How Adrift could be Oculus Rift's secret weapon
When Adrift was first introduced (under its slightly obnoxious name >Adr1ft), Oculus Rift seemed like an afterthought. It had been introduced for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One--oh, and also Oculus. A few months later, 505 Games has picked up the project and Oculus is being placed front and center. It's no wonder. In my time with the game, the VR added a lot to the experience even with the graphical compromises.
Those compromises shouldn't be understated. The demo at E3 used the Unity engine, and I was assured a newer version built in Unreal 4 looks much better. Even still, the resolution of the Oculus screens still isn't quite on-par with the much more polished screenshots we've seen produced. Regardless, I was convinced that VR is the way to experience this.
That's a fitting sentiment, since creative lead Adam Orth refers to it as an "FPX" for "first-person experience." Created by a small team of seven, the game is 100% non-violent. That means no guns, no aliens to kill, just a story of survival. My time in space wasn't quite as hectic as the real game, as the team had stripped away gameplay elements to just allow players the chance to float peacefully through space. It's a perfect fit for Oculus, and Orth says "the idea was hatched with Oculus in mind." If anything can sell skeptics on the virtues of VR, this is it.
The full game will be much more about survival and finding oxygen. It will have fail states and death, but that will be a matter of failing to survive in the vacuum of space. The hero, who is at least so far nameless, wakes up amid a destroyed space station and needs to find his or her way home. You have jets to float with your suit, but it's also aiming to imitate space physics: moving a gigantic object yourself, pushing off of an object, and so on.
All of that exists to fuel the narrative, which is a personal story for Orth. He described it as his way of dealing with his situation after he left Microsoft, following a series of controversial tweets about Xbox One's "always-on" status. Maybe that's why he makes a point of talking about how Adrift involves choice and consequences.
"Without giving too much away, there's a transformative moment for the player that's influenced by the choices you made previously, and influences the choices you're going to make for the rest of the game."
At first glance, the plot bears a pretty distinct similarity to the recent Oscar-winning film Gravity. The existence of such a high-profile story in another medium caused a range of emotions for Orth.
"I love [Alfonso Cuarón's] movies, so I was worried about it for a while," he said. "And eventually I said, well, it's a video game. Nobody said: how can you make Medal of Honor after Saving Private Ryan? How can you make Halo after Star Wars? Then when the movie came out I saw it, and I was totally not worried about it because our game is very, very different. I explain to people that this game is the immersive qualities of Half-Life, the minimalist storytelling presentation of Journey, and the scope and scale of Gravity. If someone wants to lump me in with a movie like Gravity, thanks, I'll take that."