The Unspoken, a multiplayer spellcasting game, is one of several VR games in development at Insomniac Games. It’s also a game the studio has been trying to make for 10 years.
In the early days, Insomnaic was a studio focused on one game at a time. That used to mean annualised Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank games, before the studio expanded during the Resistance years and started producing multiple games at a time. Still, Insomniac usually played it a little conservative, an approach that’s changed recently. Now, Insomniac has a bunch of games, ranging from big to small, in development simultaneously. They published four games in 2015, and are planning to release five more before 2016 is over.
VR games will make up several of those releases, including The Unspoken, which I played yesterday at E3.
The Unspoken is one of many games taking advantage of the upcoming Oculus Touch controllers, a set of peripherals that neatly lock into each hand and allow you to manipulate VR experiences in a way that often feels more natural than a standard game controller. The Unspoken is being specifically built for Oculus Touch, allowing players to summon and cast spells by waving their hands.
(There’s no release date for Oculus Touch yet, but it should be this year.)
Players can drop a different spell into each hand, ranging from something simple, like a fireball or shield, to ones that require more complex actions. The hammer spell, for example, places a forge in front of the player, and you must slam a hammer into the forge a handful of times to construct a powerful spear. Another spell, meant to provide protection, involves you outlining a box with one of the controllers. Once completed, you have a chance to breathe and think.
The Oculus Touch controllers have quite a few buttons and, given my general unfamiliarity with them, half my time was spent remembering what did what. That said, towards the end of the match, flicking spells back and forth was becoming closer to second nature, and it’s hard to imagine it feeling as good if I was trying to do something similar with an Xbox or PlayStation controller.
The developers told me this concept — duelling mages in an urban setting — has been kicking around Insomniac for 10 years now. Every so often, they’d take the idea out of the dust bin, prototype some ideas and put it back on the shelf. It wasn’t until Oculus asked the studio if it had any ideas for Oculus Touch that The Unspoken was revitalised yet again. And this time, the idea finally worked.
(Insomniac wouldn’t tell me what the other prototypes were like, instead hoping the ideas could be used in another project. “You never know,” they said.)
The idea of reviving old ideas has become a common refrain from VR developers I’ve talked to. At the same appointment, Twisted Pixel showed me their ambitious psychological thriller Wilson’s Heart, and said that too was a concept they’d been mulling over years, one that only clicked with VR and Oculus Touch.