Hands-On: Lone Echo’s Multiplayer Arena Is Like Zero Gravity Ultimate Frisbee In VR

by Sharon Coone • June 26th, 2017

One day, mankind will colonize another planet. Some time after that, the inhabitants of this planet will have kids, and then they will send those kids to summer camp. And at that space summer camp, these kids will probably play ultimate frisbee in zero gravity.

I got to live the extravagant life of these hypothetical space camp kids, or maybe just a nicer version of Ender’s Game, thanks to the multiplayer of Lone Echo on Oculus Touch.

Each round of the game’s multiplayer mode starts with two teams of up to five players flying into opposite ends of a sci-fi soccer field. In the middle is a disc, which one team must grab, pass, and throw into the opponent’s goal for a point.

It would all be fairly mundane without one key component: Lone Echo’s incredibly successful movement system. Instead of propelling around zero gravity with a jetpack of some kind, players must grab something — walls, floors, ceilings, blocks, even other players — and push off in the direction of their choice. Then you fly infinitely until you hit another wall, floor, ceiling, etc., and you’ll bounce yourself away once more. For emergency maneuvering, there are micro-boosters on each wrist of your exosuit, able to push you lightly in any direction.

“It was almost like going against the grain,” Ready at Dawn president and creative director Ru Weerasuriya tells me of their traversal system. “Most people would have told you don’t move so much in VR, don’t have 360 degrees of freedom, don’t allow the player to do so much.”

But Lone Echo isn’t a fan of those warnings.

“The very first thing we did was build something for VR that actually solved something for VR,” Weerasuriya explains.

Their solution, luckily, is endless fun. My teammates and I spent the first half of our demo time happily screaming, learning to throw our bodies around and punch each other in the face, all while Captain Dave (a developer and pretty much our camp counselor) herded our playtime through various training rooms.

More shocking to us than our new weightlessness, though, was how successfully social the multiplayer “Echo Arena” of Lone Echo truly was. A spot-on intercom system keeps all of the action comprehensible; you can hear in each voice its distance and position relative to yourself, even as players dart across the room. Our avatars move their arms and heads as we do, making each virtual space body a believable companion. And the more we fooled around in the air, the more existent each avatar felt. It’s a strange phenomenon the developers felt in even the early stages of their product, a social recognition they call “magical.”

“That actually happened in the very first instances that we played at work,” Weerasuriya says. “There were no name tags. Imagine no name tags, you have no way of telling who that other person is.”

Even so, the team could recognize each other solely from the movements of their virtual selves. “There’s something that that other person does — just a head bob, the way they move their hands,” he continued. “Then we knew exactly who that person was.”

The intelligent audio system, the smooth traversal system, and the movement of these virtual bodies all combine to create social believability where other humans are involved. Lone Echo proves that the movement of someone’s virtual body can be a believably bonding physicality.

When we bumped into each other, struggling to get our bearings, we jeered and laughed. When we found new play strategies, we yelled across the room to the cheers of our teammates. At one point, Captain Dave tried to usher us out of the initial play room and into a more serious training area, and everyone groaned, dropped their toys, and begrudgingly made their way over like schoolkids ending recess.

This friendliness bled into our actual matches, despite their competitive nature. Lining up outside of the arena’s entry point, our team grabbed each other by the shoulders. The buzzer sounds, and our daisy-chain is rocketed out into the field. Once we’ve cleared the launch, I let go and drift at my own angle towards the target disc. I aim for a floating cube so that I can steady myself and prepare to launch at a new vector.

I can hear the room’s laughter as we fly clumsily past one another. Our precious minutes before this have not prepared us perfectly for actual space-sports. I miss my target, badly. But every crude slam into the wrong wall just means another chance to happily re-fling myself towards the goal.

Someone on my team intercepts the disc from the enemy mid-pass. I launch myself ahead of him, and not wanting to give away our plans, silently wave my arms above my head like I would in any real-life sport. He notices instantly and sends the disc my way.

I make the catch, and with my last ounce of forward momentum, fling the object a little too leftward of the goalposts. But at the last moment, a teammate flies in and snatches my wayward shot, slamming it into the goal.

A celebratory light show bursts out from every shot we make. Both teams laugh and hurrah every time. Everyone here is having fun in a manic way that reminds me of what it’s like playing Rocket League. There’s a lot to learn and master, but at the end of the day it’s also incredibly fun to suck.

Lone Echo’s multiplayer arena is an absolute gem, the unintended star of what was originally just a single player game. When I speak to the developers about their add-on multiplayer creation, they are often quick to turn the conversation to the game’s primary campaign, a journey through a space station with an AI robot companion.

Ready At Dawn is proud of their single player story, and of that I’m glad, but I can’t help but feel they’re a bit unaware of how enrapturing this arena has been. Lone Echo’s multiplayer is genuine fun, a social marvel, and the most brilliant development afterthought I’ve encountered so far.


This article was originally published on May 25th, 2017.

Tagged with: ,

What's your reaction?
Like
Wow
0%
LOL
0%
Dislike
0%
  • Quotemequoteyou

    Is this a joke? Read the whole article but never mention how its exclusive to oculus. Who reviews content without telling people what device it can/can’t be played on? Guess this site has just given up and just rather mislead people by calling them vr games.

    • tastychicken

      Completely agree. Any review (and any news about console/HMD specific software) should have it marked AT THE TOP OF THE ARTICLE. You got it Upload – you got my click. I’m here in the article – nice job. Now, please give me some relevant info right away to let me know if I need to hang around and read this whole thing, or if it doesn’t apply to me AT ALL. Please, I beg of you.

      • cartweet

        > it doesn’t apply to me AT ALL.

        The fact that it will almost certainly be playable through revive means it’s of interest to vive and oculus owners. Hell even psvr owners have a route to playing oculus/steamvr games.

        • tastychicken

          Fair point. Though categorizing/tagging is at the minimum: helpful. In the same way that Home Depot has a refrigerator section (helpful to most) even though everything in that section could be used as storage for all of my dog leashes (decided by me).

        • NooYawker

          Really? How do you get pc vr to work on psvr?

          • cartweet

            search for “trinus psvr”

          • NooYawker

            Wow. That’s very cool. You can play flat games in vr like vorpx too. I’m surprised there aren’t any articles about this.

        • That’s not the point. We all know a hack can be used but it shouldn’t be necessary in the first place. I don’t play any oculus exclusive. If a game comes to vive down the line i will buy it but you seem to think reVive means the game is Vive compatible as well.

          • cartweet

            Your missing my point. Don’t confuse your personal preference with generating awareness for this game. Some vive owners have no problems using revive and want to be aware of such games when they appear. Same thing with steam games that are listed as vive-only games. It may not work properly but oculus owners definitely want to be aware of it.

      • Logan Fuller
        • tastychicken

          Thanks for all of that work with the screenshot and everything, but still not visible on mobile (Android, Chrome) – maybe that can be added one day.

          • Eric Pipedream Leisy

            Pretty visible to me. :/ Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. 🙂

    • Snek Dankmemes

      Might work with Revive.

      • Whether it works with revive is irrelevant. People mostly care that a game is locked to one system and excluding everyone else. ReVive is great but it shouldn’t be necessary.

        • Harry Hol

          Oh lighten up.

        • kingka

          It exists, it solves the problem, and you’re still complaining.

          • Raphael

            Am i that desperate to play a game that i install oculus home and buy a game on oculus store? Nop.

          • kingka

            Then I guess you have nothing to complain about, since you don’t want to play it thaaaaat bad, stfu and wait for it to be released on the VIVE like everyone else. If you really want to play it, spend the 5 minutes it takes to setup Oculus home and Revive and enjoy.

            This is all us rational people here when entitled children like you complain.

            “OMG, IT’S AW-KUULASSSSS ONLY!! WELL, YEA, I KNOW I CAN STILL PLAY ON VIVE, BUT I WANT TO FEEL SPECIAL, I WANT TO FEEL AS THOUGH THIS GAME WAS MADE JUST FOR ME!!!! I MEAN, I DON’T REEEEALLLLY WANT TO PLAY THE GAME THAAAAT BAD…. BUT…. I JUST HATE IT WHEN THINGS AREN’T SPECIFICALLY MADE FOR ME!!!! IT DOESN’T MAKE ME FEEL SPECIAL!!”

            Meanwhile, everyone else is like… “oh, cool, great looking game, oh, wait it’s a timed exclusive, but It works on revive though, awesome. “

          • Raphael

            Don’t go dumb. Why are u typing in block caps? Is that supposed to hammer your point across? It’s….. utterly futile flappy.

          • kingka

            It’s supposed to give a sense of the “child-like” sense of entitlement man-children like you poses.

          • Raphael

            i see. Well i think it’s redundant. DOES IT REALLY HELP? YOU NEED TO EAT AN ICED BUN.

    • Kevin Segall

      It says right there it’s for Oculus Touch

    • OkinKun

      Seems to work fine with Revive, lots of people on were using it. And as long as the multiplayer is free, not much to complain about. ;P

    • Logan Fuller

      “I got to live the extravagant life of these hypothetical space camp kids, or maybe just a nicer version of Ender’s Game, thanks to the multiplayer of Lone Echo on Oculus Touch.”

      Plus the category is E3 / EXPERIENCES / GAMING / OCULUS RIFT. They handled it the exact same way a journalist would handle a game for PS4 / Xbox One / standard PC.

  • CURTROCK

    Glad to see more attention given to multi-player. Campaigns are great, but online multiplayer is big value multiplier. Looking fwd to trying this!

  • It’s kinda like how GoldenEye 007’s late multiplayer addition turned out to be one of its major unique selling points.

  • Robbie Cartwright

    It’s also very interesting that even though the beta weekend’s over, you can actually still get on and play matches.

    • OkinKun

      That seems to be over now. I think they ended it at 10am, which was the same time they started on friday, so maybe they had some sorta 3-day/72-hour use of the servers, and just sorta left it up till it ran out. lol

  • RationalThought

    One issue I found is if someone is really good……they catapult and grab the disk and good luck stopping them from superman’ing right into the goal if you are a newbie. Score, score, score, score, score. People in my game were newb’s and the game was just restart after restart because the one guy scored almost instantly and we couldn’t intercept him as he was an ace flyer. Great fun in some of the other games with newb’s though.