Watch: ‘Compound’ Puts You in a VR World of Lovingly Detailed Retro Graphics


Compound is a VR hobby project from developer ‘Notdead’ which aims to immerse you in a world of lovingly crafted pixel art, retro-styled first person shooter.

Ironically, there is a risk that the over abundance of so-called ‘pixel art’ video games in circulation these days of the nostalgia-fuelled art style is in danger of beginning to look tired and dated. There’s also an erroneous belief by some that creating effective pixel art titles is somehow an easy way out for an indie developer. However, creating really effective pixel art is hard, and it’s even harder when you’re mapping that art onto a realtime 3D world designed to be experienced in VR.

Enter Compound, a “VR hobby project” by developer ‘NotDead’, a virtual reality shooter which lovingly embraces it’s jumbo pixels textures and fuses the look with appropriately simplistic yet elegant gameplay.

Compound throws you into an underground world, filled with futuristic-looking bad guys sporting woefully ineffective armour and marksmanship skills which would embarrass the average Stormtrooper. You have two weapons at your disposal, a laser pistol with infinite ‘ammo’ and an SMG style energy weapon. You wander the titular underground compound, shooting bad guys (I didn’t ask to stop why they were bad it must be said) and security robots, grabbing ammo and burgers (for health) as you go. Shoot everyone and get to the end of the level. That’s pretty much it in terms of objectives.

But the beauty of Compound is in its execution. The SMG for example requires to be physically reloaded with ammo you’ve collected in your inventory – a nicely satisfying mechanic. You can drift around the levels using ‘artificial’ locomotion (aka full locomotion) or teleportation – and it’ll doubtless make purists happy that you can switch between either method on the fly. Strafing and physically dodging projectiles is great fun and as you dart around the world, one heavily inspired by id’s genre-defining Wolfenstein (1992) in terms of colour palette, you quickly warm to your blocky alternate reality surroundings.

As stated, Compound is a one-man hobby project right now and can the latest version of the demo can be downloaded for free from the developer’s home page here and works on both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The developer also states they have high hopes of the project growing beyond its homebrew roots stating “I hope this project eventually evolves into a very fleshed out VR roguelite with a large number of items, weapons, enemies and characters. A non-VR version is also in the works.”

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  • DougP

    Nice write-up. Looks like some nostalgic gaming VR fun.

    Quell 4D –
    In a similar vein, Quell 4D is a fully fleshed-out retro game in VR, I highly recommend.

  • VR makes everything look amazing…. Nice to see another game for both Octopus & Vive.

    • So far your Octopus name isn’t catching on yet :)

      • Octopus rift…
        Octopus rift…
        Octopus rift…
        Octopus rift…

      • Caven

        Someday he’ll figure out how to turn off that autocorrect. ;)

  • xebat

    The most fun single player shooter experience for VR right now, seriously.

  • Frogacuda

    Been enjoying this

  • rabs

    I’m still not sure what “full locomotion” means, though. I guess here it’s thumb controlled 2D translation, as it’s often the case.

    I saw some people claiming it means they can fully play in their armchair: artificial turning, translation (forward/backward/left/right), and eventually 3D movements (jumping, crouching, climbing, swimming, flying, etc.).

    • Full locomotion is where the user runs around with PC on his or her back.
      Very different to teleport which thus far has only been able to transport the odd photon from A to B.

    • Caven

      At an absolute minimum, it does mean the ability for the player to actually traverse the world, rather than pop from one stationary point to another. In practice, it can mean a lot of different things from WASD or gamepad support so that movement works just like a conventional game, all the way to simulated walking by swinging the movement controllers.

  • Brandon Smith

    Crystal Rift has a bit of this appeal, for me. The idea of being IN a 90s era PC game, that is. I think these sorts of games really need to come out soon because there is a limited amount of time for them to be viable, but I really love the idea. It’s very fun, but probably only for a small niche of people.

    • Fear Monkey

      Also really enjoyed Crystal Rift, makes me wish for a Stonekeep VR or Daggerfall kind of game, where its more of a major RPG.

  • Eric Nevala

    Imagine if you went back in time to 1994 and just posted this video online somewhere on a BBS…

    • ra51

      BBS??? I haven’t heard that in the longest time lol!!!
      Actually this is more closer to like 1992 where Wolfenstein 3D just came out…holy shit…imagine that in VR. Ironically, this was also during the time of the whole 90’s VR craze and with raycasting 3D games were all the rage.

  • Nikola Nikola

    Is he using pendulum locomotion system?

  • Interesting project

  • JustNiz

    You say “lovingly retro” I say “looks like shit”.

  • Lucidfer

    Nice idea. Too bad animation are not “retro” which kind of break the stylistic statement and immersion. Pixar did it incredibly well in Wreck-it-Ralph with the small neighbour character which seems to skip frames in their movements.