Preview: VRobot

In the far future, robots have taken over all of Earth’s cities. In a last-ditch attempt to reclaim their homes, humans have built the biggest, baddest robot yet to take care of the usurping robots and get back their homes. This is the basics of VRobot.

VRFocus correspondent Nina takes a look at the Steam Early Access title, discussing her experience with being a giant-sized robot construct. The objective is pretty simple: Destroy everything in sight. The robot you control has various weapons and abilities to command to make destroying things easier, such as a tractor beam to pull and throw things around, or the powerful tornado gun to unleash a miniature natural disaster upon your surroundings. If all else fails, there is good old punching power. A score is awarded based upon the performance of how well the smashing of the city is performed, with speed and accuracy being rewarded and the smashing of special buildings resulting in bonus points. There is even a special giant enemy robot available to defeat.

VRobot is currently available through Steam Early Access for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with Touch for £10.99 (GBP). As the experience involves much flailing about with motion controllers, a large clear space is highly recommended for playing this videogame. It has not yet been confirmed when the title will be available for a full release.

You can watch Nina’s verdict in the video below.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news on upcoming VR titles.

Preview: Flairtender – Bring Your Bartending Skills into VR

DigitalBadger Design LLC’s first virtual reality (VR) videogame was not birthed out of the intention to become a thought leader in a rapidly moving industry. It wasn’t due to fascination with modern hardware, and it wasn’t motivated by the fresh green pasture of new genre possibilities. Flairtender was, according to DigitalBadger Design LLC’s Robert Frank, designed to save him a few bucks.


Flairtender Screenshot


How would a VR videogame save you money, you ask? Well, put simply, alcohol is expensive. If you’re the creative type and find yourself kicking-back with a cocktail every now-and-then, you’ll have no doubt found that without some practice most of what you make won’t live up to even the most basic mix at your local bar. Flairtender aims to change that; helping you to learn to make the best of your spirits and mixers without the hefty shopping bill each time.

The core component of Flairtender remains a videogame experience: serve customers accurately poured drinks, save up a wedge of cash, buy new equipment for your bar, offer a new selection of cocktails. It’s a simple and obvious learning curve combined with the traditional ‘one-more-go’ approach to sticky gameplay. In this case however, it’s more like ‘one more drink’.

For some however, it’ll be the tuition part of Flairtender that stands out. The core gameplay doesn’t have the humour of Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, nor does it have the depth or variety. What it does have however, is a core principle that relates directly to the real-world, much like Starship Group’s presently absent CyberCook.


Flairtender Screenshot


The videogame offers a menu of selected cocktail recipes and all the ingredients required to make them. It presents a breakdown of the mix required and the order in which each component should be added to the glass, plus suggests the appropriate garnish, too. It’s not the most detailed instruction you could ask for, but is certainly comparable to a mixology book.

Despite all of this potential, Flairtender does have some significant ground to cover while in Steam Early Access. The visual quality is poor, at best, with a lifeless bar presented in front of you. The liquid animation appears little more than stock assets – given how much a part of Flairtender liquids are, this certainly needs improving – and much of the mise-en-scene is simply without character. Worst of all, Flairtender’s basic text presentation doesn’t do the image quality any favours.

So Flairtender is an intriguing prospect, but not one without issue. You’d be hard pressed to suggest that DigitalBadger Design LLC are without knowledge of the problems – mostly cosmetic – that Flairtender currently faces, but tidying them up isn’t as easy as developing a unique concept in VR. VRFocus will be closely watching Flairtender to see if it can live-up to its potential.

Preview: Master Shot VR – A Shot in the Dark, Literally

New content for head-mounted displays (HMDs) is essential for the success of virtual reality (VR) as a medium, so VRFocus welcomes any new addition to the videogame catalogue for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. However, it seems clear that while many are embracing the technology, few are able to master it in the same way as Epic Games’ Robo Recall or Valve’s own The Lab.


Master Shot VR screenshot


Puresurface Inc.’s debut title, Master Shot VR, is an attempt at upping the bar for target range experiences. However, while the fundamentals are all in place – appreciation for the limitations of the hardware, sound mechanics and reliable input/output interaction – Master Shot VR falls short in many areas when aligned with the competition.

One of the most widely respected target range videogames in VR right now is Lethal VR, published by Team17 Ltd. late last year. The brightly lit environments and steady difficulty curve set a precedent for the genre that, although failed to set the world alight, demonstrated exactly how to bring new players into the world of VR through real-world familiarity. Master Shot VR takes itself too seriously for this, and fails to convince that newcomers to VR who don’t care for realism will be able to get past even the second mission.

Upon beginning the videogame the player is confronted with two gameplay options and a tutorial. There’s target practice or survival mode, but before entering either of those it would be good advice to suggest a visit to the tutorial given Master Shot VR’s efforts to create realistic simulations of a wide variety of firearms. Sadly, the tutorial is merely a video showcasing the functions of reloading weapons, not actually giving you the opportunity to do so unhindered. The result will likely be a fail on any mission that offers up a new weapon due to the complicated reloading mechanics without any opportunity to practice.


Master Shot VR screenshot


What makes this worse is that the above mentioned second mission in survival mode seems to either have some serious issues or poor visual design. While the Steam Early Access page for Master Shot VR highlights ‘night fights’, this mission is almost impenetrable due to the heavy darkness. It’s not that you can’t see the enemies – they are well lit even at a distance – but that you can’t see your own hands and equipment. Aiming is difficult, but reloading is simple impossible. Shells for the shotgun are highlighted when in grabbing range, so once empty you’ll be simply waving your hand around hoping to come close enough to an unused shell while the enemies are constantly encroaching on your position.

All this being said Master Shot VR isn’t without positive attributes. The realism of the weaponry will surely be an attractive proposition for many and the proposed variety of target ranges is commendable, it’s just a shame that, in its current state, many will never be able to experience all that Master Shot VR has to offer.

It should of course be noted that Master Shot VR is a Steam Early Access release, and thus Puresurface Inc. are more than likely aware of the flaws in the videogame. Offering the developers feedback on the issues mentioned above and guidance for what fixes are required will likely result in a polished, realistic shooting range experience, but as of right now Master Shot VR feels like little more than a prototype of a much better videogame.

Preview: Bloody Zombies – Beatdown Bloody Zombies on London Bridge

Last year nDreams announced plans to not only continue their efforts to become the largest virtual reality (VR) videogame developer in the UK, but also to expand their repertoire to publish titles from other developers. Paw Print Games’ Bloody Zombies, announced today, is the first such title, coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC later this year.


Bloody Zombies ScreenshotA side-scrolling beat-‘em-up, or ‘brawler’, Bloody Zombies sticks rather firmly to many of the traditions of the genre: light and heavy attacks, linked combos, air attacks, collectable/breakable weaponry and health items. It also throws together a selection of more modern mechanics such as a level-up system (unlocking new moves) and juggle bonuses. On the surface, Bloody Zombies looks set to deliver exactly what is promised by that genre label.

Inside however, there’s something much more interesting happening. When played with a VR head-mounted display (HMD), Bloody Zombies opens into a much more progressive experience. The viewpoint significantly changes, bringing with it not just a more interesting visual style, but also new gameplay opportunities.

Compatible with Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, Bloody Zombies with added stereoscopy casts a different light on the already interesting art style. Now, the characters appear as 2D cutouts in a 3D world; leaning into the scene allows them to be viewed from an angle where they appear to be paper-thin. Furthermore, you are given a much wider view of the landscape, able to see enemies approaching from a greater distance and even view hidden areas that may not be immediately recognisable when played on a 2D screen.


Bloody Zombies ScreenshotYou could suggest that this will give a player in VR an advantage over those on a monitor as, indeed; it does appear that way at present. However, Bloody Zombies’ wealth of multiplayer options takes this into account. Up to four players can join in the co-operative gameplay (given individual scores at the end of each level to encourage player rivalry outside of the action) and this can be any combination of local and online players, VR and non-VR. For example, two players could be on one PlayStation 4 system with one wearing a PlayStation VR whilst the other plays on the television screen, with two further players online also wearing a PlayStation VR. Or not.

The interesting camera perspective granted by VR is currently Bloody Zombies’ greatest unique selling point (USP). As an addition to a well worn genre it doesn’t particularly shine; there’s an interesting variety of enemies but the combat feels very rigid. What Bloody Zombies does have going for it is that, in VR, there’s very little competition. Insomniac Games’ Feral Rites felt very flat while Gang Beasts and Kite & Lightning’s forthcoming Bebylon are an altogether different style of brawling. With that, Paw Print Games has an opportunity to set a precedent for the genre when it launches later this year.

Preview: Bad Day to Fly – Arcade Action in the Skies

It can always be a challenge for indie virtual reality (VR) developers to decide upon what sort of title to first take the plunge with, as some genres of video games are notoriously more difficult than others. British team Beloudest has decided to go with aerial combat for its first with Bad Day to Fly, and even in with this early alpha build the title shows promise.

Bad Day to Fly is all about taking to the skies to shoot down swarms of alien enemies in a vehicle inspired by drones and quadcopters. It’s an action oriented experience where you don’t really need dog fighting skills like EVE: Valkyrie, just a good aim and quick reactions.

bd2f Cockpit

The main issue players usually have with this style of video game is that they can be quite nauseating, having to quickly turn and track enemies, making the landscape spin and undulate rapidly. With Bad Day to Fly however Beloudest seem to have created an experience that’s entirely comfortable. Being inside a cockpit can help, but it’s the control scheme that’s most noteable.

Currently supporting HTC Vive, Bad Day to Fly utilises a flight control method very akin to that of a helicopter. The right controller does most of the work, holding it vertical you tilt it forward to move the nose up or down, tilt it side to side to strafe left and right, while twisting the controller acts as the yaw. Not too complicated, this flight control system becomes quite intuitive and easy to pick up after a few minutes.

To increase or decrease height tap the right touch pad in the corresponding direction, and for an additional forward thrust hit the left-hand touch pad. For such an early stage build – the team has only worked on it for a few months – there wasn’t really any noticeable inaccuracies or input lag to be found. All the other buttons then served to fire or switch the various armaments available depending on your play style.

bd2f Missile-Fire

Presently gameplay is a fairly simple affair, there was a single level on demonstration, with a giant enemy mother ship spawning attackers while you had to defend your ship. Three enemy types were available and each was susceptible to certain weapons you carry, the smallest which tended to come in packs could be taken out with lock-on missiles where the largest required swapping to a plasma gun. These weapons featured on the right controller with a fixed reticule located in the centre of the cockpit. While the left controller moved a minigun which had completely free movement, enabling you to fire off missiles in one direction while shredding an opponent elsewhere.

So while the flight control is good there is still much to work on, graphically there’s still a lot polishing needing to be done, but possibly more important is there’s currently no way to hover – kind of required for a vehicle that resembles a helicopter – or accurately land – part of the mission did require it at one point.

Beloudest is looking to release Bad Day to Fly in 2018 with a beta version planned for around Q3 2017. If you own a HTC Vive and love your flying video games then this should certainly be on your watch list, and Oculus Rift users to.

Hands-on with EVE Valkyrie’s Solitude Map

CCP Games are set to bring another new update to the hugely popular EVE Valkyrie next week, with ‘Groundrush’ offering, amongst other things, a brand new map. For the first time EVE Valkyrie’s space-based combat won’t be in space; coming down to planet-level in a unique arrangement known as ‘Solitude’.

A very narrow design, Solitude is more about the ability to evade than a head-on straight-shooting affair. It’s a chase map: players being tailed will do better with intricate knowledge of the layout than their opponent and weaving and diving provides many environmental obstacles with which to lose your pursuer. Towers rise high into the sky; a helipad provides an iron grid to weave through; below, trenches run deep into the snowy surface.

EVE Valkyrie GroundRush_ReleaseDate

It’s this underground network that provides the most interesting aspect of bringing EVE Valkyrie’s combat down-to-earth. A tunnel gives access to an underground base with only one very tight exit directly into the centre of the map, a trench runs deep across one side allowing for surprise flanking and a low foundation surrounded by a low network of large pipes can provide cover as you wait for new enemy spawns. Solitude has the potential to bring brand new tactics to EVE Valkyrie along with the brand new aesthetic.

The team at CCP Newcastle are proud to have ‘solved’ the problem of high-speed travel with a horizon in view by all accounts here at EVE Fanfest 2017, though in truth it’s not that straightforward. Indeed, EVE Valkyrie remains one of the most comfortable fast-paced action videogames in virtual reality (VR), but it still has issues that may be obtrusive to some.

Speaking to a selection of players that had experienced the new map, most of which had already played a considerable amount of EVE Valkyrie, there were mixed feelings about the new map. Some stated they did indeed feel perfectly at ease with a horizon in view, even when flying at high speeds or unaligned with the ground’s surface. Others however, stated that they felt the map was almost unplayable; that it would take a considerable amount of practice to adapt their usual techniques to the new design not in terms of map arrangement, but simply due to their comfort level.

VRFocus found that Solitude was slightly uneasy in comparison to traditional outerspace level design, but it’s far from the intense challenge of Descent: Underground or even Omega Agent. Either way, you’d be hard pressed to bet against CCP Newcastle on getting it right, given the pedigree of the team piloting the VR mission behind EVE Valkyrie.

Preview: #Archery – Can This Colourful Shooter Offer Enough to be Worth Your Time?

There are plenty of fun quirky titles for HTC Vive that showcase virtual reality’s (VR) innovative use of motion controls. Titles such as Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption perfectly showcase this, and developer VRUnicorns has created some of the most light-hearted experiences with #SelfieTennis and #SkiJump. Today sees the release of the studio’s next videogame, #Archery which continues this same thread.

#Archery takes the same design ques as VRUnicorns previous titles, with a bold, colourful design aesthetic, appealing to gamers of all ages. As the name blatantly indicates, the videogame is all about archery prowess, going for an arcade feel rather than a serious simulator.

VRUnicorns #Archery Paper Delivery Scene

Staring in an apartment which serves as your base, you’ll instantly find a bow in one hand to start shooting away at anything you can see. Gameplay mechanics are insanely simple, draw your bow to fire an arrow and repeat. While room-scale is supported, there are no further movement mechanics, no teleportation or anything else, you just fire away from the same spot.

The only other function that’s available is to press the touchpad which brings up a tablet from which you choose a mini-game. Of which there are five to choose from, Making Pizza Toppings, A Paper Round, Ice Cream Stand, Dragon Toy Factory and a Roof Top Target Range.

For the pizza segment you’re provided with three ingredients, an onion, tomato, mushroom and broccoli. A monitor sits next to the ingredients indicating which needs to be selected and fired at a pizza base which moves across a conveyor. If you don’t succeed before the pizza disappears then you receive a strike. Get three strikes and its game over.

Then there’s the paper round. Players find themselves on the back of a truck firing newspapers into peoples letter boxes. This particular mini-game is certainly the most fleshed out, with various other games to activate as you work through the level. These include basketball, fishing a gun range and more.

VRUnicorns #Archery Pizzaria Scene

For the ice cream stand you’ll need to fend off kids who want to knock your ice cream trolley over. Fire a barrage of different coloured cones at them for as long as possible. The dragon toy factory is one of the more difficult of the five, you need to stop red boxes making into the machinery and with various conveyors set at different distances and heights can get quite hectic.

The last one, roof top target range, is certainly the least inventive of the mini-games, with a selection of circular targets appearing on buildings across the street. Essentially all the mini-games offer one thing highscores and learderboards, but this can become somewhat shallow over time.

#Archery isn’t going to set the VR videogame world on fire, but its not really designed to. This is the kind of title that is perfect for VR newcomers. It gets them involved in a virtual world with simple mechanics that they can just pick up and play. The downside to this will be long term VR enthusiasts may find the gameplay somewhat lacklustre and hardly innovative. It’s got heart but that isn’t always enough in the challenging VR climate.