We’ve seen a number of different narratives that virtual reality games are attempting to introduce. Mysteries, murder mysteries, horror titles and dungeon crawlers have already been seen and there are many more to come over the rest of 2016. That being said, we haven’t quite seen a game like Frima Studio’s Fated, a Viking adventure which focuses on a man protecting his family in an age of chaos. The developer is looking to do different things with Fated with its first episode The Silent Oath now available on Steam.
GamingBolt spoke to executive producer Vincent Martel about the game, plans for the future and the decision to choose virtual reality as a medium for the story-telling.
"Being a father myself, I always wanted to explore kinship in a game. The protective instinct that comes with being a parent is the groundwork for FATED."
Of the many VR games we’ve seen, Fated seems like it’s taking the incorporation of VR with emotional story-telling to the next level. How did the concept for the game first come about?
The first horror game demo I tried on the DK1, two years ago, convinced me that virtual reality would change the way we tell stories and touch our audience. However, scaring people in VR is easy; too easy, even. We wanted to explore other, more complex emotions like happiness, compassion, and sadness.
Being a father myself, I always wanted to explore kinship in a game. The protective instinct that comes with being a parent is the groundwork for FATED. I wanted to explore if that kind of connection could exist between the player and a virtual character, and based on the feedback we’re getting, it can!
Lastly, I couldn’t talk about FATED’s conception without mentioning the work of our teammate Louis Patalano, who came up with the Norse setting and wrote the first version of the story.
Why opt for virtual reality as a medium for Fated‘s story? Why not go the traditional route of video game development?
Virtual reality allows players to live a story as if it were their own. Not as a spectator, but as an active member of the cast. That’s unique to this new medium; and we knew we had to craft a meaningful experience that explored storytelling in a 360-degree setting, and by doing so play a role in the birth of what could be the next great technological breakout.
The overall aesthetic employed is interesting, like Disney’s older animated films with its serious tones but family-friendly characters. What inspired the Viking setting and art-style of Fated?
The Viking setting first came up when we expressed a desire to put giants in the game. But once we started exploring Norse mythology, it became a constant source of inspiration. The game draws profusely from it, and while we tried to stay as true as possible, we also gave it our own spin.
The art style of FATED was the result of a series of tests we made during pre-production. We wanted to find what would work best in virtual reality. Our first thought was to go hyper-realistic, but we soon realized that a not only did a cartoony style look really good and help with the frame rate, but also made it a lot easier for players to connect emotionally with the characters.
"The quality of a game is too often evaluated by the minutes of gameplay you get per dollar invested. However, story-driven games like FATED require tons of resources per minute of gameplay."
What can you tell us about Fated‘s action sequences? We know about the demo on the cart and the quest to protect your family but what will players be doing in the game?
FATED is mainly about storytelling, so there’s a ton of dialogs and interactions with other characters. Exploration is also a big part of the experience. Of course, we have more “traditional” gameplay mechanics, like driving a cart, hunting with a bow, and solving puzzles, but if you’re not into storytelling and hate games like Gone Home or Firewatch, you probably won’t like FATED.
Fated follows an episodic approach with each episode lasting 1.5 to 2 hours. How many episodes are planned?
FATED: The Silent Oath is the first story arc of the franchise; it follows the life of Ulfer and his family. This first story arc will be a two-parter. After that, we want to explore other characters in the same universe, and tell their stories.
We’re especially intrigued about the episode length because of the pacing. How do you effectively pace an action adventure game like this while making room for the memorable sequences in such a short time span?
Each episode is roughly the length of a movie, so there’s plenty of time to develop the story and create a memorable journey. We also split the first episode into five acts; this allows us to move the story forward in time and change location without disorienting the player.
Is there any worry about the episodic approach, given the general mixed response to it and especially when other first person VR titles are delivering hours of play-time?
Yes, there were concerns. The quality of a game is too often evaluated by the minutes of gameplay you get per dollar invested. However, story-driven games like FATED require tons of resources per minute of gameplay. The number of animations, characters, voice-overs and unique environments is very high, and there are very few re-use opportunities. Expecting FATED to be a 40-hour-long experience would be like expecting a 40-hour-long movie.
"Actually, “Project Morpheus” has been part of FATED’s release schedule since day one. We’ve been working closely with Sony for many years now, and we’ve created products for pretty much all their new hardware."
Fated is also coming on the PlayStation VR. What are your thoughts on it when compared to Rift and Vive?
The game was created from the ground up with these three platforms in mind, so for FATED it’s all the same. As for which platform will perform best, it’s anybody’s guess; I’ll leave that to the analysts.
What is your take on Microsoft staying away from VR race in video games? Do you think they are doing a mistake by not jumping into the VR bandwagon?
I don’t know about Microsoft and VR, but we’re very excited about augmented reality and the HoloLens. Our innovation team is currently working with it, and it’s awesome!
Why did you select the PS4 and PSVR for Fated? Is it the rising success of the PS4 or is it Sony’s eagerness to bring as many games as possible to their platforms?
Actually, “Project Morpheus” has been part of FATED’s release schedule since day one. We’ve been working closely with Sony for many years now, and we’ve created products for pretty much all their new hardware. We’re very happy to be working with them again on FATED and PSVR.
Is there anything else you wanted to tell us before we let you go?
If anyone would like to know more about VR game development, we have a developer blog that we try to update as often as possible. There’s a bunch of great articles from the team in there that are definitely worth checking out.