People think that the sky is the limit when it comes to games. For a game where absolutely everything is grounded in physics, that’s the literal truth.
You might have heard us talk on the Heavyshelf Podcast (2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on Fridays) about the VR game BONEWORKS. Today, December 10th, 2019, you can finally get your hands on a copy of BONEWORKS for $30 on Steam. Developed and published by Stress Level Zero, BONEWORKS is the next step in immersive VR gaming. BONEWORKS operates off of the simple rule that “everything [is] physics, no matter what,” according to Stress Level Zero cofounder Brandon Laatsch. Usually what this means is that you can pick up items and throw them around – a feature that games (like Skyrim) have had for decades. That isn’t the case with BONEWORKS, where literally every prop, tool, item, vehicle, and even enemy is a physics object. Including the player.
“The goal is that anything you see you should be able to interact with and touch the way you think you could.”
It seems to me that Stress Level Zero has accomplished this goal. Players can naturally throw objects, physically break open crates (then use the wooden splinters as makeshift weapons), grab onto ledges and climb them, and even manipulate themselves with tools like the balloon gun. I mean, who doesn’t want to attach balloons to themselves and float gracefully? Everything has weight and mass, and the player can freely interact with all objects according to those values. Looking for more leverage on a swing? Grab the sledgehammer a bit lower down and wind up a bit more.
The game comes with three modes: a narrative campaign, an arena mode, and a sandbox. The sandbox, of course, acts as a testing ground for the various weapons, tools, and mechanics in the game. In the spirit of fun, Laatsch confirmed that, after completing the game, players will be able to take the sandbox-exclusive tools anywhere in the campaign.
“The whole world becomes your oyster at a certain point.”
“This is where it really shows off the design where you connect everything with physics,” said Laatsch, scaling a wall with gravity cups in-game. Shortly after, Laatsch used another item on his player character to lower his own in-game weight for some increased jump height. Of course, not all of these tools are going to be available from the start. Laatsch states that players will be able to find many of these tools hidden throughout the campaign, so it could be quite a while before you unlock all of them.
It is not controversial to say that many past VR titles have been limited in scope and ability. Akin to mobile games, VR headsets became a sort of Warioware-device: full of mini games but empty in regards to substance. With the release of BONEWORKS and the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx, it seems that this stigma is preparing to fade.
“They leave it to guys like us to actually innovate.”
“They leave it to guys like us to invent something new because they want it to be proven before they invest their money in it,” Laatsch said in a March 2019 video. Though this isn’t Stress Level Zero’s first VR game, this one in particular shows a level of technological achievement not yet seen in VR titles, giving a hopeful look at the future of VR gaming.
Of course, it is rare for a game to release without issues. As of today, Windows Mixed Reality support is broken, but Stress Level Zero has already addressed the issue over Twitter, promising a fix as soon as possible.