For those with a competitive streak, take to the online battlefield in a high-stakes clash with up to 10 people and best your enemies on a strategic and tactical level in one of three objective-based modes.We sat down with Downpour Interactive Founder & CEO Dante Buckley to learn more.
How did you get your start in the tech industry? What was it that drew you to VR?Dante Buckley: Back in 2015, I tried VR and saw its potential to immerse people in a different world like it did to me. However, nobody was making the kind of game I wanted to play at the time, and that inspired me to make the game that is now Onward. I dropped out of college and focused on making the game for a full year. Although I knew how to program, I had no idea how to build a game. Ultimately, I went head-first into it, learning by watching videos and other online resources. In a way, this focus to keep going forward building the game is ultimately what inspired the name for the game, Onward.
Facebook is estimated to have more than 400 employees working on developing VR. Other companies known to have VR in development include Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google.
What was the original inspiration behind Onward? How has the game changed during the course of development?DB: I grew up playing hard-core tactical shooters such as Socom, Ghost Recon, Insurgency, and Rainbow Six. I think the game takes a lot of inspiration from these games and transforms it into a virtual reality setting. Although I knew what I wanted the game to be, there were a lot of experiments during Onward’s development, including a zombie horde mode. If you know where to look, you can still find evidence of a lot of these experiments and stories of the game’s development online. I remember when I added the first animations for bots and made the guns fire for the first time.
How would you characterize the game’s overall look and feel? What factored into your design decisions?
DB: Onward’s look is functional in that it puts the player in a world that is made to feel as realistic as possible, and the art style reflects that. But graphics are only part of the feel of a game. We’ve put a lot of effort into our combat mechanics, consulting with veterans and active military personnel to make sure the weapon handling feels as realistic as possible. I even went out to gun ranges to get a feeling for the weapons that you find in the game. Once you have look and feel where you want them, audio becomes very important, and this is one of the few things we cannot do in-house, so we partnered up with a professional sound design studio who recorded the sounds of the weapons you use in-game. All of these things put together will get you the most realistic experience possible.How did your partnership with Coatsink come about? What has that relationship been like?
DB: The CEO of Coatsink, Tom Beardsmore, and I first met at an Oculus event in early 2019. We were having lunch and had a good time. We hit it off and kept talking over time and became friends. When I made the decision to bring Onward to Quest, Tom and I talked about the project and our own companies, and the rest is history as they say. Coatsink has provided us with marketing and PR support and funding, and they opened up connections to platforms and partnerships we didn’t have access to before. Working with Tom and everyone on his team at Coatsink has been a very pleasant experience, and I think he would agree that our cooperation has been very smooth.
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Did you encounter any technical obstacles while optimizing Onward for a mobile chipset? How did you overcome those challenges?DB: There is no getting around it: Taking a game that was built to run on the computational power of a high-end computer and making it run on a mobile device such as Oculus Quest is a huge challenge, even more so when you consider the game’s origins. Over the past months, we’ve rewritten large parts of the game, sometimes from scratch, to optimize the code and get it to the point where it runs smoothly on Quest. Aside from optimizing the code, we’ve also had to optimize everything else in the game: textures, lightmaps, shadows... but in the end, seeing people play Onward on a device that allows for a level of freedom in movement like Quest really makes me believe we made the right call.
What can you tell us about your future product roadmap? Anything that players should be on the lookout for?DB: There is a lot to look forward to, that’s for sure. At the top of our list is some R&R for the team—they’ve definitely earned it. But we’ll be back developing soon: We want to finish a few maps that didn’t make it into the initial release, and we’ll be bringing custom maps to Quest as well. Of course there’s much more coming, and we’ll share that once we’re ready. We’re not done with Onward, and we won’t be for some time to come.
How do you think VR and AR will continue to change the world of gaming in the future?
DB: VR and AR have made huge steps recently. Only a few people would have a VR headset to play games with, and you needed a beast of a machine to power them. Quest has changed that landscape significantly. It’s affordable and easy to use. We’re also seeing more and more VR games releasing, and those two things combined will continue to drive VR and AR into the mainstream market. Nothing compares to the immersion you get from virtual reality, and more and more people are realizing this.
The Military Is Using It. It turns out that the U.S. military is totally loving virtual reality. The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have all used virtual reality in the past few years to train their soldiers. Keep in mind that this is not a game but a real training for some intense military action, including flying, medical training, fighting in the battlefield, and driving as well. The military is also reportedly using virtual reality in getting new recruits.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
DB: For me and my team, there are some really exciting things on the horizon. The studio is growing, and I’m growing with it. I’ve had to learn a lot in the past five years developing Onward, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’ve got a great group of people around me to help me through it. Right now we’re working towards releasing Onward from Early Access—and there are plenty of ideas floating around for what we’ll do next.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
DB: Never stop following your heart. If you want to build a game, build a game. If you want to start your own company, do that. As long as you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find a way to make it work.Take to the battlefield in Onward on Quest and the Rift Platform today.