By Quentin H. / November 1st, 2016
Windlands is Psytec Games Ltd.’s second VR title. It is a game that takes place in a deserted world where you go out and explore. On October 23, 2016, I sat down with Jon Hibbins, a developer of Windlands, and talked with him about Windlands, developing for the various VR headsets that are on the market, about Move support for the PlayStation VR version, the future of Crystal Rift, and he teased the idea of future VR titles containing multiplayer support.
This is a three-part interview. In Part Two, Mr. Hibbins discusses the difficulties of and compares developing for the three major VR headsets and their respective touch controls [along with when the Move will come to PlayStation VR for Windlands]. Lastly, in Part Three, Mr. Hibbins talks about Psytec Games Ltd’s first title, Crystal Rift, the likelihood of Windlands DLC, and what lies in store for Psytec Games, Ltd. in the future.
Interview by Quentin H.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: My name is Quentin H. with Operation Rainfall, and you are?
Jon Hibbins: Jon Hibbins from Psytec Games [Ltd.].
OR: You have a game coming out on Tuesday [October 25, 2016] for the PlayStation VR titled Windlands. What is Windlands about?
JH: So Windlands is a virtual reality game where you’re a robot that’s [been] woken up after the devastation of a meteorite hits the planet and your job is to fix the planet. You do that with grappling hooks and in these massive, colorful Zelda/Mario-like worlds.
OR: How many different worlds are there in this game?
They’re all about 2.5km squared. There’s jungle, city, and sky. And then there’s the tutorial and the hub area. It’s three, but there’s extra bits. And there’s also challenge maps. There are six challenge maps, which are all optional, extra game content.
And there’s verticality to them as well. So one of the magical things about Windlands is that because of the grappling hooks and swinging mechanics, the locality in VR is really cool as well. So rather than just being a flat 2×2 square, this is like a 2×2 cube. In part, the challenge of traversing the world is working out routes through the world using the locality as well.
OR: You mentioned challenge areas. What are these challenge areas?
JH: So as you progress through the game, you collect these power crystals, turn them back to the ‘hub’, and they unlock new areas and portals. And so some of those crystals unlock optional challenge maps – so there are six of those. There’s two per world, and each one of those challenge maps has a different use.
[There’s] what we call the ‘straight challenge’ maps. It’s got a start and an end, it’s a bit like a race and it’s timed. There are checkpoints along the routes, [so] if you make [a] mistake, you’ll return to the last checkpoint. And essentially it’s a race from start to finish and there are global leaderboards.
There’s a jungle-swinging challenge, and a city wall-jumping challenge. There’s a sky-swing challenge, and that’s one type of challenge. [Another] type of challenge is [that] there’s essentially a spot and you’ve got ten orbs to collect around the map. So rather than being linear [with a] start-finish, you’ve got to collect these orbs in any order you wish. They’re mostly visible from where you [stand]. The challenge there is that some of the orbs [are] high, some of them are low, left and right. The challenge is to work out the best route to get the orbs and get [to] the end. It adds a lot of gameplay.
What we found throughout the development cycle of Windlands is that once people completed the main storyline on easy/normal/hard a few times, there needed to be extra challenges in the world. And [these] timed challenges [were] a wonderful thing – it was meant for doing things faster and faster. So people really do like running ‘speed challenges’ on Windlands. We spent a lot of time embracing that. So that’s [for] second-timers and all the things you’d expect around [successive plays] that [are] built into the game. It’s so people can time themselves. And [for] end-game content also – each of the worlds has forty tablets scatted throughout the worlds. Some of them are in plain sight, just difficult to get to. Some of them are hidden, and some of them are challenging in themselves to get. And that adds extra challenge those that want to complete it and want to get Platinum trophies and trophies that lead up to that. So you can spend a long time in Windlands if you want.
OR: This game was originally an IndieGoGo crowdfunder by Ilja Kvikangas and Simo Sainio for the Oculus Rift.
JH: It was originally a DK1 Oculus Jam, and it was born out of that. They joined Psytec Games [Ltd.] about one-and-a-half years later. It was clear that Windlands was a hit. I was a great fan of Windlands. In fact, I backed it on IndieGoGo – I had a headset at the time, I was an early adopter of VR. And Ilja and I met at [a] Facebook event in London. And we got on really well. We chatted about the game. I was a really big fan of what he was doing. And [Psytec Games Ltd.] had gotten their first game well into production by then – a game called Crystal Rift. [Ilja] knew what we were doing, and so that conservation slowly turned into the realization that Windlands wasn’t quite where it could have been, and it could have been not quite the vision [they] wanted it to be, and it needed help. It needed financial help, but mostly resource and people [help]. And that was one thing that we had.
And so we so finished that first game, and were experimenting with ideas for a second game. And then along came a wonderful opportunity to really join forces with Windlands. So to cut a long story short, Psytec Games [Ltd.] bought the IP for Windlands, and brought Ilja and Simo on board. And that’s been a match made in heaven, really. We’ve been working together towards the final product and up until the release of the PlayStation VR [title] on Tuesday, we’ve managed to do incredible things with the Windlands IP. And it’s testament to those guys and their hard work and their effort we’ve put into it. But it’s sort of win-win for everybody, really. We’ve been working on a dream project. I loved Windlands and I wanted to work on it. And Ilja and Simo realized that their dream of bringing it to multiple platforms and launching it. So it’s been great.
Did you pick up Windlands for the PlayStation VR? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!
Crystal RiftJon HibbinsOculus RiftPlayStation 4playstation vrPsytech GamesViveWindlands