Astro Bot Rescue Mission, the chart-topping VR platformer from JAPAN Studio, nearly ended up with a local co-op multiplayer mode but ultimately the feature met the chopping block in order to let the single player mode shine.
Speaking to Astro Bot’s Creative Director and Producer, Nicolas Doucet, in a recent interview exploring the design and development of the title, Road to VR learned that a local co-op multiplayer mode was planned for the title, but the team at JAPAN Studio found that it necessarily compromised the design space of the single player campaign.
Astro Bot’s predecessor, the ‘Robots Rescue’ mini-game in The Playroom VR (2016), includes a co-op feature which allows an extra player to join in the fun on the TV while the primary player is in the headset. The non-VR player controls a bot flying in a small hovercraft which can collect coins, disrupt enemies, and help the primary player with some puzzles.
When it came time to develop Astro Bot, the team hoped to up the ante on this co-op feature, enabling not just one but up to three non-VR players to join in co-op on the TV on specific levels, JAPAN Studio’s Nicolas Doucet told Road to VR.
But when it came time to prototype the Astro Bot co-op gameplay, the team felt it was ultimately compromising the ways in which the single player portion could best make use of VR.
“It was fun to play together [with the co-op feature] but we soon realized that in order to make the [non-VR] TV gameplay work, we were limiting the amplitude of the levels too much, thus hurting the ‘VR-ness’ we were after,” Doucet told Road to VR. “Removing the multiplayer and focusing on a solo game allowed the game designers to be much more daring and efficient with the use of VR in their levels and the final game would have not been possible had we kept this multiplayer mode.”
This is perhaps how early Astro Bot boxes were printed with a ‘1-4 Players’ feature indicator, which Sony apologized for, calling it a “misprint.”
While it’s a shame that the game can’t therefore be enjoyed in co-op, it’s hard to argue with the result; Astro Bot’s single player focus resulted in what is currently PSVR’s best rated title to date, and even one of the top rated PS4 titles overall.
Learn more about the design and development of Astro Bot in our full Insights & Artwork interview with Doucet.