Indie game developer Clockwork Demon has been working on virtual reality (VR) integrated title Adopted for a while now, although it was only announced late last year. The videogame puts players in the role of the newly rescued dog named Luchador who has a great deal of influence in a critical point in the 3 owners life. Adopted then explores using the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) to tell a story that puts you in the first-person perspective of a dog.
Recently VRFocus had the chance to speak with Clockwork Demon about its upcoming project. In the interview below the developer talks about Adopted‘s setting, story and VR support. VRFocus will continue to follow Adopted closely, reporting back with any further updates on the experience.
Megan: The night the game is set takes place sometime in the week before Wyatt and Marisa’s wedding. From the beginning of development, we wanted the game to lead up to this wedding at the end with one of the major dramatic questions being would the forces in their life drive them closer together or further apart – resulting in them either getting married or calling off the wedding. At first the game was supposed to take place over the course of a year with changing seasons and all that, but as development progressed we tightened the scope both to cut down on the number of assets we’d have to make and to make the story better. Now we’re sort of focusing on just the tipping point and trying to show how little decisions made in a short period of time can alter the trajectory of the characters’ lives.
Caleb: We’re a small studio with a limited budget. When we started working on this game, I know we certainly had a larger game in mind. As we’ve continued our work, we’ve been homing in on what conveys what we’re trying to do the most succinctly. Sculpting and finding the nugget of gold in this story and experience. This whole game and process has happened very organically. I think like all creative processes that I’ve experienced, it has changed shape over time into something different than what we started on. We’re telling a wonderful short story about a dog, its owners, their close friends, and some extraordinary circumstances, and that all happens in a short amount of time.
Leo: If we’re going to explore relational issues, one of the ways we can ramp up the tension and interest level for the player is to give them a lot to consider in a small space. We want the player to feel like they don’t have enough time to make all the right decisions. You also have three owners, all with their own unique agendas, fears and wants. Should I stop Wyatt from burning down the house or distract Laurel so Marisa can take something important from her? Can I help them both if they are both struggling at the same time? These are the questions we want the player to ask themselves and the push/pull of time/space we want them to feel.
VRFocus: Why are Luchador’s owners having a stressful night?
Leo: These owners are like many 20-30 year olds, they think they have it all figured out. They are going forward with their careers, their hobbies, and their lives together but are about to make a few big mistakes that could have important consequences. For example, Laurel is going to be faced with whether or not she relapses back into an old drug habit. This decision not only affects her, but the people who love her. We have chosen to focus on a specific night where all these choices are going to crash together in a ugly, whimsical, fiery mess and it’s your job to help them sort it all out, or not, depending on who you care the most about.
VRFocus: The title is depicted in black and white. Why did you make this choice?
Caleb: We chose black and white for a myriad of reasons. It really conveys a sense of mystery and intrigue, not unlike the old noire style films. It also really helps to put the player behind the eyes of a dog. They do not see in black and white, but they certainly see far differently than us as humans, both in perspective, and in color range. Another reason is for our smelling mechanic. Using color in a sea of black and white is a really visually wonderful way to say “HEY! Look at this!” In doing this I think we have a visually interesting take on how a dog interacts with this human-dominated world. Oh yeah… and I’m a colorblind artist. So from a production standpoint, this makes things a lot simpler for all of us.
VRFocus: You mentioned that players can choose whether to help or hinder their owners. Why might they choose the latter option?
Megan: Sometimes your owners might want to do things that you don’t want them to do or that aren’t good for them. Like Leo mentioned above with Laurel, if you see her about to shoot up heroin, a lot of players will probably want to stop her. Or sometimes your owners will have conflicting interests, and you’ll have to make a decision about whether to stay out of it or pick a side, and which side you want to pick. We’re planning on including some situations where you can’t make everyone happy, so you have to choose who to support, which also means antagonizing someone. Plus, sometimes it’s just fun to be an asshole to your owners.
VRFocus: Will the title have different endings based on player’s choices? If so how many?
Caleb: All of them. But seriously, there are choices and they will affect how the story unfolds. Ultimately I think it’s a metaphor, however. How much change can one little dog bring? A lot and at the same time, not in the way one would expect to happen in a video game. We’re not just making 3 different endings with videos. We’re trying to make a story happen more organically.
Megan: I would say that the game will have consequences based on the player’s choices. We’re trying to stay away from some of the Mass Effect-y “multiple endings” that tell you how you impacted the story rather than show you. We may not be 100% successful there and we may still have to do some of that, but as much as possible we’d like to make the player play through their consequences. But yeah, there will be multiple ways the story can resolve. We’re not entirely sure how many yet.
VRFocus: What does VR support bring to Adopted?
Megan: I think the first-person perspective is really important to Adopted, ’cause one of the things we want players to think about is “is this how dogs see the world?” I mean, we obviously take some creative liberties with that, ’cause we’re not a dog simulator, but it is something we want to explore. VR support just makes that way more powerful and immersive. Really early on in development, before we had any art in the game really, we hooked the game up to the Oculus DK1 and messed around with it. It was ridiculous how, even without HD and all that stuff, the difference in perspective was really pronounced in VR. Especially ’cause our game stars a little dog that’s only about one-and-a-half feet tall. I remember running under furniture and walking up to one of the humans in the game, which at the time was just a tall capsule, and having to tilt my head up to look at them, and just how cool that all was.
VRFocus: Are you considering launching the title on consoles? Perhaps with Project Morpheus support on PlayStation 4?
Leo: We are open to all options for the future, but our first commitment is to making the absolute best experience we can on PC first. If the game is successful, we’ll bring the same commitment to our fans who want to play on other platforms and do our best to give them the most immersive experience we can.
VRFocus: Adopted isn’t due to release until 2016. Due you have any idea of if this will be earlier or later in the year?
Leo: There’s a lot of unknowns at this point that will determine an exact release date. We’re confident about the projection at this time, and even have a specific target window we think is realistic for release. As we get further along in development, we’ll start to get more specific and let our fans know when Luchador plans to make his debut.