One of the things that keep on surprising me within Virtual Reality is movement. You can drive or fly a ship and go as fast as possible. You can walk or run and you can even swing based on the mechanics of the experience. But when I heard that Gamedust was making a game where you have grappling hooks that you can swing around along with acrobatics along with solving puzzles with humor, I was intrigued. I had to know more. So I reached out and Pawel from Gamedust was happy to give us more insight into Yupitergrad and talk about VR.
Interview with Pawel of Gamedust
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Could you please introduce yourself and what you do at Gamedust?
“Hello, I’m Paweł from Gamedust and I’m the person responsible for the initial concept and overall gameplay vision of the game.”
Gamedust has come out with some pretty good titles for Virtual Reality with Overfight for Gear VR and Oculus Go and then to the puzzler Nerverout, and then the most recent Spuds Unearthed. Now, you are releasing a game called Yupitergrad. What can you tell us about the inspiration for the game and what the player can expect when playing?
“Our basic inspirations emerged from an internal game jam when we created a lot of different prototypes of VR mechanics. One of them was grappling hooks, which turned out to be exceptionally fun and we decided to expand this into a full VR title. And as people living in Eastern Europe, we decided to choose the setting which is familiar for us – so we decided it will be the Soviet Bloc space program.”
When I first saw the trailer, a couple of things popped out. One is the art style and another would be the comedic aspect of the game. Was this type of art style always planned or did it change from the original concept? Also, can we expect plenty of that comrade humor in Yupitergrad?
“Our core goal was to deliver coherent gameplay first and the style emerged as the consequence of our design rules – clear color coding and possibility to identify the objects fast. The comedic tone was introduced as a sharp contrast to the overall atmosphere of loneliness at the space station.”
Another thing that popped out was the grappling hooks and boosters. When developing the game, did you find any challenges with this type of movement?
“Yes. Initially we created just grappling hooks swinging mechanics. It was pretty fun, but along development we have a feeling that something is missing that could increase player control over the movement. We introduced nozzles pretty late in the development cycle, but it increased overall gameplay quality so much that we decided to leave it as one of the core mechanics. It added some work to create the levels which focus on that mechanic and balance the other, but the results are (in our opinion) absolutely fantastic.”
With this type of movement, are there any type of settings to help reduce any motion sickness that players who may not be used to this type of movement, or is that not an issue?
“We based our development on game design principles for VR development – linear movement only, avoid unnecessary accelerations, quick rotations, stable environment with lots of static objects for the player working as the point of reference when moving around, avoiding any shaking to the camera.
Also, we try to give the player as much control as we could so when there is a movement that starts to be uncomfortable to the player – the movement can be counted measured by attaching to the wall or using nozzles to slow down or move in the direction the player desires. Basically we try to avoid situations when players have no control over his or her movement.”
What can you tell us about the platforming stunts and riddles within the game?
“It was challenging to find proper moves to use as the stunts in this kind of environmentally closed game. We’ve had a lot of internal debates about them, sometimes really intensive and created lots of levels that just didn’t work. The flow we have is an effect of cutting out those levels and leaving in the game only the one that feels great, but are challenging to complete, decreasing player frustration to minimum. Because at the end of the day – an immersive, responsive and player friendly experience is the thing that matters the most, especially in VR.”
When you were coming up for the idea of Yupitergrad, what were some of the ideas or concepts that you wanted in the game, that for whatever reason didn’t make it in the game?
“A lot of!
One example of that mechanic is shooting objects – we have very basic use of this mechanic when you pick up green objects – you can shoot them with a charge from a KOSMOSTICK and we planned to create levels where you use that to solve puzzles or shoot some targets, and we certainly would like to expand this idea in the future.”
Do you see Yupitergrad becoming a series down the line?
“That depends on the player’s reception. If they like the idea, we will definitely consider developing the sequel in the future. From what we see right now – they like the game.”
When it comes to Virtual Reality, what are the top three things that you feel works extremely well, and the top three things that you feel need to be perfected before implementing it into Virtual Reality?
“Basically, VR experiences tend to be short and incredibly immersive. While developing a game, those points should be always in consideration – the player is put inside a world you created for him or her, and your responsibility, as a developer is to create this world as interesting as you can.
Visuals play a huge role, especially in the games where you can travel freely through provided spaces, and looking at things from a really close perspective. Why play a game when you don’t like what you see?
Good handling of physics also has a huge influence – players will expect it to work exactly as in reality (with some small acceptable deviations, but still in a range that feels “just right”) and if you fail to provide that feeling, it would definitely break the immersion. For instance – the gravity on Jupiter is much stronger than it is on Earth, but we used the classic 9,81m/s^2 value, because different one would feel very unnatural and could create motion sickness very quickly. We want players to enjoy the experience, not to fight with our natural human senses programmed to live on our planet.
Sound and music is the third factor to mention. Hearing is another of our senses and a very important one! We can localize and clarify a level of danger by just listening to things. And we do use that in our production – a proper audio layer works as a booster for the player overall experience and you definitely don’t want to fail at providing a proper boost!”
What still surprises you about making games for Virtual Reality?
We try to create an experience with some pre-assumptions about how the players will play our titles. Sometimes we find out that our expectations and reality are completely different things and the players engage in the gameplay in a way we weren’t aware of. Playtesting is a crucial part of the production and should never be skipped ;).”
If you could tell yourself three dreams to not give up on, what would they be?
“To provide the best entertainment for the people you can make of course! As a game developer we want to be responsible for the titles that people love to play. It’s hard, and sometimes doesn’t go as intended, but we’re not giving up and keep fighting towards a better future for the players ;).”
Escaping into Virtual Reality allows us to enter new worlds, what would you say to someone who was looking to escape and why they should enter the world of Yupitergrad?
Your motherland needs you, put your headset on and do your best!”
I want to thank Pawel for talking to use about Yupitergrad and about Virtual Reality.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.