any included games you can also expect to see them receive the same augmentation treatment, adding a little something to the mix that maybe can’t be done with physical games.
For those curious about what VR headsets are supported, this game will initially launch on Steam later this year, so if your headset can play Steam games, it can play this. Click here to visit the Steam page, where you can add it to your wishlist to stay apprised of additional developments. An early beta test will be launching soon, which will likely be the next piece of news on this one.
What do you think about Arcade Legend from what has been unveiled so far?
[Thanks to Tabor & Shannon at LAI for taking the time to talk with me about this and for providing the info. As a disclaimer, in case any were curious, this was not a paid-for post]