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How a focus on 'realism' hamstrung the  Until Dawn  dev's VR shooter

How a focus on 'realism' hamstrung the Until Dawn dev's VR shooter

March 28, 2018 | By Alex Wawro

March 28, 2018 | By Alex Wawro
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More: VR, Design, Production

"We intended and expected to mimic the established conventions for first-person shooters and, where relevant, VR titles, but the studio blocked any design that wasn't 'realistic' or 'movie realistic'."

- A Supermassive staffer, speaking to Eurogamer about the problematic development of the studio's VR first-person shooter Bravo Team.

Until Dawn dev Supermassive released its PlayStation VR first-person shooter Bravo Team early this month to critical disdain, and now a number of sources trusted by Eurogamer report the project was harmed by lack of resources and directives to prioritize "realism" over good VR game design.

"'Hollywood realism' just got in the way of everything," one staff member told Eurogamer. "We didn't have the time or the money to make a first-person shooter in VR, but even then we didn't have a fighting chance because the studio crippled us with these constraints on top."

Presuming they're true, the stories told to Eurogamer offer fellow game devs a cautionary tale of how a project can go awry when high-level expectations for what a game could or "should" be clash with the practical realities of game development.

According to Eurogamer's reporting, the Bravo inside Supermassive (which had multiple other projects going simultaneously) topped out at 25 people, and was less than that for most of the project. Sources say they felt under-supported and were pushed into something of a rush job, with development roughly 13 months total -- and that's after the game was delayed from its original November 2017 release date.

"We had fewer resources than promised," another staffer told Eurogamer. "It felt like we would fail, and mock reviews in September confirmed this independently. But the delay from November to March didn't help because the sole focus was frame rate and most of the team were moved off. This 'optimization' work made the game worse than when we had the mock reviews - we stripped visual effects, reduced enemy numbers, lost behavior and inserted loading screens."

Taken together, the stories out of Supermassive paint a picture of a studio too focused on "realism" (due in part, one source suggests, to the success of the very cinematic Until Dawn) to scope, design and playtest an interesting VR game -- until it was too late. The full story is well worth reading over on Eurogamer's website.

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