Seedling from Insomniac Games Lets You Save the Galaxy in Your Living Room
Insomniac Games' Seedling is a mixed reality video game that has you growing alien life forms to repopulate the galaxy.
Insomniac Games’ Seedling is a new mixed reality title for the Magic Leap headset. If you’re unfamiliar with mixed reality, it essentially goes a step further than both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) by allowing you to interact with virtual content in your environment naturally, like with your actual hands for instance. The Magic Leap headset attempts to recognize everything in your area, making everything that isn’t real feel real, by having the virtual content interact with the environment around you in real-time.
In Seedling you play as a cultivator of sorts, working with alien lifeforms in the environment around you. The alien lifeforms take form in exotic plants that can spring up on any flat surface. Your goal is to take care of your plants in short spurts, watering them, feeding them, and cleaning them up. I was genuinely surprised by how engaging the content was, and it does generally look really good in the headset; it’s quite amazing actually.
Upon starting my demo, an instruction manual plopped down on the desk in front of me. I was then able to turn all of the pages with my hands, look inside, read them, etc. From there, I got started with the actual cultivating parts of the game. The plant I got to play with was aged by a few days’ worth of gameplay. It was very impressive upon first glance: there were little bug-type creatures crawling around that I was able to interact with, and they would seemingly react differently depending on how much force I put in.
Now that I was at what I assume to be the main bulk of what users will experience with Seedling, I began cleaning up my plant by taking tweezers and picking at tiny leaves that were growing on it. From there, I gave my plant some water by using the headset’s additional tiny Wii nunchuck-like controller (which is used with only one hand). And finally, I used the tweezers again to grab these tiny orbs that I was then able to feed my plant through what I can only compare to a Venus flytrap mouth that was growing from its stem. There were other tools as well, but I did not have access to those during my preview.
Eventually, players will be able to expand their plant collection in whatever space they’re in, cultivating all sorts of different alien life forms. Just how far does the extent of that space go? We’ll just have to wait and see.
The Magic Leap was impressively able to track my hand movements quite well. I did have some issues with a controller that had battery issues but honestly, with technology such as this I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect some hiccups in an early format. Overall, I left genuinely impressed with what I had experienced in Seedling, and the prospect of where this technology could go in the future definitely has me excited to see what the team over at Magic Leap has in store next.
During the preview I spoke to Nathaniel Bell, the creative director of Seedling over at Insomniac Games, and asked him why a studio like Insomniac tackles projects this, considering they’re most well-known for creating console titles in the form of recent hits like Ratchet & Clank and Marvel’s Spider-Man:
“When it comes to making games, everyone at Insomniac loves pushing technological boundaries. We also love challenging ourselves,” Bell said. “So being at the forefront of mixed reality with Magic Leap is naturally exciting. We feel like we’re breaking new ground in the medium all the time — solving unique challenges only to be faced with new ones. It’s exciting!”
The Magic Leap headset has been in development for around two years now, while Seedling has been in the works over at Insomniac for a year-and-a-half. As far as where that technology can go, Bell said that there are tremendous opportunities to be had:
“From our earliest experiences with Magic Leap, we saw tremendous opportunities. It starts with integrating virtual content into our world – that’s pretty mind-blowing in and of itself. But that’s just the beginning,” Bell said. “The amazing stuff happens when you can present complex, believable relationships between the virtual and physical content, making them actually understand each other. In our minds, it’s not a question of if spatial computing will become ubiquitous, it’s a question of when.”
Greg Rinaldi, the director of developer and creator relations at Magic Leap, told me that the device itself is focusing on creators as opposed to being a mass market product right now. The device is made up of a small headset with lenses attached that track your eyes, the Wii nunchuck-style controller I mentioned earlier, as well as a very small circular computer that you can clip onto your pants: this has a wire that comes out of it that goes to the headset. The computer device contains an Nvidia-integrated GPU and CPU, alongside an Nvidia graphics card and 8 GB of RAM.
Rinaldi also mentioned that Magic Leap’s goal is to make the connection between people and computers more natural. On that note, Rinaldi told me that the team is partnering not only with developers like Insomniac Games, but developers stemming from all fields like entertainment, enterprise, healthcare, and productivity.
Magic Leap and Seedling really helped show me a new perspective through the literal technological looking glass. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where the hardware goes next, if Seedling is any indication to go by.