In this issue of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we take a closer look into Wanderer. A game that allows us to experience time travel where you try and solve the mystery of the man as you travel through time to historical movements in our history coming to PlayStation VR.
Interview with the Executive Producer and one of the Co-founders at Wanderer, Sam Ramlu
Welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Oddboy/M-Theory?
“Hi! I’m Sam Ramlu and I’m the Executive Producer and one of the Co-founders at Wanderer.”
Growing up what were some of your favorite games you played and what was that one VR game or experience that really sparked that curiosity and made you really want to work with Virtual Reality?
“Personally I loved adventure games from the 90s – Monkey Island, Gabriel Knight, Day of the Tentacle, etc – lots of point and click puzzle adventures. I know the other founders also loved similar adventure games, sometimes more action-oriented games such as Assassin’s Creed and more modern adventure games like What Remains of Edith Finch.
To be really honest, we were working with VR from the first Oculus dev kit so for us it was the lack of content that really spurred us to create something of our own. We created some amazing and unique content for clients and through this, we could see the potential VR had to really immerse an audience. We knew from the outset this would be an exciting and rewarding medium.”
Your newest game involves time travel, called Wanderer. What can you tell us about it and the inspiration for the game?
“We’re all big fans of time travel series and movies and adventure games that include historical elements so there was a long list of amazing content we drew inspiration from. Quantum Leap and Dark are firm favorite tv series, Back to the Future, Looper, and Interstellar gave us a lot of great food for thought and Dark Matter (a wonderful book by Blake Crouch) created great pace and tension.
The game itself is, obviously, focused on time travel. You play as Asher, which is revealed quite early in the game so that’s not a spoiler! You start in an apocalyptic world and soon discover a mysterious apartment where you find and befriend a wristwatch that is integral to your journey. Together you try and solve the mystery of the man on the tape (yep, tape!). This involves finding artifacts and using these to transport yourself through time to historical moments in our history. Slowly you start to put the clues together and find some answers.
Can you give us some of the backstory about the main character, Asher Neumann, and the mysterious watch?
“Asher Newmann finds himself in an alternate, apocalyptic timeline where the search begins for his grandfather’s lost apartment and the mysterious artifacts that are hidden within.
His trusted companion through the game is Samuel the watch. As well as being an integral part of the journey, Samuel is useful in more ways than one, such as upgrading his watch strap using items Asher finds in his adventures. Samuel is found in Asher Newmann’s Grandfather’s long-lost apartment. You can check out one of our special reveal videos that shows you more about Samuel.”
What can you tell us about the controls for the game?
“We worked through a variety of control mechanics in testing and developed and tweaked ours over time. While we were working on the game other VR games came out and we could see we were going in the right direction. From day one our focus was to make it as easy and intuitive as possible so players of all levels would be able to understand and pick up the controls. So, if you’ve played a modern VR game it’s very likely you’ll feel familiar with the controls for Wanderer.”
Now there does seem to be some puzzle solving that needs to be completed. What can you tell us about these puzzles and hands-on action sequences that are part of the game?
“We really wanted to use VR mechanics to our full advantage. Unlike a regular puzzle game, VR allows the player to tackle these challenges in a more immersive way. An example of our puzzles using this would have to be a puzzle you might have spotted in one of our earlier trailers. You find yourself visiting Tikal (an ancient Mayan city) where the entry to an area requires the correct combination of 3 symbols, but the answer is covered in dirt. Traveling back in time to grab the right items allows you to physically wipe the dirt off using these items together, as you would in real life. This then reveals the correct symbols which will help you solve the puzzle.
The gameplay requires you to really get involved with the timeline you are traveling to. You might find yourself challenging a 60s hippy to a game of darts or maybe shooting some bottles with a toy gun! Moving on from puzzles and challenges, as you explore you will find needing to be very hands-on. Whether it’s using a pulley to elevate yourself to a new area, or breaking a few windows – there’s no lack of seemingly tactile interactions throughout the whole game.”
I really do love the aspect of time travel. Without giving away too much, can you tell us about some of the time periods we may get to see?
“You’ll find yourself visiting a variety of timelines such as 1906, alongside Nikola Tesla at Wardenclyffe Tower and you’ll even go as far as 1525, in Tikal. The moon features, as does a 60s rock concert.”
From some of the pics, it looks like we get to see some of the machinery of Nikola Tesla, and also it looks like being on the moon. Do we actually get to interact with famous people from history?
“Yes! One of the most important aspects of Wanderer is getting to interact with historical figures. We felt this was vital to really immerse the player in these memorable moments in time.”
I have to ask, there is a pic of what appears you drumming at a concert which just looks awesome? Can you elaborate more on this?
“It’s certainly one of our most loved moments in the game. Getting to perform on stage in Bethel, New York: 1969, is not something you do every day. Whether people are eager to play during the important event, or just simply smash a few drums, we’re excited to see what people will do.”
I am getting the Quantum Leap vibes here. It just seems with the subject of time travel, there are just so many places to go and people to meet throughout time to either try and help or try to discourage from creating some of the historical events of the past. Are you really planning a three-part series for Wanderer? Could there be even more ideas planned beyond what is already in the works?
“Yes, we do have plans to make this a 3 part series. Some people were afraid this meant the first release of Wanderer would not be a full-length game, but we can guarantee this is not the case. We’ve already packed a large variety of timelines to see in Wanderer, but if we get the chance to continue the series we have many plans for future timelines to explore.”
I can only imagine when dealing with different time periods that sound would be very important to make sure they are distinguished for those periods. What can you tell us about getting the right sounds as close as possible for periods like the 1500s for example? Were there any sounds that you found more challenging to capture than what you were expecting?
“We have to give props to our awesome audio artist, James Dean. He was behind all of the sounds and music for Wanderer. His words were “Research! To get some authenticity you need to research. Publication, articles, and documentaries are a great source. Even other games are great. But often when an era predates audio recording, you have to use whatever information is available and fill in the gaps. But I don’t think the ‘right sound’ is always the most realistic, or true to life. We’re telling stories. We’re not just showing the what, but also the why. Putting emotion and meaning into the sounds (and art!) I mean we’re time traveling! No realistic reference there!” Regardless of the reference, James’ work really enhances the immersion factor.”
From the pics and trailer, the graphics of Wanderer look fantastic. How much research went to make sure the different time periods look as authentic as possible and what has the feedback been with the immersion aspect of it all?
“We spent a lot of time on pre-production. Every asset, environment, script, or character we created had a trail of reference images, wiki pages, and research behind it. We tried to make destinations as accurate as possible. Of course, there are places with adjustments to enhance the gameplay experience and overall story, as it is a fictional game after all.”
Wanderer is coming out for PlayStation VR, Oculus, and Steam on soon. When developing the game for multiple platforms, what did you find to be the most surprising and the most challenging about the process?
“Our biggest challenge was balancing performance for all platforms. We want to provide a clean experience for all players, but some platforms require us to pull back on factors such as graphics to allow a smooth performance overall. We’re confident all platforms will still be able to provide an enjoyable experience, but it’s certainly a challenge we faced.”
If you found a door to The VR Dimension with the one caveat that you will never be able to return, where would you go, who would you be, what would you be doing, and what time period would it be in?
“This is a hard one and actually something that Wanderer will definitely make you think about. Do you go back, knowing what you know, and try and change the course of history or simply go back to witness a big event with no intervention in mind? Personally, I couldn’t help but go back to prevent some of what plagues us to this day – the issue of race and gender. Pretty serious stuff but if I could have had a hand in advancing either of those issues it would definitely have been an achievement. Or I could do a complete about-turn and visit a time when fairies were thought to be real or when dinosaurs roamed the earth – how amazing would it be to see that with your own eyes.”
With the library of VR content continuing to increase, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Wanderer?
“Right from the outset, we wanted to create an experience that took full advantage of VR’s immersive nature, where the player felt integral to the story and their actions had immediate consequences through intriguing and challenging puzzles. We believe we’ve created a game that will entice both VR enthusiasts and gamers. Wanderer is an adventure game with VR as the medium we deliver it through, so it takes the best of both of those elements to create an intriguing and exciting story for you to discover.
Simply put, we believe you’ll love playing the game!”
I really want to thank Sam for taking time out of their day and schedule to give us a closer look into Wanderer as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
To learn more about Oddboy, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter. To learn more about M-Theory, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. To learn more about Perp Games, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.