Think about the different wars throughout time. Which ones come to mind? WWI or maybe even WWII, the Russian Civil War, or even the Mexican-American War? One of the wars that have always interested me has been the Cold War and the strategic way the United States and the Soviet Union fought for what they believed in. It was a scary time that could have ended much worse than it did. So I started to think about the different aspects of that war and what it must have been like to be a special forces operative at the time with everything going on. So I reached out to nDreams and Lewis Brundish was happy to give is a closer look into Phantom: Covert Ops and working with Virtual Reality.
Interview with Game Director, Lewis Brundish
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and let everyone know what you do at nDreams?
“I’m Lewis Brundish and I’m the Game Director for Phantom: Covert Ops“
For some that may be new to Virtual Reality, nDreams has some really good immersive VR games from Shooty Fruity, The Assembly, Bloody Zombies, and Perfect. What other games have you and nDreams been a part of that some might not be aware of?
“You’ve done a pretty good job listing the nDreams titles! Before nDreams, I worked at Lionhead Studios on the Fable series.”
I just have to know, typically when you are developing a new game or experience for VR, how many times does the original idea change from what you thought it would be to what it becomes?
“I would say that the core idea rarely changes, but the details change constantly. This is true of all game development, but particularly VR – when you’re making something with the goal of being tactile and immersive there is only so much paper design that you can do, you have to start prototyping and then change your plans based on what feels right to play.”
nDreams came out with a new stealth action game that really does look incredible called Phantom: Covert Ops for the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift, what can you tell us about the backstory and the gameplay?
“Phantom: Covert Ops is set in the year 1991 at the end of the Cold War – you are a special forces operative infiltrating a flooded military facility in an effort to stop a rogue Navy General named Nikolai Zhurov. The base is completely flooded, and the really unique aspect of the game is that you use a military kayak to navigate the waterlogged environment.”
I love how there is a military kayak that you get to control in Phantom: Covert Ops. How challenging was it to get the rowing aspect in the game and was this always the idea to have it in the game?
The kayak was a key component of the game right from the start – we were looking for ways that a player could navigate in VR while remaining comfortable and totally immersed. The great thing about putting the player in a boat is that they can sit down comfortably to play the game, and the movement is all driven by actions the player makes with their arms. So unlike teleporting or pushing a stick, moving around in Phantom really is 1-1 with the actions you are making in real life.
Sound is always important when it comes to Virtual Reality, were there some interesting ways you came up with some of the sounds within the game?
“Sound is obviously very important in VR, and even more important in the stealth genre. We use a lot of binaural audio to surround the player and give them directional audio cues of where potential threats might be coming from. The area where we probably spent the most time was the sounds of your paddle hitting the water – we needed to make sure that there was very clear feedback of how fast you are hitting the water, the angle of your paddle, the type of movement you are making – combined with the haptic feedback in the controllers, it all comes together to make the experience as believable and immersive as possible.”
The roadmap for Phantom: Covert Ops looks very exciting, has there been any thoughts
about adding some form of multiplayer or co-op to the fun?
“Phantom is a single player experience, there are currently no plans to develop a multiplayer version.”
Are there any plans to bringing Phantom: Covert Ops to PlayStation VR?
“The game is exclusive to Oculus Rift and Quest (sorry!)”
From the games and experiences that nDreams has given us and with your experience, what has been the most surprising about the progression of Virtual Reality?
“I think something that has been exciting and surprising to discover has been the type of experiences that work best in VR. Early on in VR’s lifecycle the natural thing to do was take traditional PC or console experiences and port them straight into VR. As the medium is maturing though I think we are seeing more and more experiences which are built specifically around the strengths of VR, and would not work on other more traditional devices. Phantom is an example of that – I never thought a few years ago that I would be making a military-stealth-kayak game, but it really does
work so well in VR, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other original concepts are born out of this new hardware.”
What would be the three things you would tell your younger self.
“Have more confidence in your abilities, invest in apple stock, don’t sell your N64.”
What would you say to someone who was looking for a new VR game or experience on why they should play Phantom: Covert Ops?
The tension and atmosphere of the stealth genre is incredibly powerful in VR, and combined with our innovative navigation gameplay, we think it creates one of the most immersive VR experiences you will have seen to date. I guarantee that you won’t have played anything like this before!”
I really want to thank Lewis Brundish for taking the time to give us a closer look into Phantom: Covert Ops and talking about Virtual Reality.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.