Just last week a small team of highly experienced videogame developers announced the launch of a new studio specialising in virtual reality (VR): Fast Travel Games. VRFocus has been in contact with the team to discuss their reasons for jumping into VR, the technology powering their development and exactly what it is that Fast Travel Games will in time make available for VR adopters.
Taking the time to answer VRFocus’ questions was Erik Odeldahl, Creative Director at Fast Travel Games. Odeldahl’s previous experience includes acting as design director on the recently released Mirror’s Edge Catalyst for EA DICE. He spent over a decade at the Stockholm based studio, working on a number of titles as a designer or lead programmer.
In this question and answer (Q&A) session, Odeldahl discusses the inspiration behind the establishment of Fast Travel Games and the experience the team brings to the newly formed studio. He also suggests that there’s still plenty of room for a new team to jump into the field of VR development, and that Fast Travel Games have some innovative ideas as to what the art of storytelling in this new medium can become. The full Q&A with Odeldahl follows below, and VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest from Fast Travel Games.
VRFocus: With developers previously of Rovio, DICE and other notable studios, what made you decide to step out as an independent developer?
Erik Odeldahl (EO): We’ve known each other for years, and the thought of doing our own thing has always been a part of our conversations. We’re super stoked about VR and the possibilities it gives for rich gaming experiences. With VR finally starting to take off, the time was perfect for us to do our own thing. It is rare to see this type of opportunity, where the landscape opens up for smaller developers, letting us be a part of building the market.
VRFocus: How long has the company been operating prior to the announcement of Fast Travel Games?
EO: The company itself has only existed for a few months. However, the real work actually starts right now, since all founders are now out of their former contracts.
VRFocus: Why has Fast Travel Games chosen to specialise in VR?
EO: The founding team has a rich history of experience in the games industry and a core passion for storytelling and social within games. We’ve dreamed for a long time about how VR could elevate not only gameplay itself, due to the sense of presence inherent with the medium, but the possibilities for social interactions and storytelling to make gameplay more engaging and immersive than ever before.
Working in VR is a completely new challenge and a reset of the industry – demanding new ways of thinking. As game developers this is extremely interesting, since old paradigms – especially when it comes to controls – just don’t work anymore. Playing games in VR offers immersion traditional games can’t do. Right now, many of the experiences available for the different VR headsets aren’t very deep. They’re full of great ideas, but often don’t offer longevity. We want to build longer and deeper experiences, and help establish VR as a prominent platform for gaming.
VRFocus: Your initial statement suggested that Fast Travel Games is looking into ‘the next generation VR storytelling and multiplayer’. Could you offer more details as to what you believe this would be?
EO: Storytelling in games is often a linearly communicated experience – mainly inspired by western cinema. While that is a great way of telling stories in classical AAA games, we feel that the most memorable experiences in gaming often come from a different perspective. Ones where games offer up emergent scenarios that stick with you and linger in your mind longer. Everybody remembers the house they built with friends in Minecraft or that time they were invaded by a red ghost in Dark Souls, but finally managed to defeat them. We want to create game worlds where these types of experiences are plentiful. Where the worlds themselves are also storytellers. If we build a game and people can’t wait to talk to their friends about what happened to them in it, we’d consider that a great success.
VRFocus: There are many developers who propose that they have the solution for creating the best interactive storytelling in VR, yet the medium is still very youthful. What do you think Fast Travel Games can offer that no other studio has yet been able to?
EO: Like you say, the medium is very young and we haven’t really seen that many examples yet of what can be accomplished in it, but we believe that our backgrounds give us a perfect mix of experience and the expertise to create narratively rich stories in VR. From mobile we know what it means to work with constraints, both in terms of input and performance, as well as finding new business models. From the AAA space we also know what it means to create big IPs, high quality titles and set the player free in new, rich universes. We have networking and multiplayer, both vs and coop, and sync and a-sync, in our DNA from past Battlefield games, which will play well into what we’re looking to do on the social front for VR.
Our focus is not to create single player games as you usually see them on consoles or PC, but to build player-driven experiences that you share with others.
VRFocus: No projects from Fast Travel Games have yet been announced. When are we likely to see them?
EO: We have some promising prototypes in the works and can’t wait to unveil our first game to the VR and games communities and will absolutely reconnect once that happens.
VRFocus: It would be safe to assume Fast Travel Games has already begun prototyping these experiences. What kind of technology is the team using? For example, which engine and head-mounted displays (HMDs) are you working with?
EO: We’re working in Unity. It’s a great technology for what we’re trying to do, and also allows us to hit the ground running. When it comes to HMDs, we haven’t locked in to one single platform, but our focus is on PC and console to begin with. We’re very conscious that every HMD has its own strengths. Right now we are prototyping different experiences on different HMDs.
VRFocus: How do you think the VR landscape will have changed by the time Fast Travel Games is ready to launch its first title?
EO: VR is really just getting started and so are we. We’re looking forward to seeing what PSVR and Daydream will bring to the table, but also what happens with other platforms. We’re expecting to see VR penetration take off with cheaper and more accessible headsets, reaching a wider audience. We also hope that mobile VR will have matured with things like positional tracking, making it as viable a target as PC and console.