The God-game genre is built around putting players in a powerful position and giving them control over a vast environment of some sort, some examples including Viva Pinata and From Dust. From a divine or supernatural perspective, players give instruction and/or exhibit influence over a simulated ecosystem that is largely autonomous. Virtual reality has the potential to change how we interact with each gaming genre and Expanses is an example of this, providing an evolving world that is shaped by our gaze.
Expanses is described as a narrative adventure where players explore 3 different environments (called expanses) as they attempt to restore them to the lush habitats they once were. Instead of just being let loose to manipulate things with no particular guide, each area is anchored by a specific element and there are missions that you’ll undertake on the path to discovering that element. There are a few ways that you’ll be able to influence your surroundingss: Moving and destroying objects, shifting between animals, and terraforming. While these direct interactions would normally move you away from a more hands-off influence of God games, the manner by which you complete these tasks makes it seem as if you, the player, are an ever-present deity. In Expanses, all player interaction is managed by vision. With absolutely no controller input, you move in a first-person perspective and your focused gaze determines how you interface with the game.
- Primary – On this level things react to your gaze by trembling, showing just what can be interacted with.
- Central – Whatever you’re focused on interacts back with you and moves into the Maximum focus zone.
- Maximum – You directly control the object with its mass, size, form, and distance from the player changing that interaction.
Essentially, there’s a circular reticle of influence at the center of your vision when playing the game. Divide that into three layers and, the closer the subject gets to the center, the more direct the interaction. In the Maximum interaction zone, you’ll have to focus a bit longer on objects you want to move the larger they are. As far as changing how much of the world you see at once, it’d benefit you to switch to an animal with a higher point of view to change larger things and then go down closer to the ground for the finer details.
“Gamers are used to all trivial controllers: from the classic joystick to racing wheels and elaborate joypads,” says Albert Idrisov, Shuographics’ marketing and business development manager, via email. “These are not for us. We’ve decided to move away from all classic forms of game control and propose something new because VR – it’s the future. We didn’t want to use something from the past. We see ourselves as pioneers, introducing a new type of technology.”
Expanses is an intriguing concept even without the unique input style, but that input may be what makes or breaks the game. With such a focus on just using the headset, it’s an open question whether it could deter people from playing the game for very long and limit the experience. Luckily, it’s coming to Samsung Gear VR, one of the more comfortable devices on the market, and Google Daydream which has a cozy design too. The game is a means for Shuographics to bring attention to environmental issues in their own way as well, so the hope is that the combination of all these elements will inspire people to contribute to the Kickstarter, which goes live November 16th, 2016.