Ukrainian indie outfit Beatshapers is no stranger to new PlayStation initiatives. The firm was one of the first to create content for Sony’s lighter bites platform PlayStation Minis, before making an early appearance on the PlayStation Vita with Stardrone Extreme. Now, with its PlayStation 4 debut Ready to Run already deep into development, we can exclusively reveal that the studio intends to enter the virtual reality space – and it’s got the recently announced Project Morpheus in its sights.
“Codename EdgeVR is an action RPG in a dark sci-fi setting, where our hero fights his way through strange cyborg creatures, searching for his way out of a containing mega structure,” founder Alexey Menshikov informs us as we sit down for a chat about the project. The company initially started planning the release for the Vita, but ultimately decided to switch production to the Japanese giant’s next-gen machine. However, in the wake of the platform holder’s virtual reality reveal, it’s decided to go one step further.
“I was very impressed by the sense of immersion and feeling,” Menshikov reveals of his first time using the PS4 peripheral at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year. “I’ve been a big fan of virtual reality since the [retro gadget] VFX1, but this one feels really next-gen.” Having built up a close relationship with Sony over the years – culminating in the release of 19 titles to date, and a few that the studio refuses to tell us about – its eagerness to support the new technology is unsurprising. And yet, we can’t help but ponder how deep into development the project actually is...
“We’ve built bits and pieces over time,” the affable executive explains. “When we cancelled our zombie RPG game – parts of which we put into Vita brawler Z-Run – we’d been looking to bring a bigger title to the handheld to create more value as a company, so we started to build a new universe that would appeal to hardcore gamers, while offering something fresh.” It eventually happened upon the core ideas found in Codename EdgeVR, and started a slow pre-production process to develop its universe.
So, what’s it all about? Well, the game is set inside a large city which is constantly augmented and improved by robots. “The architecture’s a mixture of old concrete walls and new materials like chrome and polymers,” Menshikov tells us. “It’s so big that you’ll never see the sky dome; instead, any lighting is artificial and diffused through fog.” The initial screenshots and art that the studio’s shared with us paint a bleak but imaginative picture of a dark futuristic world. “We have more concepts,” the developer teases us, “but we don’t want to release them all at once.”
While the project made gradual progress on Sony’s flagship handheld, the studio had some concerns about the scale of the undertaking. “This is a huge project for us, so we were working on it part time – we had the characters, the concept, and the battle proof of concept [finished] earlier this year,” adds Menshikov. “We decided to bring it to the PS4 just before GDC, and the assets looked great on the new hardware, so we made a quick demo for the next-gen console.” And then the team tested Project Morpheus...
“As soon as I tried it, something clicked in my head,” Menshikov exclaims. “The game is perfect for virtual reality, so we’ve changed the concept a little bit, and have a Project Morpheus title now.” While the gaffer’s being a little coy with regards to specific gameplay details, he stresses that the headset adds real depth to the three-dimensional scenes, and that the title’s handheld origins have allowed it to adopt virtual reality with ease. “We can render the game in 720p resolution with 100-120 frames-per-second on the PS4, which is perfect for a virtual reality game.”
While the company’s also planning traditional television support as well, though, we can’t help but ask whether the studio really believes in Project Morpheus’ ability to catch on at a mainstream level. Unsurprisingly for a developer now with a vested interest in the device’s success, Menshikov reckons that it can be a hit. “I’ve tried most of the helmets, and this one has the best feeling and presence effect,” he responds. “The interest in other helmets shows the big interest in the virtual reality field, so, yes, I believe that it can find an audience.”
Whether or not Menshikov’s predictions pan out remains to be seen, but Project Morpheus will need content if it is to succeed. Beatshapers’ passionate approach to Codename EdgeVR, coupled with its solid track record, puts the intriguing title in good stead, then. And while it sounds like the game’s still quite early, if there’s one place that we’ve always wanted to be transported to, it’s a mega city built by robots. Count us in.