In this edition of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we take a closer look at Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia. A fantasy puzzle VR game where you will get up close with music-inspired creatures and discover music-based magic on your quest to save the Harpa coming to PlayStation VR.
Interview with Jason Parks, CEO of ROTU Entertainment
Welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at ROTU Entertainment?
“My name is Jason Parks, CEO of ROTU Entertainment. We are an immersive entertainment company based out of Boston, Massachusetts. Thank you for having me.”
ROTU Entertainment has a great portfolio with titles such as Welcome to Earth that include musicians and vocalists from all over the world and Anthem for the Amazon in helping to save the rainforest. What can you tell us what these projects mean to ROTU Entertainment and you?
“Our previous music videos, live shows, and documentaries utilized over 1000 musicians representing citizens of over 90 different countries. This was the catalyst for who we are today. Everything we learned from each other’s unique musical style inspired the IP, Rhythm of the Universe. The idea that music theory symbols, note names, everything that musicians “speak” turns into lands, people, ecosystem, storyline arcs, and everything for a new and unique IP. Our previous projects also taught us to use our art to help the world directly. As a result, we donate or work directly with nonprofits.”
Your newest project is about to release called Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia. What can you tell us about the game?
“IONIA is a single-player fantasy-adventure puzzle VR game for all ages. Imagine a world where the universal language of music shapes history. For some, the power of vibration and sound can control flora, fauna, and so much more. These special people are called Modus. Additionally, distinct lands based on music modes are on the continent of Pangea; Ionia is the lush “Amazon” like forest. Ionia has a fragile ecosystem, and the Harpa is the heart and soul of the Ionian forest. With every tree felled and burned by the approaching Tritone army, her spirit weakens. You and your sister Allegra are Ionia’s brave new heroes, embarking on a quest to heal this mythical creature before it’s too late. As you follow Allegra on her journey to save the Harpa, you’ll soon discover that your every action has an impact on the world around you.”
What can players expect when they get up and close with the music-inspired creatures in the game?”
The Harpa is the heart and soul of the Ionian forest. What can you tell us about it without giving away too much?
“The Harpa is a giant flying creature. It has bright blue stringed wings and produces the brightest
light in the dark Ionian forest with a long antenna. It’s also known as Pan’s Light. Harpa is a mythical creature. There are many legends and story tales about this unique creature. Harpa is very rare, and there are very few people in Pangea who have the honor to see her. Elders say that Harpa appears to pure souls.
Harpa loves eating deadly Moths. The bright light Harpa produces attracts them. So this way, Moths become the most significant food source for Harpa. When Harpa is excited, she opens her mouth and screams, like howler monkeys mixed with T-Rex. Also, her throat makes rhythmic wooden noises. She exhales low Pan flute sounds. Her wings have strings and each string has countless tiny micro holes, so when Harpa swings and flaps them, air goes through in between those holes and makes harmony.”
The hero, Allegra seems to be very proud of their home and what it stands for? Can you give us some history about the character?
“To answer that, here is a QA to better understand the character:
● What ages are both Allegra & Allegro?
○ Allegra is 16, Allegro is 13
● What is their village like?
○ Not a village, a city. Similar to Lord of the Rings elvish. Made from organic
materials. Roughly 1mil inhabitants.
● Do they go to school?
○ Yes. The school is very structured. Lots of rules. Ionians have their own religion
(Ut), and are somewhat strict about such. Expect perfection.
● What kind of professor is Babaton to them?
○ The most empathetic. Not Ionian born. Understanding. Only one accepted from
the outside world due to his knowledge, experience, and expertise. He saved one
of the Ionian elders. Somewhat quirky. Dumbledore/Yoda/Gandalf.
● *What is the significance of the Elders? Who are they? Do they interact with Allegra &
Allegro at all?
○ They are the ideal modus. There is an elder council – the Ionian elder was the
first and is still alive. They don’t like to talk about emotions. Not as empathetic.
● What kind of language is “Ancient Ionian” in comparison to the current Ionian language?
Assuming the current language is not English, what is it called?
○ Ancient Ionian: Melodic. Current Ionian: Blended between melodic and rhythmic
phrases (reverse speaking)
● How many species are there in Ionia? And where can I find more information about them
(size, habitat, diet, demeanor, etc.)
● What is in the Book of Nozamas (what Allegra carries around)?
○ An ancient book, a religious book, native to Ionia. Created from the very first
Ionians (after the tetrachords – Gods, all modus). Information about all of Pangea.
Some myths, some puzzles. Needs to be deciphered.
● What are the tablets used for?
○ They are representations of ancient hieroglyphs. Activators. Tablet stones also
have vibrations themselves. Can use stones as key: mystic vehicles to open
● What was in the Ionian temple (with tablets) before it fell? Was this a place Ionians
would visit regularly? Or is it only accessible to authorized Ionians?
○ A ritualistic place. An ancient library. Accessible to all Ionians.
● Why is the Ionian forest off limits?
○ Only off limits to children bc it is a sacred land and is dangerous.
● Why aren’t more Ionians helping to save the forest?
○ The elder sealed the city as protection against Salius Locrius who believes the
Ionians will go in and save the city.
● Do Ionians ever interact with the surrounding 6 lands? If so, how often?
○ Yes. Katarian Modus can communicate with all. On occasion will go to visit other
lands – for a mission/purpose.
● What is their mode of transportation?
○ Foot, nature, opening portals. Ionians are the teachers of these modes.
● Do they have technology? Are they civilized?
○ Yes civilized, but rely on nature.
● What are Allegra/Allegro’s parents like?
○ They were elder Ionian scientists. Allegra & Allegro are orphaned. Part of the
reason why Babaton has become a father figure of sorts.
● What is an average day like for an Ionian?
○ Mostly meditation & study, keeping the harmony. Live by example.
○ Kids play games & have sporting events.”
Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia is the first of seven games in the series. Do you plan on releasing the future games annually and will Allegra play a bigger part in them?
“Great question. We are moving away from the term VR series. We realized it is misleading and suggests a continuation of the story. Each game is unique and based on entirely different gameplay, land, characters, and story. The only tie is the more prominent IP, the world they all live in, the Rhythm of the Universe. We cannot announce anything about the second game but let’s just say the ROTU team is busy.”
You teamed up with the non-profit organization, Australia Wildlife Warriors. What can you tell us about them and how important is it that ROTU Entertainment and the Australia Wildlife Warriors form this partnership?
“Finding a nonprofit public partnership is not easy. Many legal requirements make it difficult, but ROTU feels it is our responsibility to make a game about protecting wildlife and contribute to the real-world efforts that are greatly needed. After a lot of research, Wildlife warriors was a perfect candidate for partnership. WW rehabilitates animals directly, 60,000 of them, and financially contributes to conservation efforts worldwide. I grew up watching Steve Irwin, and his efforts helped propel my philanthropic nature. It is a blessing to know his family and the whole WW steam supports the messaging of Ionia.”
VR is about immersion and there was something so magical with the visuals and music from the trailer that made me want to see Ionia even more. What do you feel is the most important when it comes to immersion in VR?
“For us, a balance of easy game mechanics that anyone can use, hyper-realistic visuals, and most importantly, the sound! We use audio middleware Wwise to bring the music and SFX to life! In VR, sound has to be treated in a three-dimensional way same as visuals. That is something we are proud of in Ionia.”
I know the journey must have been a long one, but looking back from the idea to the dream to now the creation that will be shared with everyone, what did you find the most surprising about everything?
“The community we formed around the demo! We have had such overwhelming support on comments and our Discord channel. Check out our Earth Day Challenge on www.ROTU.com. We had VR artists play the demo and then draw inspiring 3D art. I cannot wait to grow our community and reach out personally to learn their stories. We call our fans virtual Hopepunks and like to think that Ionia appeals to players who appreciate games with meaningful choices, engaging stories, intricate puzzles, and memorable characters who also want to make a difference in the world. They embrace prosocial values and want their play to have a purpose.”
Now that the game is about to officially be released, what are you hoping that the players will take away most of all from the game?
“The reason why we are making this VR game is that.. Humanity has wiped out an inconceivable percentage of animal life since 1970. I don’t want my grandchildren thinking of rhinoceroses as I do dinosaurs. At ROTU, we strive to find ways to use our creativity to raise awareness of real-world problems. We hope players will feel empathy for our natural world inside the game and have that reflected, even if minuscule, throughout their lives. Also, simply by playing the game, players donate 5% of the purchase to Wildlife Warriors. We hope that supporting nonprofit organizations catch on and other gaming studios do the same.”
If you entered a door into THE VR DIMENSION and into the world of Ionia, but could be anyone from any time, who would you be and why?
“From Ionia, I want to be the Froguiro, a big frog-like creature based on a string instrument. They chill all day on mushrooms and can swim/glide fast. I love the idea of being a creature with a completely different life view. VR has a future to embody ourselves, transcending Humanoid notions or physicality. I believe humankind will grow with VR and perceive understanding only possible with VR in the next hundred years.”
The content for Virtual Reality continues to grow. What would you say to someone as to why they should experience Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia?
“This is not just a game. It is a new story franchise derived from the interactions and life experiences of over 1000 international and indigenous musicians and artists working with nonprofits to do good in this world. Supporting Ionia will allow our team to learn from our community, grow, and ultimately create AAA games and media that inspire future generations to take action.”
I really want to thank Jason for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give us a closer look into Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia and for talking about Virtual Reality.
Rhythm of the Universe: Ionia comes out on September 23, 2021, on PlayStation VR.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.