Let’s be honest here. Back when the Oculus Rift DK1 was barely in enthusiast’s hands, the majority of content available for this new breed of VR headset wasn’t pretty. Such was the power of this new platform and the new-ness of the experience, it didn’t matter that visuals would barely have passed muster had they been released as standard monitor based PC demos. But, things change and Pollen, from Finnish developers Mindfield Games represents a new breed of games whose ambition and visuals match the expectations of the hardened VR enthusiast and the every day gamer.
Exploration, Adventure and Ambiguity
Pollen is a first person exploration and adventure game that’s ‘optimised’ for virtual reality headsets. That is, Pollen has been designed form the ground up to not only work well with VR Headsets, but also to exploit the unique properties they expose. And it has to be said, first person adventuring is a neat fit for VR. Anyone who’s spent any time in even the most rudimentary first person VR experience will know that it’s very easy to lose yourself to the world around you.
And Pollen’s world is so lovingly designed and rendered I suspect getting lost in it will be no trouble at all. Set on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, the developer cites story telling influences such as Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Tarkovsky (Solaris), Pollen is likely to leave the player not only to explore its world largely unguided, but also allow them to make up their own conclusions as to the events that unfold before them.
“Having grown up with classic science fiction like Solaris and Space Odyssey, we have always dreamt of roaming desolate spaceships and discovering alien worlds.”, says Mindfield Co-Founder Olli Sinerma. “This dream settled us on a path to develop a first-person adventure where you wear a pressurized suit and explore a mysterious space station. Thanks to the Oculus Rift we have been able to create an environment that feels every bit as real as the world around us.”
Mindfield clearly believe in VR, but they’re not expecting that VR wow-factor to carry the title. “First priority for us is to make a great story-exploration game,” Olli states, “but we have been developing it with head mounted displays in mind since the concept phase.”
Although it couldn’t be said that Pollen occupies an entirely new genre, it does represent an example of a genre being rejuvenated by virtual reality. Because merely being ‘in’ another world, especially one so well crafted, is actually enough, it means that traditional mechanics that usually drive games in the absence of this immersion are not as readily required. So Pollen’s ‘gently, gently’ approach to game design can work. We’re very much looking forward to seeing if indeed it does.
Pollen is due for release in 2015 for PC and as stated, optimised for the Oculus Rift. We’ll be catching up with Mindfield Games at Gamescom next week where we hope to find out more about Pollen. You can find out more at the game’s website here.