Firma is an early access game for the Oculus Rift that takes a fantastical situation, you're working on the moon, and makes it seem almost banal. The game begins by giving you the oddly comfortable feeling that this is a job, and not a particularly exciting one at that.
Then it begins to ratchet up the tension as the story develops, and you may begin to question what you thought you knew about the work you've been doing.
The sense of actually being on this ship, the TL-6, and flying around the moon is key to the experience. The game even begins by having you look up to begin the tutorial and get you comfortable with moving your head in virtual space ... but the developers, egged on by Oculus, discovered something was missing.
"I think the most interesting part of Firma’s development has been the inclusion of combat," developer Matt McIvor told Polygon. "For the majority of the two years we’ve been building the game, there was no combat at all. The story has this 1960’s, science fiction vibe and so like those books and movies from that time, we went with this everyman discovering a terrible truth rather than an all-out action experience. But after a gentle nudge from Oculus, it became clear that Firma was a little light on variety of gameplay."
They added the weapons into the game only three months from launch, and you can learn a bit about that process and the decision behind it in the video above.
The team mentioned arcade games like Hard Driving, Operation Wolf and even PC games like Doom and Half-Life as being inspirations for the sense of presence they were going after, and a big part of that came from combat. It became easier to draw the player with the addition of weaponry.
"When playing those games and others like them I mentioned at the start, it was in those chaotic moments of action, when your brain was being bombarded with information it could barely keep up with, that it dropped its guard and those moments of presence came," McIvor stated. "Firma took its own step forward towards presence when combat was included. As you’re being attacked by two enemy TL-6’s, with a missile chasing you down, as your fuel warning alarm is sounding, on the barren surface of the Moon, those fleeting moments of presence last just that little bit longer."
It also certainly made the trailer more exciting.
The game is in early access for the Oculus Rift right now and, while the team at Think Heavy isn't quite ready to announce specifics, they're working on porting the game to the Vive and potentially other virtual reality platforms.