Virtual-O is a new orienteering reality

Posted on | January 12, 2017 | Category: News

A new orienteering computer game is on the market. A dedicated developer, feedback from an excited orienteering community and cooperation with the world’s biggest game distributer are some of the ingredients to make it a success.

Five beeps count down and off you go into the forest. You look at the map, orient it and make your route choice to the first control. The grass rustles as you cross it, creating a symphony together with the birds cheeping in the background. You run at full speed up the hills without getting a single sweat pearl on your forehead. All because it takes place whilst sitting at home behind your computer screen.

Virtual-O aims to be the newest generation of orienteering simulator for the computer. Some might know the game Catching Features from 2003, which has, for more than a decade, offered people the opportunity to practice orienteering while sitting in cosy surroundings at home.  Catching Features has been, and is still, well played in terms of being a simulator for a smaller sport as orienteering. It is no secret though, that the graphics have the feel of a game from 2003.

Peter Furucz from Slovakia is the founder and programmer of the new orienteering game Virtual-O. The concept is simple. A game that aims to give the same experience as running a real orienteering course. More words could be used to describe the game but the trailer is worth more than a thousand words:

The game can be adjusted to different levels. Both in terms of the course planning, but also the controlling, for instance with different running speeds and the easiness of handling the map. All made to apply to as wide an audience as possible:

– Virtual-O is made to target everyone from the hobby orienteer to top runners. Orienteers can improve their map reading technique by playing the game, and it is useful for schools and scouts learning map reading and orienteering. I hope it can be a help in introducing orienteering to non-orienteers, Peter Furucz says.

 

The first milestone

The idea for a new orienteering game has been in the mind of Peter Furucz for a long time, but it was first at the end of 2014 that the idea was put into action. He began the work all by himself, but an article on WorldofO a year later was a game changer for the project:

– An article about Virtual-O on WorldofO in September 2015 is maybe the biggest milestone of Virtual-O’s development. After that, feedback poured in and I decided it was time to build a community. Since then, the game has been built with feedback from the community, Peter Furucz says.

The community consists of a group of people who discuss online new suggestions and features that might be added to the game, and help decide what updates are the most urgent. Peter Furucz is still in charge and does the programming, but without the engaged people giving feedback the game would not have reached the current standard:

– The feedback has been crucial. Many features of Virtual-O exist thanks to the community’s feedback. From small things in user interface to core game concepts like map handling, he says.

The second milestone

Just as the building of a community of feedbackers has been crucial, so has the cooperation with the platform Steam. Steam is the biggest digital distribution platform for games and software, and has more than 125 million active users worldwide. Steam organizes so called Greenlight campaigns that, in short, are votes among thousands of small games of which the most popular have the chance to be adopted to Steam’s platform.

Virtual-O joined the Greenlight campaign in the spring of 2016. It gave a better result than Peter Furucz ever could have hoped for and the cooperation with Steam is the second milestone in the game’s short history:

– The result of the Greenlight campaign was fantastic. Virtual-O got a 14th place out of 2159 games with 4810 Yes votes. That was incredible for a hard-core simulator game like Virtual-O. Getting on Steam was a life changer for Virtual-O. It is a way of showing orienteering to the masses and introduce it to the whole world, Peter Furucz says.

With Steam as a window, Virtual-O has created awareness outside orienteering circles. For instance, the big computer games portal Rock Paper Shotgun has made a review of the game.

 

More features in the future

Since Virtual-O was launched on Steam on December 7 2016, it has experienced continual updates; some planned, others inspired by feedback from players. Peter Furucz makes no secret of fact that the game is not finished yet. At the moment, it is still a so-called Early Access version, which means it is ready to play, but is still under development.

Following advice from Steam, Peter Furucz will not make promises about future features or a final release date for the full version:

– Plans for release come as part of an ongoing process. Scope is influenced by community feedback and support, and new features and content are constantly added. Simply when we feel the game is complete we will release the full version, he says.

Instead of making promises, Peter Furucz has no problems telling what he would like to add to the game:

– The full game will be very similar to the current version just with more features. The main target for the coming time will be to increase the number of available maps. At some stage, I would like to add a ranking system. I know how important it is to have that competitive factor, he says.

 

Read more about Virtual-O right here.

A Virtual-O gameplay video with analysis:

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