The human desire to create is strong, but our desire to destroy perhaps even stronger. Frank He takes Alien Trap’s new, motion control, made-for-VR title Modbox out for a spin and finds he’s all about the destruction.
Physics sandbox with toys, mods, and mind-meltingly fun object destruction, all in VR? That describes Modbox pretty well, a Unity game made by Alien Trap, running on the HTC Vive. I was able to play it at their first public showing during Unity’s Vision VR/AR Summit last week, in addition to speaking with Lee Vermeulen, the Co-founder and Programmer.
Vermeulen introduces me to the game by saying “it’s kind of like being in a playground with your friends,” where the “core focus right now is in the multi-player aspects.” The demo I tried unfortunately did not show multi-player. However, I did get a chance to try the core sandbox mechanics of Modbox, and that occupied me more than enough for my short, 15 minute playtest.
I was spawned into a green, valley-like environment. I was given instructions about how to play the game, how buttons and UI work, etc. Basically, imagine if you had a holographic UI around your hand that also opened windows in the air. You can use these elements to access various features like loading different environments, levels, and objects, customize the settings of your world or scene, and modify things in a way almost akin to Unity’s in-VR editing feature that was just demonstrated at the event. You moved around the environment using a form of teleportation.
I could call various objects into existence, like cubes or balls, and scale them on different axes, with the ability to make tables and other objects. It had grid snapping, angle snapping, and other settings to ease uniformity in your creations. And it felt more fully featured in terms of scene and asset editing, and creating, than I had initially expected. You also had various mechanics like switches and object spawners. And this is all just the “edit” mode.
By pressing the singular button above the touch pad on the Vive’s controllers, you can enter into “play” mode. Now this is where the action and the chaos can unfold. There was an assortment of pre-made scenes I could choose from to play, including target practice with guns and crossbows, bowling, sword and shields, and more. I did all of them. They were all fun. But even more fun was modifying and messing everything up, not to mention seeing the destruction physics.
At one point I was trying to play basketball, and apparently I suck at it in Modbox, so then I decided to cheat by just placing the spawner for the ball right on top of the hoop, I was alone anyway and it’s not like I have any pride to save. I had to reach a bit to place the spawner above the hoop, but the controller was still being tracked and it worked. In another scene, balls were being thrown at you, and you were given this sword and shield to slash at them, but I also tried other stuff. You can also spawn things yourself in play mode, so I turned that scene into essentially a skeet shooting game by giving myself guns.
But in my opinion, the best fun I had in Modbox, was destroying everything I’d created. There is something intensely satisfying about seeing the physics of your virtual sword shattering fragile objects into a bajillion little pieces. I found out that you could do that to almost everything in the game, or at least the objects that you would expect to break. Now I just need multi-player so I can swing a wrecking ball at my friend’s house. You won’t get that in real life! Well, unless you’re a criminal, or an actual demolition man.
After the Modbox demo, Vermeulen surprised me by letting me try another new but unnamed game he was making. Imagine if you were a giant monster from space with huge claws, walking through various cities in order to capture and destroy them. That’s the game. You could really pretend to be Godzilla, if you wanted. It’s cartoony, but the physics behave quite convincingly and are even more satisfying. It was just pure childish fun – something you could keep doing and never get bored of. It used assets, perhaps temporarily, from another game he’s making called Maximum Override, but I confirmed with him that this is a separate project in its own right. It may or may not be a Vive launch title, but if it isn’t, “it won’t be long after that.”
At present, this new title is in the prototype stages, as more details around the content and direction of it have yet to be decided. The original inspiration to make it was because Modbox is a very complicated game to just get into quickly, and to demo. Vermeulen describes this unnamed game as “one button interaction – simple as hell.” That one button is indeed the grab, or make fist, button. And for the story, “we’ll figure it out.” Nonetheless, it has great potential as a quick demo game to show off VR.
We need to see what other developers do in terms of dealing with the non-room scale. Like how other Vive games translate… I don’t want to start dealing with different hardware that I’m not sure I’ll even support in the end. I really want to focus on the fundamentals of this game – that I get it right before I start adding further complexity in terms of porting it. So yeah, I have my doubts. It definitely won’t work on PSVR. It really requires a room scale thing.
Modbox is scheduled to arrive some time in 2016. Keep an eye on the game’s Steam Early Access page here for more info.