InnerspaceVR, the virtual reality (VR) developer behind A Fisherman’s Tale began teasing its next project Maskmaker back in the summer. A puzzle adventure where players have to explore and create masks, the studio has only released small tidbits of information up until now. In a new email Q&A with VRFocus, the team delves a little further into this mysterious videogame.
Answering the questions is InnerspaveVR’s Creative Director, Balthazar Auxietre, supplied alongside some brand-new screenshots.
What was the inspiration behind Maskmaker and its narrative?
I grew up surrounded by masks as my father is a collector of them. As a young boy, I used to spend a lot of time in his workshop, imagining their purpose, and thinking of what kinds of people around the world had worn them… their environments… their lives… All that was peppered with the magic of childhood imagination and its fantasies!
It’s when I discovered VR that I fully realized the potential that masks could have in an interactive project.
When we started thinking about our new game, we were aiming to explore something more dark and mysterious than what we had previously done in our projects. Among the ideas was this concept of playing with magical masks. What I really like about masks is that they are something really whimsical and wondrous, but also something a bit spooky, so the project became this dark fairytale about masks and the magic they hold.
How has your design process changed since A Fisherman’s Tale as VR continues to advance and grow?
With Maskmaker, we wanted a more open-ended universe than A Fisherman’s Tale which was set up in a single tiny lighthouse. We’re carefully designing Maskmaker for exploration and contemplation, to give the players a strong sense of presence and to make them feel like they are a part of this world. The feeling of freedom and awe in front of a huge landscape in VR can be very exhilarating, so we want to tap into that and surprise players at each new location they appear. We really tried to intertwine the feeling of being challenged by the puzzles, being moved by the story and being visually amazed by the environments. I hope the players will fully experience the magical atmosphere of the world and find a feeling of freedom and discovery in wearing masks and travelling through them.
With a strong VR puzzle back-catalogue how are you differentiating Maskmaker?
In comparison to our previous work, Maskmaker is more an adventure game than a “puzzle game”, strictly speaking. Puzzles are set in the players’ path across the different levels. The “biomes” are more a means to challenge the exploration of the users so they can gather new crafting components to build new masks, and eventually learn the truth about the story.
The puzzles have been designed inside the type of “natural” environment and background story of each biome, so in that sense, they are more inherently connected to the level design than individual puzzle set pieces.
From the details so far Maskmaker looks expansive, will this be your biggest VR game yet?
Yes, it will be our biggest game so far. We had more resources for Maskmaker than for A Fisherman’s Tale. We had the opportunity to work with the team at MWMi, who immediately supported the ambition of Maskmaker’s concept. It’s still a VR indie game, in the spirit and the creativity!
How creative can players get with the masks, are there secret combinations for example?
Secret combinations… that’s a good idea! The initial goal for the players is to follow the “apprenticeship” of being a true Maskmaker. For parts of the game, players will have to create masks from existing blueprints, designed by their predecessors and handed down from Maskmasker to Maskmaker. If the players are able to complete their apprenticeship and have proved themselves a true Maskmaker, they will be able to craft a mask of their own design…
Can you share details on how some of the puzzle mechanics will work?
Solving puzzles gives you access to new ingredients such as feathers, pearls, shells, animal hair that help you craft new masks. The ingredients are specifics to the cultural identity of each biome. Finding those ingredients is one of the main goals of the players’ exploration, as is finding the blueprints which will guide them in the crafting. As players progress, they will develop their crafting skills to make more and more elaborate masks, by sculpting, painting, mixing the ingredients etc. We want to give the feeling of being a real craftsman in VR, which adds an interesting sandbox component to the game on top of the puzzle mechanics.
Players will be challenged by different kinds of puzzles. There are puzzles that give access to crafting components to make new masks and be able to travel to different parts of the world. There are puzzles that allow progression in each biome by mending some parts of the magic realm that has been damaged or abandoned by the King long ago. And there are puzzles linked to what we call ‘rituals’, which are based on gestures players have to reproduce to complete steps of their apprenticeship.
Will it be single-player or will there be a co-op element?
The game is single-player, but thanks to the mask gameplay, players will at times need to coordinate different characters they can embody in order to solve puzzles, so players will have to co-op a lot with themselves!
How will you keep players invested in Maskmaker once the campaign has been completed?
There will be stuff to discover that is hidden around either pieces of story or small areas, so even if Maskmaker is a single-player narrative game, there’s still room for discovery after the story is finished!
Maskmaker is currently slated for a Q1 2021 release for Oculus Rift, Valve Index, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR headsets. For further updates keep reading VRFocus.