Some of you will remember Spectre Seekers as one of the finalists from the Oculus VR Game Jam. The team is taking their project into full production and has been approved for Kickstarter to crowdfund their effort. Spectre is what they’re calling the full version of the game, and their goal is to bring a unique VR multiplayer horror experience to the Oculus Rift.
After the excellent reception of several Oculus Rift horror demos, like Alone in the Rift and Dreadhalls, it’s no wonder that the Spectre team is working toward a frightening experience. Their unique angle is that the game is multiplayer; players will have the option to scare each other, rather than rely on a predictable scripted experience. In the same way that player vs. player multiplayer brings much more meaning to the combat of a first person shooter, multiplayer horror is likely to have the potential for far more frightening experiences.
The Spectre team tells Road to VR that they earned quick approval by Kickstarter to launch their crowdfunding campaign, set for early this year. The developers plan to have a multiplayer beta ready for Kickstarter backers on or shortly after the campaign launches.
In the Spectre Seekers VR Game Jam demo, the player explored a dim house while being pursued by a ghostly (computer-controller) figure which can pass through walls and disorient the player. The only way to destroy the ghost was for the player to find a camera hidden in the house and snap a picture of the ghoul.
For Spectre, the team is planning to retain a single player experience (which may be similar to what we saw in Spectre Seekers), but multiplayer will take the form of a 1 vs. 3 match (among other game modes) where one player is the Spectre and up to three others are the Seekers (human explorers) in a scenario that sounds terrifically terrifying:
“Rather than bombarding you with lots of cheap scares, Spectre relies heavily on the foreboding suspense of the unknown. Perhaps its most defining feature, Spectre lets the players scare each other. With danger lurking so close, any movement, from friend or foe, is startling. The Spectre may be hiding around the corner. Seekers’ teammates may be imposters. The Spectre and Seekers are always in pursuit of one another. Each side poses a real threat to the other, so tension is high on either end,” reads the Spectre website.
Q&A With Spectre Project Lead, Ryan Anderson
Horror games are a difficult breed, let alone balanced multiplayer games. To learn how the team planned to merge these two challenging experiences into one Oculus Rift-ready game, I spoke with Spectre project lead, Ryan Anderson.
Road to VR: What have you learned and how much has changed since your submission to the Oculus VR Game Jam?
Anderson: A lot of work has gone into adjusting gameplay mechanics in virtual reality while striking a balance between suspense and entertainment. From the beginning, we have received a lot of feedback about Spectre from friends and fans. The most popular comment has been “Oh my god!” often followed by, “Why would you make something like this!?” and a nervous laugh. But we also received suggestions for improvements. Getting feedback throughout development has improved the gameplay and fear factor. We have been working a lot of multiplayer, the movement and camera systems, Spectre AI, and creating a really dreadful, maze-like environment. We wanted to build for multiplayer from the outset, so we have been refining the framework and our new gameplay modes.
Road to VR: What are some examples of VR specific gameplay elements that most excite you?
Anderson: The most important thing for Spectre is that immersion helps make things really scary, more than you can really imagine until you’ve spent some time gaming in VR. Spectre can be so scary that I can’t play without occasionally lifting the Rift from my face to remind myself that it’s only a game. I know how the game works because I made it, and still, it scares me.
VR gameplay elements are also exciting because they’re a big new sandbox for developers to create unique challenges. They’re not the same old tricks gamers have been stuck with to solve puzzles for the past 30+ years. They make gamers think outside the box. Riddles that do that are the most rewarding to solve, and we are utilizing VR specific gameplay mechanics in Spectre to both create original challenges and strengthen immersion. We’ve got a lot of tools at our disposal. By displaying different images with each camera we can create puzzles that require looking with one eye. Head tracking is a powerful tool. We can navigate menus and aim weapons with just a gaze, and trigger events based on what you are looking at. That’s really just the beginning…
Road to VR: VR is a new medium with new challenges—how difficult has it been to make a balanced multiplayer VR game?
Anderson: Balanced multiplayer has been a challenging endeavor from the start. From the design phase, we had to be careful about making either the Spectre or Seekers too powerful. During development, we’ve had to make continuous changes both sides in favor of balancing gameplay. VR specific challenges we’ve had to overcome included movement speed and the ease of attacking. In VR, moving fast can easily cause motion sickness. Finding the “right” movement speed has taken lots of trial and error. Our project has been very open and collaborative and will remain that way through the rest of development. The Beta will help will help us continue to improve the experience.
Road to VR: Does everyone on the dev team have a Rift dev kit?
Anderson: Half of us have the dev kit. Viewing the game in VR is vital when programmers are testing VR-specific gameplay, but the dev kit is less relevant for tasks such as sound design or animation. Testing the game without a Rift is also important to make sure that the game is still enjoyable outside of VR, specifically on 3D TV. Everything is ultimately designed and tested for VR and we are up playing the game most nights to make sure everything is moving in the right direction.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for the launch of the Spectre Kickstarter and keep you in the know!