Behind the Scenes: Creating Iron Man in VR

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Behind the Scenes: Creating Iron Man in VR

See what it takes to make the man behind the armor

Hello, this is Aaron Whiting of Seattle-based Camouflaj. I have the honor of being the lead producer on Marvel’s Iron Man VR, coming July 3 exclusively to PlayStation VR.

I previously worked at Camouflaj on its first release, République, before I left to try my hand at a larger local game studio. During the interim years away from Camouflaj, I heard whispers from my former coworkers that the team was working on something incredibly exciting and ambitious for VR. It was around then that studio founder, Ryan Payton, put me in a headlock and asked me if I’d be interested in coming back to Camouflaj to help produce the game. After I fixed my hair, I scheduled a time to stop by the studio and check out their prototype for Marvel’s Iron Man VR.

Within seconds of putting the VR headset on, I got chills. I looked down at my body, saw the iconic red and gold armor, and thought to myself, “Holy crap, I am Iron Man!” From there I pointed the motion controls towards the ground, pulled the triggers and lifted into the air. I then thought to myself, “How does Iron Man fly forward?”, so I placed the controllers at my sides, pointed my palms back, and began to surge forward. Despite the crude greybox representation of Shanghai, it felt great to zip through the city at high speeds and feel the thrill of flight. I soared above the metropolis and threaded the needle between tight corridors. I clearly remember saying aloud, “You guys have done it! We’ve nailed flying in VR.”

After spending about 20 minutes flying around grinning from ear to ear, Ryan asked me, “Do you wanna shoot some stuff?” Of course I said yes. As with flight, I thought, “How does Iron Man shoot?” I extended my arm out, pointed my palm at a target, pushed the Repulsor button and fired a shot. I began striking Iron Man poses like I was in a photoshoot and blasted all the enemies around me. “How about coming back to Camouflaj and helping us produce this game?” Ryan asked. The rest is history.

When I rejoined Camouflaj, the challenge of creating a great prototype was behind us, so our focus shifted towards developing the full game. We aligned the team around building a world not only about Iron Man, but also about his larger-than-life civilian persona, Tony Stark.

One thing Ryan struggled with early on was solving the problem of allowing VR players to not only feel like Iron Man but also see him. Due to the first-person nature of VR, we knew players wanted to embody Tony Stark, but we all worried about those moments that players would want to see Tony be Tony. We experimented with various solutions, including Ryan’s boneheaded idea (his words, not mine) to have the player not be Tony, but play as his up-and-coming protege. Fortunately, our friends at Marvel pushed back on that idea, and they were right — fans want to be Iron Man, not be standing next to him.

Thankfully, our lead writer, Brendan Murphy, came up with a brilliant solution. Borrowing a thread from a recent run of Marvel’s Iron Man comics, we introduced an additional AI character based on Tony’s personality. Thus, “AI Tony” was born. He’s smart, witty, and helps you upgrade your suit. Suddenly, we had the best of both worlds—players got to not only see Tony but to be him! On top of that, can you think of any superhero that would enjoy his own company more than Tony Stark?

People want to fly around and be super heroic like Iron Man, but they also want to live out the fantasy of being the larger-than-life billionaire, Tony Stark. Early in development we tossed around many different ideas, but when the dust settled, we had a handful of key Tony Stark-related features that fed back into our core gameplay:

  • Tinker in Tony’s garage
  • Come face-to-face with iconic Marvel characters Nick Fury, Pepper Potts & Friday
  • Explore classic Iron Man environments including Tony’s Malibu mansion, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, ROXXON Corporation, and various Stark Industries locales

As I reminisce about the production of Marvel’s Iron Man VR, we always knew that the game needed to feel super heroic. About a year into production, we thought we nailed it with our flying and shooting mechanics, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Marvel agreed.

This realization occurred right around the time we were wrapping up work on our vertical slice, which included a mission where Iron Man rescues a jet in mid-flight. It was around this time the team discovered the missing puzzle piece: interactive “Super Hero Actions.” In record time, we added “Super Hero Actions” to the mission that enabled players to do heroic things such as extinguish an engine fire, repair a damaged wing, and pull down the jet’s landing gear. From a production perspective, these moments terrified me — they are one-off moments that were extremely expensive and time consuming to build, but I couldn’t deny that they were our ticket to making Marvel’s Iron Man VR evolve from “good” to “great.”

If you’re curious about how those Super Hero Actions deliver the Super Hero fantasy, you’ll be able to experience them first-hand in the demo for Marvel’s Iron Man VR, available at PlayStation Store now. It’s a small taste of what’s to come in the rest of the game, which includes many more VR-enabled heroic actions.

In the closing moments of development, I often think about why I returned to Camouflaj to work on Marvel’s Iron Man VR. Naturally I wanted to help the team achieve their goal of building a great Iron Man experience for virtual reality, but I also wanted to leverage the unique strengths of PS VR to tell an important and meaningful story starring Tony Stark. We put the player in Tony’s shoes and have them face his demons. Those moments really stand out for me as a player, and I can’t wait for you to experience them when the game releases on July 3.

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12 Comments

  • Keep PlayStation VR games exclusive to PlayStstion VR forever

    Give up on launching Horizon Zero Dawn on the PC that devalues the PlayStation, an update to the PS5 that raises the resolution to native 4K and 60fps, Sony doesn’t seem to trust your console anymore, don’t kill the PlayStation

    Only on PlayStation forever

    I will be able to buy the Horizon Zero Dawn of PS4 on PS5 with improvements, the launch on the PC is the biggest mistake in the history of PlayStation in 25 years.

    • Where were you years ago when Sony had Sony Online Entertainment making a lot of PC games such as EverQuest and PlanetSide? Those PC games have never “devalued” PlayStation before and I think what you’re spamming is a complete nonsense considering that Sony has a track record of publishing PC games.

    • @PhilS1990 S.O.E. was not PlayStation. S.O.E. were PC devs from the beginning. If Sony wanted to publish games on PC, then they should have kept S.O.E. PlayStation games have never been on PC. EverQuest and Planet Side are not Horizon” Zero Dawn. God of War, Uncharted or Gran Turismo.

    • @Nemicon SOE obviously wasn’t part of PlayStation but they were once part of Sony. Tew-SP-BR makes it sound like Sony never had a part in PC market at all.
      It’s even worse when he claims that Horizon Zero Dawn being ported to PC would “devalue” the PS brand when the said game is over 2 years old and probably won’t make much money now as it did 2 years ago regardless if they decided to release the PC version or not.

  • The Iron Man VR demo was phenomenal and everything i’ve heard from my insiders is that the game is a blast.

    I assume your work on Republique VR gave you the itch for VR and led to Iron Man? Was the team prototyping flying mechanics in VR and Iron Man seemed liked a logical fit? Did Camouflaj pitch the idea to Marvel? Sony? Or, did Sony contact the team first? Republique was a very different game, so it’s an interesting fit for Iron Man VR, but i can’t argue with the results.

    Republique VR “shipped” May 2018, did Iron Man VR development start directly after? Is it safe to say that Iron Man VR was a 2 year cycle? How did the port of Republique VR to Oculus GO impact Iron Man VR development considering Republique VR launched on Oculus GO just last year? Were both projects being worked on simultaneously? Obviously a port isn’t a big deal, but Camoflaj isn’t very large.

    Did you add to the team in order to take on a project of this magnitude? Sorry for the questions, but there isn’t much information out there and Camoflaj is a newer dev.

    Iron Man VR looks tremendous and i will be purchasing it day 1, physical if possible. Is it a full length VR game (6-8 hours) and will it have a platinum and PS4 Pro upgrades?

    • Thank you for responding…..

    • I’d like to see your questions answered too, Tyler. My excitement is right up there with you after playing the demo, and I was never even that big into Iron Man! I want to know when the preorder option is going to return to the store, bc I can’t find it. I will lay a preorder as soon as that happens.

  • For the love of god, keep political messaging out of the upcoming ps5 reveal.

  • Looking forward to flying around as Iron-Man when the full game releases. The feel of flying in the demo was phenomenal.

  • When is the digital deluxe pre-order going live again?

  • Is the digital deluxe version even a thing any more? If so, will the pre-order be reactivated soon, or will it just be available on launch day?

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