I was tucked away in a tall, stone tower with nothing but my rifle to keep me company. As I peered through a medium-sized hole in the wall, I could see several robotic adversaries pacing around what looked like an overrun military compound of some kind. To get a better look, I raised my rifle to my eye and looked down the scope. With the press of my thumb, I could zoom either in or out to get a better lay of the land. Once I picked my first target, I trained my sites, held my breath, and fired off a shot that rocketed through the air before blowing the head off of the robot below me.
One down, about a dozen more to go.
Taking Aim at VR
If that sounded a lot like an actual thing a sniper might do in a pseudo-sci-fi setting, then that means the folks at invrse are on the right track with The Nest, their upcoming HTC Vive sniping game. You might recognize the name invrse because they originally got popular due to a gameplay video of their currently still in-development zombie killing game, The Wake. But after the veritable onslaught of “me-too!” zombie killing games flooded the Vive on Steam, they felt like it was in their best interests to pursue something slightly different.
With most VR games out on Steam right now, you usually end up deploying some type of teleportation movement system to circumvent the physical constraints of room scale gameplay. In the case of The Nest, everything takes place inside of your sniper nest, which amplifies the sense of immersion by multiple factors. After playing for a while, I was fully immersed and quite frankly forgot that I wasn’t actually inside of a sniper nest. While lining up a shot, crouched down on one knee, I leaned out to prop my rifle on the edge of the hole for additional stability, only to realize no hole was there and I nearly fell forward flat on my face.
What really sells and drives the entire experience in The Nest isn’t the gunplay though, as great as that is, it’s the scope. When you watch footage on a YouTube video or see screenshots, it looks awfully flat and basic, but when you’re in a 3D 360-degree environment holding a controller that becomes a rifle in your hands, everything changes.
You can lift the controller up to your face and peer down the scope just like an actual rifle. The lens itself has a curvature and depth to it that can’t be perceived in non-VR applications and the depth is really spot on. I found myself actually closing one eye, literally inside my headset, to get a better shot off and it actually made a difference for my aiming. When the robots shot back, I had time to react and physically dodge their bullets. These are things that haven’t been seen as much mileage in a VR game yet and invrse is confident it’ll spawn a brand new type of genre.
Creating the VR Sniper Fantasy
“We figure if you’re one of the first 5 or 10 good zombie games out for VR, then you have a chance, but once you fall out of that pack, and you’re just one of the first 100, it gets a lot harder to stand out,” said Ryan Smith, VR Creative Director at invrse. After the likes of The Brookhaven Experiment, HordeZ, and others started taking off a bit, with new zombie games releasing every week, they knew that window was rapidly closing. Instead, they shifted gears to a small concept they had built during a 36-hour VR Hackathon game jam. What they ended up with is a simple but incredibly engaging game about being a sniper.
“The premise could not be more simple: You are outnumbered, alone, and facing an army of alien robots. Fortunately you have a futuristic sniper rifle, a scope, and an elevated position,” Smith tells me. “We do not have an endless progression of levels, dozens of weapons, PvP, or even much narrative…yet. All we have is a core game that is almost certain to spawn an entire genre.”
They do plan on adding a lot more over time though, as the upcoming release (tentatively slated for next week) is planned as a sort of Early Access/beta entry into the game as they continue fielding feedback and support from the community. A 1v1 multiplayer sniper duel mode was specifically named by Smith, which would fit into the current offering of Time Trial and standard Day/Night levels very nicely. Adding in more levels and designs is an obvious next step as well.
They considered delaying release until there was more content, but thought it would be better to release it now and build over time. “We could have easily stretched out what we have now into a 2-year project,” explained Smith. “But we want people to get in now since it’s playable and we think people will be happy and excited by it.”
And in regards to building upon it for the future, they have quite ambitious plans ahead. As soon as it hits Steam, they will immediately start working on the aforementioned 1v1 sniping mode for multiplayer, but that’s not all. What they’d really like to do at some point is expand that multiplayer mode even further and add in A.I. controlled minions for each side to turn things into a mixture of sniping in a MOBA-style setting with some tower-defense mechanics. With a few different maps to choose from, that could easily grow into a huge and popular multiplayer VR game.
It all starts with the first shot and The Nest is a great debut for a budding VR game studio. You can expect to see The Nest on Steam for the HTC Vive next week for ~$9.99. Once possible, they intend on supporting the Oculus Touch controllers as well.