It’s been over a year since IRIS VR Inc. first introduced us to LOW-FI via Kickstarter and we’ve been excited ever since. Having previously released a separate cyberpunk project for VR, Technolust, IRIS now aims to bring us an open-world sandbox game to VR, giving players full creative freedom.
Playing a police officer assigned to city-block 303, this new cyberpunk game promises open-ended choices, allowing you to “Patrol the streets and the skies, solving mysteries, fighting crime, or giving in to corruption and your own desires”. Promising a non-linear structure, this world is free to explore as you wish, choosing which crimes you wish to investigate and multiple ways to resolve them.
LOW-FI Cyberpunk VR Adventure
It smashed that initial Kickstarter target to reach over $81k in funding and hit several stretch goals, such as an additional “wastelands” area with a larger action focus and your own cyber-wolf companion. These goals also included the promise of a “Next-Gen PSVR” port, notably becoming the PlayStation 5’s first confirmed VR Game.
We got a fresh look at it as part of our UploadVR Summer VR Showcase 2020, but recent news that the PS5 won’t support existing PSVR headsets (outside backwards compatibility) has led to much debate about VR’s future on Sony’s next-gen console.
With Jim Ryan ruling out new VR announcements in the near term, we reached out to Blair Renaud at IRIS to discuss the implications this has on LOW-FI’s announced PS5 edition, also taking the opportunity to discuss just what we can expect from its gameplay.
— Blair Renaud // LOW-FI 🟥🟧⬛ (@Anticleric) September 24, 2020
Henry Stockdale, UploadVR: Firstly, thank you for joining me here Blair. For any readers unfamiliar with LOW-FI and it’s development, could you please introduce yourselves?
Blair Renaud: Hey, I’m Blair Renaud. CEO and director of IRIS VR INC. Grumpy old game dev. Probably best known for LOW-Fi and Technolust (Oculus Rift Launch title). I’ve been in the game industry for about 25 years now.
UploadVR: You’ve described LOW-FI as a huge open-world game, bringing us a sandbox style adventure with action elements. What inspired yourselves to create such an ambitious project?
Renaud: VR is one of the greatest artistic tools humanity has devised. We have the ability to transport the user into a new world of our creation. I’m a huge fan of 1980’s cinematic classics like Blade Runner, Robocop and Total Recall. So it’s natural for me to want to build similar worlds. If I had a holodeck, this is the type of program I would want to enjoy.
UploadVR: Considering the setting, LOW-FI has often compared to a VR version of Cyberpunk 2077, something you’ve also done via Twitter. In terms of gameplay though, would you say there’s much common ground between the two?
Renaud: No not really. I mean, I havent played CP2077, so I can’t really say how similar it is. Did I compare it? Maybe just to say I have flying cars and they don’t? haha. I really don’t think it will be very similar at all outside of the general genre of cyberpunk. LOW-FI will have optional gunplay, whereas it seems to be the focus of CP2077. We have no fail states. What I’m trying to create is more of an open world for a player to do whatever they feel like doing, whereas CP2077 seems to be a bit more scripted and (dare I say) linear. Though we will have multiple story-lines for the player to follow, I like to think that we’re doing something a bit different with LOW-FI.
UploadVR: Within the game, we’re playing a police officer that’s been assigned to a crime-ridden section of city-block 303. What sort of characters can we expect to meet along this journey?
Renaud: Most of the human inhabitants of the world are permanently jacked into The Platform, a sort of Facebook metaverse. The only people left are the other “low-fi”, who for one reason or another can’t or won’t subject themselves to it. Some have medical reasons, others ideological. We’ve got all types though. Corporate execs, Ugly Bob the pawnshop owner and his robot companion Penny, a mechanic who deals in illicit firmware, a cybernetics dealer named Juan who’s trying to steal advanced tech from the AI who reached an intelligence singularity and many more. On top of that there are a ton of robots of various types left behind by the singularity.
UploadVR: You’ve described it as a non-linear experience with a branching narrative, so I’d like to ask about story progression. Is that dependent on what crimes you investigate, or is there set criteria to meet before players can advance?
Renaud: That’s something I want to leave completely up to the player. For example; right off the bat, you’re told about the officer you’re replacing, who is dead in the morgue. If you want to investigate that, you’re free to do so. Clues and twists await. Or, if you want to just go to the casino and pay the slots in hopes of buying a cool arcade machine for your apartment with your winnings, you can do that too. I really want to leave it all open ended. As I said. No “save the world” stuff.
UploadVR: A morality system is also featured, giving players creative freedom in how they solve crimes, from simple arrests to accepting bribes. Does that factor into the branching paths, or are there other consequences to your actions?
Renaud: There isn’t really a morality system per se. There are however a lot of morally grey options for the player to explore. They have consequences in the same way they would in the real world. If for example, you accept a bribe, that’s on you. You’re really the only law in town, so you’ll probably get away with it. What consequence letting someone get away with a crime might have really depends on the crime though. I want those feelings to be on the player. I’m not here to tell you what I think you should do in any given situation. There’s no score system, outside of maybe money. A lot like life.
UploadVR: Does gunplay factor into that too? It’s been mentioned as an optional feature previously, so it sounds like you can solve crimes without resorting to weapons.
Renaud: Gunplay is completely optional and will be limited to use against AI. I feel like if someone want’s to play shooty-man VR, they have plenty of outlets for that. That’s said, there will be full quest-lines involving hunting down rogue androids if they player chooses to pursue them. They pay well, but I can’t guarantee some of the androids wont try to tug at your heart strings.
UploadVR: LOW-FI garnered attention as PS5’s first VR game but right now, a new PSVR headset is unconfirmed and existing headsets can only be used via backwards compatibility, Hitman 3 and No Man’s Sky being prominent examples. Jim Ryan seems to have ruled out a successor being released before 2022, so where does that leave LOW-FI’s PS5 edition?
Renaud: I can’t speak to anything about a possible PSVR 2 outside of saying that if/when it becomes available, we fully intend to port LOW-FI to it. In the meantime, we are a registered Sony developer, and are also working on a non-VR version of the game.
UploadVR: You’ve ruled out a PS4 version previously, but previous comments suggest that was more about the PS Move controllers than the console itself. Was this truly an insurmountable hurdle?
Renaud: Though the PS Move controllers are a terrible fit for the game, that’s not the only reason. PS4 is very last-gen at this point. LOW-FI is a next-gen VR title.
UploadVR: During the Kickstarter campaign, “Next-Gen PSVR” was mentioned and PS5 support was a Kickstarter stretch goal. Has Sony given you any indication to their future plans?
Renaud: Yes, but I can’t speak to them. Nor am I sure that they haven’t changed. Recent announcements indicate that they may have.
UploadVR: Your last Kickstarter campaign update confirmed a pitch had been sent to Oculus, regarding a LOW-FI spin-off called Agency for Quest. Has there been any further developments on this?
Renaud: Yes! It’s been approved! It still needs funding to justify taking people away from LOW-FI though. Fingers crossed for us!
UploadVR: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share with LOW-FI’s fans?
Renaud: I want to thank all the current backers for their support of course! They have made my dreams come true! I’m a holodeck programmer! And if anyone want’s to help support next-gen VR and get in on the action they can purchase LOW-FI at https://anticleric.itch.io/low-fi and get immediate access to the development build which we update all the time. Then, when the game is released, they’ll be able to choose what platform they get a key for (Steam, Oculus, ect.).
Fore more on Low-Fi, be sure to check out our coverage hub and let us know what you think down in the comments below!