The VR version of Blair Witch releases very soon for the Oculus Quest later this month. Dubbed ‘Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition’ this new version of the first-person psychological horror game was rebuilt for VR and is dropping on the Quest platform first on October 30th before coming to other headsets later.
We got the chance to send a few questions over to the Blair Witch VR Project Manager, Szymon Erdmanski, to see what it was like working on such an iconic horror property in VR.
Blair Witch VR Developer Interview
UploadVR: What about Blair Witch felt like a good fit for VR?
Project Manager, Szymon Erdmanski: Blair Witch is a psychological horror story, it does not depend on a lot of action and fast movement to deliver an intense experience. Quite contrary, scares using atmosphere and the experience of being alone in dark woods with just a flashlight and monsters hiding in the dark. This is a perfect match for a VR where fast paced action just does not work and will make you nauseous at best.
VR is all about atmosphere and story, and those are also Blair Witch strongpoints, so that just made a perfect fit right there. We obviously had to do a lot of redesign to make BW work for VR but we didn’t have to turn the whole project upside down because the strong foundations were already there.
UploadVR: This is now the third VR game you’ve done, counting the Daydream version of Layers of Fear and then the full Layers of Fear port for PC and Quest. What are the main takeaways you’ve learned while developing for VR?
Erdmanski: There is a huge difference between traditional gaming platforms and VR from a gameplay standpoint. What works well on PC or consoles will not, in most cases, work in VR. Fast paced action with a lot of player movements is especially a big no no in VR. What works well is manual interactions with VR controllers, limited player movement, great storytelling, and building atmosphere using visuals and sound effects.
UploadVR: Can you explain what it is about VR that feels like such a great fit for horror games?
Erdmanski: As I mentioned before, fast paced action and a lot of player movement is very difficult to make work in VR. Psychological horror games are rooted in atmosphere and story, and the genre’s slow build up using visual and audio cues works really well in VR.
UploadVR: For Blair Witch, I noticed it indicates it’s “redesigned” and “rebuilt” for VR and I see lots of physical interactions in the trailer that weren’t possible in the non-VR game. Can you explain just how different this version is? Is the story still the same? How much new content is there?
Erdmanski: The story is more or less the same. Levels were redesigned and rebuilt from scratch for Oculus Quest for a lot of reasons. We found that a lot of walking around, which created the atmosphere of being lost in the woods in the original game, turned out to be pretty frustrating in the VR version. Remember you don’t want to move a lot in VR, so we redesigned the levels from scratch, to make the game a more compact experience with gameplay condensed in a smaller space. That alone made the experience more intense. We also added a bunch of interactive physical items which always work great in VR.
What we believe is the most important improvement is the interaction with your dog, Bullet. In the Oculus Quest version of the game you can pet your dog, grab his paw and play with him using VR controllers almost like you would with a real dog in real life. One of the new features is playing fetch with the dog, you can grab sticks and throw it for Bullet to bring them back to you.
UploadVR: Why did you choose to launch on Quest first?
Erdmanski: We have a great relationship with Oculus and Facebook. Oculus is one of the fastest growing VR platforms and the Quest 2 is just astonishing as a standalone VR headset.
Of course other platforms are also ok and we will work on them too. 😉
UploadVR: Will there be any Quest 2-specific enhancements in comparison to the Quest 1 version of the game?
Erdmanski: Yes, there are visual improvements for Quest 2, since it is significantly better performance-wise then the old Quest. Most noticeable is that the dog will look significantly better on the new Quest and we added more foliage in the woods.
UploadVR: Once Blair Witch VR launches on the Rift store, will it have cross buy with the Quest version?
Erdmanski: We’re working on that – stay tuned.
UploadVR: Are there plans to eventually bring The Medium to VR or Layers of Fear 2?
Erdmanski: We are focusing on Blair Witch, but you never know.
UploadVR: Can you at all speak to how well Layers of Fear VR is doing in terms of sales on Quest vs PC?
Erdmanski:The Quest is a dynamically growing platform, especially with the new Quest 2. We are a public company and we can’t share numbers, but sales are meeting expectations.
UploadVR: Finally, if you could work on any established IP, whether it be a film, book, TV show, game, etc — and adapt that into a VR game, what would it be and why?
Erdmanski: We can handle a variety of IPs and when it comes to horror, we want to work on it all! The team is packed with horror fans of all kinds, and we would love to work on stories from John Carpenter, Steven King, or Silent Hill.
Do you plan on playing Blair Witch VR this halloween when it releases for Oculus Quest on October 30th? Let us know down in the comments below!