“Open your eyes.” And just like that you’re swept up in Red Matter 2—and into a mission that spans the entire solar system, an ongoing story of two rival factions, political intrigue, double agents, and science gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Red Matter 2 is out today on Meta Quest 2 and the Rift Platform, continuing the adventure right where the first game left off. (And yes, that means you should play the original Red Matter first, if you haven’t!)
Vertical Robot’s sequel is longer, more ambitious, and dives deeper into both the intrigue between the Atlantic Union and Cosmoburo, and into the mysterious origins of the titular red matter, which threatens to engulf the known universe and wipe out humankind. Explore new bases on the moon, high above Saturn, and beyond, and get ready for some of the most incredible visuals seen on Meta Quest 2 to-date. Seriously, just check out this technical video from a few weeks ago:
We sat down with Vertical Robot’s Iñaki Hernandez (Game Director and Programmer) and Norman Schaar (Game & Art Director and Technical Artist) to discuss the original Red Matter’s cliffhanger ending, building a much-anticipated sequel on a new platform, and all the technical bells and whistles the team pulled off on Meta Quest 2.
Red Matter ended with quite a twist. Does Red Matter 2 pick up right where its predecessor left off?
Iñaki Hernandez: It does, indeed! Beta—a double agent sent by the Cosmoburo—helps Sasha escape the Atlantic Union’s simulation. But it’s not all over yet! They find themselves in enemy territory: The Atlantic Union’s Lunar base. As they begin their escape, they stumble upon a distress signal from an old friend who was left for dead during the incident at Strelka N1.
With time against them, Sasha jumps into action, determined to go find his friend. You’ll travel across the solar system in hopes of finding him and bringing him safely back home.
Is Red Matter 2 as puzzle driven as its predecessor? Does the player have any new capabilities?
Norman Schaar: With Red Matter 2 we wanted to bring the franchise closer to the adventure genre. Puzzles still play a big role, but there’s a whole lot more! We like to think that there’s a little something for everyone.
Puzzles are much more varied—perhaps less tedious—and are, for the most part, a better fit for the larger adventure genre audience. But beware, we do still have a few headscratchers here and there for the hardcore puzzle fans!
Back when we were working on Red Matter, we came up with a jetpack mechanic that sadly didn’t make the cut, instead we built a platforming game around it called Daedalus that originally released on GearVR and Oculus Go to critical acclaim. We’ve now been able to go back to that design, tweak it, and implement it in Red Matter 2. Throughout the game you’ll find incredible platforming sections that really make use of the jetpack and give you an amazing sense of flight.
And to further break up the pace, we’ve introduced a few stealth and even combat sections. Equipped with a laser gun, you’ll be able to confront the defense systems at Strelka N1 and finally get to the bottom of what happened there.
What lessons did you learn from the original Red Matter that factored into Red Matter 2?
IH: There is a lot, but what immediately jumps to mind is locomotion. Back when we began pre-production of Red Matter in 2016, it was the wild west of VR. Developers were experimenting with locomotion and teleportation mechanics, but a standard hadn’t been developed yet. Likewise, our controller design was heavily inspired by the early VR controllers that only featured a touchpad.
Thankfully, controller design has mostly consolidated and there are locomotion standards that players have come to expect. We’ve embraced the new locomotion system—though we also believe there is still plenty of room to explore, and our improved jetpack is our small contribution to the locomotion landscape.
Red Matter originally launched before Quest even existed. Did you approach Red Matter 2 any differently, knowing it would launch on Quest 2?
NS: That is an excellent question. From a technical-art point of view, Red Matter for PC was very easy to develop. That aspect of the game did not require much attention—in part because the PC requirements were so high, there was a lot of room for inefficiencies. Optimization simply wasn’t something we had to worry much about.
When we ported Red Matter to Quest, however, it took many months. We had to essentially rebuild the game, and it had to be rebuilt in such a way that the content would run on a mobile chipset.
As you can imagine, with Red Matter 2 we wanted to avoid months of porting, at all costs. It’s not fun, let me tell you! Instead, we designed the game with scalability in mind. This is an increasingly common way of building games in recent years, where companies want their games to run anywhere, from affordable mobile phones all the way up to the latest consoles. You need the content to scale.
This meant several things. We had to develop novel techniques to optimize content on mobile and most importantly design with the constraints of the hardware in mind without neglecting how such content could be scaled up—whether for PC or more capable standalone devices in the future.
A few weeks ago you showed off some of the graphical feats you’ve pulled off in Red Matter 2. What are you proudest of pulling off on Quest 2, and why?
IH: There is a certain puzzle in the game that makes use of raytraced quad reflections. We don’t want to spoil it, but we are pretty proud of that one! But honestly, we are really proud of the entire end result. At Vertical Robot, immersion is front and center. It is a key aspect of our games, and something we constantly keep in mind with every design decision we make. The ability to convey immersion in VR is truly unprecedented and we want to make full use of it.
All these graphical features, the game-design decisions, the detailed textures, the skeuomorphic design of our controllers, they are all there to attempt to keep you immersed for as long as possible. We want to transport you to a different world, to let you dream and to let you live incredible experiences—if only for a couple of hours. That’s what it’s all about for us.
Is this the end of Red Matter? What’s next for you and your team? Any future plans?
IH: The world of Red Matter has more to offer, and there is certainly room to explore. But time will tell! There are a couple other projects we have in mind as well.
But for now, we are going to take a couple of weeks off and enjoy ourselves while we read the reviews on launch day. We can’t wait to hear what people think!