An Interview with Pawel Gajda of Carbon Studios…
In this issue of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we talk with Pawel Gajda of Carbon Studios and look into their newest game where you can become a powerful sorcerer with powerful spells at your fingertips and protect the realm of Meliora, The Wizards. We also see what is new with the Enhanced Edition and why it’s the ultimate expansion of The Wizards, if there is in fact, a learning curve, and why you should be entering the wizardry world. We also look at surprises Pawel when it comes to working with Virtual Reality.
First, welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Could you please tell us about yourself and what you do at Carbon Studios?
“Welcome! At Carbon Studio I’m responsible for marketing and publishing activities. I spent the last couple of years letting the world know about our games and making sure that they get successful releases. I’m also the first point of contact for potential and current players of our games. I make sure that the player’s voice is heard by our team, and that every question, feedback, or complaint becomes addressed.”
What are some of the previous projects or games that Carbon Studios have been involved in for those who may not be aware?
“The first game we released was Alice VR, an atmospheric sci-fi walking simulator loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland. This was quite an ambitious project for its times, one of the longest VR games back in 2016. We also made The Wizards: Trials of Meliora, a more arcade-like version of The Wizards built for mobile and standalone VR headsets.”
The Wizards is finally coming to PlayStation VR as an Enhanced Edition. Can you tell us a little more about the Enhanced Edition?
“The Enhanced Edition is the ultimate expansion of The Wizards that we’ve been developing for the last ten months. It introduces a large new level, new cutscenes, a checkpoint system, plenty of improvements to mechanics and optimization, and a more immersive user interface. It also comes with an extensive list of comfort and accessibility settings, designed in close cooperation with PSVR players community.”
Will there be a steep learning curve or is it pretty easy to pick up and master?
“Creating an intuitive and immersive spellcasting experience for motion controllers was our primary goal when setting out to develop what would eventually become The Wizards. We aimed to make the summoning gestures easy to learn, but the challenge lies in mastering them in combat. Moving to evade enemies while casting and developing strategies to deal with different types of foes takes practice, but once you get that down, you will fully deserve the title of the master wizard. We take great pride in the fact that although spells can be upgraded, their power and effectiveness depend as much, if not more, on the player’s ability to summon and cast them skillfully as on their gameplay statistics.”
So how important is the feedback from the gaming community to you it when it comes to a game like The Wizards?
“It was a huge help in creating a game that answers the needs of the VR audience. The market evolves rapidly, and releasing the game in Early Access to get feedback directly from players gave us incredibly powerful means to keep pace with it. Did you know that the first iteration of the game only allowed node teleportation? Our experience from producing our previous title, Alive VR, indicated that free movement was too motion sickness-inducing for majority of players – however, by the time we were ready to show our second title to the people, both the technology and the audience evolved, and we learned that free movement and unrestrained teleportation were much more desirable than node teleportation. This drastic change pushed us to create a much better experience, and we couldn’t have done it (and many other great things!) without listening to our players.”
The release date for the Enhanced Edition of The Wizards is March 12th, when it comes to bringing the game to PlayStation VR, did you come across any roadblocks that you were not anticipating?
“I would say that most of them were anticipated. We knew that we would have to highly optimize the game, but it actually turned out to be a bit easier than expected. We also knew that the tracking of PlayStation Move controllers is handled by only one, front-facing camera, and so we were prepared to slightly redesign spells such as the bow. What surprised us a bit was how much attention Sony attaches to players’ experience. Unlike on PC, where you can basically release everything you want, on PS4 you have to tick certain boxes when it comes to the accessibility. Checkpoints every 10-15 minutes? Checked. Cloud saves working across PS4.0 and Pro? Checked. (Optional) vignette for free movement? Checked.”
What can we expect from the campaign portion of The Wizards? Any surprises we can look forward to?
“Definitely, but we’ll keep up the mystery for now 😉 The campaign was expanded a little, clocking in at five to six hours of gameplay to complete one playthrough. It takes you on a journey through Meliora, a beautiful fantasy land that you get sucked into to aid Aurelius – a master wizard who got caught in a bit of predicament on his quest and needs you to pick up where he left off. The adventure is divided into Stages, and each can be replayed with game-modifying Fate Cards that you can find and collect in the world to improve your high scores.”
Can you tell us more about the Arena Mode? It sounds like the wizardry duel we have all been looking for.
“Arena Mode is a single-player experience. The name comes from the fact that this mode comes with separate maps that serve as battle arenas rather than exploration zones with combat encounters, like the campaign’s Stages. Arena Mode also has separate leaderboards and a progression system. Each arena provides endless battles with side objectives and increasing difficulty. And coming back to your question – we would love to develop a multiplayer VR experience, but it won’t be possible with The Wizards. Hopefully, some other developer delivers a multiplayer wizardry experience to PSVR soon!”
And am I correct that there are time travel and dragons in The Wizards?
“Yes, you are! Time travel is our take on developing a believable VR world. The thing about virtual reality is that as a player, you are not controlling a character in the simulated world, you become the character. With that comes a certain change to how “gamey” a game can be, especially since we chose to embrace as much immersion as possible. While The Wizards is set in a fantasy world, the ability to launch each Stage multiple times needed a suitable fantasy explanation to avoid breaking that immersion with an overt case of “game logic” – and that explanation came in the form of time travel: your magical time-traveling platform allows you to overwrite past events that you’ve already taken part in, thus preventing erratic creation of multiple alternate timelines as you fight to ensure a peaceful future for Meliora.
And the dragons – the less we say, the better the surprise. We will only tell you that you meet a dragon more than once”.
What is the one thing that surprised you when working with Virtual Reality and the one thing that still surprises you when it comes to Virtual Reality?
“We were a bit surprised by how important the players’ preferences are when it comes to VR. In “flat” games, certain design decisions may not be appreciated by some of the players, but all it may cause is dissatisfaction or, at worst, frustration. In VR, specific design decisions can make some players sick or even throw up! This is a serious responsibility for the developers. We figured out that instead of deciding for the players, the best solution is to give them many options regarding movement, comfort, dominant hand/eye, etc.
Accordingly, what surprises us now is that some developers seem to ignore those things entirely and develop their VR games without extensive research on what makes players feel sick, what makes them annoyed, what makes VR games more accessible. As developers, we all have to accept that players vary a lot and that we cannot develop games like we will be the only one to play them.”
With all the games and experiences out for PlayStation VR, what would you say to someone who is looking for that one game or experience and why they should select The Wizards?
“We believe that The Wizards brings to the table something that has never been done before – the chance to cast spells with hand gestures in a totally immersive way. There are no pop-up menus, no button combinations. You weave the magic with your hands and, according to many players, this really feels like being a powerful wizard. I think that players may also be interested in how long the game is (five-six hours to beat it once), and several mechanics designed to increase replayability.
I really want to thank Pawal Gajda of Carbon Studio for taking time out of his busy schedule about The Wizards and about Virtual Reality.
Also, check out the review.
To learn more about Jason Marnocha, please visit his site, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter. To learn more about Carbon Studios, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.