Today, we’re kicking off a four-week blog series from Twisted Pixel Games, taking readers behind the scenes of Path of the Warrior—an old school beat ’em up reimagined for the VR age now available on Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform.
Just under a month ago, Twisted Pixel and Oculus Studios released Path of the Warrior, a classic beat ’em up reimagined for virtual reality. What was the process for moving the traditionally 2D genre into a 3D space? Project Director of Development Mike Henry is here to explain how it went down.
Beat ’em ups are all about punching the bad guys, so it only seemed natural to the team that they take advantage of the “reach out and touch it” nature of VR.
“This was definitely always going to be a game about punching with your actual fists,” says Henry. “We figured out pretty early on that ‘just punch it’ was going to be the way the player would interact with pretty much everything.”
Everything from disarming bombs to stopping knives in midair is handled with a satisfying punch, but the game was missing one thing that would make it feel real: physical contact. Fortunately, we thought about that from the very beginning.
“We spent a long time tuning the way your fist moves and squashes in-game so it would sort of simulate that feeling of contact when you hit an enemy,” Henry explains.
To give the player a bit more variety, and a respite from constantly throwing haymakers, the team added kick buttons, allowing the player to mix up their fighting style.
Path of the Warrior, like most brawlers, requires people to move around the level quickly to punch their way through enemies, which can be tricky to handle in VR. Fortunately, the team had experience providing options for the player to find a setting comfortable for them.
“We had some experience with that on Defector, so we brought forward a lot of the systems from that game,” says Henry. “The big ones that affect the most people are turn snapping, head-based steering, and preventing movement while turning, but there are a whole bunch of settings you can tweak.”
Populating a 3D space with enemies was the next step, and lots of work went into trying to make sure it felt fair.
“The main challenge we had was trying to make sure the player didn’t feel like attacks were hitting them out of nowhere, since we obviously have no way to force them to look in a particular direction,” Henry explains. “For the most part, all the enemies spawn in your line of sight, and they usually won’t attack if they’re behind you. Once we had that set up, we realized we could give the enemies moves that would put them behind you and then let them attack, and that let us make things more frantic without feeling unfair.”
To battle the enemies, Henry and the team came up with a series of powers that would be unlocked as you progress. This not only gives the player more variety, but provides unique ways to fight the enemy. Finding the right balance between damage output and crowd control took a bit of tuning, but eventually the team found a way to make them fun, without being overpowering.
“I think my favorite is the Virtual Decoy, because when it explodes, it makes the enemies go flying in all directions, and they can each hit a different environment kill all at once, which looks awesome,” Henry notes.
Aside from the fun of punching bad guys in the face in VR, Henry and the team came up with fun ways to take advantage of the medium, particularly in the between-mission Break Time segments.
“I spent a while trying to figure out the best way to do a ‘double vision’ graphical effect for the drinking Break Time game in the Bar, and I suddenly realized... we’re in VR—we can actually give you real double vision!” says Henry. “It's not the most comfortable effect for sure, but it was too darn cool not to do it.”