A couple months ago, video game studio Hidden Path Entertainment announced that it would be releasing a virtual reality version of its popular tower-defense game: Defense Grid 2. The updated game is called Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition, and the title will be released exclusively for the Oculus Rift.
Hidden Path’s Jeff Pobst (not to be confused with that guy from Survivor who never seems to age) connected with UploadVR to shine some light onto the specifics of his new game and explain the ways VR will enhance the tower-defense experience for players.
Q: Can you tell me how the VR version of Defense Grid 2 will be different from the 2D version?
A: Indeed! It’s funny to think of the previous version as “2D” since the 3D models and visuals on the screen were present in that version and you could view them from multiple angles, but viewing them through a 2D window was much different.
First and foremost, seeing those maps, worlds, and experiences “in person” in VR changes everything in the experience, and that leads you as a game developer to change everything in the world too. So much more detail can be seen in VR, and a lot more detail needs to be added to the world, to the creatures, to the maps, to everything!
If nothing else, we can see how different the game has become by watching people play DG2 Enhanced VR Edition and seeing how it consistently surprises people with how much they enjoy it in VR – and how much more fun it is even compared to their expectations (whether they already love tower defense or are new to the genre).
Q: What was development like for this VR version?
A: It was actually really interesting and challenging. The first and most important aspect we focused on when making this VR experience was to ensure comfort to the player so they can get fully immersed in the gameplay. This means a ton of graphical optimizations so that the game can run at 90 frames per second – making any movement of your head silky smooth.
Then, we needed to completely revamp the controls during gameplay and make them natural and intuitive for players. This took a lot of iterative R&D time, and was really interesting. VR is such a unique medium for game experiences and many things that work in traditional gameplay aren’t going to be as successful in VR. We came up with an exciting new interface that not only is quick to learn, but after just a few minutes of play, is a more comfortable experience and players feel more empowered in the enhanced VR edition than they ever did in the “2D” game.
Q: How does DG2: EVRE take advantage of VR’s unique capabilities?
A: The most powerful part of VR is the sense of “presence” – that you are really there and things are happening all around you. People we know developing for VR don’t say they are “playing” VR, instead they say that they are “in” VR or have come “out” of VR when they are done.
Those are words that indicate that they are travelling somewhere. So, if you’re making a VR game and you want it to be great, you need to create a destination for those players so that when they get there, they’re excited about it, that they feel comfortable, and that they have easy control over what is going on around them.
That’s what we’ve focused on around Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition. We’ve made the locations fun to look at and explore, we’ve made all visual movement tied directly to the player’s movement so it’s an extremely comfortable experience, and we’ve given people natural control of the game by simply gazing at what they’re wanting to do and tapping a button to make it happen. It’s fun, intuitive, and immersive, and people don’t want to stop playing!
Q: What is Hidden Path’s relationship with Oculus?
A: Oculus approached us a year ago suggesting that we work with them to explore Tower Defense in VR and see how it might change based on the medium. It’s been an incredible journey with them making something that has exceeded all our expectations. After looking into what we could do together, we teamed up with Oculus Studios, who is our publisher for the game, to bring Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition to the launch of Oculus Rift.
Q: Does DG2: EVRE have multiplayer support?
A: The Enhanced VR Edition does not include local or online multiplayer at this time. Multiplayer in VR is a new and evolving experience and we wanted to first focus on making the best possible single player experience.
We do support Oculus leaderboards to compare your accomplishments for each map and mode with others in the world and among your friends as well. It’s easy to see when one of your friends has just beaten your best score on a map and find out that it is time to get back in there and optimize your defenses just a little bit more.
Q: When will DG2: EVRE be released?
A: Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition will be available following the Oculus Rift launch on March 28th. We’re so excited about the upcoming launch.
Q: Any word on the price?
A: Pricing will be announced closer to the launch date.
Q: Will DG2: EVRE remain exclusive to Rift, or will it come to other platforms like Gear VR or Vive?
A: Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition is an Oculus Rift exclusive. I don’t know if we could pack this gameplay onto a mobile platform or not, but it would be fun to try and see what we could do.
Q: How will we control the game? With our gaze? An Xbox controller? Touch?
A: Players use gaze and tap during gameplay and use the Xbox One controller or the Oculus Remote in DG2 Enhanced VR Edition.
Tower defense is a gaming niche that I have to admit I’d never considered to be uniquely suited to VR. After speaking with Probst and seeing DG2: EVRE in action, however, I consider myself pleasantly surprised and optimistic for the genre’s future in the industry. Troop/resource management titles and games with a heavy emphasis on observation and strategy are rapidly becoming some of the most exciting for VR. Games like these want to elevate you to the level of a deity as you calculate and command your troops and there has never been a platform more suited to god-mode than VR.
Pobst will be conducting a reddit AMA on Thursday, 3/10 at 11am PST on r/oculus. Sign on if you’re hankering for more information about Defense Grid 2, or are simply curious about VR game development in general.