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This article is sponsored by VistaVenus.
VistaVenus promises to be a new multiplayer experience on mobile, blending gaming and entertainment in the palm of your hands. In your own words, what is VistaVenus and what can players expect from the game?
VistaVenus is a super-fun, social, story-led open world that’s launching on mobile – an immersive, persistent online experience that replicates the richness of reality, using fantasy to celebrate it and to improve it. Aimed at young teens, our players and characters unite to become their best selves in a creative, collaborative, safe and entertaining social environment. The result is an exciting mix of platforming and boss fighting, in a vibrant, stylish world with a plethora of customisations, that’s populated with diverse characters, missions, content and zeitgeist stories our audience really cares about.
What games have inspired VistaVenus and are there any that nail particular mechanics well?
We‘ve been inspired by the platforming feel of Mario Odyssey, the customisations of Animal Crossing, the roam-around open-world feel of Genshin Impact, and the social feel of PKXD. We have also been inspired by the rich content depth of other forms of entertainment, such as Crunchyroll and Spotify.
It’s a very old reference, but Motorstorm on the Playstation inspired the fact we could create so many ‘in-house brands’ – we’ve already designed 100+ with a target of 500! This brand-rich aesthetic now harmonizes brilliantly as we welcome real-life brand partnerships into our VVorld, such as how brands populate Fortnite. Another thing that inspires us are the Disney theme parks. We love the way they are segmented into specific areas. City and urban design is also very inspiring to us. We love how specific forms of habitation, entertainment, and shopping have very defined destinations and locations. Their venues never change, but the content within them constantly evolves and refreshes.
You must have a big map! What can players expect to see?
Our map is full of different experiences. Within ‘the Circle of Life’ (our ring-road – a little like the M25 Motorway) you’ll find content-related venues such as Popcorns where you can watch content; Music Matters where you can discover and listen to new music; The Zap where you can play mini games; the Vendor Centre where you bag the latest virtual merch drop, and if it’s your thing… Unwind, a venue for Mindfulness & Meditation. But beware, once you venture outside the Circle of Life, the balance of harmony can quickly shift to havoc!
Talk to us about the character design. Why do characters have the abilities they have?
Our characters have all the abilities required for our VVorld to fully function. Aesthetically they were inspired by the wonderful work of Max Fleischer, mixed with a modern colourful graphic/ typographic feel. They’re a replication of reality inspired by the rich-tapestry of real life. We’ve
created over 100 fully bio’d NPCs so far, that players will gradually meet as they progress deeper into the VVorld of VistaVenus. For continuity, every character’s name starts with the letter V – such as Vinyl our DJ, Velo our Courier, Viva our Queen, and Vocal our Virtual Tour Guide (who also runs our @vistavenus TikTok channel btw!). They all perform specific roles within the gameplay, the narrative of the functioning VVorld. Some have specific jobs and run related venues for example; others have specific needs, knowledge or skills – the better you connect with each character, the deeper you become connected into VistaVenus VVorld! It’s imperative to us, that our characters’ background stories are super-relatable and realistic – warts and all. For example, we feel it’s important to show that life can be hard sometimes and that ‘perfection’ is dangerous to aspire towards.
Alongside our society, we’ve also The Ventricles – a 48-piece band of musical maestros who are on a mission to spread harmony across VistaVenus. The word on the street is that they’re the Galaxy’s Greatest Covers Band – their pitch-perfect ‘cover’ renditions are so spot-on they even sound identical!
Challenging the players progress are The Viles – a group of mischievous mayhem-makers – who will stop at nothing to run havoc through the harmony of VistaVenus.
So you have baddies and boss battles too! Tell us more about them and what inspired them and their mechanics?
VistaVenus is all about balance, so it needed to have a ‘bad’… to it’s ‘good’, a Yang… to it’s Yin as it were – so that’s where The Viles come in. The Viles are a 13-strong gang of wrong-doers who’ll try everything – from coercion to obstruction – to hinder the harmony in VistaVenus. Vengeance, the Intimidator, for example has a thuggish feel about him similar to Bowser. Nintendo Boss Fights have been so inspiring as they have that great mix of strategy, fun, grind, violence and gore that’s not too over the top – and so still age appropriate. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a great example of mechanics that compliment each other, that the player needs to grind through in order to obtain. Our Vile character intros, and attack mechanics are achieved in a similar way. You also can’t go wrong with old-skool boss fights like Sonic the Hedgehog (1) Vs. Dr. Robotnik!
We really didn’t want to go just down the violence route for baddies though – so we’ve created Viles such as Vacuous & Varlet, who are two potty-mouthed top-hatted tearaways. They’re kind of a cross between Pinky & The Brain meets Beavis & Butthead. They’ve always got a dodgy plan brewing, or a mischievous short-cut being masterminded. They even got a TikTok trolling account they’re about to launch! Ha!
The world of VistaVenus is specifically geared to younger audiences, but has enough to keep audiences of all ages engaged. What are the key features that cross this bridge and unite players young and old?
Strong storylines, rewarding macro & micro core-gameplay loops, a positive and progressive community feel, interesting content that feels like you’re always discovering something new, and a timeless slapstick feel with Simpsons-esque comedy ‘easter eggs’. Successful brands and experiences are based on emotive connection – of personal resonance between the audience and the product. Laughter, unity, fun, imagination, discovery, social-connection, community and progress are all ageless entities. We are making an encompassing experience that is safe for Gen Alpha, but has the depth and authentic truth to traverse many age categories. It’s so important to never patronise an audience. Our in-world soundtrack is a great example of this – each venue even has its own original theme tune based on the personality of the experience – check out our SoundCloud – we happily mix up everything from from Pop to Punk, Reggae to Rock and Disco to Dubstep.
Our characters are also overflowing outside the game too, such as on social media where audiences legally have to be over 13 – here we can be a touch more boundary-pushing with our content/messages. As our players grow in age and experience, we hope they come onboard as ‘VV Backstagers’, helping to shaping new content before it’s live. It’s a great way to keep narrative fresh, relevant and zeitgeist relatable.
It seems that a number of core values were at the centre of the games development. Can you explain what these values are and why they’re important to you as a developer?
VistaVenus literally means… a ‘view’ of love’. A view of love of Ourselves, our Environments and the People around us. And then, most importantly, what happens to those things when love is taken away. Our values are Inclusivity, Exploration, Ingenuity, Purpose, and… Raising your central digit to mundane normalities and out-dated formalities.
Why is a game like VistaVenus important in today’s market?
In a world seemingly full of Division, Anger, Hatred and Confusion – VistaVenus offers a Positive Alternative – a VVorld that safely promotes both personal growth, and community growth – alongside engaging multi-pronged entertainment experiences, giving young players of a certain age a virtual safe place to socialise, discover and game – that is hard to (age-legally) do at present. Young audiences are impressionable, and at the moment they’re consuming all kinds of content, across all kinds of channels, that promotes a rather unhealthy filtered-fakery of unobtainable perfection. We’re interested in showing the truth, and the imperfections of life. We want to build a safe-space that celebrates differences, where users feel represented, and where in-game stories are relatable and enriching.
What are your views on games such as Fortnite? And where does VistaVenus sit in this ecosystem?
We think it’s always important not to try to go directly up against the big-boys like Fortnite – what they’ve created is obviously amazing. Being an indie start-up we could never compete at the same game as it were – so we’re specifically interested in the things that Fortnite can’t offer – such as a new brand experience for a new generation – and a game that’s not centred around violence. If Fortnite is about 100 people going in and only 1 surviving in the end, then VistaVenus is about 1 person being down, and 99 people going in to lift them back up! We’d hope we were the opposite to be honest, a ‘blue-ocean’ that attracts all the players looking for an alternative. If you want to make a splash in the drinks market, you don’t make a Coca-Cola carbon copy.
Similar multiplayer online titles for younger players (Roblox for example) have received significant negative backlash in the recent media. How will VistaVenus be different to these titles and break free from these negative associations? What safeguards are in place to protect younger players?
VistaVenus is a uniquely curated open-world experience, as opposed to a mish-mash of UGC sandbox games, all of hugely varied quality, and some of questionable content matter. This means we can ‘police’ our environment far more easily. Player Verification is also super-key for us. We’ve even got a character called Verify V Venus who helps players onboard, as Verified players will have access to far more content and a much richer experience, such as the ability to open voice chat and messaging – as opposed to menu option-only messaging for example.
They can also form Collectives of friends to play with. We’re also exploring an aligning parent app – something that means they authorise in-game transactions to ensure their offspring don’t use their cards without their knowledge. In terms of advertising we’re plugging in ethical programmatic advertising such as SuperAwesome in order to make sure any ads served to our audience are age appropriate. But there’s a reason why our target audience of 9-13 is so overlooked, and that’s basically because they are a harder category to legally monetise. Running a networked game is hugely expensive, and now everyone expects everything to be free, we must build trust back with players and their parents, that paying for a product through a subscription is by far the best way to keep your data, or your child safe in the digital space, and to fund enriching valuable experiences. How do we go back to creatively-driven experiences, as opposed to over commercially-driven experiences? We need to give audiences content that’s right for them, and not just right for commercial sponsoring partners – the sweet-spot is a happy medium for both. Because it’s those creative experiences that are going to positively and purposely be beneficial to our players the most.
There seems to be a big push on promoting ‘purpose with play’ in the world of VistaVenus. How is this reflected in the world of VistaVenus and how can players have a rich gameplay experience from the world?
The core of the idea and company is purpose-driven gaming. We’ve even trademarked ‘Purpose In Play’ as we believe that the whole experience should benefit our audience in some way – a purposeful use of their time – whether that’s content discovery, learning from storylines and strategic thinking in missions to social connection, teamwork improvement and holistic development – all mixed together with bonkers amusement and laughter to release feel-good endorphins! We basically want people to exit VistaVenus in a better personal place than when they entered it. We call the strategy ‘chewy Vitamins’ – but most importantly VistaVenus is a very fun experience; it’s designed to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality to begin positively influencing our players’ real world lives and wellbeing.
It seems you’ve built a bit of an all-star team to help work on VistaVenus. How did you go about building this team and how do the skillsets of the team complement each other?
By being completely honest to them about the ambitions of the brand and the project – and by also presenting the full 20 year vision of VistaVenus – even before it’s started. Then by quickly admitting how ridiculously big the idea is and how totally out of my depth I am trying to create it all on my own! Ha! Joking aside, VistaVenus is here to buck the trend. It’s a breath of fresh air. We’re a collective of professionals that have deep experience in all kind of sectors, not just gaming. The advantage of this is that we’re approaching the project in a completely unique way of how a game is usually being made. I come from a global brand building background for example, our COO comes from a mobile games production and development background; we then have a head of product with vast AAA experience; musicians who bring a whole new feel to the audio experience; writers who come from a longer-form, soap-opera background; marketing
superstars who have deep knowledge in launching social media campaigns across many different sectors and channels; business advisors who have run £100m+ revenue companies who specialise in automation and in their own words… ‘blockage-clearing’; another business advisor with vast children sector knowledge and the experience of running a $4.2bn yearly global revenue; an IP specialist with experience guiding some of the largest IPs in the world, such as StarWars; and let’s not forget our wonderful Angel investor who’s the founder of a brilliant creative agency and used to be a fantastic fashion photographer too.
As a new studio to the market, what is the vision for the team?
The collective team vision is very much aligned with the product vision of Purpose in Play, ethical business practices, and creating something that leaves a positive legacy. Something that gives back, almost philanthropically. We’ve all got experience creating or running huge global brands – now it is about taking all that knowledge, applying it to a virginal start-up, and creating something specifically new, authentic, truthful and beneficial for the next generation.
This all sounds incredibly exciting and we can’t wait to get hands-on! What are your ambitions for the world of VistaVenus? What can we expect to see from the world and the game in the coming months? How can readers register their interest ready for the game launch and when can we expect to hear more on the game’s development?
The next coming months are all about building the community across our Socials, continuing to strengthen investor and partner relationships, and also refining our MVP based on our test players’ feedback. Our community’s opinion is really important to us – we’re hoping that people see and understand the positives we are trying to create and jump on board and help us. There’s a registration tab on vistavenus.com to join our Alpha Playtest – for those that want to keep up to date and grab a behind the scenes glimpse then hit up and follow our @vistavenus TikTok and comment with your thoughts!