Regular readers of VRFocus will have long been aware of Loading Human and the inspirational virtual reality (VR) gameplay that it proposes. Developing a realistic adventure in a VR world cannot be easy, nor cheap, and so it was perhaps just that the developers at Untold Games have turned to Kickstarter to help fund the project. However there is more to this story than just a short goal and a rewrite, as Creative Director Flavio Parenti reveals to VRFocus.
Loading Human was first shown to the press earlier this year. Then running on Unity 4, making use of the Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra for view and motion-control combined, Loading Human tasked players with using their real-world knowledge within a virtual space. This was a point-n’-click adventure videogame without the need for pointing and clicking. The revised edition of Loading Human, revealed via the videogame’s official Kickstarter page, will offer the same gameplay design but deliver it episodically via Unreal Engine 4. A small shift that appears to be making a big difference. Parenti discusses this and more in a question and answer session with VRFocus, presented below verbatim.
VRFocus: Loading Human has now launched on Kickstarter. Why did you decide to opt for this method of funding?
Flavio Parenti [FP]: Basically, if you want to keep a creative independency, crowdfunding is the best path to try. And with a project such as Loading Human, we’d really want to be able to test the limits of VR and try many things: some will be right, others will be wrong, but they will all be interesting and unique. That is why we chose crowdfunding.
VRFocus: The initial goal of $30,000 USD is relatively low. Can you really deliver the high quality experience you’re proposing on this budget?
FP: Kickstarter, like the name states, is not to fully finance a project. It is to give it a kick and start it. It is only the beginning, but having Kickstarter helping us (with finance and awareness) will give us the possibility to keep the creative independency on the title that we’re seeking and look for non-intrusive funding.
VRFocus: Loading Human has undergone significant changes since we last saw it. What made you decide to rewrite the story?
FP: When we did the press event in London (which you attended!) we had the chance to test our proof of concept with some amazing journalists, and all of them gave us precious feedback. So we have tried our best to improve all aspects of the game using the advice we received. The story we have now is perfectly adapted to this media. It’s more epic but still intimate.
VRFocus: Where did the decision to present Loading Human episodically come from?
FP: Mostly financial. Telltale Games and TV series taught us that by creating episodic content, you can lower the costs and maximize the assets. We want to come out with the first episode right when the Oculus [Rift] will hit the market; this way we can receive as much feedback as possible. We are a young start-up and this road looked like the best way to deliver a high quality experience with a relatively low budget.
VRFocus: What were the reasons you chose to move the development to Unreal Engine 4 as opposed to continuing with Unity?
FP: A lot of reasons. First off, Unity 4 (and 5) is an amazing engine. We worked a lot with it and loved it. But we had some physics and other small problems that were giving us a headache. Then Unreal Engine 4 came out at a very attractive price for indie developers, so we tried it and were absolutely amazed by the results, both in aesthetics and physics. From that moment on we understood that we had to adapt everything we had on Loading Human for what would be our new engine.
VRFocus: Was the PlayStation 4 version always on the cards? Are you likely to support more head-mounted displays (HMDs) with the final release version?
FP: We had the confirmation about the existence of Sony’s VR headset at GDC like everyone else, but we had already been in touch with SCEE. They are very friendly with developers and we had been able to show them an early demo of Loading Human. Once Project Morpheus was confirmed, we were ready to submit the concept for approval. We’re not currently working on a PS4 version, but we certainly hope to do so in the future, since our vision is to be able to support as many headsets and platforms as possible to reach a broader audience.
VRFocus: Have there been many differences in the development process between Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus?
FP: It’s still too early to tell, as we haven’t worked with the Morpheus headset yet. However, we are confident that the porting to PS4 using the Unreal Engine 4 won’t be that hard.
VRFocus: Loading Human was originally designed to be played with or without a HMD, but your Kickstarter page suggests that is no longer the case. Why did you decide to make Loading Human a VR-only experience?
FP: Nope. Loading Human was conceived from the beginning to be a 100% VR title. There has been a moment where we were scared of such an “all or nothing” approach, so we said that you could use it with a monitor instead of a headset. Technically, you still can, but there is no point. If you play Loading Human in 2D, you don’t have the sense of depth, therefore, you won’t move your arms in the world in a realistic manner. The gameplay of Loading Human is for a VR experience.
VRFocus: The Kickstarter campaign states that Loading Human will support the Sixense STEM and Razer Hydra motion-control devices. Will other controllers be supported? Both traditional and motion-control?
FP: There are many controllers that should arrive in the next months. Some backers have already asked if we will support PrioVR, and our answer is the same as above. We can’t honestly say right now, but we’ll do all we can to support most of the motion controllers that will be Stem-like. PrioVR hasn’t released an SDK yet and we still have to receive the suit (we backed them on Kickstarter).
VRFocus: What control devices will be supported for the PlayStation 4 version of Loading Human?
FP: We can’t answer that at the moment.
VRFocus: The reward tier offering one backer the opportunity to have their face mapped onto the lead character is an interesting one, especially given that the videogame is played in a first-person perspective. Where did this idea come from?
FP: The first thing that comes to your mind when you put on the Oculus and you look at yourself in the mirror is: “Hey, if I could really see myself, I think my brain would just blow up.” So, yeah. That’s where that idea came from 🙂