In The Sights Of Bullet Hell: Archiact On Developing The Enemies Of VR FPS Evasion
Developers Archiact go through what threats you'll face in their upcoming virtual reality shooter.
VRFocus has been fortunate to get hands-on with frantic first-person shooter (FPS) Evasion on a couple of occasions now and early indications are very positive. Our most resent playtest with the title was at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) where Peter ended up being particularly impressed by the visual quality of what he was seeing describing it a “‘wow’ moment” and that “stepping out into Evasion’s alien world, it looked so crisp and vivid that it’s was easy to forget this demo was being held in GDC”.
Whilst we’ve previously gone into details about the title’s background in another interview from that period, we also wanted to discuss a little more about that world you step into. So Evasion‘s developers Archiact – more specifically Jennifer Dowding (Senior Producer) and Ian Rooke (Senior Game Designer) – stepped up to provide some in-depth details about just what kind of threats you’ll be facing.
Who are the enemies of Evasion and what threat do they pose?
The enemies in Evasion are called the Optera. In game, very little is known about their origins. Scientists theorize that they evolved from insects, but it’s unclear whether they wear exo-suits or if the Optera themselves are cybernetic organisms. They use energy weapons, have the ability to instantaneously teleport from location to location, and can propel themselves using some sort of anti-gravity technology. Since their attacks are highly coordinated, it’s assumed that are governed by a hive mind or use some non-verbal method of communication.
The main campaign in Evasion takes place on a moon that orbits the Optera homeworld that is rich in a mineral called chloragen, which the humans use to power their ships and colonies. When humans first established a mining operation on that moon, there were some initial skirmishes with the Optera, but a peace accord was struck. Now the Optera have launched a full-scale invasion… but you’ll have to play the game to discover why!
What is Swarm A.I and how does it bring Evasions’ enemies to life?
Evasion is a ‘bullet hell’ shooter, so it’s vital that the enemies feel relentless and overwhelming. Our design team referenced the natural movement of real-world insects to inspire our enemy behavior during gameplay. We use our proprietary Swarm A.I. to ensure that enemies possess not only a distinctive set of weapons and abilities, but also a distinctive movement pattern that operates in concert with the other units. Some Optera travel in ways that can be predicted and anticipated, others zig-zag energetically, while still others use cover and the environment to keep out of range of the player’s weapons. Their attacks are highly coordinated, so that if you focus too much on one type of enemy you will likely to be killed by another foe. To survive in Evasion you need to pay attention to how the various Optera operate together and plan your attacks accordingly.
What inspired the diverse designs and abilities of the Optera?
The behavior and abilities of each Optera is based on the movement behaviour of real world insects. We took a deep ‘nerd dive’ into the individual traits of various insect species and then tried to apply those principles to the A.I. for the enemy races. Whether it’s mimicking the way ants use pheromones to ‘follow the leader’, or recreating how male rhino beetles will charge a competing suitor to impress a female, we wanted to make sure that there was a real world analog for each enemy class.
What are some examples of specific Optera and why are they challenging to fight?
If you’ve ever walked into a hovering cloud of tiny black insects (and probably started sputtering and frantically waving your hands in front of your face), then you’ll recognize these creatures. Gnats are the most ubiquitous enemy in Evasion. They typically travel in small groups, and while they don’t do a ton of damage, they are great at slowly whittling down your health as you focus your energy on the larger enemies. Their movement patterns are erratic and can be hard to predict. But grabbing onto them with your tether and chucking them against a building is extremely satisfying – and they die with a very pleasing scream (courtesy of our talented Sound Designer, Gonzalo Lopez)!
These are the Optera’s foot soldiers. Since there are no other bipedal Optera, it is believed that the Optera create Paragords by using parasites called nematodes to enslave humanoid races and use them in their legions. Paragords lumber into battle and use cover in a human-like way. They will often hide behind cover and lob mortar fire on the player. They fire their weapons in short bursts, machine gun-style, often while moving and changing tactical position. Paragords are dangerous because they’re so different than the rest of the Optera troops.
Paragords make a tactical retreat.
Bombers are modeled after pill bugs, or woodlice, a type of insect often found in old wooden houses. We thought it was cool how they ball up when threatened, so in our game Bombers roll into battle, plant themselves on the ground and then unfold into a mobile turret that spews blaster fire at the player. As an added bonus, if the players get to close, the Bomber will explode! (Which causes major area-of-effect damage). The best way to defeat a Bomber is to destroy it before it gets too close. As our testers have discovered, you ignore a Bomber at your peril!
How does VR help bring the enemies of Evasion to life?
VR is all about immersion, a core gameplay pillar that we’re always mindful of in developing Evasion. This extended to how we designed the enemies. For example, like their namesake, Gnats in our game create a buzzing sound when they travel, so players can locate them when they’re hiding behind rock columns or ducking behind buildings. Several Optera have been designed to ‘buzz’ the player, forcing them to to be constantly looking up and around. The landscape has been specifically designed to provide all sorts of nooks and crannies for the Optera to hide in, which ratchets up the tension as you make your way through the levels.
How does Evasion’s gameplay work to compliment the enemy abilities and behaviour?
Evasion is a sci-fi shooter that supports co-op, so the goal is to force players to work together. There are many ways to survive and prevail in Evasion, but the best way is to coordinate your attacks. For example, it’s smart to have one player keep an eye on the ground forces, while the other play keeps their eyes on the skies. Another effective strategy is to separate to draw enemy forces apart, and then pick them apart one at a time.
Who designed Evasion and when is the videogame coming out?
Evasion was designed by a close-knit UE4-focused team at Archiact, a studio entirely devoted to creating high quality AR & VR content located in Vancouver, Canada. We are a passionate group of developers who want to push the limits of what can be done in VR and create the kind of sought-after AAA experiences that players have been craving. We are targeting a Fall 2018 release for Evasion.