Introducing Orbus,the VR MMO

This is a followup to my previous post where I introduced a VR fantasy MMO that I had started working on, with a video showing my progress. If you missed it, check it out here

After tinkering for the past month or so with development on my HTC Vive, I've decided to put some serious development time (and cash) into developing Orbus.

Orbus will be the first MMO designed from the ground-up for VR. That means not just taking existing MMO and RPG genre mechanics and slapping them in a VR headset; rather, it means examining at a base level what sorts of interactions are fun and entertaining in a VR environment, and then building them into a game.

While I'll be using this blog to go into more detail as development gets under way, in general right now in general I'm planning on the game having 3 basic pillars:

Combat

A basic tenant of the world of Orbus is that parts of it will be dangerous, and that means you will need to fight. However, rather than simply porting over existing mechanics such a hotbar-based combat, Orbus combat will center around the drawing of runes using VR motion controllers. There will be mechanics that involve needing to move around the world to "dodge" attacks, mechanics for protecting yourself from heavy-handed bosses, and of course offensive spells as well. I'll dive into Combat more thoroughly in a future post.

Exploration

In addition to combat, I want Orbus to be a world that is fun to explore. One of the coolest parts of VR technology is the "wow" factor it gives you for exploring new places. When I first received my Vive I spent a lot of time just wandering around various VR environments and marveling at how awesome they looked. I want that to be a core focus of Orbus as well.

In addition to just gawking, though, exploration will have a purpose. You'll be able to solve puzzles, craft useful (and fun) items, and discover unseen places in the world that have nothing to do with fighting monsters.

Social

Finally, I want Orbus to be a social experience. That's more challenging than it might seem at first glance, sine relying on current MMO mechanics such as chat boxes and voice communications may prove awkward. Instead I'm looking to games such a Journey to allow expressive communication without the need to resort to text-based chat all the time.

Each of these three pillars will be equally fun to play, and my goal is to interweave them in such a way that most players will want to do them all. However, if you want to ignore the combat and just be social and explore, that will be a viable option as well.

Other Considerations

Beyond the actual gameplay mechanics, a few other things come to mind.

First off, the HTC Vive (which is the first system the game will be developed for, since it's the only headset out right now with motion controls) has an install base of around 50,000. If we figure that around 1,000 people end up playing the game to start off, that means we might have a concurrent population of around 100 folks. For a traditional MMO, this would be a problem. However, Orbus will be designed with a small population in mind. I'll share some more thoughts on what that means in the future, but in general it means a smaller world (big enough, but not so large that you feel it's empty), a single hub to gather in, and a single world server. Obviously as VR headsets gain traction, the Oculus touch controllers are launched, and more people hear about the game, the population will grow, and we'll be ready for that, too. But I think it will be best to assume at least initially that there will be a small, dedicated population to start.

In addition, VR gameplay is something that seems best-enjoyed in small chunks. So rather than plan on 4 or 5 hour gaming sessions as some MMOs do, Orbus will be designed so that you can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes or an hour. You can certainly play longer than that, but it will be in a horizontal rather than vertical way (e.g. you might be really good at fishing, crafting, and combat, whereas someone with less time might only be good at one of those things).

Finally, the development team for this game will need to be kept rather lean (since, again, a small player population can't support a huge development team). So the game will be designed in such a way that it can be launched and built onto month-by-month, as opposed to waiting 3 years until we have an immense amount of content ready to go.

Subscribe to the blog below by entering your email address if you want to keep up on development. We're a long way out from a finished game, but my hope is to get an alpha out the door in the next few months. You can also follow development on Twitter here for more frequent updates: https://twitter.com/OrbusVR

Riley Dutton

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