A Wake Inn Interview: Pulling Those VR Horror Strings
VR Bros has been steadily releasing new details for its upcoming horror title A Wake Inn after the first teaser trailer dropped last summer. With the launch slated for ‘early 2021’ for PC VR headsets, the team were kind enough to have a chat with VRFocus to understand a little more about what makes A Wake Inn tick.
If you’re unaware of A Wake Inn, the horror title takes place in the mysterious Silver Inn Hotel, owned by a Dr. Finnegan. Rather than a decedent place to spend the weekend this hotel is far more menacing. Mainly because you’ve woken up as a human-sized doll confined to a wheelchair, and you’re not the only mechanised being roaming the halls.
So this begged the question, what was the inspiration behind A Wake Inn and its story? “The core of the plot is based in “modern” sci-fi issues told inside of a setting from a century ago. The vision of abandoned art deco style hotel and bio/steampunk esthetics was our leitmotiv from the very beginning,” VR Bros responded. “We wanted to create a coherent world, where gameplay and story make one consistent whole, and players thrown into a vague situation could unravel their own meaning in this world. One can focus just on the main storyline and push events forward, or sink into exploration and reveal a more detailed picture of past events.”
A good story is one thing but there are a multitude of VR horror titles because the genre works so well, so they all need a little something to stand out from the crowd, jump scares just aren’t enough anymore.
On that particular point, the team noted that: “Horror is a highly involving genre – it ought to dose suspense and keep the user’s attention on the medium in which the player is in. The immersiveness of A Wake Inn comes from a peculiar locomotion system, in which the player is bound to a wheelchair, and interactivity of the environment, which helps to engage in the events participated by the player. On the other hand, we also limited the capacity of the inventory which spices up the gameplay, adding a flavour of survival, with the necessity of using the exhaustible battery-powered flashlight giving it a cherry on the top.”
VR Bros has covered the mechanics of its wheelchair locomotion in a previous video, a unique way to navigate the hotel whilst ensuring a comfortable experience for most players. As it turns out this was the intention from the beginning: “Wheelchair mechanics was the base concept and the step from which the whole game design started to emerge,” the team revealed.
“The player steers by spinning wheels using controllers as they would in reality while sitting in a chair for the whole gameplay. This element makes A Wake Inn available also for players with disabilities. Remember though – limitation brings consequences,” they continued. “You cannot use stairs – be ready for dealing with elevators and their power system. Also, reaching for objects is hindered, so we added a grabbing arm extension, which allows you to pick up objects lying on high shelves, or on the floor. It was a starting point for experience based on manual interactions with objects inside of the game’s universe. Although, for players’ convenience, we added two other control options – one with a joystick, which is visibly placed on the wheelchair and also a traditional teleport.”
When asked about interactivity and how A Wake Inn keeps players grounded in the experience VR Bros explained that: “We meant to make A Wake Inn driven by narration and exploration. We decided to create an experience not distracted by HUD and conventional interface elements to squeeze the immersive potential of VR. Each action taken by a player – using objects, solving environmental puzzles, or even saving – takes place in “physical” space of the game. No windows, no context menus. It may be a bit counterintuitive at the beginning, but we hope people who seek for unique adventures in VR will appreciate this approach.”
As the videogame looks like it’ll feature some interesting side content VR Bros has said it’ll include additional elements to flesh out this mysterious world. “We also implemented fully functional radio stations with over 3 hours of broadcasts, and cinema projectors where you can play tapes found around the hotel, which deliver some additional pieces of information about the world, as well as additional content, both with authentic footage from the era and our own recordings,” the team responded. “Another prop which we are proud of is a handheld radio, used to contact with doctor Finnegan – the only friendly soul in an unfriendly and soulless land. You can press the button and listen to his advice, or commentary about the actual place. It was a lot of fun doing it and we hope it helps our game to get that little bit of individual personality.”
Like any good story-driven VR experience a single playthrough may not be enough and investigative players will be rewarded should they do so: “We put a lot of effort in creating the main plot and background story for the game. The past events are not explained directly, so they have to be assembled from bits of info located on notes, diaries, and props left by former inhabitants of this building. More inquisitive players may replay the game to put those pieces together and, richer with experiences from the first walkthrough, reveal the secret of the Silver Inn Hotel in Tiny Ferry.”