Three Fields and Team17 on Lethal VR, their first foray into virtual reality

Three Fields Entertainment has not ben idle since its inception last March.

When some indie developers spend years announcing projects that come out years later, Three Fields is about to release its second game in just six months.

The studio’s debut title, Dangerous Golf, launched in June but didn’t really perform as expected, with sales falling short of target. But it takes a bit more than that to deter Three Fields.

Not only the studio is back with a new game, but it’s also a VR title.

The folks at Epic Games kindly sent us two HTC Vive development kits during the Summer,” co-founder Alex Ward (pictured, top right) tells MCV. We cleared a space at the end of the office and started looking at some of the early titles available on Steam. I sat down with [game maker] Chris Roberts and [artist in chief] Paul Phillpot and we talked about some of the actions we thought would work well. Shooting, pointing, throwing, kneeling and leaning all came to mind. It seemed obvious to try something based around virtual shooting and throwing.”

And that’s how Lethal VR came to be. This arcade-inspired shooter hits Steam on November 8th, with a PSVR launch to follow later this year, thanks to the support of publisher Team17, for whom this will be its first VR release.

Lethal VR is totally accessible,” says Team17’s CEO Debbie Bestwick (pictured, top left). I can imagine having so much fun playing the game with my gaming, and more importantly, my non-gaming friends. That’s something I specifically look for in a game. As a label we’ve had a lot of VR games submitted and Lethal has been the first title that has immediately had everyone hooked with that ever important ‘one more go’ element we look for on our label.”

As one would suspect, Lethal VR’s development cycle was very short.

Ward continues: We’re interested in working on smaller, faster developments. We’d like to work on more titles across more genres.”

And the HTC Vive development kits sent by Epic seemed to be a perfect opportunity to explore these new genres.

We wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t VR,” Ward says. It’s a true 360 roomscale game. It could certainly be attempted with a joypad, but it would not be as satisfying and as compelling as ‘being there’ in VR and physically acting out the game for yourself. In our game you have to move around, kneel, lean, twist and be on your toes. It’s very different to a conventional console experience.”

To make sure the experience would stand out from traditional console shooters, Three Fields found inspiration in iconic movies such as Point Break and The Man with the Golden Gun.

Those movies all feature sequences in gun ranges of some shape or form. Movies always show this sort of ‘Hogan’s Alley’ experience where different targets pop up one at a time,” Ward explains.

This seemed well suited to VR where we wanted to step inside one of those sequences and see how well we’d fare. Point Break has a very iconic – and secretly video game-related – opening sequence. The Man With The Golden Gun features a mechanically operated villain’s lair with pop up targets. And we loved the ‘pistol shooting competition’ sequence from Magnum Force.”

For a game with such a short development cycle – the first stage was playable in under four days, Ward tells us – Lethal VR definitely sounds well thought through. What remains to be seen is if this going to be enough to sell well.

Bestwick has the beginning of an answer: We all know the install base of VR hardware is at the early stage of its cycle and has a long way to go. We are realistic, as are Three Fields, over the size of the market at this stage. Lethal is accessible with high production values and will be priced equally attractively, so we are optimistic and positive about the lifecycle of the game.

But even if Lethal VR does sell well, Ward says we shouldn’t really expect Three Fields to necessarily deliver more VR games.

I wouldn’t expect anything from us. We like to change our minds a lot,” he smiles. I think the road to VR is a road we all have to walk, and for some that will come sooner than for others.”

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