Putting a virtual reality headset on is intentionally isolating, separating you from the real world to immerse you in an artificial one. That makes most VR games a solitary experience, from exploring fantasy worlds to driving race cars. Ubisoft’s first moves into VR turns this notion on its head with a trio of games designed to be social.
“At Ubisoft, VR is about more than just technology, it’s about creating games that just weren’t possible before and exploring new worlds with friends, without ever having to leave your living room,” said David Votypka, Sr. Creative Director at Ubisoft’s Red Storm Entertainment, during the company’s E3 press conference earlier this month.
With those words, he unveiled Star Trek: Bridge Crew. A virtual reality game where four players have to take on the roles of various members of a starship and succeed in a variety of missions: the pilot, engineer, tactical, and of course, the Captain. Everyone is on a virtual bridge like those from hundreds of Star Trek episodes. They can clearly see what everyone else is doing — where they are looking, what buttons or controls they are manipulating, and whether they are getting the job done.
And since the major virtual reality headsets (PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and the Vive) all have microphones built in, you can hear each other. And this is where the social aspect really comes in, with everyone performing their duties and relaying their progress so the others on the bridge can continue with their crucial tasks. When Klingons attack, this back and forth can’t help be anything but intense. You are all in it together, living or dying by your cooperation.
Another multiplayer game that Ubisoft is making is called Eagle Flight, a multiplayer action game where up to six people, split into two teams of three, take on the role of eagles flying above a Paris of the future where man has disappeared and nature has reclaimed the city. It is both beautiful and eerie.
The game winds up being similar to a sport, not unlike capture the flag. The teams race to claim the body of a rabbit and fly it back to the nest. The birds swoop and whirl, trying to down each other with projectile-like screams, using wind currents for extra speed, flying around buildings, racing to get to the prey first, or to shoot down the one with the rabbit and claim it for yourself.
Like a sport, team coordination becomes key. Should one eagle take the lead and the other two flank as wingmen? Should they split up and each go for individual members of the other team? Discussing and implementing these strategies can make the difference in such a fast-paced game. And then there is the usual camaraderie and trash talk with the other team, as each side scores or fails.
A third VR game Ubisoft unveiled back in March, is called Werewolves Within. It is the company’s virtual version of the party game Werewolf, sometimes played as Mafia.
A group of five to eight players get together and take on the roles of villagers. But secretly, a few of them are werewolves and can kill a villager each night. But during the day, the entire group discusses what happened and chooses one person to hang on suspicion of being a Werewolf. It is a game of deception and convincing others who the guilty party is.
Werewolves Within is taking that discussion mechanic and supporting it as much as possible in virtual reality, utilizing players’ voices, head movements, and gestures. Characters can monologue to the whole group, or whisper to those sitting next to them. The game even analyzes your vocal inflection and gives your character animation like being calm, angry, or so on.
“VR is proving to be an amazing platform for social interaction, moving toward truly feeling like you are there with other people,” said Votypka, in a press release. “Werewolves Within gives players a taste of how VR can generate strong social connections, allowing you to get together to have a great time with others no matter how near or far they are.”
All three of these games from Ubisoft are scheduled to be released in the Fall, around the time when PlayStation VR launches (October 13) and the Oculus Touch motion controllers should be coming out for the Oculus Rift. So in just a few months we all can tear apart villagers or simply soar through the air, having virtual interactions with others in a shared world.
Which virtual reality game from Ubisoft do you want to play most? Or is there another social experience you want to see on VR? Leave your comments below.
Image Credit: Ubisoft