By Jakub Kwinta, PR and Communication Specialist, Anshar Studios
This Polish studio knows how to exploit the potential of VR without forgetting other platforms. A group of 40 passionate individuals with experience in programming, design, and graphics, Anshar Studios, specializes not only in gameplay, but also in third-party projects, creating games and applications for other entities. Though Detached is their first VR game, it is a courageous project where the devs were not afraid of going against the norms, creating an extreme space survival game for the most demanding players.
Back in 2013 we decided to take advantage of the growing trend of Virtual Reality (VR) and create a game for the new VR devices. We tested a few mini prototypes which seemed promising. These included a magician casting a spell (using Leap Motion technology), as well as a horror or racing game. Everything changed when the movie Gravity came out. After watching the film, our CEO Łukasz Hacura said, “We’re doing this!” This is exactly what we wanted to show in VR. The sci-fi experience was perfect for this growing technology.
Inspired By Gravity
We initially focused on the co-op mode, based on the movie of Gravity, where players could help or hinder each other, depending on their decision. The first focus tests quickly made us realize that we couldn’t really go that route. Players love to compete with and tease their opponent, winning clashes. We decided to abandon the co-op idea and move to a versus mode, excluding violence.
Are we good? Let’s get started! After a few weeks, we decided to make another big change in the baseline concept for Detached. At first, we were going to create two separate paths that both players defeat at their own pace, meeting each other only at the very end. However, the development cost would be too high, and players wouldn’t be interested in spending the first 40 minutes of the game solving logical puzzles in order to get from the hub to the exit. Also, we weren’t able to create a unique immersion experience in multiplayer mode. Eventually we decided to separate both parts of the game, creating a longer single player campaign and a dynamic PvP mode.
Creating a specific space environment, devoid of earthly gravity, we had to consider the limitations associated with nausea. Our goal was to create a game that would challenge a well-worn scheme and show that VR gameplay can be extreme—delivering an intense sense of immersion—as well as graphically impeccable. Entering the niche, we were aware that the product would not reach players vulnerable to nausea.
After the Early Access release on Steam, we had the opportunity to show Detached at various gaming events, which gave us an idea of how many players are actually prone to motion sickness. It turns out that for over 3,000 players who tried Detached, 20-30% of them were prone to nausea. The majority didn’t show any problems and experienced comfortable gameplay. It was a good thing to hear players’ feedback. That may seem trivial, but many game developers forget about it during the development phase. Don’t be afraid to share an early version of your game to test the solutions among people who are not accustomed to VR.
The process of creating Detached has made us aware of how many elements need to be improved, as well as what to look for when creating an open 360-degree world. First of all, creating a VR game requires a lot of restrictions. We had to keep in mind that spatial immersion has to be preserved as much as possible, without decreasing extreme sensations during the game.
Detached had to be adapted to play in at least 60 frames per second, and the user interface had to be part of the virtual world. The player must be able to look around. Taking away the ability to look in the direction you want, or forcing the camera during the cutscenes will effectively thwart the immersion. In our view, virtual hands also destroyed the immersion when touch controllers were not available on the market. Therefore, picking up objects in the game (oxygen, NANDs, fuel) looks awkward, but it feels fine.
It’s also worth mentioning that, in the case of space simulator games, players often asked us during the first tests, which way is up and which is down. It was hard to explain that there is no up or down in outer space. We decided to modify the map scale by rotating objects on the map so that the maps would not resemble a horizontal layout. In addition, we minimized collisions with objects in the game, which has helped to avoid problems with uncontrolled rotation in space.
Hard work, limited resources
Despite of the studio’s good condition and the increasing number of people in the company, the Detached team did not grow hastily. Most of the studio employees were focused on third-party jobs, which certainly contributed to the long production time of the game. Therefore, only one programmer, Tomasz Bilnicki, worked on Detached. Damian Wyspiański was responsible for the whole design. We would also like to show our appreciation for the graphic artists, headed by Krzysztof Fornalczyk.
It has been a while since Detached was released, but this doesn’t mean that the project is finished. We continue to improve the game by releasing new updates that focus on multiplayer mode adjustments (new game modes, maps, and more). Thanks to the players’ feedback, we have recently added Eagle Eye View mode, which helps reduce motion sickness for sensitive players by limiting the field of view. Our ambitions go even further: we plan to release Detached on consoles in the future. Stay updated and find Detached on Facebook, Twitter or visit detachedgame.com.
Time is inexorable
First of all, the VR market is changing dynamically and we felt this several times during the development of Detached. A good example was the release of touch controllers for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, which forced us to create full support and redesign the game mechanics. Our advice? Don’t spend such a long time (3 years) developing a VR game because the market will evolve while you develop it.
While totally busy with adding new cool stuff to the game, the devs are open to communication and cooperation through their PR & Communication Specialist Jakub Kwinta.