It’s a good thing Rift doesn’t run on quarters, because one of our favorite Atari arcade classics has made its way to PC VR. Battlezone is back and better than ever at 90 fps.
To celebrate the launch of Battlezone on Rift, we jumped in the cockpit with Rebellion Senior Producer James Valls and took aim at the updates.
What motivated you to bring Battlezone to Rift? Why now?
James Vall: Bringing Battlezone to Oculus Rift just made sense. We’ve always been known for making multiplatform games, and Battlezone has been extremely well received, so it was always a matter of time. It’s probably worth mentioning our tools are PC-based, so we’ve had a version running from the very beginning—we just wanted to make sure we gave the PC version the time it deserved to deliver the best experience possible.
Why did you decide to reboot a 1980s Atari arcade title? How did the project change over time?
JV: Chris and Jason, owners of Rebellion, are huge fans of the original Battlezone arcade game, so they quickly acquired the IP when the opportunity came about. At that time, the team was experimenting with the DK1 headset, so it was one of those “Eureka!” moments where we realized it totally made sense to bring Battlezone to VR.
A lot of the changes on the project came from learning how to develop for VR—something we had to do in parallel with developing Battlezone. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from working on Battlezone, it’s how different VR is compared to more traditional platforms. A lot of things we took for granted didn’t translate very well to VR, and these lessons affected all aspects of the game, environments, and controls. Even enemy types changed throughout development to take advantage of the opportunities that VR offered.
What’s it like to work on a team helmed by two brothers?
JV: It’s certainly unique! I started working at Rebellion almost 10 years ago, and the company has grown in size considerably, but Chris and Jason have managed to maintain an indie feel in how we make games. They both have very different roles within the company but are both active on each project we make. They’re passionate about the games we make, get involved in the whole process, and their door is always open, which is very refreshing—especially if you’re used to a more corporate environment. Jason’s office is always full of medieval armor and weapons, so it’s always fun to pop over for a quick chat!
How did you determine the game’s overall look and feel?
JV: We went through a lot of iterations, but we settled on the current look quite early on. We wanted to maintain some of the retro aesthetics from the arcade game and pay homage to the original but also create a look that felt fresh and unique to our game. I’m really happy with the final result—it has a very clean, beautiful look whilst maintaining that “retro-futuristic” look.
What was it like to combine ’80s nostalgia with cutting-edge technology?
JV: Awesome! Many of the team members are old enough to remember playing the original Battlezone arcade game, so we had a blast recreating that feel. The audio guys especially had a great time working on the project as it allowed them to dust off a lot of the old equipment, like the TR-606 drum machine—made in 1981! It also gave them a chance to mix both retro and more futuristic sounds to create the amazing backing tracks.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
JV: I’m really proud of the opening sequence in the game, as we spent an insane amount of time in getting it just right! It acts as an introduction to the world of Battlezone but also as a first-time introduction to VR for many players, so we worked really hard creating something that invites new players to our world without overwhelming them. I think it clearly demonstrates how much further you can get immersed in a game when using VR.
The best reactions always came from showing the demo to the public, and it was always really fun to see how players totally bought into the experience of being in a tank cockpit. It feels so real, you regularly see them reaching their arms around trying to touch the different monitors, knobs, and switches we have in the cockpit which makes for some fun videos. We also see a lot of players ducking and dodging when rockets fly towards them—it definitely tricks your brain!
What can our readers look forward to during the Twitch launch stream?
JV: Loads of swearing if I’m involved! We’ll be playing some of the game, answering any questions that viewers may have, and giving away some sweet loot, including game keys, signed posters, and a Battlezone-themed controller.
Thanks, James. We can’t wait for everyone to get in on the co-op action.
— The Oculus Team