As young as the technology may be, some virtual reality (VR) developers are already looking at it from completely different angles. The team behind Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, for example, doesn’t see VR as an opportunity to immerse players so much as a new box of tricks to provide new types of gameplay mechanics. In this case, the team embraces what many VR sceptics raise concerns about: isolation. Here’s a videogame that takes advantage of the fact only one player can see what’s going on (provided the other isn’t looking at a monitor). Played with a complete stranger at PAX Prime this year, the end result powerfully proves that VR isn’t cutting people off from the real world and humans, but can in fact bring them a bit closer to them.
Anyone that’s been following VR for the past year probably knows how Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes works. The head-mounted display (HMD) user is presented with a bomb that only the other player knows how to diffuse with the help of a set of rules that can be printed off. Pairs have to work closely together, then, working against the clock to solve various trials before the HMD wearer meets a fiery demise. It’s an endearing concept that recalls Nintendo’s early work with the Wii U among other projects.
Of course, when the title releases next week on 8th October, players will be able to invite their friends over to try it out. That wasn’t really possible on the bustling show floor of the Washington Convention Centre and the anxiety that this pressured experience instils is only heightened when paired with someone you’ve never met before. You’re yet to establish how you’ll communicate with this person and yet you’ve got 5 minutes to figure it out.
The result is an experience that forces you to remain calm, listen and, above all else, speak clearly with this stranger. If the instructions given aren’t clear, you’re inclined not to lose your cool as you might do with a friend. It’s an entirely unique way to experience a multiplayer videogame, and speaks to how shallow the mind-set that VR can’t be social really is.
You can almost picture this replacing some sort of cheesy team-building workshop at a company training day. Keeping your cool is tough, however, as some of the challenges require very specific description. Identifying symbols on an expansive control panel and pressing the right ones in the right order is currently Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ most demanding challenge, and it comes at the 11th hour, pushing the panic all the more.
It also has legs as a great title for introducing VR to new people. The unique multiplayer dynamic is a great way of showcasing how VR changes the game in ways beyond the essential immersion and presence.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is out next week and even if a consumer HMD isn’t available yet – support for DK2 and standard monitors is included – it’s shaping up to be a title that VR fans should consider adding to their collection.