Category Archives: By Daniel Sternklar

E3 2019: Asgard’s Wrath Could Be The VR RPG We’ve All Been Waiting For

Explore complex dungeons with animal-human hybrids in this Norse-inspired epic.

I’m following a brazen Shield Maiden and her crew of Viking compatriots as they sail across dark waters on a perilous quest to exact revenge on the Norse god Týr. Before we reach the coastline, however, a towering god-like creature erupts from beneath the surface of the violent waters, eviscerating half of her compatriots before being thrown into the waters herself. She then wakes upon a beach, surrounded by the wreckage of her warship and the scattered remains of her crew.

This is Asgard’s Wrath, an ambitious new VR RPG adventure that places you in the role of both mythical Nordic deity and mortal hero in a battle against the Gods themselves. Brought to us by Sanzara Games (Marvel Powers United, VR Sports Challenge) and Oculus Studios, the bold new RPG experience promises in-depth immersive combat, unique puzzle-solving, a fully-developed narrative featuring 30+ hours of gameplay, and jaw-dropping set pieces; all set to the rich backdrop of Norse mythology.

Image Credit: VRScout

Asgard’s Wrath was large and in charge at E3 2019, allowing attendees—including myself—the chance to go hands-on with the highly-anticipated title.

Taking place directly after the events featured in the PAX East demo—where players rescued the famous Norse God Loki from the clutches of the legendary Kraken—I began my experience inside an Asgardian tavern, surrounded by various other mythological deities. As thanks for saving his mischevious skin, Loki treats me to a hearty round of mead. After clinking our glasses and downing our drinks—an action that felt surprisingly satisfying in VR—Loki informs me of an ambitious Shield Maiden hellbent on avenging the death of her brother who was killed by the Norse god Týr. In order to rise through the ranks and become a true Norse God, it’s my job to assist this woman, along with various other adventurous mortals, by possessing their bodies and helping them fulfill their ultimate destinies.

After awakening on the beach following the attack on her fleet, I step into the shoes of the foul-mouthed warrior and begin exploring the coastline. After walking up to a special stone pedestal located further up the beachhead, I’m instantly transported back to godhood, allowing me to stare down at my companion and the surrounding environment as if looking at a board game. In this form, I’m actually able to recruit warrior companions out of local wildlife to assist my character in her journey; each animal features different strengths that can come in handy during certain scenarios.

Image Credit: RoadtoVR

For instance, one portion of the demo asked to me to navigate through a zombie-ridden dungeon by activating a series of hidden levers disguised as hanging cages; all of which just beyond my characters reach. While in God-mode, I reached down and picked up a shark who became stranded in a shallow pool following the recent storm. Applying my mystical god-like powers to the helpless creature, I watched as the wild animal turned into a wild half-man, half-shark hybrid with a hunger for flesh. I could then task my new NPC companion with activating said levers by jumping up and dragging-down the devices using its massive jaws.

The following dungeon required me to navigate past a series of precarious fire traps. For this puzzle, I enlisted the help of a sea turtle that—when transformed into a humanoid creature—used its rugged shell to protect me from the painful flames. Each of these characters, while simplistic in terms of AI (you can tell them where to go, who to attack, and when to bypass a trap or puzzle), feature an incredible amount of personality. From the various fish strapped to the belt of my sea turtle warrior, to the fin-shaped armor featured on my humanoid shark, each aspect of the characters, as well as the environments, are bursting with small details that—while seemingly insignificant—all come together to create a captivating and engaging world.

Image Credit: Sanzaru Games

These creatures, while invaluable tools for puzzle-solving, will also assist you in combat. While navigating the cliff-side dungeons in search of powerful weaponry, I came across several bands of undead warriors hungry for an ass-whooping. With my man-shark companion in-toe, I engaged the enemy in melee combat using a legendary sword and shield I uncovered earlier in the tooms. The combat I experienced, while brief, was satisfying. Dismembering different parts of my enemies depending on where I struck was a nice touch, if not a little too easy; especially when assisted by my NPC companion. Honestly, it almost felt as though combat was an afterthought, at least in terms of the demo. These small battles were definitely the least memorable portions of my experience.

The UI and menu system I found slightly less fluid. In order to access your bag and retrieve certain items—a task that was asked of me multiple times throughout my 30-minute demo—I needed to open the menu by pushing a button, navigate to the object, and then click-and-drag it out of the menu and into my hand. This was especially cumbersome considering there are tabs within your inventory that filter certain objects, forcing you to scroll through multiple pages in order to locate your desired item; not a game-breaking mechanic by any means, but an unfortunate one none-the-less.

Image Credit: Sanzaru Games

Honestly, my favorite moments during the demo were the points where I was allowed to explore the detailed environments and lose myself in the lore behind this Norse-inspired universe. That’s what excited me most about Asgard’s Wrath: the potential for a truly captivating narrative previously unheard of in modern VR RPG’s. It’s no secret that story-driven VR games are currently few and far between. However, titles such as Vader Immortal and Lone Echo have proven that story-driven VR games are not only possible, but in-demand.

I also really enjoyed the way the game plays with scale, whether you’re staring up at a titanic God while in mortal form, or gazing down at the miniature landscapes while in god-mode.

With 30+ hours of gameplay promised, Asgard’s Wrath could be the first real AAA RPG experience on Oculus, an idea that excites me to no end. Asgard’s Wrath will be available exclusively on the Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S sometime later this year.

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Hochschule Luzern plant virtuelles Lernspiel für Imker

Ein interdisziplinäres Forschungsteam prüft derzeit die Entwicklung eines Trainingstools für die Imkerausbildung. Um Imker besser weiterzubilden und für die Herausforderungen zu rüsten, soll auch Virtual Reality zum Einsatz kommen.

Die Bedeutung der Bienen für die Bestäubung von Nutzpflanzen ist immens. Die fleissigen Tiere begeistern denn auch viele Menschen, was sich nicht zuletzt im grossen Interesse an der Imkerei zeigt. Ursina Kellerhals bestätigt dies. Sie ist leidenschaftliche Imkerin, kümmert sich um 14 Bienenvölker und arbeitet hauptberuflich an der Hochschule Luzern am Institut für Kommunikation und Marketing.

Gemeinsam mit einem interdisziplinären Team will sie nun bei der Aus- und Weiterbildung der Imker Fortschritte erzielen. Dafür soll ein Trainingstool für Imker entwickelt werden. «Die Imkerei ist ein sehr intensives Hobby, das von den Imkern viel Wissen fordert.» Letzteres ist für Absolventen des Grundkurses nicht selten ein Problem. Nach Kursende scheinen sich viele Jungimker überfordert zu fühlen– zumal die Bienen heute mit vielen Herausforderungen konfrontiert sind. Bei der Aus- und Weiterbildung sieht Ursina Kellerhals noch Potenzial für gesündere Bienenvölker und mehr Imker, die ihrem Hobby treu bleiben.

«Obwohl in der Schweiz in Sachen Ausbildung über die letzten Jahre sehr viel gemacht worden ist, sehen wir weiterhin einen zusätzlichen Bedarf an Vertiefung praktischer Ausbildung und Erweiterung des individuellen Erfahrungsschatzes.»

Forscher sind nun daran, Gelder zu akquirieren

Die Idee wurde laut Kellerhals von Rolf Andres, einem Absolventen der Hochschule Luzern (HSLU), an Forscher vom CreaLab herangetragen. Dabei handelt es sich um das interdisziplinäre Netzwerk der HSLU. Bei der Idee ging es um eine Kombination von Imkerausbildung und Besuchererlebnis für interessierte Laien in einem Bienenzentrum. Gemeinsam wurde eine Vorstudie durchgeführt, um das Potenzial abzuklären. Das Resultat: Es wäre vorhanden. Eine weitere zentrale Erkenntnis war, dass der Einsatz von modernen Technologien wichtig sein würde. In einem ersten Schritt konzentriert sich das Team nun auf die Ausbildung. Die Idee eines Bienenzentrums wird allenfalls später weiterverfolgt. «Wir sind nun daran, Gelder zu akquirieren, um das Trainingstool zu entwickeln», sagt Kellerhals. Das Forschungsteam will Virtual Reality (VR) einsetzen. Co-Projektleiter ist Richard Wetzel, der an der Hochschule Luzern am Departement Informatik als VR- und Gaming-Spezialist tätig ist.

«Ausbildung soll Spass machen», sagt Kellerhals zum Lernspiel. Sie sieht den Nutzen von VR im Übergang von Lehrbuch und Praxis. «In einem VR-Spiel kann ich meinen Erfahrungsschatz anreichern, etwa mit Fällen seltener Bienenkrankheiten, die ich erkennen muss.» Viele Imker würden Krankheiten bei ihren Völkern nicht melden. «Vermutlich entdecken viele diese gar nicht erst.» Wetzel ergänzt: «Virtuelle Realität ermöglicht es, wirklich in eine Umgebung einzutauchen. Das ist gerade für die Imkerei eine spannende Möglichkeit, da es sich um eine körperbetonte Tätigkeit handelt, bei der man trotzdem sehr rasch und ruhig arbeiten muss. Diese Aktivitäten kann man recht realitätsnah abbilden.» Bienen sind sehr sensibel. Echte Völker können daher in der Ausbildung nur beschränkt verwendet werden.

Bienen Schweiz sieht Bedürfnis

Kellerhals hat auch den Imkerverband Bienen Schweiz mit ins Boot geholt. Gemeinsam soll ein einfaches Szenario identifiziert werden, um einen Prototypen zu erstellen. Mathias Götti Limacher, Zentralpräsident von Bienen Schweiz, sagt: «Wir haben grosses Interesse am Projekt.» Er sehe ein Bedürfnis für den Einsatz virtueller Realität. «Die Bienenhaltung ist anspruchsvoller geworden. Dies liegt an der Varroamilbe, einem eingeschleppten Parasiten, dem Rückgang des Blütenangebots und dem Einsatz von Pestiziden.» Wer Honigbienen halten möchte, müsse über Fachwissen verfügen. «Eine fundierte Aus- und Weiterbildung ist zentral.» Es werde bereits sehr viel Wert auf die praktische Arbeit gelegt. Gewisse Szenarien könnten aber nicht gezielt behandelt werden. «Mit VR können Kursteilnehmer in besondere Situationen geführt werden. Da gibt es durchaus Parallelen zur Medizin, wo VR bereits heute zur Anwendung kommt.» Anders in der Imkerei, wie Wetzel sagt:

«Im Bereich der Wissensvermittlung gibt es keine vergleichbaren Projekte.“

Geht es nach dem Forschungsteam kann im nächsten Jahr mit der Umsetzung des Spiels gestartet werden.

Hinweis: Mehr Infos zum CreaLab gibt es unter:




Foto: Für die Imkerei ist viel Wissen nötig, deshalb soll nun die Ausbildung verbessert werden. (Symbolbild: Urs Bucher)

#016 Immersive Learning Podcast – SIC-FRAME VR/AR-Learning Modell,

Podcast rund um das Thema Lernen und Arbeiten mit und in Virtual-/Augmented (VR/AR) und Mixed Reality (MR)


Why Your Brain May Be Hardwired For VR Fitness

Our experiences are highly sensual, and it’s how our brains process our memories. We tend to think about the past in terms of what we saw or felt, not necessarily what something smelled like if it wasn’t central to the experience. Our brains are very much trained to seek out and process new visual and sensory information, perhaps as a function of survival or curiosity. Who’s to say?

VR is like a trick for the mind, and it plays on those sense desires. The worlds developers create offer 360 degree immersion that our brains have a hard time distinguishing from reality. We might “know” we’re in VR, but our brain still wants our body to react like that is the new reality. And it adopts quickly, as anyone who has overcome motion sickness in VR can attest to.

One of the reasons why VR fitness is so compelling is that it gives our brains what they want: new visual stimulation! New sensory experiences! But fitness has effects on our bodies too. Combined, VR is a powerful stimulant that can hook our brains and our bodies into a fitter lifestyle.

Dopamine | Your Key to Success in VR Fitness

Dopamine is a powerful “pleasure” chemical triggered by enjoyable activities. Our brains seriously crave dopamine, and, luckily for us, the chemical is released pretty easily. When you experience something pleasurable,bring on the dopamine! But you also get it when you anticipate that pleasurable thing, like the smell of muffins and bread in a bakery (sorry not sorry).

The Dopamine pathway. Credit Harvard:

When you interact with something you want in any way, your brain gets a shot of dopamine. Experienced gym goers know that physical exertion is like a dopamine overload. If you’ve ever done an intense workout, like a bootcamp or a personal trainer session, you might notice your workout feels good. You release stress with physical activity, and while you’re sore from it you feel relaxed.

VR triggers dopamine the way the gym does: high or low intensity workouts designed to leave you feeling physically worn out. But you get the added bonus of overcoming virtual challenges, or playing new games. As you develop physical strength, your virtual self improves.


Mind Over Body

The mind is a powerful motivator, either to sit on the couch or get up and move. The challenge is simple: overcome the mind’s preconceptions that progress is difficult or impossible. VR fitness helps provide some signs of progress using a few methods.

Leaderboards are the primary example. Recording your score provides a detailed history of your progress: comparing x points in session 1 to y points in session 7. When games track via leaderboard, you also see how you stack up to other users. More active titles have leaderboards that change rapidly, so those at the top have a hard time holding their spot for very long.

Multiplayer is an extension of the leaderboard concept. Elven Assassins recently implemented tournaments that provide bragging rights to weekly winners, a powerful incentive to improve in game.

VR fitness is full of these incentives. So many early access titles add new maps, new weapons and achievements over time. Players have some new bar to compare themselves to everyday. Don’t underestimate these small additions to the core formula. When the game is fun, these additions motivate us to become master-level players who are both physically and virtually fit to tackle any challenge.

New VR Fitness Games, New Challenges, and a Hunger for More

Each new game is a different way to use our bodies. I have covered most of the rhythm genre extensively, and each experience is different. Beat Saber has a different core focus of slashing and dodging than Sound Boxing, which is more focused on dancing and natural resistance. BoxVR wants you to train each side of your body and practice specific motions, while PowerBeats wants to test your reactions and build a sweat. Shooters in VR also practice different core mechanics, from wave shooters like Space Pirate Trainer to open-world multiplayer games like War Dust.

Early Access titles in VR also offer a chance to interact with developers and shape a game in progress. The Thrill of the Fight’s developer is quite active in forums and works hard to meet or exceed his player’s expectations. I’ve spoken to many developers who feel this same drive in everything they do: player first, polished experiences.

We also want more from our games, and we’re largely getting what we want. New VR titles offer more ways to customize gameplay for a more accessible experience at every level. Whether you’re physically fit and looking to game or trying to find a way to get over that first hump, VR has an experience that can scale with you.


Get Addicted to VR Fitness

When you think about addiction, is fitness the first thought that pops into your head? Probably not, but it could be. Our brains are hardwired to accept the world of VR, and to adapt to it as a fitness tool.

Once your headset is on, your brain is open to a world of dopamine triggers and expansive challenges that test the body.



SideQuest Sideloads Oculus Quest Software Without Facebook’s Approval

SideQuest Sideloads Oculus Quest Software Without Facebook’s Approval

A new app distribution project called SideQuest gained steam this week on Oculus Quest.

Some developers, like Virtual Desktop’s Guy Godin, turned to SideQuest to distribute software updates which won’t be approved by Facebook’s leadership. Included on the distribution system is a version of Godin’s Virtual Desktop utility that essentially patches the software so it passes through PC-based SteamVR apps to the completely standalone wireless headset.

Quest Platform Launch

Facebook is less than one month into the launch of Oculus Quest and the standalone headset is sold out pretty much everywhere.

New orders for the $400 system from Oculus’ own website won’t ship until July. For software on the VR console, prices range from $10 up to $40 with most top games $20 to $30. Facebook invited more than 50 apps into its launch lineup plus free social services Rec Room and VRChat. A few more arrived since launch, too, and our E3 VR showcase earlier this week confirmed optimized versions of both Arizona Sunshine and Echo Area are coming to Quest. It is a strong lineup except that it lacks many new titles which push the limits of simulation with complex physics or detailed graphics that depend on power hungry desktop-class GPUs and CPUs.

Facebook’s Oculus signaled to developers months ago its Quest storefront would be highly curated. It still stings, though, for some developers who don’t have a clear path to launch on the system after years of work. I spoke to both Facebook’s Jason Rubin and Chris Pruett this week about their decisions. I published a transcription of my exchange with Rubin. In summary, though, Facebook is encouraging developers they don’t want in their lineup on Quest to target the PC-powered Rift for their projects instead. Rift offers an early access program and “we turn no developer away unless the thing is really really like not shippable on PC because we want to give them an opportunity to prove their idea has value,” according to Rubin. Pruett said it was too early to commit to offering something similar on Quest. The Oculus Start program offers a forum and sometimes free hardware to support developers just starting out in VR.

VR Platform Wars Part II

Oculus “asked” Godin to “roll back an update” to Virtual Desktop on Quest after “receiving user complaints,” Rubin tweeted.

Godin obliged, but he also placed what is essentially a patch for the app on SideQuest. This update reinstates the PC VR streaming feature for people who purchased Virtual Desktop from Oculus. I reached out to SideQuest’s creator, Shane Harris, to find out more about the software, which he says got its start around Quest’s launch.

“Originally it was intended to provide a way for us to get our game The Expanse to users of the Oculus Quest headset as our submission pitch was declined by Oculus – something we understood as many more well established apps were also being declined. It then struck me that maybe some of those other developers could also benefit from a super easy sideloading process with things like drag and drop and several apps inbuilt,” Harris wrote to me in a message on his Discord group. “SideQuest is a sideloading tool at heart and actually works with any android device but it has evolved into an unofficial source for apps that you wouldn’t otherwise get on Quest. I would love to see it fill the niche of a testbed for pre-release/alpha/beta testing or for deploying demos for users to try out. I have no plans to monetise SideQuest like a traditional app store as I don’t want to affect the Oculus bottom line and I would love to work with Oculus to become an alternative route for apps and games that have been declined or otherwise or just want to test cutting edge features. I think there has been a lot of discussion around games being declined and I would love if SideQuest could provide a more positive spin for Oculus and Facebook in those scenarios. I guess i see it as a stepping stone to a application for the full oculus store down the line.”

Virtual Desktop is available alongside other wireless streaming solutions ALVR and Riftcat but I haven’t tried those yet so I can’t compare them. To get SideQuest to work you have to follow typical sideloading instructions which require you to tell Oculus you’re a developer and install some additional Android and Oculus-related development software. You need to own the version of Virtual Desktop from the Oculus store for the patch from SideQuest to work.

“This was the most requested feature and users loved it,” Godin wrote in a message to me. “I didn’t want to remove a feature they enjoyed so this was the best way to keep it available for them. I would have preferred if it didn’t require them to side-load as this is a bit complicated but unfortunately Oculus left me no choice.”

This afternoon I spent some time in Virtual Desktop on Oculus Quest with the SideQuest patch and was able to run Google Earth VR, Blocks and the Museum of Other Realities — three apps which are showcases for the power of VR but aren’t present on the low-powered Oculus Quest.

While all three apps technically “worked” with slow movements there is significant lag that can make active gameplay uncomfortable and potentially unplayable for some. These three apps, for example, seem to make pretty good case for why the feature is a useful addition to Quest even if there are performance constraints. I tried the SteamVR version of Beat Saber streaming this way, though, and I couldn’t get through songs I normally would on the native Quest version of Beat Saber.

“We accept experiences vary, but this feature compromised comfort, safety, & quality to different levels for different users,” Rubin wrote.

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Vader Immortal Episode 2 Will ‘Lean Into What It’s Like To Use The Force’

Vader Immortal Episode 2 Will ‘Lean Into What It’s Like To Use The Force’

Next week sees the first episode of Star Wars: Vader Immortal finally launch on Oculus Rift. As Quest owners will know, it’s a pretty thrilling narrative-driven experience. But it’s also only the first installment of a three-part series. What can we expect from the second episode?

According to narrative designer Mohen Leo, we’ll learn to use the Force. Leo hinted as much in an E3 Coliseum presentation for the experience this week. Anyone that’s played through the first episode of Vader Immortal will have seen the hints about where part two is going. Leo essentially confirmed it.

“I think, again, [the Force is] such a huge part of everyone’s Star Wars fantasy and everyone who, again, has watched the movies at some point kind of reached out and pretended what it would be like if I could, y’know, move an object with the power of my mind,” Leo said. “And so the second episode will really lean into that and try to fulfill that fantasy of what it’s like to be able to use the Force.”

In the first episode, players got to wield a lightsaber. Crucially, though, you pretty much always had one hand free. Perhaps in the second episode we could see some gesture-based Force controls for your free hand? We also can’t wait to see what that might mean for the app’s excellent wave-based lightsaber dojo.

For now, we don’t have a release date for the app’s second episode. We also don’t know if it will come to Quest first or hit both that and Rift at the same time. Lots of questions, then, but we’ll just have to stay patient.

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E3 2019: Beat Saber Dev Discussing 360 Levels On Other Platforms

Oculus Quest Beat Saber

Beat Saber made a pretty cool reveal at E3 this week. The smash hit rhythm action game will be getting a 360-degree mode on Oculus Quest. This new addition rethinks existing tracks, making for dynamic and active gameplay.

But wait, just on Oculus Quest?

Well for now, yes. That’s what Beat Games CEO Jaroslav Beck told us at E3. Apparently, the team would like to bring 360 levels to more headsets. There’s just one problem; wires. Quest is the only platform Beat Saber supports that doesn’t require a wire. The PC and PSVR versions both require being plugged into external hardware, which could end up with you getting in a serious tangle.

Beck did suggest that the team might instead opt for different angles on these headsets. A 180-degree track might not be as transformative, but it’s still a nice change of pace. Obviously PSVR wouldn’t be able to support 360 tracks, so this would be a necessity there. The Beat team is also currently undecided on if it will go back and make 360 versions of all original Beat Saber songs, or if it might just add the feature to every new release going forward.

You can hear more from Beck in our video above. We’ve also got plenty of gameplay from the 360 version of the game and thoughts from Ian. David also put his thoughts into an article right here.

Currently, we know these levels will be releasing this year, but Beat Games isn’t getting more specific. We’re also expecting the Quest version of the game to get access to custom-made levels in the near future.

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SteamVR Adds Full Support For Oculus Rift S

SteamVR Rift S

Valve just added full support for the recently released Oculus Rift S PC VR headset to the SteamVR platform.

When the Rift S launched, haptic feedback on the Touch controllers wasn’t working in SteamVR. Valve released a hotfix less than 24 hours later to resolve this.

Over the last few weeks, Valve has been expanding support for Facebook’s new headset in SteamVR Beta builds. SteamVR now visually shows the new Touch controllers in the Dashboard, Home, and apps which use the default SteamVR controller model.

Before this release, SteamVR (non-Beta) detected the Rift S as a regular Rift with three sensors. This is how the Oculus runtime presents the VR hardware to apps built on older SDKs. Now that Valve is using the latest Oculus SDK, Rift S is detected as its own headset, with its own (higher) default resolution and no external sensors.

The Steam store has also been updated to consider Rift S compatible with all games marked as compatible with Rift. Beforehand Rift S users would see a message warning them that their headset was incompatible.

With the Rift S, users can redraw their Guardian boundary from inside VR using the black & white Passthrough+ mode. SteamVR now detects when this happens so as to position VR content in the center of the space without the need for restart.

The release is also supposed to fix “numerous stability issues and bugs”.

Valve Index Improvements

Of course, Valve is launching its own PC VR headset later this month. The company has been polishing up the Index software experience to get it ready for consumers.

This release improves the Hidden Area Mesh for the Index, which Valve claims will “better account for canting, increase stereo overlap” and “better accommodate re-projection”. It also claims to have improved AMD support for Index, “across all frame-rates”.

The update also adds auto-detection for VirtuaLink, likely for the Index VirtualLink adapter the company intends to ship at the end of July.

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E3 2019: Pirate Ship Game Battlewake Is On Its Way To Quest and PSVR


Hopefully you enjoyed our look at Survios’ latest game, Battlewake, in our E3 VR Showcase this week. If you were hoping to play the game on other headsets, we have good news; it’s coming to Quest and PSVR too.

The latter version was confirmed on Kinda Funny’s E3 Showcase earlier this week. But a Survios representative also told us the game would be sailing its way onto Oculus Quest too. In fact, if you head to the official website to sign up for the upcoming beta, you can now choose PSVR and Quest versions. It doesn’t get any more official than that. The game’s also coming to Oculus Rift and SteamVR (so Vive and Index).

Battlewake offers first-person pirate ship combat in VR. Players become one of four pirate lords and commandeer ships fitted with a range of different weapons. Both single and multiplayer game modes are included.

We quite liked what we played of the game at GDC. “The secret to what makes Battlewake feel so grand despite forcing you to stand in one spot the entire time is the amount of control you’ve got in your hands,” we wrote. “The sides and rear of the ship have totally different weapons that can be modified and upgraded over time and each captain has different special powers (like summoning a kraken or summoning a maelstrom on the water) to really drop some heavy damage.”

For Survios, this is the third title we know the developer is releasing on Quest. The developer’s boxing battler, Creed: Rise to Glory, hit the platform at launch last month. Meanwhile, dance music maker Electronauts arrived just a week ago. No word yet on if other titles like Raw Data and Sprint Vector will appear on the platform.

As for the full game? That’s due later in 2019. Survios is also working on a Walking Dead VR title that’s due out this year too.

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Indie Gem ‘Vanishing Realms’ to Get a “full expansion within weeks”

Indie VR title Vanishing Realms brought Zelda-esque room-scale RPG action to SteamVR all the way back at the launch of the first PC VR headsets in 2016. The game is one of the top rated titles on SteamVR, but remains in Early Access more than three years after launch. Development updates from the title’s sole indie developer have been extremely sparse but this week it was confirmed that a “full expansion” for Vanishing Realms is coming in just a few weeks.

Kelly Bailey is the brains and sole developer behind Vanishing Realms: Rite of Steel. His indie VR title has been praised for its embodied room-scale VR gameplay, especially considering how early it was to market.

As it stands today, the title comprises the first two chapters of Bailey’s vision. While a third chapter has been on the roadmap for some time, the developer became reticent to offer specific timelines, especially as the scope of the game expanded in ways he hadn’t anticipated. Communication from Bailey to the game’s community (who have been worried that the project was abandoned) has been minimal at best, but it seems he has remained head-down on development.

Image courtesy Indimo Labs

After a seven month lapse in communication, today Bailey briefly poked his head above the water for some big news, saying that a “full expansion” to Vanishing Realms, including chapter 3 and chapter 4 of the game, will launch within weeks.

In a reply to users on the game’s discussion board, Bailey writes, “I’ve been operating under an NDA for a while, but will be able to make a full product announcement soon. In brief, the full expansion, ch3 and ch4 will ship within weeks. I remain the sole developer on the project, and again apologize for the lack of communication on progress.”

What NDA Bailey might be under isn’t entirely clear, but it seems likely that he’s been developing the game for the Valve Index headset, especially considering his pedigree as a former Valve employee who worked on the Half-Life series.

If Bailey is hoping to launch the Vanishing Realms expansion in time for Index, that would put a potential release date around June 28th, the same day that the headset is expected to begin shipping to the first customers.

From a product standpoint, it isn’t clear yet how Bailey plans to roll out the Vanishing Realms expansion. It could come as an update to the base game, wherein he might choose to move the game out of Early Access and bump the price up from its current $20. Alternatively the expansion could be released as optional, paid DLC.

Analysis: Monthly-connected VR Headsets on Steam Pass 1 Million Milestone

So what’s taken so long? Well, aside from being a one man shop, Bailey says that the scope of Vanishing Realms expanded as he continued to build out additional chapters. Back in November of last year, he offered some insights into where things were heading:

“This feels like the most challenging game design task I’ve ever worked on. Sticking with exclusively linear design would be significantly easier, but I am just personally fascinated by the sense of exploration in larger outdoor fantasy landscapes in VR,” he writes in a development update. “I’ve spent tons of time working on this, and I’m tentatively optimistic.”

Bailey has also talked about overhauling the game’s melee combat to feel more reactive and immersive, with development work involving a physics-based animation system.

At this point we don’t know how expansive the expansion will be, or what new features and gameplay it will include. Some loyal users on the game’s discussion board remain skeptical that it will really launch within the coming week considering Bailey’s infrequent updates and ‘Valve time’ approach to development, though it’s certain that anyone trawling the discussion boards of the three year old title will be happy to be proven wrong.

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