Team up online for a 5v5 multiplayer skirmish or battle an AI opponent in co-op mode. With one life, no heads-up display, and the absence of crosshairs, Onward puts your skills and wits to the test in a tactical FPS like no other.
“I grew up playing tactical military shooters and loved the strategy, teamwork, and skill needed to win,” says Onward Developer and Downpour Interactive Founder Dante Buckley. The high risk/high reward goals in games like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Counter-Strike, SOCOM, and Insurgency make these experiences a lot more meaningful and unique—you can see a lot of their influences in Onward.”
After first hearing about Rift in high school, Buckley enrolled at North Carolina State University in Fall 2014, studying computer engineering with the goal of building motion controllers and haptic devices for VR—and a few prototypes already under his belt. “I loved games and hardware, and I knew that I wanted to pursue one of them in the VR industry,” he notes.
When the opportunity arose to work on hardware at an accelerator in Silicon Valley, Buckley took a calculated risk, dropping out of school in favor of real-world experience. Although his initial business venture didn’t get off the ground, he decided to refocus his efforts in the gaming space. “I knew how to program a bit, given my computer engineering background, but I'd never made a game before,” he says. “The idea of releasing a game within a year was very daunting, but I had nothing to lose. I devoted my time to prototyping, watching a lot of YouTube videos, and drinking way too much Red Bull, and with hard work and good timing, Onward was released in fall of 2016.”
Not a 3D artist by trade, Buckley leveraged the Unity Asset Store to bring the game to life early on, and by 2017, he was able to build out a team of artists and programmers to spur development at a faster pace and continue polishing the game. “After working alone for so long, I began to slowly burn out—and my work-life balance was horrible,” he recalls.” Having a team and more structure made working on the game easier and more efficient.”
To make Onward’s artificial locomotion as comfortable as possible for a wide range of players, Buckley tapped into the gaming community and brought together a dedicated group of testers who provided feedback throughout the development process. “With their help, I was able to fine-tune the movement in Onward and make it more accessible to players who may get motion sick in other VR games,” he adds.
To balance mechanics and deep gameplay, Buckley focused on design decisions that reinforced the real-world, including a single player life per round. “You have to think strategically and cooperate with your team to capture or defend objectives,” he says. “One-life games, especially in VR, make things very intense and competitive.”
There are a number of weapon mods available in the game’s lobby to keep things interesting, including red dot sights, flashlights, 12x scopes, and more to add a tactical advantage in various combat scenarios. The Jungle map was just added, with another map coming soon. Additionally, a recently introduced game mode called “Evac” lets new players dive in with friends and get to know the mechanics.
Buckley and the Downpour team continue to test, research, and iterate to improve the game’s performance and better understand the multiplayer framework of networked games. It’s a lot of work for a small team, but it seems he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Even as a kid, VR was how I always envisioned playing games—I wanted to be inside the game,” Buckley recalls. “Working in this medium today is really a dream come true, and it made perfect sense. The immersion, experiences, and storytelling that can be had in VR will change the future of entertainment, and I want to be a part of that.”
For those who have yet to experience VR for themselves, Buckley has some advice: “You have to try it. If you enjoy reading books, watching movies, or engaging with any current entertainment media, once you try quality VR, you’ll understand why it’s such a game changer.”
Looking ahead, Buckley wasn’t able to reveal much in the way of his future plans, but we can expect some exciting announcements about what’s next before the end of the year. We can’t wait to hear what’s next. In the meantime, check out Onward on Rift today!
— The Oculus Team