Yesterday during the EA Play showcase, the publisher debuted the first-ever gameplay for Star Wars: Squadrons, an upcoming space flight combat game coming to both PSVR and PC VR headsets (including cross-play). During an interview with Polygon, the creative director, Ian Frazier, explained this was the plan from the very start.
A lot of people were surprised to find out Star Wars: Squadrons has full VR support, myself included. Given EA’s relative silence on VR as a medium ever since the excellent X-Wing VR Mission released as an update to 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront, they haven’t shown much interest.
In the interview though, Frazier makes it clear that this game was designed with VR in mind from the very beginning of development. This is not a “VR port” or anything like that — it’s an intrinsic part of the game and was obvious from the beginning.
“We started the game, and we had the initial prototype up and running very quickly,” Frazier said. “Much faster than normal. We were very pleased with that. We got it running in a week. And we had it running in VR by the end of the second week. So this game is like, really, really, really, from the ground up, both 2D and VR.
“And why? I mean, you kind of hit the nail on the head there. From a business standpoint, talking about how do we “optimize the amount of money this game is gonna make,” VR doesn’t make sense. It’s a much smaller audience than the broader market. But why are we doing it? It’s because we think it’s cool.”
Anyone that has followed VR for any period of time knows how important this is to making a good, immersive VR game. As great as games like Skyrim VR and Borderlands 2 VR can be, that’s mostly due to them already being great games we wanted to play in VR, not because they’re actually designed well for VR headsets.
In a lot of ways, cockpit games sidestep many issues by their very nature. Elite: Dangerous launched before VR headsets were consumer-grade but it’s still one of the best VR games out there because it’s just a natural fit.
“Not to give the super obvious answer, but we started this project and we went, ‘You’re seated in a cockpit,'” said Frazier. “‘You have a fixed reference frame. You’re immersed within this role as a pilot on both sides, both factions.’ It’s a game that naturally fits in VR. You don’t need to port it to VR. This is a game that is capable of being — not every design is capable of this — but this design was capable of supporting both kind of intrinsically from the outset. And who doesn’t want that?
I know not everybody has VR, and that’s fine, but if you do or if you’re even considering it, we thought this is an amazing opportunity to let players do something that like… I don’t know about you, but playing the the Rogue One VR mission in the first Star Wars Battlefront is frigging amazing. And you see that and you’re like, “Can I just have a lot more of this?” And we thought, ‘Well, yes. Yes. You can. We’ll build that.’ And so that’s very much what we’ve been doing with Squadrons.”
Star Wars: Squadrons is slated for release on October 2nd for $39.99 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC with VR support on PSVR and all major PC VR headsets as well as support for HOTAS controllers. The entire game is playable in VR, including the campaign and all multiplayer modes, including cross-play across VR and non-VR and cross-play across platforms.