Polybius Creator Jeff Minter Returns to VR with Moose Life

Moose Life

Jeff Minter under his Llamasoft studio banner has a long history in the gaming industry dating back to the ’80s, best known for arcade classic Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar. His first foray into modern virtual reality (VR) occurred with Polybius and he’s soon going to follow that up with Moose Life.

Moose Life

If this was from any other developer then you’d wonder what was going on in their head but Moose Life looks every bit a Minter creation. A voxel arcade videogame styled like it’s from the 1980s, Moose Life is described as ‘a trippy, psychedelic trance shooter’ featuring deer and mushrooms (naturally).

Just like previous projects, Moose Life is a visual feast of colour and techno tunes where you want to aim for as high a score as possible – if you can keep track of your character. Alongside the main campaign mode, the title will feature three additional gameplay modes depending on whether you prefer a more relaxed or challenging experience.

In ‘Free Ride’ you can enjoy an unlimited session without the need to worry about lives or score, simply enjoy Moose Life in all its trance-like glory. Then there’s ‘Normal’ where you can easily step back into any area that you’ve unlocked to improve your score and ‘Pure’ mode which is a single run through from the beginning.

Moose Life

Really though, Moose Life is best described in Llamasoft’s own words: “You play as a rainbow voxel deer battling to rescue tiny sheep from enemy spaceships, but that doesn’t really matter. What you’re here for is the feeling of zooming into the screen like some cervine Space Harrier, grooving to some tasty bleeps as you shred enemies into lovely colourful bits with a variety of enjoyably destructive powerups. Glowing stags will stream past your ears as you deploy the mighty “Stag Party” weapon that turns entire screensful of enemies into harmless, grateful deer.” 

If Moose Life looks like the kind of arcade-style challenge you’ve been after then it launches on 12th August 2020 via Steam. It’ll support HTC Vive, Valve Index and Oculus Rift headsets. For further updates on Llamasoft creations, keep reading VRFocus.

Jeff Minter: Tempest 4000 VR Mode Looks ‘Spectacular’ And May Get Official Release

Jeff Minter: Tempest 4000 VR Mode Looks ‘Spectacular’ And May Get Official Release

Jeff Minter has made great games for decades, but his reboot of Atari’s 1980 arcade game Tempest made him an international icon — and gave Atari a killer app for the “64-bit” Jaguar console. Now that Atari itself is rebooting, Minter has returned to give the company a crown jewel in the form of Tempest 4000, a more intense sequel to Tempest 2000 and its spiritual successors.

Speaking with GamesBeat, Minter addressed some of the biggest questions gamers have had about Tempest 4000: Is a VR mode coming? What’s going on under the game’s hood? How do you get past the most difficult levels? And what’s the deal with all those Indian food, KLF, and livestock references in the game?

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: PlayStation VR gamers were expecting Tempest 4000 to have a VR mode, and if any game would make great use of VR, this is it. What happened, and might you include PSVR support in a post-release patch?

Jeff Minter: We had VR working in our prototype, and yes, it does look amazing in VR. Getting everything fully working and certified in VR adds a fair bit to the development time; there’s a whole separate section of certification you have to go through on top of the already rigorous QA process before you can release on PSVR.

The powers that be wanted us to concentrate on producing a game that was consistent across all three platforms, and localized across six different languages, so that ended up displacing the completion of the VR mode.

I would like to add it back in if we get the chance, because it was spectacular and ran at 120Hz and 2x supersampling, as all our PSVR work does.

GamesBeat: Tempest was originally developed around a rotary controller. How did you adjust the controls for the analog joysticks most players are using now?

Minter: Analog sticks are halfway there already; the rotary controller allowed proportional control of speed along a single axis, and analog sticks already give you proportional control of speed, on two axes if necessary.

What the rotary controller had, and analog sticks lack, is a degree of physical inertia which affects how it feels to move the player ship. Of course we can’t add physical inertia to the analog sticks, but there is code that adds a little bit of programmed inertia to the control inputs to try and give something of a similar feel.

GamesBeat: Some of Tempest 4000’s stages are brutally difficult by design (including Destroyer), in part because you can only restart with a single life. Do you have any pointers or cheats for players who might get stuck along the way?

Minter: Ah, perhaps you are not taking best advantage of the way the Restart Best mechanic works. The idea is that when you reach a level, your lives and score are compared with the best yet achieved on that level, and if they are better they are saved, and on subsequent games you can start that level with the best lives and score you ever had upon reaching that level. You can go back and play earlier levels to increase your “best ever” lives and score for particular levels, and over time build up a kind of “best ever” game across all the levels.

Of course, the downside is that if you just about make it onto a level with one life left, and then get killed, you’ll be able to restart from that level… but only with the single life you had when you got there before. When this happens, it’s often better to back off a couple of levels, to a previous Restart Best where you had more lives in hand. With practice you’ll be able to push through and reach the higher level with more lives in hand, thereby giving yourself a better Restart Best point with more lives available.

GamesBeat: Many people consider Tempest 2000 to be the best title ever released for Atari’s Jaguar, and your Virtual Light Machine to be the single biggest highlight of the Jaguar CD accessory. What fundamental hardware changes (from the prior 16-bit generation) made those titles possible?

For Tempest 2000, the Jag’s blitter processor and accompanying RISC CPU supported a variety of modes, allowing for fast line draw and interpolating horizontal line fills. This allowed for the use of shaded polygons to fill the web, and via a bit of trickery, enabled the shattering-bitmap effects used in the game. 2D blits with rotation and scaling enabled the fullscreen feedback effect used sparingly in T2K, and more extensively in the Jaguar CD VLM implementation.

GamesBeat: What similar hardware improvements (in modern hardware) did you leverage to make Tempest 4000 special?

Minter: Modern GPUs allow us to remove the imperfections that I see when I look back on T2K on the Jaguar. The vector lines on the Jag were of necessity rather steppy and blocky, because that’s what the underlying resolution of the display dictated. On modern hardware we can render at silly resolutions and make the vectors smooth and lovely as they ought to be.

On the Jag, the frame rate could get a bit choppy when a lot of stuff was going on, but on modern hardware there’s a ridiculous amount of GPU power available, so the frame rate can remain perfect even at very high spatial resolutions. Not having to worry about running out of rendering power also means we can add more enemies, effects, and complexity to the game itself, and even add gratuitous extra stuff like fullscreen postprocessing effects to accompany certain in-game actions.

GamesBeat: Are there any differences between the PS4, Xbox One, and PC versions such as color rendition (HDR) or other features? If so, will players really be able to notice them?

Minter: The game should run pretty similarly on all three systems. We didn’t implement HDR because by the nature of the game, it’s not really going to add any visual benefits. HDR is best when you have a bunch of detail that needs to be extracted in a fairly narrow range of the gamut, and this game is bright and contrasty anyway, so I don’t think you’d see much benefit. If you can push to 4K, it’ll run at that resolution and look especially sharp and lovely.

GamesBeat: There are a ton of KLF, Indian food, and furry beast references in the game, all of which make more sense when cross-referencing your @Llamasoft_ox Twitter account. For those who might not know you yet, what’s your favorite KLF track, Indian dish, and animal?


  • KLF track: Well I love pretty much all their stuff, and the dance stuff that they are famous for is brilliant and fun, but my all time favorite KLF is the album “Chill Out,”, which is just an amazingly atmospheric semi-ambient mix that’s just perfect for the 4AM moments after 3AM Eternal.
  • Indian dish: There’s a lot to choose from here, but I do love a chicken vindaloo by default, and in fact when evaluating a new curry house, I always begin by having a calibration vindaloo to see what’s what.
  • Animal: Well I am very fond of bulls, and oxen in general, as you will likely notice when playing any of my games. But if I had to name a favorite it would have to be sheep — I have kept pet sheep for many years now and most people don’t realize how cool sheep can be as companion animals.

When treated as such instead of as “livestock,” they reveal themselves to be as full of character and as affectionate as any more “conventional” pet. We like to demonstrate that every morning via our regular daily “Morning Sheep Time” Periscope broadcast, where people can see us saying good morning to our flock, and see for themselves how lovely the sheep are.

This post by Jason Wilson originally appeared on VentureBeat.

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Llamasoft Reveal Plans for New VR Title and Polybius PC Port

Llamasoft have been in the videogame development business for quite some time, producing primarily arcade-inspired titles like the brilliant Polybius, which was released last year for the PlayStation VR. Recently Jeff Minter, one half of the Llamasoft team, announced that the company is working on a new virtual reality (VR) title.

Minter announced on Twitter that work has resumed on a stalled project which would bring Minotaur Arcade Vol 1 to PC with support for the Oculus Rift, later followed by a release on the PlayStation VR.

Minotaur Arcade Vol 1 is a compilation of two colourful arcade-style titles called Gridrunner and Goatup. They were previously released on mobile devices under the name ‘The Minotaur Project’, though the effort was something of a financial dud for the company and was pulled.

Financial success has proven elusive for Llamasoft, as shown earlier this year when Minter tweeted that Polybius had yet to break even, despite its very positive critical reception. The company were also embroiled in a dispute with Atari, who claimed Llamasoft’s PlayStation Vita title TxK violated their copyright. Thankfully that issue appears to have been resolved.

Polybius will also be getting a PC version. This had actually been planed for quite some time, but the ongoing issue with Atari put those plans in the back-burned. With those issues resolved, Polybius can now go on to wow audiences on Steam.

Jeff Minter has confirmed that the Llamasoft crew (all two of them) are preparing the Steam store for the launch of Polybius and Minotaur Arcade Vol 1. Both will come with optional Oculus Rift support, along with standard Steam features such as leaderboards and achievements.

Furthermore, Minter has indicated on Twitter that Llamasoft expects that all its future videogames will have some manner of VR support going forward, so fans can expect much more immersive enjoyment from that corner. A video of some Gridrunner gameplay is available to view below.

For future coverage of Llamasoft VR projects, keep checking back with VRFocus.

50 Days Of PS VR #3: Jeff Minter Brings Urban Legend ‘Polybius’ to VR

50 Days Of PS VR #3: Jeff Minter Brings Urban Legend ‘Polybius’ to VR

Just 3 days to go until the launch of PlayStation VR! We’re counting down to the release of Sony’s VR headset on October 13th by highlighting one game a day for its anticipated release. Today we’re reviving an urban legend with Polybius.

Given that gaming is still a relatively young medium, it doesn’t hold too many urban legends to its name. There is one rather fascinating story, however, about an arcade cabinet named Polybius. This mysterious game was said to have disappeared from arcades around the world shortly after its release in 1981 due to health issues experienced by its players. The legend will live on, though, when Jeff Minter releases what is essentially his own interpretation of the game on PlayStation VR.

Minter announced Polybius for PS VR earlier this month. The developer and his team at Llamasoft are known for their retro-inspired arcade shoot ’em ups like the recent TxK. He was even meant to be bringing his Minotaur Rescue series to Oculus platforms before seemingly cancelling the project due to legal troubles with Atari. His latest title shouldn’t be plagued by such troubles, however, making this something we’re really looking forward to getting to play.

But what actually is Polybius? It appears for be an incredibly fast-paced shoot ’em up, said to be running at 120fps on PS VR, though it’s not 100% clear if that reprojected from 60fps or running natively. In a PlayStation Blog post, Minter described his experience of seeing the original arcade game for himself just a few years ago, and since deciding to release his own take on the game on Sony’s headset.

Based on the video, we can expect some pretty thrilling gameplay that the developer stresses is comfortable and not subject to the same health troubles that the original apparently caused. Aesthetically it very much adhere’s to Llamasoft’s retro style, though the sheer amount of things happening on a screen at any one point in time is very impressive. We’re certainly hoping Minter is right when he says it won’t make you sick; this could be one of PS VR’s most addictive arcade games if not.

Minter hasn’t yet announced a release date for Polybius, though we’d expect it in 2017 at this point. PlayStation VR launches this Thursday, October 13th.