Early beginnings, a personal project
Nico always dreamed of creating a multiplayer adventure and life simulation game, where players could create their own world, develop a society according to their own rules and live there with friends. For 9 years, Nico developed a 2D browser-based version of his project alone.
During the first confinement, Jimmy joined him, and convinced him to start again his project in 3D, and after a year and a half of efforts, VirtualSociety Online was ready! This version was the result of many constraints in order to make a free and accessible game on browser. The graphics have been simplified to the maximum in order to make a game which weight hardly reached 16 Mb !
Starting over, full time
After the VirtualSociety online adventure, we learned a lot from the creation of the game and the feedback from our players. The non-generic characters and different dynamics of the game were appreciated, but several requests came up regularly: more realistic characters, and especially a phone and virtual reality version of the game.
We realized that the technologies we used to make a browser-based game (ThreeJS and Typescript) worked relatively poorly on phones and virtual reality headsets, and we were frustrated by all the limitations of the web: inability to use many textures (due to weight and therefore loading time), visual effects severely limited by WebGL, geometries of objects limited by weight, etc.
We then decided to build a brand new game that would be more in line with our initial expectations, would be available on mobile and virtual reality headsets, and would leave us free to realize the graphics and gameplay we wanted, without all the constraints of a web game. Our new VirtualSociety game is now developed with Unreal Engine.
A decade of development
VirtualSociety has thus strongly evolved over the years. Here are some pictures of the emblematic versions of the game.
During all these years, many people have supported the development of the game. We warmly thank Nicolas Blin, who drew many objects for VirtualSociety Online at the time of the 2D version with the integrated tool of the game IsoBuilder, Jean-Marc Debicky who realized several sound effects of VirtualSociety Online. Last but not least, we owe a lot to JodieDreams, who supported the project since the beginning, for her kindness, her unfailing support and all the good mood she brought us.
Joining the Inria Startup Studio
At the end of 2022, Nico and Jimmy became PhDs in computer science, and it was time to start their adventure: creating a startup. Having the desire to work full time on creating video games implies a lot of things, like creating a company, finding funds, etc.
Fortunately, different organizations and grants exist to help startups and independent game studios. One of these structures, the Inria Startup Studio, is located in the Inria laboratories, where Jimmy and Nico did their theses. So we went through the different selection steps to enter the Inria Startup Studio, and we were lucky enough to be among the projects selected to benefit from Inria's help!
This help brings many benefits (you can learn more on their website), including a monthly follow-up by the national ISS team, with people experienced in business creation, the allocation of office space and computers, an operating budget for travel, etc.
Clélie, who had already participated in the gamedesign of VirtualSociety online joined the team and is now in charge of the gamedesign of the project, while Jimmy is mainly in charge of the development and 3D modeling, and Nico of the development and communication.
The team expands
Over the course of the year, our team has significantly grown, increasing from three to six members! Mélissa joined us as a 3D artist and future art director of the game, accompanied by Chloé, who will be handling animations and 2D graphics. In just a few months, Mélissa has defined the new artistic direction for VirtualSociety, while Chloé designed the game's new logo and completely rethought the game interface. Finally, Paul joined us to work on the game's characters, a challenging task both technically and artistically.