We’ve always been of the mind that Virtual Reality needs far more than the gaming market to survive. But the new VR game Stormland might just help kickstart the XR revolution. As Oculus VP of content, Jason Rubin told Variety, this could be a seachange title for the public,
. . . a title that could radically change their view of the platform.
And Rubin notes, software drives hardware sales. Almost two ago, we were debating if VR needs a hit. It still doesn’t, but it needs compelling content across the full spectrum of the potential market – entertainment, business, social causes, and education.
If the gaming community helps create engaging content, all the better for the future of VR. As VR hardware become ubiquitous, those of us in education and other fields will find incredibly creative ways to leverage its use.
New VR game
So here comes Stormland. It’s the new open-world AAA game by Insomniac, the company behind many of the successful Oculus games. Variety spoke with chief creative officer Chad Dezern about the game environment.
The end result is a game that features a robust climbing system, the ability to free-walk all over the world, to glide from clifftops and along slipstreams, and to discover new islands loaded with tech, augmentations, rare creatures, and enemy strongholds.
Chad Dezern added,
It’s about creating a lot of player choice and not being constrained in any way by the medium. We put you in a world where you can go anywhere with a set of traversal mechanics. On top of that, there is a combat model that is free form. You can steal weapons from an enemy, you can upgrade the android’s ability to shoot electricity from its arm, to cloak from enemies, or create a shield. You can use the environment to place traps or blow up enemy munitions. It’s how you want to play, how you want to engage.
Here’s the three-minute trailer.
A story and a meta-story
An open-world and multiplayer game that is designed to be perpetually playable, it will be fascinating to see how Stormland evolves. There’s a guiding narrative, but you’re not locked into it. As lead designer Mike Daly said,
It is the culmination of so many things, a universe we love crafting, a story we love telling, building on systems we’ve been wanting to bring to the world. It’s a world that changes every single week, so you have new playgrounds to get around in.
Up to now, VR games have fallen into one of two camps – there’s the arcade style which seems like any game with an added 360° view and the more immersive games with a tightly scripted narrative. The latter are more interesting but miss the sense of agency that is so compelling in VR. Stormland is a more open, fluid environment, bringing together successful elements from AAA games, a Pixar film and sci-fi.
Insomniac says one of its largest gameplay influences was in fact The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which incentivized exploration and rewarded players for exploring the world without a distinct goal in mind.
Aesthetically, Stormland looks to be taking cues from classic animated films like Pixar’s WALL-E and Neill Blomkamp sci-fi works District 9 and Elysium, as well as more recent games with strong art direction like No Man’s Sky. (The Verge)
The new VR game isn’t due out until 2019. But with the E3 conference underway this week, expect to hear more details and maybe a glimpse beyond the trailer.
And get ready to go tend to your gardening android robot, who really does seem like WALL-E, until it’s time to save the world.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.