Machine Learning: 'The Talos Principle' Now Available on Rift

Oculus Blog
Posted by Oculus VR
December 6, 2018

The Talos Principle blends philosophy, artificial intelligence, and old-fashioned puzzle solving to create one of the most unique VR experiences to date. Developed by Croteam, the team behind the trigger-happy Serious Sam franchise, The Talos Principle is as far removed from arcade action as you can get. In place of musclebound heroes and bloodthirsty monsters, you’ll find serene environments, clever riddles, and a genuinely thought-provoking story about the meaning of life.

Inspired by the Talos of Greek Mythology, you play a sentient robot tasked with navigating trap-filled mazes and obstacles to collect artifacts known as sigils, which you need to unlock a set of enigmatic gates and, ultimately, the game’s deeper mysteries. As you trek through jungles, ruins, and other locations—you’ll discover bits of story tucked away in computer terminals, holographs, and left on walls by previous explorers, all of which build to an inspired ending we wouldn’t dare spoil here. Beyond the main story, this version includes the Road to Gehenna expansion, which introduces new characters and puzzles across four lengthy episodes.

To hear more about The Talos Principle, we talked with Croteam Chief Creative Officer Davor Hunski.

What makes The Talos Principle VR a unique experience among other VR puzzlers?

Davor Hunski: In a way, The Talos Principle deals with a form of virtual reality, so making it playable in virtual reality was an opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up. It's also a game that hooks the player with a beautiful world filled with mystery and a distinct philosophical narrative. These elements help maintain the illusion that this is, in fact, the real world you can interact with. It's a perfect fit for VR. It always was.

What kinds of puzzles and traps can players expect to see on the island?

DH: All puzzles in the game are represented as enclosed areas with sigils placed somewhere inside. The player's goal is to reach that sigil by overcoming logical obstacles, exploring and familiarizing himself with the environment, using tools and gadgets, testing mechanics, and finally, using their imagination to find a solution to the problem. It takes out-of-the-box thinking to solve the puzzles, and that's exactly what makes them fun.

What VR-specific movement and locomotion options will be available?

DH: We've always been into making the game as accessible to everyone as possible. That's why we decided to implement four different movement presets—Teleport, Instant Teleport, Blink Teleport, and Classic—all tuned according to community feedback. However, we soon realized this wasn’t enough. Around the office, we all had different preferences when playing in VR. For instance, I might be okay with running and jumping, but turning the camera with a thumbstick makes me uncomfortable. Someone else is fine with turning the camera but can't really handle strafing that well. This is why we have a separate menu in Advanced VR Controls that allows the player to adjust virtually anything, from the teleport speed and type to rotation methods and comfort options.

How has VR changed the way players approach the game’s many different challenges?

DH: In our internal tests we noticed team members tried to abuse (for the lack of a tamer word) the different game systems by trying to do stuff they weren't supposed to, mostly because they felt they were in the real world. For instance, people tried moving puzzle elements over obstacles or combining more of them than would be possible in the regular version of the game. That's why we had to readjust some of the puzzles to make them a better fit for VR. Ultimately, though, not many changes were needed, so the main difference is the fact that the player can really take in all the magic of the world they are playing in. This, at times, makes the gameplay session somewhat longer as the game makes you stop and just admire the scenery.

The Talos Principle spins a compelling narrative. Can you give us a spoiler-free preview?

DH:The Talos Principle is a philosophical puzzler that follows an artificial being—a robot. A different kind of robot with real character that relies on player choice. This robot is thrown into a beautiful world and tasked with proving his worthiness by solving puzzles. During his quest he gets to know different characters that make him rethink everything he knows about life and the meaning behind it.

What inspired you to combine philosophy, Greek mythology, and advanced AI?

DH: It's a little-known fact, but way back when Croteam was not yet Croteam, we actually started with a small puzzle game, so you could say puzzles have always been an integral part of our being. Still, the inspiration for this combination came from a regular day in the office: a bunch of us were having lunch and we started talking about stuff that’s not necessarily related to games. That particular day we talked about religion and philosophy. It was a few hours later that our talk gave birth to an initial idea. We played around with it, created a skeleton of the story, and then brought in Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes to help wrap the game up. Both of them were always into religious and philosophical topics, so it felt natural.

How is the game structured? Will each player experience something unique?

DH: I believe everyone will have a different experience. Some players will go through puzzles alone, ignoring the narrative. Playthroughs will differ because everyone will come up with solutions differently, and struggle at different points in the game. The questions raised while playing will have different weight and all players will have different narrative experiences based on the history everyone carries around with them. The philosophy of the story makes it unique in each players mind.

What do you want players to take away from The Talos Principle?

DH:It is my opinion that video games are art. They have the ability to change your perspective and make you think about the world. We wanted the player to experience the world in their own way and stay inspired by it even after finishing the game. In many ways, we’ve made it happen with The Talos Principle. We also wanted to show that we're capable of making something complex and deep. Many people were surprised that two extremely different games like The Talos Principle and Serious Sam came from the same developer, so I guess we succeeded.

Anything to add? Perhaps something for players on the fence about the VR version?

DH:The Talos Principle was always a perfect fit for VR, so it's worth playing even if you've already played the flat version. VR will give you a new perspective and overall a different experience. But hey, don't take my word for it—give it a go, and you be the judge.

If you're ready to go exploring—and maybe ponder the meaning of existence while you're at it—check out The Talos Principle today.

— The Oculus Team