As Grand Master of the Knights Templar, you’ll have to take aim with your bow, raise a sword, and wield magic to save the kingdom from destruction and ruin. With four to five hours of gameplay for the main story and plenty of collectibles and interactive elements to satisfy completionists, Shadow Legend VR offers lots of depth in a rich world with a wealth to explore.
We sat down with Lead Designer Blake Stone to learn more.
How did Shadow Legend VR get its start?
Blake Stone: The initial inspiration for Shadow Legend was our team’s love for RPG games. The depth of storytelling and gameplay in non-VR RPG series like The Witcher, Soulsborne, and Uncharted really inspired us to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the realm of VR RPGs. In Shadow Legend, we attempted to create a world that’s as lifelike as possible—everything in the game world functions just like it would in real life.
In order to achieve this, we focused on creating a densely filled world with tons of items to interact with and added immersive details like playing fetch with your dog, feeding carrots to your horse, cooking steaks by the campfire, smelting iron bars in the furnace, using a hammer on the anvil to fix your sword, or physically spinning the grinding wheel to sharpen it, and much more.
How has the title changed during the course of development?
BS: We decided to add voice recognition for NPC interactions, giving commands to the castle dog, and for riddles/puzzles to take the role-playing engagement to the next level. In its finished form, Shadow Legend combines sword, bow, and magic combat elements, interactive environments, quests, puzzles, a realistic inventory system, and speech recognizing characters, which together gets us closer to a near life-like fantasy experience.
What inspired you to incorporate speech recognition technology into the game? Any behind-the-scenes details you can share?
BS: In order to create the most immersive VR role-playing game possible, we knew that speech recognition would be a must—although what we found is that not everyone says words the same way, and depending on how fast or slow someone talks, it can effect how the speech recognized words are interpreted.
In order to make the speech recognition work for as many people as possible, we’ve added homonyms for almost every word in the game. For example, when the player comes out of their dream-state at the beginning of the game, they’re greeted by Samson the Blacksmith. The player can then say aloud, “Sorry, Samson. I must have been lost in thought.” Since “Samson” isn’t a very common name, we have “Samsung” as a homonym for Samson. And depending on how fast someone reads the dialogue, we needed to omit certain words in order for the dialogue to complete. So if you really wanted to, you can ask Samsung the Blacksmith questions, and he’ll respond accordingly!
Overall, we’ve found the addition of voice recognition to really add to the immersion of the game, and some players even take on the role of a professional voice actor for their character’s dialogue, acting out their lines to perfection.
How did you go about building out the inventory system in a compelling way?
BS: The inventory system in Shadow Legend is a physical treasure chest you carry with you at all times. Any item you collect in-game can be placed within the chest and accessed by physically grabbing the chest off your belt. This let us create some complex puzzles in the game by collecting items for use at later times and allowed for a robust merchant system where the player can sell any item they’ve collected in the game, with the ability to purchase new weapons that can be switched out at any point in the game using the inventory. This enables the player to choose the combat weapon and style they prefer and not be stuck with a weapon that doesn’t suit their play style.
VitruviusVR is a two-person operation, and you’ve been in the industry since the DK1 days. How did you first get involved in the VR space?
BS: We first got involved in VR in 2014, creating an experience called MushroomBall VR, which was available on “Oculus Share” before the Oculus Store was created. At the time, there were limited controller inputs in VR, and MushroomBall functioned like a first-person version of Super Monkey Ball where you physically rolled around maps using only your head. That game evolved into what is now Mervils: A VR Adventure, which was our first released VR title in 2016, and since then we’ve been working on Shadow Legend.
What have you learned during your five years of VR game development?
BS: The biggest thing we’ve learned is that VR is an entirely new medium and that the best thing to do is experiment with new ideas that are specifically created to take advantage of VR. Not every idea works out, but when one does, it could totally change the experience of your game. Every experiment we do helps the VR industry as a whole, and the more things developers try today, the better VR games will be in the future.
Any advice you’d share with new developers looking to build for VR?
BS: Test ideas early and test them often! VR is such a new industry, and evaluating ideas as quickly as possible ensures that you’re on the right track with your game from the very start.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We hope that Shadow Legend will be a success and that we can build upon the RPG elements in future titles. We’d like to further push the boundaries of VR storytelling and create an even more lifelike experience. Our next game idea steps away from the fantasy genre into a more realistic RPG game along the lines of Uncharted or The Last of Us.
Thanks for shedding some additional light on Shadow Legend VR, Blake. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
— The Oculus Team