The Wild Wild West and first-person shooters are a winning combination, but wait until you experience it in VR. Offering both single and multiplayer modes, Dead and Buried lets you warm up in the shooting gallery or go head-to-head as either a lawman or outlaw.
Best of all, Dead and Buried is free for Touch!
In this second installment of Oculus Touch Tuesdays, Oculus Software Engineer Ryan Rutherford gives us the inside scoop on the making of the first western shooter in VR.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up developing Dead and Buried for Oculus Touch?
Ryan Rutherford: The original core development team for Dead and Buried was small—two people to be exact. Andrew Welch is the lead engineer and technical director on our titles, while I handle design and environment art. We've since grown the team and collaborated with Gunfire Games to assist in creating a game larger than ourselves.
We first set out to build a 1v1 duel game set in the Wild West—a cool concept, but we found the gameplay to be shallow in terms of depth and deployability.
When we tried Touch, we were blown away by the hardware and the new gameplay opportunities it provides. Our title was a natural fit for Touch, and we quickly pivoted our strategy to start working on the game.
Over time, the game evolved as we tested new ideas like the duck and cover mechanic (using positional tracking). With Touch, players could physically aim and pick up weapons, which added an entirely new dynamic to the game.
With your background in FPS games, how did you adapt your thinking for VR and Touch?
RR: When designing a traditional multiplayer first-person shooter game or level, we consider level flow, chokepoints, pickups, spawn points, loadouts—the list goes on. Depending on the game, some of these mechanics translate naturally to a VR multiplayer title. For Dead and Buried, it wasn’t always the case. VR and Touch brought new fundamentals in design we had to solve.
Players had no problem figuring out how to aim and shoot; however, most couldn’t hit anything—which isn’t fun. We opted for laser sights to help players aim, and they instantly had a better time. Players want to feel powerful and they want to be good.
We also noticed that when someone’s shooting back at you, it’s instinctual to duck and cover. In traditional first-person shooters, cover is placed to direct the flow of a level or encourage firefights. In Dead and Buried, it’s a core game mechanic.
All of our levels are blocked out with cover in mind, and some of our weapons are designed to overcome it (like throwing dynamite). When you die, you respawn to another place in the level with a new set of cover opportunities. It’s simple but effective—like having a laser tag or paintball arena in your own home!
How did you navigate the challenges of locomotion in Dead and Buried?
RR: Locomotion is often brought up as a limitation of VR. In traditional video games, moving through an environment usually won’t cause any discomfort if the user is a safe distance away from their screen. In VR, the world surrounds us, and moving around it can cause discomfort for some people.
In Dead and Buried, this challenge actually helped influence one of our game modes: Robbery. In this mode, one team tries to rob a train while the other attempts to stop them. The safe is located in the caboose and players battle it out through multiple train cars—sleeper cars, box cars, even a shootout on the roof! When one team wins a skirmish, that team advances while the other falls back. This provides a sense of progression while keeping it comfortable.
What were you most excited about when designing Dead and Buried?
RR: VR and social go hand-in-hand. Waving to your friend, fist-bumping, or high-fiving, then working together to solve a puzzle or participate in a frantic, competitive shootout—it’s just fun.
When designing Dead and Buried, we had social scenarios we wanted players to experience: a shootout in an old saloon, a duel at high noon, the list goes on. These scenarios drove a lot of our design and decision-making and are a taste of what players will experience in the full game.
Making games is very rewarding, but making something people can enjoy with their friends is even more exciting. And, because of VR, we’re now creating a much more immersive experience that players can enjoy with others. I hope that someday, someone’s favorite memory might be something they experienced in VR.
Thanks, Ryan! We’re excited for the release of this uniquely stylized Western FPS.
Check out Dead and Buried for free at Touch launch, Dec. 6!
— The Oculus Team