Well, this has been a small roller-coaster. First the new UE4 Redux of acclaimed mystery adventure The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, did have VR support out of the box, then the developer admitted this was a mistake and now it’s been removed – along with a note from the developer as to why.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux, a remake of the game in the latest version of Epic’s Unreal Engine, has caused quite the stir. Not only does the free update bring with it much improved visuals and some important gameplay tweaks, like minimised backtracking, it did – for a short time at least- allow many to experience what the game was like in virtual reality.
Now comes official news that the support that the developer admitted shouldn’t have made it to release in the first place, is removed in the latest ‘just released’ patch for the game. However, rather than just coldly rip this tantalising glimpse of VR gloriousness from our hands with not a word, a few words of explanation are offered by the developer, The Astronauts.
We know very well this decision will anger a few people. We have hired security experts and barricaded ourselves at an undisclosed location.
But look, we are not insane. There are good honest reasons behind this move.
We are happy people like the way Ethan looks in VR…
..state the developers. And as painful as this news is for some of you, as we probably all know – added VR support in games which were not originally designed around VR isn’t always a bed of roses. The developers clearly have a handle on this:
First, there are technical issues with the current implementation. They exist because we have no dealt with them yet.
Second, the game needs to undergo a serious internal remake in order to maintain proper VR framerate.
Third, any VR developer worth their salt will tell you that making a VR version is not as simple as clicking “enable VR” button. Even when a game technically runs flawlessly, with no visual bugs and with silky smooth framerate, VR is also about proper control systems and avoiding non-VR friendly solutions that all “normal” games feature without a second thought.
To give you an example from Ethan, when you enter a railcar, a first-person animation takes over for a few seconds. This is not an issue in the 2D or even 3D version, but is a nightmare for some people in the VR version. It’s confusing at best, and sickness-inducing at worst.
This is just one of many such issues, some of them much bigger than this. As I said, the game requires some serious redesign in a couple of areas.
You can’t say fairer than that in my opinion. Anyone who has played through significant portions of the leaked and unlocked Alien: Isolation on the Oculus Rift will know that cut scenes which wrestle camera control away from you can be jarring at best.
Finally – the developer reveal tentative plans on how exactly the VR version will be distributed to people, once the team are ready.
There will be a separate game or a DLC (have no decided yet but we will make sure the current owners are happy) called The Vanishing of Ethan Carter VR, but the reason to disable VR now was not because we want you to pay up first. It was because the current implementation is buggy and we already see people complaining about it in Reddit and Steam forums. “Buggy” is not even a proper word for something that is not a release. But the point is: we do not want anyone to get an impression we have done something half-baked and not up to our standards.
Fair play I say. What’s more, it looks as if you won’t have to wait too long as The Astronauts plan to ship the VR version in Q1 2016 – just in time for the retail versions of both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift (the former headset not confirmed as supported for clarity.