The wait is over! That’s right, Echo VR fans—Echo Combat, the zero-g team-based shooter from Ready At Dawn Studios, is out today, exclusively on Rift. We’ve been covering the game’s development from the open beta and developments at OC5 to more recent announcements and reveals.
We caught up with Ready At Dawn Senior Gameplay Programmer Jake Copenhaver, Lead Programmer David Neubelt, and Lead Producer Alex Salcedo to get the latest on Echo Combat.
How would you describe Echo Combat to someone new to VR?
Alex Salcedo: Echo Combat is a ﬁrst-person competitive zero-gravity combat shooter. You play a futuristic battle-ready robot armed with an array of weapons and abilities as your team of four competes against the opposition in high-speed objective-based zero-gravity matches.
Can you explain the general objective and strategy for victory in the game?
AS: The general objective of Capture Point is to compete with the opponent team to control and secure a central point. Concerning Payload Mode, one team must push the payload (aka a giant flaming flamingo) along a track to a finish point while the other team fights to stop them. In both cases we have tried to build these game modes to reward teamwork and communication. Players that work together have a much better likelihood of victory. For example, strategizing together when picking a team’s loadout and agreeing on who is going to push forward versus who is supporting from behind.
How did the open beta influence the final look and feel of the game?
AS: The look of the game was established before the Open Betas started, but the feel of the game has been constantly evolving, due in part to the amazing feedback we received from the community. For example, we had intended for public matches to be 3v3, but they are now 4v4 adding both balance and increased strategy to each match. We expect to further tune and balance the game once it's live.
What can players expect to see in terms of weapons, items, and upgrades?
Four Weapons, four tac-mods, and four ordnances will be available at launch with Echo Combat:
Pulsar: Mid-range weapon like a scout blaster
Nova: Short range weapon like a shotgun
Comet: Long range weapon like a sniper rifle
Meteor: Mid to long range weapon like a rocket launcher
Scanner: Scans the environment so you can see enemies behind walls for a short time
Energy Barrier: Destructible shield you can place anywhere that lasts for a short time
Phase Shift: Escape tactic that makes the player invulnerable for a short amount of time
Repair Matrix: Healing ability that restores health over time to nearby allies
Detonator: An explosive charge that can be thrown and detonated to deal damage
Stun: A ball of energy that stuns all players it touches for a short amount of time
Arc Mine: A trap that activates and stuns enemies for a short time if they get too close
Instant Repair: A grenade that can be detonated to heal nearby allies instantly
What has player feedback been like? How did it influence the final game?
David Neubelt: We’ve seen a huge activation of players communicating through Reddit, discord, and Twitter. Also, our whole team plays on the betas. That way, we get firsthand experience of what the players are complaining about. Because each developer has a developer tag, players will go up to them and they are not afraid to complain about what they don’t like about the game. That’s very useful feedback to the members of the team.
Jake Copenhaver: We wrote down every single comment that we got from discord or Reddit and compiled it into a big a list that we sent out to the team. We take those comments very seriously—if a pattern emerges we will change it for sure.
How has player movement evolved between Echo Arena and Echo Combat?
AS: We didn’t want to change the movement model a lot from what worked with Echo Arena, but we have made a few improvements here and there.
JC: Player clipping was an issue with our movement model because you could pull your head all the way down to floor. On Echo Arena, it wasn’t perceived as much of an issue but on Echo Combat it was. That is an improvement that we decided to tackle.
What key learnings from Echo Arena helped most when designing Echo Combat?
AS: It is fair to say that without Echo Arena, Echo Combat would not be possible. The unique movement model allows players to traverse and explore the environment in ways one cannot in a traditional first person shooter. This has meant designing levels through an entirely different lens. Echo Arena helped us establish the rules and bounds of how we design these spaces.
JC: We played Echo Arena a lot internally and that cycle of playing contributed a lot to our culture, to making the game better, and we tried to champion that.
DN: We tried to keep what made Echo Arena so popular, which was the fast-paced gameplay. We originally tried to do a slower version of Echo Combat but it seemed to drift away from the Echo VR identity that a lot of our players had grown to love.
Can you talk about lobby activities and how matchmaking works?
AS: The lobby has really taken on a life of its own within the community. For many the allure of hanging out with friends, and making new ones in zero-G, is almost as compelling as the core gameplay. That is why we’re constantly thinking about new social activities to add like the dart board, shooting range, and practice disc area. We also take our holiday-themed events pretty seriously.
Would you say Echo Combat was designed with esports in mind?
JC: The game is designed to be competitive but it’s up to the community to make it an esport I think.
DN: In a lot of design meetings we have gone away from certain of things because we feel it won’t be competitive. If it’s not competitive then it wouldn’t be able to be sustained at a high level of play. Among others, eSports is one of the reasons we pushed to include spectator mode.
What do you think new VR users will find most compelling about Echo Combat?
JC: Echo Combat will suit very different styles of players. You can sit and shoot from a distance, or if you’re not good at shooting you can still play healer.
DN: Individuals can find a role that doesn’t involve hardcore movement and isn't too in-your-face. It can fun to follow your teammates around and keep them healed.
Do you have a general timeline or cadence for new content?
AS: Players can expect ongoing support of Echo VR through 2019. We can’t get into too much detail about our timeline for new content just yet but suffice it to say we are very excited about what we have planned next!
What’s something you’d like to say to the community of Echo VR fans out there?
AS: We are honored and humbled by the support, enthusiasm and feedback you’ve provided us throughout the development of our games. It is always awesome to interact with the community in the lobby or in matches. With your help we have created a culture of friendliness and comradery. On behalf of the entire Ready At Dawn team we thank you!
Echo Combat is available as an in-app purchase through Echo VR for $9.99 USD. If you already own Echo VR, you can purchase the Echo Combat DLC on the Echo VR Oculus Store page. Echo VR players can also log in to Echo VR and purchase Echo Combat from the Main Menu or in the Echo VR lobby at any of the Matchmaking Terminals or Customization Terminals, confirm your purchase in headset, and you’re ready to take off into zero-g glory.
If you're ready to launch into battle, then gather your robotic crew and check out Echo Combat today.
See you there!
— The Oculus Team