What if there was a time, much like now, where things as we knew changed? Taking what we would consider being a normal life, flipped on its head in ways we possibly could not think about. But what if a pandemic became much worse? What if what we are experiencing now turned out to be the world that we knew, into a frozen ice age where humanity could not live above the ground, but had to be forced below. How long would it take those with the courage to rise up regardless of the threat? But what if it all could have been prevented. When you really think about it, anything could be possible if we let it. So when I heard that Vertigo Games was making a game about survival with a threat that could drive humanity into extinction, I had to know more. So I reached out and Tamu, the Community Manager at Vertigo Games was happy to talk about their newest game, After the Fall, and also about Virtual Reality.
Interview with TamTu, Community Manager at Vertigo Games
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Vertigo Games?
“Hey there! I’m TamTu, Community Manager at Vertigo Games and the one who dives into the different communities of our titles and keeps track of what makes them tick, what they have to say, and to make sure it gets back to the dev team! And of course, also keep them up to date on what the team is working on and be a more direct line of contact for them. It has allowed me to meet a lot of wonderful players who really enjoy our games and get to know them a bit better.”
Gaming is important to a lot of different people for many reasons from a real-life comparison to just a great family moment. What makes gaming important to you and what was that one Virtual Reality moment that left that special impact on you?
“Gaming means different things to me; creatively, it shows me beautifully crafted worlds I can draw inspiration from. Socially, how it’s allowed me to meet a lot of great people in my life and generally how it manages to connect people from all walks of life is the best part for me. At the same time, it allows for great escapism from real life.. and Virtual Reality took that even further. In most ways, it brought all of that together better with all of the fantastic VR content that’s out there.”
Vertigo Games has been part of the development of some amazing games such as Arizona Sunshine, Skyworld and its spin-off, Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl. Most recently, Vertigo Games has had the same luck with publishing such games as A Fisherman’s Tale, Traffic Jams, and Unplugged. Excitement can come from both sides of developing and publishing, what do you think is the #1 answer when it comes to excitement when it comes to developing a game vs publishing a game that you can think of?
“Developing a game can be an incredibly satisfying process when you can see it all come together, and when it’s done, knowing you put something together through the ups and downs with a great team is something we all look forward to at Vertigo Games. When it comes to publishing, you’re directly involved in telling the world about the product and what it has to offer. The publishing part adds that extra element where we can help other development teams achieve their goals and get their games to the right people, and thus far we’ve been blessed to have been able to work with talented studios, with beautiful ideas. It’s a different kind of excitement for each that both have their draw.”
Your newest game, After the Fall, looks to bring the multiplayer action to the mix. What can you tell us about the game?
“After the Fall is a 4-player co-op action shooter that takes place in a post-apocalyptic frozen shell of Los Angeles. The world has been overrun by the Snowbreed; undead monsters that you’ll be facing as a team of Harvest Runners, to gather resources that humanity needs to rebuild. 20 years since the world fell, the survivors have managed to get back up on their feet and bring back some semblance of civilization, and a new status quo where the Snowbreed are no longer the impending doom as they were before. Still a threat, of course, but humanity now has a better fighting chance than ever, and it’s up to the new players to join the fight and keep pushing for survival.”
There are 4 different characters to select from, do these characters have names, and will we learn about their backstory while playing the game?
“The characters you play as in After the Fall are a squad of veteran Harvest Runners; Jen, Malia, Michael, and, Jimmy have been a squad for a long time and have helped the civilians at the Line (the game’s social hub) time and time again. They are designed to be AI companions to fill out the team if you do not have a full squad of human players. Later down the line, we will allow for players to customize their own characters, but these four will always be ready to back up anyone’s team. They will share tidbits about their lives before and during the Fall as you go through the Harvest missions in the game.”
The enemies that you will face in After the Fall are called the Snowbreed. What can you tell us about them and how they came to be? Are there any new enemies that you can share other than what’s been announced with the Smasher, Eater, and Juggernaut?
“The Snowbreed are mutated horrors from humans that didn’t survive the harsh cold when civilization and the environment collapsed. In an attempt to help humans survive, boosters were developed to help them stay warm, but ultimately somewhere along the line, things went wrong and the Snowbreed evolved as the new predators in this world. More enemies are planned to be introduced post-launch as we expand the city further.”
One of the things that I and many others will be excited about is the multiplayer action. What can you tell us about it and the cross-play co-op action?
“Our biggest ambition with After the Fall was to offer a seamless 4-player multiplayer co-op experience across all available VR platforms. We support the matchmaking by having all platforms drop into the same social hub, where they can immediately invite each other into a party and start an activity from here. The in game friends list system supports adding players from other platforms via a friend code, and you can always invite your friends this way into your own party, without needing to be in the same lobby. As for the action itself, getting all game systems, level design, enemy behavior, etc on parity with each other was key, and the team spent a lot of time getting this right. It’s uncompromised gameplay on each platform; it’s the same for a PC player, for a Quest 2 player, and for a PlayStation VR player. It’s how we support the players’ preferred way to play, with the visuals optimized separately for each platform on top of that gameplay core.”
So there will also be 4 vs 4 combat. What can you tell us about this and will there be different modes such as CTF?
“Correct! Players that have a score to settle with each other are invited to duke it out in our “Tundradome” arenas. It is a fast-paced PvP mode where all players start out with the same basic pistol and need to find better guns strewn out across the map to gain an advantage and slay out. Until they themselves get slain, of course. In that case, the player will respawn and hop right back in. It is our first foray into a PvP mode and it was received really well during the Steam Playtest weekend. Compared to the PvE Harvest missions, the PvP is a bonus activity, but definitely, one we will support further with additional modes beyond just Team Deathmatch (the first one dropping during the game’s first season), and more maps, of which we’ll have 2 at launch.”
One of the things that caught my interest is the “Discover your combat style” where you can craft, upgrade, and wield your weapons all with real-life movements. What are some of the different weapons in the game and can you tell us more about how crafting, upgrading, and wielding work with real-life movements?
“Through the campaign of After the Fall, you’ll unlock the base weapons that will become available for you to purchase in our armory in the Line. As you go on Harvest Runs, you’ll be rewarded with floppy discs containing blueprints for weapon attachments, that will upgrade the weapon it’s for. During the missions, you can find extra floppies to decryption at the end of a run for even more rewards. This is the gameplay loop of After the Fall; repeating the missions on higher difficulty will yield higher-tiered floppy rewards that further improve your gun. At launch, we have an M9 Service Pistol, the Arizona Falcon (our version of the Desert Eagle), an SMG, a pump shotgun (Mossberg 500), and two assault rifles, all with their own attachment slots for upgrades. Further down the line, we’ll be introducing mods that can change the weapon’s behavior; think of different firing rates and combat-based weapon perks, which will allow you to craft weapons that suit your playstyle. Make it more effective, make it more fun, it will literally be in your hands to do so.”
Things look like they will get really intense out there and having the right team with communication is important. Since After the Fall is cross-play/cross-platform, was there anything special you had to do to try and perfect the communication with the different platforms?
“Integrating the various platforms’ VOIP systems to make sure players could communicate cross-platform was important and we ended up creating an in-house solution in the game’s engine to get it to work. It was one of the bigger technical challenges we faced in making the title cross-platform for three vastly different platforms that also had their own in-house tech for voice comms. Props to our engineers for that for sure!”
VR is about immersion and part of that immersion is the graphics. Since the setting is set 20 years after the apocalypse, did you find any challenges to make sure it had that 1980s look and feel to the game?
“The world-building process of After the Fall came together quite nicely once we had established the perimeters we could work in. The frozen wastelands was the starting points, followed by making sure that it was a snapshot of that era through the building aesthetics, as well as vehicles and items of that era. Humanity did continue to develop technology, but with far more limited resources and stuck with what was left behind. For example; we’d sometimes have to remind each other that there was a cutoff date where things simply didn’t exist for us to tweak. This is mostly visible in the weapon designs; you won’t find any weapons that were manufactured in the late 90s or 2000s for example. The dialogue and any references were tied to this internal cut-off date as well, as we had to come up with an alternative history going from the 80s forward, but we can assume that certain trends, cultures, and aesthetics persisted in their own way as well. It’s not completely 80s as you’d expect, but certainly an inspiration. The synthwave soundtrack from our composer Jonathan (twitter.com/jonathan_vdw) conveys the mood of 80s sci-fi quite a bit, however, and that’s an element I highly recommend you pay attention to.”
When you look at the different platforms of PCVR, Oculus Quest 2, and PlayStation VR, each will have its own perks for playing. For example, on PlayStation VR, players can use the Aim controller and Oculus Quest 2 players can play without the wires. For those trying to decide which platform to play on, are all the platforms, as well as playing on Viveport, well-rounded and balanced or will one have more of a benefit than the other?
“As I mentioned before, the game is designed to support a player’s personal preference and we tried to address as many control schemes as we could for launch. The game itself is inherently the same across the same, and we offer quite a bit of options to tweak the accessibility as well. After the Fall will support both teleportation movement and locomotion, snap turning vs continuous turning, gun handling options, etc.”
For those playing on the PlayStation VR, how well and natural does the Aim Controller feel when playing the game?
“The PS VR Aim Controller lends itself the best for two-handed weapons, naturally, and its analog joysticks will most likely support the movement as most PSVR players will expect. It’s certainly not the only way to play on PlayStation VR as we also support dual PS Move controllers and the Dualshock 4 controller on this system.”
Are there any future After the Fall DLC plans for the future?
“Absolutely, we have more maps, more systems, and more modes planned for the game, so you’ll be able to keep busy for a good while with After the Fall!”
When it comes to Virtual Reality, what do you feel are the top 3 rules that should be followed?
“Personally I would say it’s as follows: Accessibility and comfort options are key. Everyone experiences VR differently, so making sure they can move about, no matter how weak or strong their VR legs are, usually helps them actually experience your designed experience. Not fumbling with something that should be natural and not something they have to think about, or worrying about getting nauseous all leads up to a better user experience. Second to that, immersion for the sake of immersion should not get in the way of proper gameplay, and vice versa. You’re free to choose to create a well-designed VR experience versus making a well-designed VR game. It can be a very tricky process to perfectly combine those, but it’s good to communicate what players can expect from your VR product. I’ve seen titles lack good gameplay mechanics because they were too occupied focusing on immersion, or not having enough immersion because they were too concerned with non-diegetic game UI. Determine early on what the experience is supposed to be and build around that. Lastly, VR is honestly still a newer frontier in gaming, especially with AR/VR technology finally advancing at a faster pace, so explore innovation after understanding the basics.”
If you opened the door into THE VR DIMENSION and entered After the Fall and had to pick 3 other people (real-life or fiction) that can be from any time, who would it be and why?
“That’s a fun question, let me dive into my catalog of fun characters I’d like to have in the group… A fun one would be Spike, from the Buffyverse! He’s an immortal vampire badass and doesn’t need to worry about the cold, the sunlight won’t be an issue as we’ll just completely wrap him up, no problem at all. Next, I’d probably get in Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four to keep things warm and melt the Snowbreed down a notch, To finish up the squad, I’d probably like to have someone with a sharper head on their shoulders and proper combat and survival skills, like Lara Croft.”
With the action of content for Virtual Reality constantly growing, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience After the Fall?
“After the Fall fulfills the power fantasy of being an action hero, and is even more fun with you bringing others to be badasses together. The snowbreed are dangerous, but you’re the ones with the guns; they should be afraid of you, not the other way around! It won’t matter what platform your friends play VR on, the seamless crossplay will take care of letting you play together. Hope to see you in the frozen streets of Los Angeles!”
I really want to thank TamTu for taking the time out of their day and schedule to give us a closer look into After the Fall as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
After the Fall releases for the Quest 2 on the Oculus Store, PlayStation VR, Steam, and Viveport on December 9, 2021. Pre-order now to receive a bonus and a 10% discount.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.