Ustwo Games, makers of the immensely popular mobile puzzle game Monument Valley, is turning its attention to virtual reality. A project that was initially expected to take just three months to develop, Land's End will finally see the light of day next month after a full year in the making.
Ken Wong, lead designer for Land's End, said the studio originally planned to convert Monument Valley into a 3D experience but quickly realized that wouldn't work. Players in a virtual world have the ability to control what they're looking at, a fact that ruined many of the illusions that made Monument Valley so great.
While the game does borrow heavily from Monument Valley with its deep sense of mystery and flat-shaded art style, The Verge found that it offers a completely different experience. Much of that is based on how the game is controlled - or its lack of control, if you will.
It's still very early days for virtual reality gaming; so early, in fact, that developers haven't yet come to terms on a unified control mechanism. Ustwo Games' approach is to remove traditional controls from the equation completely.
Gamers interact with the Land's End world simply by looking at it. If you want to advance, simply gaze in the direction you want to travel for a moment and your character will move there. The same method is used to solve puzzles; look at objects in the correct order to open a door, for example. Other puzzles use "telekinesis" to solve (just stare at them for a longer period of time).
It's a novel concept that apparently makes the game incredibly approachable although don't expect to see this hands-free method adopted by more complex games.
Peter Pashley, technical director for Ustwo Games, said the primary aim was to create an experience where you felt like you were in a landscape and that you were immersed in it. The team always felt that having an external controller or having to think about anything in the real world takes players out of that experience.
As Wong correctly points out, Super Mario Bros. was the game on home consoles, Tetris was responsible for the Game Boy's incredible success and Myst was the first to show the potential of CD-ROM. It's unclear which game will define the virtual reality experience, he said, but it would be wonderful if that game was Land's End.
Look for Land's End to make its debut on Samsung's Gear VR come October 30.
Images courtesy The Verge