When you are able to explore in a game, finding hidden things is part of the fun, but when you can soar through the world, seeing everything from a different view can add a new appreciation to things. Sometimes it’s just seeing how big everything is to just see the overall beauty that can be presented. But when Psytec Games made a sequel to Windlands, I wanted to know more. So I reached out and the CEO of Psytec Games, Jon Hibbins was happy to talk about their newest game, Windlands 2, and also talk about Virtual Reality.
Interview with the CEO of Psytec Games, Jon Hibbins
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Psytec Games?
“Hi, I’m Jon Hibbins CEO of Psytec Games, hands-on coder and game designer are areas I most contribute.”
Growing up, what were some of your best gaming memories and what was that on VR experience that made you want to work with Virtual Reality more?
“Most of my Nostalgic Memories come from the Amiga Area, from working on Squigs to contributing to Public Domain disks. My first exposure to VR was the 1000CS Hardware which was an Amiga 3000 based VR machine for Arcades. A lot of people remember Dactyl Nightmare from VIRTUALITY which was in the London Trocadero. It had a shoot-em-up and capture the flag mode (leading edge at the time), with its massive 30,000 polygons per second (Windlands 1 is around 6 million per 90th of a second), and while I too played this, I was living in Nottingham at the time and there was a VR Arcade with 2 machines and they were using Legend Quest, which is a fantasy adventure game. I’d turn up weekly to experience the next 5 minutes of the game they made. When I first had a chance to work with the Oculus DK1 in an Indie gaming pub, I made it work for the game Crystal Rift I was working on at the time, and the game went from ok to good and I was hooked.”
For those that may not be aware, what are some of the games and projects you have been a part of?
“In VR, Crystal Rift, Windlands, and Windlands 2, outside of VR, Amiga Public Domain and Squigs.”
Pystec Games has some good VR games under its umbrella with Crystal Rift and Windlands.Your newest game called, Windlands 2, just released for PlayStation VR. What can you tell us about it and some of the enemies that we may come across in the game?
“Crystal Rift was a learning experience, VR was new, everything was R&D and there are many things I would improve given where we are today, but at the time it was a game I really wanted to make. I loved old school dungeon crawlers and really wanted to bring that to the modern day. Those who were big fans of games like Dungeon Master or Eye of the Beholder, really understand Crystal Rift and enjoy it, I’m very proud that it was released on all platforms including PSVR.
Windlands didn’t have any enemies, and I think it’s great for that, concentrating 100% on the puzzle of the navigation in real-time was truly zen-like and very special. With Windlands 2 we spent some time listening to what fans wanted from Windlands and it was pretty clear that large enemy Titans were wanted and with that came the need to introduce a way of taking the Titans down. It took lots of time to iterate to the point that the mechanics felt right and the gameplay was satisfying. Once we had Windlands 2 to a great 10-minute demo that we loved, the rest of the game was built out from this, introducing interesting bosses and a giant world to explore with your Hooks and Bow.”
How has the grappling mechanics improved from Windlands to Windlands 2 and do you have any tips for the new players to the game?
“We did make lots of improvements to the ground friction, pull on the ropes (you can pull on the ropes now), we also balanced some of the wall jumping and velocity. We didn’t want to break what was great about Windlands 1 and feel that the improvements overall make the mechanics better.”
One of the new things with Windlands 2 is the co-op, which sounds very interesting. What can you tell us about this and are players able to communicate with the other players?
“We have full VOIP support, so talking is not a problem!. Another benefit of VR is you can signal with your arms and interact with your hands. You can also feel your own heartbeat and signal using your arrows, so multiplay feels very natural. We held nearly all our meetings inside Windlands 2, which is a pretty cool way to remote work.”
There is a new weapon as well with the bow. How is the bow used with grappling and swinging?
“The bow has unlimited arrows so it doesn’t need to be reloaded, which means you can concentrate on swinging and shooting arrows. It’s a lot of fun swinging high, shooting a few arrows, and catching the next tree with some hooks. This action makes you feel like a superhero, so we really amplified all opportunities to do this.”
Psytec Games has added speed run raches and challenges. What are some of the challenges?
“The original Windlands has timed races for the end game, and those speed runs are highly contested, people really enjoy them. We also introduced collection challenges where you collect 10 items and get to the exit, we carried all of this on to Windlands 2 but added the multiplayer. It’s super fun for a group of friends to race together.”
What has been the most impressive score you have seen on the leaderboards and were you able to be that score?
“Windlands has been entered multiple times into Games Done Quick and there are some amazing speedrunners. It takes me around 25 minutes to complete Windlands on Hard. The world record is currently 18m 25s, which is super impressive. The speed run record for Windlands 2 is currently 1h28m50s, which I also find incredible.”
Some players may get motion sickness, what has been done to make sure that any motion sickness has been reduced if not, removed from the game?
“While intense, Windlands 2 has many options for comfort, from cages, snap and smooth turning and blinkers, the game design by itself helps comfort with the focal point (hook end circle), reducing close up walls and wind sounds all helping, for a lot of VR players, Windlands has been the freeing experience they crave and many players have found their VR legs and overcome the fear of heights due to Windlands.
Graphically, Windlands 2 looks like it is going to be really good in VR. What do you feel is most important when coming up with the graphics style in Virtual Reality?
“We are very proud of the art style in Windlands 2. Ilja and the art team worked really hard on finding a style that performs well but looks stunning. There are some truly breathtaking vistas in Windlands 2. Jani (who led the Level Design) is very talented at building large areas with limited polygons and making Windlands feel real and an interesting place to explore. There are lots of collectibles, hidden rooms, and easter eggs to find for those who love to discover cool surprises.”
Sound along with graphics really add to the immersion. What do you think is the most important when trying to find the right sound for your games?
“Simo lead the Music and Sound design for both Windlands and Windlands 2. It’s amazing work. It all works together to really cross the line into believable, from birds singing to many wind sounds (all recorded in a local Finnish forest). A lot of the time you forget it’s there which shows how well it all works, the music is also custom written for Windlands in both games by Simo, including a final song in each game. I can’t praise Simo enough, his work is awesome.”
If you walked the door into THE VR DIMENSION, but could have any of the 3 other players playing in Co-OP that can be from any time period fiction or non-fiction in the world of Windlands 2, who would they be and why?
“Justin Roiland for the laughs (he is a fan of Windlands and I am a fan of Rick and Morty), Mark Zuckerberg for a pep-talk (we need to talk about being a humanist company and building a healthy games community), and Elon Musk for the futurist conversation (I admire big thinkers in this space and spend a lot of my own thoughts here).
So what’s next for you and Psytec Games? Windlands 3 maybe?
“We are working on future games. Watch this space.”
With the content for Virtual Reality continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Windlands 2?
“Easy to learn and hard to master but one hell of a journey full of encounters that will become your future nostalgic memories. These are the days.”
I really want to thank Jon for taking time out of their day and to give us a closer look into Windlands 2 as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.