From its announcement just over a year ago to some tantalizing teases on the official Discord channel, over-the-top spy thriller Defector has been turning heads—even making it to PC Gamer’s most anticipated VR games of 2019 list. Release day is upon us, and you can now live out your espionage fantasies on the Rift Platform!
Maximum firepower and spectacular set pieces combine to make this shooter feel like nothing you’ve played before, while optional objectives lead to some cool cheats and unlocks like big head mode. And with fast-paced hand-to-hand combat, adrenaline-pumping chases, up-close interrogations, and ridiculous escapes—like driving a car out of an aircraft mid-flight—Defector is the definition of “made for VR.”
We sat down with Twisted Pixel Game Director Dan Bullock to learn what it took to bring this larger-than-life vision from brainstorm to blockbuster.
How has Defector changed over the course of development?
Dan Bullock: Once we started getting used to working with the free roaming locomotion system we had in place, we really started looking for ways to push the boundaries of player comfort to help control the action. We tried a lot of things that didn’t work early on, but near the end of the project, we were pretty confident in our ability to move the player around in crazy ways that we never would have guessed were possible at the start.
During the course of development, the team frequently meets to discuss the gameplay flow of each level and how it will be implemented across departments. Without fail, the team will bust out laughing during these meetings because of just how over-the-top the ideas get as we find new ways to push the action possibilities. The best part is that a lot of those ideas made it into the game so we're excited to see what players think.
What lessons learned from earlier games like Wilson’s Heart did you apply to Defector?
DB: We learned a ton of lessons developing Wilson’s Heart that we could apply to Defector. One is that players found interacting with in-game characters super compelling to drive the narrative. The combination of six degrees of freedom and Touch controllers around game character interaction is an aspect we were super excited about pushing further. In Defector, we’ve developed more advanced character interactions that have real gameplay implications. It’s pretty satisfying to grab a thug by the collar, look him in the eyes, and toss him into a wall during a fistfight.
There are some obvious sources of inspiration behind the game. Are there any unlikely influences you’d point to?
DB: If you look (and listen) carefully you’ll find plenty nods to some of our favorite movies and games along the way. Certainly it’s easy to point to Mission Impossible or the Bourne films, but there are plenty of nods to our favorite action movies like Total Recall, Predator, and more.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
DB: This is a tough one. There are a lot of moments in the game that I really do enjoy, even after playing them hundreds of times. I think the moment that sticks out to me, just because I can’t believe we actually did it, involves tumbling out of a helicopter from about a thousand feet while grappling with a man in his briefs. It makes sense in context, I promise.
What kind of community response have you seen thus far?
DB: Overall, the response has been really positive, so that’s been very encouraging for the team. We appreciate the broad range of feedback, whether it’s related to gameplay, technical aspects, genre, and beyond. It ultimately means that the community is excited about the game, so that keeps us motivated. As a studio, we’re always trying to advance the VR medium and hopefully throw in some surprises for players, too.
If people take one thing away from the game, what do you hope it would be and why?
DB: We really hope fans feel like they’re getting a super compelling action spy experience, unlike anything they’ve seen before—especially for the $20 USD price point.
Did you encounter any unique technical challenges? If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?
DB: Something that we started to key into during Wilson’s Heart that we didn’t fully anticipate was how people would approach basic interactions so differently. Even the simple act of opening a door felt perfectly natural for some and frustratingly difficult by others. Developing a traditional flat medium experience with a controller or a keyboard means that you can utilize an action button and animation will do the rest. For VR with Touch controllers, we never wanted to take control away from the player’s hands, so that technique just doesn’t work. Ultimately we got a lot of different opinions on all the interactions throughout the game, and tried to account for the many ways a player could approach each situation. It’s impossible to make it feel as natural as reality, but I feel pretty good about where we landed. Hopefully the community agrees!
What’s next for you?
DB: We're not prepared to announce anything, but we have more projects in the works that will continue to push the medium. It's exciting times for our studio and we look forward to revealing more soon!
Anything else that you’d like to add?
DB: Our whole team is definitely excited to get Defector out and into players’ hands. We think they’re in for a wild ride!
Thanks for the behind-the-scenes info, Dan. We’re excited to share the latest from Twisted Pixel today.
Embrace your inner super spy and come out guns blazing with Defector—out now on Rift and Rift S!
— The Oculus Team