Developer interview: Wanderer (VR)

The release of PSVR 2 is still quite a while away, but there are plenty of exciting VR titles scheduled for release before then. One that’s coming out soon is Wanderer, a multiplatform time travel adventure that’s coming to both PSVR and PC-based headsets. We spoke to Sam Ramlu, who shared some of her insights on the game’s development ahead of the release – later this month.

The development team behind Wanderer is based in New Zealand – unfamiliar territory for many. What is the game development scene like over there?

New Zealand is definitely playing under the radar but we have some stellar studios here creating world class games across a variety of platforms. The studios are all generally very collaborative with each other and it’s very much a community rather than a competitive environment. We’re all buoyed by each other’s successes which is quite nice.

Oddboy and M Theory are co-developing the game – what are some of the unique skills and talents that each team is bringing to Wanderer?

While we’re fairly new as a joint venture studio, the directors have been working the immersive space for a number of years separately and together. So we bring great experience across business management, creative, tech, dev and art skills. We also had existing team members that moved to Wanderer from our respective teams so were lucky to have a core, ready-made team that had been specialising in XR for a few years. Having done a few local client projects and a couple of smaller scale games gave us a good grounding to get into a triple A style VR title.

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Time travel is a familiar theme in pop culture – what have been some of the sources of inspiration for the game?

The TV shows “Quantum Leap” and “Dark” would have to be our biggest inspirations along with Back to the Future, the book Dark Matter and other great stories, films and series have all helped shape Wanderer to where it is now.

How did the core gameplay concept for Wanderer first come about?

Initially we had envisaged a museum type setting. The idea was that the player delved into old photos, paintings and exhibits to explore history. After further discussion, research and development we thought linking our time travel mechanic to historical items would work more intuitively. Original development had the player picking up an item and it would immediately transport them to that timeline. Dropping the item would take the player back ‘home’ instantly as well. This became quite demanding in terms of game performance so we adjusted to the mechanic we have now. It actually works even better as it now creates a heightened sense of drama and anticipation while at the same time the game manages the task of loading the next scene in the background.

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Wanderer certainly feels like a large scope project for a VR title – how do you manage it with a relatively small team?

It comes down to collaboration and experience. Without clear communication between us all, we would not have gotten as far as we have. It’s important to state when we need help and work together to problem-solve any issues. Our experience in running a studio managing client projects, often to tight deadlines and budgets, has really helped us keep disciplined.

Wanderer is being developed for multiple VR platforms at once – what are some of the system-specific challenges the team has to tackle?

One common issue is balancing performance for all platforms. We want to provide a clean experience for all players, but some platforms require us to pull back on factors such as graphics to allow a smooth performance overall. We’re confident all platforms will provide an enjoyable experience, but it’s certainly a challenge we faced.

What should players expect in terms of the length of a playthrough in Wanderer?

Of course it really depends on how you play but we think anywhere from 8-12 hours for new players. Some of us are much more explorative when we play so can while away quite a bit of time in the game just looking around. The team have built a beautiful world that allows for such exploration.

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