#QuestCountdown: Immersive Single-Player Spotlights

Oculus Blog
Posted by Chris Pruett, Director of Content Ecosystem
April 10, 2019

Hi folks,

My name is Chris. When I’m not drawing very professional GDC slides in MS Paint or showing /r/oculus my living room, I’m usually working with developers to make their games shine on Oculus devices. But today I’m ignoring all my e-mails and ghosting all my meetings in order to talk to you about #QuestCountdown.

A wise man once said, “All in time, sirrah. Yes, time. Unless you master it, it will master you.” This wise man was the Oracle of Nosgoth from Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, a video game released in 1996 by Silicon Knights. Now, I can’t remember much about Blood Omen, or, frankly, anything at all about 1996, although it was an entire year that I lived through and I’m sure some important stuff must have gone down. But I remember this quote. It was originally a bit of a “hidden message” that told you to use your time stop power to beat a particular boss. I’ve found that, in the intervening years, it has also proved generally applicable to many of life’s questions.

For example, you might be wondering, “When will Oculus Quest launch?” And if you can imagine me rendered in 1996 phong shading, wearing a creepy hood and stirring some sort of witch’s brew that spews fire every few seconds, I would probably say something cryptic like, “All in time, sirrah!” and then start talking about #QuestCountdown.

Hashtag Quest Countdown is a mysterious construct. Unlike a normal countdown, the end date that we are counting down to has yet to be revealed. You’ve already heard from Chris Jurney, our Head of Developer Strategy, about SUPERHOT VR, Dead and Buried II, Dance Central, and more. Last week, Deborah Guzman Barrios from our Developer Relations team dug into Journey of the Gods, OrbusVR: Reborn, and Moss. Today, I got volunteered to give you a preview of six intense single-player games coming to Quest on Day 1, thereby moving the countdown meter forward by an indeterminate, although almost certainly large, amount.

Back when Quest was called Santa Cruz and consisted mainly of a bunch of components hacked into a Rift headset shell, we wondered what it would take to get Robo Recall running on it. Epic Games suggested Drifter Entertainment, a Seattle studio with a particular expertise in mass robot carnage (see their detailed account, posted yesterday), and the rest is history. Now you can squash that robot rebellion in 360 degrees without having to worry about external trackers or cables cramping your style.

Fast Travel Games has your post-apocalyptic action/adventure bases covered with Apex Construct. To quote the eminent LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Game Designer Daniel Kihlgren Kallander.

“Playing Apex Construct in a standalone headset like Oculus Quest brings it closer to the ultimate vision we have with the game: moving players to a shattered future, allowing them to fire the cyber bow and freely interact with the world we have created without technical hurdles that risk breaking the immersion.”

Apex Construct was built from the ground up for VR, and it shows. “We spent a long time building up a haunting yet beautiful world filled with elements that you can interact with using your own two hands,” says Kallander. Plus it supports cross-buy between Rift and Quest, so you can buy it once and play it on both headsets.

If there’s one thing I have always wanted out of life, it’s to be trapped in a James Bond-style spy mission, surrounded by booby traps and only inches from death, with only my wits to save me. I Expect You To Die from Schell Games is, coincidentally enough, a VR puzzle escape game with exactly the same premise as my life fantasy.

“VR is bringing a completely new energy to games,” says Jesse Schell, Founder of Schell Games. “With immersive and engaging hardware like Oculus Quest, it’s easy for players to forget their surroundings and become singularly involved in an experience. And with a lower price point, the barriers to entry have been lowered, making VR a solid choice for many players who have been reluctant to try the technology before now.”

My goal is to battle Dr. Zor for hours in a comfortable environment without being pulled back unintentionally into the physical world. Turns out that Schell Games has my back. “Now players can battle Dr. Zor for hours in a comfortable environment without being pulled back unintentionally into the physical world,” Schell notes.

Turtle Rock Studios’ original Face Your Fears experience brought shareable screams and heart-pounding fun to living rooms all over the world and helped cement horror as one of VR’s leading genres. Because VR is so immersive and believable, scares are more effective here than anywhere else.

With Quest, Turtle Rock saw a huge opportunity to take things to the next level. The sense of immersion is greatly enhanced by hand controls and 6DOF free roaming without cables, creating the perfect platform for spine-tingling, thrilling experiences. “Players are given free agency in the world of Face Your Fears 2. Actions have reactions and that really cements your belief in the world,” explains Design Director Chris Ashton. “When you reach out and open a cupboard, not knowing what’s inside, and a big hairy spider jumps out at you, it’s a very visceral experience. Even though consciously you know it’s not real, part of your brain believes it is because you were just interacting with it in a very natural, physical way. It’s a really crazy, exciting experience.”

Face Your Fears 2 is a fully interactive, four-plus-hour horror game spread across two haunting episodes that unravel the Harvest House mystery. As players progress, they unlock nine replayable, self contained, and easily shareable highlight horror scenarios called “Scream Shares.”

“Part of what made Face Your Fears so successful was how easy it was to share a scary three-minute experience with a friend,” explains Ashton. "With FYF2, we’ve built a bigger experience with more story, real gameplay, and deeper mystery. It’s a larger time investment, but we wanted to make sure it was still easily shareable. That’s where the Scream Shares come in. As you survive the spookiest moments in the game, we bottle them up and make them easily accessible from the main menu so any of your friends can pop on the headset and jump straight into the scariest bits, while you enjoy their reactions.”

Speaking of horror, have you ever been watching a horror movie and thought, “Man, I wish I was in this situation”? I’m sure I’m not the only one. The good news is, developers Wolf & Wood and Fun Train have an app for that. The Exorcist: Legion VR is a room-scale horror puzzler that lets you step directly into one of the scariest films ever.

“The most exciting thing about VR is how it does away with the rectangular constraints of the computer screen or television,” explains Fun Train CEO Douglas Nabors. “It allows players to step across the proscenium and into the worlds of the games they play.”

Now, I didn’t have to look up the word “proscenium” to know that it means “the part of a theater stage in front of the curtain,” but in case you were wondering, he’s basically saying that you’re going to have to take down some demons by examining evidence, building a strategy, and solving some crazy puzzles, all from inside the extremely scary world of The Exorcist.

The Exorcist: Legion VR on Quest can scale to a user’s play space, however big or small,” adds Nabors. “With a large space and without the need for computers or wires, users can physically explore The Exorcist’s virtual environments as if they’re actually there... but only if they’re brave enough.”

VR developer Coatsink knows their way around VR. From the Esper series to Augmented Empire to They Suspect Nothing, Coatsink has been one of the most prolific development studios around. For Quest, they’ve focused the beam of their production prowess on a beautiful new mind-bending puzzler called Shadow Point.

“In Shadow Point, we wanted to give players experiences they could never have outside VR,” says Coatsink CEO and Co-Founder Tom Beardsmore. “You’ll walk up walls as easily as stepping through a doorway, cooperate with your own reflection, and change the reality of your environment with no more effort than moving your hand to your face.”

I’m pretty sure my roommate in college had a different method of achieving similar effects, but instead of passing out on the ratty sofa in the dorm common room, players of Shadow Point will find themselves in the throes of a mystery narrated by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart.

“VR lets players reach out and touch their games, bypassing the controller interface and providing more freedom of expression,” notes Beardsmore. “This makes our jobs harder, of course. The gameplay systems must respond to this level of freedom. However, we also have the scope and opportunity to build intricate, near-limitless worlds.”

And with that, I’m going to call this blog post a wrap. Trust that the #QuestCountdown clock has advanced measurably. Check back here again for more Quest info, and bide your time. After all, sirrah, unless you master it, it will master you.