Island 359 is a virtual reality game that airlifts you onto an island that’s infested with dinosaurs, and asks that you kill as many as possible before surviving the trip back to your helicopter.
CloudGate Studio recently updated the game with a new mode called “Big Hunt” that makes the game even trickier: You have only the use of a bow and arrow, and you have to go into the environment to hunt Raptors, the Allosaurus and the new Triceratops. It’s a very different experience from the Mercenary mode that was first released for the game.
It’s also hard, not to mention incredibly tense. I spoke with developer Steve Bowler to get some tips, and it changed the way I approached the game. His first, and most important, piece of advice? Stay low.
“You’re going to be doing a lot of crouching in this mode, and sometimes I just play it on one or both knees because I’m getting old and decades of skateboarding and doing stunts has taken its toll,” Bowler told Polygon.
“Some players will pop up out of the grass to take a shot, and look, you don’t have to,” he continued. “We’ve gotten pretty good at convincing people that they’re in a jungle hunting dinosaurs but we’re not so good at making these games yet that we’re worrying about individual grass blades slowing your arrow down. Just stay down, and fire from inside the grass. If you hit a Raptor with an arrow when it isn’t in an alerted state, it’s a one-hit-kill.”
So your first goal should always be to stay hidden, and he’s right: Crouching in the virtual grass is murder on the knees if you’re not in relatively good shape. Get used to it, or put a mat down so you can play on your knees.
And that brings up his second piece of advice: Don’t miss. Which seems obvious, but you have to be thinking about your shot before you take it. This is even harder due to the fact you have to manually nock an arrow and aim in a relatively realistic manner in VR. You can make it easier by thinking about position before you think about aiming.
“Hunting is just as much about your position as it is how good of a shot you are,” Bowler said. “If you’re not Hawkeye with a bow, you can increase your shot percentage by getting closer to your target, and waiting to shoot until you have a ‘there’s no way I can miss at this range’ shot to take.”
So watch your target and move forward when they’re not looking at you until you’re right on top of them. They won’t smell you, so just worry about cover and line of sight. This gets trickier if different dinosaurs are clumped together or there is a pack of Raptors, but it’s all about patience.
“If you go Rambo: First Blood in Big Hunt, you’re going to die. You have to go Rambo: First Blood Part Two, which savvy folks may have figured out is where we got the name for this update from,” Bowler continued. The name of the update is Second Blood.
“I’ve once followed two raptors across a huge field and through an entire forest by making sure I could sprint between the grass and foliage clumps and stayed down while I was inside the foliage, moving slowly, and I kept moving up behind them getting closer and closer, only moving when I knew they weren’t going to be able to see me,” Bowler said.
“They then walked around the side of a stilt-house, so I could see their legs under the house and knew where they were,” he continued. “After they went around the back, I moved to the nearest corner, and just popped out around the wall, nailing each one with one bow shot before the other one could notice me in the brief half second I peeked around the corner. It was exhilaratingly awesome. And anyone can do it! You just have to go slow and remember that not being seen and getting close in this mode is just as important as landing a good kill shot.”
Hunting dinosaurs in VR is a pretty good time once you learn the art of cover and patience, and it’s also a very good crash course in how stealth mechanics work when your body literally becomes the controller. The update is live now in the early access release of Island 359 for the HTC Vive.