Bringing Battlezone to Life on PlayStation VR

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Bringing Battlezone to Life on PlayStation VR

Let me take you back 16 months to E3 2015 — we’ve just introduced Battlezone for PlayStation VR, and we’re calling it the return of “the father of VR gaming.” Was that a little bombastic? …Maybe.

Now let’s go back 36 years to a classic arcade. Sticky carpets, cigarette burns on the cabinets, and a medley of beeps and bloops. My brother and I are there and we’re playing the original Battlezone. I’m putting my face right up against the cabinet’s periscope display, and for the life of me it feels like I’m there in the game’s green vector tank, shooting down the enemy.

The 1980 Battlezone was really trying to put you in the game, so much so that it arguably became the first ever first-person shooter. Before Battlezone came along, games didn’t really do first-person perspectives and reticules. So maybe we weren’t being bombastic enough?

Fourteen years later my brother Chris and I released our breakthrough game, Alien vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar — a first-person shooter that maybe wouldn’t have existed without Battlezone. It’s hard to truly overstate its influence on modern gaming, let alone VR gaming.

If I could show my 1980 self the Battlezone we’ve created, I don’t think he’d believe me. But I’d tell him it was his admiration of the original Battlezone that’s made our vision a reality.

It was because of him I found myself on the top floor of a very tall New York building in 2013, where we bid for and acquired the Battlezone IP. In many ways it was a perfect storm; we had this license that had inspired us as game makers, meanwhile the next-gen of VR was starting to become a reality. It made sense to us. Here was this game that wanted to put you in its world, and now we really could.

And now, Battlezone and PlayStation VR are nearly here. It’s incredibly exciting for all of us here at Rebellion. But on a personal level, it’s genuinely momentous to bring Battlezone to life like this.

I imagine for some of you, this blog post is your introduction to Battlezone. We’ll be talking about the game here in much more detail throughout the week — what it’s like to play mission-to-mission, the depth of the campaign, and things we’ve not yet announced! So please do stay tuned — there is plenty, plenty more to come, and if you’re not yet convinced, we want to show you why we believe Battlezone is going to be a Day 1 must-buy when PlayStation VR launches on October 13.

But since I’ve talked today about what inspired us to bring our game to life, I’d like to touch on the look of Battlezone. If you’re one of those seeing the game for the first time, I imagine you might be thinking of the movie Tron — we’ve heard that comparison a lot before! But did you know Tron was actually influenced by the original Battlezone — yes, Battlezone came first!

With Battlezone we wanted to create something that felt like its own reality, something that feels virtual, even digital. I think our art team’s done an amazing job — we’ve got so many gorgeous stills of the game that don’t even do it justice of what it’s like to be inside our tank and feel the sense of scale and wonder of our retro-futuristic world.

To us, we think of the game’s world as a digital unreality. Rather than trying to recreate real life, we are transporting you to another world, something that feels virtual, game-like, and atmospheric in its own right — like the original did. When you try Battlezone on PlayStation VR for the first time, I hope you’ll feel that same all-encompassing feeling I felt 36 years ago — like you were actually inside the galaxy’s most powerful tank.

Thank you for reading and we can’t wait to unveil more this week.

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11 Author Replies

  • I loved the original Battlezone. It was one of the first video games I ever played. I played Battlezone VR at Bestbuy not long ago and it was an amazing experience. I loved ever minute of it but I must admit I came away from the experience feeling like I had just been transferred to another world. The most jarring thing was taking the headset off and instantly being transported back to reality.Congrats and great job. I can’t wait to play on October 13th.

  • I am so excited for this. Can’t wait for more info for later this week.

  • Will this version include the ‘Combat Commander’ multiplayer mode like Battlezone II? That was truly one of my favorite gameplay experiences. It mixed the best of RTS Resource generation, unit improvement and having a Commander that could direct the troops with making every one of your units an actual human-piloted vehicle. Also, if your vehicle was destroyed, you could eject… Not necessarily instantly die. It was extremely satisfying to be able to snipe pilots out of their vehicles when you were running around squishy and vulnerable…

    • Hi TesseractE – this Battlezone for PSVR is very much a reboot of the original 1980 Battlezone, rather than the 1998 / 99 Battlezone games (which are much loved reboots in their own right!), so it won’t feature the kind of gameplay you know from BZII. This is very much arena-style FPS with arcade elements, rather than a blend of shooter and RTS like the later Battlezones. Hope that makes sense.

  • Already convinced, and it is definitely a day 1 purchase. Loved it when I tried it at Best Buy. It is obvious that you put your heart into this game, and it just feels so awesome to be in that tank. As someone who also played the original battlezone when it came out, it is great to see how much care and respect you have for the original, and I enjoyed reading this article.

    • Thank you – means a lot! It’s a passion project for a lot of devs here – those who want to try cool stuff like VR, and those too who actually grew up with the old games!

  • Tried this at Best Buy. Instant day-one purchase. I love that you guys stuck with making head-motion reflect head motion within the game as well (as opposed to turning the vehicle).

    Looking forward to more info this week.

  • Hey Jason, like you, I played the original Battlezone in the arcade when it was released. I was in college at the time, and those early games kept me going to the arcade on my breaks between classes. Battlezone is/was a great game, and I’m so glad you’ve revisited it for PS VR.

    I was at Sony Square in NYC this weekend, and I got to try many of the demos, including Battlezone. I’m sorry to say, that this was the only VR game that made me feel nauseous. I was fine at the beginning, but your tank kinda floats over the ground. So, when I was whipping around obstacles and fishtailing so I could get a tactical advantage over the enemy tanks, I started feeling ill. Then I started going up and down inclines, and I started feeling a LOT worse. I actually had to stop playing and take the headset off!

    The physical disconnect between the tank whipping around and my body staying relatively still did me in.

    Can you tell me if any adjustments to tank movements have been made since the demo? What can VR players do to feel less nauseous? I have a launch day pre-order on my PS VR. I really want this game! HELP!

    • Hi DotComCTO

      Really sorry to hear about your issues with demo.

      We’re all very different when it comes to reacting to games – my Brother and I for example, are very susceptible to motion sickness so we’ve been hammering home to our team just how important that we make the game as comfortable for as many players as possible.

      If you felt uncomfortable it’s probably not responsible for me to just say “Keep your Battlezone pre-order!”. If you were fine with other games, maybe keep your PSVR and wait and try Battlezone at a friend’s house, to see if anything improves. There are plenty of cases here where people “got their VR sea legs” after a couple of controlled plays.

      There are no current settings for changing the way the tank moves HOWEVER (and this is a little tease) there erm, might be slower, heavier, more armoured tanks that better suit your comfort levels! More on this later in the week.

      Thanks for the feedback and I hope you get to enjoy your future VR experiences

  • I played the demo of this and it’ll be a day-1 buy for me.

    I loved playing Battlezone in the arcade and also Tail Gunner from 1979 *sorry* ^_^

    • Don’t be sorry, gaming is for all ages, us “auld” gamers included! Tail Gunner in VR would be pretty cool …

  • I will own this, day 1! I honestly cannot wait!

  • Looking forward to this! Played BZ since early version . Was skeptical of VR until I played BZ in VR at Best Buy . Sold! Take my money ! Absolutely love it ! Thanks for bringing BZ back and in VR at that !

  • Hello…

    I played a version of this title at Best Buy a few months back and I loved the concept.
    However, this was the first time I ever had motion sickness in VR. I am not sure if this came up in play testing, but if it did, have you guys made any changes (within the last few months) to overcome this potential issue for some players?


    • The final game is substantially different from the demo, though I can’t say specifically if any one element might make you more comfortable as it depends on lots of things – personal reactions to VR, movement speeds, horizons, audio. Hopefully you’ll get to try the main game with a friend or in-store to make a more informed decision. You might also find that playing more other VR games helps you get used to something like Battlezone, which is more fast paced

    • I’m very susceptible to motion sickness, but i did not feel an ounce of discomfort with Battlezone. On the contrary, Battlezone and London Heist were the best VR demos i have tried (better than Vive/Eve Valkyrie). Rebellion flat out nailed it.

  • I can’t wait to drive that tank. I rode in a real tank once in new Zealand it was the coolest thing ever.

    • Fun fact, a Rebellion staffer actually used to drive Tanks in the military (though ironically they work in our Sniper Elite team, not the Battlezone one, as they can advise on more “realistic” stuff)!

    • Sniper Elite 4 hype! I’m very happy Rebellion decided to partner with Sony and i’m ecstatic that Battlezone will have a physical retail copy. Day 1 buy.

      Battlezone is getting great pre release coverage. Everyone seems to agree that Battlezone is going to be one of the best VR titles at launch.

      Rigs, Battlezone, and VR Worlds will be the most successful launch titles for PSVR. Driveclub VR will be the preeminent racing experience in VR.

  • that kind of looks like the tank in halo 2. I wish they had a co op mode.

  • Is there going to be PS4 Pro Enhancements? It will be cool if it can actually increase the frame rate to 90 FPS or keep the 60 FPS more stable.

  • Is it just me or the game graphics become better compared to previous blogspot, the last picture is so nice with reflection near the tank.

    And yes this will be day 1 buy for me if I can stand vr, I must try it first though since I’m having headache playing first person game like dreadhalls in gear vr.

    • Thanks for the support! It’s funny, because as beautiful as the screenshots are, they are hi-res shots designed for viewing on traditional screens and can’t really tell you what it’s like in the game, so we were just trying to set a mood – big beautiful cyberworld sci-fi! The game feels and looks very distinctive when you’re actually in VR because you’re RIGHT up close to the cockpit and weapons. Hopefully you’ll get to try it

  • I tried Battlezone at Best Buy and it was spectacular. It’s more fun and the gameplay is more intuitively designed for VR than Eve Valkyrie. I love the control scheme and how you implemented head movement and tank movement as separate entities. The tanks feel great and the cockpit is perhaps the best part of the entire game. It feels spacious and real, the mini map is gloriously implemented into your cockpit dash and it works well. The entire hud is brilliantly mapped to your cockpit and it really increases immersion.

    I love how different enemy types force you to adapt different strategies. In particular, there are certain flying enemies that attack from very high up and it forces you to physically move your head and look up to the heavens in order to extinguish them. From looking up to defeat threats ftom above, to looking down at the map in your cockpit, Battlezone makes incredible use of hardware and head movement.

  • I can’t wait to try this game on the demo disc. Hopefully it doesn’t mess with my motion sickness. Heck, even if it does I might buy it anyway just to support.

  • Loved battle zone back in the day…so many quarters were willingly. All my laptop and desktop PC’s have the battle zone desktop themes…meaning my cursor is the BZ retical and the hour glass is the scanning radar with blip. Now I will definitely get the VR gear!!!!

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