Countdown to ‘Phantom: Covert Ops’—Interview with nDreams Technical Director Grant Bolton
How did you get the look and feel just right? What about the core mechanics?
Tactile interactions and layers of animation help the player’s sense of embodiment as a Phantom operative. Finally, we bedded these elements into large, complex environments that give the player a sense of place and scale—we developed a new system to deliver some of the largest traversable spaces on Quest.
Our goal with Phantom was to immerse the player in “movie realism” where everything behaves as you might expect in an action film but isn’t held up by mundane or fussy elements. Our gameplay team have tuned hit-boxes, animated transitions, and value curves to balance the experience so that even a novice player can paddle, aim, and reload like an action hero... whilst enabling the depth for a veteran player to pull off impressive feats of mastery and skill. For example, anyone can turn the kayak to the right with a few strokes of the paddle on the left side, but a seasoned player can pull off a high-speed, silent maneuver by using their paddle as a rudder and leaning into the turn.
How did your previous work in VR help inform your work on Phantom?
I’ve also focused heavily on optimization. Getting a game as large as Phantom to run on Quest has been a great challenge—we’ve been blown away by how much a standalone device can handle with the right focus and love.
What’s your favorite part of the game and why?
It took a while to find the right balance between fun, realism, and comfort, but I think we’ve arrived at a great model that’s intuitive to learn but has depth and nuance for the player to master. It also provides a great platform for mounting weapons and equipment—access to these is immediate and tactile in Phantom, with no need for radial menus or inventory screens.
What advice would you give to a developer looking to start building for VR?
GB: I’d recommend starting with Unreal Engine. Oculus provides some great tools in a plugin that integrates directly with the engine and gets you off to a flying start. Finally, keep an eye on performance right from the start; gameplay feel is much easier to judge with a smooth frame rate.
Jun 26, 2020 at 07:22