Exploration School on its way



First, we want to apologize for the delay in getting Exploration School content out.

We don’t mean to let anyone down, and we’re not any happier about the delay than any of you are. The issue was a strong desire to provide people with the best possible experience that we can offer for all of the control regimes. Releasing something unpolished early would have ticked people off just as much as a delay would, if not more. We’d rather miss a deadline, take our lumps like a big boy, and then make it up to you with a great experience instead of just phoning it in for the sake of a deadline and ending up disappointing you guys more.

The Nitty-Gritty

The biggest hangup with the other input regimes was the fact that the play experience with mouse/gamepad was substantially different from the Hydra experience–more so than we initially expected. As soon as we’d wired up the first iteration of mouse and gamepad support, we discovered that the game felt different, and quite a bit of the novelty, tension, and challenges that come with the Hydra gameplay weren’t there. We’d gotten used to playing with the Hydra, and we missed the novel spin that it put on puzzles and interactions.

For example, ladder climbing–with the Hydra, it’s a tense and visceral experience where you can accidentally fall if you botch a rung grab. With the original mouse/gamepad implementation, it was sort of like you’d just walk up to the ladder and then automatically move up the ladder. No drama, no tension, just…it felt like a generic ladder climb in every first person shooter ever. Not really the experience we want to deliver.

Picking up items with the Hydra feels novel and exciting. Lefty or righty? No problem, you can use the same hand you favor in real life. You could switch items between your hands, carry an item in each hand, you could throw stuff, you could nudge things around–there’s just a lot more you can do when both hands are separately controlled.

Using the mouse or gamepad felt pretty bland and generic in the original implementation. It felt like a really generic first person shooter, except instead of a Mowemdown BLAM-90 or a Killemgood Turbo Hamburgerizer 3000XL, you’re running around with a can of spray paint or a glowstick. It just didn’t feel as compelling or as interesting as the Hydra gameplay does.

The Solution

So, the consensus was that we really ought to bring mouse/gamepad play closer to what the Hydra offers, rather than just dumbing non-Hydra gameplay down into something drearily generic that feels like it belongs in the $1 clearance bin at Walmart. So, we’ve been experimenting with a few different approaches that bring more novelty, interest, challenge, and drama to the mouse and gamepad play modes.

The things we want to preserve and bring in from the Hydra to other control regimes:

  • Being able to favor the same dominant hand you use in real life
  • Being able to use different items in both hands
  • Bringing the element of using both hands separately into puzzle solving
  • Making things like ladder climbs feel more novel and dramatic
  • Making environmental interactions more interesting and challenging than some kind of “Press E to use” abstraction

We’ve been running through a few different approaches that we felt would bring the mouse/gamepad play a bit closer to what the Hydra brings to the table, and so far we like the direction that we’re headed in! We’ll post more details and some video as soon as we can.

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10 thoughts on “Exploration School on its way

  1. I think most of us are glad you’re taking the extra steps needed to make the end product polished. Steady on!

  2. I warned you guys about this MANY months ago on your kickstarter page and you reasured me you were aware of the potential problems and had it under control…

  3. random: Just so there aren’t any misunderstandings–yes, we were aware of this possibility all along. The issue here isn’t that we were caught by surprise or anything like that, it’s just that we feel there’s an even better way of doing things. Back then, when we planned this out, the intention was that we were simply going to fork the puzzles and design variations of them around the limitations of other controllers.

    When we put that into practice, we had the opportunity to evaluate that approach in a real-world context and felt that there was a better and more story-cohesive way to engage players than just forking the puzzles, because the more we used the Hydra, the more we discovered interesting possibilities with object and environment interactions. We wanted to bring at least a taste of that to the non-Hydra input regimes because we felt that it would make for a substantially better game.

    It would also give people who weren’t already into VR a taste of what was possible using whatever input devices they already own, whether that’s a mouse and keyboard or a controller. If they had a chance to sample the gameplay and discover that there’s an even more interesting way to play, they might just buy a consumer Rift and whatever motion controllers hit the market in 2014/2015.

    Ignoring these people won’t help VR catch on with the mainstream, and we don’t want this game to just squeak by on the enthusiasm of a small number of people who own non-mainstream VR input devices, nor do we want to see VR flop again like it has in the past. We want it to succeed, and we want to bring more people into the VR fold. Bland non-VR gameplay isn’t gonna do it.

    On a final note, game development isn’t a static proposition with a linear flow. Things are constantly changing as progress is made, and we’re always discovering better or more interesting ways of doing certain things as we go along. That’s just the nature of the beast, and all we can do is continue to do our best to make the best game we possibly can!

  4. im really excited for it. I have to wait until the consumer oculus comes out, but i’ll be playing this when it comes out.

    Its good that you took the time to address the issues to create the best product possible.

  5. You guys actually have me excited to try the game on a keyboard now, well done! I am very interested to see how bland controls can be adapted to work with such an immersive game! ^_^

  6. I dont want this to sound like hate mail but I would have much preferred you didn’t include legacy input device support at all. I dont know who of the backers looked at your videos and thought, ya I gots ta try that with a mouse… Geez.

    It’s like when Nintendo launched wii, if for all their motion controller games they said, “We need traditional game cube controller support as well”. They made a bold choice to ditch the norm for those games and it paid off. This is apples to oranges because they had an entire platform, we’re just talking about one game here.

    We’re also talking about one game that only people with pre-release dev prototypes, who were still willing to throw money at a game for said prototype, decided to back. I’d put the new control schemes to the side and work on that later. I also don’t know what I’m talking about so consider that, you don’t have to defend against my sole opinions here :)

  7. You’d be surprised.

    Limiting our market to a tiny number of people who own non-mainstream VR devices would handicap us over the long run. We have long term plans, not just for this one game, but for other games and VR in general. Maximizing this game’s chances of being a success will make those plans a lot easier to implement.

    It’s also easy for VR enthusiasts to forget that they’re a small minority, and that Oculus, Sixense, and everyone working on next-generation VR input devices are still a ways from realizing the consumer-friendly retail versions. Even then, they’re still facing a challenging sell to the mainstream, who have seen VR flop in the past. Getting the technology out there will take some time, selling people on it will take some time, and we’d be irresponsible and seriously stupid not to factor that into our plans.

    “Forget the muggles” is not a viable business strategy for indie devs. If we were bundling VR devices with the game, maybe, but otherwise, no, you need to make it work for whatever consumer-grade hardware people have now, before the next generation devices hit the market.

  8. You guys take your time. Any hate mail is only due to people extreme excitement. We know you guys are working hard, and I personally know that the way will all be worth it. Thanks for all your hard work!

    - Tyler

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