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New South African VR game a crowd favourite for gamers

“Indie game development today feels to me like filmmaking in the 1970’s. This incredible technology has suddenly become accessible, and the market is large enough that you can try new ideas and make experimental work and still find an audience” says Tyron Janse van Vuuren, the innovator behind the new kid on the SA gaming block – Echoplex. 

Tyrone graduated from AFDA in  2001 and has made a living working primarily as a creative director but is also a filmmaker, blogger and into game design. “When I was growing up, I was a pretty obsessive computer programmer, and back then it was this really fringe, nerdy thing to do. I don’t code anymore, but I had an idea for a game, and I approached my friend Henk Scheepers – who is an exceptional developer, to work on it with me” explains Tyron. Together, the talented duo created a viable prototype and Echoplex was born.

A first person puzzle game, Echoplex can currently be played on Windows, OS X and Linux. Trapped inside the Echoplex, you are followed by an echo of yourself, who mimics your every move. To escape the Echoplex, you need to outsmart your Echo with the use of strategy and timing. The ingenious thing about a puzzle? You can’t sleep until you’ve cracked it!

Clocking in over 14 months of work on the project thus far, Tyron says: “I had an idea for a very minimalist system of corridors with very dense sound design – environmental sounds and footsteps following behind you. The look and concept of game developed as Henk and I collaborated on the project. We were joined this year by Ronnie Wong Ho Hip, who is responsible for the modelling and animation of the Echo character”.

The Echoplex demo proved to be a crowd favourite at rAge in Johannesburg this year – an annual video gaming, computer, technology and geek culture exhibition. Tech fanatics queued repeatedly in attempt to claim victory over the Echoplex conundrum, but only a handful were successful.

Virtual reality (VR) is a hot topic at present, with extended hype on the future of gaming, entertainment and education. Ultimately, the Echoplex team aims to create a fully immersive experience on VR. Tyron says: “As creators, we need to do a lot of work on creating emotionally expressive experiences in VR. So far, VR is very good at spectacle and thrills, but it’s yet to capture the fullness of the human experience, in the way that filmmaking currently does. VR certainly has the capacity to create emotion – it’s up to us to bring that to life”. According to Tyron, That Dragon Cancer and Thomas Was Alone are doing this increasingly well.

In relation to VR in South Africa, and the potential for VR to flourish in our country, Tyron explains: “Every serious platform for game makers today is international – as soon as your game is on Steam, GOG or Humble Bundle, you’re talking to a global audience. While I think that VR will be popular among those who can afford it in South Africa, I would encourage South African game developers to think global. The world is completely connected now and it’s time for us to step up”.

The Echoplex team have recently launched a Steam Greenlight Campaign, which can be supported here: http://echoplexgame.com/steam. To view the Echoplex trailer, follow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TYmRODYM6c.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in coding, programming, apps, eCommerce, gaming or web development? Apply for our Bachelor of Computer Technology (BCT) degree here: http://www.afda.co.za/apply/ . Contact Julia Holmes on [email protected] / 011 482 8345 for more information.