With the Echo Combat beta opening today, and the full experience launching later this year, Oculus and Ready at Dawn are doing some reorganization to set the stage for the ongoing expansion of the Echo universe. Today, Echo Arena becomes Echo VR, which will encompass both Echo Arena and Echo Combat.
Oculus today announced that Echo Arena is becoming Echo VR, in order to make room for Echo Combat, the FPS take on Echo Arena’s zero-G competitive formula. The game, which we recently went hands-on with in its closed beta, pits teams of three against each other in a large arena, where one team attempts to move an objective from one end of the arena to the other while the opposing team tries to prevent that until the clock runs out. And while the game is in many ways different than Echo Arena’s zero-G frisbee gameplay, the underlying locomotion, controls, and aesthetics are the same; Echo Combat is very directly part of the same universe as Echo Arena.
To that end, Echo Combat will actually launch later this year as a paid DLC add-on to Echo Arena (instead of its own standalone game), and both games will share the same lobby space from which players can socialize and matchmake into either experience.
To make this all a little more cohesive, and to set both Echo Arena and Echo Combat on even footing, Oculus and developer Ready at Dawn are rebranding Echo Arena to Echo VR. Echo VR will include everything that Echo Arena did previously, including the social lobby and the ability to play Echo Arena matches (and it’ll continue to be free).
The move simplifies things, but also appears to set up the Echo universe for even longer term growth beyond Echo Combat. Much like Rec Room offers up many different experiences within the confines of a single game, Echo VR will become the singular hub for both Echo Arena and Echo Combat, and could well be the focal point of more experiences in the future. Ready at Dawn CEO, Ru Weerasuriya, teased as much in an interview with Road to VR at E3 2018 last week:
VR opened a new door to the way you perceive a player inside the world that you inhabit and the game that you’re gonna play. The lobby for us was kind of an eye-opener because at the very beginning it was more of a staging area, then it went from a staging area to being kind of a focal point for people to come in and play […] so for us, expanding the ‘Echo’ universe doesn’t mean adding a game. It means expanding an experience for a person who enters, as you said, the lobby. Enter ‘Echo VR’ and decide: do you want to hang around and just play with some friends in there (there’s a few things to do already there). Do you want to go outside and play a game? Do you want to choose to do a sports game or a combat game—and who knows in the future? But our goal is definitely to kind of view this more as a single world that is going to keep on giving back to the players as the years go on.
Weerasuriya also spoke about the studio’s commitment to the future of VR, check out the full interview here.
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In the near term, the Echo Combat beta launches today and will run through the weekend – details here. You can also learn more about how Echo Combat plays by checking out a video of a full match here.