We’ve already seen VR infiltrate a wide variety of game genres. You can fly spaceships in VR, you can drive cars, you can fight creatures and explore dungeons, and you can even embark on exciting, colorful, and terrifying third-person adventures. What you couldn’t do before today, was delve into a real-time strategy (RTS) game in first-person.
Granted, games like AirMech Command already show the benefits of the genre from a tabletop perspective, but seldom do we see a first-person interpretation of the RTS, either inside of or outside of VR. Thanks to Funktronic Labs and their latest game, Cosmic Trip, that’s all about to change.
The Sum of Its Parts
For many people, the most immersive and authentic VR experiences are the ones with the highest sense of presence. Things like a first-person perspective, roomscale movement, motion tracking, and more all contribute to that sense of physically existing in a non-physical space. It’s an incredible feeling that’s hard to achieve in its own right, and is even harder to achieve in some of the more nuanced genres we’ve grown to expect in the game industry.
“Our Cosmic Trip dev team are huge fans of the real-time strategy,” Eddie Lee told me over email. “Before production, we’ve been fantasizing about what it meant to bring an RTS game into a VR. Naturally, people think of table-top God-view when they talk about RTS design. During our early design phase, we were contemplating what it truly meant to be a VR-native experience, which for us was to be deeply immersed in the action, and experiencing it all in first-person. From that idea, we began to explore RTS in the context of first-person and soon enough Cosmic Trip was born!”
It sounds odd at first, but it works very well. By teleporting between the various different “base” locations, you can monitor your worker bots, set up defensive bots, build new structures, and even take the attacking into your own hands with frisbee-like guns. It’s a ton of fun to play and the tutorial does a great job of walking you through the basic mechanics before letting you loose on the distinctly colorful and vibrant world.
“The setting was inspired by our love of sci-fi and the wonderful interstellar,” said Lee. “Our high-level goal was to make a game that has the emotional aesthetic and charm of Pixar mixed with the “juiciness” of Nintendo games. Because our game gets a bit psychedelic and groovy, we designed the visuals to have a bit of a “retro” 1960s vibe, which complements our Pink Floyd-esque guitar solos and dope feels.”
All that exists right now is a basic survival mode, but it’s sufficiently intense and challenging on its own. The first few waves are simple enough with slow moving eyeball-esque aliens floating towards your base, but eventually things will start getting more intense.
Building a Better RTS for VR
After a few rounds, I started to see large aliens that took several hits to kill while they hurled large projectile balls at me that had to be destroyed before hitting me or my equipment. I even saw huge purple deathballs that moved at an incredible pace, which really throws a wrench into your plans when you’re trying to build up your central base.
I can already see where a lot of the strategy elements come into play since choosing which base to prioritize as your resource hub versus setting up defenses and when to bounce between them using the teleport system. Many of the game’s options were locked in the menu since this is an Early Access build, but the foundation is incredibly solid with a lot of room for growth and improvement.
Made up of 6 developers right now – 3 programmers, 2 artists, and 1 sound designer – Funktronic Labs is keen on breaking off a chunk of the VR pie for their unique and totally tubular designs. “We’ve been exploring VR since the Oculus DK1 was first released,” Lee explained. “For our first VR project, we collaborated with Leap Motion to develop a psychedelic audiovisual experience called Collider (DK2). Most recently, we’ve collaborated with fine-artists Friends With You and New Tropics to develop Light Spirit — a VR experience that places the player into a unique and friendly encounter with the ephemeral. Now, we are currently completely focused on making Cosmic Trip.”
Future plans for Cosmic Trip are unclear, but more things to build, robots to make, enemies to kill, environments to explore, and things to do are obvious areas of focus. Beyond that, adding in multiplayer (potentially PvP) is slated as a long-term goal, along with support for other VR platforms. Steam Early Access on the HTC Vive was just the easiest first target for them.
You can watch the video preview up above for gameplay footage of Cosmic Trip in action and can now download the game on Steam Early Access for HTC Vive. Stay up to date by checking in on Steam and the game’s official website for future details.