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PixelRouter VR Talk Rift Wars, Inspiration & DK2

PixelRouter VR represents everything that has brought Oculus Rift to this point: a small team with a singular vision working with a community to improve their product. This is a microcosm of an industry yet to be acknowledges by a consumer audience, just as is their videogame, Rift Wars. Available to download now via the official Oculus Share website, the demo version of Rift Wars is just one small piece of the puzzle, and VRFocus recently contacted PixelRouter VR to get the full story.

Speaking with James Andrew, founder of PixelRouter VR, VRFocus had the opportunity to address many important issues: the future of virtual reality (VR), the upcoming second version of the Oculus Rift development kit (aka DK2) and Rift Wars‘ origin. These and more questions are answered below, verbatim from PixelRouter VR. VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest details on Rift Wars and future projects from the PixelRouter VR team.


VRFocus: Where did the idea for Rift Wars come from?

James Andrew [JA]: Kelly MacNeill and I first met at the excellent monthly Boston Virtual Reality Meetup. After one of the recent events, I approached him and said, “Hey, how about we collaborate with the goal of making a complete playable game to bring up to next month’s meetup?” He agreed and that kicked off what has been a phenomenal collaboration. We spent the next month working remotely to build the game you see today.


VRFocus: The title’s art style reminds us of the likes of Rez; were these types of experiences your main inspiration?

JA: I have a great appreciation for Rez, but in this case, the primary inspirations were StarFox and Geometry Wars. I love the simplicity of these sorts of games, and I think they translate especially well into VR.


VRFocus: It seems like there are a lot of effects happening on-screen all at once. Has this been a complicated title to develop?

JA: This would never have been possible, in such a short time, without Unity and the availability of so many packages on the Asset Store. For example, we are using the excellent TC Particles for the colourful explosions, giving us true GPU accelerated particles which would have taken at least a month to build if we had to do it from scratch. That said, a lot of what you see is the product of Kelly’s brilliance. He implemented the helical tractor beams and the lock-on targets, and did all that without relying on third party assets.


VRFocus: Why make the title exclusive to Oculus Rift? Aren’t some players missing out?

JA: VR is the future of gaming. In order to create experiences which take advantage of the new medium, we need to introduce mechanics into the gameplay which simply don’t translate to a traditional control scheme. For example, in Rift Wars we make use of Head Tracking for locking on to the gems. Could we make a screen-only version of this game? Yes, but I’m not sure we ever will because we’d have to change the mechanics so much that it would be a different game.


VRFocus: Will you be adding support for Oculus Rift DK2’s new features such as positional tracking?

JA: Oh yes! We are very excited to see what kinds of things become possible with positional tracking. If anyone at Oculus is reading this and wants to send us a DK2 early, we would love to get going on this.


VRFocus: Will you be sticking with the Rift Wars name? Heroes of Newerth‘s expansion of the same name takes up much of the YouTube/search engine space.

JA: The name Rift Wars breaks so many rules of branding, but I wanted to acknowledge that, at this time in history, it’s development is tied directly to the existence of the Oculus Rift. It is possible that we might update the name before a commercial release.


VRFocus: What is the future of Rift Wars? Will we see it on Steam?

JA: We have been very inspired by the immensely positive responses we have gotten from people who have played it, and that is causing us to give careful consideration to our commercial strategy. A Steam release of a much enhanced and extended take is a definite possibility.


VRFocus: Would you consider bringing the title to the PlayStation 4 with Project Morpheus? Or perhaps other VR formats in the future?

JA: Yes, definitely.


VRFocus: Your name, PixelRouter VR, certainly suggests you will be dedicated to VR experiences. Do you have any more ideas/projects in the pipeline right now?

JA: Yes, we are focused exclusively on building addictively fun games for VR, and Rift Wars represents one of the two sorts of games we are most inspired to make and play. Rift Wars is a classic, single player arcade game. These are great fun, and should have a place in every VR gamer’s library. The other thing which we are really excited about is building multiplayer games, designed from the ground up for VR. Imagine taking the Rift Wars aesthetic, and transforming it into an Arena Combat game inspired by Descent. I don’t know about you, but I’d sure love to put on a Rift and jump into an arena and do some dogfighting. We are already experimenting with this internally, and its going to be awesome. Working title, “Rift Wars : Arena”.

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