A duo of developers working on their weekends and evenings building a co-operative shooter game over the last few years took me through a demo to show off some interesting locomotion ideas and gameplay mechanics.
Tentatively named Sector Security, the title is built in a style that should make it Oculus Quest-friendly upon completion. Developers Andre Infante and Ezra Stallings teased the game in an early gameplay video using temporary art with the text “coming when it’s ready”. Put another way, this game won’t be finished until 2022 or 2023 because there’s still a lot of work to be done to turn what I saw into a fully-fledged title. They’ve been working to build out the core mechanics that will drive it, and the current state of those systems brought to mind an early run-through of what would become Boneworks from Stress Level Zero. This isn’t a physics playground, to be clear, but it’s clearly a Half-Life-inspired shooter and comes with remarkable freedom of movement plus the addition of drop-in co-op.
The key part of their design is that the controller sticks are only used for snap turning. You move by grabbing the world and dragging or throwing yourself around it. So you can jump, climb, and move swiftly across levels with a grip-based movement system that’s somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in Gorilla Tag and Lone Echo, but the devs here tuned for a traditional shooter so it is more satisfying to navigate across flat surfaces.
“The design goal was to provide something that was more comfortable than stick motion while also giving the player more freedom. It’s frustrating to be blocked by obstacles you could easily overcome in real life – especially in VR, so we wanted your movement capabilities in the game to be fully a superset of your real world movement capabilities,” Infante wrote in a direct message. “You can climb on anything, you can hide under anything. You can run faster than any sprinter, jump like a stimulant-addled bullfrog, and squeeze through any space larger than your head. There’s a learning curve to it, but that kind of player freedom lets you do some really interesting things with gameplay and level design that just aren’t possible with stick movement.”
The developers are hoping to release on both SteamVR and Quest 2 after rounds of testing with community. What I saw was still pretty early, but after 30 minutes of play time I was getting accustomed to the controls and running around levels with ease while using cover strategically. The developers are aware their solution isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone, but there’s an interesting trade-off here I’m curious to see explored with larger numbers of players accessing the software. There’s a chance some players may notice sweat on their brow, or tiredness in their arms grabbing at the environment, before discomfort from vestibular mismatch sets in, and I’m curious to see if that staves off simulator sickness in some people or not.
“Right now, everything other than zero-vection teleportation is inherently a compromise when it comes to comfort,” Infante wrote. “We’re trying to strike a better compromise than stick motion, but are aware that some people won’t be able to enjoy it, which is why we’re committing to providing a free demo so people can find out that out before they pay for the full game.”
Cactus Sparko has a Twitter page up and running and you can check there for more information about the title and eventually opportunities to beta test the product. Dante Infante, Andre’s brother, is a character artist for the project and Louis Leroy did environmental concept art.