And there was one more piece of Call of the Mountain where the studio raised the bar, turning a seemingly menial mechanic into one of the most unique snippets of VR gameplay that I’ve seen in recent years. This was the rope-wrapping mechanic where players had to wind rope around various parts to attach pieces to their tools. In practice, it plays out like a ‘trace the path game’, but with a unique spatial element that could only work in VR.
Winding rope around your tools was an engaging mini-game that I definitely didn’t expect. | View clip
“The rope wrapping was originally devised to craft the special arrows that the player would be using in combat as well as on the tools themselves. We’d never really seen anything like this type of interaction done before in VR, so we had to forge our own path a bit with it,” Barnes explains. “The code team prototyped a bunch of different ways to do the rope binding, inspired by some 2D games and experimenting with how tactile we could create intricate interactions in VR and came up with the basis of what you see in the final game.”
“However, as we started building the combat alongside the crafting, the speed and aggression of the machines made us realise how frustrating crafting like this was in combat, but fortunately it still worked really well for our tool crafting,” he says. “The slower nature of the tool crafting allowed us to design them as very simple little puzzles with a focus on VR tactility. We didn’t want anything to be crafted with a button press as we saw it as an opportunity to have more playful VR interactions, with the payoff that these tools would also unlock new gameplay opportunities in the world.”
As with other elements in the game (like bow aiming), the team leveraged the eye-tracking tech in PSVR 2 to help make the system more seamless for the player.
“[…] as we approached launch, we did a deep dive on [the rope-wrapping system] as a team and went through a bunch of major quality of life improvements a few months before we went gold, with improvements being made to wrapping tolerances, connection points, grab positions, speeds, guidance, and assistance (when starting to wrap the wrong way) along with polishing the audio and visual cues to help,” says Barnes. “We even ended up leveraging the eye tracking of the PSVR2 to help us better understand player intent and prioritised grabbing and wrapping based upon where the player was looking.”
Copy & Paste (if only)
While Firesprite had the fortune of learning on the rich library of ideas and content from the prior Horizon games—all of the creatures, locales, animations, sounds, art direction, etc—it’s rarely as easy as just grabbing existing assets and plugging them into a VR game.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a VR switch that you can flick with non-VR content! For example,” Barnes says,” we had existing machine animations that had already been done for Horizon by some of the best gameplay animators, but they all had to be recreated for Call of the Mountain because of the perspective shift from third-person to first-person VR. This was so that the attacks felt like they hit the player properly and felt like they had an impact.”
The animations and AI of the franchise’s robotic beasts had to be reimagined for VR, along with the entire combat loop. | View clip