Developer: Firesprite (Website)
Formats: Playstation VR, Playstation 4
Release Date: TBC
Check out our interview with Stuart Tilley, Game Director of The Persistence:
How would you describe ‘The Persistence’ to someone who had never heard of the game?
The Persistence is a first person, stealth horror game focused on VR. Picture the scene, 17,000 light years from earth, a terrible accident mutates the crew, creating horrific physical and metal aberrations. The mutants overrun the ship, killing anyone and anything that wasn’t safe in cryosleep. The Ship’s computer, IRIS, decides to wake crew members from cryosleep one at a time, hoping they can sneak past the mutants and return The Persistence back to earth. You are the Prey, not the Hunter.
The definition of persistence is ‘the fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition’. This suggests players are going to have a hard time, but their perseverance will be rewarded. Can we expect a tough difficulty in the game?
Yes! But in Persistence, death isn’t the end. The Persistence has a lot in common with a rogue like – during play, you collect Stem Cells from around the ship and by harvesting them from mutants – these can be used to modify next crew member that you wake, meaning you are constantly getting stronger and stronger. You can also fabricate protective and offensive gear and a large selection of weapons and power-ups to temporarily turn the tables on the physically superior mutants.
It feels like virtual reality is perfectly suited for the horror genre, something which has recently been proven with the popularity of ‘Resident Evil 7’. Has making a horror game like ‘The Persistence’ always been the plan with the team or have you gone through multiple ideas for your first virtual reality project?
We have been working in VR for a long time, and doing a “scary game” was something we have wanted to do for years, even before we founded Firesprite. We did a VR stealth focused ‘2 week prototype’ a couple of years ago, and thought that the acts of hiding and lean-and-peak in VR work really well, so it was from here that the idea of The Persistence was born!
‘The Persistence’ is coming to both Playstation VR and the Playstation 4, so gamers that haven’t made the leap to virtual reality will get to enjoy the game too. How has the need to implement virtual reality affected how you designed the game? Have you found that you’ve had to make any changes to the game that wouldn’t typically matter whilst played on a standard TV, but simply don’t work whilst in a VR headset?
This is a really broad area about the difference between developing for VR compared to a regular console game. The early milestones on The Persistence were focused on prototyping and tuning control methods to work well in VR. We were committed from the start that we wanted to make a ‘twin stick’ control method, with full player locomotion, so we invested a lot of time and effort in to creating several control schemes which achieved that whilst minimizing feelings of nausea. This requires many changes from a regular FPS, for example, there can be no acceleration on the player character, there is no ‘head bob’ on the camera when walking, movement and rotation speeds must also be set for play in VR. The same is true of the environments – moving up and down slopes can feel unpleasant in VR, so you must find creative solutions to a huge amount of different problems.
How long have you been actively working on ‘The Persistence’ and how far through development would you say you are? Got any clues to a release window?
No clues on release window yet (sorry!), the game is still pre-alpha so we have a little way to go yet. We want to make sure we have plenty of cool features, enemies, power-ups, and exciting moments when we release the game. Hopefully we will update on the release date very soon.
You’ve had a good relationship with Sony over the years, helping out with development on ‘The Playroom’ as well as releasing ‘Run Sackboy! Run’. Did this influence your decision to develop ‘The Persistence’ exclusively on Playstation platforms?
Well, over the years our core team has made game for the launch of each of the PlayStation platforms going back to PS1, so we really do love PlayStation! A big influence is always down to what the technology gives us as developers. PSVR and PS4 provide both the power and the accuracy to immerse the players into our game worlds.
You’ve revealed that up to four other players can interact with the game through a companion app, giving them the ability to help the player out in a variety of different ways. However, it’s also been mentioned that companion app players will be rewarded if you die. How will this work in-game? Will these so called ‘allies’ be actively encouraged to try and sabotage player’s games?
When we developed the App for the game, it quickly came apparent that players who work well together will give the VR player a better chance of success. However, we wanted to take it a stage further, and create a challenge the VR player’s trust in their App wielding friend.
The App gives a view of the Ship’s layout, and allows the App player to scout ahead of the player to discover enemy positions, collectables, hazards etc, and then verbally guide the VR through the game to safety. The App player earns XP for doing this, which he can spend on cool upgrades (like being able to disable sentry guns or tag mutants that the VR can then see through walls). The App tells you just how much of your valuable XP you will lose if any given hazard or enemy actually damages the VR player.
The thing is, on very rare occasions, the App presents you with an opportunity to earn a huge amount of XP for yourself if you can trick the VR player in to taking damage from a specific mutant or hazard. Earning vast amount of XP like this can really shortcut your progress to your next upgrade, but is likely to really annoy your friend! So much so in fact, that he can wreak revenge on you by finding a control terminal on The Persistence that can upload of virus to his App and trash a bunch of their XP!
Can you tell us a neat fact about ‘The Persistence’ that no-one outside of the development team knows?
Our studio is directly above a bar/club in Liverpool City Centre and it can get *really* loud in the evenings, but the worst bit is that they have the SAME playlist for the first few hours every day!