Dante Buckley on the Journey of Onward

We put a handful of questions to the creator of Onward, the VR shooter heading to Oculus Quest.

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Onward is an upcoming military shooter heading to Oculus Quest. Actually, it has been in early access on Steam since 2016, but now the game is finished and to mark the occasion it's landing on the portable Quest platform too. We'll be sharing our impressions of the game in due course, but for now here's our interview with the game's director, Dante Buckley, wherein we find out more about the military-focused VR shooter and how it has evolved over the years.

Gamereactor: Tell us about the journey of Onward. For starters, what inspired you to make the game in the first place?

Dante Buckley: Back in 2015 I was inspired to make Onward due to the lack of tactical VR shooters in the market. After my attempt and failure at a few VR hardware startups, I realised that before any hardware peripherals (VR guns/controllers) could take off, we needed compelling games. I grew up playing games like Socom, Ghost Recon, Insurgency, Arma etc. and knew that something like that is what "I" would want to play in VR. So I pivoted and began learning game development through online tutorials and self-teaching. I kept moving "Onward." After a year of development, I was able to release the game on Steam Early Access in August 2016. It's been a hell of a journey!

Tell us about the story/lore that you've built around the game, or is it a pure action focus without a narrative wrapper?

Dante: I've specifically kept the story in-game a bit vague so players can make their own interpretations of what's going on. The game features two factions, MARSOC - a special forces branch in the US military, and Volk - a fictional Russian militia. A lot of our maps tell a story on different scenarios and environments from a high level, but the player doesn't know the full context of the war going on. I've heard some interesting theories from players over the years, and there may be official lore coming in the future as well.


How do you handle locomotion?

Dante: Onward utilises artificial locomotion, aka "sliding movement." We do so without any speed acceleration and keep players capped at a constant medium paced speed, this combo has helped us minimise motion sickness.

When making a VR shooter, what's the most important thing? What's the lesson that you're most glad you've learned?

Dante: The most important lesson I've learned from making a VR FPS, is that you have to nail weapon handling and recoil; it's essential for players to enjoy your game. Players have to actually use their hands and manipulate objects and guns, and they need to feel intuitive.

How did you ensure that the weapons looked, felt, and sounded realistic in VR?

Dante: I consulted with veterans and active military to make sure the handling felt realistic in as many aspects as possible. I also went out to shooting ranges when I could, and of course, watched a lot of online videos. For the audio, we worked with a professional third-party sound design studio. They went out to fields and recorded all the gun sounds from the actual weapons used in-game.

Generally speaking, what do you see as the future, not only of VR shooters but also VR entertainment in general?

Dante: The future of VR entertainment in my eyes, is a future where high-quality VR is very accessible and has a lot of content with "depth." When the industry accomplishes this, we will have a vibrant future. The Oculus Quest and games like Onward are major first steps towards that future.

Onward is heading to Oculus Quest on July 30, and it features multiplayer for up to 10 players, with three objective-based modes at launch. On top of that the game offers solo and co-op modes, and there's crossplay with those playing on the Rift and other SteamVR compatible headsets.


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