Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders is a mixed reality experience where hyper-realistic, life-sized robots invade your home through portholes that appear in your walls, floor and ceiling. This trailblazing technology lets players move freely around the room, inspecting allies and enemies up close, while defending Earth with an assortment of ray guns.
The game is set in the retro-science fiction universe of Dr. Grordbort - a world of rayguns, rocket ships and deadly robot miscreants. Developed by Wētā Workshop’s Interactive team, a division of film veterans, game developers and tech enthusiasts, the shoot style game is exclusively available on the mixed reality platform, Magic Leap 1.
Wētā Workshop's leap into the games industry began with our long-standing relationship with Rony Abovitz and his Florida-based mixed reality company, Magic Leap. When Rony proposed bringing Dr. Grordbort’s to life on the Magic Leap 1 it felt like pure science fiction. Thus, began the foundation of Wētā Workshop's foray into the gaming industry.
Rony wanted games for the Magic Leap 1 from the get-go. He saw videogames as the perfect problem to help shape a completely new computing platform. Games inherently have a huge focus on the user’s experience, so if you can solve a complex 3D game, then most other computing applications will start to fall into place.
When we started, there was no hardware other than this giant ‘beast’ benchtop device, a colossal light-field display that was bolted to a huge table and the rest was research and conjecture. But we started developing anyway, and to do that we had to invent every solution. Everything was a hack.
The journey wasn’t smooth sailing. No longer were our crew working within the tried and true, traditional flat screen format. Instead, the Magic Leap 1 uses six degrees of freedom allowing the player to move and look anywhere they choose. Not only that but the game can be set in any room, anywhere in the world. By scanning the intended play environment with a ‘mesh’ and the device learns its surroundings. This unpredictability had a big effect on the game.
The scanned mesh is the device’s understanding of the world. All of the game’s systems are based on this understanding. So, things like object placement, enemy navigation and pathfinding, and collisions with weapon effects (raygun blasts) are different, according to the room you’re in. Every new physical space generates a different scanned mesh. The challenge was to create systems adaptable enough to handle infinite variations.
Suddenly the methods of game development which our team had relied upon for their whole careers, were no longer viable. They would need to experiment and reimagine what they knew about game design from the ground up.
Solving these predicaments pushed the device towards a more human-centric control system, making gameplay more natural than using a keyboard and mouse. Mixed reality was designed to blur the lines between digital and reality and it therefore needed accurate, human-centred controls at its core, controls that work wherever the player goes.
Since the release of Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders, Wētā Workshop has been awarded a New Zealand Game Award, Wellington Gold Award and been nominated for both VES and DICE awards. This recognition is backed by those who have experienced it:
“That was absolutely brilliant!” - Andy Serkis, Actor.
“Wētā [Workshop] just debuted their augmented reality game…and it’s impressive. The robot battling Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders is the clearest vision of what Magic Leap’s platform can do.” - TechCrunch.
“Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders is a shining example of the kind of high-quality gaming already possible on the intuitive mixed reality device.” - VRScout.
Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders was seven years in the making. The purpose-built studio now develops a huge range of games, interactive experiences, and technical solutions for New Zealand and abroad. If you would like to collaborate with us on a game or interactive experience, contact us today.