Last week, we welcomed OrbusVR to Rift in Early Access. Initially, the small team behind this indie MMORPG hoped to sell 10K copies of the game by the end of the year—a goal they quickly surpassed in less than a month. From Kickstarter to closed betas and beyond, response to this open-world fantasy game has been incredibly positive—and with hours of quests, social interaction, dragon pets, and some obligatory fishing, it’s not hard to see why.
We sat down with OrbusVR Director Riley Dutton to celebrate the launch and learn more about the development process.
How did you first get involved in game development? What was the path that led you from Roll20 to here?
Riley Dutton: I’ve been tinkering with game development on small projects in my spare time for quite a while, using Unity, Pygame, WebGL, and other technologies. While working on Roll20, I gained a lot of experience building a product for a passionate, niche community and growing it into something with wide-scale appeal.
After working on Roll20 for around five years, once the company had reached a stable, mature state, I started feeling like I wanted to move on to the next thing. I’m at my best when I’m working on a new project and really accelerating the growth of it. There’s a better chance to interact more directly with the community, and every day is an exciting new challenge—you can really see your efforts making a big impact every time you push new code.
I was interested in VR and was able to acquire a headset shortly after the first generation began coming out. After I tried it out and played some early games, I was totally blown away and knew I wanted to do something in this space as my next adventure.
What was it about VR that attracted you to it as a creative space?
RD: The sense of presence and immersion that some of the early VR experiences I played had was what really drew me in. Obviously we’re not to a point yet where you don’t know you’re in a virtual world, but there are definitely moments where someone throws you something in a VR game and you catch it and go, “Whoa, that felt real!”
What was the initial inspiration behind OrbusVR?
RD: The earliest idea that I had was the mechanic for the Runemage casting, and I was playing around with some of those ideas before I knew what kind of game I wanted to make.
It’s always been a “bucket list” item for me to make an MMO. When I saw that no one was building one yet in the VR space, I knew I had to take a chance and go for it. I thought that my previous experience building up an amazing community would serve me well and give the game a boost in terms of its chances of succeeding.
OrbusVR seems to capitalize on both the social and immersive nature of VR in a compelling way by merging the multiplayer aspect of MMOs and the character development over time in RPGs. While the combination of the two genres is nothing new, what does VR add to the experience that wouldn’t be possible in a different medium?
RD: I think the most interesting thing is that, with VR, we’re able to actually create real skills in the game that you can only get better at via practice. For example, in a traditional RPG or MMO, becoming a more powerful mage is just a matter of unlocking some additional buttons to press on your keyboard, paired with perhaps some better decision making about what skills to use when.
In VR, we can create an actual skill revolving around drawing runes to cast spells that takes dozens of hours to get good enough at to be considered “okay,” and hundreds of hours to master. It’s like learning to play the guitar or play golf in real life—it’s a real skill! And once you’ve mastered it, other people will look at you and be blown away by what you can do. You have this real sense of accomplishment because you actually had to put in time to master it, not just grind out 100 hours of killing low-level mobs until you unlock the “Fireball 3” button.
What’s the craziest reaction you’ve seen from someone playing the game?
RD: Probably the craziest thing I’ve seen is people talking about taking a day or even several days off work so they could be online as much as possible right after the game launched. Another high point was logging into one of the beta tests and hearing someone shout out right after the servers came online, “Yes! I’m home!”
An incredible moment for me was logging in after launch, walking around the starter area, and seeing 60 people all just standing around talking with each other, giving advice to newcomers, teaching them about the abilities in the game, forming groups, and running off on quests. Just being around all of that social interaction and those new friendships being born brings a huge smile to my face.
OrbusVR is still in early access. What can players expect to see over the longer term?
RD: We’re focused right now on expanding some of the core game mechanics, like adding a Class Talents system, which will give each player a better opportunity to customize their class to match their play style. We’re also working on getting the rest of the end-game content into the game over the next three to six months, including our first end-game dungeon, shared dungeons (which are basically “hard mode” dungeons), and raids.
After that, we’ll be looking to exit Early Access and begin working on our first expansion, which will feature lots of new content, major changes to the game world, and several new classes to play.
We’re also always collecting feedback from the community on things we can improve, fixing bugs, and polishing up the game. We’ve got plans to go back through and do another pass at the graphics, so we can bring it all in-line with our newer cell-shaded art style as well.
Of the four battle disciplines—Runemage, Ranger, Musketeer, and Warrior—which is your personal favorite?
RD: I’m not sure I should answer this question! [laughs] As Game Director, I love all of the classes equally and enjoy playing them all—and that’s the truth. Personally, I’ve always been a healer at heart in the other MMO games that I’ve played, so if I were only going to get to play one class, it would probably be the Musketeer.
What can you tell us about the three resource disciplines (Alchemy, Fishing, and Artificing)?
RD: We’ve designed the resource disciplines to require as much time, practice, and dedication to excel at as any of the battle classes. So while you might be able to be a decent Alchemist, Artificer, or Fisher and do the beginning and intermediate parts of those classes, if you’re going to be the first person in the game to discover every aged potion (which still hasn’t happened yet a month in) or know how to catch every fish in the game, you’re going to have to put in some serious time.
I think the discipline that I’m most intrigued by is the Artificer system, just because it’s a unique idea I’ve never seen in another game. Basically, it’s a system where 36 different actions in the game are tracked while you engage in combat—everything from what types of abilities you’re using to how quickly you’re attacking your target. When someone else watches you play, they see symbols above your head indicating what’s going on. Their job is to try and understand what those symbols mean and look for patterns in them. Then they can craft a special set of tiles made of those symbols, which you can equip to your armor. The end result is a unique enhancement to your character that’s actually based on the way you individually play the game.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
RD: By far my favorite part is just all the socialization. It’s great to walk down the road to one of the main towns and just strike up a conversation with someone else in-game. VR adds a whole other level of immersion to the classic MMO experience that really encourages people to open up and help each other out.
Where do you think VR will take us in the future?
RD: In the future, my hope for VR is that it continues to unlock a whole host of experiences that people can’t normally partake in. Whether that’s actually feeling like a fighter with a sword defeating a dragon or visiting the moon aboard a rocket, virtual reality has the potential to take us to incredible places that we would never get to otherwise experience, all while allowing us to share those experiences with others.
What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
RD: I imagine OrbusVR will be keeping me extremely busy for the next few years!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
RD: Just want to say thank you to the entire VR community for their support of us and our game, as well as all VR developers. It’s been a truly humbling experience, and I know I speak on behalf of all VR devs when I say, “This journey is just getting started!”
Thanks for the insights, Riley. We’re excited to see how VR’s MMO community continues to develop.
— The Oculus Team