Oculus Spotlight: Time is on Your Side in the Visually-Mesmerizing FPS, SUPERHOT VR
When the game arrived on PC and consoles earlier this year, leading critics agreed that SUPERHOT was one of the most innovative shooters around. Now, thanks to Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch support, you can enjoy that same riveting experience with a VR twist that drops you right in the middle of the action.
In SUPERHOT VR, you must shoot, punch, and slice your way through a stunning minimalist environment filled with enemies who live to kill you. What makes the game so unique is its unusual twist: your adversaries only move when you do. Otherwise, time freezes. Complicating the matter is the fact that there are no ammo caches lying out in the open, just waiting for you to grab them and become a one-man army. You have to rely on your wits, not an endless supply of bullets, and you need to utilize weapons dropped by your fallen foes if you want to stand a chance.
Kicking Off Something Different
It's easy to see that the developers responsible for SUPERHOT are a highly-talented bunch. But the team couldn't have brought its vision to the marketplace without support from the gaming community, and especially from a Kickstarter campaign.
"Basically, doing the game through Kickstarter gives you some milestones that you need to keep to your community," recalls SUPERHOT Team’s Piotr Iwanicki. "We had to release an early Alpha version for the selected backers, then the Beta for a bit bigger bunch. This provides a timeline framework for your work."
SUPERHOT actually evolved from the promising initial results of a seven-day game jam. The early build provided the framework, and the successful crowdfunding campaign gave the team the resources and input that were required to successfully turn a rough draft into the polished title we know today.
"We were sometimes not sure if our ideas are going to resonate with players," admits Iwanicki, "but time after time our community reacted to those ideas. With our awesome community, we could actually explore. We had this freedom."
Substance with Style
Though the Kickstarter campaign gave the team additional resources, it still lacked the budget and manpower that have produced some of the genre's blockbusters. The core mechanics were in place, but they needed a fresh look to go with them.
"We were looking for a simple style," says Iwanicki, "something that would burn into your mind like an icon."
Given the game's approach to shooting, a cluttered environment would likely have impacted the gameplay in negative ways. Such an approach might also have felt too similar to other shooters that came before it.
"Instead of competing with other games," notes Iwanicki, "we tried doing things that are not comparable. That's the basic philosophy of our graphical style."
That simplistic route taken on the original design actually worked in the team's favor as it looked at how to bring the experience to VR while keeping its defining characteristics in place.
"In VR we fight for framerate," explains Iwanicki. "No 90 fps means no immersion. All the fancy post-processing effects needed to go away for us. What stayed is the raw essence, with custom-made shaders for concrete and crystal."
A VR Touch
Even with the artistic concerns addressed, bringing SUPERHOT to VR wasn't as simple as dropping some code on a different machine and making a few slight tweaks. Developers have learned that a 1:1 translation of a console or PC hit may not feel right when it makes that transition, and the SUPERHOT VR team recognized that early in the process.
"Back when we started, FPS games for VR were still meant to be mostly seated experiences with your hands on a gamepad and headset only on your head," recalls Iwanicki. "After a few experiments, it quickly turned out that this is just a silly idea. For VR, we needed to design the game again. So we did."
With the conventional controller, keyboard, and mouse left by the wayside, the team was able to properly focus on the Touch controller and the potential impact it could have on an experience that players and critics already liked. The obvious next step from there was to build a version of SUPERHOT that could take that memorable immersion to a whole new level.
"Oculus Touch controllers are controllers for your hands, but we treat them as a tool for full body presence," Iwanicki notes. "Of course, only your head and your hands are formally tracked - but you are playing with your whole body. It's an intense and total experience, where every move you make matters."
So far, the results have been promising. Though the game isn't yet available to the general populace, it's well on its way and the early feedback has been terrific.
"We were seriously surprised to see what people were able to pull off during early testing," says Iwanicki. "Honestly, we just can't wait to finally release the game and see what people will come up with during playthroughs. Also, you will be able to shoot crystal red dudes. Up close. Now in VR. What more do you need?"
SUPERHOT VR will be available on Oculus Rift, starting December 6th. If you have been looking for a new shooter experience unlike anything else on the marketplace, or if you enjoyed the PC version and would like to try it again with an even more intimate approach, make sure to leave room in your budget for one of the hottest experiences around.