A few months ago we found Surreal when we were doing some research and digging in on some new social experiences to look at. We took some time to read up on their website.
And followed up immediately by contacting Surreal as we were amazed at the content and promises we were looking at.
Turns out Surreal was already far along the way to perfecting Social VR experiences as we know it.
That being said we got to talking and Surreal was willing to give us a early Gear VR alpha build to give us a taste of what Surreal is going to be like on the Gear VR.
The build they compiled however is nowhere near their current state of development.
So what is this Surreal and what is it all about?
Surreal is a social application where you can meet up, socialize (obviously), play, and explore (Surreal) worlds together with friends and strangers. This is done Cross platform so the audience is not confined to a specific platform.
Surreal will be available on all popular (if not all) HMD’s. And I’m very excited to write a piece on what Surreal has to offer. From what I’ve seen and experienced I can already tell you beforehand: It’s crazy.
Please bear in mind that this is in no way anywhere near their current level of development but merely a sneak peek as to what surreal can do. A lot of features and environments that are available currently are not in this build.
So what separates Surreal from all other social platforms you say?
Well they are working and implementing from the most powerful source of data available. It’s that cool thing in your head called a brain. We all use it but we never even write half the stuff down that goes on in there.
These guys do however. And that’s what separates them from the others. Surreal isn’t focused on reality and its limitations, Surreal is focused on bringing you freedom to have, do and experience anything you can think of.
I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening here. Taking advantage of the best hardware they can use, mixing that with some massive imagination, humor and obviously mad skills.
Surreal is why you wanted to enter Virtual Reality in the first place. Tear you away from the real world and start enjoying this whole other side of your brain that comes out to play way too little these days.
But you are not alone, there are more people out there like you waiting to make friends and explore unreal environments that have a lot of love and effort put into it.
What Surreal is reaching for is.. well I don’t know and that’s a good thing because limits are for people who’d rather stick to boring boundaries and don’t really want to make room for maximum creativity.
First off we get to see the character selection screen, there are a variety of characters to choose from right off the bat, I wasn’t even expecting this to begin with so that’s a nice way to start off.
The characters that we can choose from at this moment are male and female. But I suspect we’ll have an Alien model soon for the people who can’t really decide on what they are.
Selecting a character is a matter of a swipe on the touchpad or a quick nudge on the analog stick with your favorite controller. You confirm your avatar of choice by tapping or pressing a button on your control pad of choice.
For now, this all looks relatively basic but we already know for a fact that future customization possibilities are going to be more or everything you can probably think of.
From changing pieces of clothes to hair, skin, Body mods, tattoos, accessories and facial features. I wonder if I could join the reptilians and wear a mad lab coat with a lizard face. I’m pretty sure I could.
In this Gear VR alpha build there are currently three environments available to explore. (And here I was just expecting to be able to visit just one.)
In the first environment we have a cruise ship where you land on default which looks pretty darn sweet.
Of course I have my Twisted Reality friends Kai (on the PC) and AJ (on the cardboard app) here to help me out and observe how things look from a bystander point of view.
Without saying a word AJ is starting to make hilarious sprints around the swimming pool while Kai is throwing beach balls around. The character animations look very smooth and polished.
I just can’t get that sprint animation out of my head though! It looks like AJ’s legs don’t want to be a part of his torso anymore and are making a run for it. Unfortunately for those legs they are indeed glued stuck to his torso.
As I’m looking around on this very nice cruise ship I can hear the wind and the ocean water splashing. The sky deserves a screenshot though!
When I look up to the sky, my oh my! They look fantastic! Those look like genuine clouds to me.
A nice touch are the birds soaring through the sky and that huge whale occasionally splashing by.
Right now i can’t sit or lie down on the comfy looking beds right there on deck, but I’m sure a future build would allow us to chill out and enjoy the sun and relaxing waves while getting a little buzzed from sipping on some cocktails.
Now that I think of it.There should be such a thing though, the discontinued social app ConVRge had one simple yet addictive feature I was in love with: Eating some mushrooms and just enjoy the temporary colorful deformities in audio and visuals.
Okay so they were digital drugs, don’t judge me! It’s safer than the real thing and it worked on every end of my funny bone. So yea getting intoxicated after one drink too many would be a fun feature. But who knows, they probably already have it.
The second environment made available is that same cruise ship but this time covered in snow!
This sounds like nothing much, but it’s snowing and those snowflakes are coming down right in your face. The immersion in this snow wrapped environment is downright superb!
Whilst walking around on this snow cruise we were accompanied by the jingle bells song and a laughing cheerful Santa claus who’s hanging on the ledge.
I like these small touches, it’s doesn’t feel random even though they don’t exactly give add any real tangible addition to the experience.
Oh yes it does, standing in the snow sprinting laps and throwing different kinds of balls to Santa’s face is actually quite satisfying!
Additions like Santa just shows that even in the early build that wasn’t made for public they manage to put some fun into it and that’s exactly what I’m having. Just me, Kai and AJ Just kickin’ it, making weird movements trying to hit each other and Santa with snowballs.
Working in the Surreal team must be a whole lot of fun if you can implement fun stuff next to the bare essentials
The third environment is absolutely insane.
So you push the (what appears to be) a velociraptor? Button and now we’re teleporting back for what seems 16 million years on future technology.
At first I appear to find myself in just an ordinary jungle but quickly realize that I’m floating on a (“say Whaat?”) Military Drone! And it gets better.
I hear Kai going “whoa!” And as I’m looking around for Kai I noticed what the “Whoa” is about.
There are dinosaurs everywhere! I already knew that there would be dinosaurs, the button kinda’ gave it away. But I was expecting a few static models.
But the dinosaurs we’re actually roaming the Jungle floor! And the scale of these beasts are amazing! They made me feel so tiny! It’s not just on the ground though, the sky was filled with these creatures as well.
And finally the feeling I wanted emerged. Complete control over where i want to go.
Whether this is up, down, sideways, it doesn’t matter. Finally there is a social experience giving you the freedom to go as you please while awaking the curious George inside of me just wanting to fly over each corner of this jungle exploring for hidden species of dinosaurs that could be lurking behind a rock bed or in the thick bushes.
This is exactly what is so appealing about Surreal! Would it ever cross your mind to do a VR experience in the jungle? Maybe. But would you have dinosaurs roaming around? Okay, Maybe.
But honestly, would it cross your mind to add a Drone and fly around exploring the prehistoric jungle with your friends?
The creativity and ideas in that the surreal team has is incredible, these are the ideas you talk about with your friends over a few bears and go: Wouldn’t it be cool if.. And forget about it the next day, but Surreal takes those ideas that are way to crazy and just goes for it.
They bring the fantasy alive. And now it’s basically doing inception with your friends!
I can only imagine the crazy ideas they pitch to each other. Surreal aims to give its users unique social experiences, not only aiming for it. But hitting that bulls eye too!
Because I just experienced that feeling after visiting that jungle, fact. It’s also a fact that these are not the only environments that have been made.
We got to see New York and we also got to see a hint of a very cool looking nightclub but why stop there? No reason we can’t visit a medieval point in time or maybe just fly to that neat looking island way up in the clouds.
This demo just shows me that the possibilities in Social VR got expanded a whole lot.
I know, that sounded like a great ending to a review but I’m not done writing yet and you’re still reading so I know I’m good to cover a few more interesting things.
Obviously interaction is very important to any social application and for what we’ve seen now it’s going to pretty straight forward on pretty much anything, and you can also make It a lot more complicated if you want to.
But let’s start off with the easy part.
You connect a headset with a microphone attached to it and you are good to go on the audio part. The time I’ve spent inside the worlds of Surreal I have had no issues talking to Kai or AJ.
Not on the boat and not when we we’re flying those drones inches away from the T-rex’s teeth or up in the sky with the prehistoric birds.
When you’re talking through the mouth, it moves real natural, and a green microphone icon indicator appears above the player’s head.
This made me my brain instantaneously compare the mouth movement to that of Vtime and to be honest, In Vtime i feel like i’m a puppet talking to a puppet, the mouth moves randomly for an undefined amount of time.
Oculus social doesn’t have moving lips at all and just shows ring-like indicators when someone is talking. Altspace lacks mouths as well, but hey! In their defense robots have no need for mouths because They are robots (duh).
These social applications are used a lot and i enjoy them to bits. But as you’ll be able to tell soon enough. Surreal observed these applications quietly, took everything that was lacking, made it better and rolled it into one awesome package.
And when they got that done, they raised the bar by adding new features that none of other social applications have.
I already talked a little bit about this but next to just communicating verbally you get to throw your feelings around, whether you are happy, sad or in love.
For example, I dropped my feelings on Kai and to his annoyance my feeling towards him got hilariously stuck on his drone until he managed to finally shake it off after some maneuvering.
These memorable moments can be achieved with all the other objects that you are able to throw. So far in this Alpha build we saw soccer balls, tennis balls, baseballs, beach balls, snowballs and I’m sure there will be a lot more objects to throw in the near future.
You can obtain all these throwable objects by hitting a bulls-eye that appears at random spots for a small periods of time. Everyone gets to hit it so if you see a bulls-eye you’d better be quick about throwing something at it before someone else does.
Although we didn’t get to play with them in this alpha build, we know there will be pets as well.
And these pets will play, grow and progress with you while you play. Again, these guys are all about letting the imagination run wild.
Sure you can have a dog, cat, horse or a chicken! But if i want something more exotic like a dragon, a dragon I shall have!
Not only will the dragon be my pet, it will be my vehicle. I don’t need the drone if i can ride my dragon. I won’t need my legs to run if i can ride that horse.
I could probably even jump on Marty Mcfly’s awesome pink hoverboard on the run from a velociraptor while AJ is honking the Delorean and shouting something about hitting 88MPH and Kai is drifting donuts on his hovercraft screaming “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” At the top of his lungs.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what Surreal is cooking up for us.
Everything i’ve seen hands-on, read online and peaked about in video’s Surreal is just giving me that Yup: “Go big or go home” vibe.
There is no doubt in my mind that Surreal will dominate in the mobile social section based on what i’ve seen Right now.
To think this is an Alpha build with just a small fraction of what’s about to come real soon, I fear for the social apps that are out right now. But at the same time smile at the adventures that are to be had.
My thought is exactly the same for the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE. What we got to see in this Gear VR build is nothing compared to what Surreal has already done for the those VR monsters.
When Surreal hits the store, you would deny yourself endless pleasure not to go grab a copy.
The Twisted Reality team is unanimous in this.
Our Youtube preview Video
Update : Confirmed features on GEAR VR initial release:
– Full Avatar Creation (Sculpt your face, change clothes, swimwear, accessories, tattoos etc…)
– Point and award system
– Object throwing game
– User info and like system.
– Swimming Pool
– Dinosaur Island
– Confessions (One on one private conversations)
– Guess Game (Word guessing game)
– Music Club (Dance with people on Real local DJ tracks)