Bandit Six: Combined Arms is two games in one that features 42 action packed levels across land, air and sea and a plethora of unlockables, perks and upgrades for all your weapons. it combines and showcases our first two VR titles for the Studio; Bandit Six and Salvo, games that you could say we cut our VR teeth on.
As our very first VR titles we wanted to create a really cool introduction to VR for what would more than likely be players very first foray into VR gaming. Like most devs moving into VR we were super keen to make this first encounter comfortable and motion sick free. But we also wanted to make games, we’re gamers too, not passive experiences, but proper arcade action shooters. Hmmm… motion sick free, arcade, action, shooting, VR, a proper game…
Cue light-bulb moment! What if you’re playing in first person (a natural go to for VR), are a gunner (shooter action), a rear gunner (seated play position, restricted forward facing view arc of 170 degrees = very high comfort factor) on a bomber (it’s moving at a constant speed, very high altitude so no concept of acceleration or speed = no motion sickness). Mix this with an intuitive look-to-aim system, plenty of fast moving targets to shoot (arcade action) and you end up with Bandit Six.
With Salvo, we took this concept a step forward. You’re still playing in a seated position with look-to-aim shooting but now we let players teleport instantly between their multiple gun positions so they can move around a level without having to actually move (again no motion sickness).
So far, so awesome. But we had other challenges. And you gotta remember, there was no rule book, “VR for Dummies”. It’s still being written and we were one of the first to put pen to paper (over cooked analogy but you get the point).
How do you deal with GUI? It’s a shooter, there’s ammo, health, target indicators. There’s no screen, no edges – OMG no screen corners to put stuff in! Keep calm. We learned to embed that stuff into the world.
In Bandit Six all that info is built into your ‘real’ aiming reticule, in Salvo it’s part of the guns you crew. All the important info you need is always right where you’re looking (remember where you look is where you aim), it’s at a comfortable distance from your eyes (remember its 3D not flat so there is focal depth variations in a scene). Job done.
Then how do you get players to look where you want them to? It’s not a flat screen, not a view through a letter box where the entire scene is in front of you, its VR, THERE IS NO SCREEN – the entire world surrounds you and you can be looking anywhere!
We’ve made loads of console games but all the staples including – ‘Right, we’ll do a camera cut here to introduce this enemy.’ – don’t really work. Suddenly changing a VR player’s POV with no warning is pretty unsettling.
So, for Combined Arms, we ruled this out and instead used audio – used sound – to draw your eyes. The audio surrounds you and we used positional audio effects to attract your attention – so when that big battleship sounds it’s klaxon you will naturally turn to see it. Bingo. Since then we’ve made more VR games and learned so much more. But hey, outta words so will have to save that for another time. Tally Ho and watch your Six!