Imaginati Studio and Foxnext VR Studio's Crisis of the Planet of the Apes takes the darker tone of the rebooted series and shifts it effectively to the medium of VR, putting you in the shoes of an ape in a world where you're both feared and hated. Through a tight and focused experience, you escape the confines of a facility you're imprisoned in while also enacting vengeance on your captors, all the while using clever techniques like arm swinging to move and grabbing to climb in order to mimic the movements of an ape.
We recently got the chance to talk with designer Scott Stephen about the different facets of the experience. While there was a handful of issues that affected our experience (you can read our review here), we were still suitably impressed by the implementation of certain mechanics and the atmosphere the studio was able to build. Take a look at the whole Q&A below.
To start with, what was your motive going into this game - what did you want to create?
For FoxNext VR Studio, the goal is always to keep doing what Fox has been doing all along - tell great stories. It just so happens that the medium now is VR and not film or television. The way we think about it is that you watch movies and you play games, but you live VR. The goal with Crisis was to explore what it meant to live as an ape in the POTA franchise. For us, that meant doing more than just stringing a couple of mini-games together; it meant creating a whole world to support the story we were telling so that you could truly be there.
A great example of this is that in the game you're shorter than you would be in real life - around 5 feet tall. The result is that all of the humans in the game tower over you. Feeling that kind of physical intimidation is a very VR-only kind of storytelling. You don't just feel emotionally small, but physically small, too!
What was it like transferring the world of the new Planet of the Apes series into the films, especially in terms of tone?
I think the tone of POTA gave us a lot to work with. It's this world in transition, where humans are finding themselves on the way out. The anxiety around that is a really fertile ground to tell a story - especially one where at the same time as something really dark is happening, there's still this sliver of hope.
We ended the game at sunrise on purpose. You just had this - and this is an understatement - really terrible night, but something new, something more positive is coming. The films have demonstrated that that's a powerful message, but I also think it really lends itself to the structure of a game.
There are a lot of questions surrounding movement and how you move around in VR. How did you approach this?
We started from the goal of making the player feel like an ape. Ironically, that's almost easier than making you feel like a human in VR. None of us have been an ape, so it's impossible to say "Well, that's not how that works...". Starting from there, climbing was a no-brainer, but getting the walking right was harder. It was about trying to give the player a gesture that would help them feel big and powerful. I can't tell you how many hours we spent really tweaking it and testing it until it felt just right. But it was all in service of getting you into the ape mindset.