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First Look: ‘Phantom: Covert Ops’ Running on Oculus Rift S

When it was announced in May 2019, Phantom: Covert Ops promised to reinvent the stealth genre in a way only possible through the magic of VR. Since then, it’s proven its chops on Oculus Quest while racking up critical acclaim. And today, we’re excited to share the latest trailer from nDreams, which shows Rift Platform footage for the very first time!“Phantom is identical in the most important area—gameplay—on both Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform,” explains Game Director Lewis Brundish. “When it comes to visuals, however, we wanted to make the most out of each of the headsets’ unique strengths. We’re delighted with how the game is looking on both platforms—check out our latest trailer to see for yourselves!”
We sat down with Brundish to learn a little more about the Game Critics Award winner for Best VR Game of E3 2019.What was the inspiration behind Phantom: Covert Ops? How has the game changed over time?Lewis Brundish: The main goal that we set out to achieve with Phantom was to achieve total 1:1 immersion in VR. Before we even had an idea of what type of game we were going to make or how the gameplay was going to work, we knew that we wanted to give players the ability to move around freely and comfortably in VR without the abstractions of button presses or analog sticks. We spent a long time prototyping different ideas for how to do this and discovered that a kayak works incredibly well—your movement is entirely controlled by what you do with your arms, so we can give the player really precise and tactile control over their actions without ever breaking their immersion.

As with every creation in the universe, there has to be a humble beginning for everything and VR technology was no exception. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the father of this amazing technology, history suggests that it could have been the innovation of not one but five key individuals. First, Morton Heilig for giving users the very first interactive film experience which can be take the credit as the beginning of 3D content. Then, there’s Jaron Lanier, the first person to credit the term “Virtual Reality”; Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse and laid the foundation for the modern user interface; Ivan Sutherland, inventor of the first head mounted display (HMD); and Myron Krueger, a computer graphics and audio wiz.

For the military stealth aspect of the game, we researched real-life special forces who specialize in water-based operations such as the Navy Seals and the SBS. It was incredible to see how frequently military operations have made use of kayaks from World War II all the way through to present day and how little of this we had seen in other games—the idea of bringing something new and fresh to fans of the military and stealth-action genres was really exciting!

How long has the game been in development? Any favorite anecdotes you’d like to share?

LB: We’ve been working on the game for around two years now. I think one of my favorite moments was demoing the game to a former US Marine. He came by our booth at E3 because he had been on military operations using kayaks himself and wanted to see how well our game stacked up against the real thing. It was a bit nerve wracking having someone with such relevant first-hand experience play the game, but he absolutely loved it—it was great to be able to come back to the studio and tell the team that we had gotten the official seal of approval.

Getting the feel of the kayak right was one of the most important elements of development, and it took a very long time. For over a year, we were constantly refining and trying out new ideas. The hardest challenge was creating something that was totally accessible and natural for players who have never been in a boat before, while still feeling realistic and immersive for players who had extensive experience kayaking in real life. In the end, it just came down to a lot of playtesting, refinement, and iteration. Eventually we managed to find a balance that feels right to everyone, and we’ve added lots of extra-immersive details along the way (like leaning to the side to tilt the boat or dipping the paddle in the water behind you to act as a rudder).

As with every creation in the universe, there has to be a humble beginning for everything and VR technology was no exception. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the father of this amazing technology, history suggests that it could have been the innovation of not one but five key individuals. First, Morton Heilig for giving users the very first interactive film experience which can be take the credit as the beginning of 3D content. Then, there’s Jaron Lanier, the first person to credit the term “Virtual Reality”; Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse and laid the foundation for the modern user interface; Ivan Sutherland, inventor of the first head mounted display (HMD); and Myron Krueger, a computer graphics and audio wiz.

How did your previous work in VR help inform your work on Phantom?LB: nDreams has been focused purely on developing VR content for over five years now, so the team has a ton of experience in this area. I think that while we’ve all been able to put our VR expertise to good use, Phantom has been as much about challenging our own preconceptions about VR as it has been about building on what we know already. The game is a result of us aiming to overcome hurdles that we had encountered on previous projects, and while it’s been a lot of hard work, we think the result is something really exciting that players haven’t ever experienced before.Thanks for helping us navigate our way through today’s news, Lewis. We can’t wait to see the community’s response.

To deliver the best stealth-action experience possible in VR, the team at nDreams has moved Phantom’s release date into 2020 and will have more to share in the months ahead. We have a feeling it’ll be well worth the wait.

Oculus Rift S

Our most advanced PC-powered VR gaming headset.

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