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Unknightly - VR Stealth Game

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A coworker who bought and VR headset brought this to my attention since he knows I'm a Thief fan.

 

The guy playing it in the video is a bit annoying, but it looks pretty good overall.

 

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Exaggerated "Thief: Deadly Shadows" color and lighting aesthetics? No no no!

 

Otherwise, pretty cool that this is being worked on.


Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:

 

http://www.indiedb.com/mods/the-dark-mod

 

(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

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obviously player height is in centimetres.

 

you expect them to animate the oversized key to turn in the padlock, although the padlock looks like its on the wrong side, it wouldn't be in the jail cell. Plus you wouldn't expect the dumb guard to stand against the bars with the key on show to the prisoner.

Edited by stumpy

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Hey guys, I'm actually helping consult for the gameplay on this game so if you have any feedback I wouldn't mind hearing it.

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I like to record difficult stealth games, and right now you wonderful people are the only ones delivering on that front.

Click here for the crappy channel where that happens.

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I hate to be that guy but seeing all these vr videos makes me really jealous

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I quickly muted the personality guy but I've seen other videos of the game anyways.

 

I've been meaning to try this game. A proper Thief game in VR sounds incredible to me--I can't wait for TDM to get even basic support. However in the case of this the overexaggerated gold lighting and blue shadows have just really put me off (in addition to the "washed out" look / high ambient light in darker sections). But it's about time I've given it a whirl so I will post back with impressions soon.

Edited by woah

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I hate to be that guy but seeing all these vr videos makes me really jealous

If it makes you feel any better I literally cannot play the game myself, I have someone acting as "surrogate player" for testing purposes.

 

Look forward to it when I can, though.


I like to record difficult stealth games, and right now you wonderful people are the only ones delivering on that front.

Click here for the crappy channel where that happens.

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I hate to be that guy but seeing all these vr videos makes me really jealous

 

 

Same here. :D

 

Gonna wait until VR headsets are really decent though. And decent also in pricing. The Lenovo Explorer was sold for 149 € recently, and the Oculus Rift is also being sold very cheap at the moment on Amazon.

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Played this a while back on an Oculus Rift but didn't end up doing a write up until now so my impressions may be a bit out of date. I can't really say much about the game on its own merits because, well, there isn't too much there and I can't really tell if there's an actual story. It feels more like "Thief VR tech demo" or proof of concept--at least at this point. Of course it is early access so this is not entirely unusual and I wasn't really expecting much more than that anyways. I've described things somewhat thoroughly below because I know many of you don't have a VR system.

So to start with you're kind of just given a basic tutorial and then dropped into the first of two "dungeon" themed levels (basically just lots of stone hallways). Here are the basic mechanics: You have a bow with 3 types of arrows (combat, water, and noise arrows) and a "wrist dagger" that lets you execute enemies by stabbing them in the back of the head (but no bludgeon). With respect to visibility and sound, a yellow or blue icon will show up at the bottom of your vision when you are visible or when you are making making noise, respectively. You use the joystick on one of the motion controllers to move (they also have "run in place" locomotion but that's not my idea of a good time) and you stand/crouch by doing so in real life, which affects your movement speed and how visible/noisy you are. You can even go fully prone (on your actual floor) and crawl under a bed if you want. (there is an option to toggle crouching via a button as well) You can climb most types of walls or objects (e.g. crates), which is indicated by your hands turning blue and your motion controllers vibrating when your hands come into contact with the wall. To climb you just hold in the grip buttons on the controller at any point on the wall and then pull yourself up the wall one hand at a time (your body translates relative to the grip point)--standard "Climbey" climb mechanics. You will tire (as indicated by heavy breathing) and fall if you're in a climbing state for too long.

Your bow is over your left shoulder and you can see each type of arrow in your possession above your head--you just reach up and grab the bow with one hand (don't necessarily have to look as it's in its natural position) and the desired type of arrow with the other hand, insert the arrow into the bow, draw the bow back, and then aim and release (as you would expect with the motion controllers). The "feel" of the bow and the arrow physics aren't bad but they're also not great (vs e.g. In Death, which feels incredible). Enemy armor plays a role in the effectiveness of arrows but I didn't really test this because combat in Thief games isn't of much interest to me--unless perhaps if it has fully modeled melee combat physics like Blade & Sorcery. On your waist you have a loot pouch which you release loot objects over to collect them (it's nothing fancy, the loot just disappears over the pouch), a book which when grabbed opens to show the menu options and notes you've found throughout the level (it's pretty nifty actually, you have to manually turn the pages), and keys you've found throughout the level. The keys aren't very stylized--they're just solid colored (red and blue) and work with locks that are of the same blatant solid color throughout the level.

The actual gameplay is plain vanilla Thief--you have to track enemy patrols and time movements between shadowed areas accordingly. Enemies will search for you if they hear you or see you (it's pretty forgiving). You extinguish lights with water arrows (or candles with your actual hands). The positional audio and sound model is sufficient but nothing spectacular for VR standards--it's functional but doesn't elicit much "presence". The visibility system seems to be a combination of standard Thief visibility areas and dynamic lighting (e.g. there is occlusion from objects), but I don't think it's nearly as intricate as TDM's system. Whether or not I would be visible was mostly quite predictable--maybe too predictable. Enemy AI is pretty basic. For example they will respond to and temporarily move to the source of a sound (e.g. if you throw something) but won't notice light sources being extinguished (even if right in front of them) or objects being moved in an area. There are no real door mechanics whatsoever.


So yeah, most of the fundamentals are there in the form of rudimentary VR counterparts but nothing really moves Thief gameplay standards forward or really takes advantage of VR in a big way. However it's not like I was actually expecting them to--I would actually be completely fine with a vanilla Thief in VR. But one of my two main "criticisms" of the game is that there is nothing about the story, level design, or atmosphere that draws me in. It kind of just feels like a test of mechanics at this point--hence the whole "tech demo" thing. There is still another level in the game that I haven't completed (and another one that they haven't released yet) but I feel no real urgency to play it, at least not much more than I'd want to play a generic dungeon level in a flat Thief game. However, also consider that these are indie devs and they may still be focused on locking down fundamental mechanics at this point. Likewise, if this is a project that they actually expect to pay the bills with, I can't really have high expectations anyways--this is a niche within a niche and the game didn't cost a whole lot. If you were to, say, drop me into Thief 2 with these mechanics I would be delighted.

Regardless, the other major complaint I have with the game is the lighting model. There is no "black" in this game. The darkest that things get is a washed out dark blue that the player can see through plain as day. The lights are all golden yellow. There are times when you're hiding (...in a blue spot...), confident that you are hidden and then you realize how silly it all is--everything is plainy visible. I'm not really sure why they did this but I'm guessing it has something to do with worries about mura in the OLED displays of some of these first generation VR headsets (especially the vive). On the other hand, Onward (a hardcore VR infantry sim--one of my favorite games in general) has levels with areas so black that at times it actually feels like more of a Thief game than this one--you can pick a dark corner and practically disappear. But I suppose that's different from long stretches of hallway that are pure black.

I can't really say that I regret playing it though because the main thing I was looking to get out of this was basically to see the fundamentals of a Thief experience in VR. The first thing you notice is of course the immersion that VR adds and this is especially well suited to a Thief game. Although I said the level design itself wasn't anything spectacular, the graphics are from a technical standpoint not bad, and there are moments when the perspective you have of the scene in front of you gives you a glimpse into the sort of immersion VR can offer a Thief game. With a captivating story, level design, ambient music, and atmosphere the effect would be incredible.

The other main thing I can say is just how natural the slow, methodical gameplay of Thief fits with VR. In VR it's really offputting to constantly zip around and speed through things--even setting aside the simulator sickness problem (I have really good VR legs at this point). For one, it's kind of like sensory overload to zip around like that. And second, in VR it's very rewarding to just stop and just "take in the environment" at times. In addition, there are many VR games that are just plain difficult to play after a long day of work due to how physically taxing they are. For example, when I played through The Forest in VR with a buddy of mine (truly incredible experience) there were times when we'd get so tired from standing that we'd literally lay down in the game, which is surprisingly immersiveness due to how well the environment is modeled--almost fell asleep watching the wind blowing and sunlight scattering through the trees (and there is a seated mode in the game but if I'm going to play a VR game I want the most immersive experience possible). But in this game I felt pretty comfortable despite the fact that I was rather tired during the play through--I spent a lot of time comfortably sitting on my floor.

I'm a firm believer that VR is much more than just an immersion boosting technology. And--at least currently--it *needs to be* more than that in order to justify the current discomforts of VR headsets (once you get past the VR "honeymoon" phase). VR can fundamentally expand the possibility space with respect to how one interacts with a virtual world. The "problem" is of course that it's really hard for developers to design interaction systems that take advantage of VR to its fullest. For the most part that seems to be the case here--the climbing, bow mechanics, looting/pick-pocketing mechanics, etc etc take advantage of VR to an extent but they're pretty basic and abstract. There are so many ways that one could expand on these interactions--everything from a climbing system that takes into account world geometry/materials/player strength/physics to a intricate lock-picking mechanics to dynamic close range interactions with AI. But what's there currently doesn't really compel me to continue proceeding through a generic dungeon level.

I should also mention that there were a few technical issues that made the VR experience uncomfortable at times. In particular, the devs have made the common mistake of not permitting the collision volume mapped to the player's head to clip through walls--instead it pushes you back (which is a terrible feeling in VR). The result is that when you're hugging a wall to stay out of sight or climbing there are unexpected disorienting translations in your vision. In addition, there are some texture rendering issues that produce a dizzying effect when close to a wall--it's kind of like a disorienting "black sheen" on the parallax mapped stone surfaces. Nothing too major, just surprised these things are still there a year after release given how uncomfortable they are.

The other major benefit I got from this game was to see how VR's (current) technical limitations affect this kind of game. First, I expect I would have observed some OLED mura issues if it weren't for the "blue is black" lighting model--in VR OLED mura looks something like a starfield or linen pattern overlay fixed to your head movement. Fresnel lens glare / lightshafts in some of the high contrast environments were pretty uncomfortable (mostly with the waypoint markers overlaid on the environment in the tutorial section of the game). Near field interactions (e.g. trying to read virtual parchment) are also pretty uncomfortable due to the fixed focus depth (need variable focus displays), and Thief in general involves a lot of near field interaction. The pupil swim on the Rift is especially noticeable on the game's detailed wall textures, although Vive users won't experience this quite so much (it looks like a sort of fish eye warping effect--won't be solved until we have eyetracking). And the headset cable is just a PITA (and it's immersion breaking) when you're trying to transition between stances or rotate (Of course this is solved with wireless which is already available and works perfectly for the most part--I've tried the wireless addon for the Vive and a TPCast in the past).

All of these technical problems are being solved of course, the major one being variable focus which will probably be solved some around ~2022. Once all of these "kinks" in the hardware are ironed out, I expect VR may be "worth it" even for its immersive effect alone. Even better if we can manage some way to simulate translational/rotational forces through motion controllers or a sim sickness prevention measure (I've seen some progress in both of these areas, but nothing that looks like it will be in consumer products any time soon)


All in all it's a decent tech demo if you want a glimpse into what a Thief game could be in VR.

Edited by woah
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Thanks for all that detail. First time I found this thread. I had no special expectations but this looks very promising for the future. Just wondering if one can calibrate things like crouching. So maybe stand in front of a chair then sit down to simulate crouching. I crouch a lot in stealth games so it would be really tiring for me to physically crouch for an hour or two of gameplay.

 

I kind of wish that player had faced the other way or appeared in a boxed off area of the video as it split the two sides of my brain to watch him and/or else focus on the scene. Overall, I was interested enough to tolerate him. I didn't worry too much about the horrible lighting because I assumed one could adjust that when actually playing? And I hate total black without ambient light so I'd even prefer wonky blue light.

 

Simplistic gameplay yes, but overall I was impressed that someone had produced such a Thief-like environment in VR. Needs more options for armchair players like myself though.

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Thanks for all that detail. First time I found this thread. I had no special expectations but this looks very promising for the future. Just wondering if one can calibrate things like crouching. So maybe stand in front of a chair then sit down to simulate crouching. I crouch a lot in stealth games so it would be really tiring for me to physically crouch for an hour or two of gameplay.

 

I kind of wish that player had faced the other way or appeared in a boxed off area of the video as it split the two sides of my brain to watch him and/or else focus on the scene. Overall, I was interested enough to tolerate him. I didn't worry too much about the horrible lighting because I assumed one could adjust that when actually playing? And I hate total black without ambient light so I'd even prefer wonky blue light.

 

Simplistic gameplay yes, but overall I was impressed that someone had produced such a Thief-like environment in VR. Needs more options for armchair players like myself though.

 

I'll have to update my post because since posting that I was going through the menu/book and found an option to toggle crouching. It's not entirely unusual for VR games to have a "seated mode" with a button mapped to toggle crouching, thankfully

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This is PC only, right? Does the VR set negate the need for a gaming PC? Or does the VR feed of a high end graphics card in the PC? Let's see, I've got...

 

 

Processor AMD A4-7210 APU with AMD Radeon R3 Graphics, 1800 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 4 Logical Processor(s)

Only 4GB RAM

 

I use PS4 for gaming so never intended this pc for gaming. :(

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This is PC only, right? Does the VR set negate the need for a gaming PC? Or does the VR feed of a high end graphics card in the PC? Let's see, I've got...

 

 

Processor AMD A4-7210 APU with AMD Radeon R3 Graphics, 1800 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 4 Logical Processor(s)

Only 4GB RAM

 

I use PS4 for gaming so never intended this pc for gaming. :(

 

This requires a PC. There is an upcoming Facebook "all-in-one" HMD called the "Oculus Quest" but it only has the computational power of an Xbox 360 (and with VR rendering requirements, the effective performance is considerably less). And the PS4 does have a "PSVR" add-on. It has some great games and a decent HMD, but just has really poor tracking and motion controls. If you find a good deal or something you might want to try picking one up, but talk with me about simulator sickness first. There's a specific procedure that most people must use to adapt and none of the VR "platforms" give you any guidance other than a very abstract "comfort level".

 

You need a lot of computational power to run PCVR games smoothly. I can't recommend anything less than an i5 6600 and a gtx 1060 6GB, though people claim to get away with less. Basically you're rendering the scene twice every frame at an extremely high resolution and wider FOV (~110 now, probably 135 to 150 with Valve's next hmd, and there's currently an ultra enthusiast focused HMD that has a 200d fov--the Pimax). There are also a ton of unexpected things that increase the computational load for VR related to textures, LOD, tracking, vsync, etc etc. Until recently you needed to do all of this at about 90fps to avoid discomfort but there are now reprojection techniques that sort of interpolate between frames (oversimplifying here) so sub-90 doesn't look so bad now (but has occasional artifacts). And stuttering of any sort is a terrible feeling in VR so devs need to be extra careful. There are issues you will notice in VR that you wouldn't notice on a flat screen, and there are things that can make you sick in VR that can be difficult to attribute a cause to. And it still looks really pixelated right now.

 

 

It was pretty rough at the initial launch of consumer VR but I have to say that things have come a long way--most devs are aware of the sources of discomfort now (well, UE4 and Unity framework devs have helped a lot of course). In addition, there are VR specific hardware optimizations in 10-series and up GPUs that can reduce the rendering load. In order to achieve higher resolutions we will need eyetracking assisted "foveated rendering" where you essentially only render the portion of the screen in focus (actually quite small) at the target resolution and then render the periphery at lower and lower resolutions. From what I've read the peripheral degradation is unnoticeable but could cut the current computational load in half. Eyetracking also has a lot of other applications for convenient user input, social interaction, and interesting game design (e.g. imagine if horror devs knew exactly where you were looking and could detect saccades--between which you are effectively blind). Functional eyetracking has been available with very expensive add-ons over the past few years, but in the not too distant future it *could* be coming to consumer VR headsets (perhaps if we're really lucky the upcoming Valve HMD). To give you an idea of how well it works, recently I was reading the impressions of a journalist using such a system integrated into a VR headset and they were able to effortlessly trace the perimeter of a cube located some distance away (as confirmed with an eyetracking reticle) and then, using an eyetracking enabled head cannon, proceed to repeatedly blast that cube into the sky until it was the size of a single pixel.

 

 

As I alluded to before, I still think it will be some time (5 years?) before VR is appropriate for a good chunk of PC gamers, even "hard core" ones. Everyone is blown away by VR initially--there is a sort of "honeymoon phase" after you first try it, but thereafter the discomforts really start to wear on you. There is a high "cost" to just using VR. After a month or so, most people would rather just play a flat game comfortably on a monitor. It is a strange thing: I have several friends that I've gotten into VR and some can't get enough of it while others just can't be bothered to put on the headset. The latter group never seems to regret the games I coax them into playing, but the "cost" of usage seems to dissuade them from independently using it. Only enthusiasts (like myself) are really willing to tolerate those costs--e.g. people that are burned out on flat games, that love experimenting or hacking around, that enjoy playing with cutting edge tech, etc etc. The discomforts are mostly visual but the weight and head-mounting mechanism also play into that. For this reason, while there is a lot of noise about the cost (price) of VR systems I think subsidized hardware (or compromised specifications) at this point would be a waste of money.

 

Once the major issues are ironed out though (probably culminating with variable focus) I can see the VR percentage on Steam gradually creeping up. We're currently just under 1% right now. I'm actually a bit worried that Valve making a new HMD and bundling it with "HLVR" (which is what all of the leaks indicate, potentially releasing this year) will get your average PC gamer interested in VR too early on. But pressure from Facebook/Oculus may be forcing them to release something

 

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Okay, thanks for that detailed overview of the current VR scene. I think you hit the nail on the head using the term 'cost' in terms of the downside inconvenience and so on. I've had mild nausea in a couple of normal games (head bobbing in that stealth Alien game set on a space station and temporarily in horse riding in Kingdom Come - which I think I've adjusted to. Red Dead 2 horse riding was OK for me) I get car sick too so clearly I'd be a candidate for nausea in VR - as well as those other problems like eye adjustment, headset discomfort, and so on.

 

I'll keep watch year by year and see what improvements unfold. I hope they all get it to work or it'll get shelved for future decades - bit like 3D movies.

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