New ‘Boneworks’ Gameplay Video Shows off Physics-based Combat


Boneworks is on a mission to redefine VR gameplay with a highly simulated approach to movement, interaction, and combat. Today developer Stress Level Zero showed off one of the game’s first levels in a new video.

Due out in 2019, Boneworks is described by developer Stress Level Zero as an “Experimental Physics VR Adventure” with a healthy dose of combat. Featuring a full body avatar, the game aims to give players a rich sense of immersion and embodiment by driving everything with physics, from guns to objects to enemies.

A new video from Node (a YouTube channel which is separate from Stress Level Zero but shares the studio’s Brandon Laatsch as a founder) shows off one of the first levels in Boneworks, including a healthy does of combat against the ‘headcrab’-like enemies which actually turn out to be sentient VR headsets that hunger to lock you into an even deeper virtual world.

Stress Level Zero’s goal with Boneworks is to base the game on a static set of physics-based rules in order to give players the freedom to tackle both puzzles and combat in any way that comports with the rules of the game world. This is a different approach to VR interaction design compared to many other games which ‘script’ most of their interactions—which sometimes means players will try to do something that seems reasonable but doesn’t work because the interaction was never programmed (for instance a player trying to ‘bash’ an enemy with their shield, only to find it clips through the enemy).

This physics-based approach allows for some creative and entertaining combat, as seen in the video above, like being able to attack enemies with weapons like axes, hammers, and swords, or to grab enemies mid attack and push them back. At one point, the player grabs one of the spider enemies and headbutts it to death against a wall. At another, he grabs two of the spiders and smashes them together until they die.

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The studio also hopes that this freedom of interaction will spread to the game’s puzzle elements too, allowing players to find creative solutions that the developers themselves may not even have considered. We go into a bit more detail about the philosophy behind Bonework’s approach in this article, which also includes an ‘Action Teaser’ video which was released last month.

While the combat in the video shows only fights against the spider enemies, Stress Level Zero founder Brandon Laatsch says that the game will definitely include more enemies, including humanoids; he teases that more will be revealed at a later date.

Boneworks is due out on Steam (with support for the Vive, Rift, and Windows VR headsets) at some point in 2019, though a specific release date hasn’t been announced.

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  • gothicvillas

    What if this HL and they just cant say this?

    • DanDei

      I am more and more suspicious about that too.
      Or they are secretly building this sandbox tech basis for Valves teams who deliver the content for their three projects.

      • Firestorm185

        I mean, even if that isn’t currently the case, depending on how well this game does (and it looks fantastic right now) then I could definitely see Valve buying the source and using it in the future

    • kuhpunkt

      Not after this video. It’s its own thing.

  • Adrian Meredith

    This game is fking nuts. I love how the hype is just coming from game play, no silly trailers or false promises. Please God let the hl3 rumours be true…

    • 3872Orcs

      There’s no Half Life 3 rumors. I don’t get why this keep coming up. The HL3/ep3 has already been leaked and Valve has shown no interest in going forward with the game. Has not Gabe himself said so himself many times now? However there are rumors of a Half Life 2 prequel game. And that does make more sense that HL3 with only 3 years dev time so far. Half Life 2 took six years to develop. A side story makes more sense if they plan to release it in the near future.

      • kuhpunkt

        No, that’s just one idea for the story and no, Gabe hasn’t said anything like that.

        • 3872Orcs

          I think he did say something to that effect though but I have no sources to back up my claim so there’s that :p Maybe I’ve just been tricked by the narrative and Gabe’s non comments about the development trough the years:

  • 3872Orcs

    These kinds of physics interactions need to be implemented by other game studios as well going forward. The way you can interact with the game world here is just fantastic! When you’re clipping trough objects in VR or not able to pick something up it just feels so disappointing.

    And this also reminds me about when Half Life 2 was revealed and the
    similar thing it did with physics, now it’s happening again for VR. And where does this leave Valve? This kind of steals their thunder no? Boneworks is something I would have expected from Valve. And yeah I know about their relationship and Boneworks being on their masterlist for a while. They probably where impressed by what they saw in Boneworks and wanted to test it themselves and so it went on the masterlist for devs to more easily access it and play around with it at home.

    • Adrian Meredith

      Yeah, I really enjoyed Arizona sunshine but the in consistent interactivity really ruined the immersion. Do many times I saw something and thought, let’s open this, or let’s pick this up but only very certain things could.

      They need to find away of getting this in every game.

    • ThinkingWithBrain

      Pretty sure Valve has been working closely with them. There’s a chance that they might even be one of Valve’s contractors.

    • daveinpublic

      I like the interaction, but I wonder if this kind of complex physics based interaction isn’t used much is because of the processing required. Gonna use mesh colliders for this level of accuracy. It’s expensive computationally to have complex objects interact with complex objects. I don’t know much about it, but my limited knowledge makes me think it’s intense for the processor.

      • David Mulder

        Yeah, the CPU requirements of this game will be comparatively for most gamers more of an issue than the GPU requirements. Worth it probably, but definitely true.

  • impurekind

    It looks a bit like Half-Life 2 and the name reminds me of Halo: Combat Evolved–two good things.

  • Juan Ritz

    My three prophecies:

    1. The Index will have built in eye tracking.
    2. Boneworks is the story of a software engineer (you) trying to fix a faulty artificial intelligence program (GLaDOS) inside of her virtual operating system. Boom, it’s Portal Inception.
    3. Boneworks will be announced as an Index launch title in May and we’ll be playing it in June.

    What a time to be alive.

  • Justos

    i dont see the hype. These interactions are nothing ground breaking.

    But with that said, i agree this should be the “standard” for VR going forward. But the hype for these small details are way overblown.

    • gothicvillas

      I’m guessing using knuckles makes all the difference and when the game is designed with this in mind. But yeah I get your point.

    • J.C.

      The interactions are apparently more about how it feels than how it looks, from what I’ve read. Dunno, all I’ve got to go on are the video clips and articles, but they’ve apparently overcome a lot of the hurdles that feel “off” when playing.

      Although they already said in another interview that the full visible body is less for the player and more for people watching the videos. Lots of people who haven’t tried VR seem to think that the floating hands look “cheap”, when really you forget they’re detached rapidly when playing.

      I’m interested, for sure. Glad that even though they seem to be more focused on the interactions side that they’ve made an actual game to go with it. Too many indie devs spend everything on the “how” and forget/can’t afford a “why”.

      • David Mulder

        Where did you get “they already said in another interview that the full visible body is less for the player and more for people watching the videos” from? Because for example in this video I think they say that part of the advantage of a full body is being able to show shadows which helps according to them with immersion.

        • J.C.

          From the interview with the devs on UploadVR:

          “seeing your body enhances presence in the headset and is essential for the 2D viewer. The body is the final piece to showing gameplay footage that has no visual drawbacks from traditional games. Also, viewing content that looks like a GoPro mounted to the player’s head rather than floating hands is much more approachable and viral.”

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    • Raphael

      Your inability to see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Kind of like gamma radiation.

  • Lucidfeuer

    So what they did with physics is interesting. So far the best achievement we had for physical interaction with environnement and movement was Lone Echo, but this game seems to be expanding it to weapons/objects and ennemies interactions.

    The production however seem to be very cheap in every aspect, I would hope someone would have figured out a virtual hand and finger to 3D object warping, or maybe a pre-recorded semantic interaction tree for various objects.

    • Lone Echo has inverse kinematics for each finger. It was discussed during a “Tested” interview, as I recall.

      • Lucidfeuer

        I don’t remember having seen it in effect while playing, hands and finger where going through objects, do you have a link?

  • Why are video game reviewers previewing their own creation as if it’s made by somebody else? Everyone you see there is part of the same group. Do they stash the Asian guy in the closet well everybody else works on the game? How could he possibly be surprised by what he’s seeing?? This whole thing is one big cheesy infomercial about their game.

    My impression of NODE themselves is VERY low after watching them play The Forest with all of the cannibals turned off. They spent 45 minutes squealing like little girls at birds and deer. They made one of the best VR games ever seem dull and pointless.

  • Firestorm185

    Very happy we’ll be able to play this game on Rift as well, since I won’t have the budget to purchase Knuckles controllers and base stations any time soon.

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