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The Hum Dev Talks Gameplay, ‘Real VR’ and PlayStation 4

Videogame fans are no strangers to alien invasions. Be it in Gears of War, Resistance, XCOM or countless other franchises, we’re well accustomed to defending our planet from an overwhelming force. You might roll your eyes when told that Thotwise Games’ upcoming virtual reality (VR) compatible videogame, The Hum, is also based around the concept, then. But the team behind the title isn’t actually focusing on the battles on the front lines; The Hum is more concerned with what comes after the bloodshed and mankind has fallen?

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And so players will find themselves as a survivor of such an invasion. Much of The Hum still remains a mystery, thus VRFocus recently spoke to the developer’s Ariel Arias to uncover more about the anticipated title, which is set to support the Oculus Rift VR head-mounted display (HMD) on PC and aiming to come to the PlayStation 4 with support for the Project Morpheus HMD. In the interview below Arias provides some hints on what players can expect from the experience, and how VR will enhance it. The Hum is set to be showcased at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany on 13th – 17th August 2014, and VRFocus will be there to bring you all the latest on it and all other VR titles.

VRFocus: Where did the idea for The Hum come from?

Ariel Arias: I always liked the alien genre. Since my childhood I was interested in a good game about an alien invasion. I remember when I was 10 years, I ‘designed’ a game on paper, which was basically a DOOM 2 clone, but more similar to The War of the Worlds in ambiance.

I have been developing games for years, but only the last year (2013) was when I saw the real possibility in terms of technology to start a project with the features I wanted.

I made a few prototypes about games with aliens and then chose one which became The Hum. In real life, The Hum is a mysterious sound that people hear in the sky all around the world. I took it as an important element for the game’s story, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

VRFocus: How did you decide upon the designs for the aliens and their technology?

Ariel Arias: I am a big fan of many movies and TV series like Star Trek , Stargate SG1, Alien and The War of the Worlds, so I have many influences in my search for the right design.

The game is still evolving a lot. I don’t want to spoil so much, but you will see other creatures and technology in the future. And, for everything, I find a background logic and meaning, even if the player character maybe cannot know how it works,and what is happening.

I have many ideas in mind about these designs, so I tell them to the conceptual artists with whom we are working. Then they make many variants and we start with an iteration of exploring design. I use the first concepts to define a better idea, they improve that and so on until we have something with good personality and that fits in the game’s universe.

VRFocus: We currently don’t know much about the gameplay. Will players simply be exploring environments or is there more to it?

Ariel Arias: Gameplay is another thing that we are exploring. At the beginning, the game prototype was about walking around, jump scares and puzzles. It was not ok for me. Then, I tried with a random level generation (similar to rogue-like) but with aliens. It was not ok either.

I love good survival games. For example, I absolutely fell in love with Don’t Starve when it was released. So, I tried to to bring something like that to a 3D world with aliens. It didn’t work either!

But all these tries were very good for the nature of The Hum. Currently, The Hum has exploring, inventory, survival and some weird things like time manipulation. We are exploring procedural experiences using servers and data collecting, but is an alpha test yet.

VRFocus: What about the structure of the title? Is it open-world or will there be levels?

Ariel Arias: You will have phases in the game. In some situations, you will have very limited freedom, so you can think about it as a ‘level’. In other situations, you will have the freedom of walk around and explore, like in the city for example. In any case, for the final release, it’s my idea that the player doesn’t have a linear experience.

VRFocus: Your Greenlight page hints at the protagonist gaining ‘new abilities’, what can players expect here?

Ariel Arias: Aliens are having some fun with the human race genetic. Many things can happen!

VRFocus: How does virtual reality enhance the experience of The Hum?

Ariel Arias: I really want that the players feel immersed in the game. If they don’t, I’m failing. The VR experience is not just something like ‘add Oculus support’. That’s not real VR.

A good VR experience has many factors that normal screen games haven’t. Timing for example. If you ‘live’ an experience on a standard monitor and it is very slow, maybe you can get bored, or distracted, unless a very good tension resource guides you (like music). But, if you are really immersed in the experience, a slow situation (like waiting to see what is happening outside), can be very, very powerful, because you ARE there.

It’s not just about gameplay in mechanics terms, it’s about how you feel and live the experience, and The Hum is being developed with that on mind.

VRFocus: Can we expect any control methods other than keyboard and mouse?

Ariel Arias: Right now, we are using gamepad and mouse/keyboard. But, honestly, I really want to try something like Razers Hydra.

VRFocus: You mention wanting more funding to add new features. Are you considering any types of crowd funding campaigns?

Ariel Arias: Honestly, I don’t want to release a game just for the sake of release. I prefer to delay the project’s release date in order to achieve a really good game. I’m making this because it is a dream project, I’m making the game that I always wanted to play.

So, if we could reach a funding, I’ll delay the project until The Hum is what it deserves to be (and the players deserve to play!). I’m thinking on launch a Kickstarter camping after Gamescom,but it will depends on what happens there.

VRFocus: How confident are you that the PlayStation 4 version will actually happen?

Ariel Arias: We are talking about it with people from Sony. The chances are really high, since they have a good VR solution on the way and The Hum fits very good with it. There are not many VR focused titles under development yet.

VRFocus: Just how late in 2014 can we expect The Hum to launch? When might the PS4 version follow? 

Ariel Arias: Right now I’m almost sure that we will delay the project a little. I want to try to reach funding first and to have time to try Oculus DK2 long enough. We still haven’t received it. We are developing with DK1 and,  of course, that’s not the real VR experience we are searching for.

The game was evolving a LOT since I started with the first prototypes a year ago, and now, I’m sure that VR technologies are the future, but they will be not released until maybe 2015 so I’m evaluating the possibility of releasing The Hum for those dates.

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