Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.

Like many other video game developers, Robot Invader co-founders Chris Pruett and Casey Richardson took a chance and made the jump from home consoles to mobile platforms in 2011.

Now the risk-taking duo is making another leap into virtual reality, the latest shiny new platform on the market. The result is Dead Secret, a new murder mystery game that integrates VR by allowing gamers the ability to play the role of a detective searching for answers that are at times literally written on the walls.

The idea behind Dead Secret, which came out for the Samsung Gear VR three days before Halloween, was obvious for Pruett and Richardson. Both of them are avid horror game fans.


GamesBeat Summit 2023

Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.

Register Here

Samsung smart phone owners with Galaxy Note, S6 and S6 edge models can slide their device into a Gear VR headset and download the game from the Oculus app store (not Samsung’s). And to help with motion sickness, which can strike some users of VR, Robot Invader added a controller-based rotation to prevent players from actually turning completely around to see what’s behind them.

Robot Invader is scheduled to release another VR version of Dead Secret for the Oculus Rift along, with PlayStation home console versions coming early in 2016. The PlayStation VR version is set to come out later next year.

Pruett has a horror video game design blog site, which he described as a research project in disguise. He said the 13-year-old site allowed him to understand what it took to design games focused around a specific emotion.

“I’m more interested in horror design and how the mechanics of horror games are built to cause you to feel something,” Pruett said.

Pruett said the horror genre was appealing because it, along with mystery and suspense, was designed for all types of gamers. Pruett estimated that nearly half of his blog readers were women.

When it came time to develop Dead Secret, it was important to Pruett that the game didn’t shut out horror fans who weren’t hardcore gamers. Robot Invader took apart the first version of Dead Secret and decided to go all-in with a virtual reality version late in 2014.

“[The genres] really reach a much wider audience than your average sort of Halo or Call of Duty,” Pruett said.

Yet, they still faced a dilemma: creating a game built for a true VR experience. Pruett said the most challenging part was reworking the user interface and how people were going to interact with things in the virtual world while also keeping the characters moving smoothly.

Robot Invader decided to get rid of the traditional head-up display, a method used to relay game information to the user like a health meter or the amount of ammunition in a weapon , along with text subtitles and icons that usually appear on screen.

Pruett said a pivotal moment during development was when they figured out how to take a character’s dialogue and stick it on surfaces throughout the world.

“That was kind of a requirement for VR, because we need that text to appear at the same focal depth that you were just looking at with your eyes,” Pruett said. “If we drop something in front of you that’s at a different depth your eyes flip out a little bit because that doesn’t normally happen.”

Monkeys are always creepy.

Above: Monkeys are always creepy.

Not everyone at Robot Invader liked the placement of dialogue scattered in the game. But Pruett said once the text was placed, it created a whole new art style related to how subtitles should be displayed in VR, including the appearance of main menu graphics.

Another challenge for Pruett was that there weren’t enough experienced VR game developers in the industry yet to help create Dead Secret.

He overcame the problem in part with the help of the thorough documentation from VR companies like Oculus. Pruett said the Robot Invader development team learned a lot about the basic principles of VR through them.

Pruett stressed that, even though he happens to be a horror fan, the central theme behind Dead Secret was still a mystery that can appeal to everyone.

“We’re very focused on atmosphere and keeping you feeling unsubtle,” Pruett said.

GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.