The day we’ve all been waiting for has arrived—Wilson’s Heart is officially here! Drawing equal parts inspiration from classic monster movie horror and Twilight Zone bizarre, this narrative-driven first-person adventure lets you star in your own psychological thriller. Thanks to neo-noir cinematic flair and a cast of voice actors including Peter Weller, Rosario Dawson, Michael B. Jordan, and Alfred Molina, combined with the immersive power of VR, you can step inside a mystery like never before.
We’re taking a break from speedruns and exploratory playthroughs to celebrate with a new installment in our Touch Tuesdays series. Today’s in-depth Q&A features Twisted Pixel Games CEO Bill Muehl and Chief Creative Officer Josh Bear.
What motivated you to bring your character-driven approach to narrative games into VR?
Josh Bear: We’ve always enjoyed making character interactions feel engaging and responsive—bringing that approach into VR expanded what we could do narratively, especially from the first-person perspective. As an example, when we were prototyping Wilson’s Heart, we quickly found that the immersion of VR let us influence players’ moods and reactions through the placement of NPCs relative to the players’ personal space. That unique ability to affect the player through character interactions, paired with the natural controls that Touch provides, opened up a lot of narrative opportunities that couldn’t have been done outside of VR.
What’s your favorite part about designing for Touch?
Bill Muehl:As a studio, we’ve always loved finding ways to be creative with new technology. Touch is such a big leap forward in terms of natural interactions, we feel fortunate to have had such early access to the prototypes so we could design Wilson’s Heart to take advantage of the new interface. We’ve really enjoyed the way Touch let us design the game so that people who would normally be intimidated by a traditional controller with tons of buttons can instead put their attention toward exploring the environments, solving puzzles, and advancing the narrative in an intuitive way.
Did you encounter any obstacles while designing for VR?
BM: A big challenge was the fact that we had to give up camera control to the player, but that’s something all developers face as they make the transition to VR. We saw right away that we’d need to put a lot of attention into our sound design and subtle visual cues to guide the player without breaking immersion.
JB: There was also the challenge of locomotion in VR. We decided early on to commit to a solution that fit our gameplay and narrative design, and the natural use of Touch controllers helped a lot toward solving that. Our node-based teleportation has the added benefit of ensuring that Wilson’s Heart is comfortable experience.
How do you think VR will continue to impact the way we play and tell stories moving forward?
BM: This is clearly just the beginning of an entirely new way to experience alternate and enhanced worlds, characters, and social interactions, and we’re excited to be part of the whole movement. As the hardware and platforms evolve, we’re looking forward to even more ambitious ways to create interactive narratives.
What’s the craziest reaction you’ve seen while demoing the game?
JB: We often get a great reaction to the mirror sequence near the beginning of the game—a mix of shock and amazement as players come face-to-face with their virtual self, Robert Wilson, who’s a man in his mid-60s.
BM: It’s also great to witness the moments when players have to do something that would normally be pretty gross like reaching into a bathtub full of nasty, sludgy water, or something very painful like reaching down to pull their heart out of their own chest. Scenarios like those often create a really visceral reaction in the player.
Any particular Easter eggs we should be on the lookout for?
JB: We hope players feel like the narrative and puzzle designs provide a bunch of unexpected twists and turns, but the game also includes variety of side areas for players who want to explore deeper context of both the story and characters. Some of these include interactive comic books, newspapers, photos, and radios with plays and period music. Also, try tuning the station dial on the radios—you may get more than you bargained for.
Thanks for the eerie insights, Bill and Josh—we can’t wait for everyone to tap into the supernatural chills of WIlson’s Heart.
And NVIDIA has a surprise to make launch day even more exciting! Now through June 13, you can score Wilson’s Heart, SUPERHOT VR, and The Unspoken for free with the purchase of Rift and Touch plus any GeForce GTX 1080, 1070, or 1060 graphics card, system, or laptop. Please visit Amazon or Newegg for more information. Prices may vary, so check with your local retailer for details.
Already have your rig set up? Get Wilson’s Heart today on the Oculus Store and unravel its unsettling mysteries.
— The Oculus Team