This Open World VR Game is Still Ahead of Its Time – Inside XR Design


Our series Inside XR Design examines specific examples of great XR design. Today we’re looking at the clever design of Stormland’s weapons, locomotion, and open-world.

Editor’s Note: Now that we’ve rebooted our Inside XR Design series, we’re re-publishing them for those that missed our older entries.

You can find the complete video below, or continue reading for an adapted text version.

Stormland is an open-world action-adventure game with co-op support from Insomniac Games. It’s available on Oculus PC (playable on SteamVR headsets via Revive); check out our full review here.

By the time the studio began development on Stormland, it had already built three VR games prior. That experience shows through clearly in many of Stormland’s cleverly designed systems and interactions.

In this article we’re going to explore the game’s unique take on weapon reloading and inventory management, its use of multi-modal locomotion, and its novel open-world design. Let’s start with weapons.


Like many VR games, one of the primary modes of interaction in Stormland is between the player and their weapons. For the most part, this works like you’d expect: you pull your gun out of a holster, you can hold it with one hand or two, and you pull the trigger to fire. But when your gun runs out of ammo, you do something different than we see in most VR games… you rip them in half.

Ripping guns apart gives you both ammo for that weapon type and crafting materials which are used to upgrade your weapons and abilities in the game. In that sense, this gun-ripping pulls double-duty as a way to replenish ammo and collect useful resources after a battle.

Most gun games in VR use magazines to replenish a weapon’s ammo, and while this can certainly work well and feel realistic, it’s also fairly complex and prone to error, especially when the player is under pressure.

Dropping a magazine to the ground in the middle of a firefight and needing to bend over to pick it up might feel reasonable in a slower-paced simulation game, but Stormland aims for a run-and-gun pace, and therefore opted for a reloading interaction that’s visceral, fun, and easy to perform, no matter which weapon the player is using.

This ‘ripping’ interaction, combined with some great visual and sound effects, is honestly fun no matter how many times you do it.

Interestingly, Stormland’s Lead Designer, Mike Daly, told me he wasn’t convinced when one of the game’s designers first pitched the idea for ripping guns apart. The designer worked with a programmer to prototype the idea and eventually sold Mike and the rest of the team on implementing it into the game. They liked it so much that they even decided to use the same interaction for non-gun items like health and energy canisters.

A streamlined approach to weapon reloading isn’t the only thing that Stormland does to make things easier for the player in order to maintain a run-and-gun pace; there’s also a very deliberate convenience added for weapon handling.

If dropping a magazine in the middle of a fight can hurt the pace of gameplay, dropping the gun itself can stop it outright. In Stormland, the designers chose not to punish players for accidentally dropping their gun, by instead having the weapon simply float in place for a few seconds to give the player a chance to grab it again without bending down to pick it up from the floor.

And if they simply leave it there the gun will kindly return to its holster. This is a great way to maintain realistic interactivity with the weapons while avoiding the problem of players losing weapons in the heat of combat or by accidentally not holstering them.

Allowing the weapons to float also has the added benefit of making inventory management easier. If your weapon holsters are already full but you need to shuffle your guns, the floating mechanic works almost like a helpful third-hand to hold onto items for you while you make adjustments.

Multi-modal Locomotion

Locomotion design in VR is complex because of the need to keep players comfortable while still achieving gameplay goals. Being an open-world game, Stormland needed an approach to locomotion that would allow players to move large distances, both horizontally and vertically.

Instead of sticking with just one approach, the game mixes distinct modes of locomotion and encourages players to switch between them on the fly. Stormland uses thumbstick movement when you’re on firm ground, climbing when you need to scale tall structures, and gliding for large scale movement across the map.

Thumbstick movement works pretty much how you’d expect, but climbing and gliding have some smart design details worth talking about.

Climbing in Stormland works very similarly to what you may have seen in other VR games, with the exception that your hand doesn’t need to be directly touching a surface in order to climb. You can actually ‘grab’ the wall from several feet away. This makes it easier to climb quickly by requiring less precision between hand placement and grip timing. It also keeps the player’s face from being right up against the wall, which is more comfortable, and means they don’t need to strain their neck quite as much when looking up for their next hand-hold.

And then there’s Stormland’s gliding locomotion which lets players quickly travel from one end of the map to another. This fast movement seems like it would be a recipe for dizziness, but that doesn’t seem to be the case—and I’ll talk more about why in a moment.

With these three modes of locomotion—thumbstick movement, climbing, and gliding—Stormland does an excellent job of making players feel like they’re free to fluidly move wherever they want and whenever they want, especially because of the way they work in tandem.

Continue on Page 2: VR-centric Open World »


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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Wait, does this mean it’s back in the store? It disappeared for a bit

    • Yep, it’s back and so is The Unspoken. Seems like it was just a technical flub up.

    • shadow9d9

      It was gone for less than a day.

  • 3872Orcs

    I wish this game was available on all headsets :(

    • shadow9d9

      It is available for the headsets that are putting $500 million into the development of vr games.

  • rabs

    Since they bought Insomniac Games, hopefully Sony will release it on PSVR2 and then on Steam one year later.

    • xyzs

      What ? That makes zero sense…
      It was developed by Insomniac games but it’s an Oculus Studios IP.
      Why would Meta offer their exclusives on PS5 VR competition ?

      Maybe you don’t know how it works, but there are key 2 actors:
      -The development studio who creates and develops the game itself.
      -The Publisher who pays for it and who owns the creation.

      If the development studio doesn’t own the title, they are just fabricants under contract.

      • kool

        I think insomniac owns the ip but meta owns the publishing rights. A deal can made between the sony and meta as they don’t really compete directly.

      • philingreat

        Why would Meta offer their exclusives on PS5 VR competition ?

        Meta released Beat Saber on PSVR2

    • MeowMix

      Insomniac own the IP, META owns Stormland 1.
      Makes more sense that a Stormland 2 gets developed and released for the PSVR2.

  • I love this genre of articles, keep writing them!

  • Lucidfeuer

    Interesting series, hope there’ll be more, but a bit more detailed/thorough and critical.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      Now that Sony owns the dev, and PSVR2 is not selling well, I don’t think Stormland 2 will be a thing. But it might, who knows.

  • Ploulack

    very nice analysis, thank you for that!


    Great Article. I fell they did a lot of great things for VR in this game.

  • CharlieSayNo

    I bought Stormland on release but only got properly into it last year and really enjoyed it (enough to play through the 3 cycles to get the ‘proper’ ending).

    I don’t usually like live service or roguelite games (give me a straight narrative everytime) but the core game loop of Stormland was so good that I was happy to grind.

    Asgard’s Wrath 2 was a nice surprise, but I miss the days when Meta were funding multiple AAA releases like Stormland & Lone Echo 1+2.

    • Tanix Tx3

      I wont rely on meta for pcvr anymore. Try uevr and other modded games instead.

      • ViRGiN

        stick to your echo chamber of uevr awesomeness.
        nobody cares outside burned out pcvr abusers like you.

        • Tanix Tx3

          Why so salty? Sounds like pcvr took something away from you.
          You know, you could make use of it by yourself.

  • david vincent

    Unfortunately the game looks pretty bad on a LCD screen (blurry with TAA, aliased without) as the game was made for the Rift CV1 (OLED screen).

    • Runesr2

      That’s exactly true, and the main reason I still have my CV1 connected – and the game looks awesome using Rift CV1 ss 2.5 with Ultra settings in solid 90 fps – but could not do that before I got the RTX 3090. Ss 2.5 is 27 million pixels per frame combining both eyes – higher than the panel res of the Vision Pro, so very demanding with such level of super-sampling.
      Now, Index looks great with res 400% too, but might need a RTX 5090 for that, lol.

      • david vincent

        SS > 2.0 is overkill, no ?

  • ViRGiN

    I’m so glad this is not on Steam.
    We need more competition, and steam should focus on playing dumbed down versions of games through Steam Deck, the glorious 30fps 720p handheld.

    • Tanix Tx3

      Not realy, since everytime I tried to buy it in metas store it was not available. How is this gona work with their drm after I bought it, not promising.
      Hardly had this kind of trouble with steam.
      If you want competition, dont forget to compare more than just the raw price.

  • Hussain X

    It’ll be much better if they remained on Meta store than also come on Steam. Instead find a way to allow other non-Meta headsets to access Meta store natively without needing hacks like Revive. Meta PCVR store needs to succeed as a store and be around so players and developers have choices and competition. Like the choice of having cross-buy and cross-save (even the 25% referral discounts on newly released titles, which may not last long). Or like Viveport giving a Netflix style option to gamers and developers getting 90% revenue cut. If all Meta exclusives came to Steam, then gamers and developers will lose in the long term.

    But I love to see it coming to PSVR2. Different market. In fact Sony and Meta should do a deal for their older VR titles so more players can enjoy these great games.

    • XRC

      More than happy to purchase from whichever storefront works with non meta headsets!

      Please take my money, happy to pay as long as it works.

      My issue with Revive (which is/was a one man effort) is spending £40 on an Oculus game that doesn’t then reliably work, is not a great value for the customer.

      Oculus funded some amazing PCVR titles, would be great for the wider PCVR community to be able to play (and pay the developers).

  • Traph

    One thing not mentioned about the climbing mechanics: flicking down/pushing off to jump up a bit while climbing. It feels absolutely great (like a perfect VR implementation of BotW style jump climbing) and I was extremely disappointed when no other studio lifted the mechanic even in a scaled down version – particularly The Climb 2 with its dumb dedicated jump button.

    Honestly, Stormland’s traversal mechanics are why the game is still worth purchasing in 2024. Roguelike shooters are a dime a dozen in VR now, and many of the more recent games handle the core gameplay loop objectively better than Stormlands.

    But nothing comes close to the experience of cloudsurfing around lightning into some crazy vertical boost and then gliding to a cliff and snap climbing up to the top.

  • Tanix Tx3

    They sent plenty of mails before the account shuts down. Did u ignore it.

    • XRC

      No emails from Oculus apart from receipts for store purchases during Rift CV1 ownership. They couldn’t do anything to help recover my account but wouldn’t give a reason for it’s closure.

      • Tanix Tx3

        Weird. I got at least 4 mails over time to change my oculus into meta accont. Otherwise I would loose it now.

  • Wildtz0r

    It had terrible performance, and and a ton of bugs that the devs didn’t bother fixing.
    RIP POS game

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Great article, but what does this game have to do with “XR design”? It’s pure VR, not XR.

    • Ben Lang

      Much of the industry uses XR as the umbrella term for AR, VR, etc.