Futuristic cyber-thriller Technolust launches its Kickstarter today and unveils a stunning new prototype for the Oculus Rift. Brian Hart takes a look and speaks with its developer, Blair Renaud.
Cyberpunk, Built for VR
“In the early part of the 21st century, the corporations took control…
They bought our politicians. They took our intellectual property. They sold our world. Some have started to resist. The hackers, the pirates and the phreaks. This is their world now. The world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. Join the resistance and fight to set the truth free.”
Technolust is a game that wears its visual influences proudly on its sleeve. From the moment you’re dropped into the virtual dystopian world, genre classic Blade Runner clearly influences the production design of your surroundings heavily. But this new noir cyber-thriller with ‘ground up’ support for the Oculus Rift VR Headset is certainly no copycat.
It’s clear Technolust was designed from the outset for the virtual reality experience. There is a simple and intuitive interface, with controls ideal for mouse but with support for keyboard and gamepad. With the launch of the Kickstarter, the developers have also made available their latest prototype (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux).
The 3D models are well-done, and it’s interesting to examine all the props in the apartment. The game will benefit from improved resolution and positional tracking in the Oculus Rift DK2, as there are multiple screens to read and objects to closely inspect.
The music is high-energy; combined with the cable news video it instils a sense of urgency. At this point the puzzles, such as gathering materials for an early task, aren’t difficult but do involve several steps. Particles in the air are a nice touch, as is the wireless(!) Rift and case. If you’re a child of the 80’s, see how many throwbacks to that time you can spot.
We’ve been fans of Technolust’s developer, Blair Renaud (aka Anticleric), since The Room and The City, and he even joined our own Reverend Kyle on episode 2 of the Riftmax Live Talk Show. Road to VR caught up with him earlier this week as he was preparing the Kickstarter launch.
Road to VR: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and how did you get into gaming?
BR: How far back do you want to go? [laughs] I’ve been into computers and gaming as far back as I can remember. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but as a child I dropped every quarter I got my hands on into the local arcade machines. A neighbour of mine introduced me to the world of BBS (bulletin board systems) in the early 90’s and I was hooked. I downloaded and played everything I could find. I got “leech” accounts on a few of the bigger boards by doing ANSI art for them. When I was 17, I left school and started working for Rockstar games (who found me working at a local game store). I went from tester to designer in a short time. 19 years later. Here I am, designing a VR experience.
Road to VR: Without spoiling things too much for people, there are homages to the 80’s and 90’s sprinkled through Technolust. Besides arcades and BBS’ing, what books, movies, and technologies influence you and your game design?
BR: Well the obvious ones are Blade Runner and Ready Player One, but pretty much anything in the dystopian sci-fi and cyberpunk genres partially inspired me. The original Robocop is probably my favourite movie, and 1984 is my favourite book, but the list of inspirations is huge: Hackers, Equilibrium, They Live, even Dredd… I could go on forever.
Road to VR: How long have you had the idea for Technolust, and why haven’t you tried to build it before now? Is VR the essential part of the experience you were waiting on?
BR: I’ve only had my Rift Dev kit since mid December and it took me a couple of weeks to get back into the game (learning Unity etc.). I made a few demos to test my chops (“The Room” and “The City”) and the response I received was great, so I dove right in.
Originally Technolust was going to be a sort of VR version of “Papers Please” where you’re a security guard in a big Cyberpunk building. A lot like the guy in DREDD. Once I had the workstation built and the view out the window going, I decided I wanted to go out into the world. So the game kind of blew up from there, way beyond the original concept.
Originally Technolust was going to be a sort of VR version of “Papers Please” where you’re a security guard in a big Cyberpunk building
I may still have a level that is like Papers Please where you’ll face moral dilemmas controlling the security system of a big building.
But yes; the Rift is definitely what brought me back into the game design world.
Road to VR: Speaking of the view out the window, I feel like the first time I saw it I stood there looking out for about five minutes. That, the music, and the TV news broadcast immediately sets the tone for the game before you even get the chance to start walking around.
BR: Is that a question? If so: the answer is “Yes!”. [laughs]
Seriously though. I’m really glad people like the atmosphere of the game. I really believe that if you can make a rich environment that seems like it’s part of a real world, you’re 90% of the way there. Especially in VR, but I think it applies to all fiction. A deep universe is what has made Star Wars such a success even after all these years. Every character and piece of junk in the background seems like it has a story of its own. It keeps people interested and immersed, and lets them be creative (coming up with stories of their own).
Road to VR: How involved do you plan to be with your backers once funded? Will you be soliciting feedback from backers with beta access, or do you have a fairly clear idea of the direction you want to head in?
BR: A little bit of both really. I do have a pretty clear vision of where I would like things to go, but any and all feed back is welcomed. Feedback on the Oculus developer forums has been great for this alpha version. That being said, I can’t just implement every idea everyone has. Especially things that violate the “Best practices” document that Oculus has made. Most devs out there don’t seem to pay much attention to it, but it really is a great reference for making a comfortable and enjoyable VR experience.
The Kickstarter campaign starts today and runs for 30 days, with a goal of $30,000 Canadian (~$27,400 US). Rewards range from the typical digital download and beta access, to being included as a character in the game as an “enemy of the corporations” or having an in-game arcade machine dedicated to you. Stretch goals include an original score, additional areas to explore, and multi-player support.
Our thanks to Blair for speaking to us and we wish him the best of luck with the campaign.