Most highly polished virtual reality experiences are still solitary ones, so it's worth taking note whenever a prominent studio takes a crack at doing VR multiplayer. This week, inXile Entertainment unveiled Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds, a PvPvE shooter that will support up to twenty players. It's a big swing, and one that inXile has been working on for years.
Dax Berg, inXile's Lead Producer on Frostpoint, fielded a few of my questions about the project. The short teaser released yesterday spotlights Frostpoint's action and its icy Antarctic setting, but like most VR trailers, it doesn't give the greatest sense of what it'll be like to play Frostpoint. At the very least, it's good to hear from Berg that inXile iterated on this idea for years.
As Berg tells it, inXile wanted to expand on its VR work after releasing The Mage's Tale, a dungeon crawler. "They brought Brian Hicks aboard, who was Creative Director on DayZ and Brian hired me from the onset to help run the project," says Berg. "We spent a couple years on the game with a small team really getting the guns feeling good and laying the groundwork for the interaction and backend with a survival style of gameplay in mind."
Eventually, after it became clear to the team that it had "a solid PvP experience" on its hands, Berg says inXile turned away from survival mechanics. The result is what the team unveiled yesterday: competitive multiplayer with added PvE elements.
Along the way, inXile got acquired by Microsoft, joining what's now known as Xbox Game Studios at the same time as fellow RPG developer Obsidian Entertainment. "This was of course a project we were working on for years before we could even imagine the Microsoft acquisition," Berg says. "Like the Wasteland 3 team, they've been great in allowing our existing deals and projects to continue. We're of course working on our unannounced next-gen RPG as well, which will be Xbox Game Studios published."
While a recent spike in demand led to some prolonged headset shortages, VR is still a relatively small market (and, it's worth noting, one that Microsoft is pushing more for PCs than it is for Xbox). A major concern for any VR multiplayer title is whether it'll attract enough players to have a sizable enough community. Hopefully, that's something Frostpoint should handle better than others.
"All of [Frostpoint's modes] are built to scale with players on each server," Berg explains, "meaning that we have bots for players, and the PvE enemies that adjust in their spawn rates depending on player counts. We think this is important that if you're playing at 4 a.m. with a couple friends you're still able to have fun."
Since Frostpoint is a shooter, its VR movement options are another big question. Don't expect to zip around your human teammates and opponents like a magician; you'll be hoofing it.
"We've spent a lot of time ensuring the game feels good for a wide range of VR gamers," Berg says. "That said, it is a multiplayer game, so teleportation movement will not work. We do have smooth and snap turn, turn blinders, helmet configurations, intensity settings, etc. We had a Closed Alpha a couple months ago under NDA, and that gave us some great user feedback we've incorporated. We're hoping our Open Beta will give us a lot more."
That beta period will begin in September, shortly after inXile ships Wasteland 3. Studio Head Brian Fargo tells UploadVR that the first 10,000 Frostpoint VR beta players will have a shot at winning the full game for free through a "play to own" campaign.
So, within the span of a month, some folks will get an up-high isometric look at one inXile world and a first-person VR trip to another. Personally, I'm looking forward to checking out both—and from there, guessing at the shape its Unreal 5-powered XGS title will look like.