Think about a traditional Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, like Command & Conquer, Warhammer, Starcraft, etc. Now think what you might change if you could really redesign the classic RTS for a near field tabletop game you can play in your Virtual Reality headset. What parts of the game might you change? What parts of the game did you really enjoy and want to focus more on in VR? Do you really want to micromanage your troops or do you want to spend more time on the big strategy decisions?
Indie Game Developer E McNeill has rethought the RTS game genre for his new VR title Tactera.
Tactera isn’t just a near field RTS game for VR, it’s a complete rethink of real time strategy games (RTS) in general.
Watch my short youtube interview Indie Game Developer E McNeill here:
Okay so the basic idea is that you are in a futuristic command center as the commander who must make decisions.
You begin the game by picking out which types of units you want to have on the field with you. In the demo you can try for free on Gear VR there are six types of units to choose from, and in the game’s three table top arena’s you choose up to three of them. In the final version there may be 12 unit types to choose from, and so there will be many different possible gameplay strategies.
By unit types I mean, you can pick from soldier units, tanks, fighting zeppelins, aircraft, missile launchers, and something that I think is a satellite laser cannon. The different units are balanced relative to other units in a rock paper scissors kind of way, so it’s simple and if you find the team you picked is particularly ineffective in a certain arena you can pick a different team next time.
These units get launched from your bases. As you progress through the game you take over neutral basis and enemy basis and these new bases can let you launch more units. Your AI opponent can also take over new bases and the battle is essentially won by the player that takes over all the bases on the board.
The good news is that you don’t have to worry about stuff like collecting gold, wood, mining for diamonds or other materials as you might in other RTS games. There isn’t this long list of procedures that must be completed first until you get to the fun part. In Tactera your units get produced automatically once you decide what type of base to build, and once the units are ready you just tell them where to deploy, and that’s it, your units just know what to do.
You don’t have to select them again to redeploy them, you don’t have to select individual units or groups of units all that is really a distraction caused by games that do not have intelligent AI built into their units in the first place. Unlike other games your units will fight until they win or die, and they will keep moving to the next battle front, they won’t just stop in the middle of nowhere or stand around getting attacked by enemies without doing anything like in other RTS games.
Tactera is different, not only because it’s simplified real time strategy, not only because it automates a lot of the more mediocre parts of the genre, not only because it’s a faster paced tactical game, but because it’s designed Virtual Reality from the ground up to be more comfortable, easier to use, more fun, and easier from a developer’s perspective to port to different types of VR platforms with different types of tracking systems, different types of controller inputs, and still it maximizes user comfort, while creating an experience that looks really cool, that has a great single player campaign, and the best part in my mind is that you can play with your friends and family. The full version of Tactera is meant to be a social game, where you can see the head movement of your opponent as they are playing against you. When your opponent is ready they are going to choose where they are going to deploy their units. When a base is ready each commander chooses the way point, which is where the units are going to go.
Then you sit back and watch. Once deployed the units are out of your control, self managing, making their own decisions. Yes they follow the path you set for them, but you can instead focus on making decisions like sending more units to back them up, sending units to other locations, ordering air strikes, calling in artillery, upgrading your bases, you set up the battlefronts and making the decisions that matter.
Tactera on the Gear VR uses the touchpad and the button on the side of the headset to select bases and deploy units, or air strikes. When Tactera comes to the Oculus Rift you will be able to use position tracking to lean into the game table to see laser weapons being fired past your head, with the Rifts 3D audio that should be neat to hear as well. When Tactera comes to the HTC Vive you will be able to walk around the table, or perhaps even stand on the virtual table and tower over your units like Godzilla.
Virtual Reality tabletop games in the near field of your vision offer a working solution to the Virtual Reality motion sickness problem because they do not necessarily require any sort of artificial travel, artificial movement, or artificial rotation.
These types of games, “Virtual Reality Real Time Strategy Near Field Tabletop Games” are ideal for seated VR, you don’t have to turn all the way around, twist in your seat, or crane your neck painfully. The action is simply taking place in front of and it both looks and feels really cool. Your head, neck, body, and stomach all continue to feel good when playing this type of VR game.
If you haven’t tried it yet get the Gear VR demo for free, or try it on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive because E McNeill is planning versions of his games for those platforms as well. Based on my positive experience so far I plan to try all the different versions of his games.
Author: Micah Blumberg
Please leave a comment about your experience with Tactera in the Gear VR group on Facebook. That is where I will read your take on this new game demo.
(about the author: Micah admins for the Gear VR facebook group, he writes about VR, promotes San Francisco Virtual Reality events, co-organizes AR VR Women meetups, and you are encouraged to reach out to him on Facebook via The Gear VR group https://www.facebook.com/groups/gearvr/ and you can also message him on twitter @worksalt