Loading Human developer Untold Games recently re-announced its Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus game, along with a Kickstarter campaign, but why did the team decide to so radically change the concept? VG247’s Dave Cook speaks with the team, and we’ve got some exclusive gameplay too.
This is the brand-new Loading Human story trailer. Watch it before venturing on to get a feel for how the core concept has changed.
When we first reported on Loading Human, it was a first-person adventure game that combined VR and motion to evolve the classic point-and-click format into something tangible and engaging.
In it, the protagonist – a man suffering from alzheimer’s – had to travel through a virtual plane to record his memories, so he wouldn’t forget the life he spent with his spouse. It was a touching concept that sounded quite sad and unlike anything else we had seen these past few years. We were intrigued and eager to see more.
Yet, Loading Human was re-announced this month with an entirely new story, a tech shift from Unity to Unreal Engine 4, Project Morpheus support and a Kickstarter campaign.
It’s now an episodic, three-part tale set in the year 2185 starring a man called Prometheus. The hero has gone from a fading mind to a space expeditionary training for a deep space mission. That’s quite a significant change.
Eager to find out what happened to prompt such a seismic shift, I spoke with the game’s creator Flavio Parenti over email to learn more about why the concept changed, how the new Loading Human uses new Unreal Engine 4 to heighten the experience and more.
On what prompted the switch in Loading Human’s premise
Parenti: “Telling a story within a virtual reality gaming experience became our main focal point. We were not convinced 100% about the Alzheimer’s plot from the original storyline… it is a sensitive topic and we felt that we were perhaps not quite ready to do it justice.
“We felt we needed a bit more experience before tackling this kind of delicate subject! Therefore we have created a story more accessible for everyone, by playing with our personal dreams. We love astronomy and interstellar travel, so we gave the story an epic scale, but without losing the personal and intimate dimensions that we believe make an adventure game more than a game.
“We want the player to bond with the characters; we want you to support them.”
On the new story
Parenti: “Dorian Baarick is old. To be precise, he’s 172, and he does not want to die. Dorian was one of the great physics geniuses in the 22nd century, he was the inventor of the interstellar engine and by selling it he built his empire. But his hunger for curiosity was such that he decided to steal the time he needed in order to understand the universe.
“To succeed in this venture, he spent all his time and resources to build Lazarus, a device that acts on its DNA, using quantum nano-machines and allows him to slow down the ageing of his cells. Unfortunately after more than five decades, even the impeded cells have reached their limits: Dorian’s body is now saturated with nano machines, and he’s going to die.
“And that’s when you come in.
“You will relive the memories of Prometheus, Dorian’s son, and your task will be to recover a source of dark energy called “the quintessence” which will serve to feed the device built by Dorian, reverse the ageing process of the cells, and restore Dorian’s youth.
“It all begins when you return to your father’s scientific base where you will have to prepare for the mission. Your father is now dying, while an army of robots are building the spacecraft Origin, scheduled to take you to the quintessence and bring you back to your father. There is only one human being in that base apart from your father: her name is Alice. Obviously, something will happen between the two, the flirting will become a love story, a love story that will change all of Prometheus’ plans.
“Prometheus will be faced with two choices. The first one is to go on a 10-year journey and risk losing the love of his life, whilst the second one is to continue to stay on Earth with Alice but sacrifice his father.”
On how the concept of virtual reality drives the plot
Parenti: “In the three chapters, you will experience many exciting moments, you’ll get lost in the ice, you’ll travel in deep space where there will be a zero gravity scene, you will live the memories of a holiday with Alice on Easter Island, and there will be the scientific base. Dorian will gradually discover that Alice and Prometheus are plotting against him, and his vengeance will be terrible.
“About our VR “pink world” that you’ll have seen in screenshots and video, I’ll try to explain it to you without spoiling the story. During the game, while traveling from a memory fragment to another, you will experience reality bugs, things that don’t work as expected, loops and deja vu. Every time this happens, you’ll end up in our purple VR environment, which is a digital copy of the reality where you will be able to rebuild the broken reality in order to proceed the story.
“How will you rebuild it? Well, for an example, let’s say that you are walking around the kitchen and you take a teapot with a tea bag and some hot water inside. Then, the teapot starts to behave in a weird way, as if it had a bug: it disappears and reappears, changes colour, loses its texture, etc. In this moment, the whole world will stop and go VR, and you will have to fix the problem.
“To do so, you will have to rebuild the history of how the teapot got in this particular state. So, by using your hands, you will have to create a link from the teapot to the cooker, and then link the teapot on the cooker with the hot water tap and the tea bag. By doing so, the teapot story will be established and reality will be able to go on.
“It is a quite a unique gameplay, that merges pure text adventure with motion controllers and VR. Why does all this happen? Well you’ll have to play the game to find out.”
On Project Morpheus and how it compares to Rift
Parenti: “It really sounds like PlayStation has nailed it, but it is still too early to make comparisons. I think it is safe to say that the real deal will be the mass marketed versions of both the systems. In the end, I think everything will come down to the software. Who will bring the best games? Who will provide the best eco system? It’s going to be a very complicated challenge and we’ll do all we can to deliver the best VR gaming experience.
“We don’t believe that it has to be ‘one or the other’, as we’re pretty sure both platforms can coexist and both provide a great experience for their users. About the content: in our opinion, the ball is actually in the developer’s court.”
On how Loading Human uses Sixense motion control (seen above)
Parenti: There are many options to play virtual reality games, but for us the only plausible and long term option is the motion controller. As we’ve said before, when you wear an Oculus Rift or a Project Morpheus headset you cannot see the controller you’re using, that’s why you need a direct visual feedback of your controls INSIDE the virtual world.
“So when you come to this conclusion, the solution seems obvious. We are ahead of the curve, and we need to make some bold choices, but we are sure that the gamepad or mouse+keyboard are not the viable options for the future of “full VR”. We do not want to spend our limited resources on something that results in an impaired version of the game experience we envisioned.”
On how the switch to Unreal Engine 4 has enhanced development
Parenti: “Unreal 4 is a charm. The physics of the engine are solid and it is exactly what we needed to make the experience very real. It has greatly improved not only the appearance, but also the gameplay, which is what interests us the most. In regards to motion control, some SDKs are still a WIP, so we’re still experimenting with that, but we expect it won’t be too problematic.”
On how Untold Games’ discussions with Sony
Parenti: “We can not answer this question in depth, for many reasons, some of which I’m sure that you can guess. However, what we can say is that Sony has proven itself very friendly towards indie developers such as us, and we cannot wait to see what will happen in the coming years for virtual reality. This is so exciting”