Have you ever thought about your ancestors and how far you could trace it back and to see who possibly you might be related to? It really is quite interesting once you start to put all the pieces together. But what if you traced it so far back to the stories you were told for as long as you could remember? Would you find any surprises? What if one of your ancestors at the time was part of a great war that led to their family and friends having to leave what they knew to be home just in order to survive? Makes you think that if there could have been someone…anyone…even you, that could have done something to help change things that the life you live now, could be completely different. So when I heard that Developer RealityArts Studio had made a game called The Stranger, where there was this ancestor past of war and how only those with the genes could change things, I had to know more. So I reached out and Kemal Cifticioglu of RealityArts Studio was happy to talk to me about the game and Virtual Reality.
Interview with Co-founder of RealityArts Studio, Ismail Kemal Ciftcioglu
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Could you please introduce yourself and what you do at RealityArts Studio?
“Hello. I’m Ismail Kemal Ciftcioglu, the Co-founder and Director at RealityArts Studio. I also design, write and compose. Welcome to the world of indie game development:). I am a former visual effects artist and vfx supervisor. I spent more than 15 years in the production & post production industry before venturing into game development with my other Co-Founder partner Bahar Baziki.”
For those that may not be aware, RealityArts Studio’s first title was a multiplayer fps called Voidrunner. Now, you are releasing The Stranger. Can you give us some background about the game?
“Voidrunner was an incredibly hard project to make for the first project of an indie studio. It was a full server-sided multiplayer flight game. After that, we have spent nearly 2 years creating some base systems for our future projects. Also created some proof-of-concept demos for our future titles. The development of The Stranger was started as an open-world looter shooter game. VR mode was also planned but later we found out that VR’s limitations and gameplay must be made specifically for it and a “mode” will not be so good as we have designed. So we have moved forward with the VR version first. Full story based PC version of The Stranger is still in development right now.”
One of the weapons I noticed is the wrist blade and how effective it looks. What can you tell us about this weapon?
“We have discussed close combat or unarmed combat and we thought it would be super cool if we had some kind of a knife. Then I thought about adding a sword-like long blade; a combination of Protoss and Predator. We have lots of great ideas about it but they will be created for the non-VR version.”
There are 7 different weapons in 25 modes with customization. Can you tell us more about the weapons and the customization?
“All of our weapons were created with our favorite shooter games in mind. We had very fun brainstorms about how to increase the fun element of those classic weapons. For example, Flak Cannon was a favorite weapon of Unreal and Unreal Tournament. But I think we developed it into a much more fun weapon with customizations. Think about fighting with an automatic grenade launcher. And from what we see in our analytics, our players liked it too. Bursting energy weapon and shotgun customizations are our next favorites in line.”
I like how the story has a civilization that had to go underground and those that make it to the surface are now the strangers. Was this always how The Stranger was perceived or did it have a few changes before deciding that this is what The Stranger would be?
“Of course it had lots of changes and these changes were made mostly for budget and time restrictions. “
o a great war happened 3000 ago from the ones called the machines. What can you tell us about this threat and what type of powers the players can expect to come face to face with?
“Thousands of years ago, mankind saw a threat to end their solar system. A machine was created and then because of this machine, a rift was opened between their dimension and the parallel dimension that machines, cybernetic organisms live in. Two dimensions entered each other thus creating a war that nearly ended mankind. Then two sides understood the situation but it was too late. The world was nearly gone, mankind was nearly gone, and also the machines. Humans went underground and machines went back to their own dimension. But thousands of years later, some genes were activated in some people we call the Strangers. Actually, players will see none of this in game. Because our budget was so restricted we couldn’t incorporate these stories to the game rather than an opening cinematic. But it will be in the non-VR version. We can see the VR version as just a 10 buck super fun, easy, and beautiful shooter game. It wasn’t made to be the next Alyx. But with the help of this version, the next game will be.”
Will there be any secrets along the way for the player to discover about the past and maybe what led to the war?
“Not in the current version.”
Virtual Reality has always been about immersion and part of that immersion is the sound and music. What can you tell us about the soundtrack and is it available to listen to from the actual game?
“Most of the soundtrack was created by Alexander Brandon and Michiel Van Den Bos. The original composers of Unreal, Deus Ex, and Unreal Tournament. Additional orchestral pieces were composed by me. It will be ready to be listened on Spotify and Bandcamp possibly next week.”
Looking at some of the particle effects in The Stranger, it looks like a lot of time was put into those effects. When making special effects for VR, what have you learned that works and are the most important and most effective when in Virtual Reality?
“I can say that creating the game for VR was super challenging. And I can easily say that it wasn’t fun at all. There are so many, really so many restrictions that we felt to be in a prison. In future, it will be awesome but right now, the limitations are too discouraging for game developers. We found out that that’s why so many VR games use cartoon and stylized graphics rather than realistic and high effects based like us. Textures, particles, amount of effects…everything is a problem in VR. We have spent months and months optimizing the game to run at 90fps. And most people don’t know that the headsets limit most of the features too. For example 90 fps in a vr headset is mostly 110 / 130 fps in normal PC mode. So in order to run a smooth VR game, that VR game must be run on PC with 110 – 130 fps. That’s a huge limitation and a very hard thing to achieve.”
You describe The Stranger as super fast. What have been the steps to ensure that for someone who may not be able to tolerate Virtual Reality as much as an experienced player a way for them to enjoy this world?
“We feel the free locomotion system we have created is one of the best. Some of our players said that it’s even smoother than Half Life Alyx. We had even tested the game on people who had no VR experience before and they had super fun while playing the game. But VR is a very, very personal experience for everyone. So we can’t ensure everyone will have the same experience. But if a person bought a VR set and is comfortable with it, there is no reason he/she will have a problem with the Stranger VR.”
Has there been anything that you have come across that you thought would work very well in VR only to come to realize that VR may not be ready for yet?
“Yes. Huge explosions, camera shakes and similar battle effects :).”
If you could tell your younger self three things, what would they be?
“Just one thing. Just wait 10 more years for VR to be fully capable of supporting what you want to create!”
What’s next for RealityArts Studio?
“We are currently creating new content for The Stranger VR. Next week, we’re hoping to introduce a completely new AI system as a new choice for our players. With this AI system, the whole gameplay changes. Because AI will be much more smarter; they will be able to hide, cover, regorup, suicide, throw bombs and grenades etc. the game will be much more harder but most of our hardcore players wanted a system similar to this so we have listened to them and made their wishes come true. Anyone who enjoys the game’s current AI will not be affected of course. The AI system selection will be available in the Menu. We are also developing a non-VR version. But the name and the setting will change as it will be a very big project.”
As the library of VR experiences and games continue to grow, what would you say to someone on why they should experience The Stranger?
“Most shooter games annoy people with finding ammos and they set in very close, small places. The Stranger VR’s world is very big, beautifully designed and they can just have their fun without thinking of ammos and such. It’s graphics are not stylized or cartoony so they can find a AAA experience in a small fast VR game with an incredibly cheap price.”
I want to thank Ismail Ciftcioglu from RealityArts Studio for taking some time away from his schedule to give us a closer look at The Stranger and discussing Virtual Reality.
Also, check out The Stranger review.
n case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.