The Risks and Rewards of Golem, Out Tomorrow for PS VR

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The Risks and Rewards of Golem, Out Tomorrow for PS VR

Highwire Games recounts the multi-year effort to deliver one of VR's most anticipated titles.

There’s a reason why our studio is named “Highwire Games” and not “Beaten Path Interactive,” or “Incremental Entertainment.” We founded the studio in order to take the kind of risks that are not possible for huge teams with gigantic budgets. We are pleased to announce that Golem is finally out on PlayStation VR tomorrow. Here are just a few of the risks we took to bring this title to life.

Risk #1 – An Open World VR Game

The promise of virtual reality is that you will visit another world — but the current generation of tech is more suited to stationary gameplay and small environments. Streaming is difficult in VR and the technical investment was daunting, but as a result of that work Golem features an enormous city to explore. All without loading or interruption, allowing you to immerse yourself completely. And we’ve hidden weapons, treasures, artifacts and other collectibles everywhere, so exploration will be rewarded.

Risk #2 – The Incline Control Scheme

Good controls should not insert themselves between the game and the player, they should disappear from the process. You shouldn’t be thinking “I will press X to punch” but just “I will punch.” For us, the key to seamless controls in VR is your sense of proprioception; your awareness of your body and its position in the world. Golem’s Incline Controls allow you to move as you would naturally, by slightly leaning your body as if you were about to take a step and start walking…

For Most Players: The Incline Control System is designed for maximum immersion and allows you to lose yourself in the world completely. The system is very sensitive; your movements should be subtle and not cause any strain, especially when played while seated as designed. The result is an intuitive control scheme that is often easier to understand for new players.

For Sensitive Players: For those that are discomforted by movement in VR games, we have included as many comfort options as possible. Instant quick turns, a stationary scene in your peripheral vision, slower movement speeds — these options are all available by selecting “Comfort Mode” at the beginning of the game or can be turned on individually in the Options menu. Everyone’s reactions are different, so we encourage you to experiment and find the settings that work for you.

For Power Players: On the other end of the spectrum are those of you that live in VR and want complete control. Rather than implement dozens of possible control schemes, we have chosen to include direct control over your movement via the left analog stick on your DualShock 4. It’s primarily for those that prioritize efficient and responsive input over immersion, but it is always on and available if you want to take a break from the Incline Controls as well.

Risk #3 – Intense, Unforgiving Gameplay

One option we did not include in Golem was a difficulty setting. There’s only one way to play, and at times it can be deceptively difficult. The one-to-one melee combat starts at a manageable speed, but by the end of the game you will face enemies that will test your reflexes and force you to perfect your skills. The weapon and artifacts you use to build a golem are lost if they are destroyed or abandoned, so each time you enter the city the stakes are high. Reaching the furthest districts takes an investment in time and equipment, all of which can be lost in a moment of inattention or over-reach.

At times it may be frustrating — but exploring the gameplay space and your abilities is just as important as exploring the environment. Without the possibility of failure, there is no thrill of victory.

Golem has been a challenging and rewarding project for us, and we hope you enjoy playing it as much as we have enjoyed making it! It’s available as a download, but if you purchase the physical Special Edition you will also receive a copy of “Echoes of the First Dreamer,” the musical prequel to Golem.

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  • I’ve been waiting for this game ever since the first announcement, but now I’m kind of worried that the actual risk of new and innovative game play is missing. A lot of what is listed here as risks is standard fare at Ubisoft. Let you draw your own conclusions. Comfort mode etc is good for accessibility, but not risk worthy of patting yourselves on the back. Its been an industry wide push, thank you for staying ahead of that. No mention of other accessibility features however, like color blindness.

    I’m sure in someone’s mind open world is a risk in vr. To a gamer its yet another open world game, one done in a skyrim port takes the wind out in a generation where open world is becoming a dirty set of words.

    Anyway look forward to hearing more, but this doesn’t post a pretty picture for self awareness and industry awareness.

    • An open world using a NEW engine is a huge issue in VR due to the constraints of a rendering pipeline. Likewise, making a VR game with a single difficulty to appeal to core gamers is risk.

      As Jaime said, the real risk is spending 3 years and a ton of money (relatively speaking) in VR.

    • @RobotHouse

      1) New Engine, VR, Open World:
      Gonna go with these are risks for every project. Last I checked this is on Unreal Engine 4. A lot of the work is done for them and there is a huge community to lean on already. Open World can be done on Unreal. These aren’t risks no one else takes, these are risks most indie and 3rd party projects that use a licensed engine face.

      2) Single Difficulty is actually pretty common. The slow ramp up is used in the Normal Difficulty you’d find in any uncharted game etc. The more “core” gamer, would be looking for insanity, where the difficulty spike starts early.

      The real risk is truly in VR. I agree with that and won’t argue otherwise. If they are bringing a true triple A experience to VR then that is a risk. PSVR with it’s poor selection of accessories is a problem they have to over come. The Move for example doesn’t facilitate movement in the environment. Hear’s hoping the Move 2 fixes these issues.

      I stand by my original post.

    • KazeEternal

      Why are we letting this guy poison what is supposed to be a positive thing? Can we remove this?

      Regardless, I’ll address it.

      Why are u mentioning Ubisoft? All of their games are MT filled GaaS clones. How many open world VR exclusives have Ubisoft made? Even the giant that is Ubisoft has been very conservative in VR. This small studio takes more risk with Golem than Ubisoft ever had in VR. Honestly, the bird game they made was terrible. Please don’t call that an open world. I own it, it’s basically a empty shell.

      This is a small studio putting everything they have for three years into VR. A challenging, open world, VR exclusive with no difficulty setting, perma-death elements, and a unique combat and control setup.

      This is a VR game that took three years to make. I applaud the risk, I applaud the effort, and I support these guys for taking such a bold and creative RISK.

  • So Jaime, what happened with this game? By all accounts everyone loves it but it was effectively MIA for a long, long time. Is this something you can blog about somewhere? This game is such an enigma at this point because unlike the Oculus funded stuff like Asgard or Stormland, this was a big Sony thing until it wasn’t. Hopefully you can speak to some of the VR outlets out there because it would be extremely interesting to understand the development cycle of this game. Anyway, congratulation and I look forward to the positive reviews!

  • Looking forward to it! Been waiting patiently through many delays, congratulations on launching. Also, Target is selling the game at $30 and GameStop is at $40. Gotta look into that for sure…

  • I opted to start downloading for $40 from the PSN digital store.

  • PSVR is too heavy, too many wires, too low res, and blurry in the periphery. Until all this is fixed, it’s nothing more than a novelty. I probably use mine about once a year when I get bored. The experience is just not good enough.

    • You are changing the Subject. This post is not about that. But ok, I will quickly say to check out AstroBot, Wipeout and Blood & Truth

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