Flying through an obstacle-filled arena in zero gravity like in the Battle Room scenes of Ender’s Game, catching and throwing a disk to score in an opposing team’s goal, all while in a Tron-looking virtual reality, is probably about the best way I can describe Lone Echo’s surprisingly successful multiplayer mode in one sentence.

At Oculus Connect 3, I was able to try a singleplayer demo of Lone Echo, an Oculus Touch exclusive by developer Ready at Dawn that lets you grab, pull, and push yourself around in zero gravity as a robot, but I didn’t know what to expect when I was told that I’d get to try out a multiplayer demo as well, since the singleplayer didn’t really have any activities that I could imagine doing with someone else in a meaningful way, much less in a competitively.

Nonetheless, while it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the single player, aside from the robot you inhabit in both modes, and the zero-g movement style, it was a very different and fresh taste of what could be done with zero gravity sporting in VR. From the outside, this floating, zero-g movement seems like a prime candidate for causing nausea in VR, and yet it managed to be an incredibly effective way of getting around that didn’t seem to cause me or other people I played with any dizziness.

I played in a match of five vs. five. Our team captain—a real person playing in another room—taught us not only how to play the game, but also how to navigate in the 3D, zerg-g arena. We would move around in zero gravity either with thrusters, or by grabbing, pulling, or pushing ourselves on our way with the help of walls or floating geometry (or even teammates or enemy characters). We’d be vying for a glowing disc in the middle of the Ender’s Game Battle Room-style arena (though it wasn’t nearly as big). Then we’d have to grab the disc and throw it into the holographic goal at the end of other team’s side.

Photo courtesy Ready at Dawn
Photo courtesy Ready at Dawn

A final piece of the puzzle was a punch you could do only to opponents’ heads to briefly stun them, preventing them from being able to move and hold the disc. You could also grab and climb onto bodies, so a common maneuver would be to grab onto a limb, clambor up, punch them in the face, and snatch the disk right from their hands, then give yourself a shove off of their stunned body to head toward the goal.

It sounds simple enough, but the mechanics seem like they could allow complex strategy as you might expect in a real sport. Of course, there was nothing to enforce any ‘rules’ or positions (like a goalie or reciever), but smart players would naturally fall into such roles to beat the opposing team (who were most likely playing the game for the first time and didn’t have any strategies other than to all flock for the disc like it was second grade soccer at recess).

Speaking of soccer, passing is a huge part of the game, especially when your teammates are careening across the area in zero-g. It’s fun not only to be the thrower, needing to skillfully lead the disk to where your teammate is headed on their trajectory, but equally as much to be the receiver who has to launch themselves in the right direction at the right time to intercept the disk. More advanced players will see opportunities for bouncing the disc off the arena’s angular walls to send it around opponents land it in a key position in front of the opposing goal.

You can defend the goal, and (in the demo version we were playing) you might be really good at end the game there because the other team couldn’t organize well enough in the short time frame of the demo to score. My time playing Lone Echo’s multiplayer was a fun, heated battle for the disc, that didn’t leave me nauseous despite flying around in every which direction unhindered by gravity.

Physicality & Spectatorship in 'Project Arena' Could Blur the Line Between E-sport and Actual Sport

Every direction indeed; while playing the demo I was constantly spinning around in real life, reaching out with my touch controllers to try to grab a passing disc or tossing it to a teammate while shoving off of a wall to avoid an enemy. Based on what I saw, the game will almost certainly require the two-camera ‘opposing’ setup for the Rift (cameras opposite each other), or the three-camera setup for full 360 coverage. Otherwise it seems like it would be extremely difficult to keep yourself facing forward for the two-camera ‘front-facing’ setup (as you’d lose tracking on your hands regularly when turned away from the cameras).

Lone Echo’s surprisingly successful multiplayer feels like it could be a major addition to the game. Despite not yet having an official released date, what I played seemed very polished and fun already, with huge potential to become something even greater than what we’ve seen from the still burgeoning VR e-sports sector. 

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  • Martin Petersson

    When I saw the video before having read the article I thought “it’s the battle room from Ender’s Game!”

  • Trowsers

    Too bad it’s an exclusive. They just lost (another) customer.

    • PrymeFactor

      Yeah, Too bad it’s on PC VR. They just lost another customer. Would have bought it if it was on my Nintendo Wii.


    • Pistol Pete

      It’s ok, by the sound of it you just saved your lunch from coming back up.

    • Frank

      They paid for it. Valve has made every VR game they’ve paid for a Vive exclusive as well.

      Of course that means none. Because Valve don’t actually fund VR content.

  • Another game clearly designed with the VIVE in mind.

  • LegoKnockingShop

    Sorry to say but this made me feel absolutely dreadful at OC3. I have a cast-iron VR constitution usually, but this one really did it for me. Possibly the most nauseous I’ve felt since the early days of DK1 demos, unfortunately. Everyone’s different – but I’m glad you didn’t proclaim it as having solved VR discomfort for locomotion or anything daft like that based on your experience.

    There was a couple of things that did it for me. There are ‘launching rings’ that you hang onto and propel you forward at high speed. Unfortunately nobody told me you didn’t get automatically fired off it, so I was just letting go when the thing twanged back at the same speed and unexpectedly sent me backwards at high speed. Just a bad game design decision, I hope they sort that one out.

    Also, there were loads of times when I’d end up with my body stuck in a wall and unable to pull myself out very easily. I talked to a few people this happened to and they all found it unpleasant. Again, it’s a game design fix so I’m hopeful it won’t ship this way. Generally, there felt like a lag on releasing any handholds, maybe it’s unfamiliarity with the Touch on my part (I’ve only used it maybe an hour or so in total over the last couple years of demos and conferences), but the result was I would often try and push off and get ‘pulled’ back into the ground / wall because of my avatar’s movement arc and not releasing in time. That unexpected movement vector each time it happens all added to the discomfort bucket, I pretty much had to sit still for the last half of the match and spectate – which I didn’t mind too much as it’s a lovely looking game.

    Fingers crossed they sort these things out – all minor, but collectively it was a pretty uncomfortable experience for me and it took me a couple hours to return to normal.

    • Vivid

      Ah, very unfortunate. From what I’ve heard, it is a great MP experience.

  • Vivid

    May be years from now, it will become a real sport. It might also get listed in Olympics. That would be fun to watch.

  • Maxime Pare

    I am a Rift owner and this looks really cool, but it will probably be like all other Rift Only multiplayer games… Eagle Flight and EVE… No one is ever playing online, I owned Eagle Flight for 2 weeks now, I log in every night around 8pm EST and I am always alone in the lobby…

    EVE was a botfest I gave up, but with PSVR cross-platform it seems that there are players online now…