Anshar Studios is hard at work on Detached, their first FPX (first-person experience) game with VR support. Designed from the very beginning for Virtual Reality headsets, Detached focuses on rivalry, exploration and survival.
What’s your VR backstory?
My first time with Oculus Rift was around August 2013. After I took off the goggles, I immediately realized that it was a very cool concept and that I wanted to make a game that would use its potential. Even though Oculus’ first iteration had its flaws, I could see its capabilities through the eyes of imagination and I knew that VR might significantly change the future of gaming.
Since that time we have tested several mini-prototypes that we thought would be the most promising for the new device. There was this concept of a mage casting spells (using Leap Motion technology) for example, but we abandoned it due to insufficient quality of Leap Motion’s first generation. We’d also considered horror and racing genres, until we finally found our best option – after watching Gravity in November 2013, we all agreed that a sci-fi setting would be ideal for the VR technology.
Our plan was to have a co-op gameplay feature, besides VR of course. We were thinking about putting together a Journey-inspired exploration approach with a Gravity-like vibe, all grounded in a VR system. Co-op was supposed to be similar to what you’ve seen now in Rogue/Dark Zone in The Division, but without focusing on violent actions. Instead, we wanted to put stress on using different tactics and encouraging the player to think of creative ways to win, for example by locking players in a closed room.
Back then we didn’t know that Three One Zero was already working on a game based on a similar concept. When this news was announced, we decided it didn’t change anything, because our game was not only about the experience, it was also based on co-op mechanics.
We consulted our idea with other industry specialists during the Digital Dragons conference in 2014, so we knew we had created a good co-op system. Unfortunately, our consultations and tests also revealed that the biggest fun factor lied in eliminating other players, so the co-op system worked completely opposite to what we had planned. The only solution was to minimize interactions between players, which was the worst possible scenario for us. As a result, we decided to ditch those co-op ideas – our game transformed from a Cooperative Survival First Person Experience to a PvP Virtual Reality Experience.
What is your approach to VR with regard to the development process?
We’re not thinking about VR as marketing bait – our game is being tested on VR devices all the time, it’s a key element of our development process. VR isn’t just an addition for us – every day one or two persons from our team (which is by the way 5 people strong) are testing Detached with goggles.
Why did you choose that direction?
As a new studio, we were looking for a niche that we could develop. Our aim is to create premium games for hardcore gamers, for both PCs and consoles. When the VR technology was reintroduced in the form of Oculus and other similar devices, we saw that it matched our plans very well.
Do you want to focus on virtual technology in your future projects?
We know that VR will not dominate classic gaming, but we believe that with 30k sales and reasonable pricing we will be able to continue walking our chosen path, especially given that the VR market is still growing and offers more exciting perspectives with each new device. For example, HTC Vive allows us to create a walking-experience kind of game with a 5×5 m area of real space to walk within. It’s a mega boost for the overall experience and we’d love to use that tech in our next project.
What’s the studio’s opinion on the indie market?
It’s the best moment for the industry – the quick growth of the tech market and expanding distribution to digital channels create more opportunities for indie devs to put themselves on the map. It’s easier than before to achieve success on the PC market if you have an original, fresh idea for a game and you care about your project’s production values.
What are the risks and possibilities of VR development?
We are aware of the risks with the relatively high price of VR devices and potentially low consumer engagement, but that’s the worst case scenario. We see VR as a niche for hardcore PC players – similar to steering wheels, racing seats with force feedback etc.
Do you think VR is the future of gaming and that it will redefine it?
Since Holodeck is still only a fictional concept and probably a potential dream-come-true for lots of gamers, we don’t think that the reality of gaming will drastically change in the nearest future.
What are the challenges with VR development?
VR alone is quite easy to work with as far as technology and production are concerned. Simple mechanics, such as looking around the room, are pretty straightforward in regarding their design – you can do that really quickly. The challenge lies in making a good VR game while being aware of tech limitations related to dizziness and nausea. This is something we – as an industry – need to learn.
What are the main features of the game?
A game designed from scratch for VR, offering a great goggle experience and an innovative PvP mode – non-violent, but still engaging and fun to play. That also highlights our game among others.