Zombie Studios' horror game Daylight will support the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, the developer announced last week, giving fans of scares delivered via video game the chance to immerse themselves deeper in the experience. At Indiecade in Culver City, Calif. this weekend, Zombie brought its Unreal Engine 4-powered game and an Oculus Rift dev kit to show how effective their take on VR horror will be.
In a time-limited demo, we explored the abandoned, haunted asylum of Daylight. Guided only by the light of the protagonist's smartphone flashlight and its glowing LCD screen, we chased down shadows while looking for a way out of the game's creepy procedurally-generated hospital. Unfortunately, I had little in the way of success.
But the implementation of Rift headset support in Daylight is very effective in keeping the player engrossed, even if the conditions we played the game in were far from ideal. (It was noisy, hot and sunny at Indiecade this weekend, not the right environment for this breed of horror game.)
Zombie has been working on integrating Oculus Rift support for less than a month, studio director Jared Gerritzen told Polygon. He said Daylight, more so than some of the developer's other titles, is a great fit for the Rift.
"The Oculus Rift, it's a great tool for the right product," Gerritzen said. "I don't think a game like [Blacklight: Retribution] would have been an optimal use." Since Daylight is comparatively slow-moving and free of combat, it can help alleviate control and head-tracking issues other first-person games run into with VR, if they're not designed from the ground up to support it.
"When we got the first dev kit, we played the crap out of it, but got sick so quickly," Gerritzen said. "What we've been trying to figure out is that perfect connection of head to body and trying to figure out how to dial out the seasickness feeling.
"We're almost there, I think."
The VR features in Daylight are still in their early stages but already feel like a great addition. First-person horror has a lot of potential on Oculus Rift — as evidenced by another game playable at Indiecade, the dungeon crawler Dreadhalls. Given that Daylight was demonstrated on the Oculus Rift dev kit, which runs at 720p and suffers from the "screen door effect" when looking at pixels so closely, it doesn't show Unreal Engine 4 at its finest. It certainly didn't look as sharp or detailed as Daylight looks in screenshots and trailers. That's something that should be remedied by the time 1080p (and higher) resolution Rift kits go wide.
Let's hope so, because Gerritzen said Daylight will be taking advantage of Epic's next-gen engine and throwing a lot of polygons onscreen to render its gloomy, grimy, broken environments.
"Normally, when we make games like this we have to target the [minimum] spec, and we can't throw the polygons we want to," he said. "We're going to be very unapologetic on the min spec side. It's going to look the best it possibly can and you might have to get a DirectX 11 card. That's just how it works with UE4."