Developed by Fast Travel Games, Wraith: The Oblivion - Afterlife is a tense horror game about a restless ghost hunted by angry ghosts—or a Wraith hunted by Spectres, if you prefer the official taxonomy. Get ready to explore the haunted halls of the Barclay Mansion and unravel the mystery behind your own death in this imaginative adaptation of Paradox Interactive’s World of Darkness universe. That’s the same World of Darkness as Vampire: The Masquerade, for all you RPG fans.
We sat down with Erik Odeldahl, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Fast Travel Games, to discuss his tabletop bona fides, how a subtle sound effect can be just as scary (if not more so) than jump scares, and what it was like to work on the wholesome The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets back-to-back with an exploration horror game.
I’ve heard that Fast Travel Games actually kicked around an idea for a Wraith: The Oblivion adaptation when the studio was founded—years before Afterlife was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. What drew you to the setting?
Erik Odeldahl: I’ve played tabletop roleplaying games since I was nine years old, and I’ve had an interest in the World of Darkness for a long time. When we started FTG, we spent a lot of time talking about cool settings that could really take advantage of the immersion and new kinds of interaction that VR gives the player. Wraith was one of these settings we talked about. The idea of letting the player be a Wraith—a ghost—and interact with the world in supernatural ways was (and is) extremely inspiring. I am very happy we ended up actually making a game in the Wraith setting, because it is so rich.
Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife fits into the same World of Darkness universe as Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf, correct? What parts of the original tabletop game (if any) did you draw on for Afterlife?
EO: Wraith: The Oblivion has some very interesting and disturbing themes. It revolves a lot around your character’s ties to the world of the living and to their dark subconscious, their Shadow. There is an enormous and complex underworld society, but for Afterlife we chose to focus on these personal themes—both because they fitted the story we wanted to tell very well, and also because by choosing not to include everything from the source books, we could give the player a great introduction to Wraith and hopefully stir their interest in this part of the World of Darkness universe.
What kind of horror are we talking? Is Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife run-and-gun horror or a game about hiding in the shadows and hoping you don’t get spotted?
EO: It’s definitely a game where you don’t want the Spectres, beings of pure malevolence, to spot you! We decided early on that Afterlife would not be a power fantasy. It’s a game about being alone in a very scary place, and your only hope of making it out of there is using your wits—and the supernatural abilities you unlock during the course of the game.
Is there any reason stealth-horror works so well in VR?
EO: While it certainly is possible to make great action in VR—there are some great action games out there, and I know we definitely will look at that in FTG’s future!—VR elevates stealth gameplay to something truly amazing.
Moving slowly, peeking through a gap in a doorway, cowering behind a couch, hoping that the enemy doesn’t see or hear you, or desperately throwing an item across the room to distract them from where you are—it is just so immersive. I love stealth games, but having played and worked on stealth in VR, I now always feel there is a dimension lacking in flat-screen stealth games.
How did you take advantage of the fact that the player is a ghost in Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife? Are there any powers or abilities you’re super excited for people to mess around with?
EO: Yes! This was one of the areas that really drew us to the project. My personal favorites are Wraithgrasp, a telekinesis ability that lets you move large heavy objects, and Insubstantiality, which lets you walk through walls, just like a ghost would in real life. [Laughs]
Did you witness any intense or funny reactions when people demoed/tested Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife?
EO: Yes, I certainly did. While the Spectre encounters happily turned out to be just as scary as we had hoped—and it is always satisfying to see that the careful crafting of a scary scenario pays off—one of the things I am most happy about is that by focusing on a slower buildup of tension instead of all-out in your face jump scare horror, it actually makes people see and hear things that aren’t there.
The audio team really helped us achieve this. The subtle creak of a floor board can sometimes be just as impactful as coming head-to-head with a Spectre in Afterlife.
Do you have multiple teams at Fast Travel or did the same people who created The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets—one of the most wholesome VR games I’ve played—work on Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife as well? What is it like to bounce between such different projects?
EO: The Curious Tale was built by a smaller team at FTG, but everyone on that project has also contributed to Afterlife! I personally love working on projects that differ a lot from each other, but I almost got whiplash jumping from writing the Curious Tale script and heading into the dark horror of Afterlife.
We’ve moved quite a bit between genres since starting FTG, and we will likely keep doing so because there is so much to explore in VR. We plan to focus on player presence and immersion regardless of what type of game we’re making.
Were there any lessons you learned on previous projects that applied to Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife? Or any lessons you learned on this project? (I’ve read that cinematics are tricky…)
EO: We knew we wanted to take player presence and interaction much further than we had in earlier projects. We knew after Apex Construct that this would require a lot of work (and it did!) but I am very happy about the effort we put into that. Our previous games have taught us a lot about player comfort, and I think we have done an even better job on that in Afterlife.
And when it comes to framing and cinematics—yes, tricky! I am very happy with how we chose to implement narrative scenes in Afterlife without restricting player movement, and I’m really interested in hearing what people think of it.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
EO: We have several really interesting projects that have already either started or are about to. Just like Afterlife was maybe a surprise to many after Curious Tale and Budget Cuts 2, I think some of our upcoming games will surprise too!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
EO: I hope you all like Wraith: The Oblivion - Afterlife! Building the game is one of the high points of my career, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I loved working on it. And regardless of what you think, we’d love to hear about your experience, so please don’t be shy!