When you think about the words such as Vampire, Werewolf, or even World of Darkness, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the horror aspect of it all. maybe it could mean a different life waiting for you to make it yours, or maybe it’s the pure fantasy of it all. Entering a world where things may not be as they seem is something that has always intrigued me in a way that Virtual Reality opens its doors and invites us in. But when I heard Developer Fast Travel Games was bringing a new entry of sharing the same universe as Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse, I had to know more. So I reached out and Andreas Juliusson and Franchesca Thwaites of Fast Travel Games were happy to talk to us more about their newest title, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife, and about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Community Manager, Franchesca Thwaites & CMO, Andreas Juliusson of Fast Travel Games
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Fast Travel Games?
Franchesca: “Hi! I am Franchesca Thwaites, Community Manager here at Fast Travel Games.”
Andreas: “And I am Andreas Juliusson, Chief Marketing Officer for the studio and a collector of He-Man figures!”
Fast Travel Games has been part of some amazing games that have been brought to us in Virtual Reality. Apex Construct, Budget Cuts 2: Mission Insolvency, and the most recent The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets. I know it may be hard, but is there one of these games that you worked on that you feel is more special to you, and if so, why?
Andreas: “For me, it’s The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets. That game was made with so much heart and passion, AND by a very small crew inside the studio! I really love the nostalgic theme about memories and childhood as well. It was the first title ever we brought to Gamescom, where we got to watch both content creators and journalists play it live.
Seeing them smile while exploring the miniature worlds is something I will never forget (nor will I forget the parties during that convention, but that’s a story for another day!)”
The newest game Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife looks very interesting. What can you tell us about it and the character you play, Ed Miller?
Franchesca: The main character you’ll be playing is already dead once the game starts. Why did he die, and how? That’s up to you to find out. You do this by entering the Afterlife as Ed Miller, now in the form of a Wraith—a spirit of the dead—which means you’ll have ghost-like powers at your disposal. Together with his wife Rachel, Ed came to the Barclay Mansion on behalf of the mansion owner, Howard Barclay. Being a photographer, Ed was tasked to document a mysterious seance arranged by Barclay. However, once it started something went terribly wrong and without giving any details away, what happened affected Ed in ways he could not have imagined.”
What does it mean to be a Wraith and what type of powers will the player get to experience?
Franchesca: “Death isn’t the end for a Wraith, it’s just the beginning. Upon death, most souls pass onto whatever heaven or hell awaits them, but a rare few refuse to go quietly. These souls are extraordinary, burning with unfulfilled desires and drives, emotions and needs that are stronger than death itself. Illuminated by passion and shadowed by fear, a Wraith‘s existence can be bliss or terror.
Players will experience a variety of ghost-like powers throughout their progression in Afterlife:
- Wraithgrasp: Allows you to manipulate objects from a distance and change the environment around you.
- Sharpened Senses: Helps you pick up distant whispers or track the movement of other spirits.
- Insubstantiality: Gives you the power to walk through solid walls.”
So how important is the camera that Ed Miller uses and what is its purpose in the game?
Andreas: “Even though Ed is now dead and has turned into a Wraith, certain items from his life as a human – for example the camera, which is called a Relic item – is still of special importance to him due to its emotional attachment. In terms of gameplay, the camera lets you capture memories inside the mansion, and these memories reveal more about the horrifying occurrences that took place there before Ed died. The camera also has a Flashlight, which helps you brighten up (well, a little at least!) dark areas. There are also additional functionalities, but we will reveal those at a later stage.”
I love how the mansion is filled with Hollywood decadence. What makes The Barclay Mansion so special and was Barclay Mansion always going to be filled with this decadence?
Andreas: “We decided early on to create a fresh and unique setting for our horror game. Rather than going the tried-and-tested way with a gothic castle or a haunted mansion, the Barclay Mansion is a modern, luxurious building set in the Hollywood hills, with all the decadence you would expect from such a place. The mansion owner, Howard Barclay, is also a central character in the game. After a career as a successful movie producer, he is now an old and sick man and is also the one responsible for Ed Miller and his wife coming to the mansion in the first place. When you explore the mansion as a Wraith, you will see remnants of a premiere party inside, there is a home cinema with broken glass on the floor and much, much more…”
I know leaving secrets to be found is a fantastic feeling, but is there something that you can share ahead of time about a secret of The Barclay Mansion that has not been told yet?
Franchesca: “This isn’t so much a secret, but something fun we have done to The Barclay Mansion. We have implemented a fun easter egg based on the devs inside, so make sure to look out for this once the game launches!”
So WRAITH: The Oblivion – Afterlife really does share the same universe as the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse?
Andreas: That is correct, Afterlife is an official World of Darkness title which means it takes place in the same universe as vampires and werewolves and many other creatures that live among us, concealed in the shadows. World of Darkness is really going through a renaissance at the moment, with both Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse getting new, AAA titles in 2021. With Afterlife, we are proud to be making the first-ever VR game set in the World of Darkness AND the first-ever video game based on Wraith: The Oblivion!”
How important is stealth in the game?
Franchesca: “Stealth is an important element in Afterlife. Especially since there aren’t any weapons to protect yourself with, it is important for players to use innovative thinking to try and avoid danger. Use objects in the game to cause distractions while making use of your ghost-like powers.”
When you mix any type of horror and VR, there can be quite a few jump scares planted throughout the experience, for those that may or may not do well with horror and maybe would like some warning beforehand, are there plenty of jump scares in place?
Franchesca: “The type of horror in Afterlife is similar to titles such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Alien: Isolation. While there are a few well-placed jump scares throughout the game, Afterlife focuses heavily on the psychological horror to make the player’s skin crawl. Players who love a deep storyline will find pleasure in playing Afterlife as this is all about discovering your personal story as a Wraith, finding out why you died, what happened to your beloved wife and unraveling the dark secrets of The Barclay Mansion.”
How important was the sound when making WRAITH? Are there any sounds that maybe will make the player think to go in a different direction than what was intended?
Andreas: “Sound is definitely one of the most important ingredients in the game. When creating a VR game, we always try to minimize the elements that make it difficult for the players to immersive themselves – so instead of relying on cluttered menus or too many visual impressions at the same time, in Afterlife we have focused on sound make the players believe they just entered a really dangerous location, or that there might be something evil coming. Also, with such a strong narrative including numerous characters with different motivations, we have of course put a lot of focus on the characters’ voices.
In the end, it’s also a proper horror game and the right sound at the right time (or wrong time!) can be VERY scary, so I really want to ask everyone bold enough to play the game with a decent headset and the volume turned up!”
Looking at some of the pics, I can already see the immersive aspects that will be in VR. Were there some parts that were more challenging trying to get that right immersive feel compared to others that you were not expecting?
Andreas: “The game is dark, very dark in some areas, and this was probably the trickiest part during the development – to find the exact right amount of darkness so that the player is feeling very scared but still finds it fun to play, and can navigate around properly. It took many hours and days of playtesting to find this balance but I believe we finally nailed it!”
After your work in VR, what still surprises you to this day about working in VR?
Andreas: “I have honestly not stopped being surprised, even after working with VR games for 3+ years. Getting rid of the cables and playing untethered has brought me a new level of immersion, for example. And I guess I am still kind of surprised at how afraid I am when playing Wraith Afterlife. I have been playing horror games all my life and quite a few of them in VR, but I still get that “Nope, I will NOT enter that room” feeling when playing our game. Love it!”
With the game coming out on the Oculus platform including the Oculus Quest 2, Steam, and PlayStation VR, what was the most important aspect that you had to get right for each platform, and what do you still find challenging when working with the different platforms?
Andreas: “I think the priorities AND the challenges basically are the same for all platforms, to be honest, and that is making sure the game is optimized for each unique controller so that it plays seamlessly for everyone. While there are some differences between the Oculus Touch and the Vive Wands, the PS Move controllers are a whole different thing of course. Tracking works differently, the button mapping has to be tailor-made for each platform, and there are new headsets coming out which we have to cater for as well. All of this needs to be playtested properly as well, so it eats up a lot of time for a developer that is serious about releasing on multiple platforms simultaneously.”
If you could tell your younger self three things about working in VR, what would they be?
Franchesca: “This is quite a difficult question for me to answer since I am only 21! But I will say, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that when I was younger I didn’t realize. I feel like this has given me a whole new level of appreciation for VR.”
Andreas: “1. Nothing is impossible in VR. 2. Use headphones when playing, any game. 3. In 2021, we have only seen the beginning of what VR can bring.”
Do we have an official release date for Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife or is it still early 2021?
Franchesca: “This is still early 2021. Follow us at @wraithafterlife to stay up to date on the official release date and more!”
With the Virtual Reality library continuing to grow, what would you say to someone on why they should experience Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife?
Andreas: “Playing AS a ghost in VR, with the abilities to walk through walls and manipulate the environments, is extremely fun. And if you like being scared, but prefer the more psychological kind of horror that gets under your skin rather than jump at you all the time, Afterlife is the game for you.”
I really want to thank both Franchesca and Andreas for taking the time out of their day to give us a closer look at Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife when it comes to major VR platforms very soon as well as talking to us about their thoughts on Virtual Reality.
Until then…please enjoy.