Just like Michael Wentworth-Bell, I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more VR stealth games. Poking your head around cover and quickly ducking and diving to keep out of sight seems ideally suited to headsets. The difference, however, is that Wentworth-Bell is actually doing something about that absence.
Namely, he’s creating his own stealth game, Espire 1, for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and you can see the first footage for the project below. At first glance this might look like any other shooter on its way to VR headsets, but Espire’s focus on keeping out of sight and avoiding confrontation makes it quite different from other games.
Wentworth-Bell wants to make this an immersive experience by gamifying the limitations of VR, in a sense. You play as the pilot of a drone operator, designed to take on military sneaking missions. While you’ll see through the eyes of a drone, your character is actually standing on a virtual holodeck, which mimics your tracking space in the real world. The idea behind this sort of VR within VR is to legitimize the compromises developers have to make right now; the field of view shrinks when you move with the trackpad/Touch sticks, but instead of darkness you’ll see the holodeck room around you.
The video shows several neat ideas for stealth games, many of which are logical evolutions of mechanics from other titles like Splinter Cell and, of course, Metal Gear Solid. You can use a camera to peak around doors, for example, but you’ll actually have the device in your hand to freely move it. There’s also a tranquilizer gun that has to be manually readied after every shot, which seems like a nod to a similar weapon that was introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2.
Wentworth-Bell explained to UploadVR that he’s still working on core systems like the game’s AI, but is aiming to produce something similar to current game mechanics. That means enemies might not immediately spot you if you poke out from behind cover at a distance, and physically crouching might reduce visibility.
You’ll even have to think about the speed of your psychical movement; collide with a wall too quickly and someone might hear. It’s bringing your body into VR in ways you might not previously have thought of.
“When first alerted (sight or sound), the AI will investigate the location,” the developer explained. “If a player stands 30 metres away from a guard, the guard will walk towards the player and if the player did not move out of sight, the guard will then begin combat, alerting nearby guards. Currently the guards will engage the player until they loose sight for 10 seconds straight. They will then search for the player before returning to their patrol.”
Currently, Wentworth-Bell is looking for funding and partnership to help develop the game, and he plans to release not only a version for Steam but an arcade experience that could be used for location-based VR.