Get your trigger fingers ready. Duck Season—a dark, Spielberg-esque throwback to classic 8-bit gaming—is available now for Rift on the Oculus Store!
If you or someone you grew up with had the original Nintendo console, you probably have a soft spot in your heart for Duck Hunt. Whether you want to relive your childhood glory or step inside the ’80s for the first time, Duck Season marries a classic coming-of-age narrative with a subversive edge for an experience Engadget called a “celebration of ’80s culture ... with a horror twist, to boot.”
Needless to say, we’re pretty excited. To celebrate, we sat down with Director Alex Knoll for the inside scoop on Stress Level Zero’s follow up to Hover Junkers.
What was the initial inspiration behind Duck Season?
Alex Knoll: We were drawn to retro light gun games for their simplicity, and from that core gameplay, we were able to run wild with various storytelling methods, the shotgun and object interaction mechanics, and some more abstract visual elements. Adding horror elements came while I was thinking about how even children’s movies of the 1980s had fairly intense moments.
You can say that again. So why did you choose to set the game in 1988?
AK: We chose June 20, 1988 to coincide with some in-universe chronology. All the dates, times, and text in the game were picked intentionally—mostly for players who decide to dig deep into the lore.
Anyone who grew up on classic NES should immediately get the appeal of Duck Season. What about younger gamers who don’t have the same shared cultural reference point?
AK: Cultural references aside, younger gamers have always seemed more interested in exploring every last detail—finding exploitable bugs, hidden secrets, and Easter eggs in games. With VR, we finally have the ability to create what we had always hoped would be possible some day. It’s amazing to see what a light gun and some 8-bit ducks could eventually become—but the real fun begins when players start poking around where they shouldn’t.
Is it safe to assume the decision to turn the dog into a serial killer was largely motivated by the irrational, homicidal rage inspired by its endlessly laughing 8-bit counterpart?
AK: Most people who have played Duck Hunt still hold a grudge against the dog for all the taunting, but the real anger stems from the player’s inability to actually shoot it. Also, 1980s sci-fi/fantasy/horror movies always seem to have a murderous cryptid terrorizing children via a cursed artifact—with Duck Season, the dog was a natural fit for the antagonist.
What kind of response have you seen to the game thus far?
AK: The community seems intrigued by the mysterious nature of the game as well as the visual fidelity. Many have commented that the environment and atmosphere really captures the nostalgic 1980s middle-America home ambience. There’s one particular ending that’s extremely easy to achieve, although we expect less than 1% of players will get it on their first playthrough. Only one player managed to go that route during a demo—and his reaction was priceless.
Speaking of the various pathways, we understand the game narrative has seven possible endings. What about the “mysterious subplot” that’s been teased elsewhere?
AK: Many players who attempt that pathway will likely be tricked by accidentally skipping clues, but yes, that area of the game is outside the seven endings.
What can you tell us about the various minigames and the VHS short films?
AK: Helping push the nostalgic atmosphere, we added the minigames and VHS tapes to expand the player’s choices for taking breaks between rounds of duck hunting and story segments. Certain minigames and tapes only show up after specific hours or when something special has happened in-game.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
AK: One of my favorite moments in the game is the dream sequence. As a kid, I always imagined what it would be like to walk on the ceiling and walls.
What first attracted you to VR as a creative space? Where do you think VR will take us in the future?
AK: During the early days of development (before VR was available to consumers), just sitting in different virtual environments for hours was captivating. With Duck Season, we set out to reward players for really studying and soaking in their environment to the point where it’s truly believable as a space that exists.
VR hardware and software will only continue to get better. The real challenge now is in the hands of developers to come up with compelling ideas to advance the medium.
Thanks for the insightful answers, Alex—you’re a real straight shooter.
While we weren’t able to get details, we can share that Stress Level Zero is already several months into production on its next VR title. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next. In the meantime, check out Duck Season on Rift today!
— The Oculus Team