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I was looking out the glass doors of Resolution Games‘ studio in Austin, Texas. And enemies were coming at me. So I had to start taking them out.
Fortunately, it wasn’t real life. It was a mixed reality game, and I was playing an upcoming game from Resolution Games called Spatial Ops. Played at Roomscale with a Meta Quest Pro headset, it was a heart-pumping experience.
The game is a virtual reality shooting experience, but it makes use of mixed reality with the Quest Pro’s color-passthrough camera. It detects objects in the environment, and you can use those objects as virtual cover to hide behind in the game.
This is the work of Resolution Games, which Candy Crush Saga leader Tommy Palm founded in 2015. The company dove into VR games and is still making them more than seven years later. It has 200 people, including seven at the studio in Austin run by president Paul Brady. And while 20% of the team members are focused on AR games, the VR titles like Spatial Ops represent the leading edge of the studio’s work. The company will show the game to small crowds at the Game Developers Conference next week in San Francisco.
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In an interview with GamesBeat, Palm said the original inspiration was old arcade games like Namco’s Time Crisis, where you used a toy gun to shoot at enemies on the screen. In this case, with the VR headset covering my eyes, I could grab different virtual weapons, starting with a revolver. I pointed the revolver at enemies in the virtual battlefield and so a light beam pointed at them. Then I fired, pulling the trigger on my VR controller. To reload it, I didn’t push a button. I flipped the controller to the left, pushing out the barrel. And then I flipped it back to the right when it was reloaded. (This was a little laborious, as they were still working on getting it to work correctly in the demo).
It was harder to fight this way than in a PC or console game, but it reinforced the physicality of VR. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, I couldn’t target so well. And VR aiming wasn’t very precise to start with. But I made up for that by firing enough bullets to make sure I could get a few on the targets.
After each round, I got better weapons. I used a shotgun, which I had to fire with two hands, with one holding the barrel and another pulling the trigger — just like a normal shotgun. Then I leveled up to get a grenade, health, assault rifle, sniper rifle and finally a gatling gun. I had a pocket of space in the Room Scale space where I could stand my ground. But I still had to move around a lot to get a shot. Sometimes the enemies charged right into my space and I had to take them down with a shotgun. The enemies came from most directions, though fortunately, they didn’t come from behind me.
I’m sure I looked silly to those watching me move around, and Palm snapped pictures of me doing that. But all of that movement made me all sweaty, and I left a lot of moisture all of the company’s nice Quest Pro headset. It was a very different kind of experience, kind of like a cross between Time Crisis, Pistol Whip, laser tag and Super Hot.
The glass wall of the studio was a barrier between myself and the space where the enemies hid behind cover. But they occasionally charged into the building and my space in close combat.
“The glass wall is a portal wall between the real-world environment and furniture and things you can hide behind,” Palm said.
The game will have both single-player battles where you can fight waves of enemies, and then a co-op version where multiple players can play in the same space concurrently.
Palm said it isn’t nearly ready for release, but he was excited to show the innovations with the technology, including a part that the company is patenting related to mixed reality. In the co-op play, you will need a large space to play in to be able to do it safely with a lot of players.
“There are so many things you can do with mixed reality in your living room,” Palm said.
You can set up a Guardian to protect yourself from running into walls or furniture, and you can also play it in stationary mode. But it’s best if you can create a space where you can hide behind objects, Palm said.
In the game, you do have to make your shots count. If you are too slow at taking down one enemy, another will come at you from a different direction and take you down. You can throw ammo clips to a friend in co-op, or your friend can revive you when you are down.
“It’s a co-op multiplayer online mixed reality experience, which we’ve never seen before,” Palm said.
The development team includes veterans like one of the creators of Battlefield 1942. While some companies that dove in early have abandoned VR, the hit makers like Resolution Games are finding good rewards. Brady said the company’s revenue has doubled since 2021, and the company has been profitable for five years. Roughly 50% of the company is focusing on mixed reality and AR passthrough tech.
“This substantiates that the XR space is definitely here to stay, we feel,” Brady said.
There were some glitches in the experience. The sniper rifle was particularly hard to aim, but for the most part I could take the enemies down. For a prototype, it was a good experience. I hope to see the game when it comes out in its final form.
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