Every gamer is familiar with the battle royale genre by now. Love it or hate it, there is no doubt the genre has made a big splash. And now, it is expanding into the domain of virtual reality. Big Box VR has just showcased their new game, Population: One, a battle royale, first-person shooter in VR with 24 players. The game is similar to other battle royale titles, but this time you are experiencing it like you've never experienced the popular genre before. We got the scoop on Population: One at CES 2019, where the developers allowed us to go hands-on with the game.
A single match lasts for about 7-10 minutes, preventing VR fatigue in a world where you can climb any object. This makes traversal unique in that getting on top of a building doesn't require walking up stairs, something which would be rather awkward and laborious in VR. Plus, to make getting off of buildings easier, the game allows you to open up your wings and fly down. And much like Fortnite, which made ‘battle royale’ a household phrase, Population: One offers unique building mechanics that can be used strategically for traversal and besting opponents.
So, how does one pull off such complex mechanics in a VR game? According to Gabe Brown, CTO of Big Box VR, they came up with a system called Free Motion. They researched how motion is best accomplished in a VR space. This may include a vignette around your periphery as you move. It may also include how to make flying more intuitive. Doing this allows players new to VR to jump into the platform with ease, which plays into one of their core focuses: to make the VR experience accessible.
Battle royale games, though popular, take some getting used to. Learning the mechanics and aiming system specific to a given battle royale game can be a daunting task. Learning how to build, how to traverse, how to form strategies utilizing the mechanics of the given game are hurdles new players need to jump over before the game really starts to click. Making the game in VR is an extra obstacle for many gamers, because intuitions about how to maneuver through a virtual space have not been cemented in the gaming community yet. At Big Box, they hope to establish an accessible system that allows new players to hop in and enjoy themselves with few hang-ups.
Population: One is available as a private beta on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows MR Headsets. However, Brown says that their goal is to eventually bring the game to all virtual reality headsets. You can sign up for the private beta and learn more about the game on the official Population: One website.