The main selling point for any game that aims to be successful in the growing and profitable esports scene is its competitive nature. Can people play this game, over and over, for hours, days, weeks, and months on end — at the exclusion of all other games — and continue to improve and discover new strategies and wrinkles throughout that time? Will people be able to actually improve their skill, as players, to differentiate their rank in the game, rather than just upgrading stats and unlocking new items?
Those are important questions to ask and, luckily, it seems like the Insomniac game studio has thought of answers for its upcoming Oculus Touch launch title, The Unspoken [Review: 9/10]. Not only will the game come with all Touch preorders, but it also includes enough depth and competitive flair to be well worth the time investment. It’s also the third VR title from the veteran studio, following Edge of Nowhere [Review: 9/10] and Feral Rites [Review: 5/10].
Finding a competitive balance
“For us, developing The Unspoken started with making a really good and fun competitive game,” said Chad Dezern, the creative director of The Unspoken at Insomniac, during a phone interview. “Once we started getting into competitive matches at the office and realized the game needed to be about magic duels with a solid beginning, middle, and end, it really helped us find the core of the experience.”
No matter who you are, you’ve likely fantasized or thought about throwing fireballs at some point in your life. When you put on a VR headset and transport yourself to fantastical worlds of fiction, there’s no more appropriate time to indulge in the fantasies that come from the technology. But beyond the content and setting, the real magic (pun intended) comes when you face off against someone else inside the immersive environment.
“It really started clicking for us when we were able to make a very naturally competitive game,” said Dezern. “And once the mechanics were established, we were starting to realize what the habits of really high level players were. We started there — with competition — because that is the core of it, but we did’t specifically set out to make an eSport game, it wasn’t a game design goal.”
Which is a huge point to pay attention to. Esports isn’t a genre of video games. Even if you try your hardest, you can’t force your game to be accepted and promoted in the esports community. But instead, the smarter idea is to craft an inherently fun, well-designed, and balanced game and encourage the community to support and build it up over time.
And that’s what Insomniac is doing.
“We want to focus on making the individual player experience fun, more so than creating a team game,” said Dezern. “We made it a duel because we wanted to really focus on those dynamics.”